Bill Condon discusses the positive triumph of Gods and Monsters
A Shivers interview by Mark Wyman and David Miller
Bill Condon is a busy man these days. But, with a trio of Oscar nominations under his belt for Gods and Monsters - which he wrote and directed - who wouldn't be busy in Hollywood right now? Condon, a New Yorker now based in California, kindly made time to talk to Shivers just a few days before the Academy Awards [where he duly won the Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay web ed.]
Gods and Monsters is an exquisite dramatization of the last days of the great English director James Whale in the Hollywood of 1957, based on Christopher Bram's novel Father of Frankenstein. It navigates across many genre boundaries without ever compromising the heritage of Horror that dominates our perception of Whale.
Condon came to the project as someone who had been a long-time fan of Horror, with knowledge of Whale, as well as working in the genre himself. "In the first film I made, which was called Strange Behaviour [Dead Kids] there was a scene done in shadow-play. I actually played this boy who gets killed at the beginning. That was a direct homage to The Old Dark House. So my attraction to Whale goes right back. I love the genre and I worked with it again in 1987 with Sister Sister - a kind of Gothic suspense movie - and then again with Candyman 2 [also known as Farewell to the Flesh]"
Did Condon think that the film would follow Bram's book exactly, or did he just intend to use the book as a starting point? "The book is that rare novel that has dialogue that actors can actually say. Also, it was pretty well structured. It wasn't as if I felt I had to re-invent the wheel, but there was a great opportunity to use the book to make a film about Whale in the style of Whale."
With his awareness of Whale's work, did Condon consider making it more of a factual account than the book is? "No, not really. There were changes we made to the Whale characterization having talked to a number of people who actually knew him. But I didn't ever think of actually taking it and making it a traditional biopic - that wouldn't have been interesting. The book had got this rich, interesting stuff by creating the gardener character, Clay, and I didn't want to move away from that." Presumably Condon had always intended to direct the project? "Yes, always," he says. "This is a completely personal project. More so than any I've ever worked on..."
Gods and Monsters picture copyright Downtown Pictures
the full interviews wth Bill Condon, and Sir Ian McKellen who plays
James Whale and says "I'm at an age when the only parts for an
Englishman in Hollywood are elderly scientists or villains with foreign
accents..." in Shivers
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