Home Article Bruce McDonald – An Interview – Part 2

Bruce McDonald – An Interview – Part 2

Bruce McDonald - An Interview, image,

W.W. What you did was turn around and make Highway 61 right after Roadkill.

B.M. The film was already written. We had finished Roadkill and we were editing it when we were ready to go with Highway 61. Well, actually the script was finished in the spring of 1990 because Don is not the fastest writer in the world. But when he delivers, it’s always there in the first draft. There is never a draft two or three. We delivered Roadkill in the fall of 1989, and we were in prep for Highway 61 in February 1990. I was aiming for winter, because I wanted the opening scenes with the snow, but we missed that. It was great just to get back into shooting right away.

Highway 61, movie poster, This time we had Telefilm Canada, Channel 4 in England, and some German money. That was very encouraging. The British bought the film on the strength of Roadkill, which was great. We also had sold them on Iggy Pop being in the movie, but he pulled out at the last minute. Colin was working on him, and he had verbally agreed but that year, at Cannes, he was appearing in a John Waters film and I think it went to his head. Now he thought he was a movie star and he no longer wanted to be in this low-budget Canadian movie. It was very weird. It was a few weeks before production was to start, and he pulled out. We were feeling very bad because we had sold the movie on Iggy being in it. He was to play the character that Art Bergman plays. But we went ahead anyway and there is a little dog in the beginning of the film that we called Iggy pup. We were all big Iggy fans, but not anymore.

W.W. With Highway 61 you went south instead of north, down the highway made famous by the Bob Dylan song and album of the same name.

B.M. Highway 61 was a continuation of Roadkill, in a way. We had ended Roadkill in Thunder Bay, and then we continued south with Highway 61. So Roadkill had served its function. It was an exercise to see if we could shoot a movie on the road, and that lead us in to shoot something more substantial. Roadkill was originally budgeted at $70,000, and we got a little extra money from the OFDC to complete it. The total was $130,000 for everything. Highway 61 was a million bucks.

W.W. This time you were working with professional actors. Were you intimidated?

B.M. By now I had gotten over my basic fear of directing. I think when you are afraid of actors you either say nothing at all or you talk too much, trying to impress them with your directorial knowledge of psychology and Stanislavsky. A common thing with directors these days is they stand in front of a monitor and say ‘action’ and ‘cut’ and they don’t engage with their actors. It’s shockingly common. Just out of basic respect for the actors and what they do, I tend to empathize with them. I think they have the toughest job on the set and I think empathy endears me to them and a bond of trust is created. It’s really about asking them questions rather then telling them what to do. I still feel I have got a lot to learn about actors and I’ve taken some acting classes to study that a bit more, but I have been very lucky to have talented people who know what they are doing.

W.W. You had the two core actors from Roadkill, Valerie and Don. Would you talk a little about casting McKellar as Pokey because I understand that was not your original plan.

Roadkill, movie, image,
Valerie Buhagiar & Don McKellar in a production still from Roadkill.

B.M. Valerie was a little bit jealous of the attention Don got in Roadkill because he was very funny. It was a standout performance. When I cast Valerie for Roadkill, I had already cast her as Jackie Bangs in Highway 61 in my mind. She was always that character before we even shot Roadkill. She thought Pokey should be someone else and I had Daniel Brooks in mind, but he didn’t get the part. He was really pissed off with me because the name Pokey came from a one-man show I had seen him do. Don got the part, which caused some friction between the two of them as well. It took Daniel a number of years before we got back on speaking terms. Daniel justifiably felt a bit used because he had introduced me to Don and the theatre community. He had introduced me to writing and books. He was a great mentor for me. He lived next door and in the end the choice role went to his friend. I’ve always been looking for projects where we might work together again.

W.W. But to be fair to Don, he does have a star quality and he is Pokey Jones without a doubt.

