Dick Laurent is Dead


I think it was during Mark Cousins’ interview with David Lynch at the Edinburgh Film Festival, concerning the then-recent LOST HIGHWAY, that Lynch claimed that the film’s inciting incident, to use a bit of screenwriting jargon, was inspired by a real-life occurrence. Mark refused to believe at first that somebody had actually buzzed Lynch’s door buzzer and whispered “Dick Laurent is dead,” into the entryphone before vanishing into the morning like a fugitive wasp.

Mark has since struggled to believe that Lynch believes in angels, in the TV interview you can see on YouTube. I’m not sure why that should be a stretch.

But let’s stop and think about this rationally. Say you’re in LA. Say you find yourself in the vicinity of what you (somehow) know is Lynch’s house. Isn’t there a strong temptation to randomly buzz his buzzer, say something enigmatic, and then hightail it out of there, using every leg at your command, leaving the maestro with another inspirational mystery to get his teeth into?

Two thoughts follow from this ~

1) if you did this, it’s really impressive of you to remain silent and not claim the credit after he makes the film. But then, maybe you died shortly after you said it and before LOST HIGHWAY was released.

2) maybe the voice actually said something like “DeLaurentiis’ dad,” a reference to DUNE producer Rafaella DeLaurentiis and her father Dino?

55 Responses to “Dick Laurent is Dead”

  1. More likely Lynch is pulling Cousins’ head. Or maybe he wished such stuff would happen to him or he dreamed it.

    Fellini was a great one for talking about how he dreamed his movies or his movies are based on his fantasies. Dante Ferretti said in an interview that when they met, Fellini asked him what he dreamt the previous day and Ferretti didn’t know what to do since his dreams were mostly blank. So he faked his dreams.

  2. Fellini also took LSD, under medical supervision, with a tape recorder running to get a record of any interesting visions he might have. But apparently he never listened to the tape.

    Still, we got Satyricon.

    I believe Lynch, because if I found myself outside his house, I would totally do that. I like “pulling his head,” which makes more sense than the correct expression, “pulling his leg.” I think you improved on it. But there’s a lovely English expression, “Pull the other one, it’s got bells on.” Which doesn’t work with heads, unless the speaker is one of conjoined twins.

  3. It was actually a mistake…I meant to write leg, but it came out head…I thought this kind of happy accident was fitting to the discussion.

    Ultimately, it’s their paranormal experience, we’ll have to take their words. Like apparently Bertolucci’s Last Tango in Paris was based on one of his dreams, though in his dreams, it was a boy and not Maria Schneider. Bergman successfully decoded this when he told Bertolucci that he felt the film would be improved if it was between two men. Initially Trintignant was cast in the Brando role who wasn’t supposed to be American, once Brando came in, everything, as they say, changed.

  4. david wingrove Says:

    For one horrible moment I imagined that the legendary Dino de Laurentiis (aka Dino de Horrendous) had actually died. What a trauma that would be!
    Just think…the genius behind BARBARELLA, MANDINGO, FLASH GORDON, KING OF THE GYPSIES, DUNE, BODY OF EVIDENCE. MAMBO, THIS ANGRY AGE, THE BIBLE, BLOOD AND ROSES, KING KONG and countless other Classic Guilty Pleasures! However would the world survive without him? We’d all die horribly of insidious and creeping good taste.

  5. david wingrove Says:

    Oh, and I almost forgot…CONAN THE BARBARIAN, CONAN THE DESTROYER and the utterly inimitable RED SONJA!

  6. “Like An American in Paris, but with differences,” said Bert at the time, coyly.

    That would certainly have been a different, and probably better, film. At least the awful sexism would have been removed. It’s interesting that filmmakers like Bertolucci lived through the flowering of the women’s movement, but don’t seem to have been affected by it at all. There’s no pause for thought. Some of his films, eg The Sheltering Sky, have interesting women, but even as recently as Besieged he’s quite problematic.

    Disgracefully, I’ve still to watch The Dreamers, but I’m doubtful about it.

  7. There are some really glorious Dino stories. Mike Hodges thought the guy was crazy, Lynch appears not to have noticed. Maybe at the time he just assumed all producers were like that. He’d just worked with Mel Brooks… but Brooks left him alone. Dino is a strange case because he seems to allow SOME degree of artistic freedom for his filmmakers, and you never quite know where it will be. Dune is a seriously compromised film in almost every department, but the very things you’d expect to be forbidden in a big production sometimes come through as undiluted Lynch.

