In Conversation with Richard Donner, Director (2006)

Though he's now comfortably into his eighth decade, Richard Donner shows no signs of retirement. Not only does the director have his most satisfying action movie in over a decade in cinemas, but the rest of the summer is practically his greatest hits revisited.

The Empire Interview

by Olly Richards

“After all the movies I had made and all the money I had made the studios, I did one little unsuccessful picture and nobody wanted to hire me. I was the old fart.”

Though he’s now comfortably into his eighth decade, Richard Donner shows no signs of retirement, and if ever proof were needed of his continued relevance, 2006 provides it with ease. Not only does the director have his most satisfying action movie in over a decade in cinemas, but the rest of the summer is practically his greatest hits revisited. Next month, The Omen 666 gives a modern sheen to his 1976 horror classic; a month later, one of the most anticipated films of the year, Superman Returns, expands the blueprint set by his original outing for the Man In Tights. Those films’ respective directors, John Moore and Bryan Singer, have both expressed their reverence for Donner’s work.
Not that everything throughout his career has gone Donner’s way. An early career in acting amounted to little more than a guest spot on The Man From U.N.C.L.E., but it did at least lead to his first directing opportunities. He spent almost 20 years directing TV (his most famous outing being Nightmare At 20,000 Feet, an episode of The Twilight Zone starring William Shatner that was later remade for The Twilight Zone: The Movie) before he got the opportunity to move to the larger screen. Even then, it took four tries before he got a hit. Since he hit with The Omen, he’s rarely looked backDonner’s had success in virtually every genre, from action to comedy to horror to thriller to children’s adventure, with any combination of those in between. Up to the mid-’90s he was one of the most reliable filmmakers in Hollywood, until he hit a run of flops starting with Assassins.
Upon the release of his 21st film, 16 Blocks, in which Bruce Willis plays a cop protecting a key witness on the gritty streets of Manhattan, we sent Senior Staff Writer Oily Richards to New York to speak with Donner about the highs, the lows and shaving Gene Hackman.
“The thing that’s most striking about Richard Donner is his overwhelming positivity,” says Richards. “Even when discussing his bad times he never bemoans his lot. Before our first meeting in New York, the city had experienced some of its worst snowfall in years. Rather than moan about the weather, he enthused about how the enforced extra days in the Big Apple would mean one of the best times of his life. He’s also a hell of a talker. A planned 15-minute catch­up a few weeks later turned into an hour-long chat, after a PR who tried to cut the interview short was ordered to ‘leave the kid alone’…”

EMPIRE: 16 Blocks is a film that’s brought you back to your birthplace. It’s a very New York film. Would you consider it a love story to your home city?

DONNER: Now you mention it, a lot of it is memories of my childhood. When you’re young in New York, people are bigger than you and what you can see is really compressed. I tried very hard to get that into this film, that you were claustrophobic in the city. Even when we moved around we kept it quite tight, so that you got a sense of these people being in this very claustrophobic place.

EMPIRE: You made the film in less than a year, but you had trouble getting it made, didn’t you?

DONNER: In the beginning nobody wanted to hire me. I was the old fart. After all the movies I had made and all the money I had made the studios, I made one little unsuccessful picture called Timeline and all of a sudden they wanted to buy 16 Blocks, but they didn’t want me. I said, “Screw them.” It was my project, I loved it and I knew what to do with it. We suffered through that for a couple of months until Millennium Films said that if we could get a bankable actor then they’d put up the money.

EMPIRE: And you settled on Bruce Willis as your bankable actor.

DONNER: He, in a strange way, stood out as the most exciting because he’s an adventurous actor and has played unusual roles — The Fifth Element, Twelve Monkeys; a lot of actors wouldn’t do those roles. So we knew he was adventurous. But would he be adventurous enough to step out of the macho mould and play an alcoholic, depressed, old, suicidal individual? As soon as he got the script he called and said, “I love it.” From that moment on it fell into place and we ran like hell.

EMPIRE: In preparing the movie, did you think about any connections to Mel Gibson’s character in Lethal Weapon? You’ve got Bruce as a suicidal cop, who is maybe an extension of Martin Riggs?

DONNER: I hadn’t thought of that until just now. I never thought of that but you’re right, same arc. I should have thought of it, but it never occurred to me. That was a long time ago. I’m sorry you brought that up, I’m really depressed now. (laughs) What came out of Mel’s character was this rage and his ability to do almost anything out of the rage. Out of Bruce’s character’s depression come anguish and not wanting to live.