B.M. That’s why I went with him. Daniel auditioned, but Don just seemed right. At first Don auditioned for the part of Mr. Skin because he liked that part, which is a great character. Then Earl [Pastko] auditioned for that part, and he was perfect, so Don ended up being Pokey.

W.W. Can we talk about the set-up scenes for Highway 61? Don has talked about being unhappy, to a certain extent, with those scenes, and it does seem to take them awhile to get on the road.

B.M. It was a lesson in getting the show on the road. Ideally, a set-up should take 10 or 15 minutes, and in Highway 61 it took a bit longer. There were a lot of questions about why he was leaving and in the early drafts there is a lot about his father. The most frustrating part of that script was to find a rational way for him to leave Pickle Falls. I just wanted to get him out of there and on the road, but I was getting a lot of advice to explain the situation more than I wanted to. If you were in Pickle Falls, wouldn’t you want to leave? I was under a great deal of pressure to set-up or explain why he wants to leave and, yes, those scenes go on too long. It was even longer in the script and I tried to cut it back as much as possible. But with the larger budget came responsibilities to make a proper film and do things that maybe I wouldn’t have done in Roadkill. The larger budget meant I was not as free to do what I liked. We couldn’t repeat the freshness of Roadkill and with Highway 61 we were a bit more nailed to the ground.

W.W. Rock ‘n’ roll plays a large part in the film – the music and mythology.

B.M. It answers the question of why we go away. Why we leave the place we know? Because you hear the music on the road late at night coming from theses places that seem weird, cool, mysterious, and strange. Dylan, to me, was that, a lightningrod that came into my suburban, Rexdale room and told me there was this place called Memphis, there’s this place called Highway 61, there’s New York City, there’s Blind Lemmon Jefferson, there’s Jack Kerouac, there’s Patti Smith, and Arthur Rambeau. You hear these names and something happens, and Bob Dylan has been my tour guide through all this.

W.W. The success of Highway 61 led you to Dance Me Outside. How did that film come about?

B.M. Norman Jewison saw Highway 61 at the Toronto festival. He knew of Roadkill, and, in fact, had made a phone call to the OFDC in support of the film. I had won a student prize for Let Me See …, and later I wrote him a letter asking for money to help me finish Knock! Knock!. He gave me some to help finish the mix. I was his driver on Agnes of God, in 1985, just after Knock! Knock!. So he sent me a script by Tomson Highway called Dance Me Outside. I had never heard of it, but I knew of Tomson High-way, so I read the script, which was about Indians. It was based on a collection of short stories by W.P. Kinsella and had been in development for 10 years. Norman had tried a number of different approaches and writers. It was just something he wanted to do. He had come back to live in Canada in 1978 and he wanted to make a Canadian film. The book was popular and Field of Dreams had just been made, so Kinsella was hot.

I think Norman had finally decided he couldn’t do it, so he gave it to me to do because he liked Highway 61. I said, ‘Sure, why not?’ It was Norman, and the big guy had come calling. If the script had been about midgets in Zambia, I probably would have done it as well. So I worked with Tomson, but it didn’t work out. The project was becoming way too expensive, and Tomson was untried as a scriptwriter. But it was a good experience because he took me all through the reservations in Ontario and I learned a lot. Actually, the only reason that script got made was that I couldn’t bring myself to say no to Norman and tell himit couldn’t be done.

W.W. You ended up working with Don McKellar again, and also John Frizzell, who has a reputation of being a script doctor.

B.M. Norman brought in this guy Allan Greenberg who had written a script about Robert Johnson, the blues great. He was an American from Kansas City. We hired him, and Norman put up the money. Again we had a go at it and wrote not a bad script, but again very ambitious because we were under the impression that Columbia Pictures was going to pick it up. When we finished that version, Columbia gave it a pass. I don’t know why, and I don’t think it was a script thing, they just said no. So now we didn’t have Columbia, and I realized we probably had a one- or two-million-dollar script. It eventually was $2.5 million. We had no more money for development, so I sat down and in two weeks had come up with an outline. I finally begged Don to help, and we came up with the basic structure. Then I phoned John Frizzell and asked him to help as well. We had just finished doing Yummy Fur, so I already had this team. I would type and Don and John would pace and drink. That’s how we had written Yum-my Fur. We did the same on this one and gave it to Norman. It was not the best script in the world, but it was done.

