Friday, October 28, 2011

An interview with Walter Hill

Ed here: You'll notice the way Hill & the interviewer tip toe pass comparisons between Hills The Driver and the new film Drive. The way Bob Clark always did between his Black Christmas and Halloween.

Night and the City: Walter Hill on The Warriors and The Driver
Sucker for the underbelly of urban life
By James Hughes
published: October 26, 2011

While filming the cult 1979 masterpiece The Warriors, in which a Coney Island gang busts through city barricades after being falsely implicated in an assassination, director Walter Hill found himself dealing with the real thing. “We were in Brooklyn most of the time during filming,” Hill says, “and we were bothered a lot by other real gangs, who, like hyenas, would be circling our sets. And of course our guys, who were a pretty active physical force themselves, took on their own kind of gang sensibility. One night, one of these real gangs was up on a train platform while we were running by below, and they pissed down on us. James Remar and about five other actors took off after them, and went up the stairs to have it out. We were, of course, wondering if we were ever going to get our cast back. Those kinds of things, in a way, happened almost every night.”
The anxieties and camaraderie of Brooklyn street life are evident throughout The Warriors, which, between various escapes from rivals wielding bats and billy clubs, is marked by pauses in the dark as the gang members catch their breaths and gird for the next showdown.

“Against the tactics of speed, of noise, set tactics of slowness, of silence,” Robert Bresson urged fellow filmmakers. Through dozens of directorial efforts, including Southern Comfort, both 48 Hrs. films, and the Emmy-winning pilot for Deadwood, Walter Hill has honored this balance.

Before a moment of downtime in his office on the Warner Bros. lot, Hill gives instructions to his editing team, ensuring that the recipient of a stomach punch in his latest film, Bullet to the Head, due out April 2012 and starring Sylvester Stallone, is pinned to the ground long enough to match the impact of the blow. At 69, Hill is still shooting on film, refining action sequences down to the crumple and questioning the nature of confrontation.

“I was always very aware that I was getting away with something,” Hill says of his first few films, including his 1975 debut, Hard Times, in which a laconic street fighter played by Charles Bronson ambles through New Orleans and knocks his opponents onto piles of oyster shells along the way. “Somehow in the belly of the great commercial engine of Hollywood, I had managed to get some things through that were not going to be conventional product. Whether they’re good, bad, or indifferent, I have to leave to someone else.”

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