De Palma (2015) Script

I saw Vertigo in 1958.

I saw it at Radio City Music Hall. I will never forget it.

Give me your hand.

That left an incredible impression upon me.

What's so compelling about Vertigo?

It is the...

He's making a movie about what a director does, which is basically create these romantic illusions.

It makes you fall in love with it and then kills it. Twice.

And it's what we do as directors.

We create these beautiful women, these exciting virile men.

We get audiences involved in their stories and emotionally attached to them.

And Hitchcock made a movie which is, you know, it's so Brechtian.

It's showing what we're doing as we're doing it.

And it is something that has fascinated me, you know, since I saw Vertigo.

I was the youngest.

I was born in North New Jersey.

When I was about five, we moved into suburbian Philadelphia, right off the Main Line, in a kind of fairly nice suburban house.

My father was a very successful orthopedic surgeon, and then my mother was very close to the three of us.

She was over at school a lot.

You know, going to our football practices and soccer practices.

My father basically drove into the city, and operated very early and was teaching and then writing his books when he got home at night.

So, we didn't see a lot of him.

And we didn't have much of a relationship with him.

I went to a Quaker school, Friends' Central.

And I went to that school for 12 years.

Well, I'd say the thing that left the most impression on me was, you know, meeting at this Quaker school.

Sitting in silence and thinking about the moral aspects of your life, and if you had anything you wanted to share with the community you stood up and talked.

There was a lot of turmoil in my family.

My parents were not happy together, and at one point I got up and talked about... the difficulties going on within my family.

I was very chummy with the girls.

I got along with the girls very well.

I would do sort of crazy things occasionally, like taping the girls sex education class.

Debbie Deming, as I recall her name, she dared me to do it, and then of course I did it, and then of course I told her and then she turned me in.

I went to Columbia to study physics, and math and Russian.

I was basically a science nerd.

I mean I wasn't really interested in movies, not until I went to Columbia.

There was a lot of excitement because, of course, we had the war, had to worry about getting drafted.

And we had all this French new wave stuff coming in, all these foreign movies, So, it was a pretty exciting time.

It was like, that's what you talked about.

That was like, the new thing.

There was no place you could take film at Columbia.

I signed up for a cinema society called Cinema 16, run by Amos Vogel.

And they would show all these very avant-garde shorts.

That was... That's what you signed up for.

I submitted my shorts every year, until the third year I won it with Woton's Wake.

# What you hear it is fruitless #

# You see it must be #

# So here is the saga of Wretchichevsky #

Bill Finley was a classmate of mine at Columbia.

So, I began to craft pieces for his particular kind of characters he could portray.

And that was the genesis of Woton's Wake, where he played everything from the Phantom of the Opera to King Kong.

I'd seen a casting notice for a graduate project at Sarah Lawrence and I said, "Oh, this looks like a good idea."

So, I went up to Sarah Lawrence and I got into a graduate play.

And that's when I met Wilford Leach, who was very influential.

And he was like my mentor. He was a brilliant director.

That's what really started me going, in the sense of learning all the things I had to learn in order to, you know, be a director.

My first feature came out of Sarah Lawrence.

We brought Will on to sort of oversee the whole thing.

And a lot of the people in it came right out of the Sarah Lawrence workshop.

Bobby was in the Sarah Lawrence workshop.

Jill was in the Sarah Lawrence workshop.

Jennifer Salt was in the Sarah Lawrence workshop.

Well, that sounds like free love. What about purity?

The Wedding Party was De Niro's first movie.

Bobby came into a casting session and Will and I were in the loft on Broadway.

He's, like, the last guy in the room.

And he's very quiet, shy.

And then he said he had something he'd prepared in class.

Then he went out, and Will and I were sort of looking at each other, and, like, 20 minutes from... We thought he'd left, it was at night.

And then he burst through the door and does a scene from Clifford Odets' play.

"Strike, I think about the cab strike."

And it was like...

You were, like, watching Lee J. Cobb rant in front of the union guys.

It was like, "holy mackerel!"

The one place where there's life, the beach.

The dock, where there's something... a connection to the mainland.

And you walk... Start walking around the beach.

The great irony was that we co-directed The Wedding Party.

That's when I saw and knew more about motion picture directing than Wilford did.

We had the scene with Bill Finley, Bob De Niro and Charlie Pfluger, where the two boys are trying to convince him not to get married.

We were shooting it and I could see that we were never able to do the shot.

Plus, it was not a good shot.

Because basically we're shooting three guys against the hedge.

You know, you weren't getting any value out of the motion of the camera.

And Will kept on insisting that we do it this way.

And then Will kind of got frustrated, and I said, "Will, let me block this act, because this is not the way. This should work."

So, I blocked it out a whole different way.

Broke the whole thing up into a whole bunch of shots.

And... And I made the shot work.

And he was wrong.

I shot a lot of documentaries in that period in order to support myself while I was in graduate school.

I shot a documentary about the OP Art opening at the Museum of Modern Art, which was pretty successful.

I was a very good cameraman.

You know, and I had a really good sense how to follow a scene and see what was happening.

Well, the advantage of doing everything yourself is that I did everything.

I figured I'd really hit the big time when I didn't have to pack up the equipment at the end of the day and take it back to the rental house.

You see a lot of the sort of Hitchcockian things in Murder a la Mod.

A lot of stylistic madness going on.

You have the scene of Jennifer, you know, me trying to talk her into taking her clothes off for the camera.

Is this supposed to be sexy?

Well, yeah, you're supposed to be, you know, doing sort of strip tease for us.

Which is very much like the same scene that I did in The Black Dahlia where I'm interviewing an actress.

How long have you lived here? Two years.

You lost your accent? Yeah.

So, some of that stuff I, you know, started to play with in Murder a la Mod.

We had to release it ourselves over on 12th Street and Second Avenue.

I was literally pulling people off the street to go see it.

When I was a graduate student at Sarah Lawrence, Universal Pictures paid my tuition.

When I got out of Sarah Lawrence I got into a new talents program at Universal, and again I was writing stuff but nobody ever read anything.

And we became so frustrated Chuck Hirsch and I, that we decided to make a movie ourselves.

# Greetings, greetings, greetings #

Greetings was the more Godardian influenced movie.

Of course, we were seeing all the Godard movies at the New York Film Festival.

They were all a revelation one after another.

I especially remember Weekend, going, "Holy mackerel."

And very much influenced by what was going on politically.

What you... What are you finding space for?

Well, you know, I'm trying to get in my pre-induction physical side.

I mean, if you wanted to stay out of the war, and you were a middle-class kid, you could figure out a way to do it.

I finally had to go in and I had a letter from a doctor.

I took everything to make me allergic, so I could hardly breathe.

I was up all night and I was running around, wheezing.

We kept him awake for two days. We can't keep him going like that.

They took me right to the psychiatrist.

Hey, Lloyd. You be the psychiatrist.

I had to dead stare right at his forehead and talked about my homosexual feelings.

Just walk right up to the sergeant.

You gaze. Just walked right up to him.

Get as close as you can. Look him straight in the eye.

Seduce him with your eyeballs and say, "Hi."

I was a communist. I was a homosexual.

I was crazy.

And I think with my letter from my doctor, that got me out.

Greetings opened in December, and was crucified in The Times.

Fortunately what happened was, the review was so bad, a guy wrote a reply in The Sunday Times, which was huge, saying "Was that a way to greet Greetings?"

And then, at that same week, Pauline Kael's review came out in The New Yorker and suddenly the movie became a hit.

I feel very strongly about these political movies when I get into that area.

This... This clearly shows that Officer... was in the front and firing from the front with a Russian 6.76mm rifle, see.

Causing a neck wound in the president's neck, 7/8ths of an inch below the collar button.

And it's the very anti-establishment, usually comedic in the case of Greetings and Hi, Mom!

You know, looking around and saying, "This is crazy."

I'm studying people and I, you know, when you took the book and everything, it was amazing. It was just beautiful.

And it was what I called a private moment, you see.

And I study people like this.

Okay, now... Now, don't you think you're hot?

Don't you want to go to bed now?

Ah, I'm tired. Yes, you're tired.

I'm tired. And I want to go. You want to go to sleep.

So, don't you think you should take off your dress?

Sure. Take it off. My dress?

Remember, this is a private moment, and no one is watching.

Bobby emerged as the most captivating character.

We said let's... I think we've got to make him like, the main character.

This guy is fantastic.

So, that's what happened with Hi, Mom! which is basically a son of Greetings.

# You're walking down the street #

# And everyone you meet #

# Is gonna step to the side... #

The whole idea of Be Black Baby came as an environmental theater piece.

It was supposed to put you through a race awakening...

We want to take you through the black experience.

...where you experience what black people experience in America of the mid 60's.

This is at the... the height of, you know, Black Panthers, and, you know, "burn, white guy, burn."

These guys came up... They were so scary, and they were so like, "You motherfucker, what do you know about race relations?"

And then you go, "Holy smackerel."

So, I didn't rehearse them with the troupe.

When we shot the sequence in that freight elevator, the other actors had never seen them before.

When the thing opens, and they see us go on and grab her throat and throw her down and start to rape her, everybody's like, "Oh, my God. This is, like, really happening."

Turn that fucking camera off! Turn it off!

Get it down!

Get that camera down!

Oh, please, stop.

Shut the fuck up.

My hair!

I was in the back of the elevator with Chuck, my producer, and I looked over to him, he was like, terrified.

And I had this big smile on my face.

So, I said, "This is really working."

