Read the unedited version of Si Litvinoff's responses here.
Litvinoff optioned the Anthony Burgess novel A Clockwork Orange in 1966 and developed screenplays by Burgess and Terry Southern, among others. The movie was originally intended to star Mick Jagger with such directors as John Boorman, Ted Kotcheff, and Nicolas Roeg until Stanley Kubrick took on the project in 1970.
Graduating with honors from Adelphi College in New York, Si went on to N.Y.U. Law School.
He's a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Divorced, he has two sons - Ian and Bram Litvinoff.
Luke: Which of your projects has had the most meaning for you?
Si: One of the most meaningful projects for me is one that I never produced and was made by others with Academy Award success. It was "Out Of Africa," a book I read and loved while I was in college. It took a long time of wooing the family and estate of Isak Dinesen to option the rights to the novel, not the least of which was coming up with substantial money even after I had passed all the other tests they put me through. After not being able to set it up anywhere despite some years of hefty annual option payments, the time came when the option had to be exercised with a payment of $90,000 which I didn't have. Fortunately, at the zero hour, David Begelman, then head of Columbia Pictures (where I had offices for a picture to be directed by Howard Zieff when I came back to Los Angeles after several years in London), agreed to exercise the option and develop the picture with Nic Roeg to direct. This was exactly what I had been unsuccessfully pitching to him but what turned the tables was that Nic's picture Don't Look Now had just opened big in London.
Breathing a big sigh of relief and celebrating getting a studio behind us, we developed a screenplay by Judith Rascoe that satisfied us and began casting. Of course this was subject to Columbia. First actress Liv Ullman was acceptable - then she wasn't - then Julie Christie was acceptable - then she wasn't... Peter O'Toole was acceptable, then he wasn't. James Fox, who was a perfect Denys Finch Hatton, was never acceptable. And so it went. I went to New York to see Robert Redford who showed some interest but had too many immediate commitments. At least on this trip, Nic and I committed David Bowie to star in the 1976 film The Man Who Fell To Earth. By the time the agent for Meryl Streep indicated her possible interest, additional studio executives wanted rewrites. Some executives had budgetary problems.
We had gotten two friends, the noted authors Peter Matthiesen and Peter Beard, both familiar with Africa, to guide us on a reconnaissance trip to Africa. Peter Beard was also a well known photographer of East Africa and had known Dinesen and photographed her. We spoke to Leonard Bernstein about composing the music. The delays however continued.
To make a very long story less painful for me, as I remember it, it culminated with a meeting in London. I was in London opening of 1976's The Man Who Fell To Earth which should indicate how long this was going on. We had a meeting in London to organize a reconnaissance trip to Africa to properly budget the picture. After finding locations, we were told that the trip was off and we would know more upon our return to Los Angeles. A new administration had come to Columbia Pictures and it was not going to make the movie. Despite several years of trying, I couldn't set it up elsewhere. Ironically, the head of the new administration at Columbia who didn't want to make the movie, went to another studio where years later he greenlighted the picture and it won the "Best Picture" Oscar.
Another meaningful dream busted with a similar experience was the novel "Henderson the Rain King" by Saul Bellow which I was able to option. Previously Bellow had refused all movie offers but because I had been his agent's lawyer, Bellow trusted me. I understand Jack Nicholson owns the rights now.
Luke: What does a producer do?
SL: If it were not for the long lists of "producer"credits on the screen these days this would be the cliche question asked in all interviews with producers. Producer, Co-Producer, Executive Producer, Associate Producer, line Producer, and Produced by, etc. are some of the credits you see, and often for several people on one film. The question often asked is why so many different titles for so many people, especially when this can even exist on a low budget film. Well, there are all kinds of producers. Most are hired hands and used to be called Production Managers. Some are what I refer to as Entrepreneurial Producers. I am one of those and there are still plenty of those around. We find a literary property and option it with our own money (only if necessary) and we hire a writer to write a screenplay (and pay for it, if necessary) or we find an original screenplay (and pay for it if necessary) and work to make it better. We could also just come up with an idea or the germ of a story that we think could be turned into an entertaining film and if we were not the writer (as some of us are) again there is the hiring and paying of writers. Let me not overemphasize the paying and more paying part. It is important and burdensome, but the essence of the Entrepreneurial Producer is his taste and his willingness to gamble on it. Nobody telephones the Entrepreneurial Producer (like me) to hire him. That is for the other species. I do not denigrate that "producer." I merely distinguish the difference. He or she has come aboard to perform services long after the baby was born. When you see that the Director is credited as a Producer, clearly he needs help since the load of a Director is a heavy one and so there is a CO-Producer or more than one. When a Stanley Kubrick is Director he required that only he be sole Producer (as well as Director and sometimes Writer) so other credits were required, no matter who birthed the baby and raised it.
I will not here examine the Producer credits given to managers, business managers and other associates of stars which the Producers Guild and others are upset with, except to say that it seems to be a requirement that most often one has to live with to get the star in order to get the financing. If you want John Travolta his manager must be a Producer but fortunately this manager is an experienced Producer by now. In too many cases however it is only a credit and a paycheck for "allowing" the star to commit to the picture. There is more that could be said on this subject but not now by me.