W.W. With Adam Beach, Jennifer Podemski, and Hugh Dillon, the cast was particularly strong in Dance Me Outside.

Dance Me Outside, movie poster
This poster for Dance Me Outside was scanned from an original in the Northernstars Collection.
B.M. The charm of that movie was not in the script or the directing but in the cast. We still get together, hang out, and maybe we’ll work together again. Dance Me Outside was probably my favourite movie to shoot. I know I got some shitty reviews – all about some white guys making a film about Natives and how wrong that was – but I didn’t care about that and that’s not what it was about. It was a comedy about teenage Indians. I don’t think that has ever been done before. I know some people wanted to see the alcoholism and glue sniffing, but it would have been a different movie.

When you make a movie about oppressed minorities there is so much baggage. Everybody climbs on board saying you have to talk about suicides, about how tough it is on the reservations, about how all white people are evil, and if you leave something out, people will then say you are ignoring the problem. I have met enough people who genuinely love that film and I remember Norman saying early on, when Green-berg was still on the script, ‘You have a Jew writing the script, a white guy from the suburbs directing, and a Kinsella book. The critics are going to kill you!’ But enough people liked it and it did okay at the box office. I got a television series out of it, and it was fun to work on, so it was okay.

W.W. The Rez, the 1996 CBC series drawn from the film, came quickly after the film’s release. How much were you involved with that?

B.M. I didn’t work much on the series because I was out in Vancouver getting ready for Hard Core Logo. I owned the property, helped a little bit with the shaping, and directed a few episodes. I was listed as the executive producer. I’m sad because I think it could have been much better. I thought with the movie we had taken a small step into this world. Some things were successful, some things weren’t, and I thought the television show would be a perfect op-portunity to showcase this community in interesting ways. But the writing was bad and the approach was bad. It offered an opportunity for structural innovations, which never happened, and writing innovations, which never happened. I was really disappointed. I thought they could have used the opportunity to do something quite radical or funny or challenging, but it fell into the usual grind, a sitcom set on a reservation. Which is sort of a good idea, but they could have shot that in a studio in Toronto, like a proper sitcom. However, they had to do everything on location and they spent a lot of money and ultimately it was not one thing or the other.

W.W. Hard Core Logo was shot in British Columbia in part because at that time the OFDC ceased production funding. It was the time when Mike Harris and his Conservatives came to power. Were you in the loop before the funding plug was pulled?

We thought we had a shot at receiving production funding from the OFDC, but it closed down. We thought about shooting out East, and I even thought about giving it to Mina Shum to direct. We couldn’t make it in Ontario, and people were saying I shouldn’t do another rock ‘n’ roll movie, so I phoned Mina and offered it to her. She accepted, but then her agent phoned back and asked for $450,000. We just laughed our heads off. She could have directed that movie if she didn’t ask for so much money. That was funny.

W.W. You had Hugh Dillon for your lead. What about Callum Keith Rennie? How did he come into the picture?

B.M. Jennifer Podemski from Dance Me Outside introduced me to Callum. She kept saying I know this guy and he is great. But I had never heard of him. So when I went to Vancouver I asked specifically to see Callum. He came in and within five minutes it was obvious that he was our guy. No question, he was Billy Tallent. I had always had Hugh in the back of my head to play Joe Dick, but I didn’t want to scare the producers. Hugh’s pretty intense, and the producers weren’t worried if he could act, rather would he show up or would he hurt anybody when he did. I phoned Callum and asked him about Hugh. I told him I had directed a couple of videos for his band [The Headstones] and used him in Dance Me Outside. Callum sounded interested, but I told him it had to be his call because he was the one who was going to be up on the screen with the guy and if it proved to be an embarrassment, it would reflect badly on him.

