Allan Hunter meets Andrei Konchalovsky, whose new film Runaway Train is heading this way.
Andrei Konchaloysky is one oia rare breed: a Soyiet director who has slipped comlortably into the commercial mainstream ol' \Vestern lilm-making. It hasn't been easy. Alter w inning a top prize at the 1979 (‘annes Film l-‘estiy al for his epic .S'iln'riarle he decided it w as an opportune moment to tullil a long-cherished plan to make moy'ies in America. liour years ol' reiection and underemploy ment l'ollow ed before he w as able to ﬁnd the financing tor .\laria'_s l.t)i‘¢’r\ . a (‘hekoyian dramaexamining the disrupting effect of \\'orld \Var H on the personal liy'es ol ey'cryday
Ame ricans. Since then he has scarcely paused tor breath. llis successful return to this year's (antics liilm l‘estiyal with the ()scar-nominated Runaway 'l‘rain lends a cheering. circulatory
\ indication to his prey’ious decision.
Runaway Train is a terse. Visceral action-tidy enture in which two cony icts escape from a high security prison in Alaska and head lor lrcedom on a passing train. The driy er of their escape y'ehicle inconsiderater dies iii a heart attack leay ing the two desperate men hurtling towards obliy'ion. ironically trat‘Ped aboard another kind ol’ prison on wheels.
Based on an original script by Akira Kurosawa the project should hay e marked Konchaloyskyk western debut w hen he ﬁnally made the moye to America. ‘I had been in Hollywood lor tw o years without linding a iob.‘ he recalls. ‘.\'ippon l lerald w ho represent Kurosawa acquired the rights to the script and decided to produce the picture in America. ‘l‘hey approached Francis (‘oppola and 'l‘om l.uddy‘. w ho were close lricnds ol' Kurosawa. and they suggested me as the director. I think the Japanese were slightly amazed by the notion ol a Russian directing a Japanese film but I read the script and loy ed it y cry much: it represents exactly my aspirations for a lilm.l went to Tokyo lor two days to meet
title List 27 June — 10 July
with Kurosawa. He is extremely inyolyed politically and w c spent most ol' the time discussing Marxism. Lenin’s role in history. and drinking a lot ol' yodka. He has tremendous respect lor the personality ol a director and didn’t really discuss how it should be done.‘ .
Kurosaw a's script stemmed from a period during the late Sixties and early Seyenties when he made an abortiy‘e effort to commence a career in l lollywood that ended when he relinquished the directorial reins ol 'l'uraf ll.()l'(l., TUI'U.’ I‘ll-teen years (in lx'mit'lialm'yky lelt it important to update the lt't‘ltnnlngtt‘ul aspects (ill- tlielilniy and toliirtlier .-lnieri(‘ani.ye the characters anilsi'ttingoft/1e original. 'll'e (liiln 'I change the structure -- everything was there but
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was a no\ e1 he w rote. So. he brought the last touches to the lead character and improyed the dialogue. lle ey en plays the character ol Jonah in the lilm.’
Konchaloy sky madeonc signiﬁcant alteration to the original script with the sex change ot an important third character trom male to female. As the proieet eyolyed Nippon Herald bow eti out in respect to Kurosawa. l5unding eyentually came through lrom the ( ‘annon group w ho had backed ,l/aria‘y l.()l'('l'\ and now hayc Konchaloy sky signed toamulti-picture contract.
(‘asting Runaway 'l'rain w as the last step in the long process. I he lead character Manny isa tough. animalisticsttt‘yiyor iiiyoly ed in a poisonous clash ol w ills with the prison goyernor. 'l'he lirst choice lot‘ the role was .lon \'oight at w hose behest Konchaloysky had lirst journeyed to America. He turned it down. as did l)uy all. (icnc l lackman and Robert De \it'o who was busily engaged on line .llixyion. liy‘entually. \'oight relented and. according to Konchaloy sky . made a ‘substantial contriluition' to the lilm. painstakingly researching his character at San Quentin and receiy'ing an ()scar nomination tor his performance.
(‘o—star liric Roberts. also ()scar-nontinated. play s Voight‘s hero-worshipping lugitiye companion Buck. 'I spent a great deal ol my adolescence in and out ol iail so my research w as already done] he claimed in (antics. adding. ‘l'y e ney er had a better time making a tnoy'ie. .\ly childhood dream was to play someone lumping lrom train to train. [1 was a little lrightening and yery strenuousaiul l haye ney er been st) cold in my" lil'e. Jon is one ol the most gentle. sell-contained and dependable actors l'y'e worked with. He w as a wonderlul paternal quality ol leaying you alone until you need him and then he‘s there tor you. I iust lelt I could always depend on him.’