The General
A Film By John Boorman
The StoryThe FilmmakersProduction Notes

The CastFilm StillsFilm ClipsLinks

A Personal Account

The Hunt For Cahill. You could not live in Ireland in the 80's and be unaware of Martin Cahill, master-mind of daring robberies culminating in the theft of paintings from the collection of Sir Alfred Beit, including the only Vermeer in private hands. Despite being the police's most wanted man he artfully eluded detection and capture. Confronted by photographers, he covered his face with his hand or with one of his range of designer balaclavas. Blurred, fleeting images of him appeared in the press, but what he really looked like, his countenance, his character remained an enigma. His exploits went from the outrageous to the bizarre. When he needed weapons, he robbed them from the police arsenal. If there was a criminal case being prepared against him or member of his gang, he broke into the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions and stole the files.

Police embarrassment became political outrage and a task force of 90 men were assigned to an unprecedented round the clock surveillance in a desperate attempt to ensnare him. While the police fumed and the politicians ranted, the ordinary Dubliner had a sneaking admiration for the almighty cheek of the man. At this point he was being hounded, not only by the police, but also by the press, and finally a TV reporter waylaid him as he made his weekly visit to collect his unemployment benefit. He was shadowed by two guards, and although he kept his face covered, we finally got a vivid impression of Martin Cahill. A small, fat fellow with balding reddish-blond hair, he answered questions with a teasing wit.

"How do you feel about the police following you everywhere?"

"There's no police following me. I don't see them." (They were inches from his shoulder)

"Do you deny you are Martin Cahill, known as the General, wanted for armed robbery?"

"Must be some other Martin Cahill"

"Who do you think is the General?"

"Some army officer?" Said in a high pitched voice in mock-innocence - the schoolboy denying guilt to a Christian Brother.

Having spent twenty five enchanted, exasperated years in Ireland I instantly recognized the manner, honed in surviving the oppression of two colonizing powers, the English and the Church. A role is assumed, a cover story concocted and the play-acting conceals a contempt for authority, a rage perceived at injustice, a ferocious cunning, a sense of perpetual celebration, a dark brutality - in fact, the pagan characteristics of a Celtic chieftain. The public fascination with Cahill (and my own) probably drew on something archetypal from the deep past, a relish and envy for the freedom of one who dares to defy the might of society. It bought to mind those Irish gang bosses in Chicago. They came out of the same mold as Cahill. The popular appeal of "The Godfather" was that it offered a tribal social structure, rather than the perplexing and frustrating complexities of a modern democracy. Only a few hundred years back we were all living in tribes and emotionally it seems that we have hardly graduated from that condition.

Facts on Cahill were scant enough but the crime reporter, Paul Williams, spent years tracking him down as remorselessly as the cops. The more slippery Cahill, the more determined was Williams. Eventually he published his account in a book entitled "The General." I bought it and devoured its contents. It was more bizarre than anything one could imagine. It emerged that he lived amicably with two sisters and fathered children with both of them. He neither smoked nor drank nor drugged. Apart from his love of motorcycles he lived simply, even frugally. He took his pleasure from making fools of the police, the church, civil servants and even the IRA which he despised, not on moral or public grounds, but because it was another institution, for it was institutions of all complexions that were the focus of Cahill's ire.

The Rights. I had been thinking for some time about making a film about contemporary Ireland, a country shaking of its catholic past and fumbling towards an uncertain future in Europe. This story seemed to afford the opportunity. To my horror I found out that the film rights had been acquired by a smart young American, P.J. Pettite. My partner in Merlin Films, Kieran Corrigan, and I approached him. He was pleased that I wanted to direct it, but was so possessive and afraid that he would lose control that he insisted on a long-form production and distribution agreement before I could start work on the script. Usually a short-form agreement is drawn up that summarizes the main issues. The final 70 page contract is complex, time-consuming and is often not completed until the picture has been shot and edited. Negotiations stretched over many months and eventually got so mired in trivial detail that I threw in the towel and left the ring.

