Reality Behind the Hall of Mirrors – Book Review
Back when I read 3-5 books a week (now, I’m lucky if I do 2 a month), about 50% of my reading diet was film books. I rarely admitted this, as I wanted to appear like I read fiction and wanted to understand language more richly, and so on. But my real obsession was movies — and I was on a mission to understand the mysterious art form as deeply as I could. And nothing takes you deeper in the crevice of a mystery than books (unless you’re an archaeologist). This was the 90s, when at least one really good film came out every weekend (usually with the Miramax banner prefacing it).
One of the most underrated contributors to the cinema book treasure trove was one John Boorman, the director of “Deliverance” and “Exorcist II: The Heretic.” He edited a series of film books entitled “Projections,” which came out annually. The moment it popped up at Waldens or Borders, I would snatch a copy faster than Billy the Kid reached for his Smith & Wesson (or whatever gun was his fancy). I believe the series reached 11 and stopped.
In these books (though, Boorman called them “journals” because he’s British, but they are in actuality, books… voluminous ones); all sorts of filmmakers made appearances, sometimes with each other…. there’s a really good interview with Brian DePalma and Quentin Tarantino I think in “Projections 3″… a funny series of interactions with Boorman and Stanley Kubrick about script formatting in Projections 1“… as well as juicy interviews with people you wouldn’t expect, like Sylvester Stallone, Tony Kaye and Susanna Arquette, in the best of these volumes, “Projections 10” which was conducted by Mike Figgis (“Leaving Las Vegas”).
I noticed that you can buy a copy of “Projections 10” for one penny on Amazon (minus shipping), and that “Projections” has not been republished (Faber & Faber was the originally publisher and were responsible for many great film books, I don’t know if they’re around anymore). But its astonishing to me that one of the most informative film books I’ve ever read is available for one cent and has like one review! No one knows what a juicy journal this thing is.
I’ll never forget Susanna Arquette’s interview about the death of her acting career, how she went for an audition and there wasn’t a parking pass for her, so she parked across the street, walked in the lot in severe heat, and looked like hell by the time she got to the audition, only for the casting director to tell her that HER SISTER, Patricia, was probably going to get cast in this role.
Stallone’s very candid interview demystifies his “Rocky” myth. How it was just an okay draft that producers, Chartoff and Winkler, saw potential in. They optioned it for very little, then worked on it together for a year before it became the screenplay Stallone is famous for. Most of that time, Stallone was dead broke.
Jodie Foster also makes an appearance about why she’s best friends with Mel Gibson (because every other actor she knows is a flake), and how important it is to not offend anyone in the industry. She makes it a point that Hollywood is a family. And she was the kid that everyone wanted to help succeed.
Figgis also gets into the whole “American History X” debacle with Tony Kay and I don’t recall, definitely Mike DeLuca and maybe Edward Norton too. But I don’t remember this part so much. Because everything I’m writing is from memory. I read this book probably twice, then loaned to my friend Mark Crutch and never saw it again.
But now I can buy this thing for a penny. And if you’re considering or dream of a career in Hollywood, this is the first book you should read. It’s easily one of the most informative, realistic and rich “journals” about the film industry. While Peter Biskind has written incredible real life Hollywood tales like “Down and Dirty Pictures” and “Easy Riders, Raging Bulls,” they are hyperbolized. I’m not saying they’re not real, but they stimulate the dream logic of why someone would want a career in Hollywood.
The truth is, although its an industry with constantly changing rules, its a job like any other job. There’s more heartbreaks probably, and backstabbing, and ugliness, but the majority of Hollywood is 80% like any other job. A daily grind that isn’t for everybody. “Projections 10” is the only book I can think of that accurately represents the reality of the job.
Written by: Norith Soth