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Author Podcast: Julian Fellowes

abstract:You can almost hear them shouting, "The British are coming!" all over again since Masterpiece Theatre's Downton Abbey debuted on this side of the pond. Written by Academy Award winning screenwriter Sir Julian Fellowes (Gosford Park, Vanity Fair, SNOBS) whose name has become synonymous with his facility for personifying—and humanizing—Britain's stratified society of staunch upper crust, the middle and emerging class of professionals, and those in service. His knowledge base of course stems from his renunciation of a life of privilege for a career in (long before knighthood) acting, writing and directing. [Rather like Sybil!] Since the series has become a North American sensation, our 2005 BookBuffet telephone interview with Julian Fellowes has rocketed to our most popular podcast download, so we decided (with a mix of pride and embarrassment) to share this early foray into the podcast medium by bringing it out of the cobwebs to page one. The questions are still fresh and relevant today, and readers may be even more interested to learn some of the personal details revealed inside. Fellowes talks about his first novel, SNOBS (St. Martin's Press 2005) insights into British aristocracy with thoughts on America, his Director/Screenwriter debut with Separate Lies in theatres October 2005. Read the transcript and listen along.


February 27, 2012

The Interview: For He Is Jolly Good Fellowes

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  • Part I : Something out of an H.G. Wells Story
  • Part II: Class differences: in the UK, in America 
  • Part III: The unnamed narrator in "Snobs" 
  • Part IV: Inheritance and succession  
  • Part V: Romantic or pragmatist? 
  • Part VI: Characters you change your mind about 
  • Part VII: "Seperate Lies"
  • Part VIII: Directing film
  • Part IX: Writers who have influenced JF

Something Out of an H.G. Wells Story

Part I BB: Julian you were born in Cairo, and your father served in diplomatic service, but you grew up in London and East Sussex where you were educated by Benedictine Monks, [at Ampleforth, Britain’s leading public school followed by Magdalen College, Cambridge and the Webber Douglas Drama School.]

I looked Ampleforth (pictured below) up on the Internet and it looks positively as though it came out of a Harry Potter movie.

JF: I don't know about you but I increasingly get the feeling that I'm something out of an H.G. Wells story, and I belong to another time in history. I sometimes think of the world I grew up in, and I look at the world I'm walking around in now, and they hardly bear any resemblance   to each other.

BB: It's quite so. Growing up in England where there is evidence of so much history all around you compared to America where we are but a few hundred years old, the contrast makes you realize the difference between people's perceptions of culture, and...

JF: Well I would slightly contend that.  I don't think it is that America has no history compared to Europe.  The American presidency is older than most of the monarchies in Europe; Norway is newer, Holland is new, Belgium is new, and so on.  They all post-date the American presidency; in fact America has 400 years of history.  It isn't that.  What I think it is that the European culture encourages you to look back though history and see the present day as a result of history. Whereas the American culture is much more forward looking, it is always concentrating on what is coming next, and the future.  It's like that thing about youth, where you always want to hear what young people have to say.  The difference is not so much in the history as your response to your own history.

BB: So when you're traveling and living between Los Angeles for projects there and your own home in Dorset and work in London, how do you find the life? What is your basic feeling about living in those two places?

JF: Well, I love America, actually.  America has been very good to me, and I don't just mean that in the kind of obvious way recently.  But I grew up at a time when coming from my back ground—I mean, not to say it was incredible, but I was sort of privileged as opposed to not privileged, and that was very unfashionable in the early seventies.  There was a sort of love affair with the working class going on, particularly in the media.  All the actors, Albert Finney, Tom Curtis, Shirley Anne Field, they were all either from this kind of northern working class or at least presenting themselves as somehow belonging to it.  And they were smart; I'm not saying anything against them, that was the right thing to do for the sort of Zeitgeist at that time. But of course it meant, you know that I looked like something out of The Land That Time Forgot.

I always enjoy the fact that America never gets very hung up on your background and your past and everything.  They just don't care.  "Oh you did this, and you were a deb's delight," and they ask you, "How does The Season work?" and all that, but they don't then feel that they have to have an attitude to you because of it.