I turned my attention to "The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe," a project that involved animatronics and computer generated imagery on a large scale. Working with the brilliant designer, Jim Acheson we story-boarded the entire film, more than 2,500 drawings. We built models of sets and supervised the construction of a range of creatures at the Jim Henson workshop. The budget came out at $85 million and Paramount demurred. Nine months of work. On the rebound I rushed headlong into a low budget movie, '"A Simple Plan." This foundered two weeks from principal photography due to a dispute between the producer and Paramount's financing partner.

I got back to Ireland to discover that P.J. Pettite was ready to sell his rights without strings. It transpired that he had negotiated with another Irish film company, Little Bird. They had also failed to come to terms and decided to make their own version of the story without P.J. or the book. In buying the rights we found out that we had also inherited the legal action against Little Bird attempting to restrain them from using material from the book. I also discovered that they had a script written and had gained some financial support already. It became apparent why P.J. had suddenly become so ready to sell. I had to move fast, it was March 1997.

Script, Cast and Budget. I had buried myself in all the available research. Paul Williams supplied additional information not included in the book. As I shaped the material, I had to decide how the characters spoke, related to each other, their preoccupation's. The gang members were shadowy enough and I simply invented a group of characters and gave them the names of people in my village. Cahill himself sprung to life on the page. I had heard his voice. I knew his wiles. Frances Cahill and her sister Tina were a more difficult problem. They were not involved in criminal activities. Did I have the right to depict them? And in what light? I considered contacting them. Paul Williams advised against it. He said they would refuse contact with anyone outside their world. This was to be a fiction based on fact. The frameworks would be built of incidents that occurred. Beyond that I would rely on the truth of the imagination.

I wrote the first draft in three weeks. Our strategy was to have a script and budget ready for the Cannes Film Festival in May. We just about managed it.

My agents Ken Kamins and Jeff Berg circulated the script to buyers on the croissette and Kieran and I pitched it furiously. As ever, the questions came back, "Who's in it?" Gabriel Byrne was suggested, as was Gary Oldman, both actors I admire greatly, except I desperately wanted to cast Brendan Gleeson. Apart from an uncanny resemblance to Cahill, Brendan is one of those rare actors capable of possessing a character in a way that seems to transcend acting. I have followed his career closely. He first came to my attention as Michael Collins in the TV film "The Treaty." He was Mel Gibson's bearded side-kick in "Braveheart" and the dim-witted thug in "I Went Down." The Irish Times critic, Michael Dwyer, has aptly described him as "The Irish Depardieu." Needless to say my decision to cast him caused dismay among potential investors.

Simon Perry of British Screen expressed great enthusiasm for the script and it led me to hope that for the first time in my career I might get some money from Britain. Perry suddenly back peddled. He had offered support to the Little Bird project and felt himself in a dilemma. He said he could not invest in both, and how could he choose between them? When he learned there was a legal dispute between the parties, he could not possibly consider investing until these matters had been resolved. He was off the hook. Fortunately the Irish Film Board took a more relaxed position. They saw no impediment to backing both projects and promised us £400,000.

At the end of Cannes, despite widespread admiration for the script, no one had stepped up. Back in Ireland, Kieran put together Section 35 investors which provided us with around a million dollars. He then persuaded a group of private investors to take the UK and Irish rights for a further million dollars.

I threw myself at the feet of Paul Rassam, the distinguished French distributor who had done well with my films in the past. He pleaded for some name casting. I could not oblige. He hesitated. I could not reach him on the phone. Bad sign. Meanwhile, Kieran engineered an offer from a French producer who was prepared to totally finance the picture but his terms were so wretched that it was extremely unlikely that we would ever see profits however well the film performed and since I was deferring all my fees as writer, director and producer this was singularly unattractive. However, if there was nothing else on offer, I was ready to take the deal because at least I would get the picture made. This was important to me after the frustrations of the last two years. My career was in disarray. I needed to make a movie to stay in the game.

