That was an interesting time for you and Abel, that transition from Bad Lieutenant straight into Dangerous Game...
Well, you know, Bad Lieutenant was almost like an after thought. It really was a very low budget film, and it was extremely difficult to really realise to make it happen, for only two million dollars. Also the fact that we shot it in Mickey Rourke's loft for the last five days and we did the rest in three weeks of five days each. It was very compressed in terms of shooting, but there was very little coverage. It was like a documentary. We would just shoot. But we never knew exactly was Harvey Keitel was gonna do. So coming off that and into Dangerous Game, which was really a studio film - 14 million dollar budget or whatever it was - the biggest problem there really was Madonna and her expectations of the film. She had a five page contract on her trailer, so you know... The chemistry between Madonna and Kietel just was not there. Personally I like the film. I think it's the most underrated of all Abel's films. Easily the most underrated.
Oh, I love it. I have loved it for years, such a long time.
Yeah. A lot of directors I have worked with, film directors and commercial film directors, they love the film. It's interesting because it's caught between the director's life, his marriage falling apart, and making this ponderous Mother of Mirrors heavy tale. And Madonna loved the movie at first, in its four hour cut, when it was her movie. When basically what happened is they restructured it and recut it to two hours, it went from being Madonna's movie to Harvey's movie. I mean, listen, it's the best acting she ever did. The best she will ever do in her life.
I have to agree.
Yeah, but Keitel is basically amazing. I mean he is just amazing in that film. There are two different plays. Madonna couldn't keep up. Harvey's big thing is the danger of the actor going through the dialogue. He is in character, the character is driving it, not someone else's words. Whereas I don't think she really had the chops to do that, to pull that off. I mean, my favourite shot is when Keitel says she's a commercial piece of shit.
I was going to mention that. I think that's an amazing shot. Her reaction is something else!
The look on her face, it's like she's been slapped. Look, I was surprised. I am not gonna put her down. But when Russo slugs her and knocks her wig back, I was not expecting it. They had all worked that out but they did not tell me. I almost blew the shot because I did not expect that at all. So there were a lot of pyrotechnics on the set. James Russo is one of the best actors out there. So you had Russo and Keitel, they can carry someone who doesn't have the chops. On the other hand, when you do not have that razor sharp ability, the best thing you are gonna do is go along with the show. Another thing is I never really understood what a shit magnet she is, critically I mean. So when the New York Post did their front page, it said "Madonna Movie Bombs"... that was the front fucking page!
The thing is, for me, toy wise it was great. I went from crappy stuff to better equipment, a great operator. I could basically carry the camera around on my shoulder. I shot it wide open. I had everything I wanted technically, shooting in the studio in Hollywood. That was great. It was a big change. It didn't necessarily make the movie any better but it made it easier to realise the technical aspect of the movie. I mean Bad Lieutenant is a better movie, because of that performance. Harvey Keitel should have won the Academy Award for that.
It shows how ridiculous the Academy is for not spotting that performance though. I mean, come on!
Come on, the Academy is run by old white guys. I think Bad Lieutenant opened a lot of doors for a lot of movies. Especially films like Trainspotting. And we could not have made a semi autobiographical movie, which is what Dangerous Game is, without making Bad Lieutenant first. I don't think so.
No. But I remember getting those two films in the late 1990s when I was a teenager. I actually bought them from a church jumble sale, believe it or not!
(Much laugher) Oh God!
Yeah, well I got them because I was big on Keitel at that point, with Reservoir Dogs, and I was a Madonna fan. I was stunned by Bad Lieutenant, and I read a lot of good things about it too in magazines. But I used to get frustrated, because no one has ever talked about Dangerous Game at all. It's a fantastic film and I really do think Madonna is great in it!
Yeah me too, I really do. I was actually surprised how she could even be in the same room as Harvey. I mean Harvey, when he wants to be, is one of the best actors who has ever walked the boards. Period! When he wants to be that is. I mean, The Piano... come on! Reservoir Dogs is good, but I am not a big fan of Tarantino. I do not know how Tarantino gets given so much money. I think Harvey's best stand out character is the Lieutenant. So when you get to his character in Dangerous Game... a lot of directors I speak to, they see themselves in that movie.
Well I was always curious about the stuff that Eddie Israel and Frank say to her, Madonna... all the put downs and the fact she is a commercial piece of shit. Just how much of that was worked out without her knowing? How much was worked out before the cameras started rolling, just off the cuff?
Well, there was a lot of improv on the set, a lot of different takes. Some stuff was scripted, other stuff was Harvey just going off and the other two responding. Listen, Abel is a guy who lets the actors make the decision. So that's part of his work. They say that casting is sixty percent of direction. But maybe I would even give it seventy five percent of direction. The deal with Abel is that he always casts incredible actors; Walken, Keitel, Willem Defoe, Dennis Hopper, Gerard Depardieu.. Actually, Blackout with Dennis Hopper is another underrated Abel film.
I think they all are underrated to be honest.
I think so too. Well, the thing is what happen with Abel is he doesn't get much of an advertising budget. You really need that. You get that problem with other movies, but more with Abel. So it's a shame. He's underrated.
Well the good thing is that he always gets to make what he wants. Well, I think he does. Does he have that freedom?
Yeah he does! That is the upside of it, that if you are making a studio film, you have the audience consideration, the casting and all the other stuff that comes along with it. There are two reasons to make an independent movie. One is if you are dealing with something outside the normal mainstream field. The other thing is with guys like Tarantino, who make their own version of the studio narrative style, cross a few barriers, but ultimately want to make big budget mainstream films.
So Dangerous Game was a great experience?
Yeah, Madonna was great. I had no problems with her., She was not a diva. There were some conflicts with Abel, but hey, in the end there are always some kind of problems. But the end product is the end product. And that's it...
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