BB: Yes it's quite true. I think in America you are what you have accomplished more than where you actually came from.

JF: Yes, and can you cut the mustard?  At times, of course that can be quite draining, particularly if you're going through one of those periods in your life, which I'm sure we are all familiar with, where you feel you are not cutting any mustard. And you think, "Oh my God, I'm nothing, I'm no one because this is an achieving culture and I'm not achieving anything." But never the less, the great bonus of America is not just, as it is represented over here, that being working class is not a barrier to achievement, which is perfectly true, but that the real bonus of America is that being any class is not a barrier to achievement.  They just don't mind.  If you sell yourself as a writer, or a painter, or a businessman, or an academic, or a banker, what they care about is, are you any good at it?  I love that.


Class Differences: In the UK, In America 

Part II BB: So I am curious to know what is happening with class structure in the UK today.  Does everyone go around with a Debrett's [People of Today] pocket book?

JF: [Laughs] That's a very hard question to answer because what the media tells you is one thing—you will often hear the media say, "Oh the class system doesn't mean anything anymore, nobody cares, that's all over..." There is a kind of development, which I am not sure is a completely healthy one, but the upper classes and upper-middle classes tend now to live quite sort of hidden lives, because they are no longer in politics, you see, they're no longer a political class.  Of course there are some people still in politics, but as a kind of articulated class group they aren't in politics anymore.  And so they don't have any need for publicity, and that was their only reason for publicity.

BB: Right.

JF:  So when they don't have a need for publicity, they really hate it.  They really feel that if they keep their heads down, and nobody really notices that they're still living in their family house, they'll be left alone. So they've sort of dropped out of their traditional role, particularly in the big city, of being leaders. I think that's much less true in the country where the old values still do pertain.

What I feel, my personal view, is that until we can get nearer the American, and actually Canadian system, where all the classes exist but they are able to live quite easily with each other, there isn't this constant class warfare going on. In America there is a huge hereditary upper class; there is more inherited money per capita than anywhere else.  Where else in the Western world would you get two generations of the same family being President? 

But never the less, the inherited rich live alongside the self-made rich, and they both live alongside the middle classes.  Everything is quite easy-going.  The public doesn't seem to hate whole other sections of it. I think that is a much healthier way to go forward into the twentieth century, and I wish we could get out of this, to me very childish class warfare that the politicians indulge in.

Julian & his wife Emma at the Academy Awards 2002 (Steve Granitz,

BB: In your novel, SNOBS what did you set out to accomplish?

JF: Well I've been so surprised at how successful it's been! I wrote a version of it about three years before I won the Oscar, and I couldn't get anyone interested, and that was that. One publisher actually said, "Throw this into the dust bin and write something grown-up." [Both laugh] I've had some laughs at his expense since then. 

I suppose I wanted to write a novel, and I suppose for your first novel you should write about what you know, that's the oldest piece of advice.  Don't in the beginning go too far away from the tree so that you have some sort of authenticity in your subject matter. 

So for of us, you grow up in a certain world, it doesn't matter what that world is, and you have a kind of inside into it that people that don't live in that world don't have.  That may be simply the basis for a lot of funny stories, or a kind of anger, or any bi-product of that.  But if you are lucky enough to be able to put it into words, you do have a certain number of scores to settle with your own birthplace, your own origin. And I think that is what I was doing in SNOBS really. 

It's not that I hate the world I came from.  I've seen it described as a savage attack on British upper class.  Well I don't think its a savage attack at all actually.

BB: No I don't either. I think more so in SNOBS you explain the psyche, the motivation and humanity of people of these various classes, which didn't come forward in Gosford Park which was more of an Upstairs, Downstairs..

JF:  True. Well, also of course in a novel you have the luxury of space and thought. I was very pleased when [my publisher] wrote to me and asked if I wanted to publish any prose, and I sent them this existing outline and I worked on it and re-wrote parts of it. 

