Brian De Palma turns 78 on September 11th this year. That's not a joke, but his actual birthday.
It's safe to assume, at this point, that the infamous New Hollywood legend doesn't give a shit what you think about him or his movies anymore. You say he's just ripped off Hitchcock his whole career? Cool. Great. You say he hasn't made a good picture since the '90s? OK. Awesome. Like Don Draper, Brian De Palma doesn't think about you at all.
For a minute - and especially after the attitude he displayed in Noah Baumbach and Jake Paltrow's '15 documentary, De Palma - it sounded like the auteur had essentially given up on making another feature. Passion - the '12 throwback to his erotic thriller days - was his last movie up until that point, and even for hardcore fans (like myself), it was more of a curiosity than an essential piece of his oeuvre.
De Palma surprised us all by finally getting off his ass and committing to crafting another picture in Domino, an international crime thriller starring Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Guy Pearce, and Carice van Houten. Only it sounds like the actual production of Domino was an absolute nightmare. In an interview with Le Parisien's Catherine Balle, BDP said:
"It was a horrible experience. The film was underfunded, it was far behind, the producer did not stop lying to us and did not pay some of my crew..."
He gave a little more detail in a second interview:
"I was in many hotel rooms waiting for the money so that we could continue shooting. I was in many fabulous cities, waiting in hotel rooms. I was here a hundred days in Europe, and shot thirty. However, somehow we managed to make a movie out of this completely chaotic production situation, and hopefully you'll be seeing it in your local cinemas sometime in the future."
When asked if he was happy with the final product, De Palma - along with the co-author of his new novel, Are Snakes Necessary?, Susan Lehman - said:
"Yes, it is good. It's very good."
Now, here's the thing: normally, I'd chalk up a director giving their seal of approval to a forthcoming work as being another part of the publicity cycle, but De Palma has never been known to mask his feelings about the movies he's helmed (watch any interview on Bonfire of the Vanities for great examples of the artist admitting to making mistakes). He may be a filmmaker first, but BDP's also historically his harshest critic, recognizing that he's fallible just like any other human being.
Yet despite the apparent lack of resources, Domino is apparently done, as De Palma - in his typical bluntly provacative fashion - told AFP:
"The last stroke of the crank took place last week."
But don't ask him when the movie is actually coming out, as it has yet to be picked up by a distributor, and is out of the director's hands:
"I have no idea when this movie will be released. I'll find out when I read it in the papers like everybody else."
So, it looks like we may have a little while to wait until we actually get to see Domino. Thankfully, there's plenty of other De Palma news to go around, as he has the aforementioned novel he's touring around France with. When talking about the creative process behind that text, De Palma said it was based on an old idea for a movie he had, the particulars of which he delivered to Lehman:
"I had tons of ideas I'd written over the years, thinking about scenarios. And then one day, I told Susan: What if we made a novel? I gave her the drama and the dialogue, and Susan developed the characters. When you write for the cinema, you do not work the characters too much, because they depend a lot on the actors who will embody them..."
For those curious (and why wouldn't you be?) about Are Snakes Necessary? - whose title is a quirky cinephile in-joke referencing Preston Stuges' The Lady Eve (where Henry Fonda's character is reading a novel of the same name) - the book is described by De Palma as being:
"...pretty close to Blow Out. I combined several ideas that I had. The main character is a senator who comes to the elections. There is also his campaign director, a malicious character, and a photographer who finds himself hired to take pictures on a film that is the French version of Vertigo! After all, you know that Vertigo is inspired by a French novel by Boileau and Narcejac. There's all this and I had a lot of fun. We did this last summer."
What a shock: Brian De Palma once again indulging his Hitchcock fetish (as he's gone on record several times, citing the Hitch/Jimmy Stewart classic as being the work that inspired him to make movies all along). As fan site De Palma a la Mod points out, the plot sounds very close to an unproduced screenplay the auteur wrote in '08, titled Tabloid:
"...a political thriller inspired by political and personal imbroglios of Democratic presidential nominee John Edwards – with a serial killer thrown in."
As of right now, Are Snakes Necessary? is only available in France, presumably because the French have always been miles ahead of every other country when it comes to appreciating BDP's work (though Pauline Kael would obviously disagree, were she still with us).
But now that we're all caught up with the non-Weinstein portions of De Palma's days, let's talk about his next project: an original script titled Predator. For this picture, De Palma is reteaming with Saïd Ben Saïd, who helped produce Passion for the auteur, along with Paul Verhoeven's last controversial masterpiece, Elle, David Cronenberg's Maps to the Stars, and Roman Polanski's Carnage. In short, he's the Patron Saint of Your Problematic Faves.
In an interview posted yesterday at Le Point, De Palma tells Philippe Guedj that Predator will take place at the Toronto International Film Festival. When Guedj describes it as "a film inspired by the Weinstein affair," De Palma corrects him somewhat:
"More specifically, a horror film whose plot will be in a context of sexual harassment in Hollywood and which will take place during the Toronto Film Festival. We will go there and Saïd Ben Saïd will be our producer. But we can not seriously start production for another year, Saïd is already occupied with four other films, he can not manage this one before the summer of 2019."
That means De Palma will be pushing 79 years old by the time Predator even begins shooting. Furthermore, that's plenty of time for this project to get killed in the water due to the #MeToo controversy it's sure to create.
So, while we're busy celebrating/lamenting the "return of Brian De Palma" there are still a lot of potential roadblocks ahead before Predator even gets in front of cameras. For one, Domino could release and be terrible, causing everyone to rethink the proposition of backing his sure to be controversial thriller. Also, it's difficult to imagine any actor wanting to play a part being remotely compared to Harvey Weinstein in this day and age, as it could easily become career suicide.
To be continued. Or maybe not. But one thing's for certain: I want to read that damn De Palma novel ASAP. American publishers, get on that.