mm— The hatchet man
Film critic Joe Queenan didn’t believe Robert Rodriguez could make a movie for $7000 - and he skinned himself making his point. He tells Ann Donald why.
When ﬁlm critic Joe Queenan trashed Blade Runner star Sean Young in a Rolling Stone interview. his reputation as a waspish. ‘half Calvinist. half nihilist‘ was born. The derided. hated scourge of La-La Land. Queenan compiled many of these hatchet jobs into the hilarious book If You 're Talking To Me Your Career Must Be In Trouble. Now he‘s back with a sc00pful of scorn and larfs. mostly at his own expense. in an account of his roles as a scriptwriter. director. producer and star of the decidedly non-blockbusting turkey Twelve Steps To Death. Described by The Dallas Observor as ‘lurching on its course like a ﬁatulent snuffalfagus'. it is the gripping tale ofa cop whose family has been wiped out by a ‘schizoid. anorexic. recovering alcoholithh, attention deﬁcit disorder
who was ﬂeeing an abusive chocaholic
husband'. Mmmm, lovely. This Bunuel classic was made to prove a point. and that. plus the tears. blood and trauma is related in The Unkindest Car: How A Hatchet Man Critic Made His Own $7000 Movie And Put It All On His Credit Card.
So what drove Queenan to notch up a bill of $65.l93. have his nine-year-old son quit the set in a strop and. ﬁnally. to describe the ordeal as on a par ‘with surviving the Spanish Civil war'? ‘I
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discovered to his bank manager‘s horror.
While making his monumentally awful movie. Queenan might have debunked the romantic lies maverick young directors spin to a public all too willing to believe their bargain basement movie costs. but the public wasn‘t too chuffed. He says: ‘I thought I was doing a public service by saying: “Well. if you're gonna nourish these kinds of dreams of escaping from your dull lives. have a cheaper dream or go and make a record!" ‘
In Queenan's opinion. these McMullan/Rodriguez types have been elevated to a cultural pedestal they do not deserve. ‘Because America is in a strange period right now where it has no real authentic heroic ﬁgures or there is no real struggle going on because Communism has collapsed. these popular culture ﬁgures have displaced the authentic Martin Luther King-type heroes.‘ says Queenan. ‘For a certain period of time all people talked about were these low-budget ﬁlmmakers and that void needs to be ﬁlled.‘
Even rock stars come higher up the Queenan tree of respect: ‘I think that rock stars are more mythic and I admire them more than ﬁlmmakers. who are really just guys that cut ﬁlm in an editing studio.‘ He adds with feeling: ‘What's the big deal'." That said. the scorn-man is still interested in writing a screenplay. but concedes that he'll give the directing job a bodyswerve.
The Unkimlest Cut Irv Joe Queenan is published Irv Picador at £6. 99. Twelve Steps To Death will not be appearing in a movie theatre near you.
was doing it to expose the lies behind the indie/lowbudget/maverick movie- making myths.‘ declares the Rennaissance man in a nasal twang. Robert Rodriguez claimed he made [5/ Mariachi for only $7000. the guys behind Clerks and Ed McMullan behind The Brothers McMul/an all declared they'd made their ﬁlms for tiny amounts of money . . .‘ This of course was a I00 per cent manufactured untruth. as Queenan
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U The List 26 Jul-8 Aug I996