Posts Tagged ‘John Boorman’

I’m paring down some of my film books, but flipping through them again before I give them away and looking for some less known quotes I can post at the same time. You can file this one under “embrace your limitations.”

“Warners insisted I cut the budget [on Deliverance] before they would go ahead with the film. Slashing my fee was not enough. I had wanted to use Appalachian music as an element, but the nature of the film seemed to call for a dramatic orchestral score. This fiscal pressure forced me into a decision. I had $65,000 in the budget for the orchestra and composer. I decided to do the whole score with a banjo and guitar playing variations on a single traditional folk piece called ‘Duelling Banjos.’ We recorded it with two musicians in an afternoon. There were no royalties to pay since there was no composer. The total cost was $1,500. The $63,500 savings brought the budget down to the figure Warners were demanding. Against their better judgement I forced Warner Records to release the music. It became a number one hit and Warner’s royalties for the record paid for the whole cost of making the movie.”
5-tim Oscar-nominated writer/director John Boorman (Hope and Glory, Deliverance)
The Emerald Forest Diary; A Filmmakers Odyssey
Pages 219—220

“Duelling Banjos” not only saved money, made money, and worked for the film Deliverance—it became one of the most recognizable themes of any movie in the 70s. Maybe in the history of cinema.

P.S. Most of Boorman’s book is about making The Emerald Forest, the 1985 film that became one of the reference films for James Cameron’s Avatar.

Related Post:
Screenwriting Quote #69 (John Boorman)
Screenwriting Quote #70 (James Dickey)
Movie Cloning (part 2) —James Cameron links themes in Avatar and The Emerald Forest.

Scott W. Smith

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“I don’t believe the American public will believe, itself, what comes up on that panavision screen next March.”
James Dickey in a letter to a friend
while the movie Deliverance was being shot

Since I mentioned both director John Boorman and Liberal Arts in the last few days that lead me to the writer of Deliverance, James Dickey. It took Dickey ten years to write the novel and he also wrote the screenplay for the 1972 movie that would be his only feature film release. (Though he did also write the TV version of Jack London’s The Call of the Wild.) 

Dickey was born and raised in the Atlanta area and was an athlete in high school and began writing poetry while serving in the Army during World War II flying combat missions in the South Pacific. He didn’t want the girls back home to forget him. After the war he attended Vanderbilt and earned a B.A. in philosophy and minored in astronomy and then went on to earn an M.A. in English.

After school he taught at what is now Rice University before being recalled to active duty in the U.S. Air Force due to the Korean War. He later worked as a copywriter in Atlanta and in New York where he said he was “selling his soul to the devil in the daytime and buying it back at night.”

He published his first book of poetry in 1960 and appointed in 1966 he as the Poet Laureate Consultant to the Library of Congress.  In 1977 he was invited to read his poem “The Strength of Fields” at President Jimmy Carter’s inauguration. And just to top off an interesting life, he played Sheriff Bullard in Deliverance. 

Though Dickey’s popularity exploded after the movie Deliverance was released he taught and wrote poetry until he died in 1997. His limited role with Hollywood  may have something to do with the stories of the behind the scene drama of the Deliverance location shoot that sometimes matched the drama on-screen of Burt Reynolds and his buddies little boating adventure. In short, Dickey was banned from the set.

Dickey was like many a classic southern writer – greatly talented and greatly flawed. Given to drink and sometimes hard to get along with Dickey was an exaggerator and liar on par with the father in the movie Big Fish. (While Dickey was in many flight missions over the South Pacific during World War II he was never the pilot he claimed to be.)

Dickey’s oldest son, Christopher Dickey, an accomplished writer and speaker (who also has a website and blog) , wrote the book Summer of Deliverance about his father and the film. (Christopher worked on the film including standing in as Ned Beatty’s character in the famous pig scene.)

Christopher also has done us all a favor by setting up the blog, James Dickey: Deep Deliverance, devoted to his father and his writings. And where I found this quote from a You Tube link where James says in a distinctly slow southern draw:

“To anyone who reads my work, I would like to have it deepen him and make him more aware of possibilities… of the mystery of things, and the strangeness of the creation — the universe. Although as much as I write about death, disease, and mutilation, and so I on, I essentially consider myself an affirmative poet. I remember hearing that Beethoven once said, ‘He who truly knows my music can never know unhappiness again.’ I would like to think it had some effect of that sort.” 

And as a side note here’s something interesting to ponder from one of Dickey’s letters, “I heard from John Boorman day before yesterday, and he says Marlon Brando is definitely going to play Lewis (Burt’s character) in the film version of Deliverance. I certainly hope so, for that would bring Nicholson in, and after that the rest would be easy, provided we don’t get Brando’s and Nicholson’s heads bashed in on some of those rocks up in north Georgia, which is quite easy to do.”

Scott W. Smith

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The great thing about traveling is it allows you to toss new stuff into your creative blender. To learn new things and to see new things. For instance, though I have traveled to all 50 states here in the U.S. I did something yesterday that was a first for me and a nice surprise. In flying from Grand Rapids, Michigan to Minneapolis, Minnesota yesterday I flew over Lake Michigan.

Not a big thing, but after being landlocked all winter — looking out at the blue water and the blue ski was a nice change of scenery. Enough so that I pulled out my little digital camera and took the above shot. (The blue under the wing is actually the lake.)

One thing I learned while in Michigan was five time nominated producer/director/writer John Boorman has written several books. (“Money Into Light: The Emerald Forest: A Diary,” “Bright Dreams, Hard Knocks,” and “Adventures of a Suburban Boy.”)

Boorman is most known for his films Deliverance, Hope and Glory, and Excalibur. And at age seventy-three he is still at it, currently in production in an animated version of the quintessential Midwestern tail The Wizard of Oz.

Just this morning I found a quote from Boorman that is apparently well known but that I had never heard or read:

“What is passion? It is surely the becoming of a person. Are we not, for most of our lives, marking time? Most of our being is at rest, unlived. In passion, the body and the spirit seek expression outside of self. Passion is all that is other from self. Sex is only interesting when it releases passion. The more extreme and the more expressed that passion is, the more unbearable does life seem without it. It reminds us that if passion dies or is denied, we are partly dead and that soon, come what may, we will be wholly so.”
    John Boorman

So I came back from Michigan with a new vision to read Boorman’s books and see the films of his I haven’t seen and revisit those I have.


Scott W. Smith

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