An Entrepreneurial Producer will obviously be the closest voice to the Director who if he is wise would have worked with the Director and the Writer (and possibly the Cinematographer and Editor) when creating the screenplay and every other aspect of the film including the casting of actors and every member of the unit. He will, even in advance of the completion of photography and editing be concerned with publicity and distribution, begging and cajoling for more screens or a better opening date. During this period most of the hired "producers" will have moved on. Another aspect of Producer credits came about due to the Motion Picture Academy rules concerning the Academy Awards. The Academy ruled that if your picture won "Best Picture," the only the persons (there is a limit now) who could come up to receive the Oscar was the person(s) credited as Producer. The Executive Producer could not come on stage and accept the trophy even if he was actually the Entrepreneurial Producer. So more title changes became necessary. I know a man who has financed and been involved in the creation and production of at least five pictures, some of which are classics, who chose to be credited as Executive Producer on those pictures because he thought as many of the earlier mogul Producers thought, that that indicated that he was the boss. Not anymore! Because he chose that credit the Academy rules deny him membership while persons who have not in any way contributed to the creation of a single piece of motion picture history are entitled to membership because they were hired by such an Entrepreneurial Producer. I am proud to be one.
It's difficult to respond to your questions concerning my memories of Walkabout and A Clockwork Orange without somehow intermingling their histories and my relationship with Nicolas Roeg, as you will see as I start with Walkabout. Sometime, probably in 1966, on one of my many business trips from New York to London, I went out to Pinewood Studios to visit Jerry Epstein who was producing The Countress From Hong Kong directed by Charlie Chaplin and starring Marlon Brando and Sophia Loren. Jerry was intended to be my partner in a movie I hoped to produce based on a best selling book I had optioned. Jerry was an experienced producer and his long connection with Chaplin gave him many important contacts in the business and I was just beginning as a principal, rather than as a lawyer for principals. Another friend, Lew Allen, was producing Fahrenheit 451 at Pinewood, directed by Francois Truffaut, starring Julie Christie and Oscar Werner. I had known Lew (and his wife, the playwright-screenwriter Jay Presson Allen) since he was the producer of the film of the play The Connection and I had been the lawyer for Jack Gelber, the playwright-screenwriter and Shirley Clarke, who directed the film. Lew would, a few years later, be my partner in the film The Queen and even later still in a huge London stage musical "I and Albert" directed by John Schlesinger. The cinematographer for Fahrenheit was one Nicolas Roeg and that is where I met Julie and Nic.
A few years later, after I had produced The Queen in New York, which had become a great success in New York and at the Cannes Film Festival, I was living in Los Angeles in a new partnership with Ray Wagner on "Henderson: The Rain King" by Saul Bellow and some other known works that I had optioned. Ray had just produced Petulia, directed by Dick Lester, starring George C. Scott and Julie Christie and the cinematographer was Nic Roeg. We became close friends. In addition to the many projects that Ray and I were developing, I was separately obsessed with making a film of A Clockwork Orange which I had optioned in 1966. After much time spent with Nic, knowing that he had written screenplays, was an extraordinary cinematographer and wanted to direct, I believed that Nic could be an ideal director of the film, which I conceived as low budget, that is, if financial backing had the same faith as I did. I wasn't getting backing for the film with such "hot" directors as John Boorman (Point Blank) or Ted Kotcheff with such talent as Mick Jagger or the then very hot (after Blowup) David Hemmings and even the promise of music by some of the Beatles and Rolling Stones who were fans of the project.
One day I got a phone call from Max Raab who had financed a documentary film, directed by Academy Award winning documentary filmmaker Lewis Clyde Stoumen, I had been his lawyer, saying that he wanted to finance the picture and was amenable to allowing Nic to direct. Max was an investor (as was Apple, the Beatles company, and rock and roll legends Leiber&Stoller) and thus Associate Producer for a Broadway play directed by Alan Arkin that I produced. On Broadway it was titled "Hail Scrawdyke". The original title on the London stage was "Little Malcom and his Struggle Against the Eunuchs". Years later George Harrison produced the movie version and recently Ewan McGregor starred in it on the London stage, with the original title used.
Max was a film buff and owned a small movie theater in Philadelphia where he lived. He was also co-owner of a large clothing operation that had provided him with a vast multi-million dollar fortune. And so I was to move to London, first to produce a film called All The Right Noises starring Olivia Hussey (her first picture following Romeo and Juliet), Judy Carne and Tom Bell and introducing Leslie Anne Down. Ironically it was Nic Roeg who asked that I read the script written by a friend of his and Max Raab who agreed to finance it.
Even as I continued to develop Clockword Orange with screenplays by Terry Southern and Anthony Burgess, I learned from Nic that he was also developing a screenplay with a company that was then a mini studio called National General and that the rights were entangled with a company headed by Richard Lester and that he was frustrated by not being able to get the go ahead to make that film, which was his obsession. He asked me if I would help.
I asked Max Raab if he would finance it and he agreed. Based on the James Vance Marshall novel, a classic in Australia, Walkabout was about two children who survive a plane crash and are thus alone in the desert. Playwright Edward Bond and Nic conjured up a 65-page outline, merely a collection of terse of dialogue and a roadmap to what Nic had in mind. It was clear to me why no studio would finance it, especially after he had co-directed Performance, which was not pleasing to most studio mentalities.
