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Cat People Directors Cut

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Hello, this is Paul Schrader.
This film, Cat People, was made right after American Gigolo.
It was offered to me.
Universal was doing remakes of a number of their classics,
they had also done The Thing.
I thought it'd be interesting to make a film that I didn't write -
this was written by Alan Ormsby -
and that was a genre film.
It didn't quite turn out that way.
It ended up being as personal, or more personal,
than any of the films I've done.
The original script had a very conventional ending
and the final film has
one of the more bizarre endings in films.
The most important name on the credits, for me,
is a man named Nando Scarfiotti who was a very dear friend,
who I had brought over from Italy to do American Gigolo.
He wasn't yet in the union,
that's why he's called a visual consultant.
He had worked for Bertolucci
on The Conformist and Last Tango In Paris
and went on to get an Oscar for The Last Emperor.
He was
very, very influential
on this film.
He had the power to walk on the set
and stop shooting and consult
if he didn't think it was going right.
This whole credit sequence was his idea.
I suppose the next most important name would be John Bailey.
I've done five films with John.
This is one of the films that I call a beauty film,
as opposed to some films I've done that are a little more
harder edged.
This is before digital
so you're looking at matte paintings
and the magic of Albert Whitlock.
This was one of Whitlock's last big jobs
before he retired and the world changed
and you no longer used paintings.
This idea here of the cat myth
came up subsequent to the original script.
As you pan up here you will be panning into a Whitlock drawing.
One regret I had about the release of the film
is I wished I had changed the title of the film.
The Jacques Tourneur film, Cat People,
which this ostensibly was a remake of but not much of a remake,
if I had just changed the title
I think those people would not have beaten me up with the comparison.
There isn't much of a comparison between the two films
other than the title and the premise that
people change form.
Lycanthropy.
Here's the first of our many cats.
We used a whole variety of animals on this.
Some real leopards, some mountain lions dyed black.
This is a mountain lion dyed black.
We used a Chinese leopard that we had dyed black.
Each animal's good for a different task.
Here again is a Whitlock painting.
This is all done on sound stage at Universal.
This upcoming device,
which is used later on,
where you bleed through the faces -
today you could probably line it up digitally,
at that time you took a clip of film
and put it inside the camera so that the two eyes would line up.
So when the live actress and the film actress,
when their faces totally lined up, then you could shoot.
That way you could dissolve between faces
and have one face turn into another.
So when the cameraman is looking at this young actress here...
he is seeing Nastassia's face in the airport at the same time
and then the eyes line up.
Like that.
Now, this was...
Nastassia...
I believe this was her
third film in English.
She had done Tess and One From The Heart.
She was the first choice for this.
Not only because of her extraordinary beauty
but also
there's an un-Americanness about her features and her body,
which gave it an exotic appeal.
This is at the old New Orleans airport.
I liked Malcolm for this role
simply because it's a very arch-role, it's sort of preposterous.
Even though he doesn't have that classic Shakespearean training,
he had done a lot of stage work in Britain,
and those Brits are very good at
giving those phoney-baloney speeches.
The Alec Guinnesses and Anthony Hopkins
have made quite a good living being hired to distinguish...
to give distinguished readings of strange exposition.
This is Ruby Dee.
We just cut from the Esplanade in New Orleans
to the stage in Universal.
This is a two-tiered set.
Alan's script was set in New Orleans
and I thought New Orleans was good
because it is the least American of American cities
in that it has flown under five different flags
and has the most polyglot population, in history, of any city.
And also, of course,
there is the Caribbean and the voodoo traditions.
Now, this again is a Scarfiotti set.
He was the only production designer who did this,
or the only one who got away with it.
He would make a set
and no one was allowed to see it until it was finished.
You saw the drawings and the models, of course.
When it was ready he'd take you over
and he'd show you all the angles
that the set had been designed to be seen from
and the priority of the angles from which to see the set.
So that first shot
from the living area into the dining area,
it was the first thing that Nando showed me.
He said, "This is the primary angle for the establishing."
Nastassia
was quite extraordinary at this time.
John Bailey, the cinematographer, and I would talk from time to time.
He said to me, "It's impossible to make this girl look bad."
The kind of actress that you could turn off the lights
and she would light the scene herself.
Her skin just glowed.
You're often asked which you like best, writing or directing.
They're very different talents and very different pleasures.
One is very lonely but you have control as a writer.
You don't have as much control as a director
cos you're at the mercy of the budget and the actors
but it's communal, and that's fun too.
I think the best answer
is the one that Truffaut gave when they asked him that question.
He said, "When I'm writing I like directing best,
"when I'm directing I like editing best
"and when I'm editing I like writing best."
We had to build this cat myth.
I don't know how valuable it was.
This closet, for example,
this is something that Mr Scarfiotti agonised over
in the placement of all the colour.
The colour scheme is...
The two colours that we kept returning to
were a kind of a salmon and a kind of lime.
I don't know quite why those colours became strong.