EMPIRE: Lethal Weapon, and indeed Mel Gibson, have been the most constant things in your career. You’ve done four of those movies. Did you keep coming back because of the characters or the cast?

DONNER: I love the cast. Mel Gibson and Danny Glover were two… well, there’s no way to describe how great they are to work with and what wonderful human beings they are. They’re crazy, both of them, absolutely nuts, but a delight to work with. It just happened, I don’t know how. We did one thinking that was going to be its own entity, we never thought of sequels. It had success and the studio said they’d love to have a second one. So we sat down and thought, “Where the hell do we go from there?” We added Joe Pesci, in 3 we added Mel’s wife (Rene Russo) and in 4 we added Chris Rock. They were fun to do.

EMPIRE: And who initiated all the sequels?

DONNER: The studio said they wanted another and the audience wanted it, so what the hell. We started to make it much more entertaining than issue-driven. But under the guise of entertainment we hit a lot of things. We hit apartheid, we hit no fur, we hit pro-choice, we hit the anti-gun lobby. We snuck a lot of things in under the guise of entertainment and that’s a nice thing to do.

EMPIRE: So the transformation from the dark thriller of the first into flat-out comedy in the sequels was deliberate?

DONNER: Yes. Shane Black wrote a phenomenal script for the first film. I had been offered a lot of action films and most of them were just plain gratuitous action, which a lot of them are today. What he had written into it was this evolution, this arc of a very dark character that found the light. And it was fascinating. But then working with the actors as people, I realised they had this wonderful sense of humour and great respect for each other, almost coy. So when the second one came around, knowing their humour, I decided I wanted to bring some of their humour into the piece. And that was Joe Pesci’s introduction.

EMPIRE: But in Shane’s original script for the sequel, Mel Gibson’s character died at the end…

DONNER: He did die, but that would be hard to make into a comedy, wouldn’t it?

EMPIRE: Have you followed Shane’s career since? Have you seen Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang?

DONNER: I thought it was wonderful and I don’t know why it wasn’t more successful. When I first saw it I thought it was going to be a major, major, major hit. I don’t know what happened. It had me in hysterics, it had me on the edge of my seat. I thought, “What an unusual, good time to have.” I thought it was better than the pictures that won Academy Awards. I don’t know what happened to it.

EMPIRE: Well, it did okay in Britain, and Empire readers gave it an award for Best Thriller.

DONNER: Good, well done to your readers.

EMPIRE: Was the chemistry between you, Mel and Danny on Lethal Weapon immediate?

DONNER: A relationship was established straight away, but it grew and grew across the four films. I’m in the process of developing another film with Mel and we’ve already done six together. It evolves if you’re having a good time. Sometimes you’re making a film and you can’t wait for it to end, and that’s a terrible feeling. In other films it’s like a wonderful family and all of a sudden it ends and you’re in divorce and it’s very painful. I think I knew from the first reading of the script with Mel and Danny that it was going to be great. Don’t forget that I tried to do two other films with Mel much earlier. I wanted Mel to be in Ladyhawke and that didn’t happen, and then I had a wonderful film called Shanghai Tango that I was going to do with Mel and Debra Winger. So we had a good relationship before — it didn’t come out of the blue.

EMPIRE: When did Mel first come to your attention?

DONNER: I’d seen him in Mad Max. It wasn’t Mad Max, by the way—they misspelled that movie — it was Mad Mel. I thought he was fascinating and had met him someplace, somewhere, and then when the script for Ladyhawke came to me, which my wife (producer Lauren Schuler Donner) brought me — she wasn’t my wife at the time but she hired me as a director — we both said, “Oh my God, Mel Gibson!” We had a lot of discussions on it, but at the time maybe he was a little afraid to do period pieces. And then, of course, later on he turned around and did Braveheart, one of the greatest period pieces of all time. But you meet someone like Mel Gibson and that’s a meeting that will be part of your life forever.

EMPIRE: You worked with him on Maverick and Conspiracy Theory as well. Was Maverick just an excuse for the pair of you to have some fun?

DONNER: Well, I got a call one day from Mel and he asked if I remembered Maverick. I said, “Of course, everyone remembers Maverick.” He said they were developing a screenplay and would I like to direct it? It was out of nowhere, but it was written by William Goldman (The Princess Bride), and I’m a huge fan of William Goldman. So I was on board immediately. That came straight from Mel, he hired me.