I'm going to tell all my friends they've got to come.

They really got to come.

Except they should have called it...

It was really something. "Humiliate The Honky" or "Hump The Honky." But it was great theater.

So, when I went to Hollywood, at Warner Brothers, Marty was out there editing The Medicine Ball Caravan, which was Woodstock on wheels basically.

I sort of introduced him around.

There was Marty and I, then there was George and Francis, and Steven.

The thing about Steven, I think he was the first person I ever saw that had a phone in his car.

I'm trying to call Brian De Palma, New York City.

Hello, Brian, this is Nancy and Amy and Steve.

Hi, Brian. Hi, Brian.

Happy Thanksgiving.

It's 1976, Brian.

We're photographing this on 8mm sound film.

And we want to say happy Thanksgiving.

Sorry you're not home to enjoy it.

Steven and I were so close back then.

This is the whole Warner Brothers youth group.

Schrader was out there. Schrader was a critic.

He brought me the script of Taxi Driver.

I didn't think it was commercial, but it was extraordinary.

And I thought it was more to Marty's taste.

That was basically our group.

And we were all very supportive of each other, and passing these scripts back and forth and looking at each other's movies.

And what we did in our generation will never be duplicated.

We were able to get into the studio system and use all that stuff in order to make some pretty incredible movies before the businessmen took over again.

But I was making my Hollywood movie now so I thought, "Well, wow, I'm in the big time."

It's this is sort of whimsical thing where a guy drops out of a corporation and he decides he's going to change his life and become a tap dancing magician.

Tommy Smothers had just been fired from his show because he did all these sort of anti-war things and all this political humor.

Our government is asking us as citizens, good citizens to refrain from traveling to foreign lands.

Okay, all you guys in Vietnam, come on home.

This is this big kind of anti-Establishment movie.

So, I wanted to use Orson Welles as the tap dancing magician instructor.

I found that Orson Welles was not learning his lines.

We had cue cards all over the place.

And I'd never seen this before.

You just looked at him, you say, "This isn't right. This is sloppy."

I kept on shooting until he knew the lines.

To work that hard would be unfair to your rabbit.

Here's Brian De Palma dealing with Orson Welles, you know, I'm in my 20's and I'm going, "Holy mackerel.

I'm telling Orson Welles he's got to do this thing again."

It's like, "Whoa!"

You know, when I was working in somebody else's material, I would try to direct it.

I would try to find ways to make it work within the way it was written.

So, I didn't try to change it into whatever my style was at the time.

I basically tried to interpret the material as best I could.

And Smothers got disenchanted with it very quickly.

Wound up disliking me, disliking the material, disliking the establishment he was working for.

Literally, one time he just left.

Nobody could find him for four or five days.

We finished the movie and it didn't work.

And I had written a whole bunch of stuff to make it work, but I said, "Hey, it's either my way or the highway," and I got on the highway the next day.

I was devastated. I was finished.

I mean, in my career I've had these devastating things happen where you basically have to start from scratch, and I was finished.

So, I went back to New York and we started making Sisters.

Sisters, I got the idea from a picture in Life Magazine.

They had these Russian Siamese twin sisters called Masha and Dasha as they're sitting together on a couch.

One looking kind of gay and happy, and the other one sort of slumped over to the side, looking completely psychopathic.

And the caption was, "Although they're physiologically perfectly normal as they develop into adolescence, they're developing certain mental problems."

Conjoined twins called Siamese challenge life with their first breath.

There was nothing easy about it.

When we started with $150,000, we were non-union.

We were shooting in Staten Island.

We were on such tight budgets.

I mean, you know, it had to be all figured out.

I'd rehearsed the stuff with the girls.

I mean, you know, all the actors I knew.

Charlie Durning, I'd him put in Hi, Mom!

It was his first movie.

Finley, I'd worked with many movies before.

Jennifer Salt, Margot Kidder.

Who I was working with essentially my repertory company.

You're the lady of the house? Yes, I am.

You live here alone? Yes.

Have any company this morning?

Oh, no. Well, a split screen I got from Dionysus In '69, where I shot the narrative of a play and Bob Fury shot the audience's involvement with the players and the play.

And I got this idea, "Well, we'll show them simultaneously."

The thing about movies is that you're telling the audience what to look at.

When you... you know, cut to something, you're saying, "Ooh!

There's something important going on here. Look at that."

The thing about split screen is the audience has a chance to sort of put two images together simultaneously and something happens in their head.

You're giving them a juxtaposition as opposed to this.

Split screen is a technique that can take you out of the experience.

The idea is where it is appropriate.

In Sisters, of course, it worked quite well.

Can I get the blood cleaned up before this... Jennifer comes around with the police?

Makes perfect sense to me.

May be completely alien to some other viewer, but you take something like Barry Lyndon.

I could see these huge, slow zoom shots, and when I first saw the movie, I disliked it intensely.

After having seen it a couple of more times, I can see that Kubrick... he's getting you into the time sense of the period you're in.

In order to get people to understand this century, you have to slow time.

To him, I'm sure it makes perfect sense.

To a guy that just walked off the street, you say, "Oh, wait a minute.

This is not like movies. What is this?"

And that's very much... some of these techniques that I developed came from what looked like perfectly logical way to portray what I was seeing and feeling.

When we were doing Sisters, my editor, Paul Hirsch, laid a lot of Benny's stuff from Psycho in a temp track.

As we were looking at it, it worked so well.

We sort of looked at each other and we said, "Where's Bernard Herrmann now?"

So, we brought him to New York to look at the film.

When he arrived, you know, Benny's, you know, with his cane, and he's hunched over, and he's been on a plane, and he's very grouchy.

And he comes off the elevator in Movielab and I, you know, said, "- Hello, Mr. Herrmann, it's an honor. Where's the movie?"

Okay, so, we go and we sit him down.

Of course I had all this Bernard Herrmann music on the temp track.

So, of course, as soon as he hears...

I forget what it was, I think it was either Vertigo or Psycho.

When he starts to hear the music, he starts shrieking.

He said, "Stop the projector!

Stop it, stop it! I can't hear that!"

And I said, "Oh, my God," so we stopped the projector.

He says, "I can't look at your movie and listen to that!"

So, we frantically pulled all the temp track off and then played the movie silent for him.

So, we didn't have any score on the movie for him to listen to.

But he... he was scary.

You don't sit there, you know, going through note by note with the composer, with Benny.

He just... He sees the movie and goes home and writes the score.

Consequently, having been involved with so many movies that were not a hit, I was trying to make a successful movie.

Fortunately, it was successful and I was able to sell it to American International.

# We'll remember you forever, Eddie #

# Through the sacrifice you made #

# We can't believe the price you paid #

# For love #

This is before The Rocky Horror Show, about a year before The Rocky Horror Show.

Again, I just got this idea.

I mean, just hanging around and watching, you know, the whole kind of music business.

You know, I was living in L.A.

We were going to the rock clubs where personalities are so colorful.

The idea came from Muzak in an elevator, when I heard a Beatles song in Muzak in the elevator.

And I said, "You can take something extremely original and turn it into syrup and it's completely commercial."

And the whole idea of Swan sort of taking the Phantom's very original music and then, you know, first you hear it as 50's rock and roll, then it's Beach Boys, then it's horror rock.

I mean, it just it doesn't make any difference.

You just... And you hear the same song basically in three different forms.

Mr. Paul Williams.

I don't know how we came upon Paul, but the idea of him playing Swan... because he's such an interesting looking character, and he was able to write all these parodies of all these forms.

- # ...I hear a voice # # I hear a voice #

# I hear a voice #

# Is it only in my mind #

No, no.

# Or is it someone calling me #

# Someone I failed and left behind #

Wrong. Wrong again.

# To work it out I let them in #

# All the good guys and the bad guys that I've been #

Pretty, but no.

# All the devils that disturbed me #

# And the angels #

# That defeated them somehow #


# Come together in me now #

I always had the idea of Finley playing the Phantom.

Try it again.


And he plays that kind of character in Woton's Wake basically.

And then I had to find Phoenix, which, she turned out to be a Sarah Lawrence student.

And that's where Jessica came from.

The terrible thing about Phantom was, when we finished it, we made it for about $1.2 million or something, and Fox offered us $2 million to buy it and I was like, "Holy mackerel."

Unfortunately, we had not taken out E&O insurance.

So, we were hit with like, four lawsuits immediately.

Universal said we were infringing on their Phantom of the Opera.

I had a company called Swan Song Records that was a name of a real record company.

Our picture was called Phantom.

We had to change that because of the Phantom comic strip.

It was very successful in L.A.

It was very successful in Canada.

In France, it played for like, ten years.

But, like, New York, it just died.

I mean, I remember going to the theater and, like, there was nobody there.

Finley and I just outside the theater, looking for a line that didn't exist.

The whole coming about of Obsession happened when Marty was working, I think, on Mean Streets, and I was helping edit one of the scenes, the scene where Bobby comes into the bar and then he and Harvey talk in the back room.

How much you got? Charlie, I'm going to pay him next week.

I'm going to pay ya!

Where ya going, you don't do nothing. How much you got there?

Schrader came over and began to play cards or Schrader lost a whole bunch of money.

And I said, "Come on, I'll take you out to dinner."

And that's when we got the idea to do Obsession, because we'd both seen Vertigo.

They'd recently shown it at the L.A. County Museum.

The first time it had been shown in 20 years or something.

I went home and wrote up the story and then Schrader took it on and did the script.

The original script of Obsession, which is called Déjà Vu, was in three acts.

