Bill Kenwright: My life is films. From the earliest age all I wanted to be was a film star. I wanted to be Errol Flynn in Objective Burma. I wanted to be Stewart Granger in Scaramouche. My Gran, my Mum or my Aunty Bet used to take me on a Friday night.
Where was that?
In Liverpool. I remember seeing Flight to Tangier at the Cabbage Hall and they showed the middle reel first, the black reel second and then the last one. I didn't care.
Do you remember what it
Oh horrible, they were flea-pits. Threepence to get in and they smelt terrible.
Yet it was magical?
All I can tell you is, I hear and see that horse coming down the screen and see "George Stevens' Shane" on the screen and I cry. It's just like my best friend. Anyone I love, I say, "Just sit and watch this and this bit here and that bit there."
Which particular bits?
All of it. The thing about Shane is that it's positive. It's so epic and wonderfully, magnificently, navely, stupidly epic when he says, "Call me Shane." The music comes in and the little boy's eyes light up and I...
Yes. Spielberg says that he looks at all of his movies through the eyes of a child. I suppose I see everything through Brandon de Wilde's eyes. Then you see Shane for the first time and he's pointing the gun and you just go, yeh, that's what it's all about. And Alan Ladd getting off his horse preparing for the baddies to arrive. That's the wonderful thing: it's still baddies and goodies. Jean Arthur and Brandon de Wilde, and he's saying "Get off my land," and Shane just appears at the side, and they say "Who are you, stranger?" and he says, "I'm a friend of Starad's." They ride off and Starad turns around and says, "Gee, I'm sorry, won't you stay for dinner." "Oh, I haven't introduced myself. My name is Joe Starad. What's your Name?" "Call me Shane."
Are you a witness to what's happening?
Definitely, even as I describe it to you, I'm there. I'm probably Brandon de Wilde.
And it's real?
It's everything. I'm a personal mess, but I believe there is a Shane, who says "Come on." Whoever he is, he'll say "I've got one for you. Here's Blood Brothers", or "Here's Peter Hall for you." You might be down but there's always going to be that man on the horse coming.
So do you call up that image, like someone else would call up God or an angel? Is it inspirational?
No, I don't call up an image of Shane. However, the second I think of anything good and pure, I automatically think, Shane. So it is an image one can call up. There are certain things in life you are just faithful to, and Shane just is my film. I bought Alan Ladd's costume at Sotheby's. It's at home in a big case in my study with all the photos round about it.
Do you often watch it?
Yes. I sit and wait for the special moments, like when she's putting little Joe to bed and Shane is in the next room. Little Joe says: "Mum, can I tell you something? I just love Shane." It's wonderful. Or the sexiest scene in the history of cinema, right at the end, when she touches Shane to say goodbye. It's so sexy, because nothing happened between them. I'm convinced he's going to come back at the end when he rides off. And Brandon de Wilde is screaming, "Come back Shane, Dad wants you back, Mum loves you." I know he's coming back to little Joe.
So is that your story? Is that
the story you have taken for your life?
It's not untrue, that statement, but I also want to be the hero, to be Shane who rides in and sorts out the problem. I'd love to be everybody's hero. The film has moments of incredible love between men. Not homosexual, just love. The scene where they both chop down the wooden stump outside. The scene when they are fighting and turn round and give each other "that" look. It's pure love. You know, like I feel for men, like I feel for my football team, like I feel for women, too. It transcends sex. George Stevens is not saying, "This is real"; of course he's not. The music isn't real, the way he shoots isn't real. What he is saying is, "This is how it should be." The goodies come and they get rid of the baddies. And there's always one baddy who becomes a goody. Ben Johnson comes to Shane and says, "You beat me fair and square. You're going into town tonight and there's a stacked deck against you, and I just wanted to warn you." There's nothing in the whole film that doesn't add up. Life has to add up: the baddies are all dead; little Joe is sad, but Shane's going to come back; Jean Arthur stays with Van Heflin, whom she loves. She sees Shane, and sees what life could have been, and he sees her, but he's a loner. Maybe I'm a loner, too. I've never really had a relationship that has worked for ever.
And I close my eyes during the bad bits, like the fight. The fact is that I know Alan Ladd is little but it doesn't matter to me, because he's Shane. Eastwood obviously wanted the re-make rights, but ended up making a movie called Pale Rider. It's Shane. I thought, "How dare you do that." I was furious. That's my film. At least acknowledge it. I'm still furious. It's not honourable. If you're going to re-make Shane, then re-make Shane. Don't screw around with greatness.
There are others. From time to time, when I walk out of the cinema I feel like I've lost a friend because it's over. What links my most important films is the theme of overcoming odds. Rocky: you can't understand a word of what he says but by God does it mean something at the end of the film. There's a reality about the film I love. He says, "If I can just be standing when the final bell goes, I'll know I'm a winner." I know the manipulation of emotions in films.
Are you very realistic?
I've got my feet on the ground but my head in the clouds. I dream big. There's nothing in life I feel I can't achieve. All my life I wanted to make a movie: to be a movie star. I never wanted to produce.
My psychiatrist says to me I have more memories than anyone he's ever come across. I have my dreams about the future and I have my memories because I want to live in the past. My problem is now: that's why I can't get my life together.
Shane is obviously a role model. A father figure?
You may be right, but I would rather not talk about that aspect of the film. Some things must remain private.
It seems to me that films were an extension to your family.
Absolutely. I think of my grandmother and my Aunt Bett and I think of the pictures. I love the cinema as much today, at 48, as I did that first day, aged six. Ninety-nine point nine per cent of people in this world seem to think they are nobody. Films can make people somebody. And Shane has made me somebody.
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