The three of us got together at my place and read some scenes. Hugh then left. I turned to Callum and asked him what he thought and he didn’t say no. He was curious. He said it would be a lot of work but it might be worth it, and I said, ‘Okay, let’s do it.’ Callum helped Hugh through the scenes, shaping his character, and actually they became very close. There was chemistry, as if they had been best friends forever. Like with Roadkill and Valerie, there was something that just clicked with those two. You hope for that, but you can’t really plan it. Hugh’s contribution was as a kind of bullshit detector for the actors. He taught Callum how to hold the guitar and some basic riffs. Hugh and Callum gave each other what they needed to make their characters real. Callum used to be a raging alcoholic and Hugh had a huge drug problem, but he stayed clean for the shoot out of respect for Callum, who wasn’t just some pouncy Hollywood actor. Callum had lived hard and drank hard. He was a late starter and didn’t achieve any sort of attention until Double Happiness when he was already in his 30s.

Hard Core Logo, movie, image,

W.W. The film certainly has two great performances, but it is also your best film as a director, at least up until now. You really seem to have your chops down and there is that one great shot of the band coming together walking down a ramp towards the stage. It really elevates the film and brings the band together. It’s outstanding.

B.M. Thank you. It’s a great shot. When we did that shot, it was supposed to be John, the crazy bass player, opening his hotel room and the others pass him by down the corridor. But that seemed boring, so I suggested a shot of the whole band together, walking down the ramp. Hugh had his cowboy hat on, and it’s in slow motion. At the end of the take, Hugh walks right into the camera and, just at the right moment, spits off to the side. It was awesome! They were so cool. That’s what a film is about, sound and motion, not people sitting around in a room, talking. It’s always been one of my favourite moments in the film. There is no dialogue, just creating something out of sound and motion.

W.W. There was some controversy around the film when it didn’t play at the Toronto film festival the year it was released. Everyone was expecting it to open Perspective Canada, but it didn’t. What happened?

B.M. The distributor didn’t want to play the festival, period. I don’t know why. Their attitude was, ‘to hell with the festival.’ You give away all these free tickets and you blow all your press and when the movie opens, nobody wants to write about it and you’ve blown your opening weekend. But my attitude was that the festival had been pretty good to me and maybe we could arrange one screening with no press. This started a whole thing with the festival and finally it came down to us wanting one screening, we didn’t care where, it could have been in Midnite Madness, but the festival was insistent on two screenings. So it didn’t play at the Toronto festival. But I didn’t really care. The OFDC had pulled the plug on Ontario filmmakers, and we had shot it in Vancouver and done all the post there, so we decided to open it at the Vancouver festival instead.

W.W. When Hard Core Logo was released in the spring of 1996 it didn’t perform well at the box office.

B.M. I don’t think enough was spent on the promotion. The distributor only spent $300,000, which wasn’t enough. You need a million dollars to open a film before anyone even knows it’s out there. It was released and disappeared. My expectations were low for that film anyway. Remember, people were telling me not to make it; it would be bad for my career. I don’t have a career. I just wanted to make the films I wanted to make. People thought because I had made two rock ‘n’ roll movies, why do another one? I don’t know. Why did John Ford make all those westerns? Because he liked that world. When it was done, I was very proud of it and expected it to do much better than it did. I thought it was exciting and fun and it seemed to have an emotional core. In the U.S. it was marketed as a punk movie, like a punk odyssey, and I always thought that was a fatal mistake. It should have been called a rock ‘n’ roll odyssey. There’s a big difference, because when people think punk, they think nasty unpleasantness. It’s still my favourite film despite the fact that it was hardly seen. I had the freedom of nobody watching me and no-body cared. I could do what I wanted. It’s such a great feeling to have.

