Clive on Gods And Monsters

79 - WHALE'S HOUSE - STUDIO - DAY
Whale leans forward, completely disoriented. His eyes fix on Clay, the white eyebrows screwed down, until he is able to recognize the face.
WHALE : Don't do this to me again, Mr. Boone. I absolutely refuse.
Whale stands, his legs shaky.
WHALE : You will not set me on another walk down memory lane. Not this lane. Not today.
CLAY : I didn't --
WHALE : Why do I tell you this? I never even told David. I never even remembered it until you got me going.
CLAY : You're the one who started in.
WHALE : You're very clever, Mr. Boone. You just sit there and let me talk. What a sorry old man, you're thinking. What a crazy old poof. (comes closer) Why are you here? what do you want from me?
CLAY : You asked me to model. Remember?
WHALE : Of course I remember. Do you think I'm so senile --
Whale stands over Clay. His pale face turns left, right, looking at Clay with one cold eye, then the other. Clay returns the gaze, worried for Whale.
CLAY : Mr. Whale? Are you okay?
Whale turns away. He yanks out a handkerchief.
WHALE : Stupid. Very stupid. What have I been thinking?
He sits on the daybed and bends over, covering both eyes with the handkerchief.
WHALE : Just go. Please. Why don't you go?
CLAY : I don't get it. First you creep me out with homo shit. then you hit me with war stories. And now you're upset because I listen? What do you want?
WHALE : I want -- I want...
His pained eyes focus on Clay, and soften.
WHALE : I want a glass of water.

The Oscar winning shooting draft - by Bill Condon - 30 May 1997, revised 23 June 1997

"A little while ago a man called Christopher Bram wrote an excellent book called "Father of Frankenstein" which is about the last few months of James Whale's life. James was a great film maker who seemed to have a low opinion of the works he made. He directed Frankenstein (the original with Karloff), Bride of Frankenstein, The Old Dark House and a whole slew of movies including the original movie of Showboat... which are all wonderful pictures. In his relatively old age, in his late 60's, he had a stroke and was defuriated. He was a gay man who had been ostracised by Hollywood to some degree. The picture that Bram draws had this man who's really going back over his past and reminiscing about what he had achieved and failed to achieve. Bill Condon, who directed Candyman 2 was a huge fan of the book, I was a huge fan of the book, I put a quote in the book, so Bill said, 'Do you want to produce this movie if I direct it?', and I said yes. So where we are now is we are trying to get that deal into place. I think it could be very cool. Bill's Script brilliantly interweaves the life of this man in the last phases of his life remembering the points of glory, also dealing with the fact of his imminent death. "

Confessions

By [Stephen Dressler and Cheryl Bentzen],Lost Souls, Issue 5, October 1996

"This is a small independent picture. It's very difficult to get funding for these movies. It's not a big popular subject. There are no dinosaurs, aliens or big special effects. This is a small intimate picture about a gay man who was, in my opinion, one of the great creators of Hollywood. I wanted that story to be told because of who James Whale has been in my life. It's also about what Bride of Frankenstein and Frankenstein have meant to my life. I wanted to see this character brought to life on the screen. I knew as well as Bill Condon, who adapted the book for the screen, that this was not a movie that was going to be easy to set up. Bill came to me at first and said, "we've had a good relationship in the past", which we have working together on Candyman 2. I have enjoyed Bill as a working colleague immensely. He said, 'Your name will help us open doors. Will you London Listings advert, July 1999executive produce this picture and come with me to the initial meetings and convince people to give us the money?' I had put a quote on the book and was very fond of the book to begin with. So I was a sounding board for Bill at the very beginning of the process. I was then going into meeting with Bill and saying to people, 'Look, you know who I am. Let me introduce you to Bill Condon. He's a really good guy and he's a guy who will deliver us this picture on budget.' What I basically did was offer a portrait of Bill even though he was sitting in the room with us. I needed to get people to understand who Bill was and that I had great faith in him. And later on I sat with Bill and persuaded Ian McKellen to do the picture. I called up Brendan's agents and said we really want him for the movie. All that behind the scenes stuff. Because I have great faith in Bill, as I do in Bernard, when it comes to the middle part of the process which is actually making the movie, that's when I think it's important to step out of the process. I believe I only need to put my finger in the pie if the director asks for help. The next time I will be useful to Bill is when he comes along and says here's the cut, is it working? This is a long-winded explanation but it's actually a complicated process. There are a lot of executive producers who are names only. Steve Gowen, who was one of the executive producers on Lord of Illusions, never saw the movie. He was an honorary executive producer because I had once had a deal over at Propaganda where he was the boss. He was attached to the project and got him name on the movie even though to this day he's never saw the picture. I'm not that kind of executive producer. I'm much more hands on, much more involved. That's because I don't get involved unless I feel passionate about it."

