"I have a sense of humor, but at times I can get very uptight and arrogant. When I get like this, Julie just looks at my with those big eyes, that I see a little smile break out at the corner of her mother, and what can I do but laugh? Then I see the funny side of the situation"
Blake Edwards talks to Ian McAsh
The tall, lanky figure of Blake Edwards squats on the wooden steps that lead to the departure hall of Orly airport and surveys the scene of activity around him through tinted sunglasses. His tanned and weatherbeaten profile creases into a smile of pleasure at eh way his new film, a romance spy thriller called The Tamarind Seed, is progressing. To date, his last seven productions have grossed more than 100 million dollars at he box-office.
“Location pictures are marvelous in a subjective way,” he reflects. “The worst of it is when you realize that you have been to all these marvelous places and not had time to see them. Here I am, back at the airport, working in heat wave temperatures, when I would have liked to have been looking round the Rodin Museum. all I see of Paris is the view from my bedroom window at eh end of the day.” The Tamarind Seed is in fact his third film to be shot in paris. Partially shot there were The Great Race and Darling Lili, staring Julie Andrews and made before their four year-old marriage. The Tamarind Seed casts Mrs Edwards opposite Omar Sharif.
“The book was given to Julie and I by a Hollywood producer, but I got involved with another picture in England and wasn’t able to do anything about it at the time. But Julie was absolutely the right person to play the part, so I made a deal to buy the rights to the book.”
Blake Edwards has an active dislike of the wheeler-dealing side of the business. “The trouble is that the film business is a business first and foremost and not a creative enterprise, which is what it should be.” Once the money is settled, his own creative spark takes over. “For long dialogue scenes, I rehearse as much as possible. This is a very wordy film and although I wrote the script myself, I often cut extraneous dialogue when I see the actors on the set. Naturally I thought of Julie, but I didn’t write The Tamarind Seed with Omar Sharif in mind. He was on of three actors who were sent to me. Omar was the one I chose and got. who else would be so good? He has a certain speech pattern because hi is a foreigner and his often waits to change a line or an expression to suit himself.”
Edwards always lets his artist’s see the rushes, “unless they become paranoid or psychophrenic about their performances. When they start to worry, I think it is best for their own good that they don’t see them anymore. I want good actors giving of their best...”
But The Tamarind Seed is the first time that Edwards has worked with Julie andrews since their marriage. How did the experience affect their relationship?
“It is inevitable that Julie and I discuss the film at home in the evening,” says Blake. “We continue our conversation in the bedroom because it is more convenient. With any other actress, I would talk about it at rehearsals or on the sound stage. but my wife and I throw our problems at each other, If Julie is worried about a scene, we decide together how best it could be played.
“I have a sense of humor, but at times I can get very uptight and arrogant. When I get like this, Julie just looks at my with those big eyes, that I see a little smile break out at the corner of her mother, and what can I do but laugh? Then I see the funny side of the situation.”
Edwards, born fifty-one years ago in Tulsa Oklahoma, is an intuitive director whose dramatic and comedy styles skillfully complement one another. the son of a veteran production manager, Jack Edwards, Blake began his Hollywood career as a writer and occasional actor.
“I didn’t set out to be a social crusader,” he declares. “Themes should always be entertaining, no matter whether they are dramatic, comic, musical or even of a serious social nature.
“Making a movie is like conducting expertly a very specific piece of music, like Mozart. The tempo is different, but can two actors play the same way? Each has his own interpretation. Originally Peter Ustinov was to have played Inspector Clouseau in The Pink Panther. Then Peter seller took over and suggested that Clouseau should be more accident-prone, a greater buffoon.
“It appeals to me to do the same subject twice, the first time as it should be done straight, and then the comedy version of it. Each would run for about an hour and a half and they might even be billed on the same program.”
Blake Edwards reveals that his wife has a delightful sense of humor. Has he any plans to direct Julie in comedy after the high drama of The Tamarind Seed?
“Yes, I have a Trilby and Svengali comedy for Julie which I hope to make in London following my next film.” It is obviously a project that is dear to them both. Blake finds the physical involvement of making a film a stimulus, especially when he has his family around him. Geoffrey, his thirteen year-old son by a previous marriage, accompanied his father to Paris during the school vacation and was soon adopted by the British crew.
Although he himself has a strong preconceived notion of how a film should look, Blake Edwards is always open to discussion with his cast. “I encourage my actors to have their say. I really want to see their wares fist. Between us I think we come up with some pretty good answers.