I mean part of the joy of it quite honestly, I don't know if you write films, but if you write films it's very much a kind of committee thing. You've got notes from these people and notes from those people, half the time you're just trying to protect it from getting wrecked.  There was a great luxury in simply working with one editor to refine your own voice. 

A film is a group exercise, so is a musical show, which I've just done...

BB: Yes, Mary Poppins:The Musical [Held over at the famous Prince Edward Theatre, and a huge success.]

JF: ...and of course people say, "Why did you decide to do this, why did you decide to do that?"  Almost everything comes out of a kind of joint consciousness. Particularly in a film, there is a moment when the director takes over, and there is a whole new layer when the cast come on board, and they do things with the characters that you hadn't thought of, and sometimes it's better -- it's not always better, but sometimes it is, and all of that is part of the process of creating a film. 

Whereas with a novel, the person who reads SNOBS, to a degree, has talked to me. There is a sort of clarity in that that is rather appealing.


The Unnamed Narrator in SNOBS

Part III BB: The unnamed narrator actually reminded me of Jose Saramago's novel, All The Names where conversely only one character has a name and all the rest are referred to by their titles.  Did you find this an amusing literary device to use in your own book SNOBS?

JF: Well, I don't know that other book, although it sounds a most wonderful concept.  Although to a certain extent you play these games with yourself.  One of these things since the book has been reviewed and had quite a lot of publicity, now people know the narrator had no name and I used to enjoy the comment, "Why did you make the narrator have no name?" and then people would say, "No, I'm sure that's wrong, I'm sure he does have a name," and then they'd go searching through the text to find a name..

BB: It's true, I did the very same thing [laughs]

JF: I was glad that it was not so self-concsious a device that it struck you right away.

BB: ...of course everybody believes that you're going to adapt this novel for film and play that role yourself.

JF: I'm too old!  I think the point of those characters is that they are all about thirty, because there is a moment when you're about thirty where you look at your life, and you're still young; there are still many, many possibilities before you, but you're not super young anymore.  And you realize you may have to adjust your dream-plan if you're going to get anywhere.  I think that the early thirties are the time that people do that.

If you haven't got your life on track by the time you get into your forties, then things are beginning to look a little desperate, and I don't think that that's right for these people.  I am in my fifties, so if the narrator was this sad old git who was in a basement flat at fifty, people would likely send donations.

Of course it is close, but it's not entirely me.  I was very conscious that in the book I was inviting people to get interested in a group who would not normally interest them, and also to take them into a world where they would not normally expect to go, or indeed have any great desire to do so.  For that, I felt that, rather as in Gosford where we used the young Lady's maid as a kind of tour guide, that I wanted the narrator to be sufficiently posh so you didn't need it explained that he was reasonably at ease with these people, that he was friendly with them and had friends in the same gang and all the rest of it.

On the other hand, he's not very successful, he lives in a basement flat, he's trying to get work as an actor.  So there is nothing in him that is alienating for the reader, this is a perfectly normal kind of person who is never the less, at ease in this abnormal world. And that was an absolutely conscious construct, that your guide would be an easy companion.

BB: Yes, I think the reader relates to him very much.


Inheritance and Succession

Part IV BB: There are two confrontations in the book having to do with mothers and daughter-in-laws, and I think every daughter-in-law in the world is going to have a laugh-out-loud moment when they read that [passage].  What is the universal succession-thing?  It occurs regardless of class, but I'm sure it is more acute in aristocratic society where you are looking to carry on a dynasty?

JF: I think for me, one of the great misunderstandings of the last century was the fear of inheritance.  And so in many countries there was this terrible thing that any kind of inheritance was a crime against nature, there is a pile up of the taxes, and all the rest.  Never the less, every culture depends on continuity.  There is a great loss when these houses go under, when these collections are dispersed.  There is a great loss to us all, to people who had nothing to do with the house or that collection or whatever. 

Because in England, there are no museums of English culture.  All our museums are stuffed with Italian paintings and German books and God knows what? Our museums are our country houses, that is where you can see the preservation and continuity of the English way of life. Every time one of those houses is destroyed we are all the poorer for it. 