  8. I like Last Tango in Paris fine enough as it is and Brando is incredible in the film. I don’t think the film is sexist, or rather it is sexist in that we don’t see Brando naked but see all of Schneider(which he corrected in 1900) but the Schneider character is presented three dimensionally. Bertolucci wasn’t the only prude. Jean-Pierre Leaud initially turned down the film because, in his own words, “No, no, I cannot be naked!” Bertolucci had to coax him into the film. Initially he expected Leaud to be playing Truffaut but Leaud told Bertolucci that he based his character on Bernardo himself.

  9. david wingrove Says:

    THE DREAMERS is a ghastly film of a marvellous book. BESIEGED is soft-focus porn with socio-political pretensions. Bertolucci has totally lost it of late…not that he had a great deal to begin with!

    He’s also an utterly obnoxious man. I had a run-in with him once during a press conference. As a result, I have probably been barred from the San Sebastian Film Festival for life – but it’s a small price to pay for the joy of puncturing his unbearable smugness and pomposity.

    Oh, and his wife Clare Peploe is even worse!

  10. I think you should tell the full story, David.

    Maria Schneider has elements of characterisation in Last Tango, but then the movie conveniently forgets that she’s a person at all whenever Bert just wants something to happen. The rape is followed by a little practical joke she plays on Brando and then she forgets about it. She shoots him at the end for no real clear reason. It’s quite a beautiful ending but it confirms that he’s the only “real” character in the movie. His wife’s death provides him with all the motivation he needs.

  11. Bergman’s “decoding” of Last Tango is rather snotty. If Bertolucci did dream of a boy (not unlikely as he’s bi) the film couldn’t have been made in 1972 (Unless of course it were in the form of a chickenshot pseudo-pedo dream sequence like Bergman cooked up for Hour of the Wolf) Maria Schneider solved the probelm –being a lesbian. She also couldn’t (and still can’t act.) She simply IS like a Warhol superstar. Bertolucci thought he could make her a star. She served his purposes for that film, but then drifted off into her own orbit of drugs and girlfriends. Brando carried the lion’s share of thacting — though what Bertolucci got from him was non-acting — again a la Warhol.

    Gilbert’s book wasn’t bad, but by the time Berolucci wanted to film it Gilbert had grandly announced to all and sundry that he was now straight (much international mirth from his soon-to-be-ex friends) and so all the book’s gayola was surgically removed from the film — thus resulting in a waste of the lovely Louis Garrel and the superb Michael Pitt.

    Thanks goodness for Christophe Honore —

  12. The Dreamers is a poorly written silly film. A nostalgia piece for the Cameron Crowe crowd. Still there’s a nice tracking shot where the camera follows Louis Garrel riding a bicycle across spaces. Besieged have some defenders but I haven’t seen it.

    With Last Tango a lot of the story and character elements are elided but it’s made clear that the Schneider character is a girl trying to separate her identity from her parents, her class and her present life. There’s no denying that Paul is the centre of the film but Schneider is part of the film.

    In any case, Bertolucci’s first film Prima della Rivoluzione has a rich performance and role played by Adriana Asti(who was married to Bertolucci at the time) and Stefania Sandrelli and Dominique Sanda are amazing in Il Confomista. So, I’d say Bertolucci and women aren’t cut-and-dry at the least. They certainly aren’t conventional suffering women narrative. Women have the freedom to be human and even unlikable in his films.

  13. Happy 64th to Mr. Lynch! I hope he’s sold enough homemade chairs and birdhouses to fund another feature.

  14. Sorry to hear of your experience with Bertolucci Mr. Wingrove. I’ve never found him obnoxious. But then I haven’t seen him in years. He’s in terrible health and according to Jeremy Thomas will likely never make another film.

  15. I interviewed Melody Anderson, who played Dale in Flash Gordon at the time of the film’s release. She thought Dino was a riot. She was quite fetching in her “Frederick’s of Saturn” outfits, but the film’s Total Babe prize goes to the luscious Ornella Muti. Especially when she murmurs “I like you Flash. I like you a lot.”

  16. Arthur have you seen Emergency Kisses by Garrel pere? It’s Louis’ movie debut and he rides a bike in it too.

    A tricycle! (After all he was six.)

  17. AnneBillson Says:

    I liked Maria Schneider in Rivette’s Merry-Go-Round, where I seem to remember she ran rings around Joe Dallesandro, which made me think he was stupid (though I’ve since revised that opinion).

