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Peter Weir

Peter Weir: Interviews

Edited by John C. Tibbetts
Copyright Date: 2014
Pages: 288
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  • Book Info
    Peter Weir
    Book Description:

    Peter Weir: Interviewsis the first volume of interviews to be published on the esteemed Australian director. Although Weir (b. 1944) has acquired a reputation of being guarded about his life and work, these interviews by archivists, journalists, historians, and colleagues reveal him to be a most amiable and forthcoming subject. He talks about "the precious desperation of the art, the madness, the willingness to experiment" in all his films; the adaptation process from novel to film, when he tells a scriptwriter, "I'm going to eat your script; it's going to be part of my blood!"; and his self-assessment as "merely a jester, with cap and bells, going from court to court." He is encouraged, even provoked to tell his own story, from his childhood in a Sydney suburb in the 1950s, to his apprenticeship in the Australian television industry in the 1960s, his preparations to shoot his first features in the early 1970s, his international celebrity in Australia and Hollywood. An extensive new interview details his current plans for a new film.

    Interviews discuss Weir's diverse and impressive range of work--his earlier filmsPicnic at Hanging Rock,The Last Wave,Gallipoli, andThe Year of Living Dangerously, as well as Academy Award-nominatedWitness,Dead Poets Society,Green Card,The Truman Show, andMaster and Commander. This book confirms that the trajectory of Weir's life and work parallels and embodies Australia's own quest to define and express a historical and cultural identity.

    eISBN: 978-1-62103-985-3
    Subjects: Performing Arts, Film Studies

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Foreword
    (pp. ix-xii)
    David Thomson

    In a few years he will be seventy. He does not seem like a movie director. He is not overloaded with himself. He is not always on interview alert. But since 1974, he has made fourteen feature films. He has been nominated for the Best Director Oscar four times, though he has never won. By and large, he lives in the Australia where he was born, and many of his pictures have involved profound journeys, whether it is a gang of school-girls pristine in white going to Hanging Rock in the great heat of Australia or a group of people...

  4. Introduction: “Unmet Friends”: Encounters with Peter Weir
    (pp. xiii-xxx)

    “I cannot discuss it. I will never discuss it with anyone,” declares Lady Joan Lindsay. She has just been asked by filmmaker Peter Weir to reveal the secret of the girls’ disappearance in her book,Picnic on Hanging Rock. It is 1974 and Weir is preparing his film adaptation of the story. He wants toknow. . . .

    Undaunted, Weir presses on, tongue firmly in cheek: “Would it be going too far, do you think, Lady Lindsay, to say that up on the Rock, a flying saucer might have landed?”

    She pauses at length. Finally, she says, “Oh,...

  5. Chronology
    (pp. xxxi-xxxiv)
  6. Filmography
    (pp. xxxv-2)
  7. Peter Weir: Reclaiming a Sydney Boyhood
    (pp. 3-5)
    John C. Tibbetts

    “It’s been a long time since I’ve explored these areas,” murmurs Peter Weir from behind the wheel of his car. We are on a tour of his childhood haunts in and around Sydney. It’s a sparkling Sunday afternoon, July 9, 2012, with mild breezes and flying blue skies. It’s been many years since we first met, back in America, on the premiere ofFearless. With only sporadic correspondence in the intervening years, we’re getting to know each again. The trip proves to be not just an affectionate visit to his past, but it affords me a fleeting glimpse of the...

  8. Peter Weir: Snapshots in Time
    (pp. 6-39)
    John C. Tibbetts and Peter Weir

    John C. Tibbetts: Catch us up on what you are doing now.

    Peter Weir: Well, I’m working on a screenplay, an adaptation of a novel. It’s a work of fiction. When I’m offered a new project today, usually when my agent sends me something, it’s a true story. Fiction is seen as a sort of poor cousin, from the other side of the tracks, in terms of movie subject matter. I’ve given up making jokes, like, “have you got any fiction left???” And they’ve given up trying to understand why I resist true stories. I don’t mean historical settings, you...

  9. Peter Weir: Early Days
    (pp. 40-46)
    Sue Mathews and Peter Weir

    In conversation Peter Weir has a youthful intensity, choosing allusive, literary phrases to capture nuances of feeling as he recalls the past. He is more comfortable talking publicly about events and stages in his life than in reflecting on more general issues and approaches, either to his own work or to the Australian cinema in general. This interview reflects that: in checking the transcript Weir excised many of the analytical and interpretive comments. His lucid, evocative grasp of language makes him “excellent copy,” but Weir clearly finds public discussion of his work an ordeal. Though relaxed, direct, and professional in...