I think the real thing is the business of time; I am very interested in the business of choice. A lot of the book is about choice—of course people concentrate on the class element, but we are living in a culture at the moment, where people are encouraged to feel they're not to blame for their own choices.  That if they had gone into a career that was wrong for them, that was somebody else's fault. That if they'd fallen over in the street, if they've eaten a hamburger and got fat, it's the fault of the hamburger seller.  

BB: Right.

JF: I profoundly disagree with this.  I believe that no human being can move forward unless they take responsibility for their choices, the bad ones just as much as the good ones. Then you learn. If constantly you were told that your own bad choices were not your fault, how can you ever learn? So that is one of my very strong themes. 

The other thing is time, that time changes us, and the choices that were right for us at one time, the things we liked and so on, and succession is all to do with time.  What is very hard for people, and I think particularly in aristocratic set-ups, and I'm sure this true in America as well, you are in-charge for your main years, and then there comes a time when it is necessary to stand aside for the next generation.  This is always an incredibly difficult thing for people to do, because part of it is acknowledging that your main years are over; that your high point, your flowering is finished. Of course you have people saying, "I'm seventy-six-years-young," and all these ridiculous things. But the truth is you're not seventy-six-years-young, you're seventy-six-years-old. And there are different ways of doing it, there are people who go off and do charity work, or move into an area where they're very welcome and so on. 

But one of the most startling kind of face-to-face encounters of times damage, if you like, is when it is time to hand over a family house.  When either your husband dies, or now-a-days because people live so much longer, there comes a moment in many of these peoples lives when they realize that if they don't hand it over, their son will be too old to take it on when his turn comes, and it's time for him to move.  We've had several friends in this moment, and it's tough for all of them. Some of them address it, and face it and do it, and others, like Nancy Mitford's character in "Don't Tell Alfred" have to be dragged out of the house clutching at the door, and that for me, is really Lady Uckfield's story. 

So in the book we have her struggle, just in memory, when she's having the fight with her mother-in-law and that she is establishing the fact that old Lady Uckfield's reign is done, and it is now the new Lady Uckfied who is going to be in charge. And of course we see her through to the moment, when she has to acknowledge, not immediately, but sometime soon her successor will be taking over.  And of course what kills her, is that she doesn't think the successor is worthy.  But in that is also a certain amount of self-deception, because whether or not Edith is worthy or not, there is only one life that separates her from taking over Lady Uckfield's kingdom.  And that does of course create some sort of tension.  That's why the entire dynasty of Hanover quarreled with their eldest son.


Romantic or Pragmatist?

Part V BB: You are as much a romantic as a pragmatist when you look at the romantic aspects of this novel. After the first flush of romance Edith begins to look at the difference in the potentials of her circumstances, and the quote is, “Is seems quite dangerous to give one’s sexual nature free reign and suppress one’s worldly aims.”

JF: [laughs] Well of course that’s only the opposite of what is generally taught now. In truth I think we all need a balance.  I think we need to be fulfilled emotionally and sexually and all the rest of it.  I’m sure that’s right, but how long per week do we spend in bed?  There is a moment when we have to be leading the life that suits us. 

Just in a completely different context, I went to drama school in England, and I’m not sure this is the same in America but all the schools were going on and on about, "the stage, the theatre, that’s the only thing that matters", blah blah blah.  And I got sort of lulled into this, even though it was a love of film that had taken me into acting at all. Never the less I did get lulled into, and it wasn’t until I went to live in Hollywood in the early ‘80s, (I didn’t do terribly well there when I tell you that my high point was to come second to replace the dwarf on Fantasy Island, you realize things were not going completely according to plan) but the fact is that during that period I suddenly was reconnected to the fact that what I actually loved was film.  And that changed my life. For that I will always be grateful.  Because I came back to England, and I had had a West End career and I was in the theatre a lot, and I thought, this isn’t what I want. And if I’m going to get what I want I’m going to have to start going for it and that redirected my life. 