After a lot of time with Nic trying to explain his vision, I loved the idea. But untangling and negotiating the acquisition of rights would go on for a year. Meanwhile, Director Stanley Kubrick, who had been given the novel Clockwork Orange five years earlier at my request, had finally read it and decided he must direct it.
My first disagreement on Walkabout with Nic Roeg was about the casting of the little English boy. Nic advocated the use of his son Nico and I insisted his younger son Luc play the role. And that was the final happy result. I also insisted that John Barry provide the score. Another happy result. After watching several film performances by Jenny Agutter, and meeting with her, we cast her as the girl. The Aboriginee boy David Gulpilill was found by Nic. We all knew that taking these children to the mountains, desserts and forests of Australia for a low budget film was a great responsibility. I have a vivid memory of David on the ground, shocked and stunned when the Toyota jeep-like vehicle he was riding in overturned, with Nic comforting him in the mumbo jumbo jargon they had learned to communicate in. It was at the same time touching and comical. Nic was the general of the army and the father of the family. Nic's then wife, the late Susan Stevens, the mother of four of Nic's sons, who had starred in many films, was the family mother.
On one flight over the bush to our location, in a small propeller plane, we heard the pilot, his door open, shouting, "We're not going to make it" just as we seemed to be descending into a forest only to pull up at the last moment. I couldn't understand, momentarily frozen as I was, why we were all calm. Nic told me calmly that Australian pilots must always be in contact with airport towers because the country has so much vast uninhabited areas that a downed plane can sometimes never be found and that the pilot was merely communicating that he would repeat the landing. He had apparently told all of his family earlier but he had forgotten to tell me.
I enjoy a memory (never to be repeated - gourmand-oenophile cook that I am) of David offering me a gift of bat he had caught to eat, describing it as "bush taka" and happily wanting me to share his generosity. Feeling like someone in one of those old jungle or Cowboys and Indians old movies, I was compelled to give David his desired pleasure and eat bat. He was pleased.
When Walkabout was invited to be the British entry at the Cannes Film Festival (we wanted it to be the Australian entry but Australia at that time seemingly did not want to advertise its Aboriginee population), we had a difficult time getting David a visa to go, but we ultimately succeeded and it was riveting though perhaps incongruous to see him in his tuxedo. He thereafter acted in some movies, produced a movie and married a French model and lived in Paris.
The Australian government attempt to hide the Aboriginee has, as we know today, ultimately failed. They did not like the film's scene of the partially nude Aborigines around the burned-out car. I had a hand in that scene.
After principal photography was completed, back in London a well-known American record producer Phil Ramone came to see me and he gave me a paper bag with audio cassettes in it that he told me could be used in the film. I found two that I liked and one that I thought would be great in the film and that was why I suggested to Nic that we use Rod Stewart singing Gasoline Alley as it appears in the picture. My relationship with Nic on that picture was one of my favorite collaborations because Nic was willing to listen and try things suggested. In the editing room in Sydney, I had the idea to intercut Jenny in the tree with David and the unclad Aboriginee women, and even as Tony Gibbs, the brilliant editor, and Nic seemed to humor me, Nic agreed we could try it and there it is. And it is much discussed and enjoyed. That is collaboration!
Vivid memories include my total passionate support of Nic's desire to end the picture, as it does, with part of the great A.E. Hausman poem despite opposition from everywhere (including Max Raab) who wanted the picture to end when the children were found on the road. At an early screening in London, I asked two of the most sophisticated and cynical men I knew about the debate. Both George Axelrod, the playwright, screenwriter, and the late Kenneth Tynan, critic and one time head of the National Theater, adamantly agreed that the poem created a powerful emotional moment and that we should not remove it. Because of the violence in the father's scene and the sexuality and National Geographic type nudity, we were hit by questions of ratings. We were less concerned with the ratings than (as the fathers of six children) with the effect on children who wanted to see the picture. We had screenings for school children with their teachers and their parents and we asked the children to write reviews. The responses were just what we had hoped. We had made the film with our children in mind and it seemed that the parents and children had no problem with the harsh moments. Most children said the Aboriginee died of a broken heart. Most critics have much more analysis. Even with the approval and support of Parents magazine and many others, when 20th Century Fox took over the distribution, they had to win a ratings battle.
Walkabout opened in New York and London six months before A Clockwork Orange. Oddly enough Walkabout received far better reviews from the critics than Clockwork even though Clockwork had major supporters and was a blockbuster. Fox simply did not know how to market it. They admitted it but would not listen to suggestions. Executives lived in fear of being fired for any innovation. It was a time when Daryl Zanuck was ousted. There was a threat of a hostile takeover and we were caught in the middle. Fortunately it is still being bought, rented, televised and in many cases revered. No picture in my career makes me prouder.
After years of living in London, I had returned to Los Angeles. I had offices at Columbia Pictures in Burbank and a deal to develop a picture with Howard Zieff. I also had an option on the novel Out of Africa. Nicolas Roeg was to direct. We'd collaborated on Walkabout and several other projects. We were close friends. Roeg was originally scheduled by me to direct A Clockwork Orange.
