18 The List 27 Jan-9 l-‘eb l‘)‘)5

Comedy cereal

Health eccentrics and bowel movements play strong roles in ALAN PARKER‘s latest film The Road To Welli'ille. Nigel Floyd tucks into a different kind of big breakfast.

liven if you too have forgotten how good they taste. cornllakes will never be the same again after Alan Parker‘s The Road 7}) Hill/ville. a high fibre comedy about the inventor of the world‘s best-known breakfast cereal. Dr John Harvey Kellogg. Actually. it was his brother Will K. Kellogg who packaged. marketed. added his moniker to. and made a foitunc from the flakes. btit it was at John Harvey‘s fashionable Battle (‘reek Sanitarium iii Michigan that the revolution in early morning eating habits began. Until then. Americans sat down each morning to greasy i'ashei‘s of bacon. fatty sausages and squishy eggs. :\ll evangelical vegetarian atid devout Seventh Day Adventist. John Harvey abhorred this situation. proclaiming: ‘Meat eaters are drowning in a tide of gore.‘

l’arkci‘ bought the rights to T. Coraghcssan Boyle's novel before it was published. attracted by its setting. its robustly comic tone. and its peculiarly topical subject matter. ‘I was attracted initially to this beautiful and extraordinary eccentric world of the Battle Creek Sanitarium at the turn of the century. which was a combination of health spa. grand hotel and hospital. where rich Americans like Henry Ford and John D. Rockefeller would go for “the cure". Kellogg is just one of the stories within it. It‘s about obsession with health. it‘s about obsession with sex. and it‘s about the fact that we‘re all fearful of our own mortality atid are trying to do what we have to do in order to enjoy a few more minutes of life. It‘s also about women going from one century into another. and things that changed their attitudes. So I hope it‘s about a bit more than somebody who invented the cornllake.‘

Indeed it is. with l’arker‘s script deftly interweaving three different stories. lileanor and Will Lightbody (Bridget lionda and Matthew Broderick) have come to Battle (‘reek to cure his ill-health and their shaky marriage. The ambitious but naive Charles ()ssining (John (much is using his rich aunt‘s money to finance and build a cereal factory. And John Harvey Kellogg is having problems with his recalcitrant son. George (Dana (‘ai'veyL one of 42 children adopted by the autocratic philanthropist. All of this is set against the backdrop of a prototype health farm where the patrons pay handsomely to have their bodies pumiiielled. their spirits cleansed and their bowels purged.

Focusing. as it does. on a bluff. dytiaitiic. dcvoutly religious man who advocated not only a hiin fibre diet but also the regular administration ofenemas (‘l

The Road To Wellville: ‘a high fibre diet and the regular administration of enemas'

assaulted the bowel with sterilised bran and paraffin oil from above. and with torrents of water from below" ). the film demanded a fearless comic performance frotn Anthony Hopkins. Virtually unrecognisable behind a goatee beard. specially enlarged front teeth and a savoury .’\merican accent. the bristle-headed. white-suited Hopkins launched himself into the role with great gusto. Although the actor has made his name playing emotionally repressed. stiff-upper-Iipped linglishmen like the stern patriarch in l/mrun/iv [find or the deferential butler in The Remains (2/ The /)(1.\'. Parker thinks he relished the opportunity to play a more llaiiiboyant character than he has of late.

‘lt’s become more of a religion than a

health thing. Instead of having a priest

that you can confide in, you have your personal trainer.’

‘I think Tony was a bit wary at first. perhaps because he‘s had some success playing these repressed characters. which he does very well. But I think pan of him wanted to be a little more estrovert. a little tnore out there. The other thing is that Tony is a very funny man. Everybody thinks of the great

thespian knight that he is in The Rental/IX U; The [My

or S/iudow/uriils or whatever. In actual fact. his real personality is much funnier than that. so he got a lot ofenjoyment attd ftiii out of playing the part. because it is closer to who he is as a person.‘


Another aspect that appealed to Parker was the oppoitunity to satirise and draw parallels between the extreme dietary practices and bi/arre machines employed at Battle ('reek and more modern forms of food and fitness fascism. "I'heies certainly a health fascism now.‘ reckons the director. ‘one that says I'm not allowed to smoke because people have decided I'm not allowed to. They 'i'e probably right. I don't think people should smoke. I think it's really bad that people kill themselves. The difficulty is that I do. attd | feel that I should have that choice. So. lll that regard it is fascistic.

‘But I think that the w hole obsession w ith health. the obsession with self. the whole narcissistic idea that if I workout every iiioritiiig and waste three hours jogging. I will be a healthier and happier human being. has become something that people live by -it's become more of a religion than a health thing. Instead of having a priest that you can confide in. you have your personal trainer. I find that absurd. btit l do acknowledge that people need it and like it. aitd therefore they should be allowed to have it. So what I'm trying to do is to poke fun at that: but it would be very boring. cinematically. if you set it iii a contetiipoi'ai‘y' contest Anyway. l)r Kellogg had encountered and written books about almost every aspect of health and diet before anyone ever jogged down a street in Santa Monica. And if you look at the machines that he designed. they‘re the forerunners of the machines you now see in a modern gym. so it‘s not a million miles away.‘

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