    I reckon Bertolucci lost it when he took up with the Peploes. My friends and I used to say he’d been “Peploed”. It would be fun to write a wildly exaggerated screenplay-à-clef about a brilliant artist who falls under the baleful influence of malevolent siblings. Not that I’m saying the Peploes are anything but lovely and talented people in real life, of course. (I’ve never met them, so I wouldn’t know.) But I can’t stand her films.

  18. That’s awful news. Bertolucci maybe in bad artistic form but he is one of the great film-makers of his generation. As they say in cricket, form is temporary class is permanent. His movies are incredibly imaginative – The Last Emperor, Novecento, Partner, Before the Revolution, The Conformist, Last Tango in Paris are masterpieces. His upcoming film was to be a period film about Gesualdo di Venosa, the madrigal singer who killed his wife and lover after walking in on them and then displayed their corpses outside his villa and on account of the honor laws provision for men of privilege got away completely. He went on to make sweet music that influenced Igor Stravinsky in the 20th Century. Imagine someone with Bertolucci’s Marxist-Freudian intellect tackling this film.

    Haven’t seen ”Emergency Kisses” yet David. Garrel is one of my ongoing “subjects for further research” but even if this film came out recently on DVD, it isn’t necessarily super-accessible. Louis Garrel is an amazing actor though, the best part of The Dreamers and especially his father’s Les amants reguliers and La Frontiere de l’aube.

  19. THe IMDB doesn’t mention Bertolucci being married to Asti. They had an affair and Prima Della Rivoluzione was the result.

    But she also had an afair with Susan Sontag and Duet For Cannibals was the result.

    John Waters likes it.

    Merry Go Round came about because Rivette wanted to do a film with Maria Schneider who, becuase she worked with bertolucci, he figured would be up to his improvisatory techniques. She agreed if Joe Dallesandro would be her co-star. When time for shooting came Maria was in little shape for anything. Joe, being a pro, and a solid improvisor, worked well with Rivette. But the reason why Hermione Karagheuz suddenly turns up in the last half hour is because Ms. Schneider was “unwell.”

  20. Maria Schneider’s other great moment was in Antonioni’s The Passenger and she doesn’t do too badly there. Reportedly, she was initially cast in Cet Obscur Objet du Desir but Bunuel, who suffered no fools, removed her on account of her misbehaviour and cast two actresses in her roles, reverting to an idea he and Carriere had initially discussed.(Bunuel felt that the character in the Louys book was too unrealistic to be believable as a single woman.)

    Mark Peploe wrote the screenplay to The Passenger, alongwith Peter Wollen(of Signs and Meaning in Cinema fame, a pretty good book) and worked as one of Antonioni’s frequent screenwriters. I read in an interview that around the time of Zabriskie Point, Antonioni was dating his sister, the present-day Signorina Bertolucci.

  21. Louis is the Number One leading man in France today. He has the most magnificent brooding demeanor since Olivier. He’s a Heroic Romantic — something the French haven’t seen since Gerard Philippe.

    He’s currently going with Valerie Bruni-Tedeschi of Those Who Love Me Can Take the Train fame — who is also the sister of Mrs. Sarko.

    It was very funny last year when Sarko complained about how much he hated The Princess of Cleves, sparking a mass public reading of the book, climaxed by Louis reading its last passage.

  22. Yes Maria’s quite good in The Passenger. I suspect that’s because she got on well with Jack — who’s a real charmer and Mr. Laid Back in the flesh.

  23. It is mentioned in Bertolucci’s page there,
    (though dates are unspecified)
    and on both Bertolucci and Asti’s pages on wikipedia.

    Asti played the role of the prostitute Amore in Pasolini’s Accattone(on which Bertolucci worked as AD). I saw that film last week, she’s completely unrecognizable from her ravishing turn in the Bertolucci. Amazing film, full of life and poetry.

    Poor Rivette…I haven’t seen Merry Go Round yet.

  24. Nicholson considers The Passenger his best work and personally bought the negative of the film after the flop of it’s release. He then dusted it out of the trunk and put it on the road again for a restoration, thereby allowing for the film’s recent return to a wider audience via DVD, since then it’s stock has gone up. Nicholson initially wanted to be a serious auteur director and was inspired by Antonioni’s films as were several of the ambitious tyros in the Roger Corman stable. He even hung out with Godard at Cannes festivals in the 60s. Also reminds me of the fact that Harrison Ford was initially to have been Agnes Varda and Jacques Demy’s discovery and that he made his film debut in Zabriskie Point(as an airport crew member Mark Frechette snubs before taking off on his airplane joyride). Then Coppola took an interest in him and cast him as the heavy in The Conversation. If it hadn’t been for Star Wars he might have had a whole other career.

