BFI In Conversation Event – Peter Fonda
I’m becoming a little distraught with my beloved BFI gentle reader, as they have been rejecting my numerous advances concerning a few contemporary events. True enough they have treated me to the sight of Amélie in the flesh and an evening with Captain America that we’ll get into shortly but it’s the missed opportunities that really rankle, as I was always a glass half-empty kind of guy. Unbelievably they failed to notify me of a special preview of Linklaters Boyhood* with a directors Q&A last month which I would have loved to attend, it’s one of best films of the year and seeing the slacker himself in the flesh would have been, like, whatever man. More gruelling is my failure to secure tickets for a special preview of The Rover which I’ve been excited about since its blistering screening at Cannes, the reviews since have veered across the road like a M4-Interceptor skidding on a discarded oil-slick but they have at least car-jacked quite a talent roster for the South Bank including Mike from Neighbours and some sparkily undead nonce alongside director David Michod whom is a talent I’m sure is going to go from strength to strength. Like any relationship though I suppose I must overlook these niggiling faults (there was also a planned preview of Grace Of Monaco with Kidman in attendance but given the mauling the film got I may have dodged a bullet) in advance of the expansive SF season constellation warping in at the turn of the
year cycle, until then we’ll see other people and work out how we feel about each other in the longer term. In the meantime back to the matter at hand, counter-cultural cypher Peter Fonda in conversation whom of course is the immortal star of this, man;
Before I started this modest little blogging effort one of the more memorable evenings I attended at the BFI was a staggeringly rare appearance of the 20th century icon that is Jane Fonda, she was on a European tour to tout her autobiography at the time and her appearance was something akin to celluloid royalty – a real sense of a special occasion, and as you’d imagine she was quite the charismatic figure in the flesh. Brother Peter’s attendance was summoned as part of the Dennis Hopper season they are currently running in tandem with the Royal Academy Of Arts exhibition of Hoppers newly curated photographs, I must try to get along to see that as they do look fascinating – such a shame they never got Frank over for an interview as that would have been quite an experience…..
Jason Solomons, film critic of The Observer (and The Fail On Sunday but we don’t talk about that) compered proceedings with a skillful dexterity, even if Fonda seemed to think that some of his anecdotes and recollections were more pertinent and amusing than perhaps they were. He also has an amusing penchant for dropping in comments such as ‘that was far out’ and ‘yeah, that was a cool scene man’ which doesn’t feel deliberately manufactured, I’m sure he still genuinely speaks like that to his family and friends and isn’t constructing a public persona – but it’s still amusing. I must check out Ulee’s Gold again which if I remember correctly was a terrific little Sundance-lite character study, with an Academy Award nominated performance from Fonda for which he amusingly lost to his old buddy Jack for his turn in As Good As It Gets – the only thing memorable about that film was Jack’s great reassuring line to a friend who was struggling ‘Hey, don’t worry, you’ll be back on your knees in no time’.
Some of the discussion centred on the difference between producer, actor and director – especially when you’re performing all three tasks on the same project – which led to some material on a film which to my shame I don’t think I’ve seen, The Hired Hand. Maybe I’m getting it mixed up with some of those other late Sixties and early Seventies Westerns (The Missouri Breaks, Little Big Man, Soldier Blue, and some of those Eastwood pictures) so I think I’ll have to track it down and see what I’ve missed. But of course most of the evening centred in on the film which guarantees Fonda and Hoppers footnote in the history books which is of course Easy Rider, to answer the perennial question yes the weed smoked below was real but no the coke wasn’t, despite Hoppers assurances that he’d score some primo Columbian flake at the start of production. Fonda trashed some of the allegations made in Biskind’s Easy Riders, Raging Bulls but admitted that the narcotic vortex spinning around the film was accurate, but finished with the point that he brought a work-print in for roughly $250K which was astonishing even in that era, and of course the film went on to ignite a whole generation and opened the floodgates to a whole new generation of filmmakers – far out. So as usual an entertaining evening with another scion of Hollywood Royalty, I wonder if Bridget will ever come out of retirement so I can complete the triptych? And what else to close on but this classic, with a trio of genuinely wacked out of their gourds Hollywood legends – groovy;
Just to be perfectly clear and for the fucking record I thought I was being jolly smart and educational and everything by referencing Ozu in my review, having now just caught up with some articles after I wrote my piece I see that the always excellent John Patterson was on a similar wavelength. Just wanted to make that crystal clear…..EDIT and Bradshaw has only gone and nicked my Tarkovsky quote – fucking hacks…..