Confessions

By [Stephen Dressler and Cheryl Bentzen],Lost Souls, Issue 9, November 1997

"Gods and Monsters was a very important picture. As a gay man I wanted to do a gay movie about another gay man, James Whale...
"If I'm writing, or illustrating, or directing, it's my vision that carries the piece. If I'm producing my job is to facilitate someone else's vision and that's a very important function."

Renaissance Man

By [ ],The Scotsman, 21 September 1999

"When you're going after very different constituencies - a gay constituency, a horror constituency, an old Hollywood constituency - people would say, 'I don't know who it is for.' The truth is it plays for all three and a whole heap more. It has real crossover potential."

Whom God Destroys

By David Hughes,Dreamwatch, No 56, April 1999

"It's not a film that makes being gay look like a bed of roses. McKellen and I can both identify with that, and so could Whale - three gay Northern England lads, albeit several generations apart, who all found their way to Hollywood."

A Demon For Work

By Bob Graham, San Francisco Chronicle, 22 February 1999

"Gods And Monsters shows the image of a man who is at the end of his life, stricken with a terrible disease and looking back on his life with a certain degree of bitterness. It's a wonderful story. It takes pains to show the best and the worst. I think it is what art should be looking for. We didn't set out to make a political tract that was going to be presenting some particular point of view about gay men or being creative or any of that stuff. We set out to tell Bram's story about James Whale.
"There is a scene in this movie where [Whale] sees the Elsa Lanchester character through the make-up room, dressed as the bride of Frankenstein, on to the sound stage for the moment of her unveiling. Besides being a beautiful shot and very wittily scripted, it's also a moment where you see an artist doing something extraordinary as he's creating an image, which is going to linger for as long as there are cinemas in which to show these movies.
"There is an argument that you should really only tell incredibly popular stories. The way that I end up on that is: a story is a story is a story. If it's worth telling, you tell the story without regard to its political implications. Because if you start to put your politics before instincts as a storyteller I think you end up being a very dull story-teller. The tale of James Whale is like any human story-a very complicated story. It has moments of great joy in it, moments when Whale is seen in the height of his powers.
"I realize that there's a difference between the literary and cinematic worlds. But my experience has been that my readers are open to all sorts of ideas. When I published Sacrament a few years ago, a novel with a gay hero, sales were as strong as they had been on previous books. So, my sense is that, at least where readers are concerned, there's no anxiety where the sexual identity of a character is concerned. Where movies are concerned - well, I guess we're going to see, right? A number of recent movies, that contained gay themes, have been walking away with good reviews and the support of audiences. So I think we've come to the point where people are perfectly comfortable with this."