EMPIRE: Jodie Foster was an unusual choice of leading lady there. It’s probably the lightest role we’ve seen her in. How do you get her on board?

DONNER: We approached her and at first she said she didn’t want to do it, but Mel’s charm came in and she said she’s do it the first day she met him. Nobody is immune to the Mel Gibson charm. It was a hysterical shoot. The two of them were magic, they really melted together and Jodie has the wildest sense of humour. There are a lot of actors that play these ominous, down­trodden people on screen, but in real life are just the opposite. Jodie Foster is charming, delightful and has a great sense of humour. I love to hang with her.

EMPIRE: Your last film with Mel, Conspiracy Theory, came at a time when your films weren’t being received as well as they once were. Conspiracy Theory did decent box office, but the film before it, Assassins, was the first time you experienced a real critical beating.

DONNER: Assassins, I thought Stallone did one of the best jobs he’s ever done. He totally underplayed, he was quiet, he found the character and he went with it. I thought Antonio Banderas was wonderful. The picture came out, and it did not do very well at all. (laughs) Sure, it hurts and you know why you wish it would do better? The studio gave you a lot of money and you want them to make their money back so that other people can make movies. When we made The Omen, that money Alan Ladd was able to spend at Fox to do Star Wars. So you feel good about that. Not only is your picture a success, but it helps other people too. Warners have been really good to us and gave us money to make that movie. And I thought we did a good job and they thought we did a good job, but the audiences and critics didn’t like it. Did I feel bad? Sure. Did it get me down? Nope, nope, nope — too lucky to be in this business to be down in the dumps.

EMPIRE: An interesting thing about Assassins is that it was written by the Wachowskis, of Matrix fame. Did you work much with them?

DONNER: Not too much. They wrote a script that I think was just lying around, which was found by Joel Silver — I use that name and I have to spit three times. I don’t get along with him as I’m sure you well know, most people don’t. Anyway, I wanted to make some changes to it and I don’t think they were too happy with the changes I made, but I made their script, I made their movie. I thanked them for it and I wished them luck when they made The Matrix.

EMPIRE: They’ve built this mystique around themselves now. Were they normal guys at the time?

DONNER: Yeah, kind of. I remember one moment when I had an argument with them. We were talking about making the police a worthy adversary by making them a little brighter and they said, “No, we don’t want to do it.” I asked why and they said, “Because the only good cop is a dead cop.” I said, “Oh come on, you don’t mean that,” and we had this argument. From thereon in I kind of lost whatever I had for them. I didn’t believe them and I think it was an affectation. They certainly weren’t brought up in street gangs in Chicago. So that kind of ended it. But that’s only a moment and they went on and were incredibly successful and their talent was extraordinary and still is. I wish them luck and hope they were somewhat happy with the end result of Assassins, but I never did hear from them.

EMPIRE: You mentioned Joel Silver briefly there…

DONNER: Yes, very briefly, and let’s not bring it up again. We try not to swear! (Laughs)

EMPIRE: Okay, a producer you like more, then. Let’s talk about you and Steven Spielberg and The Goonies.

DONNER: Oh, that was great. Steven and I were close, we were good friends and had a lot to talk about. And we both loved the project. I don’t know if it was the time or what, but The Goonies had its own wonderful sense of reality, that these kids in their own little moments of boredom in this small community found a mission in life, which was to save their small community. The way they went about doing it was just wonderful and it hit kids through generations and years to come.

EMPIRE: Why do you think that is?

DONNER: Hell if I know. If I knew and I could put the formula down you’d be talking to me on my yacht in the Caribbean. That film gave me the opportunity to work with a type of actor I had never had the opportunity to work with before, and that was kids. I learned more from those kids than I think I’ve ever learned from anyone in the business.

EMPIRE: In what sense?

DONNER: Well, there was all this natural instinct, untainted and uncontaminated, and the things that came out of them were so pure and so honest and so in character. If I got anything out of it, I got that working with children versus working with ‘professional actors’, I’ll take kids any day of the year.

EMPIRE: So you’ve had some tricky times with ‘grown up’ actors then?

DONNER: Now, how do I characterise an actor? If you see Superman II, on the desk behind E. G. Marshall, who plays the President of the United States, is a bust of Abraham Lincoln. I stole that and I have it in my office. People come in and say, “Hey, you have Lincoln there because he was a great man and a great President.” I say, “No, I have him there because it always reminds me that an actor killed him.”

