Q: You didnít work on your first feature film until you were 39. Why were you so late to the game?
A: Well, it wasnít for want of trying. Iíd even written something for the Bee Gees. My contact in their management company told me, "The boys are in disarray. We need to do a movie that will put everything back on track." You know, like A Hard Dayís Night. So I wrote a film called Castle AccidentI was very much enamored of medieval talesand I met the Bee Gees. Then something happened financially and they decided not to do it. I was very disappointed, but before long I got into filmsand those boys got what they needed from Saturday Night Fever, didnít they?
Q: You had a successful career making commercials. How did you end up doing that famous 1984 Macintosh ad?
A: The agency came to me and said, "Thereís this personal computer called Macintosh." And I said, "A computer in a household? Youíve gotta be kidding me." I mean, I can just about change a lightbulb. So I did the ad and I was tickled by the fact that there was not one reference to a computer or shot of the product. I donít think Steve Jobs liked that one bit, having his big launch campaign not show the fucking product. But right off they sold like gangbusters. And Jobs was, from that moment on, impressed by the power of media, I think.
Q: Youíre used to dealing with prima donnas, though. I mean, you handle Hollywood stars ...
A: Look, actors are all different. Theyíre not all volatile. Some are sweet, some are volatile, but what is fundamentally in there is something that has to be paid attention to, in that they are, I would say, needy. Maybe thatís what Hitchcock meant when he said, "Actors are children." But I donít think stars are children at all. Theyíre usually the most intelligent, no questionall the stars I know are really, really bright. But yeah, every director devises their own methodology. By the time I got to do my first feature, in í77, The Duellists, which was with a certain tough guy called Harvey Keitel ... He was what they call Actors Studio and all thatMethod acting and that kind of thing. Method? I told him I have a method too. I had absolutely no idea what the fuck he was talking about, and I think he had no idea what the fuck I was talking about. What Iíve devised over the years is being honest with actors and if I donít know, saying "I donít know. Letís talk about it. You tell me."
Q: Really? Iíve heard you say actors had better be ready and that the camera is your "weapon."
A: True. It is. By the time I got to the chest-bursting scene in Alien, I figured if they see the little bastard lying there on the table itís going to look pretty pathetic, so Iím going to hold it back from them. I knew it would only work once, but I only wanted one take anyway. The ship doctor says, "This is serious," and jumps on the table, because he thinks heís got food in his gullet. Weíve got the air lines filled with blood, and then suddenly the chest goes BAM! Wallopthe son of a bitch came out. And they all go, "Fuck!" They thought it had gone wrong, because there was blood spurting everywhere, but they just kept running with it, until one of them started to shriek with laughter, and then it was over.