Forget the image of tiny Tom Cruise wearing Jerry’s Puffy shirt while humping Brad Pitt’s leg in INTERVIEW WITH A VAMPIRE…if you can.
But it’s still a good example- Director Neil Jordan uses sexual identity to rape the politics of freedom much the same way Sir Alfred Hitchcock used sexual betrayal to lube the ultimate ménage trios between traitors, saboteurs and spies.
Think ‘Notorious’ — Think ‘The Man Who Knew Too Much’ – Think ‘Marnie.’
Now, Think ‘Michael Collins’ – ‘The Butcher Boy’ – and ‘Breakfast on Pluto.’
And, if you want 2 hairy tickets to The Meat Tuckers Ball think ‘Psycho’ and ‘The Crying Game.’
Ok. That’s enough of that shite.
A Tale of One Jordan – Neil Jordan was born in Ireland in 1950 and attended St. Paul’s School in Clontarf, Dublin. He is happily married with five children (from various marriages) and is good friends with fellow Dubliners Bono and Ali Hewson who named their first daughter, Jordan, (born in 1989) after him.
The Four Seasons – It’s a blinding sun kind of day in LA and I’m lucky enough to be cabana hanging poolside with Neil Jordan at the Four Seasons hotel. He’s obviously passionate about his work and more than pleased with how BREAKFAST ON PLUTO has turned out. But what’s next. A novel or noir? We discuss the Borgia that keeps getting away, his plans for Jodie Foster, longtime collaborator Patrick McCabe, and our busboy who looks like Shemp and I swear is licking my plate behind the rose shrubs.
Which of your many novels/books of short stories should I read first?
Read SHADE, my latest novel first. A woman has returned to the fading beauty of her old home, and its long-buried memories. With her childhood friend she seeks peace but a brutal crime will have been committed. It’s a story of a childhood, of extraordinary friendships, and of a war.
What’s it like to want to be a young filmmaker in Ireland?
For every Irish kid the cheapest thing to do is write. I started out as a novelist because there were no film schools in Ireland, and published my first book, Night in Tunisia, when I was 24 yrs old. (Title inspired by a Dizzy Gillespie song) There were no film resources. Irish folks didn’t make movies. So I began as a novelist, and then began writing scripts. The British TV took notice, and I soon wrote a script revision for John Boorman on EXCALIBUR (1979). But as a novelist turned director- I never wanted to direct my written works. It’s merely an accident.
In many of your films there’s a fusion of Politics & Sexuality. Is there a series of socio-political events that impacted you the most?
In 1969 everywhere in the rest of world else there was an explosion of freedom; we in Ireland had an eruption of the middle ages. Besieged by political murder, inflicting death on others all because of a difference of identities. For instance, the IRA felt at liberty to place bombs at Memorial services.
And how, for you, is that paired with themes of sexual identity?
If you say my identity is not white or black etc, my identity is what I choose it to be, you have freed yourself by assuming different identities. Choose whoever you want to be. I make films that reflect the environment I grew up in. Critics say, ‘Why make two movies about gender?’ My similar films are more about different issues related to death and confusion.
Let’s discuss BREAKFAST ON PLUTO. How difficult was it to condense chapters from the book while inventing chapters to flesh-out the film?
I did invent chapters. The book contains very short chapters. I wanted to make a film that didn’t obey the 3 Act rule. Instead I strung together 36 chapters as little episodes, then defined each episode by thematic title, I really wanted to go in that direction. I liked the idea of labeling each chapter – There are very different/significant adventures ranging from colorful to brutal.
And your working relationship with author Patrick McCabe, how did it start?
I read The Butcher Boy, an extraordinary book, and thought this is new territory for Irish fiction but yet it was so familiar to my own childhood. I very much enjoy going on a collaborative journey with him. He writes the first draft then I write follow-up drafts. I bought Patrick’s books in the order they were written. I bought the rights to “The Butcher Boy,” and Patrick told me that he had written another novel. (B on P) But he was reluctant to let me see it. When I read it, I just really wanted to do it.
There is a also distinct sense of humor that permeates many of your films.
I prefer black humor and the logical extreme. Dreadful situations pushed into black comedy.
I can be funny, genuinely comedic, but only if the circumstances are bleak. I couldn’t make a movie like Woody Allen. THE BUTCHER BOY had humorous moments but it’s hard to laugh at because the boy’s story is so scary.
You seem to bring-out the best in actor Brendan Gleeson onscreen?
He is terrific isn’t he? Who knew be so adept at physical comedy. He uses that overstuffed costume in BREAKFAST ON PLUTO like a great mime-type comic.
Can you talk about you’re your specific use of a songtrack vs. score in B of P?
The character of Kitten lives very much through music. First I had to make a “Kitten’s Greatest Hits’ list. You would think Bowie would have been a logical immediate choice (Mars – Pluto) but David Bowie’s was too dense, operatic, and too melodramatic. The theme song was the perfectly lyrically Bobby Goldsboro hit “HONEY” a song featured in the book. I think Bobby Goldsboro is still alive, someone told me he lives in Los Angeles, a sad and forgotten figure.
How do you judge your finished films?
Audiences don’t see that you always fail because they can’t see what you aspire to. You always fail, At least I do. You make films based on who you are at that time. I wrote the script for BREAKFAST ON PLUTO four years ago, and tested many younger Irish actors. The when I saw Cillian Murphy (Kitten) in a UK theater production, I just knew he could play it.
Are you very politically minded?
I’m not politically minded. I make movies about what’s under the deceit of politics. And then take a journey through that indecency. BREAKFAST ON PLUTO, for example, is a story of how you remain young and free yourself by breaking free of a situation that’s rotten with politics and religion. I never thought of returning to issues of Terrorism in my filmmaking, but when the IRA effectively closed down I thought now is a good time, nobody can get hurt.
Elaborate on your relationship with your Dir. Of Cinematography
We need to speak the same technical language. I challenge him to see something I’ve never seen before. BREAKFAST ON PLUTO was fun, lots of bright candy colors passing through the bleak greys of the Irish landscape. When I saw Nicholas Ray’s first film, THE TWISTED ROAD, I knew I had to try filmmaking. That film features the first helicopter shot ever seen onscreen
You are finally set to direct Scarlett Johansson (as Lucrezia Borgia) and Colin Farrell (as Cesare) in BORGIA, a long-awaited drama about the internal struggles of the most powerful family in 15th century Rome.
The project has been a passion of mine for years. I nearly had the film ready to go in 2002 with Ewan McGregor and Christina Ricci, but it collapsed. When it fell through, I just thought, “I’m sick of all of this,” and decided to take two years off to write a book. It is extremely difficult to get movies that cost more than $40 million to be made these days. BORGIA was just too expensive and took too many risks with the subject for people to take a risk and make it.
While BORGIA preps what are you working on next?
Its tentative title is THE BRAVE ONE, we are shooting in NYC. Jodie Foster, a wonderful actress, portrays a woman attempting to recover from a violent attack. Her mission to heal quickly turns to an act of revenge. (Terrence Howard also stars)