And there's a whole act in the future.

So, I got rid of the third act, which Schrader always was very unhappy with me.

Well, the tough one was getting an actor that could get it financed.

And we were trying to get a kind of Hitchcockian leading man in this.

And finally, we managed to get Cliff Robertson, which was not my first choice, but that's, like, the best guy we could get for the movie.

And I think the weakness of the movie is Cliff, and what... the greatness of the movie is Genevieve.

I mean, she carries the movie.

Cliff was very difficult to work with, and he did things that I'd never thought were possible.

He could see that Genevieve was taking the movie over.

I mean, we got to a part where they could hardly work together because he was affecting her performance.

Not only not feeding her lines well.

"I love you, I feel very strongly about this. You mean more"...

I mean, literally, you know, not giving her anything to work off of.

He would just start doing this.

So, her eyeline would be like over here.

Well, Vilmos lost his temper.

Because, you know, Cliff always used this kind of brown, you know, he looked like... Well, this is a guy that's supposed to be haunted by the unfortunate death of his wife.

He's supposed to be pale.

He's got this brown stuff on his face.

And I remembered Vilmos grabbing him once and literally backing him up into the mahogany wall, and saying, "You are the same color as this wall.

How can I light you?"

That took me many hours to paper that over.

You about ready to go back to old U.S. of A., Court?

What is the technique that will work for this particular theatrical event happening in front of you?

Dionysus gave me the whole split screen idea, and then I went on with the split diopter idea from those split screens.

I mean, I edited Dionysus, so I was constantly putting two images against each other, and I thought, "Well, how can I do this in a regular movie?"

You're putting something very big in the foreground juxtaposing it against some other piece of information in the background.

I used it in Carrie, too, in the classroom, when Billy is reading his poem and you see Carrie at the back of the class.

Then the diopter sort of cutting on Billy's hair.

I have long silent sequences that need to be scored, so I need big orchestral scores.

Fortunately, because Benny was such a genius, 9/10ths of it was there and there was very little you had to change.

This was the same year that Benny was working on Taxi Driver with Marty.

He conducted the score, went back to his hotel, and died.

I was there.

It was, like, almost Christmas Eve.

Benny was my first...

One of the greatest composers I've heard.

So, I started at a high point.

Now I had to find somebody to pick up the slack basically.

And I was fortunate enough to find Pino because I liked his score to Don't Look Now.

When I discovered him, he lived in Venice.

And brought him in, and the first score he did for me was Carrie.

And then we did eight more films after that.

Carrie and Obsession the same year.

'76 was a very big year.

Apart from Get to Know Your Rabbit, the first ten features I made were independently financed.

I had the Orson Welles problems.

I had big ideas.

And I needed a lot of that stuff.

So, I had to get back into the system.

And I only managed to do it again with Carrie.

Carrie came to me in a steam room over on 12th Street, where a writer friend of mine suggested this book by Stephen King called Carrie.

I discovered it was at United Artists.

Mike Medavoy was head of the studio.

He knew who I was and liked my movies and that's how I got the job.

Larry Cohen had written the script. It was in pretty good shape.

But I got rid of the brackets immediately.

You know, it's all told, Sue Snell was being interrogated.

And it's all done in flashbacks about what happened.

We kept on coming in with a budget of a $1.8 million, and they said, "We're not making it at $1.8 million.

It's got to be $1.6 million."

And I said... You know, just like my Get to Know Your Rabbit experience...

I said, "Guys, that's what it costs. It's $1.8 million."

And they said fine.

And then they started moving the furniture out of my office.

The movie had been cancelled.

So, I went home that weekend and thought about it.

And I somehow came back and said, "You know, I've been thinking about it.

If we moved this and changed this around, maybe we can do it for $1.6 million."

And they said, "Great. It's a go."

And of course it cost $1.8 million.

George and I were casting Star Wars and Carrie at the same time.

George was doing like, a huge cattle call, because he was looking at every young actor in Hollywood.

And I said, "George, let's do this together.

We're looking at the same types of actors."

I think Amy got pretty close to playing Princess Leia.

All the data banks in R2 are still secure.

And that's where these two casts came from.

I'd seen a young actress that was in some movie about a teenager that gets pregnant and has an abortion.

And I was sure she was, like, perfect for Carrie.

And I had... And I worked with her very hard.

You know, because we had to shoot all these screen tests.

Sissy came to me and asked if she could try out because I knew Sissy from Phantom because she was Jack Fisk's girlfriend, and, you know, was painting sets.

But then she got a commercial that same weekend we were shooting these tests and said, "Should I go do the commercial or stay here and try out?"

And I said "Sissy, I'm really leaning towards this other girl, but..."

And the studio didn't even want me to try out Sissy.

They just thought she was just physically wrong.

And I... And Sissy said, "No, I'll do the tryout."

And of course, when she did the test she made everybody look silly.

I don't know where I got the idea for the slow motion in the shower.

Big problem with all the nudity because the girls are all very self-conscious.

But the fact that we shot like two days before with Sissy completely naked doing all the close-ups, you know, with the blood that comes down, so they figured, "Hey, if Sissy can do it... we'll do it."


You know, I get a lot of criticisms because of these kind of juxtapositions, but to me they seem perfectly logical.

I mean, she has her period. She's hysterical.

She goes for help and the girls basically, you know, beat her down in the corner of the shower.

A very difficult scene to do.

That's what Hitchcock always said.

I mean, it's always the run-up to what happens that's interesting.

And you obviously see in my movies, the run-up goes on forever.

Yes, they did.

Yeah, that's fantastic.

You know, many times I'd be doing very complicated shots and nobody would understand what I was doing.

You know, that figure eight shot where, you know, you go with the ballots, brings you all the way up to the side.

You go over the top of the blood then zoom back to Sissy and she gets up.

I give you Tommy Ross and Carrie White!

That shot took a day to shoot.

Literally, the head of the studio came down and asked what the hell I was doing.

And it's like, "You want to shoot this? Be my guest."

I did grow up in an operating room. I saw a lot of blood.

My father was an orthopedic surgeon.

And I used to go to the hospital and watch him operate.

You can't imagine how much blood is flying around in an operating room.

With the sawing and the wrestling and it's not like eye surgery, it's really physical.

You know, our movie blood was all some kind of corn syrup and dye, this theatrically red.

It isn't like what real blood is, which is brownish, and, when it dries, it's almost completely brown.

When Carrie starts to knock everybody off, I shot the whole thing in split screen.

But what I discovered was, split screen... it is not good for action.

So, Paul Hirsch and I pulled out a lot of the split screen.

You see it occasionally.

But it's not good for, you know, action, reaction, action, reaction.

It's too much of an intellectual form, basically.

Endings are extremely important and that was one of the great endings.

In the wide shot, where you see the traffic in the street and she walks down the side and then goes into the graveyard... that we shot backwards.

I wanted it to look strangely odd.

There was something strange about it, but you're not exactly sure what.

There was a similar sequence in Deliverance, when Jon Voight dreams about the bodies coming up from the lake where he's buried them.

I remember that was quite a... quite a shocking moment.

But that's the only thing, I think, that could possibly have gotten me thinking about the hand out of the grave.

The executives at United Artists were very classy.

They had Rocky that year.

And Carrie was like... was like an AIP picture to them.

It was like, "Well, it's... You know, we'll distribute it, but let's not talk about it too much."


A new film by Brian De Palma.

So, they put it a lot in a bunch of theaters on Halloween, expecting it to play for a week or so whatever.

And then it made a tremendous amount of money and they started to take it more seriously.

But I was always fighting for, you know, money for the campaign.

And against all odds, Sissy and Piper were both nominated for Oscars.

What's great about Carrie is they made so many versions of it now, and they've made so many mistakes that it's wonderful to see what happens when somebody takes a piece of material and makes all the mistakes that you avoided.

# Carrie #

# Why do they always treat me so bad? #

There's a three-hour television version of Carrie, which is exactly like the book.

Instead of crucifying Mrs. White, they give her a heart attack.

And I remembered in a script meeting saying, "This is what happened?

She clutches her heart and falls down?

That's dramatic!"

That's where I came up with the flying utensils.

Well, then I got offered another studio picture.

Or a couple... Just different studios, and the best one I could get was The Fury.

Which suddenly had a huge budget, which was like, $5 million or something, unheard of, and we suddenly had all these movie stars, you know, Cassavetes and Kirk Douglas, and I said, "Wow, let's do this. I've never done this before."

Plus, we had a whole bunch of charming girls in this.

And even though it's kind of not the movie you would have top on your list to make... there were a lot of things in it I really liked.

I liked the scene where Amy's on the steps and she touches the scar in Charlie Durning's hand and then remembers Robin being chased up there and going out the window.

And I loved the Johnny Williams score.

I thought Johnny did a great job with the score.

That's one of my favorite scores, that score.

I had to do a car chase in The Fury.

I don't like car chases.

I find them a very boring thing.

I'm not a car person.

I don't get excited taking shots of wheels turning, point of views out of windshields or cars banging into... It just doesn't do anything for me.

You know, you're forced because of the script to do certain things.

You have to figure out, how am I going to do this?

And how can I make it interesting?

And after The French Connection, there are no car chases.

It's just ridiculous to even think about doing a car chase.

It's the best idea in the world. Subway, car underneath.

I mean, you know, there's not a better idea than that.

But I like... I like Cassavetes and it was interesting working with him.

He hated a lot of what he had to do.

The only time that John really sort of went ballistic was when we had to do a body cast of him and stick him in all this gook for the blowing up of himself.

