A postcard care of The Indie…

Just looking through old cuttings from The Independent. My lead review of The General (29/5/98) was my ONLY incident of subject approval, when John Boorman sent a postcard care of The Indie… It said: ‘Many thanks for your wonderful review. I was particularly gratified by the last paragraph.’

The paragraph in question read: ‘There’s a wry moment towards the end of the film, when Cahill’s gang, under pressure from the gardai and the IRA, are starting to desert him. His right-hand man Noel (Adrian Dunbar) comes to tell him that he’s confessed to a post-office robbery so he can go into prison ‘for a rest’. The two men embrace awkwardly, before Cahill backs off, protesting: ‘We’re not fucking Italians.’ Thirty years ago, in Point Blank, Boorman’s great achievement was to invest a full-blooded American crime movie with an oblique European sensibility. Now he has achieved something even rarer: a full-blooded European crime movie without a hint of American cliche.’

Pretty, pretty good, as Larry David would say… I’d like to see it a second time.

Oddly, that was the first lead review I wrote for a national newspaper. The second – and last – was the following week: A Taste Of Cherry (not my cup of tea, despite – or because of – winning the Palme d’Or the PREVIOUS YEAR…). The Indie never asked me again, because the following week Ryan Gilbey came back from holiday. And to tell you the truth, having got that card from Boorman, I didn’t mind at all! I sent him in return the treatment for The Italian Chapel, which I’d just been commissioned by Working Title to write. (They also backed Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, and after one failure, WWII Italian stories were non grata…) 20 years later, The Italian Chapel is still under option! But we won’t hold our breath… John Boorman didn’t reply.

From 1998-2000 I wrote a nice little selection of pieces for The Indie. I went to review films for S&S, and the (self-imposed) deal was I HAD to think of something off the back of each film that I could make an Indie piece of (a strategy I used for the BFI Journalism course as well: look at this list and think of an idea you could just do, NOW…). Hence Anne V Coates for Out Of Sight. I used to phone the publicity department and she (it was always she…) would say: ‘I don’t think anyone else has taken THAT angle. I’ll get back to you…’ And I’d mentally give it a tick!

At the time my screenwriting was going well, so I didn’t HAVE to do it. It was more like a day’s respite from real work.

Then in January 2001 my first son was born, I moved to Essex and coming in for screenings (for £50!) no longer made sense…


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I had a stroke on July 26th, 2013. I was a screenwriter. Don’t do that anymore. But have found another way to write.

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