Mark Redfield (Part 1)
After I saw Mark Redfield’s superb version of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde at Manchester in 2002 I knew that I had to find out more about this film and the people behind it. Mark kindly obliged with this phone interview in January 2003 and subsequently asked me to write some insert notes for the DVD release of the film, which I was delighted to do, incorporating some of the quotes from this chat.
Jump straight to Part 2 of this long interview
Can you give me some background on Redfield Arts?
"Basically I decided to stop messing around with the theatre here on the East Coast and get down to the serious business of trying to make some movies. So I found some space in Baltimore where I have an edit suite and a scene shop and a place to store costumes and that kind of thing. I have some stage space; I found a warehouse. And I decided to concentrate on that. I started Redfield Arts about four years ago and got the space about three years ago. It took about a year to a year and a half and that’s when we started to bear down on Jekyll and Hyde.
“Now we’re selling Jekyll and Hyde, we’re in post-production with a drama called Cold Harbor about four brothers coming to grips with the suicide of their father, and a kids’ fantasy film called The Sorcerer of Stonehenge School. That’s in post-production, and hopefully that will be finished in May or June. We’re doing effects and editing, and we’re developing the next couple of projects for 2003 now that we’re in the new year."
Why did you start with Jekyll and Hyde?
"I’m not really sure, in some ways. We did it as a play about ten or eleven years ago. My producer and writing partner, Stuart Voytilla, he’s based in San Diego; when he was here in Baltimore and we were working together, we were doing a number of things. I had a couple of theatre companies, one of which was called New Century Theatre. We did a gamut of things: we did Clifford Onett’s Golden Boy, we did some Ionesco, we did some Shakespeare, we did The Tempest, The Front Page. We did a typical American rep kind of thing where you just do a little bit of everything-in-the-world theatre. It was sort of an actor-manager company, much like Redfield Arts is now: I’m out there raising the money and spending the money and I’m also the actor-director, so some things in some ways haven’t really changed.
“So I said: you know, it would be kind of fun to do something where I could show off, something I could sink my teeth into. We thought about it and said: no-one’s done a Jekyll and Hyde for a while. People would want to come and see it because people are going to ask, ‘How are they going to do that?’ It’s like Ben Hur. If you do Ben Hur, you’d better have a chariot race on stage and people are going to ask, ‘How are they going to do that?’ In some stage productions they’ll cast two actors - which is always kind of a cheat. So I thought: let’s do this because we could have a lot of fun with it.
“We wrote this play, we adapted it, and created a lot of new stuff on our own. I sort of stole some ideas from what I had read about an Orson Welles production, where the set was primarily black velvet - so you didn’t have to have a lot of scenery. You let the audience’s imagination work and that way we can more very cinematically through a number of scenes. We can be in alleys, we can be in the hospital, we can be in Jekyll’s house. So the initial adaptation of the play was in some ways cinematic. Then when we got around to turning it into a movie, we threw the play out in a lot of ways because it wasn’t working. We invented new material but kept the spirit of the thing and kept the thrust of Stevenson and the play - then it became this whole new animal.
“There was all kinds of new invention that we put into it because we could. I felt we could have some fun with Jekyll and Hyde and I wanted to keep doing fantasy pictures; maybe that was the other reason to do the film. I looked around and said, ‘Even though there’s a hundred Jekyll and Hydes, including The Nutty Professor, there really isn’t one right now on video or television.’ This is no scientific polling, but I would turn on the cable stations here and you would always get the ‘32 Fredric March or the ‘41 Spencer Tracy. I would go to the local blockbuster and you would have all the recent Draculas and Frankensteins. There really isn’t a Jekyll and Hyde out there so maybe we could take a cheeky attempt to get one out on the shelves and have people see it.
“Then there was the other thing that we had experienced. People in the beginning, when we were raising the money: ‘Why do you want to do Jekyll and Hyde? It’s been done.’ Then I would ask them: ‘Do you know the story?’ and people would say, ‘Well... he turns into this bad guy, doesn’t he?’ So they really didn’t know it. Of course the fans did, but by and large people really didn’t know it. So I said let’s take the risk, on such a low budget, and let’s try to do something. So that’s how Jekyll and Hyde came about."
What impressed me was that, apart from the last half-hour, your script is the first version to be filmed like the book.
"We really think it’s in the spirit of Stevenson. It may not exactly be the letter of the law. There are no women in Stevenson, there’s a lot of other invention woven through - and of course we made everybody younger which typically you do anyway. But that struck me as true too. There are recent adaptations - that I don’t want to help publicise! - in the last couple of years. There’s one with one of the Baldwin brothers that is a modern retelling where he and his wife go to Hong Kong and she is somehow murdered. This is all based on a synopsis I read somewhere. He goes to this old Chinese gentleman and gets this mystery drug and somehow he starts to take it, I don’t know what happens in this thing. And it’s called Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde! So there are a lot of versions. And as much as I love Cushing and Lee, I, Monster doesn’t quite do it in some ways.