He hated that. Drove him crazy.

You know, it's on the page and you gotta figure out how to do it.

But it doesn't come from you, essentially.

You're basically directing somebody else's ideas and you're trying to do the best that you can.

But it's not one of my favorite films by a long shot.

I'm Dennis Bird. And this is my life.

I had this idea that the way to teach film would be to actually make a low-budget feature.

I decided to try this idea out at Sarah Lawrence and see if I could just teach a class which consisted of what you have to do in order to create a motion picture feature.

What's the point of film school if you don't know how to make a low-budget movie?

Because that's what you're going to be faced with eventually.

I had this idea based on stories about my family, and with the class we developed the script.

Oh, hi, Dad. Hi.

I thought it was just going to be, "Oh, we'll go to Sarah Lawrence and we'll teach this, and..."

Well, it was like making a movie.

I mean, it was just as exhausting as when you make a movie.

Hey! You're zonked out in your own rushes.

You realize how dangerous that is?

We had to raise the money.

And of course, as you know, when you're raising money for independent features, you know, the tax shelter dentist fell out at the ninth hour.

And I called up Steven and George and I said, "You guys are going to contribute some money to this, because... the dentist just fell out."

I had a couple of people offering to buy it.

It only cost $300,000.

I was trying to make a deal with United Artists, but this was the great year of Cimino's catastrophe over there.

We finally made a deal with them and they opened it up on 57th Street.

It got some good reviews and played for about two weeks.

I bought The New York Times ad.

What's disappointing about teaching film is that, you know, 99% of them are going nowhere.

Anybody that has a career, it's a... It's a miracle.

Dressed to Kill was a very hot script.

And I sold the script for a million dollars, which is like, "Holy mackerel."

It all went extremely well.

The picture, you know, previewed well.

It's one of those pictures where everything worked.

You know, and sometimes I have these ideas in my head and until they gel into a whole movie, they sort of circle around.

I'd written a script based on the book Cruising, which ultimately Billy Friedkin made.

And then, you know, from my days at Columbia, where my roommate and I used to go to the Museum of Modern Art and look at the pictures and the pretty girls, I got this idea of this pick-up at the Museum of Modern Art.

And you know, this dissatisfied, you know, housewife and she's cruising along and she gets picked up.

And I think it came together when I finally got the whole transsexual section of it.

The idea of, "I'm a woman living in a man's body."

There's a lot of macho things there.

This is very common among transsexuals. You find, um...

You know, it was sort of perfect, kind of Sisters, the good half, the bad half.

The fact when he gets aroused, you know, that means his penis is growing and he can't be a woman.

Do you find me attractive?

Of course.

Would you want to sleep with me?

And he's got to stop whatever is making, you know, him get aroused and of course, leads to him murdering Angie.

There's a big controversy over Dressed to Kill because of my fight with the ratings board.

And that got into the press, and I got a lot of angry protests because of the violence against women.


You know, again it's structured with, you know, Psycho, bumping off the lead character in the first 20, 30 minutes of the movie.

In the elevator scene, it's Michael's double that is slashing Angie.

I just knew you wouldn't recognize him with the dark glasses and the wig and everything, and I wasn't going to show that much of him.

And I said, "You know, why get Michael in this outfit if you're not really going to see him?"

The whole Keith Gordon character came from, you know, me and my science fair projects, and following people around.

I used to follow my father around when he was cheating on my mother.

I took photographs of him.

You know, I could see a woman going in and out and stuff like that.

It was all taking place at his office, which was down the street from our house.

And I'd broken into the office by ramming my fist through the glass door.

And I was carry... I had a knife with me, and I threatened him, and I said, "Where is she?"

And I had to search through the office and I finally found her in a closet on the third floor.

Well, he was a little bit surprised, to say the least.

I mean, you know, that is me.

I was following around my father for my mother.

He's following around the murderer because his mother got bumped off.


The waiting is very important.

You know, so you could ground yourself.

So the audience gets very accustomed to where everything is.

Well, I got the whole psychiatrist idea because that was based on the psychiatrist I had when I was first going out with Nancy.

I met Nancy on Carrie and we started to go out together while I was working on The Fury, I think.

I thought she was very good in Carrie and then I wrote the part for her in Dressed to Kill.

The story was getting to the point where I thought I made enough movies with my wife and what was becoming kind of a strain in our relationship.

But John loved working with her so much that when we did Blow Out, it was like, "Let's do it with Nancy."

The first idea for Blow Out, it was a very low-budget movie.

And suddenly, John wanted to do it, then the whole movie changed.

It went from like, a $5 or $6 million movie to close to a $20 million movie.

Well, the Steadicam was Vilmos's idea.

I mean, Vilmos knew about this new camera and he said, "Why don't we try it out?"

I mean, we used to handhold those shots, but I never liked that kind of shaky camera stuff.

Once the Steadicam came in, you could work out these long kind of shots, where you would take your characters through environments and have things interacting with them.

As I was mixing Dressed to Kill, the sound guy had to go out and get different...

I kept on saying to him, "I'm tired of that sound of wind in the trees.

Could you please get me something better?"

And then, he would go out in his backyard and record new stuff for me.

So, that concept of him recording sounds and then the idea that the sound he records is the key to the murder, the assassination of the candidate.

And it has, of course, it has that little Chappaquiddick in it.

Was the governor driving the car? Was he in control?

Control? It went into the drink, didn't it?

He wasn't in no control. Was he alone?

Was he alone in the car? Well, I didn't see anybody.

A little of Blow Up.

Putting the pictures together that you saw from the Zapruder film, syncing it with the sound is what we do in the editing room.

Having synced up so many movies myself, all that stuff sort of came together and the whole idea of using the techniques of making the film in making the film.

Kill it.

I was a big assassination buff and I read all the books about the assassination.

What's interesting about the Kennedy assassination is it's the most intense investigation ever done.

No murder was ever investigated like this in the history of crime.

But Blow Out gets down to somebody trying to find out what actually happened, and my conclusion was even if they could figure out who was on the grassy knoll, no would care anymore.

The thing about the 360 shot was I wanted to create the sense of a reel of tape turning, so I made the camera turn as of all the reels of tape turning.

And every time we made a revolution around the room, more stuff was erased.

Vilmos and I were peering over the set.

The camera operator was running around panning the camera 360 degrees.

Nobody saw the movie until it was finished, because I had a lot of power off of Dressed to Kill.

When they saw that ending, oh, it died.

I'll never forget when we showed it to the executives, they just were like, appalled.

You know, many of my movies which were considered great disasters at the time.

You know, there was no bigger disaster than Blow Out.

It's always surprising. You always think they're gonna come... come out and see your movies, even as odd as they ultimately wind up being.

When you take in a... a very moving, emotional experience, like the death of a girl he put into jeopardy, and you use her cry in a, you know, tawdry horror picture...

I guess I got the idea of that, you know, when you cut soundtracks and you're doing footsteps, you put all the fill in between each of the magnetic tracks.

Well, when I picked up the fill once and it was like Lawrence of Arabia.

And I said, "My God, Lawrence of Arabia is being used as fill."

Oh, jerk.

Now, that's a scream! How was the level?

But all that suffering is just reduced to a scream that's put on a soundtrack.

That's wonderful.

That moves me every time I see it, the way John plays the scene.

"It's a good scream. It's a good scream."

It's a good scream.

It's a good scream.

It's a good scream. It's a good scream.

Say hello to my little friend!

Most of my movies are about megalomania and guys that live in insulated universes and the crazy things that happen within those insulated universes, which is something that continues to fascinate me.

Marty Bregman came to me because Al wanted to do a version of Scarface.

And the original idea for Scarface was to do Al Capone, Chicago.

Marty told me that he and Al wanted to develop a script with David Rabe, and I had recently worked with David Rabe developing a script, Prince of the City, on a corrupt narcotics cop, that I ultimately didn't get to make.

But we had spent a year working on the script, so I was very familiar with working with David and his process.

David, when we started to do the script, said, "I will do the script but I don't want to have to work with Bregman and Al.

We'll do it together, like we did Prince of the City."

And then Al came to meet with me to see how things were going, and I explained to him how it was going and I got a call from Bregman later that night saying Al's all upset about the script.

He wants to have a meeting with David tomorrow.

I told Marty Bregman David will quit if I ask him to come to a meeting.

I couldn't convince him that David would quit, so I called David up and I said, "They want to meet tomorrow about the script," and David says, "I quit."

You know, I came up with an era that you went down with the writer.

If the writer got fired, you walked.

You didn't say, "Well, let's get three or four more writers that you happen to like."

So, I called up Bregman the next day, and said, "I'm sorry, this doesn't look like it's going to work out.

I can't do the movie."

And then they hired Sidney and Oliver and Sidney and Oliver came up with the whole, you know, Cuban Scarface set in South Florida.

Well, the terrible irony of that is, that I developed the script of Prince of the City, which I thought was a great script.

I spent a year and a half with Bob Lucy, the cop that it's all based on.

And when Matt got interested in it, and through another writer, wanted to do the project and the United Artists people fired us.

The next thing I knew, Sidney and Matt was making the movie with somebody else.

So, I feel Sidney had basically, you know, stolen this movie from me.

And the irony, of course, is a year later they offer me the movie that Sidney had developed.

Well, first we started in Florida and got run out by the Cubans.

They just ran us out of town.

They didn't like the... What the script was about.

They thought we were making all Cubans gangsters.