Backstage, looking onto a painted...
There's Beatrice.
It's probably a good time to talk about
the music.
I'd done American Gigolo with Giorgio Moroder
and this is Giorgio again.
It's all that Munich-derived synth sound.
Now, this is one of the earlier uses of Steadicam.
It was just becoming commonplace at that time.
The shot that is coming up...
was done in reverse motion
for a reason that you will see.
Also, the way this corridor looks,
the reason I'm stopping here is purely for Mr Scarfiotti.
Now, this shot is in reverse motion.
He had to walk backwards to the door.
Because otherwise he could not do this.
The shot actually begins on her face
and ends up with him backing out of the door.
You need a reverse-motion camera
otherwise it'll be second generation and you'll see grain
and the audience will know that you are doing a special effect.
The wonderful streets of New Orleans
with corners like Erato and Annunciation.
That...
that was a location exterior
and now it is a studio interior.
I don't know why I let this guy smoke a cigar. That was a mistake.
The idea was to do a horror film,
a sort of erotic horror film.
I think in the end it became more erotic than horror,
as this scene starts to show.
The premise was, of course,
that the cat people...
would change from human to cat form
because of sexual arousal
and then when they killed they would go back to human form.
This is a little confusing and the roles kept shifting.
This location had to be very secure.
This is literally a steel box
because we're gonna have a cat running around in here.
This was not a mountain lion,
this was a cat that will come...
That is not a cat, that is just a prop.
The cat that will come was a Chinese leopard
and he was going to be put down because he was crazy.
So we bought him,
or Ron Oxley, who headed up the animal team,
they bought him and dyed him black.
Later, when...
when he goes crazy and rampages the room,
he went right into the bars and you can see that.
He split his skull - that's coming up -
and subsequently was put down.
Now we enter
our well-meaning protagonist
who is gonna get caught, go over his head.
This is Scott Paulin in one of his earlier roles.
He's gone on and done a lot of work since.
This was tricky to do because you have
a video which has been done previously.
You have one set on this floor,
you have another set which is upstairs
which has to be entirely secure because the cat is there,
and then you have the exterior that you're shooting in New Orleans.
So it has to be storyboarded in some way
to keep this involved.
This is the...
This is, I believe, the Chinese leopard.
No, that's the panther because he had to come out from under the bed.
When he goes crazy, that's the Chinese leopard.
The way they made him go crazy
is they put air tubes along the baseboard of the room
and they would shoot compressed air.
These tubes would spin and made a very high-pitched sound
and that sound would drive these animals crazy.
That's how they would aggravate them and made them active.
The tendency of a big cat in a situation like this
is to go catatonic,
just get in a corner and hide.
That won't do, so you need some device to aggravate them.
It's the whistling sound that does it.
The nice thing about working with animals
is that you don't have to worry about talking to their agents
or getting them out of their trailer.
When they wanna work, they work, when they don't, they don't.
This is not New Orleans,
looking over John's shoulder, this is again the stage.
We had to have control over that cat.
This is the Chinese leopard and this was a crazy animal.
He could not be trained or instructed in any way.
The earlier ones were mountain lions dyed black
cos they could go from place to place.
But mountain lions don't have the same face and don't have...
That's...
That's a mountain lion and now we're back with the Chinese leopard,
who goes really crazy.
This'll be the one right here...
that rammed himself.
She says "Paul" and then Paul drops down.
Here you're watching the big cat go catatonic.
One of the things that happened in the making of this film was
I got seduced by a number of factors.
One, of course, was the lure of New Orleans.
Another was the lure of this girl here, Nastassia.
And the other was this whole kind of Jungian eroticism,
this kind of notion of
these primal creatures that exist in our genetic memory
that we used to fear
and they still live on in our dreams.
Now, the reason there's such a variety of leopards,
of cats in the film, is that the leopard is both arboreal and nocturnal.
It lives at night in the trees.
So it's very hard to work with and almost impossible to train.
So you use a mountain lion
which is a day animal and not an arboreal animal
and they can be trained.
So that's why you have sometimes mountain lions
and sometimes leopards.
St Charles here normally is...
I don't think it's ever been this empty.
This is normally a mass of tourists.
I loved the idea of making it absolutely empty
and wetting it down -
again going back to the European feel of the film
and of Nastassia.
Marilyn here is a little tribute to Nando.
This is sort of part of the gay iconography.
This was an old movie theatre which had become a gospel church.
We didn't actually...
We lit that exterior in that wonderful way
but this interior pre-existed, Nando found this,
this is a location.
We didn't paint this ourselves, we left it the way it was.
But the only way to see it was from up on high.
At eye level it wasn't a very interesting place.
Even though I did shoot from eye level, I didn't use those angles.
Here's the Black Pope, he was a disc jockey then
who I fell in love with.
He talked over all these songs all the time.
I would listen to the Black Pope on radio all day long.
She says, "Wear it out, Pope."
He was a famous disc jockey in New Orleans at that time.