    I heard of that stunt that Sarkozy pulled. He’s not a very smart man, is he?

  25. No he’s not. As for Harison Ford you can find earlier appearances thant Zabriskie Point such as Dead Heat on a Merry-Go-Round

  26. Asti worked a lot with Pasolini in the theater before she met Bertolucci. She appears in Che Cosa Sono Nuovole? – one of my favorite Pasolinis.

    When ever I see question marks around marraige citations on IMDB I suspect no marriage actually took place.

  27. My eight-year-old self is very grateful for Harrison Ford’s career just as it is, although it’s extraordinary watching Star Wars again and seeing just how camp he is in it. Spielberg must have got him to lower his voice by a whole octave for Indiana Jones.

  28. I like Harrison Ford, still it would have been interesting if he could have become a veritable axiom of the cinema. Demy-Varda, Antonioni, Coppola. In his early days, he was making his living in Hollywood as a carpenter and got to know Coppola when he did some repairwork in his office. One of those fascinating before-they-were-stars things.

    I’ll check to see Che cosa sono nuvolle.

  29. Ford plays a bellhop in Dead Heat on a Merry Go Round. He’s hilariously young. A producer called him in afterwards and told him he’d never make it big. “Tony Curtis played a bellhop in one of his first movies and you knew right away THAT WAS A STAR.”

    Ford replied, “I thought in this case you were supposed to think THAT IS A BELLHOP.” Their relationship never improved.

    I wonder if Ford made himself catch a cold and went into the mountains to scream and crack his vocal chords after Star Wars, like Rock Hudson. Or if he just smoked a lot. He sounded kind of like the teenage drive-in attendant in The Simpsons.

    Time I revisited early Bertolucci. I’m showing my class The Conformist this semester.

    What put me off Last Tango is hearing from Schneider that she wasn’t warned what Brando was going to do in the butter scene. Even though no actual penetration took place, what you see in the scene is virtually real rape. Bertolucci confirmed this in the same making-of documentary. I think a lot of her later psychological problems can be traced to this trauma, and the fact that she became famous because of it. Quite horrible.

  30. Oh I think not. She was a piece of work long before she met Bernardo. In fact that’s why he wanted to put her in the film.

    Her birth father is Daniel Gelin.

  31. I don’t think psychologically speaking a minor scare of discomfort like that could constitute long term trauma. It wasn’t real rape at all and she was an adult age and knew that the film was extremely unconventional and challenging. If she was a small child than it’s an issue. But she was of age when she made that film and she was okay with the nudity.

  32. Off-Topic, bu THIS JUST IN!

  33. Having Marlon Brando jump atop one and grind himself against one in that manner does strike me as majorly traumatic. She was very suspicious of directors from then on, and particularly anxious about improvisation.

    She has a rather strong confessional cameo as herself in Blier’s Les Acteurs.

  34. David you’re no Wally Cox.

  35. Don’t know whether to be relieved or disappointed about that!

  36. I got to see THE PASSENGER when it was on its road tour not too long back. I think it’s an excellent film, and I think Jack was justified in wanting it out there for the world to see all over again.

  37. Wally Cox was Wally Cox, David Cairns is David Cairns. I can appreciate the both.

  38. Thus nature balances itself.

    Nice to see Nicholson doing something for art’s sake, his career hasn’t always been so selfless.

    On one of those early trip to Cannes, he acted as babysitter to Richard Lester’s son Dominic. Lester didn’t know Nicholson at all but didn’t think twice about trusting him to be in loco parentis. Yikes!

  39. If you ever get to meet jack (and I sincerely hope you do) you’ll understand why Lester had no qualms. The “wildman” bit is largely an act. Tumultuous relationshios (especially with Susan Anspach) aside he’s a pretty steady dude. Recently Don Bachardy gave a reading of his journals (which I hope someone will publish. They have their own particular tone. Not like Isherwood at all.) On passag delat with an evening he spent long ago at Tony Richardsons, the highlight of which concerned Jack. Nothign much “happened” in Don’s account but portrayed Jack’ calm, mater-of-fact cool in a way I’ve never seen before.

  40. Cou-Romanpolanski-gh!

  41. I’ve always like He Who Must Not be Named, Mr. Kane. In fact I spoke on the phone with Voldemort a number of years back. Pleasant fellow. Great filmmaker.

