production complex) is starting to become very successful, so I have to keep that going.’
His selectivity earlier on in his career led to his appearances in some of the great movies of the past two decades — Mean Streets, Taxi Driver, The Deer Hunter, Raging Bull, The King Of Comedy, Once Upon A Time In America, GoodFellas — to say nothing of I 900 or Brazil, projects that were at least interesting failures. Is he not worried that the relatively frenetic rate at which he’s working these days might lead to a
Longtime collaborator Martin Scorsese (right) appears with De Him in Guilty By Suspicion
diminution in their overall quality?
‘Possible,’ he responds, ‘but I’m not worried about that because I know that what I want to do is good. As long as they‘re movies that I want to do and like, I’m sort of saying that I’ll work hard for the next three or four years in that way.’
He has just completed Cape Fear under the direction of his good friend Martin Scorsese, while the disappointingly routine fire-fighting adventure Backdraft is due for release in August. ‘I like Ron Howard,‘ he says, explaining the attraction of his
run-of-the-mill supporting role. ‘I thought the script was good. It’s a commercial film and it wasn’t something where I had to carry the whole thing. It paid me a lot of money and I can put that towards what I want to do,’ he laughs.
Under the auspices of his own TriBeCa Film Center in Manhattan, he is currently working on a project called called Mad Dog And Glory. Written by Richard Price, it’s being directed by John McNaughton. the director ofthe remarkable, disturbing Henry: Portrait Of A Serial Killer. Did he like that film? ‘Yeah,’ he enthuses, ‘I thought it was very good, very strong and he’ll be perfect for this film.’
Also for TriBeCa will be De Niro’s own directorial debut, Bronx Tale. ‘It‘s written by a guy named Chaz Palmantieri,’ he explains, ‘who did it as a one-man show himselfin LA and New York. He’ll be in the movie playing the gangster and I’ll play the father. It’s really about a boy growing up,
coming of age and the influence ofthese two
people on his life. I would say that will start shooting in about a year.’
He is boyishly enthusiastic about TriBeCa.
‘The whole idea is that when you get the
right kind of people together, that generates
things and ideas literally by running into each other in the hall,’ he explains. ‘I’m not even sure how it’ll wind up but it’ll wind up in a good place. I know.‘
And with that, he is prised away by a publicist who can’t believe the reticent star has been talking so much and is anxious about his next appointment.
Guilty By Suspicion opens on Fri 31.
Producer Irwin Winkler has a Hollywood track record to rival the best of them, yet Guilty By Suspicion is his debut as writer and as director. Trevor Johnston found out how he made the transition.
When accomplished film producer Irwin Winkler (whose credits include Raging Bull and the Rocky series) met exiled director John Berry in Paris, the ﬁrst seeds were sown. A film project began to deveIOp, which would deal with the cost of 505 America’s anti-Communist
hysteria to Hollywood’s creative
community. Five years and many script revisions later, the enterprise has culminated in Guilty By Suspicion, Winkler’s first film as writer and as director.
‘Basically they used the blacklist as a stepping stone to political mobility because it got them great publicity in the media,’ comments Winkler on the process, begun in 1947. by which President Truman’s House Un-American Activities Committee turned the attention ofthe government’s ‘loyalty programme’ onto the high-profile talents of the entertainment industry. As Wisconsin Senator Joseph McCarthy headed many ofthe hearings — which made notorious the dreaded words
‘Are you now or have you ever been . . . ?’ — paranoia mounted to the effect that only those who had been cleared of suspect sympathies were at liberty to continue working.
While some, including Elia Kazan, collaborated by naming names, many others refused to co-operate by seeking refuge in the Fifth Amendment’s right to remain silent — for which the
celebrated Hollywood Ten were jailed for contempt. There were also those who ﬂed to Europe rather than face such treatment, among them director Joseph Losey, on whom the character played by Martin Scorsese in Guilty By Suspicion is obviously based. Winkler in fact started out by co-scripting with blacklist victim Abraham Polonsky (who spent twenty years in the wilderness during the 50s and 605) before creative differences led Winkler to complete the screenplay on his own.
Where Winkler’s vision of the material differed from Polonsky’s was in turning the attention away from the political sympathies of the protagonist to focus on the dilemma ofa successful film-maker forced to choose between betraying his friends to the Committee to secure his career, or retaining his personal integrity at the expense of material well-being.
‘As he loses the big house on the hill, as he loses the clothes, the fancy car,’ explains Winkler, ‘he regains the things in life that are really important. He regains a sense of morality and a belief in himself. He rediscovers the
love of his wife and child, and grows, not in the ways of Hollywood, but in the ways of life.’
Winkler’s first film as producer was as far back as 1967, with John Boorman’s Point Blank. It has taken quite a few years for the New Yorker to begin directing, but he found himself “especially comfortable with the Hollywood milieu that Guilty By Suspicion presented.’ Having worked with the Scorsese/De Niro partnership on New York, New York, Raging Bulland GoodFellas, he saw it as apprOpriate that both should be involved here. Actually, Winkler is keen to point out that De Niro’s involvement in the project was crucial to getting the green light from Warners in the first place.
‘Bobby was interested in the character, trusted me I think, and with this kind of subject I don’t think we would’ve gotten the film made without him or someone like him. And, of course, there aren’t many like him. A first-time director and I get Robert De Niro on my movie! He makes me look good.’ (Trevor Johnston)
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“The List 31 May— 13 June 1991