Empire Australasia - May 2018

(Kiana) #1
compliment from a guy who tills the same soil. I
take it as a high mark.

You say in your book that you felt “bulletproof ”
as you started makingSorcerer. You’d just had
two giant hits withThe French Connectionand
The Exorcist. Were you feeling very conident?
Yes. To give you a simple, short answer.

At the time it under-performed. Given you had
been feeling so conident, how did it feel when that
You can answer that yourself. You don’t need
me to give you a quote. You’ve obviously done
tremendous research, which I appreciate, but
if you wrote something that was not received

well, how would that make you feel? I know
a number of ilmmakers who have stopped
when they did not have a success that they
thought was going to be a success. But
I went on and tried to make other ilms. 

What was it about that story that
hooked you?
Oh, everything. It had the potential for
tremendous suspense. I decided to do it
with four characters that were not necessarily
likeable heroes. They were all anti-heroes,
which was kind of a gamble at that time
and would be more so now. Because what
audiences mostly expect from a thriller are
heroes and villains. And the heroes went out.
I saw it in a much more realistic way. I also
saw this story as kind of a metaphor for
the world situation, which again is more
prevalent today. A group of strangers who
don’t like each other who have to co-operate
or they will explode. They’ll blow up. That
metaphor really stuck with me. I thought it
was relevant in the ’70s, because of the
Vietnam War, and even much more so
today. I don’t know how much of the
relevance of that metaphor is responsible
for the continuation of the ilm. But audiences
tend to sense something beneath the surface of a
ilm, if there is anything beneath the surface. And
that’s what beneath the surface ofSorcerer. 

Is it true you toyed with calling the
That was my original title. And the head of
Universal said, “Absolutely no way.” And then
I was going to call itNo Man’s Land. I was in

touch with Harold Pinter and he was writing
a play which he subsequently produced before
my ilm came out calledNo Man’s Land.And
so those were the two titles I was going to call it.
You can’t copyright a title, but I wouldn’t call
itNo Man’s Landout of deference to Pinter.
Universal was not going to go forBallbreaker.
But that’s what the movie is, you know.

There’s a story that you met with the studio in
post-production, and they suggested shooting
inserts of the mileometers, to which you said,
“I don’t shoot inserts.” You then said you’d
need to get the actors back and go back on
location so you could do it with wideshots.
That’s true to some extent. But that was the
one good suggestion I thought that they had.
I had not shown, in the cut that I showed them,
the distances that had been travelled. And at
the famous luncheon that I had with the head
of Paramount and the head of Universal, most
of their suggestions were stupid, but that one
I thought was good. And I did go back and
shoot inserts of the mileage travelled. But
frankly I had no respect for those guys and
wasn’t paying a lot of attention to what they
suggested. Except for that. I took two guys
to the meeting — Bud Smith, my ilm editor,
and Wally Green, who wrote the screenplay
forSorcerer— and told them that the
suggestions we were going to hear were
largely things that we would probably
want to ignore.

Do you recall any of the other suggestions from
the studio?
Sid Sheinberg, who was the head of Universal,

by a thread:
Kassem ‘Martinez’
(Amidou) leads
the nitroglycerin-
laden truck across
a perilous bridge in
the heart of the
South American
jungle.Above right:
Motley crew: three of
the truck drivers,
Victor Manzon
(Bruno Cremer),
Jackie Scanlon
(Roy Scheider)
and Kassem.


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