This woman was an extra, the taxi driver.
She came in with those two glasses, and looked terrific.
When those things happen you just have to use them.
We are in New Orleans now,
at one of the entrances -
the older side entrance, which we made into the main entrance.
We will move from New Orleans to the backlot at Universal shortly,
as we go up into a matte painting.
So the bottom is in New Orleans,
the top is a painting of a set in California.
Now we are back in California on that set.
We built this whole zoo on the backlot.
It was up for a number of years as part of the Universal tour.
We used the New Orleans Zoo,
but you have to have such total control of the environment,
that, in the end, you had to build a zoo,
or buy out a zoo.
It's cheaper to build one.
I love this shot, it's the "ages of man" shot.
It starts looking at Miss Kinski,
and then drops down to the top tier here,
where the secretaries work,
and then below the secretaries at the next level of evolution,
are the primates,
and then finally down to the leopards.
And then our character enters back in.
Of course, it's quite wild and thoroughly implausible
to have secretaries working above animals,
but that's the fun of movies and the fun of building,
you can build your own zoo where secretaries work on top of animals.
This is an early role for John Larroquette,
before he became a TV star.
And Annette, in her very all-American way,
is an ideal counterpart to Nastassia.
These lions, Nando designed these
and I've seen these in other films
because the moulds ended up at Universal,
so occasionally I would see them again in other films.
He's quoting here from La Vita Nuova,
some poems by Dante about Beatrice,
going back to that sub-theme of Dante and Beatrice,
which runs through the eroticism of the film.
Again, we're able to use
the full size of the set,
with a crane, and go all the way up from the first to the third floor.
I've always liked John Heard,
he struck me as an all-American actor.
I particularly liked him in a film called Head Over Heels
where he was madly in love with this girl,
and again, struck me as the kind of
very intelligent American nice guy who would be
the ideal pawn in such an exotic game.
My particular church did not allow theatre attendance
so I never really went to movies in any serious way until I was in college.
That was the time of the European cinema of the '60s.
That was the cinema I first encountered,
the cinema I fell in love with,
and just like one never forgets one's real-life first love,
one never forgets one's art-life first love.
So, many of the things I've done subsequently
have circled around those sort of films that I fell in love with.
Not around Westerns or musicals or horror films
but around that kind of intellectual cinema of Europe in the '60s.
We wanted a shot of Paul listening to the two of them talk,
so we put that little part of the set back
and did that crane shot, down into Paul.
I think
coming up is one of the most beautiful
singles on Nastassia.
I don't know whether it was the light
or the day or whatever it was but...
This shot right here, if I remember right.
The story has been told and repeated
but I did get involved with Nastassia in the shooting of this,
which complicated my life enormously.
Maybe that's about all we need to say about that subject.
This was the first film I directed that I didn't write.
I had just figured out how to direct,
the first two films - Blue Collar and Hardcore -
I was just trying to survive.
By the time I did Gigolo I got a notion of what it meant to think visually.
And a lot of that was being influenced by Mr Scarfiotti
and I sort of went to school at his visual school.
I like this shot here, you start inside,
back, and dolly down the street -
look at these big oysters Nando put in there -
there's a jump cut there as we pass the dark
and then we come back in.
I guess that really speaks to the point which I'm making,
which is that I saw this as a real chance to think visually.
Because I hadn't written it
and wasn't supposedly invested in the story or the theme
and because it was a genre film,
I could just see it as colour, shape and design.
The great influence on me
and a number of directors at this time was Bertolucci.
And, of his films, it was Conformist,
in this film there are shots stolen from that film,
I went through a period where almost every film I made
had shots from Conformist -
shots in Gigolo, in this film, in Mishima.
Bertolucci was very influential
in that he combined the Godardian wilfulness of the camera
with Antonioni's sense of design.
You can track the movement of American film into high design
from that group of filmmakers who are influenced by Bernardo.
Now, in scene after scene,
shot after shot,
the concern, more than normal,
was, just constantly, colour and texture and composition.
Obviously, every filmmaker thinks about these things
but in certain films
you feel it is so important that it starts to drive
your shooting, your lighting, your editing.
Now we're back in New Orleans. This is the real zoo,
we didn't bring any elephants into the backlot.
That is out there in the zoo,
and this is still New Orleans.
Now we're on the backlot again.
Ed Begley had been in two previous films I did,
Blue Collar and Hardcore.
And he'll get his shortly.
This shot, as you can imagine,
was done many times
to try to get each one of these animals to act on cue.
To get the wolf to come out when you're passing,
to get the chimp to go,
to get the cheetah to look at you.
The human here was relatively easy.
This is on location in New Orleans.
This was not a gift shop,
we commandeered a building and made it into a gift shop.
This is a tricky shot because you're inside,
you go outside, you come back inside,
and right there, on his back,
you'll see what cinematographers will recognise - an iris shift -
because of the change from light to dark.
