In the nineties Tony Kaye made a name for himself as one of the brightest music video and advert directors in the UK. He went to America to make his debut feature film, American History X, before disowning the film and being blacklisted by Hollywood. Now he's back with high-school drama Detachment. He talks to Tom Seymour about his unconventional career path...
It’s 15 years since you made American History X. How does it feel to be back in the game?
It feels amazing. I’ve not felt like this for a long time. I’ve got several projects on the go now and I’m getting my phone calls taken. You’re right – I’m back in the game. But in a way, I’ve learnt so much from being in the wilderness. I made Detachment for one tenth of the money I needed for American History X. It’s a wonderful situation I’ve got now, and it feels like I don’t want to fall asleep. It feels like I’m beginning again, even though I’m 60.
When you reflect on the director who made American History X and the one who made Detachment (pictured below), what’s changed?
I pretty much accept everything that happens now as though it’s meant to happen, and I deal with it in a proactive way. In 1996, I’d punch a wall or throw a chair across the room. I was a f**king brat, I was a bit of an idiot and I was too much of a coward. Put it this way, I was the only person on my films that would end up in the infirmary.
But I’m not saying I was wrong. I didn’t know how to conduct myself to make it right, but in some ways maybe I was a better director then than I am now. That modus operandi I was operating – thank God it didn’t work. I’ve been in that situation a couple of times; I’ve behaved in a certain way, and it almost worked, and I was saved [because] it didn’t.
You started out on adverts and music videos. Is that a path you would recommend to young filmmakers?
I would say no. I would not recommend it, because if you want to make films, you need to be investing in writing stories, acting, staging, editing and learning how financing works. You need to make tiny little movies with tiny overheads. I had a slightly different journey, because I started off wanting to paint. I didn’t succeed at that, but through the commercial arts I found out I might be able to make films. I don’t know whether those opportunities still exist now.
How do you tune into your creativity?
I have a big swirling mess inside of me, and the only way I find respite from that is to create something. I could be playing a f**king recorder, but as long as I’m making use of every second then I feel OK. If I’m not, I’m impossible. It’s my bible. If I’m making a film, I’m getting pulled in every direction and I’m all over the place, but I’m relaxed. When the film wraps, I don’t know what to do with myself and I become impossible.
What’s your advice to young filmmakers?
You have to realise one thing – everything you want in life, you get. But you have to be very careful about what it is you want. Deep down, I wanted to be this crazy, mad director that nobody would want to work with. I became that, unfortunately. Now I want to be the opposite of that, and I hope I’ve got enough time to achieve that.
Detachment is released in cinemas today.
Image courtesy of david_shankbone.
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