    Poor choice in bedmates.

  42. The Dark Lord currently is living in his chalet with a metal tracking device, surrounded by his family and dealing with post-production of his new film. Apparently, I read this in a newspaper(I did not make this up), there were concerns that Polanski’s skiing skills might enable him to ski-jump across the alps into France. Polanski is supposed to be a great skiier. It’s almost worth trying just to spite them.

    The most absurd part about this was that Polanski owned a chalet in Switzerland and lived there often enough and then all of a sudden, they changed the rules and gasped outrage. I cannot believe the level of hysteria this ruckus provoked. On the IMDb boards, there were calls to burn Martin Scorsese’s effigy because he signed a petition blasting the arrest. Others who signed it included Woody Allen, David Lynch, Tavernier, Ermanno Olmi and Souleymanne Cisse and yet the media said that it was a sign of Hollywood calling for special treatment. What special treatment a film-maker from Mali(like Cisse) was expecting by signing that is beyond me?

    I read somewhere that the Swiss government staged this so as to craft a smokescreen around its banks’ schenanigans with US companies.

  43. Oh Arthur, many, many thanks for the image of Polanski ski-jumping into France. That’s wonderful.

  44. david wingrove Says:

    Interesting to hear that Bertolucci is bisexual. It’s writ large in his movies (e.g. NOVECENTO, where De Niro and Depardieu are naked in bed, with a token woman in between them) but I imagine he’s too much of a wimp to fess up in real life.

    That being said, THE CONFORMIST is a truly amazing film – a total masterpiece, made before BB started to believe his own publicity. (Always a dangerous thing to do!) LAST TANGO IN PARIS is tedious filth, which eveybody would have forgotten about by now if the Vatican hadn’t tried to ban it.

    Of the later films, only THE SHELTERING SKY has a degree of dramatic coherence. Oh, but I do have a soft spot for PARTNER. It’s the only film to suggest that Bertolucci has a sense of humour – or that he even knows what one is.

  45. There’s one very funny bit with a quacking duck in Last Tango. Or was it a goose?

    Polanski, like his late friend Jerzy Kosinski, is an avid skier and still very youthful for his age. A dash across the border like Jimmy Stewart in the Mortal Storm seems almost conceivable. I’d certainly be impressed.

  46. david wingrove Says:

    Actually, there are lots of funny bits in LAST TANGO – but they strike me as wholly unintentional. What’s truly hilarious (if it weren’t so sad) is the thought that anybody ever took this crap seriously!

  47. I think there ARE alternative ways of responding to the film, even though I’m hugely resistant to some aspects of it. It creeps me out, but it has style, and there’s something going on with its exploration of grief.

  48. Which kinda brings us back to Lynch. Inland Empire for me was all about grief. Sadness as madness.

  49. On the set of Flash Gordon the very British crew kept sniggering as each more outlandishly costumed actor appeared prompting DeLaurentis to turn to Mike Hodges and ask exasperatedly, “Mike, why they laugh?”

    Hodges told me a great story about a producer crossing Delaurentis in a meeting at his office on the top floor and by the time he exited the lift at the bottom his name had been removed from the door at the entrance.

  50. Lovely. Nic Roeg had just been fired and Hodges was then selected from the list of British directors. But Dino kept calling him “Nic.” One day he fired Hodges, went to his office, and announced “I’ve just fired Nic |Roeg. Get me the next one on the list!” And Mike was re-hired on that basis. I guess Dino didn’t want to admit he’d made a mistake so he just carried on as normal.

  51. david wingrove Says:

    Does it actually matter who directs a Dino production? The man himself is just going to cut it all to hell anyway. The one film-maker to hold his own vis-a-vis Dino was Mario Bava, who couldn’t even begin to fathom – much less spend – the massive (presumably tax shelter) budget for DANGER: DIABOLIK. So he made a hugely successful film for next to no money – and Dino was furious because there was nothing to write off!!

  52. Bava nevertheless backed out of bigger productions after making that film, because he didn’t enjoy the interference from above. One imagines someone like Ridley Scott would have some kind of protection built into his deal before making Hannibal, but maybe he just didn’t care? And I guess Fellini had final cut on Juliette of the Spirits which was why Dino had to resort to stealing part of the negative.

  53. Dino de Laurentiis also removed some scenes from ”La Notti di Cabiria” which is subsequently been restored.

  54. That’s the one I meant, I’m getting my Masinas in a muddle. Dino made off with the “man with the sack” scene and restored it some years back for the film’s re-release.

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