In that way I think one can, particularly through love, of course—do you know that thing when you fall desperately in love with someone, and all she wants to do is live in the country and collect butterflies, and for about three months you can’t imagine how you lived without butterflies.  Then suddenly you wake up and you think, hmm, butterflies are great but being in the middle of London is good too. And you kind of go back to who you are.  And I think that is very important to all of us, and you go back to who you really are and what you really want.


Characters You Change Your Mind About

Part VI BB: In the end, I am thinking that [Edith] is happy.

JF: Yes, it’s quite a happy story.  One of the reasons I am doing it as a television film for BBC rather than as a movie, because I had a couple of people after it as a film, was that they both wanted to turn it into a romantic comedy with a happy ending of love conquering all. That isn’t what it’s about for me. I think there is a moment when we have to make the best of what is achievable, and if we don’t accept that then we could end up with much less than we might have.  It is no good constantly imagining that Prince Charming is coming or whatever. There is appoint when you have to say, look, this is what I can get if I go for it, but if I keep aching for that, I may end up with nothing at all. That for me is what Edith gets to.  She gets to the point where she says, “Hang on a minute, this life with this man…” I mean I think it’s important that Charles is a nice man.

BB: Charles comes off very well.

JF: He’s nice; he’s not interesting...

BB: He’s simple but he’s doing a good job managing his estate…

JF: He works hard, he does his best, and he’s kind; he’s a kind man. I think that Edith is alive to fact that given everything, taken all in the round, she could be having a much worse life.  And that seems to be a useful lesson for now.  We don’t need a lesson that says, “You too can be the happiest woman in the world, a movie star and married to a handsome prince. Because every TV show tells them that.  What I’m telling them is that there is probably something in your life that is OK, and if I were you I would build on that instead of spoiling your whole life wanting something you’re never going to get. So if that’s a happy ending, I think it’s a happy ending.

BB: I think it’s a realistic compromise.

JF: It’s a pragmatically happy ending. We were talking about the jeu d’esprit in writing, and one of my jeu d’esprit in that is in writing characters that you slightly change your mind about.

BB: U'hum, that evolves.

JF: Like in Gosford because I wanted to one close relationship with a body slave, with a Lady’s maid or a valet, and the one I went with—because I could have done Derek Jacobi and Michael Gambon or Kristin and Meg or whatever—and the one I went with which was quite deliberate, who in a way was the nastiest person downstairs, is Lady Trentham (Maggie Smith). But she’s not particularly unpleasant to her maid, in fact she’s quite nice to her, and just when you decide that this is a completely horrible person, she isn’t completely horrible. 

That for me is like life, that you change your mind about people.  Quite deliberately in Snobs, I started out by writing Charles as a character that you think, “Oh my God, this guy is a bore.”  But then gradually, as it all goes on, and Edith leaves him, and he’s crying and everything, you get to the point where you think, “God what has this guy done that is so terrible? He doesn’t deserve this, he’s loved this woman, he’s fought his mother to marry her, he’s done his best as he can do it,” and I feel that by the end, even people who in real life would not find Charles in the least congenial, never the less, by the end of book, they’re kind of on his side. And that is I suppose what I like to do as a writer, really.


Separate Lies

Part VII  BB: Now that you’ve had several projects there are recurring actors that you’re working with and people and I’m wondering if it becomes quite like a family, going from project to project?

JF: It does.  I think it’s a mistake to stay too much with the same people.  Some people have done it; Kenneth Brannagh had that group that made all of his films when he was directing films, but for me it gets a bit cozy, really.  Where I think I’m incredibly lucky, was that my first three big successes, were all in completely different areas.  I mean Gosford, Snobs and Mary Poppins are all in absolutely different parts of the forest. That stopped that happening, it meant that I was working in a different way with a different group of people in a different market, you know, and that was very exciting, and very sort of un-cozy-making, if you know what I mean. They were all three voyages of discovery, and I like that.