W.W. Between the time of Hard Core Logo and Picture Claire, you directed a lot of television.

B.M. I have done tons of television. Let’s see if I can remember: Ready or Not, Lonesome Dove, Platinum, The Hidden Room, Betaville, Scandalous Me, Emily of New Moon, Taking the Falls, American Whiskey Bar, Lexx, two television documentaries – one on Norman Jewison and another on Robbie Robertson – a couple of commercials, a couple of rock videos, and tons of stuff I can’t remember now. I basically shot constantly for four or five years.

W.W. How do you feel about doing stuff like that? Do you feel your auteur status has diminished or is this what you want to do?

B.M. I don’t really believe in the auteur status to begin with, so it doesn’t really matter much to me. It was a conscious thing and I needed the money. I’m not a writer and most of the directors in this country get money to write. I’m always floored by the fact that Atom and Patricia never seem to have to work for a living. Why am I the one always doing all these crappy television shows? I like doing them and I like to direct, but I look at Patricia’s life and I want that life. So I shot a lot of stuff and most of the time I would enjoy it. I would always meet someone new and I would always get something out of the experience. But I’m pretty much at the end of doing that sort of thing. I’ve made enough money to keep an office going, to pay writers to work for me, and keep a nice apartment downtown. I produced some stuff like Don’s Blue, The Rez, Alan Zweig’s Vinyl, and Peter Lynch’s Arrowhead. I like producing and I want to do some more, but I like the action of being on set directing.

W.W. One television series you directed was Twitch City, which brought you and Don back together again. It seems a bit different from the others, not so industrial.

B.M. That’s right, I directed all 13 episodes. The first season was great and went fine. The second season was more difficult, and in between Don had made Last Night. We hadn’t shot Twitch for about two years or so, and coming back to it initially was more intense. Don now was used to being the boss. We had a couple of tense moments. He was being a bit difficult and demanding and sometimes I just wanted to slap him. I guess it was my ego getting in the way, and Don wanted to be the director. Anyway, it all worked out fine. Once we had acknow-ledged what was going on – he was being a control freak and I was being a little precious – we fell back into that great pattern we had established on Roadkill and Highway 61, when Don was always on set. Even though I was the director and Don was the writer, we had a good working relationship on set.

W.W. Before we move on to Picture Claire, can you talk about Yummy Fur, a project that you have been working on for quite some time. Who or what is Yummy Fur?

B.M. It’s a graphic novel by Chester Brown, who is a Toronto comic book artist. I came across it when I was working with Ron Mann on Comic Book Confidential. I fell in love with it because it’s an elegantly drawn, black-and-white, nightmarish world that is quite beautiful in its simplicity. It’s surreal in its storytelling, and it’s the closest thing to a nightmare I have read in terms of its structure, its content, and its atmosphere. I thought if I could make it, it would be the greatest film ever made. Forget Citizen Kane. It would be incredible if someone could pull it off, so I bought the rights and hired Don to write a screenplay. We finally finished it just before the option clock had run out and every once in awhile I will go out and try to raise money for Yummy Fur. I’ll advertise it. You’ll see posters for Yummy Fur in Picture Claire.

When people ask me what I am making next, I will say Yummy Fur. They ask what is Yummy Fur? And I will tell them it’s a story about this clown named Ed who finds a severed hand under his pillow one morning. Ed takes it to the police station, and the police throw him in jail. The man in the cell next to him can’t stop shitting and eventually the cell explodes. The police take Ed for dead, so they throw him in the woods, where he’s discovered by flesh-eating pygmies. As they are taking him down into the sewer, his fly pops open and the head of the President of the United States is on the end of his penis. He’s calling for help. When Ed is revived and saved by Josie, a girl who has recently been killed by the guy who lost his hand, they team up together to try to return the president to his rightful dimension, which, in fact, is through the anus of a dead man. It’s this fantastic, gothic, weird, beautiful love story. Eventually it will be made.

