Thursday, October 20, 2005
From Fire to Fizzle
When I started my film journalism career, there was a short list of film directors I wanted to interview: John Carpenter (I did, on his 50th birthday), Martin Scorsese (haven't yet), Francis Ford Coppola (we traded faxes when I was writing an article on Dracula), David Lynch (I'm convinced I spoke to him briefly when I interviewed a producer girlfriend of his, and he answered the phone, but I never really interviewed him), and Hugh Hudson. Hugh Hudson? Yes, Hugh Hudson. With a background in helming British TV commercials, he's directed six features in 20 years, but hasn't been heard from in five. His first feature came out of nowhere to take the industry by storm. Chariots of Fire was a very British, very mannered, very reverent (and, some would say, very boring) film of two Olympic runners from an upper class university dealing with social issues of the day. When it was released in the United States, critics hailed it as the new Rocky. It became a surprise boxoffice hit; spawned a number one chart single -- with its instrumental score by composer Vangelis -- and became an even bigger surprise on Oscar night when it trumped Warren Beatty's Reds to win the Best Picture Oscar. So, Hudson's next film was eagerly awaited. Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan Lord of the Apes was supposed to do for the King of the Jungle what Christopher Nolan's Batman Begins did for the Caped Crusader -- namely, treat the main character with a level of seriousness not previously given it. Although nominated for three Oscars (including one for Rick Baker's amazing ape make-up), the film didn't really succeed in doing what it promised. Andie MacDowell's screen debut as Jane was deemed so wooden, her voice was dubbed by Glenn Close; while Christopher Lambert's performance as Tarzan, at times, proved to be unintentionally comical. Still, Hudson gave it a great effort, and I was excited to hear his next project was an epic tale of the American War for Independence, with Al Pacino in the lead. It was called Revolution. And it flopped. For all of its scope, Revolution didn't quite gel. Shortly after the film opened, I finally got the opportunity to interview Hudson -- but it was about his return to directing TV commercials. Still, we managed to talk film as well, and discussed how the studio had forced him to cut Revolution extensively before its release, and the fact he was was slated to direct Reversal of Fortune before it was handed to Barbet Schroeder (and resulted in an Oscar win for its lead actor, Jeremy Irons). Hudson's next three films -- Lost Angels (starring Adam Horovitz of The Beastie Boys), My Life So Far (released 10 years after Lost Angels), and 2000's I Dreamed of Africa (with Kim Basinger, fresh from her Oscar win for L.A. Confidential) -- generated no heat. His last film was five years ago. Nothing is slated. Has the career that started with a Fire ended with a fizzle? I hope not. I want more from Hudson.