This is back at that zoo set,
this shot, just to show how you go back and forth,
is Ed feeding the big cats in New Orleans,
this is actually how they lived there.
But when you go back this way, you're shooting on stage.
We shot this little soap opera, you always do this,
it's easier to shoot your own than buy them.
This is a very famous chimp.
Whatever movies you saw around the late '70s and early '80s,
this was the chimp you saw.
Given the obsession with uniforms -
earlier it was all the Japanese outfits on the schoolkids,
now it's the Boy Scouts -
Scarfiotti, the way it worked was,
he was in control of the whole visual team,
so that wardrobe came through the production designer.
Make-up came through the production designer.
A lot of set design and colour
and a lot of what John Bailey did came through the production designer.
That's the European system
and if you have a very strong visual talent,
you can work that way.
Usually, it doesn't work that way
because everybody has their own little fiefdom.
Wardrobe wants to be directly responsible to the director,
they don't want to have to go through a production designer.
This is a bar in the Quarter.
I love this shot,
both these girls are so beautiful,
and their beauties are of a completely different type.
Different colouring, different clothes,
different facial histories.
There's a little homage coming up.
In the Jacques Tourneur film
there's a scene where a woman speaks to Irena,
so I decided to drop a little shot in here
that reflected back to the earlier Cat People.
But also, it's in keeping with a number of shots in this film,
which are there simply to be mysterious, which really don't make sense.
Like that weird kid sitting on the bus or like Marilyn Monroe.
Here you go into the mirror for this homage shot.
And play a little sax.
What's nice about these little...
This is what I call a blindside POV.
It's a retreating shot, the POV of someone who is exiting
but not looking at the subject.
So it's what they would see if they had eyes in the back of their head.
I started using blindside POVs in American Gigolo
and I've been using them in every film since.
Going back to these mysterious little shots.
They're kind of nice, you put them in here and there,
people think that they mean something but they don't.
All they do is increase the exotic environment.
This is a Whitlock matte painting.
The bottom is the set, the top is a painting.
Again, here, you know,
you're always thinking of how to make it feel more exotic
and how can I use the colours
so you start using the fan and so forth.
We ended up with In The Jungle,
we started out with What's New, Pussycat? But couldn't get the rights.
That's a real leopard.
Not the crazy Chinese leopard, it's a different one.
You can see the slant of its head, leopards are different to mountain lions,
their heads are fuller, more slanted.
And, of course, they're scarier.
This is the real leopard, this was very tricky.
We're back here, we're very protected...
very worried about Ed getting too close,
because the leopard is not a trainable animal.
Again, the baseboard of this cage is full of those whistles,
which are causing this leopard to behave in this manner.
Obviously, this was a show that was pretty heavy on special effects.
Here's the triumphant real leopard.
A kind of little surreal, magical shot.
In the pre-digital era you were stuck, in many cases,
trying to do things in real time
and you couldn't go back and clean them up.
Here is a very Scarfiotti detail.
This is a set he built.
Underneath that tarp is a priceless, old, vintage MG,
which we never see.
That kind of thing tickled him -
put a beautiful MG under there but let's never look at it.
Here's a shot coming up from Conformist.
It's where you go on a Dutch
and you use the opening of a gate to skew you back to the horizontal.
In Conformist, that angle is used at Trintignant's mother's house.
When he goes there and opens the gate
it goes from the skew to the horizontal.
John and I didn't fool around too much with gels here.
I mean in this film, but in this case we decided to have a little fun
and break out the lime gels.
Those shadows on the walls are simply pieces of tape
put up to create an interesting effect.
And the green is purely fun.
There's no real reason why that should be green.
Scarfiotti went out and did a number of films.
He died, I believe, about '94 or '95.
A very influential man.
I love this shot here - leaving her in the mirror.
When we start tracking them around, this is hand-held.
This right here.
We're hand-holding, rather than on a dolly or Steadicam,
in order to try to catch the cadence, the POV of the stalker.
This is where the brother is coming on to the sister,
trying to convince her that they share this cat heritage.
One thing they do share is the ability to act in reverse motion
which will happen shortly, as she flies out of the window.
I like this dialogue. This was in Alan's original script.
The biggest change between the original script
and the final version was the ending.
Now he's gonna jump up in reverse motion and take off.
In the original script there was a dark old house
which would be this house.
It burned to the ground and the monster was destroyed.
I changed the ending so that instead of killing the monster,
the protagonist made love to the monster.
Which, of course, is a rather radical change.
Ronnie here is the gaffer.
This actor is Frankie Faison, who is quite a wonderful actor.
I don't know quite why, I've liked his work ever since,
but when I was editing the film, I wasn't happy with his voice.
So I brought in another actor, Albert Hall, who had been in Apocalypse Now.
So this is Albert Hall's voice and Frankie Faison's body.
I don't know whether it made a difference
but at the time it seemed like a good idea.
This, again, is Scarfiotti's notion
with the angels in the sand and the sculpture of the wood slats.