W.W. Will it be animated?

B.M. Chester doesn’t want it to be animated. He wants live action. He doesn’t want some weird recreation of his drawings. The thing about Chester is that he is a true artist in every sense of the word. Someone recently had this idea to make the president’s other dimension with puppets. The technology is improving to make this sort of thing, and I’m always looking for the right person to play Ed. It doesn’t need a lot of money to be made, but just enough to achieve basic things. We continue to workshop and design the film. It simmers along and every so often we make a breakthrough. I figure it will take about $6 million to make.

W.W. Turning now to Picture Claire. How does it come about that Robert Lantos, a notorious tax-shelter producer, hires a rock ‘n’ roll outlaw to make a feature film for him?

B.M. When he gets $50 million from Alliance Atlantis and one of his other projects falls out. He’s a fan of the writer, Semi Chellas. I had written a story called Claire’s Hat and I thought I could blow it off really quickly and get back to Yummy Fur. John Frizzell had introduced me to Semi. She was in the middle of the Canadian Film Centre’s writers’ program. I met her and found her to be smart, so I showed her what I had with Claire’s Hat. She agreed, and I hired her to write the script. The story is about what it is like to be abandoned or screw- ed in this world, but it doesn’t turn on a big plot point. It’s much more impressionistic. Claire comes from Montreal looking for a new life and love. She wants to change her life. When she arrives in Toronto, things aren’t so different but then in the end they are. It’s just that she has to go through a nightmare to get there. I always thought it was peculiar that Ontario and Quebec are so different culturally. They don’t speak at all. A lot of the films I saw in film school were Quebec films, which were my favourite Canadian films – Les Bons Débarras, Mon oncle Antoine, Rubber Gun, and a few others. When I was in Montreal shooting Platinum with Pascale Bussières it just refueled my interest in that cultural divide.

W.W. Were you going to have a Quebec actress play the lead?

B.M. I was insistent on that, and then the production fell apart because they – the producers in Montreal – said they didn’t want a Quebec actress in the film. ‘We can’t sell it,’ they said. I said, ‘What do you mean?’ We had a huge argument about it, but they were insistent and finally the deal collapsed. I entertained the possibility and went to France to look for someone, but in the end I wanted Charlotte Laurier for the role of Claire and the producers wouldn’t budge, so the deal fell apart.

W.W. Charlotte Laurier, the actress who played the young girl in Les Bons Débarras?

B.M. That’s right. She was a huge inspiration for this film, and I wanted to work with her. But the deal collapsed and I walked away from it. Then I get a phone call from Robert Lantos. ‘Bruce, I want to talk about Claire’s Hat.’ So I said, ‘Okay, let’s talk.’ I bought the rights back from the producers in Quebec. It was a bit complicated, but I got them back. Then Robert says to me, ‘Okay, Bruce we can make this as a low-budget, independent movie and you can have whomever you want, or we can hire a star.’ Then I went back to Quebec and saw Marie-José Croze, the girl in Maelström, but she wasn’t going to work, and Pascale was slightly too old for the part, and Charlotte, unfortunately, was pregnant. So Robert suggested we go to Los Angeles. At first I thought this was a bit weird, an American playing a Québécois, but then I saw Juliette Lewis and thought, there she is. I found my Claire.

W.W. Picture Claire was not released theatrically. How do you account for that?

B.M. I had a screening for the people at Alliance, and they were horrified. This is a movie where there is about 20 minutes of dialogue. It’s a sound and picture movie. Claire’s dialogue is written in the score, in the music. That’s how you know what she is feeling, until the music and the sound is done, you don’t have a picture, you don’t have a character, you don’t have a person to follow. Of course, nobody could understand this. Alliance said we didn’t have a picture. It was unreleasable.

