Revisiting Ed Wood.

I hadn’t watched Tim Burton’s Ed Wood in yonks, so I plonked the DVD on and wallowed in the nostalgic atmosphere of that very special film. Truthfully, it’s the only Tim Burton film that I love without reservation. I remember the first time I saw it: at the Prince Charles Cinema off Leicester Square. It was 1995. I got into my seat in the balcony section early and there was no one else there. And so it remained for a good ten or fifteen minutes. Then, all of a sudden, it was as if the flood gates opened and a rush of punters came in and filled the seats. Ed Wood got cult status early on and has retained it because of the quirky nature of the film’s subject and the way it is dealt with. It’s still one of Johnny Depp’s greatest roles, playing a transvestite film maker. But not just any film maker -the worst film maker ever! In the wrong hands, with the wrong script, this could have been another Carry On film with disaster written all over it. The script treads a very fine line between exposing the inherent inconsequentiality of the eponymous Ed Wood’s life and his almost heroic struggle to get his (trashy) films made. At one point, around the middle of the movie, Ed’s girlfriend Dolores Fuller (played by Sarah Jessica Parker) has a hissy fit and screams at Ed and his entourage: “You people are wasting your lives making shit!”. She’s right, but Ed can’t give up on his dream and it is this determination to struggle on against the indifference of the world that raises the film to the level of tragi-comedy. There’s too much tongue-in-cheek humour to take us into Tragedy proper and, indeed, Ed Wood has something of the feel and sensibility of a Fellini film. As in the Italian master’s films, you feel a little detached and ironic about the events that unfold before your eyes, even as you feel a deepening sympathy towards characters who are victims of their own fallible natures. Part of my own life -and very fallible nature- could have fitted into the structure of a film not so far from an Ed Wood storyline. In 1996 I took myself off to the States with a film script, determined to get this masterpiece onto the desk of a producer in Hollywood. In case you’re drinking your cocoa while reading this, I apologise if you spat most of it out over the screen of your PC just then. 1996 was the dawn of the new computer age and I hadn’t really got to grips with emails and all the rest of it. Plus I was coming out of a bad marriage and I wanted to skip across the Big Pond and try my luck in Hollywood. I think you can probably guess where this story is heading. Of course, I didn’t get the script onto the desk of any producer. I did have a meeting in New York with an investor who pulled no punches and told me that my script was a piece of caca. He didn’t have a hissy fit, though. And I did make  it out to Hollywood. And here’s the weird and fantastic thing -I got into Tim Burton’s office. He wasn’t there, thank God. Because I dread to think what his reaction would have been. There were two blonde women and they looked at me as if I had two heads. They asked me how on earth I had got past Security. I don’t really remember now. Maybe Security had gone for a toilet break, but I just waltzed in. And then I heard a sentence that I have heard constantly over the years that followed: “We don’t accept unsolicited material”.  Well, I have got used to the Computer Age and send off emails from the comfort of my flat now without the need of digging out my passport and travelling a third of the way round the world to tell producers about my projects. I’ve also, I believe, got a lot better at writing scripts. Ed Wood is a wonderful film that still holds up very well nearly a quarter of a century after it was released. At its heart is a fond and magical tale of forbearance and spirit.

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