Looking at a scene like this,
it seems obvious to say but many people don't realise this,
the use of the khaki and the red and the brown
was very calculated and decided beforehand.
It was decided to have the two of them in red, in that set, at that time.
Whenever an actor pulls out a cigarette,
you can assume that a lighting trick is gonna come up, and here it is.
Many is the film where one or two cigarettes
can fill up an amphitheatre with smoke.
Here you have this European notion of the police
with this Wehrmacht black leather trench coat as a police coat.
Here is another receding point of view.
When we were in New Orleans, we shot there about three weeks.
We shot back in the studio for six weeks,
then we went back to News Orleans and shot another week.
Here's the car we never get to see.
I love the location aspect of this film.
Maybe that's because it was New Orleans
and because it was a crazy time in my life
and in Hollywood at that time.
It was the end of the drug days.
While I was editing this movie, Belushi died.
I mark John's death
with the end of the era of permissive drug use in Hollywood.
In the years before that, there had been this notion
that cocaine was not addictive and that it was very much up front.
The first cocaine I ever took
was given to me by my production manager on Blue Collar.
This was the end of that four or five years
where drug use was deemed permissible in Hollywood.
It affected this film, as it did many other films at this time.
In a case like this, you can see all the design priorities -
that bed, the blanket, the painting.
Here's a little homage to the film I wanted to do and did next,
which was the life of Yukio Mishima.
This is one of those cases where you have a driving shot
and you tell the actors to loosen it up.
It's always better if they can come up with something.
Because it doesn't feel scripted. That wasn't scripted.
Now we're out in Slidell,
which is probably full of condominiums by now.
We found this little building in the bayou and painted it red
so that we could do this shot.
This was a particularly difficult location.
Very mosquito-infested, particularly when shooting at night.
The crew was warned to be completely covered up.
A couple of the electricians thought they wouldn't have to do that
and one of them ended up in hospital.
There's the story of Paul and Irena running,
which is the cat story.
Then there's this love story
with the all-American zookeeper
falling in love with this mesmerising creature.
Anyone familiar with New Orleans
knows that the cemetery plots are above ground
because New Orleans is below sea level,
therefore they cannot bury bodies below the ground.
So you have these wonderful and unique types of cemeteries.
Here, you have a mysterious shot.
A little back-pan into two bricks which has no meaning,
other than to try to signify something.
Here we are at night, out in the Slidell bayou.
This gorgeous light for Nastassia.
This was the night mosquitoes did so much damage to our crew.
It's one of those cases where you're trying to look outside
because your crew is suffering so much out in the mosquito-ridden bayou
that you want the audience to know
that you're not in the studio, that you're actually on location.
The plot point here is that she's a virgin
and at some point, her sexual life will bring her to being a cat again.
A little macabre humour with our theme here,
which is the flaccid cat trying to get it up
but she helps him out.
Both Malcolm and Nastassia kept cats around
before we were shooting and when we were shooting
and tried to use cat mannerisms
in their steps and in their walk.
Actually, what's in some way interesting about this film
is back then, which is 20 years ago, in 1981,
this film was not considered completely outrageous
in terms of its sexuality.
This was an R.
I don't know quite why but we've recently had a sort of puritanical
swing in the last ten years, which I think is ending again now,
which made films like this look
racier than they seemed at the time.
The little boom point of view coming up.
I don't know really
what these shots... how effective they are.
I know they take a lot of time to do
and they seemed very important at the time.
Now, this is magic hour on the bayou.
And we were gonna shoot this upcoming scene on the bayou
but once we got there and saw the density of the bug life,
we realised that it would not be possible for Nastassia to be naked out there.
So when she exits this shot
she will exit Louisiana
because there's no way we could have shot it.
In fact, I'm surprised we even got this much done
because everyone around her was covered head to toe for the mosquitoes.
So where we are now is in the botanical garden
in Los Angeles.
At that time, I wanted to do a kind of a cat vision,
whereby she saw the animals differently than how they were.
Today you'd do it all digital.
A man named Robert Blalack came up with a technique we finally used.
One thing that Scarfiotti said when he first saw the film
was one of the things he liked a lot about Nastassia's body
was that it didn't look like an American body, it looked like a European body.
And I think that's true.
In this upcoming sequence
what we did was we dyed the rabbit,
I think a kind of orange colour,
and the snake,
so we were able then to manipulate the colour in the printing process.
Today it's a common technique - all done digitally.
The whole image can be black and white and the snake any colour you want.
But back then you had to dye the animals certain colours
that would react to different printing in different ways.
Actually, the man who did this...
The original idea came from a movie called Wolfen,
where you had a wolf vision,
and this was meant to be the parallel thing - the cat vision.
I want to talk at some point about Moroder,
who I first used in American Gigolo because,
just like I used Armani, it seemed to be...
I wanted to make Los Angeles look like a new place
and so I used that music out of Munich -
the Man Machine music,
and then the clothes out of Milan as a new axis.
So here's Malcolm...