  10. Small Screens and Big Screens: Television and Film
    (pp. 47-69)
    Graham Shirley and Peter Weir

    On NFSA’s behalf, I have also recorded video oral histories with Fred Schepisi (focusing on his Australian works) and Gillian Armstrong (covering her entire career) last year and at the start of this year. I’ve been recording oral histories with film industry people since my first one in 1971. In 1972 I visited California, where I interviewed special effects pioneer and director Norman O. Dawn, who directedFor the Term of His Natural Life(1927) and two other features in Australia, besides travelling around Australia to film actualities made prior to World War I. At that time, I also interviewed...

  11. The First Features: The Cars That Ate Paris
    (pp. 70-78)
    Tom Hogan and Peter Weir

    I do believe I was the first person to interview Peter Weir for radio (or any other broadcast medium, for that matter). We already knew each other pretty well, because in the late 1960s and early 1970s there developed a strong movement throughout Australia that favored the teaching of screen studies in secondary schools, and we became part of it. I was trained as a high school teacher and film/TV producer, and Peter had already made a number of small but interesting films for television. In 1973, Peter and I were working with film critic John Flaus on a project...

  12. “Weir, Weird, and Weirder Still”: The Riddle of Hanging Rock
    (pp. 79-84)
    David Castell

    Until the last few years Australia has been off the map, cinematically speaking, since the overnight collapse of their native industry with the advent of talkies. Even with the period of the last two years, much of the international drum-beating has been done by departments of the Australian government who, with a vision and foresight that is at once admirable and self-shaming, have nurtured the seedling industry with patient care and finance. But it is withPicnic at Hanging Rockthat Australia truly achieves lift-off: apart from the international acclaim and critical praise, it is simply the most financially successful...

  13. Years of Living Dangerously: The Last Wave, The Plumber, Gallipoli, The Year of Living Dangerously
    (pp. 85-104)
    Susan Mathews and Peter Weir

    Gallipoliwas my graduation film,” says Peter Weir. It was then, he believes, that his technique caught up with his inspiration. Inspiration is central to Peter Weir’s filmmaking: his approach is intuitive rather than cerebral. It is almost a point of honor with him.

    Weir’s first two films,Homesdale(1971) andThe Cars That Ate Paris(1974), were quirky black comedies, developments of the amateur revues he had been staging in his spare time.Picnic at Hanging Rock(1975) andThe Last Wave(1977) were more conscious attempts to deal with the fragility of commonsense reality with the recognition that...

  14. Interview with Peter Weir
    (pp. 105-110)
    Luisa Ceretto, Andrea Morini and Peter Weir

    Ceretto and Morini: Could you give us a general background covering the influences on you of films and filmmakers?

    Peter Weir: Growing up I think my great stimulation was nature. I lived by the water, so swimming, rocks, and all the elements, the landscape itself, became one’s art gallery. When I was very young, it was my father who fostered my love of story-telling. He was a master story-teller and he made up tales that in one case ran for a year or more—they were in the form of a serial, fifteen minutes a night before I went to...

  15. Peter Weir: Master of Unease
    (pp. 111-132)
    Terry Dowling, George Mannix and Peter Weir

    Peter Weir is Australia’s most provocative and original filmmaker. His work would not be conventionally regarded as science fiction, but it does often rest in the broad area of imaginative and speculative work that tends to be pigeonholed under that name. Peter Nicholls’sEncyclopaedia of Science Fiction, for instance, has an entry forThe Cars That Ate Paris, describing it as a film that “does not readily fit into any traditional category,” and later revised editions will undoubtedly mention other Weir films with equal caution.Picnic at Hanging Rockinvites a similar classification, especially since it presents the audience with...

  16. Towards the Center
    (pp. 133-147)
    Tom Ryan, Brian McFarlane and Peter Weir

    Central to most of Peter Weir’s films is the attempt to move beyond the surface strata of behavior, beyond what is readily perceived, to a realm of experience that is equally “real” but less tangible. In this sense his work reveals a strong impulse towards the abstract, towards the collapse of the forms of the everyday into a stream of “sights and sounds and colors . . . closer to music.” This impulse generally belongs to the practitioners of a particular kind of experimental film, yet here it is firmly rooted in the methods of traditional narrative cinema. The sense...

  17. The Swizzle Stick: Peter Weir and Hollywood Genres
    (pp. 148-160)
    Jonathan Rayner and Peter Weir

    Jonathan: In your American films, it seems you’re aware of genres, you’re aware of previous directors, and when you get to something likeGreen Card, you’ve reintroduced screwball comedy to talk about an issue like immigration or tolerance.

    Peter Weir: I don’t think I set out even to do the latter. I wanted to get back to work afterMosquito Coast, and nothing interested me that was coming through the mail. I felt so frustrated and disappointed by the reception of that film because it was commercially and critically really not a success in any way I could take some...

