Saturday, June 18, 2011

The other films he never made

In a previous post I presented Man of the match, which was a project that never came to exist, sadly. Unfortunately for us, many other projects were never made and that’s a big waste as for many of them the plot was interesting and it would have been marvelous to see him in more films (I’ll never get tired of watching him!).
  • The Incidental Rape / The Punctual rape
I found the information of this film in two interviews:
Télérama (French magazine - May 1979):
In this delicious interview, Robert complained that British film industry was slavishly trying to make films exactly as the Americans, and that it was a pity that the Sensibility (with a big S) was disappearing from films. This make me think that he would have loved to make more Romantic films.
I’m going to be a producer, I’ll start to make this fall a film for which I wrote the screenplay: it’s a very Kafka-style story, very dark and very funny, I think. And next year I’ll make an episode about the life of Lord Byron.
In another interview taken from Photoplay (Photoplay, May 1980) he mentioned:
“I set up a development company two years ago in association with two others,”[...] “One of the things they came up with was ‘The Punctual Rape’ by Cambell Black. I’d run out of funds and nobody was jumping over themselves to give us a lot of money, so I said ‘I’ll do it’. I took it away for a couple of months and did the screenplay.
“It’s very inexpensive. It’s either the story of a man who is the victim of a monstrous bureaucratic system, or a normal society that’s harbouring a lunatic. It’s sub-Kafka, very black and very funny. I hope to persuade certain actors to do it for a piece of the action. David Warner read it and liked it. It’s actors of those qualities that I want to go for.”
I don't know why if it was that "inexpensive" the film was never made, at least the screenplay exist, Robert should go for it! I would have loved to see him act again with David Warner, who is an excellent actor too.
  • Gothic / A single summer with LB
His next project to be aborted concerned a very romantic character: Lord Byron and the true story of why the project aborted is exasperating. The plot was about a lakeside holiday shared by Lord Byron, Polidor and Mary Shelley. Robert was going to play Lord Byron and Robert, who is a nice chap, wanted Ken Russell to direct it. BUT at the end, Russell “stole” the screenplay (that was the word Robert used when I asked about this project) and made a terrible and disturbing film : Gothic. OK I’m being harsh, maybe Russell amateurs will like, and personally I don’t like his films, except Mahler which is really one of the best films I’ve ever seen.
In an article from The New York Times (5th April 1987) about Horror films, Diane Ackerman described the film as follows :
This latest Frankenstein movie, opening Friday at Cinema 1, doesn't focus on the monster but on the kinkiness of Mary Godwin (the future Mrs. Shelley) and her friends, Byron, Percy Bysshe Shelley, Dr. Polidori and Claire Clairmont, who vacationed together in 1816 at the spooky castle Villa Diodati, in Switzerland, where they engaged in polyvalent sex and funhouse theatrics involving rats, snakes, leeches, breathless runs through mazes, pools of thick slime, creaking gates, clinging spiderwebs, bottles of biological monstrosities, doors that open and close by themselves, and bouts of lovelorn sadomasochism. ''It is an age of nightmares,'' Byron says. ''Chill my blood!'' In scenes lit like De la Tour paintings, with one main light source - a candle, a fire or light wedging in through an open door - the quintet find opium-induced ways to amuse themselves. The weather is poor, so they pass a little time reading ghost stories, and for sport they all decide to write some themselves. At a later date, Dr. Polidori created an early version of Dracula, but on this lightning-flecked night, amid violence and laudanum, Mary Shelley's ''Frankenstein'' was born.
Ken Russell's Gothic poster
As if this wasn’t enough, the article also mentions: 
The British director has been intrigued by Shelley and Byron's ''haunted summer'' for a decade: ''About 10 years ago, Robert Powell, the actor, approached me with a script covering the same time span and events. But we couldn't raise the money. I think it was a little too poetic and not as scary as it might have been.''
So this corroborates what Robert wanted to make: more romanticism and no stupid and disturbing sex scenes. Eventually, Ken Russell made this film in 1986, and even if Robert was perfect but maybe a bit too old to play Byron, I don’t know if Russell offered him the part, I don’t believe he did it. Instead he chose Gabriel Byrne, excellent actor too with beautiful eyes matching perfectly with his dark hair, but in the film he looked too old to play Byron too. Anyway, I’m sure Robert would have played a gorgeous Byron.
Lord Byron and a young Robert Powell : he would have been perfect
  • Arab
Another lost project was Arab, and it’s such a pity as Robert would have looked sensational dressed like Lawrence of Arabia or Rodolpho Valentino. I found the information in the same interview he did to Woman magazine in which he mentioned Man of the match. His words were:
An enormous project called Arab is almost on the cards. It’s written and directed by an Algerian, Mohammed Lakhdar-Amina, who won the Best director award at the 1975 Cannes Film Festival and whom Robert feels is “touched with genius”.
I would have loved to know what this was about. Sadly I don’t know why this project wasn’t filmed, I forgot to ask him! Maybe I did but the answer would be the same : no money. Why the heck he had so bad luck at this point? Was it because producers wanted him to play eternally Jesus of Nazareth?? Arghh!!
  • Hard Rock
Finally, there was another project which he mentioned in the magazine Films Illustrated from 1979 in  which he talked about a project called “Hard Rock” and described it like: “it’s a film that will flash backwards and forwards in the life of a Frampton-like rock superstar, from the America of today back to the Hamburg of the ‘60s.” But stop salivating, ladies! Robert was only to produce it and don’t star it as he mentioned that he was looking for a singer who could act.
Hum! What a waste of talent and good ideas!
Now that I’m a true fan of cinema, I know this problem of financing still exist, and is even worse! There are a lot of projects, some of them come to exist, but several years later. The problem is that producers are people who make films to make money, they don’t see a film as an artistic work. For some reason, this is not true in France, as many films are made, most of them “artistic” (even if only 5% worth watching). Robert should have come to France and make all the films he wanted to do
Let alone financing, it’s also frustrating to see that many projects come to exist after several years and thus with a different cast.  For instance when you read that Scorsese wanted De Niro to play Amsterdam in Gangs of New York, I’m sure he would have been great, but none could have played Bill the Butcher as good as Daniel Day Lewis. It would be great to make film crossovers: mixing actors from another time to make them act together, I’m sure the technology will let us do this one day. For instance think about Jude the obscure, the series were excellent and Robert was perfect in it. In the remake with Kate Winslet she was a perfect Sue Bridehead. If you reunite both of them as they looked in their respective films but making one single film it would be interesting, but not a good idea as it kills the artistic work. But still think that the crossovers idea is cool!
Thanks for reading!

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