The stuff on his body
is meant to be a kind of
placenta-like remains of when he was a leopard.
This was Malcolm's idea, which was very nice,
to gobble the placenta and eat it
and then have a vanity moment and look in the mirror.
But the stuff didn't actually taste very good as you could just see.
I guess here, as throughout the film,
my interests were not so much on the gore itself
as in some kind of tension
and then just the little flash of gore.
So the sound of the phone,
to me, was more interesting than the body itself.
Again, all these visual references
to classical antiquity and the animal kingdom
and griffins and lions and stuff,
which the film is replete in.
Here is a scene which is going to play with our two colours,
where you have a salmon and a lime light that are interacting.
This was one of the scenes that we came back to New Orleans to shoot.
I'm not quite sure why.
I guess we must have cut out some things
and felt that we needed this scene to replace what we'd cut out.
Yep, this is it right here - this exposition.
When we were putting the film together
we felt it needed this kind of a speech so we went back and shot it.
I like this notion of laying the action way on the edge of the frame.
Unfortunately, the way most movies end up on video and television,
they make readjustments and they pan and scan.
These extras hated this, too. God, there was... Very buggy out here.
This is from Conformist, from a scene in the woods at the end of Conformist.
We burnt this all out, it was not this way.
So we burnt it out and then put smoke pots in there
and then had these poor fellows
in these huge, heavy, hot, black rubber outfits
walking through here.
When you think about, it makes no sense whatsoever.
It's strictly a visual conceit.
So our poor protagonist here, Oliver,
is falling into the clutches of his Beatrice complex.
You can see Malcolm out there waiting to come in.
I just noticed that.
Here's Nastassia in her cat mode.
That painting on the wall was selected...
Actually, we had it done. Two creatures being pulled apart from one body.
This line, "We can live together as mates",
humoured Malcolm no end because of the British connotation.
I heard that line every day for a couple of weeks.
This was a little something that Malcolm came up with, too.
This was nice, a little kitty-kitty thing.
You know, you...
Rather quickly in directing films you learn to trust actors
or you learn which actors you can trust,
which ones have the instincts
and which ones will take you to an interesting place
if you give them the licence to do so.
I think in many ways the secret of designing a set is what you don't do.
Most of what people think of as production design
is really just interior decoration,
which is just hanging stuff on walls, junking rooms up.
It takes more courage to take a picture off the wall than put one on
and that's what the good designers know.
Here's one of the unfortunate things about the pre-digital era.
No matter how well you did it at that time,
it still, you know, looks like
an appliance, an artificial hand that is busting open.
Today, digitally, you can take a real hand and make that actually happen
and it would be much more realistic.
Even though Cat People started out as a horror film,
it ended up becoming more and more of a kind of perverse erotic love story.
And the horror elements remained
but I think the reason why it wasn't as commercially successful in the US
was that it really didn't have its heart in the horror genre.
It had its heart elsewhere.
It had its heart in the perverse-romantic genre.
The film performed very well in Europe
and I don't know quite why that is.
Maybe it's because those genre distinctions
were not as well drawn at that time.
There's gonna be a shot coming up - this shot here -
where Malcolm comes through the shadows as a human being
and comes out as a cat.
So back there - that's Malcolm -
and then on the other side of that shadow
is a black mountain lion.
And in the passage in between Malcolm and the mountain lion,
we rotoscoped the yellow eyes in so that the eyes would be continuous
from Malcolm's eyes to the mountain lion's eyes.
I'm not much on storyboards, never have been,
this was storyboarded more than would be normal
because you had layers of special effects.
You had appliances, you had visual effects
and then you had animal effects.
So you had to have a clear idea of what you were going to do.
Here we are back in Albert Whitlock's painting - the top part.
This is obviously a real leopard.
In fact, I believe this is our...
Maybe it's our friend the Chinese leopard before he split his head open
but anyway, it's a real leopard.
And he is drugged up.
Unfortunately, of course, if he was actually dead, there would be rigor
but then he wouldn't look like a leopard
so it's constantly a trade-off.
This was a scene that I was a little disappointed in
primarily because I didn't think we really had the technology
to do it the way it should have been done.
With today's technology, you would...
you could do the scene in a more interesting way.
But the autopsy on the leopard never felt right
because we were faking too much of it.
Between the real leopard and the fake leopard.
And also it's sort of based on a device
that was a little hokey.
It was...
It's hokey now and it was hokey then -
the idea of the hand coming out of the leopard.
I think the idea for the scene was a good idea
but we didn't have the time or the technology to do it absolutely right.
Yeah, I think of all the stuff in the film,
that's, you know, a really kind of wince moment for me
because I think the film in general
moved above and beyond the superficial tricks of the horror trade
and then you have a scene like that which is clearly very gimmicky.
Here is a scene where I just love the colours.
And the use of that red scarf,
just quite extraordinary to me.
So here is our cat girl
in her first cage.
We made it a visual choice not to put her behind glass
or put her...