On one occasion when Nic was in Los Angeles, we were in the studio working when we heard there was a screening there that night of Emmanuelle, which we wanted to see. My marriage had officially ended and I had a date with [actress] Candy Clark [who debuted as the good time girl in 1973's America Graffiti] and Nic's was unofficially severing and I got him a date with a beautiful girl I knew. At the end of the evening, he asked if we could switch next time. And so began his long affair with Candy.
On a visit to his room at the Beverly Hills Hotel, where Columbia had put him up, he asked if I would like to read a screenplay by Paul Mayersberg, which Nic wanted to direct next. I had commissioned Paul several times in London to write screenplays. Candy, who was there, said she'd agreed to be in it. I read it there and said I liked its potential. Nic asked me to produce it. The screenplay was adapted from a novel by Walter Tevis, who'd also written the novel The Hustler, which was made into a wonderful picture. I thought the script was lean. But I knew that the Walkabout script was originally only 65 pages. So I enthusiastically agreed to produce the picture. And Nic, Candy and I moved forward together.
I was in London when Maggie Abbott, a friend and an agent at ICM, campaigned for David Bowie to play the lead. Nic had been thinking about Peter O'Toole. I was enthusiastic about David in the music world and I loved his record Space Oddity. (Oddly enough, the first draft screenplay ended with some lyrics from Elton John's Rocket Man.) But it wasn't until Maggie provided us with the documentary Cracked Actor that we were both excited about David and knew that he was the only person to play the part. So now we had to convince him.
Nic and I returned to Los Angeles. I convinced Columbia to fly us to New York to talk to Robert Redford about Out of Africa. Maggie arranged that we could meet with David at a house he was renting in the East 20s. Maggie crashed at our hotel suite with us.
It was prearranged that Nic would go downtown to David Bowie. I would wait at Elaine's restaurant for Redford's call (he was shooting) and Nic's call. Redford ultimately had too many commitments lined up for years. After midnight, I got the call to go downtown, in the snow, to David's house. The door was opened by a lovely looking black girl with orange colored short hair wearing a Clockwork Orange sweater. Her name was Ava Cherry. She was a fine singer and a good omen. Nic and David had had a lot of time together and David wanted to be in the picture. We were all ecstatic. Maggie had worked tirelessly on David's behalf. Nevertheless, she would ultimately be replaced by Michael Lippman, and he by the late Robert Littman, who had become Nic's agent upon the departure from agenting of Peter Witt, who appears in the picture. Eventually a deal was done. I intended that David compose the music soundtrack, which David would perform on his world tour following production.
The executives at Columbia, who thought we were after Redford for this picture, turned the project down, as did several others. But the two new owners of the London company British Lion, Michael Deeley and Barry Spikings, who'd had great success producing The Deer Hunter for EMI, were anxious to make their company more visible to the world. So they agreed to finance The Man Who Fell to Earth.
What resulted is an example of the modus operandi of Michael Deeley, or as the crew called him, "Devious Deeley" or "Wheeley Deeley." Bobby Littman impersonation of Deeley's entrance into a room, "Hello, he lied", tells the tale.
I rented my friend Harry Joe "Cocoa" Brown's [his father was a famous Hollywood director] large house on North Roxbury Drive as an office and as a residence for Nic and other top personnel coming from London.
Nic's picture Don't Look Now had been a huge hit in London. Nic, David and Meyersberg were all English. I suggested we try to make it an Eady Plan movie, which means you get extra money from the United Kingdom box office receipts if you comply by having a major percentage of English personnel. This would require an English crew in New Mexico, where Brian Eatwell, our English production designer on Walkabout, had found our locations. Brian had done a picture in New Mexico for Dick Lester and knew the area. New Mexico had White Sands, a perfect location for representing space. My suggestion was accepted despite the potential immigration and labor union problems of bringing in the English. A great idea that would come back to haunt me later.
Additional casting was simple for me since Rip Torn and Terry Southern (I wanted Terry to do a promo piece for Esquire magazine and he wound up in the picture) had been clients of mine when I practiced law in New York City years earlier. I also cast friends like Buck Henry, Linda Hutton (Donald Cammel's girlfriend), Sabrina Guiness (who originally came along to look after my young sons who I had custody of that summer), Peter Witt (who had been my client and friend and later Nic's agent), and my then girlfriend Claudia Jennings (a movie star and Playboy's 1970 Playmate of the Year). They all accepted miniscule fees of under $15,000.
According to Imdb.com: "From 1970-75 [Claudia] lived with songwriter/producer Bobby Hart, but after their split her personal life began to spiral. After narrowly missing the role of Kate Jackson's replacement on Charlie's Angels to She lley Hack in May 1979, she began a tumultuous relationship with Beverly Hills realtor Stan Herman. Following their split later that summer, Jennings turned her life around, but sadly fell asleep at the wheel of her VW convertible on her way to pick up her things from Herman's home in Malibu on the morning of October 3, 1979. She was 29."
Anthony Richmond's wife Linda de Vetta did makeup. Brian Eatwell's wife May Routh was the costume designer. It was the Walkabout family and the house on Roxbury Drive was our home.
Gerry O'Harra was the writer-director of the 1969 film All the Right Noises, which I produced in London with Olivia Hussey. Gerry's agent Howard Rubin became the head of the New Mexico Film Commission and he helped us get free use of the warehouse where Brian created the spacecraft.