Gods And Monsters

By Michael Beeler, Cinefantastique, Vol 30 No 11, December 1998

"Here was a man who reinvented himself, in a way. Here was a man with a working-class history who turned himself, for a period of time, into Hollywood nobility. He was there at the heart of Hollywood during one of its most Glamorous periods and seems to have been, as far as we can understand, pretty out about his life - though I think he ended up paying a price for that... Bride of Frankenstein is, for me, the greatest horror movie ever made. He imported a lot of European technique into American film-making and made it work in a way which remains extraordinary. Bride of Frankenstein is still an extraordinary movie. And Old Dark House, Show Boat - this was a talented man. Say Show Boat and most people don't think James Whale, but he made it.
"It has not been the easy journey. Unfortunately, the failure of Ed Wood commercially did us a lot of harm. It was a fun movie, but it didn't do its business. So over and over again we went to people with this project and they'd say, 'Oh, it's Ed Wood!' And we would say, 'No, no no it isn't Ed Wood. Ed Wood is wonderful, but this is not Ed Wood.' That was definitely a problem."

Monster Maker

By Kevin G Shinnick, Scarlet Street, No 30, November 1998

"We had a picture open on Wednesday with Ian McKellen actually, and Brendan Fraser, a picture called 'Gods and Monsters' which we produced, which is, coincidentally, a movie about James Whale, who was the man who made the first Frankenstein, the first Bride of Frankenstein for Universal in the 30's. Again, like myself, again a Northern Englishman, like myself, who went over to America and created images, if you will, on screen which transformed the way that horror fiction was seen. I mean, if you think about horror fiction without Carlos Frankenstein or indeed The Bride of Frankenstein - it's a very different picture - and Whale's story is a very interesting and poignant one. He was out in the 30's and Hollywood was very difficult. Ian McKellen is amazing - I think he's up for a couple of nominations - touch wood - we're going to nominate this man."

Transcript of interview on BBC Radio 5 Live, 9 November 1998

By Brian Hayes

"James Whale is a man who has been largely ignored by the cinema, yet he's created one of the most impressionable images in history with Frankenstein. Getting recognised for this movie is like welcoming him back to the fold and giving thanks to an incredible man. I'd like to think the ghost of James Whale is very happy today."

Wake Up: A Dream Comes True

By Zorianna Kit and Lynette Rice, The Hollywood Reporter, 18-20 December 1998

"Bill couldn't get a gig after [Gods And Monsters]. The gay part of it is a problem. I am protected by all of this. If you are a gay filmmaker in this town and you want to play with the big boys, it's very tough. They put up with me, but they put up with me."

The Relaunch of Clive Barker

By Jeff Zaleski, Publishers Weekly, 1 October 2001

[re Gods And Monsters] "God bless [Showtime]. At the key time, they were there with a million dollars. They left the practicalities of making the picture to [others]. But certainly, their coming into this picture was the difference between it being made and not being made."

It's Showtime For Projects Heading To The Big Screen Movies

By Amy Wallace, Los Angeles Times, 3 March 1999

"Bill Condon, who directed the movie and adapted the novel Father of Frankenstein into a screenplay, came to me asking whether I would help use my clout in Hollywood to get the picture set up. I said I would. I loved the book, I loved the subject of James Whale, and most of all, I love Bill, who had done a very fine job on Candyman 2 for me and had in my opinion been treated very poorly by the critics when the movie came out. Bill was kind enough to call me Gods and Monsters' guardian angel. That's what I hope I was. I used whatever connections I had to get the picture up and running, but the genius of the movie is all Mr. Condon's, Mr. Fraser's and Sir Ian's...
"I don't think I'm a literary collaborator. I enjoy working in the movies with other people immensely. When I became a part of the Gods and Monsters team and helped bring that picture into being, I was the proudest, happiest collaborator imaginable. When Bill Condon - who won an Oscar for the screenplay - received his award - I swear I was as happy as I would have been had the little golden phallus been coming my way! But writing is so private. Writing is so much about the intimate echoes of private memories, private fears. Writing requires that you sit very quietly and listen to who you are, and I cannot imagine sharing that process with anybody very successfully."