J&M Entertainment, the sales agents, agreed to prepare estimates of the figures they felt they could raise in the territories around the world and Kieran took these to a number of banks in an attempt to raise the balance of the budget. It became clear that they would need at least one major distributor to be in place before they would lend something that would verify J&M's confidence. The casting issue kept coming back at me. Could I cast star names in any other of the roles? Well, no, I couldn't the way I saw the film.

I renewed my efforts to reach Paul Rassam. I left messages: the ship was about to sail; the train was leaving the station, there was still time to book a passage, a seat, an honored place at the table. His silence was ominous.

The Race. Whether a major studio is involved or you are piecing together independently, as we were here, there is never a moment when someone says, "Right, here's the money, go make the movie." Approval of budget, cast and script are withheld until the very last. But there comes a time when, unless you seize the moment, make the assumption that it will somehow come together, it will disintegrate into an endless series of less and less convincing meetings. Confidence is all. You have to be seen to be making a movie.

By any measure that moment had not arrived. But there was another imperative. I had to start before my rivals. They were months ahead of me. If they were able to announce a start date before me, I knew my version would not be made. I took the plunge, hired Jina Jay to cast the film, took on Jo Homewood as production manager, and booked Seamus Deasy as cameraman. Kieran and I swallowed hard and put our own money at risk.

Several nervous British banks flirted then skittered away. How do they manage to run up so many bad loans when they are this cautious? Kieran took off for LA to negotiate with more adventurous US banks including Comerica Bank which was just beginning to move into film financing.

Paul called. "I'm on the train," he said "for a million dollars." Bless him. I got news to Kieran. His position with the bank was radically improved.

Derek Wallace was a resourceful prop man who had worked on a number of projects with me. I gave him the job of designing the picture. No one better, on a tight budget, to forage, beg, borrow and steal the sets and locations we needed. He has an ability to find imaginative solutions to intractable problems. A practical dreamer. Con Cremins came on board as accountant. He was with me in the Amazon. A great man to have at your back holding the fiscal line. We refined the budget and Con, Jo and I traveled to London to seek a completion bond with Film Finances. Despite their title, the one thing they don't do is finance films. They take a large fee to assure investors that if the picture goes wildly over budget they will provide the extra money. They insist that a 10% contingency is added to the budget and their conditions for paying are so draconian that investors usually prefer to stump up the extra money themselves. However, with several partners involved, a bond is an essential instrument in giving legal comfort to the investors. Film Finances tooth-comb found no flaws in our estimates but they put their corporate finger on two potential problems. What if the criminal community disrupted filming resulting in expensive delays. I pointed out that we had put in substantial sums for security and protection. "What if?" they added nervously, "you fall out with Merlin Films and they replace you as director." I was able to point out that both Kieran and I owned a very significant majority of Merlin and that I was chairman of the company, so that was very unlikely to say the least.

However, I was concerned about security, more than I was prepared to admit to Film Finances. An unscrupulous journalist on the Sunday Times had procured a copy of the script and written a piece accusing me of glamorizing violence and torture, the first time I had had a film reviewed before it was made. The Irish tabloids picked up the story and began running fabricated variations, embroidering on what their rivals had written. "People's lives were being threatened if they took jobs on the movie." "We were victims of unimaginable intimidation." All this was totally untrue. At this point we had had no content of any kind with the criminal element. However, the press stories were creating difficulties. It was proving difficult to secure locations - owners were afraid of being burned or bombed or worse. Our lawyers wrote to all the papers threatening legal action if they persisted in printing false and unsubstantiated stories. It quieted them down.