EMPIRE: And what’s the closest an actor’s come to killing you?

DONNER: Gene Hackman (who played Lex Luthor in Superman) almost killed me, but it ended up a laugh. When I was hiring Hackman, and Marlon Brando was already hired for his role (Jor-El, Superman’s dad), I happened to be in LA on my way to England and is had the chance to meet Gene. I met him at his place and we talked about how he’d wear a skull cap to play Lex, who’s bald, and he said, “No way.” I was growing a moustache at the time and he had one too, so I said, “At least you’ll lose the moustache.” “Nope, moustache stays.” So I went back to England. Two months later I’d shaved my moustache and figured out how to get around the skull cap, and I asked Stuart Freeborn, the great English make-up artist, if Gene had his moustache still. He said yes and I was like, “Oh shit.” So I had him put a moustache on me and I go up to make-up and Gene is there. I said, “It’s okay, we can make the skull cap work, the hair’s going to work, but the moustache has to go.” He said, “Moustache stays.” So I said, “Okay, tell you what, you take yours off, I’ll take mine off.” And he looked at me. I told him to shave his off while he was in the chair and I’d shave mine off straight afterwards. So Gene shaves off his moustache—he’s shaking, but he shaves it off—and then Gene looks at me and says, “You next.” So then I reach up and rip off this moustache and his neck went from a size 16.5 to an 18. He was throbbing and he was going to punch me out right on the spot. But the real Gene Hackman came out a moment later and he burst out laughing. And then I fell in love with Gene Hackman.

EMPIRE: That brings us nicely to Superman. Did you go after that or was it brought to you?

DONNER: I was home on a Sunday morning, sitting on the john after a bad Saturday night. The phone rings and this guy says, “This is Alexander Salkind.”I said, “What do you want? It’s Sunday.” He said, “Do you know who I am?” I said no. He said, “I’m one of the most important producers in the United States.” Well, I’d never heard of him and I told him so. He said, “Did you see The Three Musketeers? I produced that.” I said, “Oh, and you produced The Four Musketeers. I’ve heard of you. You didn’t pay them for the second one and you tried to get away with it…” Then he asked me to direct Superman and said he’d give me a million dollars. I thought this guy had to be some nut. A million dollars was like all the tea in China. Little did I know it was going to be two pictures and take four years of my life. So he said he was going to send me the script and I wrote everything he said down on a little card: Marlon Brando: 2.5 weeks; Gene Hackman: 8.5 weeks; the name of the director who’d dropped out. I put it all on a little card, which I now have framed. I got the zeroes wrong on the million because I’d never written a million before. Then, later that day, this telephone book of a script arrived, because it was two movies. God, it was so badly written. The essence was there but it was terrible. There were things like Superman flying down to look for Lex Luthor and tapping this guy on the shoulder and the guy turns around and it’s Telly Savalas, who says, “Who d’ya love, baby?” It was two guys from Hungary who had a Costa Rican passport, where they had never been, and they had an English director shooting in Italy. I called my agent and said I had to do it this just to save this piece of American culture. The end result I was thrilled with. Tough shoot though.

EMPIRE: It could have been tougher, though. You were making it in the pre-internet days, before fans were discussing every decision that was made. Did you feel any kind of fan pressure?

DONNER: No, not really. Didn’t get on with the producers though. It was just (creative consultant) Tom Mankiewicz and I. We didn’t get on with the producers at all, wouldn’t let them on the set, hence them firing me from the completion of two. We were American kids, brought up on Superman, over there doing it. I have a sign in my office which has Superman and his cape spelling out “verisimilitude”, and we were trying to keep that as an ethos — how we remembered Superman, how we remembered Krypton and how we remembered Metropolis. It was our mission to keep it honest.

EMPIRE: What actually happened between you and the producers to make them fire you from Superman II? When did the animosity start?

DONNER: It started the day I met them. I wasn’t going to do it and then they started imposing a lot of restrictions that weren’t very bright, by my standards. By trying to save a dollar, they ended up hurting the end result and also making the end result cost more! In my eyes they were really not picture makers. They cared more about making a dollar than making a good film.

EMPIRE: How much of the film do you think you shot? I’ve heard anything from 50 to 80 per cent.

DONNER: I don’t know. Percentages are for pollsters, but we shot a good amount of film.

EMPIRE: And what are your thoughts on Warner Bros.’ plans to release ‘The Richard Donner Cut’ on DVD later this year?