Before we left for New Mexico, I had "The Man Who Fell to Earth" T-shirts printed up and distributed all over town. With Bowie as the star, there was great buzz. RCA Records agreed to do the Bowie soundtrack for $250,000, which covered Bowie's fee.
British Lions' man John Peverall got the English crew into the USA through Chicago. That obstacle was cleared. The UK crew worked hard despite not being used to the New Mexico weather. The heat was stifling. I paid for an open bar after the shooting which made the crew feel better. Several weeks later, Michael Deeley arrived in New Mexico and the atmosphere changed.
After the day's shooting, David, his manager Coco, his son Zowie and his entourage were in one place. Nic and Candy were together. Deeley and his wife Spikings, Kip Gowans (the first AD) and his beautiful wife Lee Remick hung together. Since my girlfriend Claudia Jennings only came up on weekends, I hung out with our many visitors like our PR man Steve Jaffe (now married to Susan Blakely), the photographers Catherine Millinaire and Steve Shapiro, as well as Terry Duffy, Bob Rafelson, Jenny Agutter, and Marjorie Gortner. Whenever possible, I hung out with David Bowie.
Claudia Jennings was immediately recognized and drew more attention than David Bowie. David knew her before I did, because she was a friend of Ava Cherry.
David worked like a professional. Despite staying up late at night composing music for the soundtrack, he was always on time with his lines ready.
When Rip Torn arrived to do his first scene with David in the spacecraft, it became clear to me that Rip was wound up like a caged animal. David was not only tense, but exhausted from staying up all night. I quickly got Tequila for Rip and I ground up No Doze for David to snort. He had kept his promise to do no cocaine on the shoot but snorting worked better for him than pills. The scene was ultimately shot despite Deeley's tirade. He believed the powder was cocaine.
Slowly the money men exercised their money-based power and I lost control of the picture. It was not a collaboration all the way like Walkabout. Editing is my favorite stage after development. But in this movie, Deeley and Spikings replaced me in London. They had promised Nic that nobody would recut his cut. As my lawyer described it politely, Deeley tried to outsmart Paramount, which pulled out of the deal. The rights to the picture were then sold to an exhibitor, not a studio. And the exhibitor had the picture recut.
To make matters, worse, Deeley tried to outsmart David on the music rights. David turned him down. Thus, the great music Bowie wrote for the picture couldn't be used. The soundtrack is a meaningless last minute replacement for what was superb.
What David wrote became his album Low. On the album cover, David wears his anorak from the film. David played the music he intended for the film on his tour. The night he played the Forum in Los Angeles, he held a party at Ma Maison. David provided limos for all of us. The guests included Nic Roeg, Alan Bates, Bette Midler, Jacqueline Bisset, Tom Waits and Mark Rydell.
When we set up the film for the Eady Plan, I placed my rights in Nic's UK company. Mine had been closed down. Consequently I could not sue because I did not have what the court calls, "privity of contract." As far as I know, other than what Nic gets from the European director's organization, no profit participations or statements have ever been sent to David, Candy or me. And we thought the number of presales we saw showed us in profit before we started.
Nic, Candy, Brian, Tony, May, Buck and Rip are still my friends. Claudia, Terry and Peter are gone. I have not been in touch with David Bowie the last few years but I would love to see him again. I remember his visits to me way out in Malibu. He came, not to go on the beach, but to sit and talk and listen to music. I cherish the lithographs he made and gave me. Like Thomas Newton, he is extraordinary. He gave an extraordinary performance in a great original film that will stand the test of time.
I see now that [Australian actor] David Gulpilil appears in my friend Philip Noyce's new film "Rabbit Proof Fence" and another new film, "The Tracker." Luc Roeg (son of director Nicoloas Roeg) is a top personal manager (having been a producer and an agent) for some high level film people.
Now some more memories of A CLOCKWORK ORANGE. Probably in 1965 or early 1966, while I was practicing law (and still producing plays), Terry Southern, who has been my client and dear friend for many years and who knew that I was starting to option books in hopes of beginning a movie producer career, suggested that I read an English novel titled "A Clockwork Orange" by Anthony Burgess. I had already optioned several books including "Henderson the Rain King" and "End of the Road" by John Barth, with the hope that Terry, who was a hot novelist ("Candy") and screenwriter at that moment (Dr. Strangelove, The Cincinnati Kid, The Loved One, etc) could be proposed by me as screenwriter and thus get a studio to pay him to write the screenplay and we could coproduce together.
When I read the book (no easy matter), I was electrified with excitement. All of my work has been influenced by my love of music and my history of involvement with the music industry. This book read like music to me (and as I later found out, to some of The Beatles and to some of The Rolling Stones). The Nadsat language that Burgess created was musical to me. All of my work has always had a socially significant underpinning. This black humor book had that as well. I visualized a movie opening with a futuristic monolith of a building darkened except for one lit up apartment wherein a young man is playing with a snake and listening to Brahms or Shubert or better still, my favorite, the chorale "Ode to Joy" from Beethoven's Ninth Symphony.