Enter Gerry O'Carroll. In searching for someone to help us with security, I met a man who was to have a profound effect on the film - Detective Inspector Gerry O'Carroll. He was one of several policemen who had hunted down Cahill. He knew him well, knew the members of his gang, knew his family. I spent hours talking with him and he gave me fresh insights into the character. He is the most compelling raconteur and he brought the subject into vivid life for me from another perspective. Like so many of Dublin's police he was from the country, in his case, the border land between Cork and Kerry. It has long been the policy of the Gardai to police districts with men from elsewhere. As a result, Dublin policemen are often lonely and isolated and dependent on each other for social comfort. They feel under siege from a hostile community, particularly in rougher sections. This was not the case with Gerry. He has both a warm and intimidating power that gained him friends and respect. He is famed for venturing alone in no-go areas with impunity. His welcoming smile is off set by his bone-crunching handshake which reminds you of the great strength of the man, not to be trifled with.

Gerry advised on security. The set would have a pair of armed policemen. My house and Brendan's would be carefully watched. But most of all he would rely on the good will of criminals to whom he had given a fair shake in the past to inform him if there was mischief afoot. He briefed me on the current gangland situation in Dublin. Over the last twenty years the Gardai had been stretched to the limit dealing with armed terrorist organizations which raised much of their finance through bank raids and kidnapping. There was widespread sympathy for the aims of the IRA in the Republic, even by many policemen, at the very least a reluctance to inform on them. This made it very difficult to get convictions. The terrorists were well organized and heavily armed and for many years the police carried no weapons. It was in this environment that several armed gangs flourished. Weapons were easy to obtain. There was often an overlap between criminals and subversives.

Then came the shocking assassination of the crime reporter Veronica Guerin. This caused such international furor (not to mention a hail of film scripts) that there was suddenly the political will to do something about the situation. A drastic bill was hurriedly passed into law which gave the police the enormous powers to confiscate property of suspected drug traffickers and criminals. The police were issued with modern automatic weapons and a wholescale assault on the gangs was mounted. Cahill's gang had fallen apart after his death in 1994, but there were other, more ruthless than he had been and they were mostly involved in drugs.

As a result, the criminals were in full retreat, many of them were skulking in Spain or Miami, waiting for the heat to cool before they returned. War had also broken out between the gangs that remained and they could be relied upon to kill each other at regular intervals. In the light of all this, Gerry felt we had a good chance of being left alone, although he cautioned that there was always some psychopath wanting to make a name for himself.

Legal Battles. At this point, however, I was under more threat from the lawyers that the criminals. A bevy of legal experts were poring over my script. Before the bank signed up there were hurdles to leap. We had got Errors and Omissions insurance (E&O). Before they would give us cover they wanted to be absolutely certain that there were no errors and omissions, that no one could sue for libel or defamation or plagiarism or anything else. One of them rebuked me with the remark "There's something in here to offend everybody." Like the completion bond people they only wanted to play if there was no chance of losing.

The dead can't sue so we were safe with Cahill and the several members of his gang who had succumbed to drug overdoses or come to sticky ends. It was thought that even if some criminals claimed to recognize themselves it would be difficult for them to sue for defamation, unless they felt I had depicted them too mildly and thus damaged their reputations for ferocity. I had to make sure that Frances and Tina were not seen to be privy to any criminal acts and, most importantly, that no lawyer, judge or policeman could recognize himself. The most litigious people, I was warned, were those whose business was the law. A careful check was made on names I had invented to make sure they did not correspond to real life actors in the Cahill drama. I fought them every inch of the way, but in the end I was forced to make a hundred little nips and tucks, dulling some of my sharpest lines. There was one particularly good epigram I put in the mouth of a judge which turned out to be exactly what a certain judge had said. I regretted losing that one.

Finally we scraped through. Kieran was able to write another paragraph into the contract with the bank and edge closer to the deal.

