The filmmaker John Boorman has a new movie out this week -- "Queen and Country," the sequel to his beloved Oscar-nominated cinematic memoir "Hope and Glory." That in and of itself isn't especially notable. There are lots of movies opening Friday after all.
But there aren't many directors still going strong in 2015 who can claim to have worked with icons such as Lee Marvin and Toshiro Mifune; to have helmed the movie that gave the world "Dueling Banjos" ("Deliverance") and the definitive "Excalibur."
Of course, amNewYork jumped at the chance to speak with Boorman, 82, about "Queen and Country," which follows "Hope and Glory" protagonist Bill Rohan in basic training for the Korean War and is playing at Film Forum, and more.
Why was the time right to return to the world of "Hope and Glory"?
It was a couple reasons. First of all, I kept intending to do it and I was slightly dissuaded by the lawyers because they said, it's based on actual characters, some of them, the nastier characters, might sue us. So now, of course, I was 18 then [when the film takes place] and now I'm 82 so those guys were at least 10 years older than me. So they've got to be dead now, or at least gaga. Not likely to sue.
Was it hard to get back into it?
I find that when I sit down and write, it opens up the memory. So even though there was a big gap in time between being 80 and 18, it all came back very vividly to me. I always kept journals, since I was 16, and I was able to go back and look at those journals. There was a lot of detail in it that was helpful. Then, my production designer was Tony Pratt, who had done a lot of films with me, and he was also in the Army. He did his two years national service so he was a great help in terms of getting all the detail right. He's always been a great support.
How do you draw on your own experiences to create drama?
The relationship between memory and imagination is very mysterious. Even if you tell a friend about something that happened to you when you were young, you are evoking a memory but you're also expressing it imaginatively. When I was shooting the film, when I was writing it, when I was working with the actors, I always asked the same question of myself: "Is it true?"
There's really no single thematic or stylistic throughline from one of your films to the next, or so it seems. Would you agree with that?
When I made "Point Blank" it was a big success and I could have spent my career making gangster movies. Having made that one, the last thing I wanted to do was do another one. I wanted to do something else. Look at Kubrick. He made a war film, a horror film, a comedy. I just followed my inclinations and developed ideas that intrigued me and interested me. I applied my craft to them. So I've never thought about myself in those terms. I just do whatever I feel like doing.
What do you make of the impact "Deliverance" has had on the culture?
These things are always kind of accidental. When I was trying to make the film, Warners lost confidence in it because they said to me, "You know there's never been a big hit film that doesn't have women in it." And I said, "Well, that's the nature of this story and I can't do anything about that." Anyway, they lost confidence and they kept forcing me to cut the budget more and more. And I finally had nothing less to cut. I always intended to use "Dueling Banjos" as a theme, a musical theme, and I had money in for a composer and an orchestra. So I cut them and I cut down to budget by cutting them and I just got two musicians in a studio for two hours and recorded variations on "Dueling Banjos." It was probably better than having an orchestra. Sometimes necessity is the mother of invention. I always thought the film would be OK, it would be good, but I never dreamt it would penetrate the culture the way it did.
How does that manifest itself in your experience?
Someone the other day sent me a T-shirt of "Peanuts" characters, the two of them in a canoe, and one says to the other, "Paddle faster. I hear banjos."
What will you do next?
This is supposed to be my last film. The last shot is of a mechanical camera wind-up which stops. And that's my signal. But, I'm being encouraged to do another one. Maybe I will. If I live long enough. I'm 82. I thought I did rather well to make a film at my age but then there's Clint Eastwood, who is two years older than me and he's just made a blockbuster. ... So I feel like a youngster.