Don Bachardy: Depth Perception

BY Jeremy Kinser

July 06 2010 10:05 AM ET

There’s a film version of Christopher and His Kind in production. Are you involved in this in any way?
I met the actor [Dr. Who’s Matt Smith] who’s playing Isherwood, a very nice very intelligent young man. He’s not at all like Chris — he’s tall and willowy, he’s fair, but he’s charming and very bright. I like him a lot. I loaned him an item that is mentioned in Christopher and His Kind. It’s a brass dolphin clock that is described in Goodbye to Berlin. When he came to the house I showed him the clock, and he said he thought the director would be delighted to have that as a kind of luminous object for the film. He took it off to England with him, and it’s going to be in the film.

You mentioned that Christopher told filmmakers and screenwriters to make his work their own, but I’ve read that he wasn’t pleased with Bob Fosse’s film of Cabaret. Is this true?

Fosse really did make it his own, didn’t he? One of Chris’s objections to the movie was that he felt that the character Sally Bowles went out the window. As soon as we saw her performing in the Kit Kat Club, obviously she was a total professional. And if Sally Bowles isn’t an amateur, she isn’t Sally Bowles. You can’t have it both ways. There was Liza Minnelli belting. She would have been the toast of Europe, and Sally Bowles was a klutz as a singer. Naturally he felt his characters had been warped out of all recognition, especially in the stage version of Cabaret — the Isherwood character is turned into a heterosexual. That’s going beyond making the material your own. That’s really transforming it.

Are there other novels or works by Christopher that you think would make really dynamic films?
Oh, yes. He always thought a novel of his called The World in the Evening would make a much better film than it was a book. I agree with him. I think it has enormous possibilities as a film, and a very visual film with lots of strong of characters. Also, one of Chris’s finest books would make a perfect film. That’s the book about movie-making called Prater Violet. Many people have had the idea of turning it into a film, but so far it hasn’t been done. I saw a play adaptation of it in New York about eight or nine years ago that I thought was absolutely brilliant. When I read the play version, written by the man who directed it, I said to myself, Well, this isn’t a play. He’s copied the book! Then I went to see the production, and I realized that the book is written to be performed. That’s what was magical onstage. I think you could do that in a film too.





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