I was there for months, you know, scouting things and... and then we ultimately had to pull the whole picture back to California.

And I said, "I wanted to have this very acrylic, tropical look."

I don't want these Godfather gangsters, where everybody's, you know, with dark rooms and you can hardly see anything.

This should be bright. This is Miami.

And white suits, pastels."

So, I had a very strong idea of what it should look like.

Well, what happened when we were doing this shoot-out, Al grabbed his gun and grabbed it by the barrel, which was red hot, and seared his hand.

And he had to go to the hospital and we couldn't shoot with him for two weeks, so it...

So basically, I had two weeks to shoot everything but Al.

So, needless to say, I shot every conceivable way somebody could shoot at somebody else while I was waiting for my star to return.

Steven wandered over. We did a few shots.

"What do you think about this, Steve? Should we put another camera up here?"

"Why not?"

I mean, everybody was shooting.

People shooting at people.

I'm working as an interpretive director.

Oliver had directed one movie, and he felt that I wasn't doing the movie the way he wanted to do it.

And I ultimately had to have him taken off the set, because he was talking to the actors.

You can't have an actor getting two different points of view from two different people.

It just confuses them. They need a single voice.

Script's all based on real material.

You know, Oliver almost got killed researching.

They thought he was some kind of narc.

You know, he went into really dangerous territory.

And I wanted that reflected in the movie.

I mean, this was a dangerous level of mob violence that they had never seen before.

I had been battling with the ratings board since Greetings.

And it came to a conclusion over Scarface.

I submitted it three times and it kept on getting X's and then I said, "Absolutely, I'm not changing it anymore."

And everybody was very unhappy with me.

And what I did that really drove them all crazy, which is always the big controversy on Scarface, is that I put everything back in.

Because I said if I'm going to get an X on version three, I'm going with the original version. It's all X to me.

I never showed the chainsaw cutting into the flesh.

We had it there to do, but it was always... as soon as the chainsaw goes down, it pans away from it.

The audience half loved it and half hated it.

Very controversial.

Now the leg, uh?

And everybody thought Scarface was about Hollywood.

And they just really disliked it.

It did... It did good. It didn't do great.

But, you know, it wasn't like a breakaway hit, but it, you know, it was... it was commercially successful.

A decade or so later, it found its audience with the hip-hop generation.

Well, since I'm not a big fan of hip-hop, I knew nothing about it until people basically told me about it.

Universal came to me and asked if I would approve a hip-hop soundtrack to Scarface, and I said absolutely not.

It's something that gets into the music culture, the hip-hop culture and then into the game culture.

Now, somehow, I'm a hot director. I don't know why.

It didn't really make that much money, but I developed this script called Act of Vengeance, which Paramount seemed very excited by.

And I think, "Wow! They're going to actually make this movie."

And Don Simpson calls me up the next day, and says, "I got one word for you."

And I said, "What?"

And he said, "Flashdance."

So, I said, "What about Flashdance?"

And then he said, "We want you to do Flashdance."

I said, "What about Act of Vengeance?"

He said, "No, no, we're not really..."

I was so irritated at them that I made them pay me a lot of money to do Flashdance.

I wanted to really run up a big deal and then I walked away from it.

I had this Body Double idea, so I made a deal with Columbia.

I had an office. I had a parking space.

You know, my marriage broke up, so I was living out in California.

So, this sounded like this would be fun to do.

First I get this whole kind of, you know, elaborate visual and story construction.

A bit of Dressed to Kill.

A little bit of Rear Window.

A bit of Vertigo.

The story tells about playing sardines and being behind the icebox.

You know, a lot of the stuff in the movie comes from obviously stuff I've lived.

I mean, I played sardines with my brothers and I did get caught behind an icebox.

I was in acting classes, where you would see people break down on stage as the acting teacher tried to unlock their emotions.

The way you people make movies, which you start with character and build outward...

I start with construction and then fill it in.

I'm driven by unrealistic ideas.

You have to get the actors to ground it and try to make it seem real, so you got to get the audience grounded with the actor.

Then the whole Holly Body character...

I wanted to use somebody that would be used to doing nudity.

So, I thought, "Well why not get a porn star?"

I'd become very close to Annette Haven, who was a fascinating character because she was an adult actress, entertainer.

I basically created the whole character based around Annette.

She'd never, of course, auditioned for a movie in her life.

It was all news to her.

It was a big scandal when I wanted to test Annette, because Annette was a porn star and the head of the studio heard I was testing a porn star down on stage 7.

Then they said to me, "You can't do that."

This is when Columbia was owned by the Coca-Cola Company.

And I said, "Sorry, I'm doing it."

And I did. I tested her and Melanie.

I couldn't get anybody else to do the part basically.

There was so much nudity.

The big thing that came out of Body Double was Melanie.

That's what everybody wrote about.

And I had all this material from Annette.

All those stories all came from Annette.

I do not do animal acts.

I do not do S&M or any variations of that particular bent, no water sports either.

I will not shave my pussy, no fist-fucking and absolutely no coming in my face.

And thus, she studied Annette.

We had Annette come down and she was on the set.

She was the bright spot in the movie that everybody sort of felt very happy about.

After beating me down, all they could talk about was Melanie.

You got to get the witness to watch what you want them to see.

Best way to do that is have a woman undressing.

And once you've got that person watching there, then you can stage the murder to make him the witness to what you want them to see.

I wanted to do a really long walk, a long following sequence, like, sort of an extension of the museum walk in Dressed to Kill.

I mean, I think Body Double has, like, the longest walk in cinema.

I love photographing women.

I'm fascinated by the way they move.

I love to follow them.

I love to make the audience get involved in their dilemmas.

This was the era you put a pop song in and made a video that would promote the movie.

So, then I thought, "Well, I'll just put the video into the movie."

You got to understand that I was producing the picture.

It was, you know, like I could do anything.

They gave me like a...

I had like a carte blanche to make this movie.

And it was all great, of course, until they saw it.

I will never forget the press screening for Body Double.

The head of the public relations calls me up and says, "They are going to kill you tomorrow."


I'm sorry, I can't hear you. Please...

Could you please tell me the nature of your emergency?

I'm sorry, I can't hear you.

My graphic sensibilities had angered women's groups in the past.

You know, and here I drilled a woman with a... a rather long drill.

"They are going to kill you tomorrow." I'll never forget that phone call.

Why was the drill bit so big?

Well, it had to go through the floor.

You know, we never see the drill bit go into her.

It had to go through the floor so he could see it while he was, you know...

It made perfect sense to me, but, you know, when you do some of these things, you know, they make perfect, logical sense to you and then you put them in front of an audience, they go, "Holy cow. That's just too much."

Well, it didn't occur to me to be too much.

I thought it was perfect.

You've always got to realize you're being criticized against the fashion of the day.

And when... and when the fashion changes, everybody forgets about that.

As I told you before, I don't know how many people come to me... up to me and talk about Body Double, you know?

And all the stuff that people were yelling about when it came out is like completely forgotten.

Let's try to make one thing clear in director's careers: we don't plan them out.

We happen to be working on one thing, and then another thing happens, and then another thing's delayed.

And we do the thing that we can do at the time.

I knew Jon Landau.

He was managing Bruce Springsteen.

So, Jon came to me and he said, "Can you think of something to do?"

And then I got this idea of pulling this girl out of the audience to dance with him.

That's where Courteney Cox came from.

After the disaster of Body Double, you start thinking about what you're doing, and why are you getting these kind of reactions.

So, it was like, "I got to do something completely different."

I hadn't done a comedy in a long time.

And I really liked Danny DeVito. He was attached to the movie.

It's very difficult to make a movie where the studio administration did not sponsor it initially.

We got through it. They didn't want to release it.

They didn't like the previews.

It was just a struggle all the way through.

I liked it, it was a lot of fun. It was a cute little comedy.

It got some very good reviews, so a lot of people really liked it.

No, no, my friend.

Thank you, Mr. Acavano.

In the 80's, I was working all the time.

You know, I was writing scripts.

I was selling things.

Some would get made. Some wouldn't.

Then I got involved with developing Fatal Attraction.

I was not sold on the way the script was going and I said, "I'm out."

Fortunately, about 24 hours later, somebody over at Paramount suggested me to do The Untouchables.

Art developed the script before I arrived and the three of us worked on the script after that.

Well, first we had to find Elliott Ness.

And I wanted to use Don Johnson, because I knew Don and he was very big in Miami Vice now.

And Art felt very strongly about Kevin.

And then I called Spielberg, I called Larry Kasdan, who had all worked with Kevin before, to reassure me about... this guy's going to carry the whole movie.

So they said, "Yes, this guy's going to be something. Feel confident."

Then we had Bob Hoskins playing Al Capone.

And then we got Sean in, because Sean is always looking for things to get him out of his James Bond character.

And I saw Andy Garcia in 8 Million Ways to Die.

And I was down in Chicago, you know, with my boards, and figuring out how we're going to shoot all this stuff.

Meanwhile, I'm thinking we've got this movie, except we... it's... to me, it's like a... some kind of sophisticated English playhouse theater.

We need an American gangster actor.

What draws my admiration?

What is that which gives me joy?


Bobby takes a long time to decide to do things.

You go out to dinner with him, you talk about the script.

And it took many, many weeks until he finally said, "Yeah, I think that I can make this work."

Except the last thing Bobby said to me was, "It's going to be expensive."

And it was extremely expensive.

Well, it's a little different with the movie stars that you've kind of discovered.

The thing about Bobby is that I've known him, like, what? Since the mid-60's.

