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Kevin Connor (Director) - The Land That Time Forgot

Interview image

Kevin Connor is an English film and television director who was born in London on 24 September 1937. He started his movie career working in the sound departments of several movies, before moving on to become a cutter, editor, and finally a director. Connor has directed many popular movies and miniseries including The Land That Time Forgot, North and South: Book II, Mother Teresa: In the Name of God's Poor, Liz: The Elizabeth Taylor Story, Great Expectations, Motel Hell, The House Where Evil Dwells, The Return of Sherlock Holmes and In the Beginning. Darren Rea interviewed him as StudioCanal was about to reissue a number of his movies on DVD...

Darren Rea: StudioCanal has rereleased three of your classic movies on DVD (Warlords of Atlantis; The Land that Time Forgot; and At the Earth's Core) are you pleased that a new generation of viewers will get to see these classic movies?

Interview imageKevin Connor: Yes, I am quite amazed and pleased at the same time. It’s great to know that they won’t be forgotten and that a good quality DVD will be available.

DR: What where your thoughts when the UK's film industry started to collapse? Do you think it could have been saved; that we could still have a healthy industry today if we'd done things differently?

KC: That was the early '70s and I was editing in Soho. I remember the short weeks and power failures under Ted Heath. In 1973, I met up with Milton Subotsky at Shepperton Studios which was like a ghost town. I think the studio was being ‘asset stripped.’ It was run down and looked very sad. I started there in 1954 on a Val Guest movie.

Fortunately, out of that time of depression I got my first directing assignment from Milton and the bad economic times enabled us to get a fabulous array of top actors at reasonable fees. Donald Pleasance, Angela Pleasance, David Warner, Diana Dors, Ian Ogilvy, Leslie Ann Down, Maggie Leighton and Peter Cushing - just wonderful people. But in my experience the industry goes up and down and despite Union protests at the time the Government did nothing for us. Shepperton did recover eventually but it took several years.

DR: Your skills are still as in demand today as they've ever been. What do you think are the reasons that you've never been through a dry spell in your career?

Interview imageKC: Luck!! Well, I have had a few dry spells, but I can’t complain - I’m still having a great time. I just make the movies for the price and don’t go over budget. I don’t like working overtime - so I never do - it becomes unproductive after a while and accidents happen. I also always come in on schedule. Another trick is to get good actors and great technicians around you.

DR: What's the biggest problem being a director in today's climate?

KC: The competition - it’s enormous - and there’s so much talent around. But everyone wants to be a director and don’t want to do the years of graft learning the skills and craftsmanship. It’s great that anyone can make their own movies, edit them at home, add music, effects and so on - but of course they’ve got to be shown somewhere and get noticed. There’s the rub!

I had a lot of luck as well but that’s in the lap of the gods.

DR: Do you ever a wish for a return to the days when the Producer was king?

Interview imageKC: Yes - but only if he gets the money to make the picture and then leaves me alone so I can go and play. Seriously though, raising the money is the hardest part of making a movie.

DR: Of all your projects that you've worked on over the years, which are you most proud of and which has given you the most satisfaction?

KC: Some of my TV Mini-series have been my favourites. I have yet to make the feature that really satisfies me. The Land That Time Forgot was probably my favourite feature.

On the TV side - I’m proud of Frankenstein, Master of the Game, Great Expectations and The Old Curiosity Shop. They all gave me satisfaction. Miniseries can be as expensive as features and more demanding because of the speed at which you have to shoot them. Also, on the plus side, they always get shown to millions of people.

DR: Of all the actors you've worked with over the years, who would you work with again without hesitation?

Interview imageKC: Stacy Keach [pictured] is one of my favourites - so underrated. Jacqueline Bisset, Martin Landau, Brian Dennehy, David Warner, Pierce Brosnan, Christian Bale - the list is endless really.

I have only two actors that I wouldn’t want to work with again - I can’t name them obviously.

Otherwise I had nothing but a wonderful relationship with them all.

DR: If a movie were to be made of your life who would play the young you?

KC: In all modesty it has to be George Clooney or Steve Buscemi.

DR: Is it true that you're planning on making a movie on the life of Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle? If so why is this character so appealing to you?

KC: I was attached to an Arbuckle script a couple of years ago but unfortunately it never got off the ground. Very hard to find a young Arbuckle - and also not a subject that the studios here are keen to make. I believe HBO are making it, though.

What attracted me to it was the opening scene of the script which showed Arbuckle’s cans of finished movies (nitrate film) being used to start fires and explosions on the studio back-lot for other productions. What an image! It was also a tragic miscarriage of justice which took place along with the corrupt politics, corrupt police, weak Studio bosses, and sensationalized newspapers - just a tragic story.

It was a good script too.

Interview imageDR: What are you working on at the moment?

KC: I’m looking forward to directing a feature called Crossmaglen - a very fast and taut IRA thriller set during the early '80s in Ireland. We have a fantastic cast, Ben Kingsley, Vinnie Jones, Michael Gambon and first class crew lined up - but it’s been a difficult show to get off the ground.

I also have three other personal movies in the works Target Churchill - rather like Day of the Jackal - but set against Churchill’s visit to the States to give his ‘Iron Curtain Speech’. Michael Gambon has agreed to play the great man. A more ‘commercial’ script that I’m getting underway to be shot in North Carolina and entitled Agnes and the Hitman. A ‘rom-com’ as they say here!

And another favourite project, Connemara Days. A beautiful and funny script by Steve Mayhew which tells the story of two children who were extras in John Ford’s The Quiet Man [1952]. A delightful tale and a loving nod to an iconic film.

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With thanks to Monica Macasieb

The Land that Time Forgot, Warlords of Atlantis and At the Earth's Core are released through StudioCanal from 30 July 2012.

Click here to buy The Land that Time Forgot on DVD for £9.26 (RRP: £15.99)
Click here to buy Warlords of Atlantis on DVD for £9.29 (RRP: £15.99)
Click here to buy At the Earth's Core on DVD for £9.29 (RRP: £15.99)

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