A matter of life and death

On screen and behind the scenes. the stories concerning gay rights movie Stonewall are remarkable. Co—producer Anthony Wall tells Trevor .lohns‘ton about the bravery ol‘ the l'ilni‘s director. the late Nigel Finch.

‘lle was a oneroll. One or the most stylish directors who e\ er worked tor 'l'\'. and e\ en il~ some ol the

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Such is Are/m colleague Anthony Wall's assessment '

ol‘ his late. lamented working partner .\'igel l‘ineh. whose otttput tor the BBV's arts strand included Classic programmes (ttt lllL‘ llls'L‘s ttli New \ittl'kis (‘helsca Hotel. the song ‘.\l_\ \Vay‘ and contro\ersia| photographer Robert Mapplethorpe .-\ conclusiye assessment too. because the pairs latest collaboration on the l‘eattrre Stonewall w ill stand as liineh‘s celluloid legacy,

The lilm is an angry and colourlul treatment ol the events and attitudes leading up to l‘lo‘l’s Stonewall riots in Greenwich Village that marked the birth or a new spirit ol' tnilitancy in .v\merica’s (lay liberation movement. It wasalsoa t'ilm whosecompletion Finch ne\ er liyed to see. succumbing to ,-\ll)S- related complications on St Valentine’s Day last year

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Frederick Weller in Stonewall

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(‘o producer's ('hrrstine \achon tthe pow erhousc New York independent behind titles like I’m/sou. Nix-(mi: and (in I’m/rt and Wall. now solo editor of the .l’t m series. v. ere charged with seeing the project through. Now the litter linds lntnsell iii the unaccustomed position of being a spokesman for l-inch‘s work. as well as elucidating his own l'eelings on watching a dear triend and longtime collaborators courageous battle to see his \ ision tor X/o/rt'ti'tr/l through as tar '1\ his body wotrld allow him. .-\nd then perhaps a little bit l'urther.

\\'hat\ strongest about the lilrn is its revelatory aspett 'l'hats the .tn mt thing.‘ says “all. ‘where

‘He was seeing double and quadruple, but he still knew what it was in front of him, whether it was two screens or tour, and he never lost his sense of timing or his

feeling for what goes where.’

you take an ordinary household obieet and look at it lrorn an unusual angle' lt tracoyers the repressive rituals ol' prelrberatron honiose\ual lite. where ga_\ l\;tt s like (lie Stonewall ltttt C.\l\lt‘tl tts \lttltly undergronrnl dines. public displays el al'l‘ection were \ ritually rncottcer‘. able. and the licensing regulations were such that none ol the l‘it:»s could hit the darreelloor until there was at least one wornau on her leet there already

ll the tilm has period detail in its lia\our. it's certainly not dawn to the original Stonewall lnn. who ollered no .r‘ operation whatsoe\ er to the production largely due to the tact that the area’s gay community had become \ery pt'olceti\e ol- their very own myths and legends. ‘ll‘e\cr_\onc we interviewed who‘d said they were in Stonewall that night had actually been there.‘ \\’all recalls with a wry smile. 'it would'\c been like l’iceadilly ('ireus on \'li Day 'l‘here was really an unbeliesable lack ol' generosity t’rom the gays in (ireenw ieh Village towards the proiect being done. especially by a lime} dir'eetot'.‘


This was the least ol‘ l-‘inch‘s problems. A vicious storm blew away the set on the evening they were due to shoot the crucial climactic riot sequence. while weeks ol' night shoots on a tight schedule and an over-stretched budget not only frayed tempers on set. but began to push an already lllV-positive lilmrnaker dangerously towards his physical limits.

‘It was starting in the early hours ol‘the morning that really did him in.‘ Wall remembers. ‘By the end of it he was not only completely knackered. but he‘d begun to lose his balance. He even fell over a couple of times. but he still managed to get through it. and w hen he got back to London straight away he went for a brain scan. The tests showed that he had a condition w hieh all-eels the way the nerves transtnit inlormation to the brain. to such an extent where the whole process giust stops working and the body breaks dow n. \lcr'cil'ully. he never go to the point where his brain went. but it did come on him very quickly He was dead in nine weeks.

‘lior the lirst tour weeks ol that time. he could move around. and we had the editing equipment put into

his house.‘ continues Wall whose almost neutral

understatement leaves no doubt of Finch's enorrnous guts and determination. a model for anyone who ever has or w ill have the dream ol‘ putting their own images tip there on screen. liven at this stage. he was seeing double and quadruple. btrt he still knew what it was in l'ront ol' him. whether it was two screens or tour. and he ney er lost his sense ol‘ timing or his liceling lor what goes where.

'Bv the tiruc he lost his speech. which was pretty much the last three weeks. we knew what he wanted

enough to screen the first assembly a couple of times and get Michael Kamen on board to do the music. (lnee we told him about that. and he could understand its. men it. he couldn’t respond. I reckon he just thought "luck it then. that's it" and studied it. He died tour days later, He had the lilm in his head and it's what kept him alive. He went with his boots on. which was a titling end. l think.‘ .S'Ionenu/l opens 11/ (i/trsgon Iii/m Theatre and lat/rrrltttre/i I't/m/rorrxr' on M H) May.

The List 3-16 May NW) 29