On The Untouchables, Bobby was not learning his lines.

And I just went with him to... when he was putting his make-up on, and I'd rehearse these lines over and over again with him until he knew them.

Plus he had to put on some weight to play Al Capone and he had his hair shaved back.

He wore the kind of silk underwear that Al Capone wore.

You never saw it, but he had it on.

1634 Racine.

You know, I used to have a friend who lived there.

What's good about a sequence for a composer is that you give him this thing that builds up cinematically that works very well with something emotional in the music.

You give him the time and the space to develop that thing in the music that really connects with the audience.


Morricone is like one of those composers that's impossible to get and I was very lucky to get him.

He looks at the movie and then we went back to a studio and he just played four themes.

Four of which were, like, right on the nose.

And then, I told you, the fifth one...

He sent me about six, seven, eight or nine versions before I said, "Ah, that's it."

I think it was the "duddle-lun-dun-dun" thing.

Normally, when I set up those sequences, and with the music and everything, they're very emotional and they do work.

The Odessa Steps sequence was done... was because Mamet refused to write anything more after we couldn't afford the train chase.

I said to Eric, my location manager, "Find me a staircase."

I had Battleship Potemkin in mind, the whole idea of a baby carriage going down a staircase in the midst of a shootout, and I just made it up as I went along.

My baby!

The sequences inspire the composer.

You want to pare back the sound effects and just use them to underline certain things.

Because you've got 97 tracks now, you put all this sort of stuff on, it gets in the way of the music.

Very seldom the composers have the chance to develop something musically that's not constantly getting contradicted by the dialogue and the effects.

I constantly have all these, you know, techniques in my brain and I'm trying to figure out, "Well, can I use this here? Is this the best way to use this?"

It's the old horror techniques.

The point of view shot following somebody around.

You know how I feel about coverage.

"Oh, take a wide shot. Guy walks up to house.

Guy goes through a window. Guy hides behind victrola."

I mean, you're going, "Boy, is that interesting!"

I'm always trying to find a way to visually make the thing exciting.

Isn't that just like a wop?

Brings a knife to a gunfight.

Get out of here, you dago bastard!

Go on, get your ass out of here!

Well, when I put all those hits on Sean, he was so mad at me.

He'd never had hits put on him before.

I said, "You're James Bond and you've never been shot?"

"No." And he'd gotten some dust in his eye.

They took him to the hospital immediately, and I had to beg him to come back and do a second take.

He hated it.

We were very concerned because we had some bad numbers about interest and who was going to show up.

And our big competition was that movie where John Lithgow lives with some kind of monster in the house.

Everybody thought Harry and the Hendersons was going to be huge.

And we kind of blew everybody away the first weekend.

You know, The Untouchables was another one of those magical movies.

And very few happen in your career.

Then I get them to make a movie that nobody wanted to make.

This is the one, sarge. She's the pretty one.

Take the pretty one.

I always felt that Casualties of War was the best story about the Vietnam War.

It was a great piece of journalism.

It had a really dramatic arc to it.

It felt very much the way I feel about these type of wars that we get into and nobody knows why.

To me, it's a metaphor for what we're doing.

We are raping these countries.

This is a weapon.

This is a gun.

And then you have a... you know, a real incident in which an innocent is raped and killed.

This is what we're doing, and we don't ever want to admit it.

Nobody ever talks about it anymore.

We don't understand these people.

We don't understand their culture.

We're being fed a lot of mumbo jumbo of the reasons that's important for our country's self-interest to be there that makes absolutely no sense whatsoever.

And no wonder these people, these soldiers trying to do the right thing, go crazy.

People had been trying to make Casualties of War since the early 70's.

It's one of these properties that was bought, developed, sat on a shelf, bought, developed, sat on a shelf.

Fortunately, Dawn had left Paramount and became head of Columbia, and she was looking for a project with a lot of big names.

And Dawn used to run Michael J. Fox's company, and she got Michael interested in playing Eriksson, which is the only way the movie would have ever gotten made.

See, these people here, they confuse themselves.

Are they Cong, are they not Cong?

Sean came up with this very kind of macho Brooklyn guy and was literally the sarge.

I mean, he treated the other actors like they were in his squad.

He never talked to Michael.

His attitude about him was like how he felt about him in the movie.

Eriksson here don't wanna ball the dink.

How come? I don't know.

He's a chickenshit. Is that it?

Is that your problem, Eriksson?

Michael's a very amiable guy, and he felt very much like an outsider, you know, because of Sean and his guys.

But it worked very well for the movie.

There was a moment in the movie where Michael hits Clark with a shovel.

And Sean's kind of taunting him, you know, with that wise-ass look he's got.

And we did a couple of takes.

And then Sean walked up to Michael J. and knocked him to the ground.

Just knocked him down.

And I thought Michael was going to kill him.

And then we shot the scene.

It did bring something out in Michael that... that he was having some difficulty getting to.

I mean, he had all that anger, and then just Sean just pushed it right over the top.

And then, when he whispers to him when he leaves, you know, about payback, I think he whispered once to him, "Television actor."

Good old Sean. Very exciting to work with.

It... it was a very difficult movie to make with the weather and the heat, and to understand Vietnam, you've got to understand the terrain.

You got to understand the heat.

Once you get the heat, you can't imagine how that affects the way you think.

Then Thailand, I built the whole jungle set because, the jungle, you walk three paces and you could be anywhere.

There's no orientation in the jungle.

So, I said, "Let's build a jungle set and just basically move the trees around."

And Dawn actually traveled all the way there.

I think she lasted about five hours and got in a plane and went home.

It was awful.

I wanted to have that sense that if you thought things were bad above ground, you should see what was going on below ground.

And the only way to do that is to crane directly down and show a cutaway of the tunnel and the threat moving through it, like an ant colony.

Well, Columbia made me preview the movie, but the previews don't really help much at all.

You get all this pressure to do things, and, in retrospect, you regret it terribly.

At the end of Casualties of War I took out a couple of the interrogation scenes, especially the one where they...

They ripped Michael apart on the stand by the defense attorney.

Isn't it true that what you went out to do is to figure out how to use this incident to get the hell out of the infantry?

Objection. Can you find...

And I took that thing out.

I ultimately put it back in the revised version.

Because if you put anything that makes the audience react too strongly, they want you to take it out.

My movies tend to upset people a lot, so you can imagine the things they're trying to take out of my movies.

And I have to fight them tooth and nail.

A preview for this kind of movie really doesn't tell you anything.

I mean, the material is so emotional and so depressing.

What's a preview going to tell you?

I don't want to see the movie? It disturbed me too much.

I don't know what to tell my friends?

I find it hard to look at it myself when you deal with material that's very heartbreaking and you got to go to a mix and look at that stuff over and over again.

It's like The Best Years of Our Lives was on television the other day.

There's an hour of those poor guys, you know, just trying to adjust to where they are.

I mean, how do you look at that movie?

It's so upsetting. Imagine making it.

That's the feelings I have on Casualties of War.

Pauline wrote a great review.

But it didn't do well and there were a lot of mixed reviews, you know.

Nobody went to see it.

It was a terrible disappointment after all that work, and it was a lot of work.

There he is. There he is.

Let's go!

People never thought I understood the book.

I understood the book perfectly.

Warners came to me with Bonfire of the Vanities.

And it was a chance to go back to New York, make a big studio picture and, you know, you go to work sometimes just so you don't have to think.

You see, my problem with Bonfire of the Vanities is, it should have been like The Magnificent Ambersons.

You know, Sherman McCoy is basically an asshole much like the lead character in Ambersons, who destroys everything because of his arrogance.

And that's the way the movie should've been.

But then we wound up with Tom Hanks, and so I think, "I'll take a gamble, try to make him nicer."

Just don't want to do anything stupid.

If we keep our heads, we'll be perfectly fine.

Oh, Jesus Christ, Sherman!

We're in the middle of a goddamn war zone and you're worried about doing the right thing?

I had all these sort of thoughts in my mind.

This is a very big, expensive movie.

I knew what could go wrong with it.

It could go the way of the Welles picture and it could also go the way of Sweet Smell of Success, the greatest picture Mackendrick ever made and it basically put him out of the business.

You want some cheap, gruesome gags? You print them, don't you?

Bonfire should have been that tough, that cynical.

But I said, "If I make that picture, it's going to be a career ender."

Like Welles, like Mackendrick, I'm going to be like, unemployable.

And the irony is, it still bombed.

It should have been tougher, harder.

Everybody that read the book hated the movie.

The problem of working in the Hollywood system is the people are paid a lot of money to get you to do what they want you to do.

That's why they have those jobs.

And you can lose your way and go along with their concepts.

I mean, I'd never seen stacks of notes from the studio.

That was like you know, "Wow."

I made a lot of compromises and it was disaster.

And Julie Salamon wrote every move in it.

I feel the movie, by itself, stands up perfectly fine.

Nothing wrong with the movie, just don't read the book.

I was leveled by the response to Bonfire of the Vanities.

Catastrophe. Time to leave town.

So, I got married.

I had a child.

And I went back to a genre that I had developed in the 70's.

I'm sorry.

I'm sorry.

My wife made a deal at Universal for us to make a movie together.

I had two ideas basically.

One was a multiple personality character.

And many years before, I was having a relationship with a woman that was married.

And she used to come by after work and, you know, we would make love and because she was tired, she'd fall asleep.

And I remember watching her sleeping, thinking, "What would happen if I just let her sleep all night?

How would you explain that to your husband?"

Oh, my God.

