Eine Kleine Nichtmusik

Witty and pertinent observations on matters of great significance OR Incoherent jottings on total irrelevancies OR Something else altogether OR All of the above

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Glasgow Film Festival 21 Feb 2010 - James Earl Jones

My son Ruairidh and I went through to see James Earl Jones, of whom we are both great fans, being interviewed as part of the GFF. The two halves of the interview were each prefaced by showings of a collection of clips from JEJ's considerable career. These included clips from

Gardens of Stone
Cry The Beloved Country
Conan the Barbarian
The Great White Hope
Coming To America
Field of Dreams

Other films discussed were A Family Thing, Assassination Tango and Dr Strangelove, in which he made his screen debut. he described Staanley Kubrick coming to the theatre where he was working in order to head-hunt George C Scott for the film, and ending up taking Jones as a "buy one get one free" deal (not literally free.... Of course he also mentioned his most famous screen (or rather soundtrack) role, as the voice of Darth Vader in the original Star Wars trilogy. A questioner asked him if it had made him rich, and he just laughed. He was actually employed as a special effect rather than as an actor, and paid $7000 for just over two hours' work, which at the time he thought was oretty good. It did however lead to his making the break into voiceover work in advertising, so indirectly was pretty lucrative.

His favourite screen roles were those in Cry The Beloved Country and Field Of Dreams. He recently read the book (Shoeless Joe) on which the latter was based and discovered that his character was meant to be another of the dead ones. As he said, it just goes to show you don't have to know absolutely everything about a character to portray him on screen......

James Earl Jones is currently appearing in stage in London in Cat On A Hot Tin Roof by Tennessee Williams. He is being directed in that by Debbie Allen, and this led into a discussion about how he feels some plays (such as Cat) work best with female directors. Other plays he felt fell into that category are A Streetcar Named Desire, and perhaps more controversially Measure For Measure and Othello. Jones reckons that it takes a female director to get to the heart of the characters of Desdemona and Isabella (and hence to the dramatic core of those plays). Fans of Peter Brook, Peter Hall and other great male Shakespearean directors may take issue with his statement, though he is surely right that those characters are key and that a woman will bring different things to the direction of them.

Jones had a very engaging manner, and of course a famously splendid voice, and I'm sure all the audience could have happily listened to him for several more hours. Definitely worth travelling through to Glasgow to see.

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