“So we really tried to stay with the spirit of Stevenson, using Utterson as the detective, and that fed into some other things. People say ‘I know the story’; well, they know a lot of stories. They know James Bond’s going to win. It’s always the ‘how’ - how are you going to get there? If the themes that you can withdraw from something still excite you, then it’s worth hearing it again. So hopefully we have done something that is entertaining. And what seems to be sometimes so obvious is to look at the original source material and there are things that people are missing. You hear this about Frankenstein! There are wonderful things in the Kenneth Branagh Frankenstein - and then there’s wonderful things that are still missing. I’m finding that out: we’re researching now a project now - I don’t want to get into too much detail - a project about Captain Nemo. And there are marvellous things in Jules Verne! Great as the Disney 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea is, and there are wonderful things in the Harryhausen Mysterious Island - but they’re miles away from who Nemo really is."
Apart from anything else, he’s Indian.
"Absolutely, which is a fascinating thing. I’ve just discovered that there is a French television version from the 1970s with Omar Shariff, very hard to find. But anyway it’s one of many projects that we’re very far from, we’re not anywhere near production. But I am definitely staying in fantasy. Two out of the three projects that we’re talking about tend to be fantasy/horror orientated. Not so much science fiction, I don’t know why, but they tend to be towards horror or fantasy. Maybe I find more leeway there to talk about people and find stories that I like. You tend to do things that you liked as a kid. You tend to come around to that.
“The reality is, I think, and this is kind of self-conscious in some ways too, is that I’m really in love with the Hammer pictures. And that I think was a very, very obvious conscious influence. Hammer, because of their budgets, are very compact. They’re very rich and they’re dense in their design. The Universal pictures had height! I think the screen was squarer. From Frankenstein to even the lesser-budgeted ones, they had height to the sets. Whereas what you get in the Hammers - or the Corman Poe pictures maybe - is you get a bit of density. That art direction - maybe those were heavy influences."
Given that your background was theatre, how did you assemble film-making people?
"For me, the eye has always been on movies, from the beginning of time that I can remember. I fell in love with movies, I wanted to make movies. I’m old enough just to remember having super-8 film, playing with animation and stop-motion as a teenager. like a lot of people I knew that I wanted to do that, even from childhood when I was playing and my first acting classes that I had when I was a kid. But the theatre was accessible. You could walk in the door, in the town that you lived in - here in Baltimore for instance. You could get involved and then, my God, you’ve got everything. You just go crazy.
“So very early I was acting, very early I was into design, very early into directing. But all along it was ‘but I want to be making films.’ And there have been some false starts over the years: projects that I think are still good scripts that I tried to raise money for. It’s difficult, just incredibly difficult to raise private money when you haven’t done anything. You have some good theatre credits behind you but people look at you and they somehow can’t make the imaginative leap. It takes a little bit of time. So in some ways the film-maker in me was always there. It’s just that I also love the theatre. It was easier and cheaper to get into. By the time I got round to producing my own plays it was certainly a lot less expensive than producing anything on any kind of film. So it took me a little while and there were a couple of false starts along the way."
Where did you find the investment for Jekyll and Hyde?
"It’s still what I’m doing in some ways, although I am talking now, pitching some much larger budgeted scripts - as a matter of fact just a couple of days ago - to producers who are attached to larger, familiar Hollywood companies. I had some meetings in New York. So it has slowly cracked the door open, to be able to talk to some people. But basically I just went to rich people, I kept knocking on doors until somebody sat down long enough to say, ‘I think you’ve got something and I’ll take a risk with you. I’ll get involved.’ In some ways, maybe compared to some other film-makers, we were a little luckier there because it really didn’t take so long.
“We had the original Jekyll and Hyde investor pull out a month before shooting began. And this was devastating because when you’re working on such a tight budget, we planned it, like my theatre background, I just planned everything. The company had a little bit of money and the first stuff that was shot was the stuff in the Carew house. I had a little bit of money and I said: ‘If we delay we’re going to lose the momentum. We’re going to lose the actors that we’ve put together here at this stage, and we’ve booked the locations.’ We shot some of it in a museum and I said, ‘We’re going to lose this.’
“So I had a little bit of money and I found the investor that came through within a matter of three weeks. So the first investor took the better part of a year to find, talking to many people - and it was one person, interestingly enough, too. Some movies you have many people putting money in. But I’ve been lucky in the pictures so far that we have found people to come on board. So we found a guy, Terry Woods, who’s the executive producer, who said, ‘I see something great here.’ We had shot for a week actually! Because I had just enough money to begin shooting that August. We were shooting the location stuff because in Baltimore here on the East Coast we have a heat situation where it can get kind of brutal, and I wanted to make sure that we got the location stuff done first before we moved into the sets in the studio. Then we were very lucky, because within three weeks of meeting with Terry he said, ‘I’m in with you’ - and then we were able to do it."
Continue to Part 2 of this long interview, where Mark Redfield discusses the distribution of Jekyll and Hyde and the make-up he wears as Hyde
Official website: www.redfieldarts.com