DONNER: It’s a strange feeling. It’s a long time ago and I guess enough people wanted to see it so much that Warner Bros, wanted to go ahead and finish my version. Of course, a lot of it couldn’t be finished because a lot of it couldn’t be found and a lot of it wasn’t shot.

EMPIRE: So how can they even put it together?

DONNER: What they’ve done is, there were a couple of wonderful scenes of disclosures of Superman to Lois Lane. They decided not to use them in the cinema release and one of them I never shot except for screen tests, one for Margot (Kidder) and one for Christopher Reeve. It was the revelation when Lois finds out that Superman is Clark Kent. But they were on screen tests and not done in any way that you would do a real shoot. They’ve cut them both together and they will be in the release of the DVD as a scene, with a disclaimer saying this was two screen tests that were filmed for a scene that was supposed to be in the movie but was never shot.

EMPIRE: Presumably you’re not involved with putting this together?

DONNER: Well, I am to this respect. They’ve been very respectful. I’ve tried to give them the best input I can, but my feeling is it’s hard because I look at it and think, “Man, I wouldn’t shoot it like that today.” So it’s hard to go back to how I did it then and why. But I have tried to help them as best I can. They’ve got a great editor and director, Michael Thaw, and this is his cut, it’s his work, and give him all the credit for it.

EMPIRE: Did you ever see the cut of Superman II that was released?

DONNER: I didn’t see it. I saw part of it. I could have fought to have my name on it as a director, but I decided against it.

EMPIRE: Have you never been curious to see it?

DONNER: No. They chose to take a good piece of material and treat it tastelessly.

EMPIRE: And now, of course, the sequel you never finished is getting a sequel of its own with Superman Returns. Is it true that Bryan Singer came to you for your approval before he made the film?

DONNER: Bryan is a wonderful young director and a terrific kid. He did X-Men with my wife Lauren producing. She told me that Bryan and the two writers would sit in a trailer during their breaks and watch Superman and I couldn’t believe it. I thought they were kidding. But these guys would quote stuff from Superman that I couldn’t remember in a million years. Then I guess they went through a lot of machinations with a lot of directors who weren’t right for it. There was Brett someone…

EMPIRE: You mean Brett Ratner, who made X-Men 3?

DONNER: Oh shit, you’re right. (laughs) Anyway, guys who were wrong for it, who were just shooters. Then into their life came Bryan Singer, who was passionate about it. Bryan called me and said he’d had the offer and he wanted to know what I thought. And I said I thought it was going to be the best thing that had happened to Superman in the last 25 years.

EMPIRE: So you’re excited to see it, as a fan?

DONNER: Bryan has just been great about it and he’s a terrific director, but I want to see it as an audience member. I haven’t spoken to him about it, haven’t seen a frame. I just want to sit in the audience and be, “Oooh, wow!”

EMPIRE: Is there any part of you that would have liked to revisit Superman again, with all that current technology allows?

DONNER: No, I did it. This is Bryan Singer’s time. He’s bringing something totally fresh and new and exciting and well beyond me.

EMPIRE: Let’s go back and talk about your early days. You originally started as an actor. Were you seriously pursuing that as a career or was it just a step to directing?

DONNER: I did want to carry on as an actor because I didn’t know any different, but when I had the opportunity to make the transition, it was the chance of a lifetime.

EMPIRE: How did you get that chance?

DONNER: Well, it was way back as an assistant for Martin Ritt, a great director. Then gradually I got other jobs and met a wonderful man who was a commercial film- and documentary- maker — he had a heart attack at 35.1 went to work for him as his assistant. His work introduced me to film and gradually he allowed me to direct my first commercial and then to direct some documentaries. I knew that was where I wanted to be.

EMPIRE: And was it from there that you acquired the habit of jumping between genres? You seem to very rarely visit the same one twice.

DONNER: Totally. I was so fortunate in TV because there were a lot of guys who would do a half-hour Western or something and that would be what they did all the time, they couldn’t get out of it. There were a lot of guys who did melodramas. They were great directors, but they never got out of melodramas. For some crazy friggin’ reason I got offered all these offbeat things, from The Man From U.N.C.L.E. to Gilligan’s Island to Naked City. I loved doing it and I could bring something fresh to it in some strange way. I used to refuse to do multiple shows just so that I could go off and do something different. I didn’t need the bucks in those days, I’d get by on 11 cents. It worked for me, so when I got into pictures it was the same thing. I really kind of sought out things that were different.

