I think anyone who knows anything about Terry will be surprised by things in the bio, because they will find themselves saying 'oh, wow! How do you think he would've reacted to the recent presidential election and its current aftermath? NS: Terry would have written dialogue much like what George W. Terry was very good at getting into the mentality of the very powerful and very depraved.
He wrote about Casey, then CIA-chief, and Bush Senior, and Ollie North talking about the 'guns in, drugs out' campaign worldwide--where the US trades guns for drugs in a perpetual cycle of exploitation and misery. I think he would have explored the fact that so many people were compromised during this election--that the system is conveniently rigged against minorities, and that most of these minorities were for Gore. Terry was a Nader supporter, and very much wanted Nader's proposals for a high-speed rail system to happen--as is so commonplace and effective worldwide.
I think Terry would have been very disappointed to see Gore become so centrist.
Red Dirt Marijuana and other tastes | THESE DAYS
All this talk about who gets elected to the Supreme Court was highly ironic--since these creeps like Scully were voted in by Democrats as well--and now they had their come-uppance. I think for things to get better, they will have to get worse, and I couldn't see it getting any much worse than having George W. That being said, young Republican readers should know that the supremely misguided PJ O'Roarke is writing about Terry, whom he says he has been an admirer of for some time.
By that I mean, did Terry see a real difference between the two mediums? Did it bother him that many people knew him for his films, but had absolutely no clue that he was one of the strongest satirists of the 20th century? NS: Terry felt that 'writing' per se, had to move along with the times, and catch up with what the cinema was doing.
He said this in Terry wrote in many different forms--many of them highly cinematic. I think writers in general had better be thinking of innovation and breaking the mold--otherwise, what's the point? To write something just like something else? Terry was able to master a genre by making it his own--injecting some element into it that would change it forever. From that moment on, and especially after working with Kubrick, and also after experiencing the excitement of French New Wave, Italian Neo Realism, etc.
He really felt that one should not write a novel that could not be 'better' as a film. He had great battles with his writer friends over this--but being a Texan, and a hipster, he would not budge, and kept sounding the death knell for people doing conventional writing in the face of all these innovations. These films still manage to find an audience with each new generation. What makes those films stand above the rest? Which ones that Terry was involved with are your favorites, or do you feel people really need to give a chance?
NS: These films touch a nerve that runs deep in America, and with people in general--there is a great unease with the 'system' of control and manipulation. People are not able to articulate how and why they feel such disease--much of it is because consent has aggressively been manufactured by years of status quo wherein big money and corporate interests demand pay-back and involvement from the government.
Terry was out to expose the inner-workings which helped to fuel the malaise. Did he add that atomic sense of humor, or were their senses of humor very similar? NS: Terry and Stanley shared a 'world-weary' hipster sensitivity to what was going on around them. They looked at things with the eye of a French photojournalist who sees humor in carrion pecking the eyes out of a carcass. Stanley chose Terry to transform the screenplay from melodrama to satire. Terry was the perfect choice, for not only could he write in perfect Britishism having mentored with one of the finest British writers of the time, Henry Green , but he also could write Texan for the pilot, and he also knew the whole military parlance--as he had been a Lieutenant during WWII.
The script was already loaded with military intelligence, but Terry zeroed in on their outrageous penchant for euphemism, and blew it out of the water. What Kubrick also got from Terry was his absolute mastery over how to treat satire, and how to achieve exactly what Kubrick had in mind, which was, to quote Kubrick from Terry's own interview: 'a kafkaesque satirical comedy. Terry knew how to handle that even handedly and with deftand from setting up his audience with short stories--and in his novels. Had Terry been less talented, he could have gone for farce or a cheap laugh--instead, he ended up talking Stanley into and out of a few situations--such as when the coke machine shoots cola into Col.
Bat Guano's face--Terry insisted that they start the dissolve earlier--as it was unnatural and incredible that the army man would keep his face there that long Did this experience in any way warp him against the collaborative process and sharing credit with other people?
Of course when the picture was bought, the purchasers had other ideas, and quickly convinced Den and Peter that Terry was superfluous--esp. Around this time Terry's high-times caught up with him. All the money he earned in Hollywood, London and Rome making movies had been spent living the high-life and leaving his family! Who knows what he would have done then. He might have become a director, which is what he really should have been doing as well.
He probably would have made 'Blue Movie' himself--and convinced Jane Fonda to do it! And having Dennis and Peter continually downplay his contributions also did not help. I think it was Easy Rider, even more than Blue Movie--which was so critical and outrageously pointed against the crass Hollywood financing system--it was Easy Rider's success over his own body that did him in Terry was always too generous with his sharing of credit--but film is such a collaborative art--and most of these projects would come to him with these terrible scripts.
He loved hanging out and working "grooving" with these people, but invariably he would rewrite their scripts from the first line to the lastlike all his writings.
Excerpting Terry Southern’s “Red Dirt Marijuana and Other Tales”
Peter and Dennis are not writers, and never have been--like Terry says in an interview in Now Dig This "they can get pretty excited if they write anything heavier than a laundry list. Many people sought Terry out, and just were thrilled to have the experience of working with him. Often these people had very little talenthe had no attitude of superiority--he treated everyone as having the same obligation to do the work at a certain level--and he would always try to bring it up there.