Normally, this kind of wire fence would never exist in a prison.
But when you live in the...
The power of making movies is you have that visual world
and people watch a scene like this and very few of them think,
"Gee, why do they have a wire fence in a visiting room?"
So the use of the wire fence is thematic rather than literal.
Again, here we're having fun with colour.
And the kids are watching the little cat commercial there.
So all the little bits of humour and black humour,
sometimes I don't know whether you do them for yourself
or for the audience.
A lot of times, people just don't get them
but they're fun to do and you get them.
Now, what she is looking at here
is a projected screen,
which is reflected against that window, and here we...
This is reverse motion -
she's moving her head back into a synchronised frame,
just like at the beginning -
and she will now transform into herself at the airport.
And this was meant to be
the dream life of the cat people
and her realisation of who she is.
And this is the New Orleans airport where she first came in
and then she goes through the doorway
into the stage set that we used for the prologue.
And we had to dye all this sand orange
and it turned out to be some kind of pollutant
and we had to shut down for a while
because people were getting upset about it and sick.
This is...
Malcolm is riding on the dolly, that's why he doesn't move
and she's walking behind against a huge fan.
What we had in mind here was that she sees her mother,
based on a famous surreal leopard painting.
We actually shot that but it didn't work out, it looked too hokey.
These poor leopards are dying now, it is hot up there.
It is very hot and they're all tethered to that damn tree
by wires to leashes around their necks.
In fact, during one shot a leopard actually fell off the tree
and was swinging from the tree
and the animal handlers had to rush over
and rescue him and get him back up on the tree.
But I love this Jungian kind of imagery
of the tree of life being the tree of leopards.
This is a real leopard, that's why Malcolm's not getting too close,
and there may be an outtake somewhere else on the DVD,
but that had been that surreal leopard painting
in which Nastassia's mother was actually playing her real mother.
Here's what they call a scne faire,
which is some sort of obligatory scene.
There's always a scene...
Here again is a mysterious figure, which means nothing.
Or everything.
An obligatory scene in a movie like this
where the girl gets chased by the mysterious object
and the mysterious object is then revealed to be a harmless object,
in this case the dog.
We're in Audubon Park in New Orleans for this.
Again, references to antiquity.
This shot right here
comes from the original Cat People,
where there is a similar sort of shock effect
of the noise of a streetcar, meant to scare you.
And the following scene in the pool was also in the original.
This is Berry Berenson, Marisa's sister, the wife of Tony Perkins at that time.
I probably saw the original
I don't know, three or four times and then went on from there.
The script was sort of based on the original film
but kept getting further away from it.
And the more interesting stuff we did, the further we got from it
until we got into different thematic areas altogether.
This is a swimming pool up in Pasadena.
We're using a hothead,
which had just started to be used at that time.
A hothead is a camera without an operator on it -
a remote camera, which everyone uses now
but they'd just started at that time.
You couldn't use an operator here,
as the camera's actually over the water and it'd be too heavy.
This, if I remember, is a shot from the original
where you have the shadows against the walls.
And the hothead's gonna come down.
I think in the original they actually had a cat shadow,
we just have sort of a growl.
But obviously, we made every attempt to
use as many erotic components as we could.
Irena here, after having had her vision on the train,
has come back and now is no longer the conflicted young girl
but is the cat person.
The film is now coming into its final stretch -
this odd darkroom in a bedroom, which doesn't make a lot of practical sense,
it makes wonderful visual sense.
We didn't really preview this film much.
Back then, not every film was previewed.
In fact, most films weren't previewed.
And I had made this change at the ending -
rather than kill the beast,
to make love to it and then put it in a shrine.
I remember the day it opened at the Avco cinema
on Wiltshire Boulevard in Westwood,
Jerry Bruckheimer and the producer and I went to the first screening,
we sat in the back
and there were a couple of teenage girls in front of us
and when it came to the bondage scene,
when Oliver is tying up the naked Irena to the bed
so that he can screw her back into being a leopard
and David Bowie is singing this primitive, religious kind of music,
one girl turned and put her hand over her mouth
and said, "Oh, my God,"
and I turned to Jerry and said, "I think maybe we went too far."
I love the fact that we went too far
and in fact, if we'd previewed it,
they probably would have made us change the ending.
Here, Irena arrives
at his garage/apartment/darkroom.
Again, a Scarfiotti-composed, Bailey-composed shot.
This is why this room was designed in the way it was,
so that you could do these very nice trailing shots
through these wood railings.
Again, so much of this for me...
the love of the textures -
the painted brick, the wood, the plaster, the human skin -
all laid upon each other.
For me, this film's great pleasures are all in the visual aesthetics.
So there's a kind of Mission style chapel affectation here
between these railings and these church-like windows
and, you know, building up to
the moment of erotic transformation.
The Burman brothers, who did this transformation,
they had been doing transformations like this
that had been in a number of films.
In this predigital time where we were doing this,
we had to break down her transformation
into many steps and stages
and you do it all bit by bit and piece by piece.