BB: In your next project, Separate Lies, which comes out October 7th, [revised to Sept. 16th] the movie is adapted from Nigel Balchin’s novel A Way Through The Wood. He has a very fascinating background, tell me about your interest in his book and life.

JF: I was trying to find a book with exactly what we’ve just been talking about, that kind of moral ambivalence, when you sort of change your mind, and it's sort of unclear, and you think, “My God, whose side am I on?” one of those. And funny enough it was Tony Hopkins’ wife, Jenny Hopkins who said, “I’ve just read this book and I think it might interest you.”  And I read it and it was exactly that because Balchin himself wrote it when he was very torn, it’s about his first wife.

BB: Right, Elizabeth and her relationship with Michael Ayrton.

JF: And she eventually did leave him in fact. He married again; he’s got a very nice widow, who obviously I have been in touch with. He didn’t want her to go.  He hated her for what she’d done to him, but at the same time he was madly in love with her and he didn’t want her to go. And all of that seems very good to me, because you hate and love people simultaneously. [In] one way she’s very cruel and very selfish, but in another way you do have a window on the fact that she’s been incredibly unhappy, and suddenly she’s happy and you can’t not be pleased for her. 

There is one scene in the film where I think they get that so well – this doesn’t happen in the book but it happens in my movie, when he sees her with her lover in a restaurant, he looks through the window, and he doesn’t know why he’s come – you know that thing, and I think you feel he wants to see her being miserable, and she isn’t miserable, and she’s clearly very happy, and very much in love.  It’s sort of awful but not awful at the same time.

Of course Tom Wilkinson gives an absolutely fabulous performance as James Manning and Emily Watson is wonderful as Anne.  Have you seen the movie?

BB: No I haven’t, I’ve just seen the trailers but I was struck by the line Tom Wilkinson gives, “We’re all reckless, but we don’t see the damage we cause.”

JF: Yes. 


Directing Film

Part VIII BB: In your directorial debut, did you take anything from your experiences with Robert Altman?

JF: Oh absolutely.  One of the really marvelous traits that Bob has, is he really loves actors.  All directors tell you they love actors but most of them don’t, and for most of them they are a tiring, boring part of the whole process that has to be, but as soon as they can get rid of them and get into the editing room the fun begins.  Bob doesn’t have that, he loves actors, he loves their company, he wants to hear what they think, he wants to see their solutions to the scenes, so he doesn’t initially over-direct.  I always remember him saying to one of the actors, “I want you to surprise me,” and they said, “Well, but what do you really feel?” and he said, “If I told you that how could I be surprised?”

I took a huge leaf with that. Obviously I was working with incredibly good actors so I wasn’t exactly on thin ice. They’re all fantastic, John Neville as well, Linda Bassett and David Harwood, they were all terrific.  Never the less I did get that thing from Bob, that thing of trusting what the actors bring, and just making sure. 

I had a week before we started shooting just to go through the script and make sure we were all clear about what we were doing, and that we all understood the script and the scenes and so on and so forth, and then we got cracking. But I did love it, and they were terribly nice to me, the actors, and they did sort of, I’m sure, wrap me up in cotton wool really.  But I did very much enjoy it.  I can’t possibly say if the film will do well or not of course because that is in the hands of The Gods, but I am really thrilled with it. 


Writers Who Have Influenced JF

Part IX BB: In Separate Lies you’ve gone from murder mystery to serious drama and I’m actually predicting this is going to be a successful genre for you. What direction will you go after this, will you continue with serious drama?

JF: Well I would like very, very much to do more in that area, I think it kind of suits me, certainly at the stage I’m at now in life. In fact I have just now completed a family movie for Columbia/Sony based on a puppet show in the ‘70s called HR Puffinstuff.  So that’s about as far away from what we’re talking about as you can conceivably get, and I’m doing a re-write of a romantic comedy at the moment, but never the less, that doesn’t alter the fact that there is something about that kind of emotional drama, I don’t know really know what genre/title it is, but it does appeal to me. 