Of course, he often couldn't resist putting his own cliches into them--such as pert derriers, a turn of phrase, a Southernism He didn't have a secretary, fax machine, computer--everything was written longhand and taken to the typist--who lived 20 miles away. One person he nurtured was the great singer songwriter Harry Nilsson--Harry would come to him with these ideas, and Terry would put it into screenplay form.
Elston Gunn talks with Nile Southern and others about writer TERRY SOUTHERN
They formed a film company together in Hollywood. Much like Laurel and Hardyexcept they were both big and fat! Did he and Peter Sellers have a good working relationship? NS: Sellers felt that Terry was the best dialogue writer in Hollywood. One of the reasons the tone of 'The Magic Christian' is a bit different than the novel is that it was made at the height of the 60s, and also, to get the film financed, they had to cast Ringo and create a new character, Guy Grand's son , and also, while Terry was away finishing one of his movies read the biography to find out which one!
What can be done? Do not be afraid, young executive! Read, dream, and cash-in! Get politicised! Look at Soderbergh--'Erin Brokovich' is about toxic dumping on the disenfranchised! Wake up! There are Big Stories to tell--and they can sell! I'll save the punchlines--they are in both books. A number of these stories revolve around illegal activities. Why do you think celebrities today seem so protective of their private lives? Would there be a stigma attached, or are celebrities in the modern age strictly uninteresting corporate puppets?
NS: The tendency is certainly to turn oneself into an uninteresting corporate puppet. Dennis Hopper, who vested so much interest on an identity level with 'Easy Rider', has completely strayed from the values which made that film so great. Terry had a lot of fun with Dennis, and genuinely liked him. Terry even wrote a piece for Homes and Gardens in the mid 50s, profiling Dennis as a photographer, which is what he was then. Terry was always encouraging him, engaging with him, but he was very hurt at the end, and said so in-print, saying that Peter and Dennis 'couldn't write a fucking letter' between the two of them.
Are there any unfinished Terry Southern screenplays that could or should be produced in the future? NS: There are many scripts of Terry's that would make excellent film or television projects. Just a question of what you are into. NS: Terry was hard to classify. Since he wrote everything so well--every genre, it was easy for people to dismiss him as not being serious.
But he was incredibly serious. And he had great passions about freeing language from stigmas and taboos--especially when talking about sexhe could reveal the basest, most common ugliness in a character, or perverse charm, simply by writing great dialogye. All this: sex, politics, drugs is quite unnerving to executives who are worried about whether or not the inclusion of a black actor, or some wayward line will affect their sponsors, or their poetntial to get a merchandizing tie-in from some multinational cancer-producer. What's your goal with this site? NS: Altx. He is in Time magazine this week Feb 19th , as one of the most important 'Storytellers' of this new century.
The class was called 'Pornosophy'. Very cool! Whereas Altx was kind of a laboratory for cutting edge 'avant pop' fiction, Altx is now morphing into a virtual imprint. We are publishing 7 books, including my own, in a launch this spring. I am designing the books and some of the marketing. NS: A lot. The impulsive part was getting the first draft down--which he did on yellow legal pad. Then this would be typed up and he would do minor revisions if it was screenplay or often major ones if it was a letter of prose.
NS: Say it with less, and "credibility, son, credibility! NS: Well, I would love to see a breakthrough on the film front.
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With the strike coming up in Hollywood apparently no one wants to buy anything--because they don't want to sit on something with the clock ticking, but it might be a good time for people in the industry to take a moment and look at Terry's work--and we can start banging the gong around so to speak. A Terry Southern anthology of shorts would be very cool to see on HBO--there are all these screenwriters and directors who would love to adapt his stories--but I've learned that the film biz can be extremely fickle.
There are a couple of audio projects in the works--one is a recently completed album by Hal Willner--who did the Burroughs and Kerouc and Kathy Acker and Poe boxed sets and is a legend producer--reinterpreting Weill and Brecht with Sting and Lou Reed--doing film scores for Wim Wenders and Altman. The Terry album is called "Give Me Your Hump" and is looking for a distributor who will honor the album and the time, care and money it took to make it!
I am putting together an album of Terry's archival recordings--which are really a hoot. I'll have a couple of tracks from this on the website soon. Then there are Terry's audiobooks. We are looking to do a deal where all the novels are scooped up. As this is all coming out of my own personal investment of time and money, it is hard to 'fast-track' any one of these projects, but as Terry used to say, "We'll get the old tub through!
Visit JoshAlan. Have you respected Terry's work for a long time? JAF: I have loved Terry's writing ever since I was 16 years old in , and wrote him a fan letter then. Got to be pals with him over the years, eventually being able to buy a few stories when I became an editor at Screw and particularly High Times mag. Since I was such a huge supporter of his work, it was natural for Nile to ask me to join in editing this anthology. How did Terry see the internet as a tool for writers?
JAF: Don't know how Ter regarded internet. But it's always been a hard uphill battle for any serious writer. The internet seems like a momentary equalizer at this time--until corporate control eventually spoils even the net. I hope it doesn't happen, but seems inevitable. What is the key to creating a successful anthology from this amount of material? JAF: Picking the creme of the crop is difficult--because everyone would have a different favorite choice. Terry, like any other unique, singular genius, tossed aside much material that was brilliant, but not complete or appropriate to the project at hand.
I can only hope we've chosen rescued the right stuff.
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