Pre-Production. I was in full pre-production. Kevan Barker, an experienced production manager and producer in his own right, agreed to come as 1st assistant. We were searching for locations, trying to reassure people that no harm would befall them. One good piece of fortune: Jim Sheridan had renovated a derelict slum for his film, "The Boxer," and was willing to let me take it over as stand in for Hollyfield, the doleful housing estate where Cahill grew up.

Brendan and I began building Cahill's character. We were determined not to flinch from showing his ruthless brutality and well as his wit and cleverness. Would the audience recoil and find him unsympathetic? I hoped so. But interesting. Fascinating. Nor did we want it to be like "Scarface," where the audience is somehow invited to enjoy the sadism. We agreed that we should unflinchingly tell the truth about him. We would be careful not to appeal to audience sympathy and to show the beastliness without relish or decoration. I made two crucial decisions about the style of the film. I would show his assassination by the IRA at the opening of the picture. This knowledge would then cast a shadow across the rest of the movie. His life, his hardships and his despicable acts would assume, I hoped, a tragic dimension. I know that it is said cynically that Hollywood likes tragedies with a happy ending, but this had to be truly tragic. I kept telling everyone that this is nothing if not tragedy. The tragedy of a bad man who could have been good, could have lived, could have known greatness.

Black and White. The other decision was that the film would be in black and white. Why? For a number of reasons. Eastman and Fuji color films are too saturated. They prettify. They vulgarize. And particularly, they romanticize poverty. Directors and cameramen struggle with this problem - using deep shadow, low-key lighting to dull the hues, pre- and post-flashing to soften the colors, attempting to control the palette by keeping the sets and costumes within a narrow range. In "Point Blank" I shot each scene in a single color, a monotone, in fact. The head of the Art Department at MGM wrote a memo predicting disaster. "He has a green office with green furniture, there are seven men in green suits with green shirts and green ties. This movie will be laughed off the screen." I reminded him of Magritte's painting of a pipe on which he write "this is not a pipe." Film is not life. In that office scene the colors were perceived not only as shades of green, but as browns and yellows and even blacks. The eye saw harmony and subtle nuances. No one, no critic ever referred to it. In that film I was using color but seeking the unifying effect of black and white.

B&W abstracts while color distracts, detracts from the faces of actors, diminishes intensity. In "The General" there were many street scenes where I could not control the color, streets drenched in the lurid poly-plastic colors of the contemporary world -- acid yellow anoraks, brick-red Toyotas, electric blue neon lights. In B&W I could eliminate these distractions. But there are deeper reasons. Most of us dream in B&W, remember in B&W. A B&W film approaches the condition of a dream, of memory, reaches out into the audience's subconscious. There was often a mythic dimension to B&W movies. They presented a familiar yet alien world, a contiguous reality.

I asked my cameraman Seamus Deasy to shoot tests. We experimented with both B&W and color stock which we had the lab print in B&W. We chose the latter option because the B&W stocks available are very limited. We found there is no loss of quality from going from color to B&W. The real challenge for Seamus was to adjust his style of lighting. Like every other modern cameraman he uses soft, indirect lighting bouncing off sheets of polystyrene or Chinese lanterns giving a flattering glow to faces and relying on the graduations of color to separate the various levels and objects. In B&W the planes must be differentiated by shaft of direct light. Objects need black light to rim their contours. It is more complex and time consuming. It is also something of a lost art. Like me, Seamus is old enough to have shot a lot of B&W before color came along and he began to dust off his technique.

Casting. There were a limited number of scenes in which to develop the relationship between Cahill and his nemesis Ned Kenny, and it required a powerful actor who could match the dynamics of Gleeson. In extremis I turned to my old friend Jon Voight. He is one of the very American actors with a consummate skill for accents. I called him up, sent him the script. he agreed without hesitation. He arrived for rehearsals with some trepidation. He was, after all, surrounded by actors who belonged in the milieu, who were born to it.