I was hooked and almost immediately started my quest to acquire the rights (and I also started reading other Burgess books which I would later option-but that's another story). Being able to tell Deborah Rogers who was the agent for Burgess, some of the higher profile clients I represented and some of the books I had optioned and being able to tell her that I wanted Terry to write the screenplay helped enormously. The fact that no one else was interested (despite all that is in print of people who say they sought the rights or held the rights) also helped and by March of 1966 I had the option. The first option payment in 1966, for one year, was $1000. Yes, I know that it has been printed that Burgess in interviews (Playboy, Rolling Stone,etc.), still in print, still taken as gospel, said he sold the rights for $500 and got only a few pennies more. I have the contract if you would like to print it. Bear in mind that that $1000 was only for the first year and Burgess was to receive, and did receive more $1000 payments as well as the full exercise price payment. Add those payments to his percentage of net profits, sales of the suddenly famous book as well as new interest in his other books and a new career as a screenwriter and celebrity and you will see how fraudulent his $500 sale price statement was and is. By my count to date he has received and his estate continues to receive thousands of dollars (well over $100,000) from the film (not to say the least of what he receives from book royalties which were close to nil prior to the film). I also can include the monies he received from me for options on several of his other books and the payment he received for a screenplay of CLOCKWORK. And one can add the sums he suddenly received to write screenplays.
In passing let me explode another myth which appears in a book about Stanley Kubrick by John Baxter, which states that a British critic named Adrian Turner saw the Burgess screenplay and it was more than 300 pages long. More nonsense. The Burgess screenplay, which I have, is 89 pages long. There is much more that is incorrect in that book as well as in Lee Hill's book "Grand Guy Terry Southern" which is loaded with inaccuracies (including that Terry dropped an option just as Kubrick agreed to do the picture-he had no option then as I had the only option from March 1966 on, that David Puttnam set it up at Paramount, which never happened, that Paramount put it in turnaround which never happened, that Max Raab co produced THE MAN WHO FELL TO EARTH which is not true etc etc.) and out and out falsehoods.
Film history continues to be created by third parties who were not at the dance. The other night, for example, WALKABOUT was on TV on THE INDEPENDENT FILM CHANNEL which I admire, but the information on screen stated that that screenplay was 14 pages long and that Nic Roeg never visited the locations before filming. This is not only nonsense, but also insulting to Nic and the screenwriter, the eminent British playwright Edward Bond. And so it goes. No one has ever attempted to corroborate any facts with me.
After many failed attempts beginning in 1966 of trying to get financing for the film with Mick Jagger to star, Terry and I were at the opening party at the Plaza Hotel for Antonioni's film BLOWUP and we talked to David Hemmings who was an instant hot new star who was going out to Hollywood to star in "Camelot" and he instantly agreed to star in CLOCKWORK. He knew the book and loved it. A few days later I flew out to LA to see if I could get his new heat to get financing. I went to the set of POINT BLANK which [Robert] Chartoff, [Irwin] Winkler and [Judd] Bernard were producing to see if the director John Boorman would be interested. I had seen a movie he had directed for a rock group and I was impressed that in my opinion he was able to make something out of nothing. Despite the fact that in my heart I really wanted Nic Roeg to direct and Mick Jagger to star I was not getting anywhere with the studios with that desire.
Well, again I got a fast yes from Boorman who also knew and loved the book. It seemed as I would continue to learn, the English were fans. Next step was to get Hemmings and Boorman's agency, the William Morris Agency, to know and understand the project which was obviously not the usual kind of movie they would normally come across to help sell the package. Luckily the agent was Joe Wizan, who later on was a successful producer and studio executive. Joe could read and had taste. But all of his attempts to get U.S. studio backing were unsuccessful. Thereafter there were many trips to London to try my efforts there with the Roeg-Jagger package.
The problem was that the "censor" Lord Trevelyan would give the film an X rating which would preclude all of the huge number of Mick's teenage fans from buying theater tickets and hence investors were so wary of that economic loss that they would not finance it. I tried everywhere, Mick's agents tried, my agents tried and tried but no takers. This even with the promise of a music score by some Stones and some Beatles. Back in LA , with Ray Wagner we were CO-developing several projects with studios when he got a "go" on his own film "Loving" so my wife and I decided to sublease out my then rented Malibu beachhouse and go back to our Bridgehampton, Long Island house for the summer. Soon thereafter I received a phone call from Brian Epstein, the manager of The Beatles, saying that he knew of me from the play that I produced in which the Beatles company had invested and of the project which "the boys" had told him about and that he would like to meet with me on his next trip to New York with regard to his desire to CO produce and finance CLOCKWORK.
Well you can imagine my excitement at the potential of that partnership for me and for the film. Unfortunately it was not to be and before our meeting ever took place Brian was dead. But it was not too long thereafter that Max Raab called to say that he was prepared to finance the film as I originally dreamed, with Nic to direct and Mick to star. Sometime in late 1969 and early 1970 when we were in preparation I started to receive visits from some L.A. based Warners executives always inquiring about CLOCKWORK and when our N.Y. lawyer Bob Montgomery said that a N.J. accountant had made a $100,000 offer for the rights for some anonymous person I intuited that it was Kubrick to whom Terry Southern had given the book many years earlier. He had not read it earlier, apparently because the copy Terry gave him was the US paperback with bikers pictured on the cover and which had a glossary of the Nadsat language and it was unappetizing to him. Obviously someone had touted it to him all these years later. Only a few years ago I learned that he was secretly in touch with Terry with implied promises of Terry's draft of a Michael Cooper spec version being used while trying to get information from Terry. A few years ago Terry's son Nile gave me a copy of a letter that Stanley sent to Terry which illustrates his motives which were predominantly founded in economic greed and paranoia. It is clear in the letter he knew, even though I did not at that time, until too late, that Terry had sold his share of potential producers profits that I had voluntarily assigned to him as part of our original arrangement, to Max Raab for $5000 and 10% of Max 's profits and what the Burgess deal was.
