Interview with Donald Cammell by David Del Valle
Part 1 Part 2

What has become of Anita Pallenberg? I read that she was involved in witchcraft and was very overweight.
That’s all rubbish. Anita’s doing just fine. I look in on her whenever I’m on the East Coast. She’s dropped a lof of weight and I think she is writing. Anita is a survivor and a great lady. I love her.
What was James Fox like on the film?
Willie, his nickname, was a great observer and was learning his craft. He had already made some films and fell into this one with great gusto. He literally became a gangster in the name of research. He spent eventings in the company of London’s most notorious thugs, to the extent that he actually frightened people. Now imagine this very macho, violent behaviour being shattered, once again, under Jagger’s influence. It was perhaps a tragedy that Willie became so traumatized by Jagger’s sexuality that he succumbed to it and ultimately quit acting altogether and went to India. It took him forever to snap out of it.
Jagger does make a rather late enterance, a rather grand entrance, like Rita Hayworth in Gilda.
Well, perhaps more like Norma Desmond in Sunset Boulavard.. That’s how I gave Jagger the line “Why don’t you go to a hotel?” when Fox tries to rent the flat. It’s the sort of remark an aging bitch would say to a lesser mortal.
At the end of the film, after Chas (Fox) shoots Turner (Jagger) in the head, it’s Jagger that we see leaving the house with his old gangster cronies-presumbably to be murdered by them. You meant to indicate that Chas had absorbed Turner’s persona?
In a sense, yes. I was thinking of Jorge Luis Borges and the Sanish bullfighter El Cordobes, who kisses the bull between the eyes before placing his sword therein. Jagger is very much that bullfighter. In terms of painting, if you look at the “Memo from Turner” number, Jagger’s character has already assumed the Harry Flowers persona (in terms of Chas’ perception). So this further absorption seems natural. The “Memo from Turner” sequence, by the way is probably the first rock video. You may not know it, but I’ve directed several rock videos in the last few years. In point of fact, I did a bit of editing on Gimme Shelter for the Maysles Brothers.
Why did it take you so long to mak another feature?
If you only knew how many unrealized projects are littered between 1970 and Demon Seed, you wouldn't ask. One of those projects that caused a bit of a stir on the Riviera was a “caper” screenplay entitled Avec Avec, which was made much later by my old mate James Coburn. This was the kind of luck I had up until Demon Seed.
What was the Demon Seed experience like for you?
Well, it was a very unhappy experience. It was a pretty frustrationg experience. My personality just does not gel with these studuio people. And MGM was no different than Warner Bros.. was with Performance. I was the reason they got Julie Christie, who was red hot at the time, and an Oscar winner to boot. The front office loved everything until they got their hands on my rough cut. It could hve been a great film, but even though it got bloody repectable notices, it wasn’t my vision. As I’ve said before, I am a painter who happens to make films. But enough of that! Would you mind if we go on the film you just saw, which I’m very proud of.
White of the Eye
Yes, Around 1985, after God knows how many unrealized projects (including one reuniting me with Jagger, believe it or not, which was to be called Ishtar, but don’t get me started on that…) I was prepping this film for EMI, which was shelved when the company got taken over by Cannnon. So as a sort of compensation, I was offered this strange little novel by Margaret Tracy called Mrs. White, which my wife and I adapted into White of the Eye. Basically, her novel explored this woman’s feelings as she discovers that her husband is insane and yet she is completely dominated by him. Well, I rethought all that and decided it was more interesting to have her deeply in love, so that when she discovers he’s a serial killer, she has to make that decision to leave him or confront him and continue to love him. Even to the point where he degenerates into bestiality. It really seemed to be an extremely powerful and moving idea. In fact, in the final reel, I tried to create the sound and fury of madness and take you into a world of transcendent horror.
You certainly made Arizona seem very surreal.
Well, I’m European, and Arizona looks very exotic and a little surreal when I’m confronted by it. The Indians have tremendous karma and glamour. I could easily see Picasso on a reservation. The location was a real trip. My main set piece is a run-down mining town called Globe, which is on the edge of an Apache reservation, where a crumbling civilization has this uneasy coexistence with violence-pagan violence. It had been the second largest copper mine in Arizona and then became this relic, this kind of scarred, extraordinary landscape. I vividly remember shooting the final scene in a kind of stepped, zig-zagged structure, like an inverted Assyrian temple.
Once again, your painter’s eye seems to be at work here.
Well yes, I painted it as best I can, and if art is to be involved at all, you hope that some kind of energy or sincerity will result in some kind of revelation.
I see it as a portrait of a schizophrenic who views the suburban sexuality of his victims as a kind of waste.
That’s your opinion. I didn’t try and diagnose or make a judgement on the reasons for serial murder. I suppose I’m really asking if we really know the people we love. Do we really understand their motives? I mean this bedroom community of Globe, Arizona is full of waste and boredom. The killer has a painter’s eye, which I suppose is mine.
My favorite line in the film occurs when the homicide detective says to his assistant, “Did you ever look at a Picasso, Lucas?” referring to the crime scene as resembling a work of art.
This serial killer happens to be a psychotic with an aesthetic imagination. I like the concept of murders being arranged as art. But my favorite line is on the poster art. “The only difference between a hunter and a killer is his prey.”
I heard that White of the Eye was going to receive an X rating, but it received an R. What happened?
What happened was Marlon Brando. He sent a letter to the MPAA, a brilliant letter, analyzing sequences in the film in great detail, and praising it for it originality and artistry. I mean, you wouldn’t have believed this letter! Eventually they passed the film with a couple of nominal cuts. About 90% of what I wanted is on the screen.
That was a beautiful thing for Brando to do.
Brando is a phenomenal human being. And I am pleased to say that he’s going to be my partner on my next film, which he has written. At the moment its called Jericho and I have really good feelings this time around. But let’s not jinx it! You’ll be the first to know when I have something concrete to show.