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Full disclosure, my sister, when she was 12, was in a film with Gloria Grahame. It was a pretty forgettable horror film, and they had no scenes together, but it made for some nice small talk with Paul McGuigan before we settled down to our conversation about FILM STARS DON’T DIE IN LIVERPOOL. Based on the memoir by Paul Turner about his relationship with the Oscar™-winning actress (THE BAD AND THE BEAUTIFUL) in the 1970s, the film is an insightful and savvy look at Grahame through the eyes of her much younger lover, when she was at the end of her acting career, and he was just starting his. It’s also an homage to the cinema of Grahame’s prime using a visual vocabulary that hearkens back to her greatest films.
When I spoke with McGuigan on December 8, 2017, that was a topic we discussed, but we started with how much the director knew about Grahame going into the project, and how learning so much about her changed the way he looked at her films.
We went on to talk about public perceptions of film stars over the years; the process of externalizing memory; the role of synchronicity in bringing the film together; how Gloria Grahame has influenced Anette Benning, who plays her in the film; why Jamie Bell is perfect as Paul; and why both of them were born to do close-ups.
We finished up with McGuigan’s love for a particular kind of lens; the perfect lighting effect for a first meeting; assembling a predominately female crew; the role of post-it™ notes in Benning’s preparations; being meticulous about artifacts; why he wanted to subtly inject some politics into the story; and how Elvis Costello gave him the best Christmas present ever.
The film stars Annette Benning as Grahame and Jamie Bell as Turner. McGuigan directed from a script by Matt Greenhalgh, and his previous work includes GANGSTER NO. 1, LUCKY NUMBER SLEVIN, and VICTOR FRANKENSTEIN.