I have just been approached this week about a possible historical drama... about a particular marriage and how it worked and the sort of crisis leading up to it.  I very much hope it comes off because I agree with you that is my correct next direction, next stage. 

There is another film I would like to direct, which of course slightly depends on if I am allowed to after this one, that is about a screenwriter who is torn between his success in America and his roots in England, and the women he’s in love with.  This is so completely in the middle of my patch, that I very much hope I am allowed to do that, because it does feel right for me now.

BB: That does sound like a great progression. Which writing influences did you have in your formative years? Who were the important writers to you?

JF: I think in film, without any question, Joseph Losey and Harold Pinter. I have always enjoyed Pinter’s screenplays, funny enough, if anything more than his plays. I think he’s an absolutely brilliant screenwriter. The world knows he’s a brilliant playwright but I know he’s a brilliant screenwriter. Joseph Losey’s films, I absolutely loved.

As far as straight writing, I was a pretty voracious reader to be perfectly honest.  I loved Trollope; of the classic British novelists my favorite is Trollope, and possibly Jane Austen because they’re very un-judgmental. It’s very hard with either Austen or Trollope to take a character and have no sympathy with them at all. They normally take a point of view, and you sort of understand the character, you don’t necessarily like them, but you understand them. They don’t go in for Dickens’ black and white people, and that appeals to me, that reflects my own life experience and so I like that.

But apart from that I don’t know really.  There are films, which suddenly touch me, and I always try to find. One film that I am currently mad about and have been for years is L.A. Confidential.

BB: Oh yes, that’s one of our favorites too.

JF: And its very difficult to analyze why that film is such a powerful one, next to all the other films about hookers and policemen and people shooting each other in bars, which heaven knows there are thirty coming down the pike at any given time, and yet that movie touches some sort of button.

BB: I think it has some of the same qualities that you refer to that you aim for in your own work, which are the progression and the transformation of a character going from something that you first expect to a completely different place.

JF: I thought Kim Basinger was simply fabulous because she started playing a sort of cliché and gradually she layered the performance, and of course that’s also the director and also the script, but none of those things are any good if the actor is no good. She understood what was being asked of her, and made this incredibly complicated character out of somebody who comes in as kind of L.A. standard icon. I mean I know she got the Oscar for it, so I know I’m not exactly alone in thinking that. She was brilliant, I thought.

Next: We ask Julian to speculate on the next actor to play James Bond. Stay tuned!


Further Links

Separate Lies in theatres this September. Julian wrote and directed this film that is an adaptation of Nigel Balchin's 1951 novel, A Way Through The Wood. It deals with infidelity not unsimilar to the devastating love triangle Balchin experienced in real life with his wife and best friend. It stars Emily Watson, Tom Wilkinson and Rupert Everett (Fox Searchlight Pictures) 

Gosford Park: This is a movie I watch over and over for the sheer delight: in the dialogue; in the evocation of another time; in the actors' exquisite performances, and the beautiful cinematography. Julian spent every moment on the set ensuring strict adherance to accuracy in manner and speech of the period. Director Robert Altman's technique of mic-ing every actor on set meant that Julian was constantly having to correct non-scripted chit-chat that diverged from authenticity, and provide details such as whether this maid or butler would have been wearing gloves or performing what duty.

Vanity Fair: Julian's adaptation of Thackery's classic novel satirizing the upper classes of early 19th-century England is a visual feast with the Indian influences of Director Mira Nair (Monsoon Wedding). Since we have featured the original novel and DVD elsewhere on this site, I wanted to share this interesting publication by Nair that includes correspondence between Julian and Mira about the making of the movie. 

Debrett's Ltd : The website speaks about etiquette, the social season, royal connections, and peerage and baronetage.

Debrett's People of Today is the biographical guide to contemporary Britain.  It is published annually and lists all the people playing the most influencial roles shaping Britain's intellectual, social and culutural life.

Saga Magazine: Interview, by David Wigg

Asian Review of Books, Book Review by Tracy Quan

Other BookBuffet Author Interviews: Do visit our other interviews.




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