So there's the spine device and the breast device
and the finger device.
I like this use of shadow here, it's very nice.
So here, you play a little bit with
when is it going to happen?
You try and let the audience think
it's going to happen before it actually does.
Nastassia was relatively comfortable at the time with the nudity.
You have to be...
There's a whole drill and you have to be very protective
but coming from the European tradition,
she didn't have as much difficulty as some Americans do.
Of course, this was before the world of the internet
where so many actresses today know that whatever they do in a film
immediately pops up on the internet.
Irena realises now that she has been deflowered.
This is particularly erotic for me,
primarily because this is such an androgynous looking shot,
her hair in this scene looks so boyish.
I think this was one of the little snippets
there was some talk of people trying to get me to take out,
but I was fond of it for the reason I mentioned,
the androgyny of it was really cool.
So the upcoming transformation,
which is triggered by the fly,
is all done in individual pieces
until, finally, you cut to a real leopard
bursting through a sort of placenta.
Again, a scene like this today
is more interesting historically than dramatically
because we do this stuff
so much more effectively and seamlessly today.
Today you could morph her whole face
and you wouldn't have to do it cut by cut.
Stuff like this is no fun for an actress,
this stuff is not pleasant to wear.
That's an isolated piece, that's not actually her,
but it's no fun to put all this stuff on.
That's a leopard. Right on top of John,
this right here, is a mountain lion that John is wrestling with.
And that's a mountain lion.
After a while, watching the film,
you can spot the difference between the mountain lions and the real leopards.
The mountain lions could be in contact with humans,
and could be walking around,
the real leopards had to be always in a confined, secure environment.
That's something I like, that little backward move.
It's just a little bit of fun.
In this film I was always trying to do that,
odd little moves, move backward when people think you move forward,
and vice versa.
Now we're out in New Orleans,
shot this for two nights.
Helicopters and everything.
There was a point fairly early on
where there was some thought given to using animatronic animals,
we did some exploration of that.
You have an animatronic hand and a tail - you build those -
but for the most part we used the real animals.
This is a mountain lion,
he's trapped here, this is on location.
It's very risky doing this
because the helicopter was spooking him like crazy.
You can assume that in any scene where you do not see the cat,
the cat is nowhere around.
These animals burn out very quickly
and you only use them when you actually look at them.
At this point,
the great departure from the original script,
the original idea, all starts.
Because what convention would dictate
is that he would go to kill the monster.
But, in fact, he's not going to do that at all.
This shot here is from American Friend by Wim Wenders,
where you're up on top, you drop down
just as the character turns his head.
This we still shot in Slidell
but once he gets inside,
because of the nature of the shot I wanted,
we did that on location.
I wanted to do
a shot where you went continuously from Oliver,
taking him down across the bed to Irena.
After the film was all done and completed,
Nastassia had second thoughts
about the large amount of nudity in the film,
and she went to Ned Tanen at Universal
and asked that it be cut out.
Part of this was the fact that
she and I were on the outs at that time and she
was not happy with me, either.
But I met with Ned and he said,
"Was there anything deceptive about it?"
I said, "No, it was exactly what we all talked about.
"Nobody was tricked,
"told one thing and used a different way."
He said, "In that case,
"this is the film we made, we'll leave it the way it is,
"if she doesn't want to do publicity, then she won't."
That's sort of what happened.
I love that shot in the window.
I love these shots where the framing changes,
the camera either moves from room to room
or the characters do and you have blank spaces.
Right here starts to become the "Oh, my God" section,
where you enter some kind of perverse religious ritual.
I don't think this film would get an R today,
they are more strict about nudity today than they were back then.
But it'll change again, it always does.
There's a shot coming up
where you've got a remote camera and you're on John,
he takes off his shirt and you go across his back
and spin around 180 degrees
and reveal him on top of her.
We used a hothead for this and this was the first time...
Hotheads at that time had only been used for car commercials.
The guys who run the camera,
it was the first time they had done a film scene with their camera,
and their first nude scene and they thought it was all very cool.
It's this shot right here.
So you can see it all continuously.
I have to admit I love this,
it's a little sick but I thought it was really cool.
This is sort of the epilogue,
the nuns bring us to the shrine.
So Oliver leaves his token girlfriend.
Here you have an odd effect where his shirt sort of glows.
It wasn't intentional,
it's a reflective inside the cameras,
technically a mistake,
but it looked so cool that we kept it.
This is back to a real leopard again.
That's the trainer's hand,
the trainer had second thoughts about doing that as well.
This song by David Bowie,
which Giorgio and I did in Switzerland with David...
I really love this idea of having the leopard
speak to you at the end of the movie.
It's the happy ending for me,
as he and his Beatrice share these shrine moments.
And then you hear the leopard's voice...
David went back after the film and did a dance mix.
This was Paul Schrader talking about Cat People,
a film from 1981,
about love and Eros and animals.
CQ
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