I said, "Jon, there is someone I want you to meet." I introduced Detective Inspector Gerry O'Carroll. They became inseparable. Jon was soon talking with Gerry's accent as they toured the streets and police stations. Jon sat in on interrogations. He listened entranced to Gerry's stories. He wanted Gerry to be present when he shot his scenes to correct any slips. Gerry complied. It emerged that he was a serious movie-buff.

The Race Heats Up. I had set a start date for August 10th. Kieran suggested we should delay it since the deal was still not in place. He was on the phone to AL night after night talking to the bank and its lawyers who seemed to be dragging things out. In the meantime we were funding the picture with our own money and we had spent more than £250,000, breaking the first rule of producing: never use your own money. Perhaps we should stop making further commitments until the deal was in place. We considered it carefully, but decided not to lose momentum. We had overtaken our rivals. They were threatening to start in October. I did not want them to close the gap. We pressed on.

Rehearsals were intensely exciting. Sparks flew between Jon and Brendan, both enormously inventive actors. I integrated several of their improvisations into the script. Adrian and Sean added shafts of wit and insight as their characters took form. The women, Maria Doyle Kennedy (Frances) and Angeline Ball (Tina) brought passion and warmth to my words.

We discussed the difficulty of impersonating living characters. Brendan wrote to Frances Cahill saying that he would try to do justice to her husband. There was no reply. I also received a touching and articulate letter from Martin Cahill Junior. I showed it to Gerry. He said the boy was a highly intelligent art student with no involvement in crime. Martin felt his family had been pilloried in the tabloid press and how difficult it was for them to try and lead normal lives. He recognized the legitimacy of our making the film but asked not to be included in it. I replied complying with his wish and expressed the hope that the film would be cathartic rather than painful to the family.

Ten days to our start date, a bombshell. Little Bird delivered a summons late on Friday for us to answer in court on the following Monday. They were seeking an injunction to prevent us from shooting our picture. Paul Williams quotes in his book from interviews with Cahill conducted by Michael O'Higgins, a one time journalist, now a barrister. It appeared that Little Bird had cleverly acquired the film rights to those interviews and was seeking to prevent us from using any material which might have derived from them, thus neatly turning the tables on us.

I spent the weekend analyzing my script and providing our lawyers with an account of my sources for every single scene in the film. We concluded there was nothing drawn from O'Higgins material. We worked through Sunday night. Williams went through his mountainous files verifying his sources. We were still completing our depositions on Monday morning. Bleary-eyed, we staggered into court. Kieran, a barrister himself, had organized the whole operation with great aplomb. He is best under fire, comfortable in crisis. He admired the cunning of our adversary's strategy. This is the last week before the court rises for summer recess. They had timed it thus in the hope and expectation the case will be adjourned and not heard until the new term in October. With an injunction hanging over us, we would not qualify for E&O Insurance and therefore would not be able to conclude our bank deal. Little Bird would have caught up. Kieran's thrust in preparing our case was to show the judge that there had been no plagiarism. And even if there was a case against the book, there was no case against the film.

The danger was that the judge would find that there was more evidence to assess that could be dealt with in the week. We stressed to the judge the 70 actors and 50 crew who would lose their jobs and the financial loss we would suffer if the film was delayed. Luckily he agreed and denied the injunction. We made our peace with Little Bird, agreed not to sue each other and not to impede the making of either project.

The Shoot. We started shooting at the courthouse in Lucan. There was still no reaction from the criminal fraternity. Ironically Veronica Guerin was driving from Lucan courthouse when she was shot in her car.

I had not made a film in Ireland since "Excalibur" in 1980 and producing Neil Jordan's "Angel" in 1982. I was surprised and impressed by the skills and professionalism of the crew. The many films made here over the last few years had honed their crafts. They combined great concentration with fine good humor, a difficult mix to maintain.

