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The Pilot: Robert P Davis


Too Far to Go: Method acting
Walter Lassally Film-maker
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One of the problems on the film was that Michael Moriarty is a method actor. And, Method actors, generally speaking, are a pain in the arse, but you have to cope with them. He used to develop the scene as he went along. Not during the rehearsals, but during the takes. So none of his takes are the same. You know, Take 2 isn't remotely like Take 1 and Take 4 is quite different again. So, the director is faced with the problem where you either use the take in its entirety, or you throw it away, because you can't inter-cut different takes, as is often done, because he's just doing different acting, different things. It doesn't match. So that was quite a problem with Michael. But otherwise he worked well with Blythe. They got on very well together, and Fielder is a very patient director.

Fielder's one of those directors, he's dead now unfortunately, he's one of the many, many people who died in the last five years. Anyway, Fielder was one of those craftsman directors who never became an auteur director, but he was a very skilful and very patient and a very professional filmmaker. Very professional. And I always enjoyed working with Fielder. Although occasionally we had an argument about just how low the camera angle should be. He liked quite low camera angles and, to my mind... If one can generalise which one can't really do, if one can generalise about these things, to my mind the best angle often on mid-shots and closer shots, is just under eye-level.

There was a wonderful incident when I filmed Lillian Gish in Huck Finn, that she hated the camera to be below her eye-level. She'd just look at you scornfully if you set up the camera low, and she used to say, 'Up my nose, up my nose', until you raised the camera until it was not longer up her nose! But with Fielder too, we had this argument. I said, 'Don't you think that's a bit extreme, Fielder, I mean, we were really looking up'. The guy, he can't lean back because if he does, you're looking straight up his nose. So we reached a reasonable compromise. But a predominantly low angle is certainly more dramatic than a predominantly high angle. A predominantly high angle is very undramatic, except in certain circumstances, but as a general rule. So that was about the only argument I had with Fielder. And then towards the end of the film it became... they ran a bit short of money, because there's a scene in the film where they go to Paris for a holiday, but we couldn't afford that, and we ended up in Puerto Rico, but only just. That worked out very... I liked Puerto Rico a lot. I went there again for Brenda Starr, but we never shot anything. My stay in Puerto Rico was very pleasant. That was right at the end of the film, the end of the shooting was Puerto Rico. That was very nice.

[Q] This was a TV movie?

Yes. Too Far to Go was basically a TV movie, but it subsequently... It was a great success, it was very well critically thought of and it was subsequently bought by somebody for distribution. I think Spielberg... I think the Dreamworks Company or somebody like that, bought it and it was released in cinemas. Also successfully.

Born in Germany, cinematographer Walter Lassally (1926-2017) was best known for his Oscar-winning work on 'Zorba the Greek'. He was greatly respected in the film industry for his ability to take the best of his work in one area and apply it to another, from mainstream to international art films to documentary. He was associated with the Free Cinema movement in the 1950s, and the British New Wave in the early 1960s. In 1987 he published his autobiography called 'Itinerant Cameraman'.

Listeners: Peter Bowen

Peter Bowen is a Canadian who came to Europe to study and never got round to heading back home. He did his undergraduate work at Carleton University (in Biology) in Ottawa, and then did graduate work at the University of Western Ontario (in Zoology). After completing his doctorate at Oxford (in the Department of Zoology), followed with a year of postdoc at the University of London, he moved to the University's newly-established Audio-Visual Centre (under the direction of Michael Clarke) where he spent four years in production (of primarily science programs) and began to teach film. In 1974 Bowden became Director of the new Audio-Visual Centre at the University of Warwick, which was then in the process of introducing film studies into the curriculum and where his interest in the academic study of film was promoted and encouraged by scholars such as Victor Perkins, Robin Wood, and Richard Dyer. In 1983, his partner and he moved to Greece, and the following year he began to teach for the University of Maryland (European Division), for which he has taught (and continues to teach) biology and film courses in Crete, Bosnia, and the Middle East.

Tags: Huck Finn, Too Far to Go, Puerto Rico, Fielder Cook, Michael Moriarty, Blythe Danner, Lillian Gish, Brenda Starr

Duration: 3 minutes, 39 seconds

Date story recorded: June 2004

Date story went live: 24 January 2008