But the problem was that the Lolita Davidovich story, which should have been the first story in Raising Cain, not the John Lithgow story with the kidnapping children and the multiple personalities.

That's what's supposed to emerge later.

It should have started with her going to the shop to buy the clocks.

She meets Steven Bauer.

But when I was putting the movie together, the John Lithgow stuff was so strong, and the sort of...

I guess you'd say soap opera love story was not the strongest element.

I had to pull the whole John Lithgow stuff forward into the movie.

And that's why it has a particular oddness to it.

Because it's not put together the way it was conceived.

I don't know why I always cast John Lithgow as villains.

It's like, why did Billy Wilder always cast Fred MacMurray as a villain when everybody else wanted him as the professor in Flubber?

And it was all shot in our backyard.

I mean, all the locations are around the corner from where we lived.

Gale and I got houses up there.

Lolita was born, my daughter, and we were literally walking outside the house and shooting.

It was one of my most financially successful movies, because I had, like, 10% of the gross from the first dollar.

It's interesting to look at the movie now because it's like a family album.

Where's Daddy?

Daddy's not here, sweetie. He's gone away.

Daddy's here. No, he's not.

Come on, honey, we've got to get back.

Come to Mommy.

Gale and I fell together at a certain time in our lives and then basically went back to the lives that we hadn't finished.

And we had this remarkable daughter in the process, so... it worked out rather well, as strange as it may seem.

That's when I got the Carlito's Way script.

And I thought, "Oh, boy, here we go.

Al Pacino, Spanish speaking gangsters."

But the script was so good when I finally read it, I said, "I know how to make this into a great movie."

Dick Sylbert is one of the great production designers, a magical guy to work with.

The idea of the club being like a boat came from the first exterior location we found, which was a nightclub that was in the shape of a boat.

So then Dick designed the interior to go with that exterior.

And of course what happened was that we lost the location.

So, we didn't have that boat-like exterior, but then it became an image for Carlito going to the Caribbean.

Sean, he did that hair thing, just surprised us all.

I had no idea he was going to come back with the frizzed, shaved back head.

Look at you, huh? Really made something of your life.

You know, I don't know if you've had this experience with actors, but there's one scene they fixate on, and that was the hospital scene in Carlito's Way.

We were rewriting that scene to the day we shot it, and they were still unhappy with it.

Relax, Dave. It's your pal.

We've got to get all the mechanics of this movie-making out of the way so the actors can act.

If I see something that's distracting somebody or making them lose their concentration, you got to get to it and get it out of their way.

Being a director is being a watcher, in the sense that you have a lot of egos in the room and you have to sort of watch how they interact with each other.

Because when you're on a set, you're basically concentrating on what's happening at the moment and you've got to look at everything.

You don't have time, you know, say, "How's the coffee?"

Or "Did you have a nice night last night?"

Your job as a director is to get the movie made.

You know, if somebody loses their temper or you lose your temper, everything stops.

You know, that chase we shot like, in the depths of the summer and I was trying to get this shot from train to train.

And of course, Al's wearing this very heavy leather jacket.

Now, it's, you know, 110 degrees in the subway in the middle of the summer, and I'm in one train, you know, trying to get a shot of him racing through the other train being followed by these guys and, of course, you're going train to train and then you've got all the posts.

And do you... Is your train going fast enough to just hold him in the shot or does it get like this?

So, we literally tried to get this shot all night.

And Al is running up and down this train.

And finally, it was about, I don't know, 4:00 in the morning, and suddenly the train that Al's in suddenly keeps going.

Just disappears.

And I said to my AD, Chris, I said, "What happened?"

And he said, "Al took the train home."

"And he thinks you're crazy. He doesn't know what you're doing."

So, I had to get in my train and go back to where Al's train was.

And I went up to Al's trailer and he's like, red, because he's been sweating with his coat, you know, for hours.

And he says, "What are you doing?"

You have to deal with what happens on the day, and, of course, adjust your vision and come up with something that works and maybe something that's better.

I had elaborate storyboards of this whole shoot-out on the escalators that were in the World Trade Center that went down to the subway.

I'd spent weeks and weeks photographing.

And I had an architectural program and I built everybody in all the positions.

And then about a couple of days before we were supposed to shoot it, they blew it up. The first terrorist attack.

So then, everybody said, "What are we going to do?"

And I said, "Suppose he goes to Grand Central Station and gets on a train to go to Florida.

So, we'll do it in Grand Central Station."

And then I worked out that incredibly complicated Steadicam shot with Al.

Hey, Vinnie.

Vinnie, wait up.

The thing you learn about the long take is that you can document the emotion happening on the screen in real time.

And once you start cutting things up, you lose the emotional rhythm of things.

He ain't up here, let's go down. Come on.

The whole way the movie is set up with the death being a flashback was an idea, you know, from the 27,000 noir pictures I'd ever seen.

That extremely tricky opening shot which we had to, you know, design a piece of equipment to do.

You would wind up going the wrong direction once, so it's not how you usually operate things.

We had to do this many times to get it right.

I wanted to get back to the same scene with the audience not realizing it.

I wanted to, you know, do a whole thing where it comes all the way back to the beginning, but you don't realize you're in that scene until you're, like, halfway into it, and you go, "Oh my God, I've been here before."

Again, it was getting kind of mixed reviews, you know, "tired genre gangsters."

You know, and I was kind of very disappointed, because I remember when I went to Berlin and I was watching it in Berlin after it opened and did okay in the United States, I remember watching in Berlin, and said, "I can't make...

I can't make a better picture than this."

Again, it's a matter of being in the right place at the right time.

Mike Ovitz called me up and said, "You interested in doing Mission: Impossible with Tom Cruise?"

I said, "Are you kidding? Of course!"

Because I was... I was determined to make a huge hit.

I said, "With Tom Cruise?

Mission: Impossible? I'm ready."

So, this was a situation where whatever Tom wanted to do, they would make. They didn't care.

They just want to make Tom Cruise in Mission: Impossible.

Tom, on the other hand, of course, his first picture he's producing, wanted it to be exactly right.

So, I got a hold of David Koepp, who wrote Carlito's Way, to do the script.

When we got through the David Koepp script and they liked the script, Tom, of course, had... he had things, character things that were bothering him, he wasn't happy with.

I said, "Tom, you've got to walk into Shari's office with me and say you want to make this movie or we're going nowhere."

And I finally got him to say yes, he'd make... he would make this script.

The next phone call I got the next morning was a call from Paula, and she said, "The good news is we're go picture.

The bad news is we're firing David Koepp and we're bringing on Robert Towne.

Tom felt that Towne could bring some character things to it.

Well, how do you convey this to your... pal?

"Dave, the good news is we're making the picture.

The bad news is you're fired."

So, we're getting to make the movie, but I'm keeping in touch with Dave.

I'm telling him everything that's going on.

I'm not happy with what Bob Towne is doing.

Towne's attitude basically was to rewrite the whole script, which was wrong.

And I'm getting to a point where we're building sets and we don't know if these are in the movie or not.

What happened ultimately was that I had made it quite evident to them that we could not go with this Towne script.

Dave had to come back and rewrite the script.

I literally had one screenwriter in one hotel and another screenwriter in another hotel writing simultaneously.

Never in my history of making movies has this ever happened to me.

Mission: Impossible was originally set in the United States and I said, "Tom, this is Mission: Impossible!

We can go all over the world!

You know, there are these big, huge movie stars in all these countries who are dying to be in this."

Because Tom wanted to star in Mission: Impossible and because Mission: Impossible is basically about a team of specialists, now, we've got to turn this into a Tom Cruise movie.

So I said, "Well, the first thing we have to do is kill off the whole team."

I saw Tom Cruise in three incredible set pieces.

Most spy thrillers are crime thrillers, where you have a lot of interesting character scenes where you're kind of unwrapping the onion.

Wrapping, another wrapping, oh, and you find out, then you go over there and you find som...

Oh, but he really was...

You know, all this sort of stuff.

But that isn't essentially something you can put into a great visual set piece.

I mean, the whole idea of McGuffin just doesn't make any difference what they're chasing after...

He has stolen one half of a CIA NOC list, record of all our deep cover agents working in Eastern...

Our little treasure here has a belly full of microfilm.

...before we can get them moving.

Oh, Mount Rushmore!

What a great place to have a chase scene!

How do I get them to Mount Rushmore?

You get a really strong visual idea.

And then get the writer to come in or yourself to figure it out to fill in the character that will get you to Mount Rushmore.

And I came up with the idea of going into the CIA and the silent sequence...

...getting the NOC list out of the computer...

...catching the sweat, all that stuff.

I had worked out this very elaborate end sequence with this helicopter chasing the train into the tunnel.

And Towne had thought that it should be resolved with this pulling masks off in the boxcar room.

And we were getting into a big... how should I say? Conflict over it.

I said, "You can't end Mission: Impossible with people pulling masks off in a boxcar!"

And then, I think Towne said, you know, like, "What are we going to have, helicopters flying into tunnels or something?"

I mean, brushing off all these pyrotechnics as some kind of cheap action sequence that had no emotional or character thrust to it.

So, we were basically sort of arguing in front of Tom, and I finally said, "Okay, guys.

Boxcars, I love them.

Masks pulling off, let's do it.

I'll throw out... I won't have to shoot all this helicopter and tunnels and trains.

We'll just have this wonderful three-character scene in the boxcar.

It'll be fantastic." And I sort of left.

And Tom basically decided that he thought that maybe the action end of the movie would be better than the boxcars.