  18. The Iceman Cometh: Mosquito Coast
    (pp. 161-166)
    Digby Diehl

    Gracey Rock, Belize, 12:30 A.M. Gracey Rock was nothing more than a wide spot on the Sibun River—unfarmed raw jungle—until it was transformed into the community of Jeronimo for the filming of Paul Theroux’s 1982 novel,The Mosquito Coast. The set looks like an army encampment dumped in the Central American jungle, and in this hotbed of political unrest, the resemblance is unnerving. In the middle of the jungle, looking like a foreboding Mayan monolith, sits a juggernaut named “Fat Boy.” Built by a latter-day Swiss Family Robinson, this huge ice house symbolizes the technological hubris and American...

  19. Fearless: The Poetry of Apocalypse
    (pp. 167-174)
    John C. Tibbetts and Peter Weir

    Moments before impact, the plummeting airplane starts to break up into pieces. Passengers, crew, luggage, and fragments of the cabin bounce off each other, spin out of control, and hurtle off into space. At the center of the vortex, however, there is a strange, quiet peace. A serene melody sounds out of the void, enfolding the scene in a loving embrace. Sil-houetted against a brilliant circle of light stands one of the passengers, Max Klein, tears in his eyes and a smile on his face. Slowly, deliberately, he moves away toward the light. But then—a still, small voice is...

  20. Poetry Man: Dead Poets Society
    (pp. 175-182)
    Nancy Griffin

    On the last afternoon of 1988, Robin Williams is being much too funny. It is not the first time this has happened on the set ofDead Poets Society. Wholesome as you please in a retro tweed jacket and tie, he is sitting behind a table in the dining hall of St. Andrew’s School near Wilmington, Delaware. Williams plays John Keating, an eccentric and inspiring teacher at the Welton Academy for boys, circa 1959. Standing quietly by is director Peter Weir, who has been thumbing through a volume of Shakespeare in search of a verse with which to supplement Williams’s...

  21. Weir’s Worlds: The Truman Show
    (pp. 183-190)
    Virginia Campbell and Peter Weir

    Australian director Peter Weir’s new film,The Truman Show, is about a man named Truman Burbank, who, at the age of thirty, begins to suspect that the neatly arranged life he leads in a shipshape island town in sunny Florida is some sort of elaborate setup of unknown purpose. The truth is more outrageous than he could possibly guess: Truman actually lives on a gigantic soundstage and is the unwitting star of the hit TV programThe Truman Show, which has broadcast his every move to viewers around the globe ever since he was a baby. The people in Truman’s...

  22. This Is Your Life: The Truman Show
    (pp. 191-199)
    Eric Rudolph

    InThe Truman Show, director Peter Weir and cinematographer Peter Biziou, BSC, tell the imaginative tale of a hapless man whose very existence has been turned into a television show.

    In today’s media-saturated world, cohabitating strangers are ceaselessly documented in vivid detail on MTV, continuous video feeds from the bedrooms of young women are available to anyone with Internet access, and an unending stream of people seem willing to reveal sordid aspects of their lives on tabloid television talk shows.

    This alarming set of real-life circumstances has inspired accomplished director Peter Weir (Witness,Dead Poet’s Society) to “broadcast”The Truman...

  23. He’s Fought His Own Way Back to Work
    (pp. 200-203)
    Terrence Rafferty

    “It would have been different,” said the Australian director Peter Weir, whose new film,The Way Backis his first in more than seven years, “if I’d changed professions during those years, or done nothing but read and hang about.” But since his previous movie,Master and Commander, he has worked on three different projects that fell through, he said: “So if I can use the analogy of a pilot, for those five or six years I was constantly inside the simulator, doing a lot of writing, thinking about how to make a story work on the screen.” He paused....

  24. “I Am Your Eyes”: Interviews with Russell Boyd, ACS, ASC
    (pp. 204-239)
    John C. Tibbetts, Peter Weir and Russell Boyd

    Russell Boyd was born in 1944 to a Victorian rural family. After working as an amateur still photographer, he went to Cinesound in Melbourne as a news photographer. Moving to Sydney, he worked on television news and commercials at Channel 7. He shot his first feature film,Between Wars, in 1973, for which he won ACS Milli Award as Australian Cinematographer of the Year. A year later he teamed up with Peter Weir forPicnic at Hanging Rock(for which he won a BAFTA award for Best Cinematography)—followed byThe Last Wave(1976),Gallipoli(1981),The Year of Living...

  25. Appendix: Notes on Gallipoli
    (pp. 240-252)
    John C. Tibbetts, Francis O’Brien and Peter Weir
  26. Additional Sources
    (pp. 253-254)
  27. Index
    (pp. 255-261)