After the screening, Lantos came into the editing room the next day and said, ‘Bruce, Alliance does not want to release this film. They’re horrified.’ He tends to exaggerate. We had another audience screening and got an average response. The first good response was from the guys at EMI, who have the recording rights. They liked it. It was a tough film to cut because it’s all about following the ball. It’s an action movie, basically, and it’s beautifully designed. It’s the first movie I actually designed, instead of using what was around me, catch as catch can. It’s a pop-art, stylish caper movie.

W.W. Your earlier films were brilliantly marketed, complete with great graphics, comic books and other promotional ideas. Ron Mann also has this ability to attract attention to his films. Comic Book Confidential had a great promotional campaign. Did you learn this from Ron?

B.M. Ron is a real maverick. He produces and directs and knows his film will be playing somewhere; whereas, most filmmakers don’t really have that instinct. It’s sort of like an accident if their film gets any attention and falls into a theatre somehow. I’ve always enjoyed the marketing aspect of the business. The first thing people see of your movie is its name and a poster, and if that is shit, then you have to hope that they will read a good review about it somewhere. If you look at those old, low-budget Roger Corman films, they were brilliantly marketed. I have fun cooking up the posters and promotional ideas. The trouble with the corporate guys at Alliance is that if the film doesn’t fit into a recognizable genre slot, they don’t know what to do. They don’t have a clue. They have their standard issue poster with a couple of faces of the stars, it sort of looks professional, but it’s not great design. It’s crap. The package for Roadkill was beautiful. That’s what attracted people to the film. Because that seemed to work, with each film I have always created a well-designed package. What I send out is not only a script, but a little booklet, something to represent the film. I don’t think most producers enjoy reading scripts of any kind.

W.W. Can you talk about Elimination Dance, another project you worked on with Don and also Michael Ondaatje.

B.M. I made Elimination Dance so I could meet Ondaatje and get in his good books because I want to do The Collected Works of Billy the Kid someday. I’m a big fan of his works – Coming through Slaughter and Billy the Kid. At first I thought it would be easy to do the book, but, of course, it turned out to be a very complicated shoot. I ended up spending $60,000 of my own money on that film. That’s another reason why I was doing all that television shit. But I figured it was a long-term investment. Michael was part of the writing process, the shooting, and the cutting. The 1950s-style dance contest was Michael’s idea. Then we created these weird tableaux. Michael is quite nutty. I thought he would be very serious, but he would phone me up and say, ‘Bruce, how about we do something where a woman is pulling up her dress and she has a pear strapped inside her leg.’ I think he views film as a kind of relief from sitting alone writing. So I’m hoping to make Billy the Kid, but as a collective project. I don’t have the rights yet, but it’s something Michael and I have talked about and he has given me permission to go ahead and develop it. I’ve already had Michael Turner write a script for me. I showed it to Michael, and it’s a pretty good response to the play, but it’s not quite right. So I’ve been trying to hammer out a structure myself. It’s sort of like my dream project. My two dream projects are Yummy Fur and The Collected Works of Billy the Kid, although Billy the Kid will probably come first, hopefully in the next year or two. And then it’s time to bring down the studio with Yummy Fur.

When you are making lots of money, you can become quite comfortable. I think if you’re going to all the trouble to make a feature-length movie, it’s got to freak people out, blow their minds. You can’t just do it because you have a big star and want to make more money. You really have to have a really strong reason to make it. There was a small revolution in filmmaking in Canada and elsewhere during the time you are talking about, and there was one during the 1960s. But what’s the next revolution? And are we going to be a part of it? Or will we be too old and set in our ways? I hope I’m not.

Also see: Bruce McDonald’s filmography.

Northernstars, logo, imageReprinted from an issue of Take One in 2004 when Bruce McDonald was interviewed by the magazine’s founder and publisher, Wyndham Wise. Northernstars.ca acquired the archives of Take One Magazine from its publisher in 2007 after it had ceased publication.