Michael Radford

"I'm not an in-your-face film-maker."
Michael Radford the director of 1984 and Il Postino talks to Jaap Mees about  the greatest influences on his own film-making, how he became a film-maker and Hollywood.
Talking Pictures alias talkingpix.co.uk






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Michael Radford, the director of Il Postino, who was nominated for a Best Directorís Oscar and who won several BAFTA Awards, is back in the film business. I interviewed him at BAFTA in London.

When I shot 1984, based on George Orwellís book, I had to shoot a big scene at Alexander Palace in North London. We used 2000 extras, five cameras, cranes, dollys, etc...I thought ďthis is it!Ē Now I realise it isnít. The more mediocre you are as a director, the bigger spectacle films you make.

Itís strange to see what an Oscar nomination can do for your career. For five years I couldnít make a film, and now since the nomination I get about 200 phone calls a day. Hollywood even offered me to direct the new 15 million dollar movie, written by Joe Esterhaze (Basic Instinct). I turned it down, because Iím not an in-your-face film-maker. I want to tell something with my films and try to be as simple as possible.

People who influenced me strongly were the Nouvelle Vague film-makers like Truffaut, Godard, Rohmer and Chabrol.

Il Postino hasnít got  an Italian Tourist Board look. The film is more a tribute to the Neo-Realism period: De Sica and Rosselini, etc. We used some of the same locations where Stromboli by Rosselini was shot.

Michael Radford. All Rights Reserved.The most difficult thing in making Il Postino was the fact that Iím not an Italian, although I speak the language. You miss details and nuances in language and culture. I realised this even more, when I was in Rome and saw two British women ordering a cup of tea. From the way they spoke and were dressed I knew immediately from which part of England they were from.

I first wanted to be an actor. I played in Alice in Wonderland. And a dormouse in a Christmas play. Then I taught in Edinburgh, where I did psychodramas with my students. After studying film at the National Film  and Television School, I made a documentary, which was shown on the BBC. My first feature Another Time, Another Place was shown in Un Certain Regard at the Cannes Film Festival and I received positive calls from Godard and Bertolucci.

The interesting thing is that I asked Massimo Troisi, the star of Il Postino, to play in Another Time, Another Place, but he didnít want to go all the way to Scotland. After he saw the film, he regretted his refusal very much. That was one of the reasons, he asked me to direct Il Postino. I immediately felt Ďthatís meí that film is me.Ē

Radford, who has directed Another Time, Another Place, 1984, White Mischief and Il Postino, all based on books is a typical European film-maker, but he lives in Los Angeles.

Hollywood is in a mess at the moment. They donít know what direction they want to go. I think people there are obsessed with the technique of film-making, and donít know how to make a simple film anymore.

I got more hopeful after visiting Robert Redfordís Sundance Festival. Itís a barometer of film-making. More and more films shown there deal with real people and emotions.

Michael Radford has now got four new projects lined up: B Monkey taken over from Michael Caton Jones (Rob Roy); The Rationalist a sexual drama set in 18th Century England; The Swedish Cavalier with Gerard Depardieu and a project in the USA with the screenwriter of The Deerhunter.

This interview originally appeared in Talking Pictures, No. 16, Autumn 1996.

Web References

Michael Radford's latest projects, news and views are posted on his official website at:

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