Dan Richards was born in Wales, grew up in Bristol and studied creative writing at UEA. His latest book The Beechwood Airship Interviews (The Friday Project) heads out into the British cultural landscape and explores what it means to make art for art’s sake in a climate that is increasingly driven by cash rather that craft through interviews with the likes of Judi Dench, Bill Drummond, Jenny Saville, Manic Street Preachers, and Stewart Lee. Below, Dan Richards picks Cecil B. Demented as his filmic alter ego. Eithne Farry
Straight jacket, dinner jacket, guns, eyes, script, lips – Cecil B. Demented.
A misunderstood auteur with an uncompromising creative vision, dragooning collaborators with his strange, hypnotic, slightly crazed charisma, a quasi-religious figure with his gang of tattooed film fetishists – a kind of Baader-Meinhof Ed Wood
What a guy!
John Waters said he created Cecil B. after being branded a lunatic version of Cecil B. DeMille – father of the US film industry, bastion of Hollywood – in an early review. Eternally the opportunist magpie, Waters logged and hid the shiny epithet away to polish it up in 2000 for this black comedy about the kidnap and subsequent conversion of spoilt diva A-lister Honey Whitlock (Melanie Griffith) by Cecil B. Demented for his underground opus.
Played by Stephen Dorff with the kind of dead-eyed commitment Johnny Rotten embodied in the protean Sex Pistols (They mean it, man!), Cecil B. needs a star, so he and his crack-prom posse take one at gunpoint.
The film that follows (a mess of school play scripting, shoddy sets, seedy porn glamour, kamikaze trash polemics, teenage pouting, and situationist violence) looks more like an early Manic Street Preachers promo than a major film release (the Manics, another band of brothers named after a critical brickbat):
‘The slash and burn of the white-hot metal will brand you forever with the logo of Cecil B. Demented. Wear the privileged scar of cinema sainthood with pride and horniness.’
‘We’ve all taken a vow of celibacy for celluloid. No one gets laid until we finish our movie. We’re horny, but our film comes first.’
At heart it’s a mad film about making mad films, a childish dream of mayhem – What if we exploded the movie world? What if Lost Boys channelled Challenge Anneka to make a shoestring La Femme Nikita with real guns!?
Limos are trashed, the Baltimore Film Commission, Hollywood, The Man, The Mainstream, Forrest fuckin’ Gump, Patch prick Adams, the real-life careers and reputation of the cast, Waters himself; everyone gets a pasting; thoroughly rained on with gratuitous scattershot gonzo shonk.
And through it all, at the heart of the film, the film within the film, sits Cecil B. Demented, horny, armed to the teeth, wired, barking orders, plotting his gaga Dada ascension to the pantheon of Preminger, Lynch and Anger.
A beautiful Baader-Meinhof Ed Wood dressed by Vivienne Westwood.
What a guy!