Being a Filmmaker

Created on 19/6/2008

Loving your work as a film producer and director isn’t hard. Someone comes along and gives you money to organize a large bunch of grown up children, (actors) get them into their costumes, make sure they say their lines more or less in order, emote all over the place at the mere mention of the word “Action” and generally one makes certain everyone is suitably in awe of your genius and incredibly artistic mind. . . most of which is bollocks because it’s common knowledge in the movie business that most directors could be replaced by your average traffic cop and similarly most producers who are more into the business end of things, could easily be replaced by any used car salesman, in fact a few producers were in that profession until recently. Of course good producers do run their films well as do good directors, but they’re the exception. What you’re meant to do as a producer is gather all the elements of a film together, money, director, artists, distributors, scripts etc, and motivate, push, guide and manage them all. The director has to artistically run the picture from the moment he’s hired until the film’s finished editing.

My experiences as a “Governor” began at eighteen when I started to produce, direct and write documentaries with my best friend and partner, Mike Lytton. After a few successes, which were a mixture of luck, talent and bloody mindedness, we went our separate ways and by the time I was in my mid-twenties, I had worked with Roger Moore on two big action films and he had re—christened me “Tuts” after he had hugely enjoyed my discomfort whilst I sat in a dug out canoe in a wild African River after I’d been stung that morning by an anti-Semitic Scorpion. “You know you’ll die from that Klinger. . . Scorpion bites are lethal; at least you’ll loose the foot. How are you on wood?” Moore called out from his boat. My mother, who was anxiously visiting the set called out from the riverbank, “Don’t take any notice Tutela!” It should be explained that Tutela is a Germanic Yiddish term of endearment from a parent to their child, meaning “Dear Little One”. Once Moore knew this he was merciless and I became known as “Tuts”. As Governors can, I ordered my boat to the shore whereupon my dear little arse was shot full of glutinous penicillin by a nurse with the biggest hypodermic known to man or horse in history.

We also had the wonderful and wild Lee Marvin starring in the same movie “Shout At The Devil” and we were filming a battle scene between a First World War German Cruiser and a British Vickers Gunbus Aircraft that we’d built on the River Umzimbubu. I had placed myself on a bluff to make sure no modern vehicles or people should unwittingly come into view of our cameras. Marvin was not required on set that day and as was his habit on occasions such as these, he had bent the elbow vigorously, testing the upper limits of a human’s capacity to consume alcoholic beverages. Up to then he’d been working almost every day and was a pleasure to be with, but when the sauce flowed he became more than somewhat hard to handle. Marvin was certain we didn’t have enough extras for the battle sequence and had therefore dressed himself as a crowd extra and decided in his drunken wisdom to go on board ship and lend his assistance. I tried to keep him back, but he became progressively more hostile, “Lee, hold on please, we can’t have you on the ship, you’re supposed to be somewhere else in the movie. If the camera picks you out it’ll screw the film up!” Lee thought about this for a moment then said, “I’ll bend over like this”, and he bent
toward me, “and no one will know it’s me. It’ll be O.K.” He nodded a bit too hard and I had to prop him up. “Lee, it really isn’t necessary.” But he wouldn’t let me finish. He eyeballed me from mean, rheumy eyes, “Tony, you’re a good kid, but if you don’t get out of my road, I’ll bust your chops.” I looked at that large, very tough man and realized that if I hit him, I could damage the priceless face and screw the next day’s filming, and if he hit me, it could cause severe damage to my face, which I prize greatly. Therefore, pretending a change of opinion, I said, “You’re right Lee, maybe they could use another sailor” I stepped aside, but before I could clear from his path, he grabbed me in a bear hug and kissed me. “You’re a good kid”, he stated. Marching off to the ship, I called ahead on the walkie talkie to the Director about their new arrival and he called back, “That’s all I fucking well need. Why did you decide to send him here you bloody lunatic!” Such are the thanks you can expect from a sympathetic colleague.

On other films I had made, Vincent Price quoted poetry, Twiggy sang, as did Deep Purple and many others. Patrick McNee, star of the Avengers, on which I’d worked as an assistant director, had kindly given me several pairs of beautiful hand made shoes when I left the show, which unfortunately were all too long and narrow. One female star had give me even more, but this isn’t a blog about her or that night; Michael Caine and Peter Finch had taught me respect for actors and their craft. Finch in particular, proved that you could raise hell at night and perform brilliantly in the morning.

At my wedding he handed me beautiful antique silver
edged mirror and said, “You look into this mirror and what you’ll see is really you, not what anyone else says is you, but what Tony Klinger bloody well is, if he’s ever going to be anything worth looking at in any event!”

I guess, with these blogs, I’m still looking in that mirror.