EMPIRE: The move to pictures wasn’t immediately successful. You had three films before you had a hit. Did that frustrate you?

DONNER: I wasn’t really struggling to break out. Every time I went back to TV, I was happy to go back. I had a great time. I did (space drama) X-15 as the first one and bang, it put me right back into TV. I did some great TV. Sammy Davis and Peter Lawford offered me the chance to develop my second film, Salt And Pepper. That got a sequel but not by me — I went back to TV and had the time of my life. It was really great. I figured, if a feature comes along, super, if not I’ve got TV. Then Charlie Bronson, who I did X-15 with, was doing this film, Twinky, about an American writer in England who marries a 16 year-old girl. I loved it. But when The Omen happened and I sat in the audience of that movie in England, I knew I wasn’t going back.

EMPIRE: The Omen is the second of your films being revisited this year. There’s a sort of Richard Donner revival going on…

DONNER: (laughs) Yeah, I’m an old fart.

EMPIRE: How do you feel about your work being remade?

DONNER: Hey, good luck. It was a great film, it was wonderful at its time. If they feel — and I guess they did — that it is worth a remake some 25 years later, wow, you feel good about it.

EMPIRE: Presumably, given that it’s such a long time since your version, you don’t feel as if someone’s messing with your baby anymore? John Moore, the director of The Omen 666, has said he’s going to stay very faithful…

DONNER: That’s kinda nice. Did he say that? Well, that’s great.

EMPIRE: The Omen seems to be a film where everything went right. It rocketed you to a new career and it’s still loved to this day. It didn’t start like that, though, did it?

DONNER: It was a genre horror film to start with, but David Seltzer had written a really interesting script. It was called The Antichrist at the time, and had been turned down by every studio in town. It was going to be dropped and then I had the opportunity to read it. I thought that it was a good premise, but the treatment was wrong. It had devil gods and cloven hooves and demonic beings… I just thought, “This is impossible. None of this is reality. Why don’t we treat it as a coincidence, a terrible, horrible coincidence?” How many days in your life can you say that this is the worst day of your life? In Gregory Peck’s life this was the worst day of his life and it drove him insane. How else could he bring a knife up to kill a child? It was all mass coincidence — the lightning hitting, the woman falling out of the window, the decapitation of David Warner. It could all be coincidental. So if you treat it as coincidence rather than a Satanic thing happening that’s pre-ordained, then you’ve got something interesting. It’s edgy and it’s unreal. Alan Ladd was then president of Fox, I had the opportunity to see him and I said, “I have this script.” He read it and called me and said, “If you get rid of the obvious, you’ve got a great picture.” So we went ahead and made a picture that had been turned down by all the studios because nobody looked at it and realised there was another way of making it. My career, thanks to that and thanks to Ladd, took off overnight.

EMPIRE: Who decided to change the name? The Antichrist is rather on the nose…

DONNER: They decided to change the name from The Antichrist because there was a whole born-again community in the United States and they wanted to stay away from them. Then they came up with The Mark, but that was no good because people might think of disfiguring marks and it would be distasteful. Then somebody came up with The Omen and it was great. It says everything. It’s an omen, you’ve been warned.

EMPIRE: Everything seemed to come together perfectly on that movie, from finding the right kid to Jerry Goldsmith’s score. But I’m sure it actually wasn’t that easy, was it?

DONNER: Yes, it all comes easy, truly. If things are going right it all comes easy. That kid, we were looking all over London and nobody seemed right, and that kid was just a school kid who kind of stood out in the crowd. Then there was Jerry Goldsmith’s score. The movie was done for $2,025,000, and we didn’t have money for Jerry Goldsmith. We basically had $5,000 set aside for the score and he cost $25,000. So I went to Alan Ladd and we showed him the picture and he thought it was great. I said we needed money for Jerry Goldsmith and he said, “You got it.” You can make pictures a problem — every picture’s hard, but there are different ways of attacking it. If you attack it on the basis that everything is solvable, everything can he fixed. If you attack in on a good basis, it’s a joy to make movies. The minute it isn’t, you better get out.

EMPIRE: So no plans for retirement yet, then?

DONNER: Loving every second. 16 Blocks was a delight, I had a great time. The end result was great for me. When it’s not I’m splitting. As soon as I realise I’m not having fun, I’m on the beach in Maui, baby.

Source: Empire, June 2006; pp. 111-116


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