Horror In Books And Movies: Clive Barker

By [ ], USA Today Online Chat, The Nation Talks : Live, 31 October 2000

...other comments

Bill Condon : "I met Chris Bram a few years ago, and I'd known his fiction, but it was only actually hearing that he'd written a book about Whale that I got it. I just went and bought it and read it, and I have a friend who I thank at the end of the movie who is a good friend of Chris who talked to him and found out that the rights were available and that was it. I talked to Chris, and he looked at a few of my movies and said it seemed okay and we were off...
"I sent him my script to hear his reaction, and he was very pleased, he thought I'd gotten all the good parts and the parts that were left out weren't essential. There were a few things he would've liked to have seen back in that didn't make it. And then throughout, he came to visit the set. I loved the book so much that I was concerned that he'd feel comfortable with what we were doing with it, and he did... It's really well-structured dramatically, because Chris loves films so much himself that there's sort of this innate sense of the three-act structure in the book."

Bill Condon On Gods And Monsters

By Peter Freitag, VideoScope, No 31, Summer 1999

Ian McKellen : "Normally, English actors of my age have to play Nazis, you know, or pretend to be Americans - so this was me being myself, as it were...
"I'm bringing one special person with me [tonight], yes. She's an absolutely delightful companion and I look forward to getting to know Monica Lewinsky better!"

Interview

By Mary Nightingale & Alastair Stewart at the English Premiere - 25 March 1999, Odeon, Leicester Square, London Tonight, ITV, 25th March 1999

Bill Condon : "Ever since Candyman 2, Clive and I had always talked about doing something else. Then I just mentioned to him, 'You wouldn't be interested in doing something that's not based on one of your books, would you?' And, he said, 'Sure!' He was especially excited when I mentioned Whale. I mean there are such obvious connections between Clive's life and James Whale's. So he generously agreed to become our patron, our godfather - our Coppola, if you will - and attach his name to it and help us get it going. He brought a number of things to this production. First of all, it's as simple as when we met Ian McKellen for the first time, instead of him corning to my little bungalow in Silverlake, we got to go to Clive's wonderful house in Beverly Hills. I felt like it gave us a certain amount of presence. So, we seemed like we were real and not just Gregg Fienberg, who is the producer, and me. Not that we were two guys up the creek, but being there with Clive - it just sort of made us look like we were more. But that was the smallest thing. It's amazing how delicate these negotiations are and how many times a movie at this level can fall apart, and Clive was just always there with the right phone call - you know, to kind of keep things going at various points."

Gods And Monsters

By Michael Beeler, Cinefantastique, Vol 30 No 11, December 1998

Bill Condon: "It is about the waning of an artist's powers, about somebody who is at that point in his life when death is staring him in the face and he's taking stock. It certainly isn't a 'gay' movie. I think of it as a gay/straight movie...
"There's a slight stylisation to everybody: if you were to talk about theatrical vs. naturalistic, I think this has gone an inch in the direction of the theatre, which is right for a story about James Whale."

Gods And Monsters

By [ ], Bent, November 1998

Dennis Harvey : "Ian McKellen's brilliant performance as 1930's director James Whale highlights Gods and Monsters. Historical Hollywood fiction drawn from Christopher Bram's book 'Father of Frankenstein' doesn't always convince, particularly in the last lap. But it's an engrossing, unusual, imaginatively executed bit of psychological gamesmanship nonetheless. Director-scenarist Bill Condon's first-class production will need good reviews and strong marketing to cross over beyond gay and arthouse auds...Condon softens the harsher edges in Bram's novel. Latter painted Whale as too bitchily misanthropic to allow much sympathy, while the book's Clayton was an opportunist and quietly raging malcontent. Overall, changes from this cold playoff are to the good, making Gods more complex, more poignant then the Sunset Boulevard - style grotesque psychodrama it might have been."

MeKellen's Gift to Gods: A Richly Layered Perf.

By Dennis Harvey, Variety, January 26th - February 1st, 1998

Brendan Fraser: "I knew that this film had no money, very little time and its working title was 'The Untitled Piece with Ian McKellen' and that's all I needed to know."