When I refused the NJ deal I knew that I would hear from someone other than him, at first, someone to ferret out information in a deceptive manner. I just continued to go forward preparing for production until John Calley, a much wiser more straightforward intelligence who was a friend of mine and who was as close to Stanley Kubrick as anyone could be and who was running Warner Brothers telephoned me and became the intermediary for a deal to ultimately be made by us with Warners. Although it was not my original dream, it all turned out with Nic quickly able to go to his dream WALKABOUT. And Stanley Kubrick made CLOCKWORK a big box office hit.
Oddly enough WALKABOUT opened in New York in the summer and CLOCKWORK at year's end and WALKABOUT received much better reviews from the critics and only fair business and CLOCKWORK did huge business. I have always thought that any of the directors I had asked to do the picture would do it successfully. The difference is that they thought it was dark and Kubrick did it in bright white light. The one aspect of the film that I do not admire, and in fact I think does not use the brilliance of the ironic black humor of the novel which got me hooked in the first place, is the so called cat lady scene. In the novel (which by the way has one more chapter in the UK than the US edition and that chapter is hopeful). In the novel this boy who idolizes Beethoven ("the great Ludwig van B")" accidentally kills the woman by striking her with her bust of Beethoven. Stanley Kubrick used a phallic piece of statuary and missed a large essence of the heart of the story.
SHOCKING!!PROMISES BROKEN RESULTS IN FALSE REPORTING
Producer Si Litvinoff emails Luke under the above heading: WHEN YOU ASKED TO INTERVIEW ME FOR A BOOK THERE WAS NEVER MENTION OF YOUR WEBSITE AND NOW A WRITER I AM WORKING WITH SENDS ME AS MY "PROFILE"A COPY OF AN INACURATELY EDITED VERSION OF WHAT I SENT TO YOU WHICH IN WRITING VIA E MAIL YOU PROMISED NOT TO EDIT. I HAVE NO TIME RIGHT NOW TO PROOF READ THE ENTIRE INTERVIEW BUT HERE ARE SOME OF YOUR GLARING ERRORS:
ALL OF THESE AND MANY MORE CARELESS GLARING ERRORS ARE CAUSED BY YOUR ATTTEMPT TO EDIT-I CAN GO ON BUT I AM NOT YOUR EDITOR AND YOU AGREED NOT TO BE MINE!!!!
THIS IS NOT A REQUEST BUT A DEMAND YHAT YOU REPLACE YOUR EDITED VERSION WITH THE NON EDITED INFORMATION AS I SENT IT TO YOU.-SI LITVINOFF
Producer Si Litvinoff Monitors My Errors, Broken Promises
Producer Si Litvinoff writes: YOUR FOOLISH AND ERRONEOUS MENTION OF LEAFLETS INSTEAD OF T SHIRTS AND SEVERAL OTHER SLOPPY EDITS STILL APPEARS-ALTHOUGH YOU HAVE MADE SOME CORRECTIONS- YOU HAVE STILL NOT REPLACED YOUR EDITED VERSION WITH ALL OF ITS ERRORS AND OMISSIONS WITH MY ORIGINAL AS PROMISED!!!!PLEASE DO SO NOW!!!-SL
THE ONLY WAY YOU WILL BE ABLE TO PROPERLY CORRECT THIS IS TO REPLACE YOUR EDITED VERSION WITH WHAT I SENT TO YOU-THAT IS WHAT YOU AGREED!!!! I CANNOT CONTINUE TO PROOF READ/INDEED LINE READ YOUR ERROR FULL VERSION-RIGHT NOW THERE EXIST AT LEAST 8 ERRORS THAT I SEE BY JUST GLEANING YOUR EDIT-THAT IS POOR JOURNALISM AND A BROKEN PROMISE TO BOOT-SL
we will monitor your now erroneous material on your website including the item where you tell your readers that i have just faxed you 6 pages as though you were army archerd and then repeat things i told you which had nothing to do with an interview for a book-all i consider to be ,to say the least,underhanded-and as bad as the broken promises-at least print is correctable-just replace yours with mine-sl
Producer Si Litvinoff on the Art of the Interview
Producer Si Litvinoff writes: YOU ARE NOT AN ACCURATE REPORTER-YOU CHANGE CONTEXT-AS ONE WHO PRACTISED LAW FOR 12 YEARS ON BEHALF OF SUPERIOR TALENTS OF CELEBRITY I AM CONFIDENT IN MY GRAMMAR AND SPELLING-INTERVIEW RESPONSES TO GOOD JOURNALISTS ARE NOT REWRITTEN TO SUIT THE INTERVIEWERS EDUCATION OR IN YOUR CASE-THE LACK THEREOF-I WOULD LIKE TO KNOW WHAT SPELLING ERRORS OR ERRORS OF GRAMMAR YOU HAVE FOUND THAT IN YOUR MIND REQUIRED CHANGE-ONCE AGAIN EITHER PRINT WHAT I SAID,AS PROMISED OR I WILL TAKE FURTHER ACTION INCLUDING TALKING TO THE MANY FRIENDS OF MINE WHO YOU HAVE INTERVIEWED WHO I AM SURE HAVE GIVEN YOU INTERVIEWS FOR A SUPPOSED BOOK AND WHO ARE NOT YET AWARE THAT THEY ARE BEING USED ON YOUR WEBSITE-AND I AM SURE THAT MOST DO NOT WISH TO FIND THEIR RESPONSES TO YOU CHANGED BY YOU AND WILL REACT AS I DO-THE DIFFERENCE HOWEVER IN MY CASE IS THAT MY INTERVIEW(FOR A BOOK)WAS CONTINGENT UPON YOUR PRIOR AGREEMENT TO PRINT WHAT I WROTE WITH NO CHANGES-SL
