Errol Flynn (Kevin Kline) Beverly Aadland (Dakota Fanning) toast in The Last of Robin Hood: "And behind this facade of strength is actually someone who is thinking twice."
We continue our conversation with directors Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland, discussing Stanley Kubrick's Lolita connection to Errol Flynn, costume designer Orry-Kelly's role beyond the likes of Katharine Hepburn, Bette Davis and Ethel Barrymore in Hollywood, and the palettes in Otto Preminger's Bonjour Tristesse, Richard Quine's Strangers When We Meet and Alfred Hitchcock's North By Northwest. Kevin Kline, Dakota Fanning and Susan Sarandon with Matt Kane, Bryan Batt and Max Casella star in The Last Of Robin Hood.
Anne-Katrin Titze: When I spoke with Jane Pollard and Iain Forsyth about 20,000 Days On Earth, which is their documentary on Nick Cave, little did I expect that your film and theirs would have something in common. And that is Vladimir Nabokov's Lolita. Nick Cave's father used to read Lolita to him as a boy.
Directors Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland of The Last Of Robin Hood starring Kevin Kline, Dakota Fanning and Susan Sarandon: "We looked for the palette of late Technicolor movies around 1959." Photo: Anne-Katrin Titze
Wash Westmoreland: Wow!
AKT: And in your film there is the Stanley Kubrick audition scene with Flynn.
WW: It's a fascinating real-life detail. It's not in any of the biographies. We learned of it from Ronnie Shedlo (Matt Kane). He was Errol Flynn's secretary and he was a character in our movie. He was only two years older than Beverly [Aadland]. He was 17 when he was working for Flynn. He went on to become a movie producer who produced The Day Of The Locust and Carrington. He was very successful and lived in England. We met him shortly before he passed away. He was very interested in the project and read our script. He told us this detail.
I was making comparisons with Lolita that was just published at the time and he goes - 'Oh yeah, Kubrick wanted Errol Flynn for Humbert Humbert.' We were like 'what?' And he told us about driving them up there, told us what the car was, and they went to a production trailer for, I think it was Spartacus, the movie. Kubrick was interested in Flynn but Flynn wanted Beverly to play Lolita and Kubrick wasn't interested in Beverly.
AKT: Because she was too old?
WW: We inserted that. There was a level of irony. I think Sue Lyons was 15, playing a 13 year-old in Lolita. So yeah, Beverly was slightly too old to play Lolita at that point. The levels of irony that came down on that one were kind of amazing.
Wash Westmoreland directing Kevin Kline's Errol Flynn death scene with Dakota Fanning looking on.
AKT: I liked how you directed colors. Three colors were very precisely placed. 1950s hues, the red, green and yellow resemble the girls' dresses in On The Town ten years earlier.
WW: We looked for the palette of late Technicolor movies around 1959. Movies like Bonjour Tristesse, the Otto Preminger movie, that has a beautiful palette. There's a movie by Richard Quine called Strangers When We Meet and also North By Northwest has a beautiful palette. It's as real as Technicolor got with the three-strip process but certain colors have a really strong response.
The reds really pop out. So usually, within the palette red is very restricted and just used for special things and that's what we tried to do as well. Keep red out and play with autumnal colors, look at the way they were photographed and process the film digitally to find an inner glow. There was a dullness to the colors but also a sense of specialness, like an old Kodachrome slide.
AKT: What probably surprised me most in your film was the portrayal of Orry-Kelly (Bryan Batt) [at his funeral, Cary Grant, Tony Curtis, Billy Wilder and George Cukor were pallbearers]. I know him as the man who designed Bette Davis's costumes and for Katharine Hepburn her Broadway debut. And Ethel Barrymore's stage wardrobe. The one who won Academy Awards for Some Like It Hot and An American In Paris. As Orry-Kelly who did the costumes for Pat And Mike and Casablanca - but not as somebody who would facilitate for Errol Flynn to find a young girl. Where did that part of the story come from?
WW: In Florence Aadland's book The Big Love, that's where we first learned of Orry-Kelly's role. They [Flynn and Orry-Kelly] were both Australian and I think they had a connection and I guess that's what led to this closeness that he could ask Orry to do something like this.
AKT: What was the first filmic encounter you remember having with Errol Flynn? Was it Robin Hood?
Beverly Aadland (Dakota Fanning) with Ronnie Shedlo (Matt Kane): "He was Errol Flynn's secretary and went on to become a movie producer."
WW: For me, yes, Robin Hood. As a boy seeing Robin Hood. Then, you know, we are disciples of Turner Classic Movies and we have seen most of Flynn's films. Certain ones, Elizabeth And Essex [The Private Lives Of Elizabeth And Essex directed by Michael Curtiz 1939] for instance, is a really good film. We know his work as an actor but our real entry point into the story, was through Florence's book. That is what initially grabbed our interest because it is such an unusual storytelling experience.
AKT: In what way? What, would you say, is so unusual about it?
WW: Well, the genre would be a true-life tell-all story. It's from the mother's point of view telling the story of Beverly's relationship with Errol Flynn. But it's not so much what's in the lines than what's between the lines that's really interesting. There's a quality to the story where there's actually many layers behind what's on the page.
Richard Glatzer: She is a classic unreliable narrator.
AKT: In the film you show that she doesn't know everything her daughter does.
Max Casella as Stanley Kubrick: "Flynn wanted Beverly to play Lolita and Kubrick wasn't interested in Beverly."
WW: Also she doesn't allow herself to know everything. She employs a kind of willful blindness. I think that is true of so many of these situations where you see an inappropriate relationship form between an underage person and a star. The parents often are blinkered to really seeing what's going on by the bright lights of Hollywood.
AKT: There is a line - "mothers see what mothers want to see." Who says this in your film?
WW: Errol Flynn says it to his lawyer.
AKT: I have one more question…
WW: Oh, we could talk all day.
AKT: There is a scene where I felt the present was invading the past. A little boy sitting amidst a group of adults listening to Flynn is staring down at his little toy. The iPad of the 1950s?
WW: You know, that's what we said on set. We love that young actor [Christopher Nathan Miller]. He delivers that line about 'did you have a two-way mirror on your ceiling' so brilliantly, because that's part of Flynn's myth. It's one of those things little boys are really curious about.
But we kind of thought, setting up the shot - what did kids do before they had computers? And our props person said 'oh those little maze things with the ball bearing'. I was like 'can you get one?' She said 'give me five minutes'. She came back with this little round thing. She's this really amazing prop person, Katrina [Rice, who also plays Stanley Kubrick's secretary].
Richard Glatzer with Susan Sarandon as Florence Aadland on the set of The Last Of Robin Hood
Of course, the kid didn't know what it was and then he got into it. And he's just there with the adults all around him and he is in his own world. I'm so glad you noticed that.
AKT: Thank you very much.
WW: Can't we have more questions? That was my favorite interview.
Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland are currently working on finishing their latest film Still Alice with Julianne Moore, Kate Bosworth and Kristen Stewart for a special presentation at the Toronto Film Festival.
In part 1 of our conversation: Kevin Kline's derring-do portrayal of Errol Flynn, what links Dakota Fanning and Susan Sarandon to Marjorie Morningstar, Gene Kelly, Groucho Marx and John Huston.
The Last of Robin Hood opens in the US on August 29.