Interview

By David Sillito at the English Premiere - 25 March 1999, Odeon, Leicester Square, BBC Breakfast News, 26th March 1999

Bill Condon : "[Gods And Monsters] was first choice [for the title] after 'Father Of Frankenstein'. We actually have Brendan to thank for that. It probably would have stayed 'Father Of Frankenstein', but he didn't want to be in a movie called 'Father Of Frankenstein' because it sounded too 'B'. He was probably right....
[re Whale's beseigement by random memories] "What a great device. Thank you James Whale for that! [Father Of Frankenstein has] more fully fleshed-out flashbacks. It's sort of chapter by chapter, past - present. I thought in the film [I'd] give a sense of these stabs of memory, where the memories weren't like a typical biopic; but more like, 'as I'm talking about my father, I remember how he called me a sissy.' Stuff like that - emotional memories. More to the heart of the way he was. I really think the biopic thing so rarely works, because people's lives don't have a dramatic shape that can be satisfying. I mean, some of them, obviously, have worked. But I think it does take some kind of bold idea, like the one of the novel...
"In my first draft of the script I had things from 'The Invisible Man'. The pool sequence was much longer. It was sort of like, Whale goes outside and starts peeling off his face and goes to touch Clay, while invisible."

Bill Condon : The Father Of Frankenstein

By Jeffrey M. Anderson, Combustible Celluloid, 9 October 1998 (note - online at www.combustiblecelluloid.com)

Ian McKellen: "Whale was born within 50 miles of where I was born. He was an actor for much longer than he was a director; he didn't start directing until he was 42. So he's from a world that I understood. And he was a gay man in Hollywood, like me.
"[It] is about a man who's dying. He has stopped living, and he's trying to take control of his death, organise it. En route, it's fascinating, because you get a sense of what Hollywood was like, not just in the '50s but in the '30s. It's as good a backstage story as any I've read about what it's like to be a filmmaker."

Gods And Monsters

By [ ], Bent, November 1998

Ian McKellen: "I thought the script of Gods and Monsters had something to say and it said it well and with comedy. I could identify with Whale although I couldn't identify with the way he died. He drowned in his swimming pool on May 29, 1957, dressed in his favourite suit. Drowning is my greatest fear. I would think to drown yourself must be one of the most difficult things in the world. I'd rather take a pill or wait for nature to take its course.
"Also it was the leading part which is something I don't get offered every day, and the character was English which, after having played a complicated German with a Californian accent in Apt Pupil, seemed such a pleasure...
"I think Brendan [Fraser] is in it for the long haul. I didn't appreciate Brendan's performance while it was happening. I've talked to somebody who worked with Marilyn Monroe and they said that was true of her. You couldn't see what she was doing on the set. You could only see it through the camera or on the screen. When I saw Gods and Monsters, I realised that Brendan knows exactly how to present himself."

God's Gift

By Marianne Gray, Film Review, May 1999

Brendan Fraser: "[The script is] intelligent, dialogue-rich, complex relationships depicted in a venue that's based in reality and then almost metaphysics, shellacked with a bit of the horror genre, that's also historically accurate."

Gods And Monsters

By [ ], Bent, November 1998

Ian McKellen: "Other people have spent more advertising their films over the Oscar weekend than we've spent making our movie."

Interview

By David Sillito at the English Premiere - 25 March 1999, Odeon, Leicester Square, BBC Breakfast News, 26th March 1999

Ian McKellen: "When the history of our sexual morality is written, this will be remembered as the year when an American president became even more popular despite his sex life, and Gods and Monsters was nominated for three Oscars."

A Knight at the Pictures

By Lesley White, The Sunday Times, 7 March 1999

Ian McKellen: "I had in my tuxedo pocket a piece of paper with my speech written on it, which said, 'I'm proud to be the only openly gay actor ever to receive an Oscar.' But I didn't win. So I didn't get to do the speech..."

It's A Kind Of Magic

By Caroline McGinn, Time Out London, No 2208, 11-17 December 2012

home search contact Films