To celebrate the release of Mark Cousins’ new documentary The Storms of Jeremy Thomas, a portrait of the Oscar-winning producer responsible for bringing to life films by David Cronenberg, Jonathan Glazer, Jim Jarmusch, Bernardo Bertolucci, Nagisa Ôshima, Jerzy Skolimowski, and many more, NYC’s Quad Cinema is fittingly paying tribute to his career with a fantastic retrospective.
“Jeremy Thomas Presents” kicks off today and runs through September 28 at Quad Cinema, with The Storms of Jeremy Thomas opening this Friday, September 22. As the retrospective commences, we’re pleased to exclusively share the trailer along with comments directly from Thomas looking back at the making of these iconic films.
I was sent a script with a Jonathan Glazer attached, called “Sexy Beast”. It was on a Friday night, and I read it over the weekend. The screenplay was brilliant, and on the Monday I bought it before anyone else could. I knew Jonathan’s incredible work on music videos and commercials. He’s a unique talent. The film is very tough and very funny, and the perfect cast for a gangster movie, with Winstone, McShane, Kingsley, and many real criminals as actors. The rock really rolled down into the pool. It had a camera in it. I always enjoy the language in this film, but it was very difficult to make a trailer with any dialogue in it!
Nic Roeg was my master in terms of his creativity, and I begged to work with him when I started producing. He finally said to me, “If you can buy the rights to the this script I want to do,” which were owned by the great Italian producer Carlo Ponti, “I’ll do it.” I went to Rome, and acquired the rights from this legend with money I didn’t have, but the stars aligned, and the film was made in the city of “The Third Man”, Vienna, and in Marrakech, with communications in Morocco only by Telex at that time. Another world. I’ve never worked on a film before or since that had such an emotional life for all those involved, and the secret society who worked on the film all had a very intense experience making this mosaic about what can go on between people. A lasting favourite.
I met Miike at Venice Film Festival, and proposed him a Tanizaki book I had, and he said to me, “Well, I’ve got this idea for a special samurai movie, and would you like to produce it?’ – which started this relationship of four movies with Miike. Three years later, we were back premiering the film at the festival. It’s truly an epic story with memorable characters, and the finale rivals anything we’ve ever seen, and everything was shot in-camera with a film camera. I was thrilled with the worldwide reception for this film. Really spectacular.
My friend Michael Austin had written a screenplay based on a short story by Robert Graves. Great concept, man can kill with a shout by his voice, but not a horror movie in any way. I was a great admirer of Jerzy Skolimowski and his film “Deep End”, so I chased him down, and he immediately wanted to direct the film. He was so well-regarded by actors that we were able to adapt the script with a cast that would be difficult to assemble in today’s independent cinema: Alan Bates, Susannah York, John Hurt, Robert Stephens, Tim Curry, Jim Broadbent. 36 days filming on location in Devon. My second feature, and we were irresponsibly happy. It won the Grand Prix at Cannes, and amazingly 50 years later, the film has just broken even, and I worked with Jerzy again for the fourth time on “EO”.
MERRY CHRISTMAS, MR. LAWRENCE
I met the legendary director Nagisa Ōshima at the Cannes prize-giving for “The Shout”, and we exchanged business cards. He was wearing a kimono. I was naturally a great admirer of his, and he had shocked me with his films in a positive way. Three years later, I received a long screenplay of “Merry Christmas Mr Lawrence”. I went to Tokyo. The writer Paul Mayersberg re-adapted the screenplay, and the rest is a prison of war camp on Raratonga on the Pacific, with David Bowie, Ryuichi Sakamoto, Takeshi Kitano, Tom Conti, Jack Thompson playing in a war film that has as its theme a love of men for men. In some ways, it was like the camp, as the cast and crew were half Western, half Japanese, and the cultural mix was intoxicating for all concerned. Apart from the food and the mosquitos, it was not a bad place to be for six or seven weeks. I love making films where if you leave the door open, there’s always a lot that comes through it from where you film. We were very happy, and none of the islanders even knew who David Bowie was.
A road movie really shot on the road, from southern Spain to the French border, with a small troupe of crew and players. It was a wonderful experience working with Stephen Frears for the first time, and having actors like John Hurt, Terence Stamp, Tim Roth, Laura del Sol and Bill Hunter, and we all enjoyed the ride. I’m very fond of this film.
THE LAST EMPEROR
Bertolucci asked to meet me via his brother in law Mark Peploe, and I said “Let’s meet at Lee Ho Fook for a Chinese lunch.” I never understood the kind of meal I was going to embark on, but three and a half years later, after a lifetime experience, from 1984-87, we had made a movie in the old way. What you see is what we saw exactly. It was an epic in every sense.
ONLY LOVERS LEFT ALIVE
To work with Jim Jarmusch was irresistible as I’m a big fan, and we had been pals for decades. We shot in Detroit, interiors in Cologne, and then on to Tangiers, where we retraced many ghosts and talked about vampires like Burroughs and Bowles. To work with the wonderful cast, Tilda Swinton and John Hurt again, and Tom Hiddleston for the first time, and with Mia Wasikowska and Anton Yelchin made the experience all the better.
My fifth film with Bernardo, we really enjoyed working together, and Paris ‘68 based on Gilber Adair’s book with young protagonists under the Maestro’s spell. We were also locked away in a building where everything in the film was made, like a studio, right in the centre of Paris, and when you went outside naturally the world exploded with traffic jams and camera cranes. And again Eva Green, Michael Pitt, and Louis Garrel excelled and made the film happy. I am a bit stuck in the period myself, and I’m a dreamer.
BLOOD AND WINE
I had been friendly with Bob Rafaelson for many years and was a big lover of his magnificent films, really a big talent in the cinema firmament, and to work with Jack Nicholson, Judy Davis, Michael Caine, Stephen Dorff and Jennifer Lopez in Miami in this real thriller was a genuine experience of American cinema for me. Jack, who I had known since the days of “The Shining” at Elstree Studios in the UK, made the film with his relationships with Michael and Stephen in particular, and especially Bob, as they had been through many great films together. The film is definitely an unsung enjoyment and Miami looks as it should.
I met Cronenberg after a screening of “Bad Timing” at Toronto Film Festival. I knew all his films intimately. I asked him, “Is there anything you want to make, as I’d love to work with you,” and he said, “Naked Lunch”. Like a flash of lightning: Burroughs and Cronenberg, yes I want to do that. I got the rights from Burroughs and his husband James Grauerholtz, and seven years later we were in Tangiers in the land of mugwumps. How great to pull a film like that off, impossible today.
See the exclusive trailer below.
Jeremy Thomas Presents takes place September 18-28 at Quad Cinema, and The Storms of Jeremy Thomas opens on September 22.