The Bakshi Interview: Uncloaking a Legacy
Anger, truth-telling and apologies
Bakshi looked out to find his daughter in the audience and asked, “What? Should I be nicer? … I just get so mad because these guys try to cover for this all the time.”
I responded, “I’m not trying to cover for Peter.” I was trying to analyze the chain of influence from one filmmaker to another. I greatly admire Jackson’s work, surely, and I’ve been very enthusiastic about his take on Tolkien. It was gobsmackingly beautiful and “took the very heart of me.”
I have benefited from friendships with a host of generous New Zealanders who worked on that film Trilogy, and I desire no hurt feelings. But I’ve never been a sycophant. I’ve just followed the “big story” as it unfolds. Obviously TheOneRing.net would be discussing a different director (Guillermo del Toro) if things had gone as originally planned on “The Hobbit” Trilogy.
Momentarily confused about whether our interview was a livestream or would be edited later, Bakshi outright said: “Don’t tell me anything ’cause I’m getting mad now.” Someone nearby gasped audibly. He almost got up from his chair. The chill up my spine was real. You see, he is a powerfully large man and I feared a Beorn moment of fierceness was imminent. He wanted to cancel our talk and refuse further access to the audience Q&A that was yet-to-come. All I wanted to tell him was how much I really loved his art.
A few beats later, he looked at the camera and said: “I mean this is ridiculous, I’m shooting off my mouth and you’re streaming live to the people. [To the camera] I apologize out there.”
“Ralph, being candid is all it’s about, we love it,” I offered.
He addressed his daughter again, I’m sorry … I can’t help it.” Her voice can be heard reassuring him: “It’s all good, it’s all good, this is good stuff.”
I pressed the point, “GREAT stuff! You’ve got a generation of people — me in particular — I wouldn’t have bothered reading the books, and I wouldn’t have bothered becoming a fan if I hadn’t been inspired by what I saw.”
“I showed that there’s a movie in this.”
Resigning himself to the immediacy of our format, Bakshi took the opportunity to reveal decades of pent up feelings:
“Look … as long as we’re live, which I’m happy about now … I can finally clear it up, let me tell you what I want to clear up okay? … You’re the biggest ‘Lord of the Rings’ network or website in the world, right? You have never interviewed me or spoke to me once or showed my artwork on your site. That’s not right. That just doesn’t make any sense to me. But we created the characters. We fought for the ‘Rings.’ If I didn’t show that the ‘Rings’ could be made—good or bad picture—there wouldn’t have been a live-action picture. I showed that there’s a movie in this.
All of this I did and your website never discussed it.* … So I get very angry. Now Mr. Jackson took a lot from me, as he should have, because it was out there to take. I had nothing. And he never once called me to thank me, or to invite me to the set and ask my opinion: that’s not directorial. That’s not right. That’s terrible. The fact that it keeps coming up, that he once said ‘I inspired him,’ that’s just P.R. baloney. In the two thousand interviews he gave he never mentioned me once. So I want to straighten out why I’m angry.
So here you show up and I’m 77 years old; and you suddenly want an interview. It stuns me, where you were all these years [aside to me] I’m not mad at you. And it stuns me at the arrogance of Mr. Jackson who never thanked me for what I had done — and the crew! The amazing job the crew did at a big budget of $4 million for the whole film — two hours. So we all worked very hard. So there’s my anger at you guys ’cause I don’t want to sit here pretending that it’s all great. Am I clear?”
As a closing salvo the nervous fanboy in me, not the professional interviewer, won out: “I have the greatest respect for you, Mr. Bakshi. ‘American Pop’ is one of my favorite, favorite films ever. Period. Outside of my love of other fantasy fandom. And I grew up learning to love Miyazaki and Ralph Bakshi and great animators around the world …”
With a wink he shifted again: “Now you can stay!” Then he looked out to his family and laughed like a happy Asgardian (with a Brooklyn accent). He apologized, made another good joke about me never calling him years ago about “American Pop,” and when I thanked him sincerely, he said, “Are you sure? I treated you pretty bad. I’m sorry.”Posted in Film Screenings, Headlines, John Howe, Lord of the Rings, LotR Movies, LotR Production, MGM, Miscellaneous, Out on a Limb, Peter Jackson, Ralph Bakshi, Tolkien, TORn TUESDAYS Live! on April 20, 2015 by Cliff Quickbeam Broadway