|Robin Hardy - director and novelist|
|Adapting, extra scenes and distribution|
|Edward Woodward and Christopher Lee|
On Saturday 31st March, the Cameo Cinema in Edinburgh played host to Robin Hardy, best known for his landmark 1973 film The Wicker Man, as he attended a screening of his new film The Wicker Tree a thematic sequel to that work, which features a cameo from Christopher Lee, who starred in the original as Lord Summerisle. After the screening, he participated in a Q &A session with the audience, some comments from which are included below, and in the bar afterwards he was kind enough to talk to Geek Chocolate. He begins by explaining why he has revisited this story after almost forty years.
Robin Hardy – I do a lot of other things besides make films, I paint, I write novels, and so on, but I always wondered why no-one had ever decided to make a film which is mixture. As Christopher Lee said of the Cowboys for Christ novel on which this is based, he did a review of it for me very kindly, and he said “it’s erotic, it’s comic, it’s romantic, and it’s horrific enough to stir the bowels of a bronze statue,” and that describes the genre of the film.
And no-one that I’ve seen had done, apart from Monty Python, who do a wonderful mixture of genres, but always with a view to the fun, whereas both The Wicker Man and The Wicker Tree have quite serious moments. I hope that came across, even moments of pathos between the two young people, who I think pulled that off quite well.
Geek Chocolate - I presume some moments in there were played for comedy, for example he scene with the cat.
RH – Oh, lots of comedy! But that doesn’t exclude pathos. It doesn’t mean you can’t have romance, or that you can’t have really frightening moments when you see through the walls of the castle what’s happening to poor Steve. And so I like mixing the genres like that, and I wanted to make another film in which I did it again.
I also noticed in the meantime that the remake of the film throws out all the things like the fun and the music - well it does have music, but it’s like wall to wall elevator music. Its approach to sex is bizarre, because the genders are simply swapped, the male figures in the first film are now female figures, that’s just a gender change, it doesn’t have much to do with sex, but it doesn’t make any sense.
I have a theory that my partner in the first film, Tony Shaffer, who wrote the screenplay, and who is now in Valhallla or some nice place like that, cursed the very talented people who made that film, because the director, Neil Labute, is a very talented man, he’s produced a number of very, very good plays, and Nicholas Cage is a talented actor. But for me he’s a very talented character actor, I don’t so much admire him as a romantic lead, but I’ve seen him do very good things. How he could have put himself through rolling downhill in a bearskin…
GC – The Wicker Tree is beautifully filmed, the cinematography is excellent. I know you struggled on The Wicker Man to make ends meet. Did you have a significantly higher budget, or is it just modern equipment allows you
RH – The Wicker Man wasn’t really such a struggle financially to make. It was a struggle afterwards to distribute it. That was the problem. Once we got it to America it was a triumphant distribution. The problems were here, really. The budget on this film, good though Jan Pester, the cameraman, is, and good though the cameras were, it was a tremendous struggle to get the money. It is a much more ambitious film in terms of production than The Wicker Man.
GC – I was astonished when the cast and credits went up on The Wicker Tree that it was actually filmed in Scotland, especially after your experiences of the weather when you were filming The Wicker Man. That was far more gorgeous weather than any of us ever get. How did you manage that?
RH – It’s a well-known saying, if you wait all day, you’ll get every kind of weather in this country. And we did. I was very happy with the weather. We had lovely cloudscapes, we had all that weather coming in off the North Sea, and every now and then the sun would shine, and we used it when it did. It’s just a question of being flexible and ready for it. There is a third film planned, it’s called The Wrath of the Gods, and I hope, touch wood, to shoot it in Shetland.
GC – Brave man! I noticed that Lolly’s necklace is the symbol of Summerisle. Was that your little touch to link them together.
RH - Yes, yes. One of them.
GC – Are there others?
RH – Probably. You’ll have to look for them. It’s a treasure hunt.