So, we had an abbreviated scene in the boxcar.

And then we got on top of the train and did the end sequence.

We built three cars, and it's all green screen and, you know, all the ILM guys were there, you know, putting marks all over everything.

Very easy to make because I have all this technical background.

Here's... Here's a very bad thing that's going on now in relation to sort of the action sequences, and this is why they're so boring in so many of these big movies, is that they're previsualized.

Otherwise, well, we have the chase, the car, and the dinosaur jumps over.

And they throw it over to the... you know, ILM, whoever does it.

And the guys previsualize it for you, because the shots are so expensive.

And they've got it all on their computers, so what are you going to get?

Many visual clichés.

Something blowing up and it coming right by the camera.

All these little things they have in their computers.

Mission: Impossible's like The Untouchables.

I mean, it was like... It worked.

Dressed to Kill, it worked. Everything worked.

Everybody was overjoyed with it.

They all knew it was going to be a huge hit.

And they basically left us alone.

I had the biggest hit of my career but unfortunately, my marriage fell apart and it was in the tabloids, so I went into hiding.

And from there, in New York, I started to come up with the idea with David for Snake Eyes.

I always want to do something in a casino.

It's a whole insular life and it's a corrupt world.

See, when we have these little visits, I allow you, I permit you... Ow!

...I give you the opportunity to pay for all the extra police work that you create!

And doing this incredibly complicated Steadicam shot, where it goes on for, I don't know, 16, 18 minutes, you know, with all these cuts buried and swish pans.

So, you get a sense of the world that he is king of before the secretary is assassinated.

We got this kind of Rashomon idea that I always wanted to do.

And we have to see it from three different points of view, which is always something that fascinates one.

You know, again, this is a very Hitchcockian thing.

I had this idea, "Well, I'll just show the prize fight from Nic Cage's point of view but I'll never show the fight."

Everybody will hear it.

All right!

Yeah! Holy cow!

Everybody will be reacting to it.

But nobody will see it.

Hello? What?

Who are you? Where?

My lucky number?


You have to know where everything is.

And, you know, and when you...

So many times when, you know, somebody fires and somebody falls down, I mean, you know, it's like, "Where is everybody?

How close are they? How close is the jeopardy?"

I'm scrupulous about that.

My concept, and the concept that Dave and I had, is that when you're dealing with such corruption, you need God to come down and... and... and blow it all away.

It's the only thing that works.

That was the whole idea of the wave.

Holy shit.

I'm sorry, baby. I tried.

Look out! Jesus Chri...

Look out!

And, of course, nobody thought it worked, so we came up with something else, which I never particularly thought worked as well as the original idea.

Endings are tough. They're always tough.

In your career, if you can get two or three great endings to your movies, you're... it's a miracle.

It was basically a disappointment.

It didn't get reviewed particularly well.

Snake Eyes wasn't that expensive.

I don't think it cost more than $30 or $40 million or something.

Mission to Mars was very expensive. It cost 100.

That's another situation where they have a director on Mission to Mars and he came with a budget of $115 million.

And they said, "No, we can't make it at that."

So, I walked into that picture where everybody was sort of hired.

Literally, there was a whole staff there and I started storyboarding the big set pieces immediately.

But it was like, relentless, I mean, because it was so many of those really complicated shots and I had to think up all these sequences.

We basically ran out of money.

Those shots are so expensive.

You do one of those shots the first day and you're seeing it every week as they add one incremental thing to it.

And that goes on for a year, basically.

I mean, I was always amazed that people were able to do these things, like Steven or Zemeckis.

I mean, holy mackerel, endless repetition.

But you have to stay with it, you know, it's all this pressure.

Everybody's trying to save themselves basically.

When it gets so big, nobody wants to be the father of this huge thing.

And if it doesn't work out, you know, heads are going to roll.

Though I love some of the stuff I did in it.

You know, it's like, "What am I doing here?

I'm trying to beat a budget, a schedule with sort of a..."

You know, I sort of got in way over my head because it was so much work for such a long period of time.

And then you think, "Am I really enjoying this?

You know, I just turned 60.

This... Is this... Is this what I want to be doing?"

The Hollywood system we work in, it does nothing but destroy you.

There's nothing good about it in terms of creativity.

So, you're battling a very difficult system, and all the values of that system are the opposite of... to what goes into making original, good movies.

When I finished that movie, that's when I got on a plane and went to Paris.

I said, "I don't want to make movies like this anymore."

So, Mission to Mars was the last movie I made in the United States.

That's the upside of being a loner, for the most part.

You can suddenly say, "This isn't working."

Well, I love to make movies that are basically created on pure cinematic ideas.

Femme Fatale is all about visual construction in storytelling.

I'm a very polarizing figure and the critics just thought I was just hopeless and a hack.

And then there are the critics that sort of understood what I was doing, at least I felt they did.

It never sort of bothered me when they didn't like the movies, because they were, you know, seemingly unkind to women or too violent or...

I just felt, to me, it was always seemed like the right thing to do for the material.

You know, the fact that Pauline liked me made people argue about me constantly.

I have a kind of very complicated, intricate way of looking at things.

I have to force myself to work in very straight lines because, believe me, when it gets in my hands, it's going to start getting twisted and seen through reflections and refractions.

A lot of creating suspense is creating distraction from the impending tragedy.

You know, it's like a magic trick.

You want them to look at this hand while the other hand is doing something.

So, you have to create a whole texture that draws the audience's eye away from the rabbit that you're pulling out of a hat.

The Black Dahlia was an example of where, unlike Bonfire the Vanities, I said, "I'm just going to do The Black Dahlia the way The Black Dahlia is and like a lot of those Dashiell Hammett mysteries that nobody can quite understand."

I said, "I guess that's part of this genre."

I said, "I'm going to try to follow the original novel and all its complexities," and of course, everybody says about The Black Dahlia, they can't follow anything.

I started prepping it in Los Angeles, where it takes place.

Then we went to Germany, then we wound up going to Italy and prepping it there.

And we wound up being in Bulgaria, where we finally got the final piece of financing to get the movie made.

If I'm going to put somebody in a dangerous situation, I'd rather be following around a girl than a guy.

It's part of the genre.

The woman with the negligee walking around the house with a candelabra.

You see in a lot of my movies.

You see the character's helplessness to stop this... this madness going on.

I lived in a family full of these incredible egotists who seemed to be very insensitive about the kind of damage they were doing to each other and my middle brother is very sensitive.

I don't feel that he was powerful enough to stand up to these forces.

I used to protect him all the time.

He doesn't have the kind of combativeness that I have.

So, it would be like this little kid trying to say, "Stop shouting, it's not his fault."

And nobody would pay any attention to me, and I was basically ineffective, and I became very tough because of that.

Slow down! Slow it down.

Hey. Hey, hey. Slow down!

You know, the story of Redacted is basically the story of Casualties of War, you know, these things that sort make no sense to you, like, "Why are we in Vietnam?" or "Why are we in Iraq?"

And we're worried about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction after we have completely destroyed their army in a prior war.

They have no air force.

We've been starving them to death for a decade or so.

Well, Zahra played the part of the girl that gets raped in Redacted.

And she was a refugee, you know, living in Amman.

But I'm dealing with a culture I don't understand, so when we had her do all this stuff, you know, like the soldiers pretending to rape her, I mean, I don't know what kind of cultural mores I'm crossing here, but this... Zahra was very understanding and did the kind of things that I asked her to do, and I felt that she was really going out on a limb here.

These are things that her family, upon seeing the movie, were horrified by.

I mean, she's kind of been rejected by her whole culture.

But she's an actress and she felt that this was right.

And I got her into it, basically, because I'm the one that directed her.

And then rather than leave her there with a very uncertain future, and because she's a talented girl and a very wonderful girl, I brought her over here and put her in school so that she can pursue her dream, whatever it is.

Well, I think I'm returning to the kind of movies you guys are making.

You're adjusting to the system.

If you want to make personal movies, with your own personal ideas, you have to make them at a budget.

You make a certain kind of movie because that's the way you see things.

And these images keep reoccurring again and again in your movies.

And that's what makes you who you are.

People talk about Hitchcock all the time, you know, being so influential.

I've never found too many people that followed after the Hitchcock school except for me.

Here's a guy that developed those incredible visual storytelling vocabulary, and it's sort of going to die with him.

And I was like, the one practitioner that took up the things that he pioneered and built them into different forms in a style that I was evolving.

It's like a whole modern form that he created.

Having studied a lot of directors and having lived now to practically being 70, you see that your creative periods are in... most directors' are in... in their 30s, their 40s, and their 50s.

They, and obviously, they can go on and make another 20 movies or 10 movies, but you'll probably only be talking about those movies they made in their 30s, their 40s, and their 50s.

You know, and I've always thought Hitchcock was a great example, because, you know, after Vertigo and Psycho, and you can talk about The Birds all you want and all the other movies he made after that and then of course, the critical establishment finally caught up with him and started to write about what a genius he was.

Except those movies aren't as good as the ones he made in his 30s, his 40s, and his 50s.

You got to be a strong, physical person to do it.

It physically wears you down. There's no question about it.

I think William Wilder said, you know, "When you can't walk anymore, you've got to stop."

The thing about making movies is every mistake you made is up there on the screen.

Everything you didn't solve, every shortcut you made, you will look at it the rest of your life.

So, it's like a record of the things that you didn't finish, basically.

People in your life can be threatened by your intense concentration, your complete immersion in what you're doing.

My true wife is my movie, not you.