KINDA HOT: A book about Saint Jack

Info, news and a kind of diary covering the publication of a book about the making of the film Saint Jack in Singapore...

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Saturday, February 04, 2012

Goodbye Ben

Mostly unedited Interview Transcription: Gazzara – at home in Italy – Umbria, October 2005…

"You’re in my town!

I love Singapore. Making Saint Jack, one of the great experiences of my life. I was working with Peter in the creation of it, I was not a hired actor who comes in, learns his lines, hits his marks and performs as well as he could. I was there with him almost creating the character and working on creating the film, every night, we’d meet in his suite to write the scene we were going to shoot the next day. We improvised it into existence, its an exciting way to work.

I found him (the character) charming and disarming but it wasn’t till I started working on him that he really got to me. His honour, his dignity, his inability to destroy another person's life in order to save his own.

First day of shooting I was having trouble I didn’t know who I was or where I was going and I was trying a little too hard to make drama where there was none. Whereas I should of relaxed and let the scene come to me instead of trying to push it in areas where it wouldn’t go. That happens even to trained old-timers like myself. I got an understanding of what this picture was about, I mean really about, and it certainly wasn’t about hookers and brothels, it was something far more profound. I was able to relax into it. If you don’t understand you can't do it, once you understand you can do it.

On the floor with those wonderful English actors in the bar, it's where I started to understand who this guy was, he was complex he was able to enjoy the company of the strangest people, and take from them and give to them and with no judgements of anyone – and that was very important. He made no judgement. We can all learn for that. People are complex in many, many, many colours.

It was one of those shoots, and I only had one other before (Husbands) where I did not want the film to end, and I went into mourning when it did end.

It was tough to shake him actually. He hung onto me long after the film was finished. That hasn’t happened often to me. I was touched by the man.

The character is stuck with you – as Stanislavski said. My emotions, my thoughts, my feelings, all of that went into the character of Saint Jack and if you see him you're seeing me and vice versa.

(On working with non-professionals):

That was delightful. Film is made for the dilletante I think. If they can be themselves, they bring you what no actor can bring you. Self-efacement, genuine reactions, a feeling of the first time, and that’s why John used non-actors so often, and would be furious if anyone tried to direct them, he just let them be. He rolled the camera and waited for them to surprise him.

They were virtually left alone by Peter. When he wanted them to do something he told them, but he did not try to frame their performances.

(On the girls):

We got to know each other. Peter brought a lot of dinners and lunches. Before we shot I knew all those girls and had a laugh or two with many of them. It was not strangers meeting on the floor.

(On the Brits):

We had two or three raucous dinners together and those boys know how to drink. And so did I in those days so we got along very well.

(On hiding the identity of the film):

We had a phony clapperboard that said Jack Of Hearts, “a sort of conventional boy chases girl across the world kind of film”

Not a problem – “we never even thought of it really”

“I loved it. I still love it. I’ve seen it only three times since 1978, and each time I enjoy it even more. And I’ve seen it every time holding Peter's hand and squeezing it when I love the moments. And I’m getting to love more and more the moments.”

I love so many moments with the girls. The moments with Jimmy my man, who’s selling heroin to the boys to the camp.

(On me living in Singapore):

I see why you're there. The women are beautiful.

(On Bugis Street):

There was boogie street – they’d turn on all the transistor radios at about 11.30 nights and out would come these albums of very attractive women who were men, and they’d show up about midnight, and sit on your table if you wanted them to.

The English guys, the English are rather kinky you know, they went home with two of them, knowing they were guys, but they were so pretty they didn’t believe they were guys, they went home, they woke up all their money was gone, their wallets, their ID, they had been had.

They were living the part.

(On returning to Singapore):

Came back with Elke – I looked for the street life but it wasn’t there anymore. We were on a boat, cruising and it stopped and we got off for half a day, the same manager of the Raffles Hotel was still there. And he bought us a Singapore Sling. I said a double! In the courtyard where I have the scene.

“an adventure that will always remain with me very deeply in my heart, because I love Peter”