ISBN is

978-0-375-40660-7 / 9780375406607

Conversations with Wilder

by

Publisher:Knopf

Edition:Hardcover

Language:English

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About the book:

Conversations with Wilder, an invaluable, photo-intensive volume, is a kind of remake of Truffaut's must-read interview book Hitchcock, with Cameron Crowe in the inquisitive Truffaut role and wily 93-year-old Billy Wilder as the crafty master director. Drawing on his experience interviewing the monsters of rock and his deep, shot-by-shot knowledge of Wilder's work, Crowe gently and cunningly coaxes answers from Wilder--arguably today's most influential living director--on what made his hits tick and his flops suck, along with glimpses of what might have been. Did you know Mae West and Mary Pickford spurned Sunset Boulevard and Wilder spurned Marilyn Monroe for Irma la Douce? That The Apartment was inspired by Brief Encounter and the look of Double Indemnity was based on M? The gossipy insights are great too. Bogart spat when he talked, so Wilder couldn't back-light him in Sabrina, and Audrey Hepburn's wardrobe woman had to towel her off after each take--discreetly! Wilder loathed Raymond Chandler (partly because Chandler disdained James M. Cain when adapting Double Indemnity) but gives him his due as a screenwriter: Chandler could do dialogue and descriptions, but he couldn't construct a scene. "He was a mess, but he could write a beautiful sentence," says Wilder. Agatha Christie was the opposite: "She had structure, but she lacked poetry."

Some critics scoff at Crowe (who cried while directing emotional scenes in Jerry Maguire) for taking on the cynic Wilder. But they're brothers under the skin. Both leaped from popular music journalism to directing. Both incorporate actual events in their films. Wilder keenly regrets not filming this scene in The Spirit of St. Louis, which he claims really happened: the night before his historic flight, Lindbergh's handlers talked a pretty waitress into having sex with him. They claimed he was a virgin, and likely to die on his voyage. In the hero's parade upon his return, she waves at him through the ticker-tape, but he doesn't see her. "Would have been a good scene," mourns Wilder. Without this book, we'd never have known about it. --Tim Appelo

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