Thursday 24th May marked the official opening of Derby ID Fest 2012. After a customary drinks reception involving speeches and many thanks, the festival kicked off in some style with a Q&A from the masterful Mike Hodges.
While it has been used many times, ‘eclectic’ really is the only way to describe Hodges’ film history. Having directed a couple of television features, he was approached to adapt and direct Ted Lewis’ Jack Returns Home, quite out of the blue, as he noted in the talk. The end result was Get Carter, which was released in 1971 and has since forged its status as a cult gangster drama, widely considered to be on the best British films of all time.
After turning down several opportunities to work on similar projects in the ensuing year, Hodges then wrote an original screenplay, Pulp, which would again star Michael Caine. The film was a commercial flop, largely due to poor distribution, Hodges believes, but it is now considered to be rather ahead of its time. Following The Terminal Man in 1974, and an ill-fated attempt to direct The Omen 2 in 1978 – he quit after one of the producers waved a gun in his face – Hodges was then approached by Italian producer Dino De Laurentiis (of whom Hodges does a fantastic impression) to helm a comic strip adaptation that would become one of the most memorable films of the 1980s, Flash Gordon.
A bonkers Sci-Fi classic, and surely one of the campest films ever made, Flash Gordon needs little introduction. However, the ID Fest screening on Saturday will be preceded by a ‘Live in Conversation’ event with Brian Blessed; if anyone can upstage Flash Gordon, it’s Prince Vultan himself.
Hodges is a superb speaker – down to earth, open and honest, still rattling off anecdotes with humour and vigour at the age of 79. You feel he could’ve gone on for an entire evening, but the allotted hour was still plenty for a look into one of Britain’s most under-appreciated directors. He seems a little lost in the modern age; filmmaking has changed a lot over time, and he admits he’s never been one for the business side of things (despite being a chartered accountant). His style is intuitive, never using storyboards and preferring to get stuck in rather than going through numerous rehearsals. He’s meticulous when it comes to casting, looking at every potential extra individually, but once the film is set he relies on his talent as a director to see him through.
Mike Hodges is currently working on two projects, though he was forthcoming with few details about either. The first has, remarkably, been in the works since a screenplay based on a Thomas Mann novel was drafted in 1955; production stalled when the director was blacklisted, and Hodges is now hoping to resurrect it if he can find some funding. He was quiet about the second film, but on day two of the festival he will be doing a press conference and if any more details are revealed, you will be able to read about them in a later report.
Friday at ID Fest promises the BAFTA 2012 Live Action short nominees, a Mike Hodges directorial masterclass, a look at the career and legacy of Ken Russell and screenings of In a Lonely Place, Croupier and a double-bill presented by Nottingham’s Mayhem festival – Dellamorte Dellamore followed by Dario Argento’s Four Flies on Grey Velvet. Check back soon for more reports from the QUAD.