One day when we were shooting in the center of Dublin, one of Cahill's sisters appeared and knocked on the door of Brendan's dressing room. She spent an hour talking about her brother, how charismatic he was. Brendan said that all the social and political comment I had put in Martin's mouth (grinding my own axes) turned out to be uncannily accurate. As she left she added "Martin always said they would make a film of his life."

I felt nervous about my own money being on the line but relaxed about the shoot. Partly, this was for the first time in my career I was answerable to no studio, no producer, no financier, for we still had no deal. Partly, it was since I lost my daughter, Telsche, to cancer a year back, making a movie did not seem as vitally important as it once was. I had a little perspective. Telsche worked with me a lot, and she was the person who could always calm me down on set when my temper flared. Her memory, her loss was still keeping me on an even keel.

To get insurance cover, the director and the key actors are required to have medical check ups, these are fairly perfunctory. They take your blood pressure, tap your chest and tick off a list of diseases that have not afflicted you. But the insurers had second thoughts. They decided that I was integral to the film and that I could not be replaced, so although we were already shooting, they required me to submit to a more rigorous examination. The cardiologist informed me that the treadmill test indicated heart disease. I should check into a hospital right away. I might need bypass surgery. I could have a heart attack at any time. I said that it was impossible for me to have surgery since I was shooting a movie, calling to mind Bill Stair's often quoted remark about people taking film-making too earnestly, "it's not a matter of life and death, it's much more serious than that." And so much for my new philosophical, detached approach to the process. The specialist advised me against violent exercise. I went on a rigorous no-fat diet. This took the edge off the pleasure of the shoot. The film had found its voice by now. There was a synchronicity. Things clicked into place. We were at one.

Five weeks into an eleven week shoot and the bank deal was at last on the verge of completion. We were borrowing money to keep the picture going. However, there was the matter of insurance cover. I had failed the insurance medical. Kieran came through again. He managed to arrange an insurance deal that kept things going.

We finished the schedule with a week of nights. Our last night was in the Wicklow mountains above Luggala. In "Excalibur," I had Merlin striding across this very hill. It was magically still. The sky was clear and the stars bent low over our little endeavor. We spoke with the muted voices of interlopers in a cathedral. On such nights the spirits make their presence felt. We should not have been surprised had some Celtic chieftain with the face of Martin Cahill appeared in our midst.

Some of the cast had finished early, at 10 pm, and repaired to a pub in the nearby village of Roundwood. They bravely and selflessly kept on drinking in order to keep the pub open until our arrival around 3 am. At 7 am I retired to my bed. The others decided that if they left then they would catch the rush hour traffic into Dublin and it would be wiser to wait until 11 am, which they did. The truth of it was, no one wanted it to end.

I took a flight to LA to see a top cardiologist. He examined me and poured over my stress test. He was perplexed. I was not over weight. I did not smoke. My cholesterol was normal. The only way to be sure, he said, was to have an angiogram. A catheter was duly inserted into an artery in my groin and the long, slim tube was pushed up to my heart. It squirted a dye into the system and I lay there and watched on a TV screen blood flowing and pulsing through my arteries, heart and valves, a more dramatic image than anything I had been able to achieve over the last eleven weeks. There were no obstructions, no narrowing of the arteries -- nothing!

"You don't have heart disease," he told me, "you probably never will. You will die of something else."

I and my worried family were staying with my friend Bob Chartoff in Malibu. I got back from the hospital and watched the late sun back lighting the big pacific rollers. I was seeing everything intensely as if for the first time. I had been on death row and the pardon had arrived at the eleventh hour.

I went back to the relaxed pleasures of the editing room and Ron Davis and I shaped the picture. Richie Buckley and Van Morrison added the music. Everyone who came in to see the rough cut marveled at Brendan's performance. Soon I would have to get out there into that tough market and offer my wares for sale. But not just yet.

Return to The Filmmakers            Return to Top 
Copyright ©1998, Sony Pictures Classics. All Rights Reserved.  Please mail us with any questions or comments.