INTERVIEWS ARE NOT BIOGRAPHIES-BIOGRAPHIES PRESENT THE VOICE OF THE BIOGRAPHER-INTERVIEWS ARE SUPPOSED TO PRESENT THE ACTUAL VOICE OF THE INTERVIEWEE-THAT IS WHY IN AN INTERVIEW BY GOOD INTERVIEWERS (LIKE MY FORMER CLIENTS,GEORGE PLIMPTON(PARIS REVIEW),BERNARD GIQUEL(PARIS MATCH),ANDY WARHOL(INTERVIEW),TERRY SOUTHERN(ESQUIRE)RICHARD SEAVER(EVERGREEN)AND OTHERS LIKE DOMINICK DUNNE(VANITY FAIR) AND JAMES BRADY(PARADE) PROVIDE THE ACTUAL UNEDITED RESPONSES SURROUNDED BY QUOTATION MARKS!!!!! AN INTERVIEW IS AKIN TO AN AUTOBIGRAPHY NOT A BIOGRAPHY THE LENGTH OF A SENTENCE OR A PARAGRAPH IS OF NO CONSEQUENCE IF SURROUNDED BY QUOTATION MARKS-THAT REPRESENTS THE ACTUALVOICE OF THE INTERVIEWEE- OTHERWISE ALL OF YOUR SO CALLED INTERVIEWS WOULD HAVE ONE VOICE-YOURS-AND THAT IS NOT AN INTERVIEW-EVERY BEGINNER IN ANY COLLEGE JOURNALISM #1 LEARNS THAT!!!A SEARCH FOR CLEAR,CRISP SHORT ACCURATE SENTENCES IS A REQUIREMENT FOR NEWS REPORTING BUT NOT FOR GOOD INTERVIEWS.BEST YOU START LOOKING AT THE WORK OF THE GOOD INTERVIEWERS-SL
Martin Brimmer writes on lukeford.com: Luke Ford is trying his old tricks on mainstream Hollywood as he interviews scores of producers for his nebulous “book about Hollywood producers.”
Problem is that old cut and paste, rearrange-comments-any-way-I-see-fit style of writing that Luke employs does not tickle the funny bone of Tinsel Town movers and shakers.
Luke recently interviewed Si Litvinoff, producer of the classic films The Man Who Fell To Earth, Walkabout, and Kubrick’s masterful A Clockwork Orange. Litvinoff was livid with the interview as it appeared on lukeford.net and sent Luke the following angry missive on Sunday (the caps are from Litvinoff’s original message)...
Ah, the same old Luke we know and love. As a friend, I feel qualified to comment that Luke’s most enormous problem is not his conflict with his father that has scarred him so deeply and compelled him to run toward a religious faith that he was not born to, nor is it his misogyny that is so deeply-rooted in the death of his natural mother. No. Neither of those. Luke’s biggest error is in thinking that he is a writer.
As the esteemed Litvinoff points out, that occupation - like Judaism - is something that Luke Ford was not born with a gift for. Oh sure, there was the book that Luke wrote but it was accepted by the publisher with no remuneration up front and I doubt that Luke has made enough cash off A History of X to buy a month’s supply of yarmulkes.
Luke’s own ego is so enormous it obscures everything else he should be observing and making careful note of, such as the fact that if he continues to piss off and antagonize the Hollywood crowd he will find himself isolated in ways he has never thought of.
Wanna write for the magazines, Luke? You might care to take a gander at how many of them are owned by media conglomerates that also own the movie studios that the producers you irk work for. Same goes for book publishing houses.
Watch your step, my friend, or you’ll be on the next Greyhound back to Auburn.
Khunrum writes: I see nothing wrong with Luke's writing. Just as James Dean was a "method" actor I believe Luke is a "method" writer. One has to search out the performance just as we had to with Dean. The obvious is not always what Luke has intended for the reader. If Luke has a problem it is with subject matter. He is writing about "producers" nobody cares to hear about. What's more, most of these people have not produced anything in the past twenty-five years. Imagine a book about producers who don't produce? Non-Producers as it were.