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Spanish born English raised Australian resident producer Al Clark is hungry enough to be handling more than one film at a time, he tells, Andrew L. Urban, as he prepares to shoot Blood & Guts, a black gangster comedy set in Melbourne, starring Guy Pearce and Rachel Griffiths.

One of Australia’s most successful ‘indie prods’ as he likes to call his breed, Al Clark is harder to find than the Pope, according to a Canadian journalist who spent five days trying to track him down. This is only partly due to the fact that Clark restricts his interviews to about one per year, and then only if it’s necessary. The other reason, he admits without shame, is that he has neither a computer nor a mobile phone, so he cannot be found digitally in the virtual world. (Nor a personal assistant; he posts his own letters. Seeing his extensive credits on the internet, she expected a protective wall of an entourage.)

“But I know that this is perhaps the last time I can say that,” he adds ruefully. Another change that is overtaking Clark is that he is no longer working on one film at a time. “I hope this is not a precursor to my seeing the corporate light,” he says nervously, “but I’ve recently found that I can contribute to overlapping projects, on which my roles are perhaps different.”

“on the verge of three overlapping film productions”

As he settles in to the Melbourne production office for Blood & Guts without the jangle of a mobile phone about his person, Clark is on the verge of three overlapping film productions. “I seem to have an appetite for activity…” What whets that appetite, he says after some thought, is originality. “The key element for me I think [in choosing a project] is that I haven’t seen that film already – or else it is such an original version that it constitutes something new.”

His early films, like Nineteen Eighty Four (co-producer), Absolute Beginners (executive producer) or Gothic (executive producer) have that in common with his latest ones, like The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert (producer), Siam Sunset (producer) and Chopper (executive producer).

Blood & Guts:
Think of Heat, re-imagined by the Coen brothers, he says, describing his next project, Blood & Guts, due to start shooting on July 30. “Heat, in that it’s a film about relationships disguised as an action movie. The heists in our film are there because the three brothers are robbers. That’s what they do. And the Coen brothers because it’s deadpan, with none of the frantic comedy of post Tarantino gangster movies. Nor is it as ingratiatingly zany as some British films.”

It’s about three brothers, and “Guy Pearce (Priscilla, L.A. Confidential, Memento) plays the lead brother,” quips Clark. The crew is gathered from crews who worked with Clark on Priscilla (producer) and Chopper (executive producer), two of the most successful Australian film at the box office. Priscilla is the seventh highest ranking local film, and Chopper (despite its R 18+ rating) was the No 1 film on its opening weekend and was nominated for 10 Australian Film Institute Awards. (It was released in April 2001 in the US by First Look Pictures.)

The Blood & Guts script appealed to Clark instantly: “It reveals itself to you as the film it will be, as you read it. It’s a film I knew immediately that I wanted to see exist.”

The Book of Revelation:
A large budget erotic horror story that’s become the subject of intense interest from several producers, The Book of Revelation “with a spiritual ancestor in last Tango in Paris,” says Clark, is “what, in an odd way what audiences probably hoped Eyes Wide Shut might be…It’s an account of sexual obsession prompted by emotional trauma.”

The project was introduced to Clark by director Ana Kokkinos, director of Head On. Based on Rupert Thomson’s critically acclaimed novel, the script is developed by a unique combo of Beyond Films, Palace Entertainment and the Australian Film Commission, and written by Andrew Bovell. Bovell, who co-wrote the screenplay for the explosive adaptation of Head On, also wrote the screenplay for Lantana, directed by Ray Lawrence – a complex drama which could well show up at Venice this year.

“we need at least two climatic seasons”

It is Thomson’s sixth novel and all six have been optioned for film; so far, none have made it to production, for varying reasons. Clark is optimistic this will be the first. “After Ana rang me about it, I read it very quickly and only several moments later I wanted to do it,” says Clark. Since Clark optioned it, a number of other parties keen to acquire the rights have contacted him with a view to participating in the project. The shoot is scheduled for a period between August and late November 2002 in Amsterdam, “because we need at least two climatic seasons.”

The story follows a young man in his late 20s, a dancer, who goes out one day to buy cigarettes in Amsterdam and is abducted by three strangers, held captive in a mysterious white room, with poignant and disturbing consequences.

Clark notes the unusual alignment of elements: “It’s a British novel shot in Holland by an Australian production team.”

Clark’s third ‘overlapping’ project is Tell, which he is producing for Beyond Films as EP. This is the William Tell story as seen by New Zealand director Scott Reynolds (Heaven). “It’s an action film told within a poignant account of a father and son relationship. It’s a wonderful script,” says Clark. Tell will be shot towards the end of 2002.

Clark began post production immediately after returning from the Cannes film festival, where he had a series of meetings about all his projects. “It was probably my last opportunity to go into the world until Blood & Guts is completed,” he says. “But then I have always believed that Cannes is best when you’re just about to start something or you’ve just finished something that everybody likes.”

Published July 19, 2001

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In Cannes, 2001

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