Conducted at The Stockport Hat Museum – 2nd October 2013 (Robin’s 84th Birthday – despite what Wiki says ) .
UKHS) What has been your experience during the restoration and release of The Wicker Man – Final Cut?
RH) Well from my point of view which is obviously authorial , it has been a very good experience and has been helped by the fact that the film has had this cult over the years otherwise I would never have been given the opportunity, as it all costs a great deal of money. This is also added to the fact that Canal Plus who own the rights to the film have decided to re-launch the film , not only in the UK but also in the USA so it was a case of preparing the final cut for the cinema , not just for DVD and BluRay. This was very interesting as I had not thought before that we would ever release The Wicker Man in cinemas again. It is extraordinarily unusual for films to be re-launched in the cinema in fact it is almost unheard of, so that pleased me very much obviously as it gives the film a whole new re-birth . It has a huge distribution coming up in The States and since it was originally rescued in the States I am very pleased with that.
UKHS) I suppose technology has now helped in the restoration , and how different was it from the last restoration in 2001?
RH) The last time we had a print to make the missing 5 minutes but we had to restore it from that print through a series of internegatives by something called the liquid gate process so we literally did every single frame . There was a curious piece of machinery that was used which looked like a piece of ancient Roman artillery , which was a camera projector so you could shoot each frame and it took forever (laughs) . And even after all that it still looked very grainy indeed , but I never really minded about the grain as they are all night scenes anyway. But now with all the digital possibilities it has been much quicker and very more successful.
UKHS) Many people call The Wicker Man a horror film , however I think it transcends that into maybe a murder mystery, a thriller or almost times a musical. It does though make me laugh as much as say a comedy. What would be your definition of The Wicker Man?
RH) Well I think we have a right to think that our Pagan ancestors were very much like us, they liked to dance and sing and get drunk , tell jokes and also have a laugh . So recreating (as we tried to do) that sort of society all those aspects of normal life should be there. They were not inhibited by things like sex which really only came in with Christianity , so one needs to show it and we do I think but not to excess. Using the songs as dialogue was something that I particularly liked , but I suppose that is my personal preference. I wouldn’t say it is a musical , but that we used the songs as actual dialogue. I would actually call The Wicker Man a black comedy.
UKHS) Edward Woodward plays a deeply religious man who cannot be shaken from his beliefs . Do you think The Wicker Man was ever perceived as an anti-Christian or anti-religious film? And indeed was that your intention?
RH) No never , not at all. When we were distributing it through the States we took it through the “bible belt” and the distributors that were with us were all amateurs who had come from university and were doing this as a project really. To mine and to Christopher Lee’s (who was with us) surprise we attended what in the States are called “bible breakfasts” . A bible breakfast consists of going to some convention hotel and all sitting around with ministers and priests , then someone will say grace and all that and then they would watch the film. The thing about it was that they had very rarely seen a film that actually spoke of the resurrection. And the Christian scenes at the end before Howie gets burned , where it is spoken that Howie will get something quite rare – a martyrs death – is something that they all recognised as from their own religion and for that reason they were almost selling it from the pulpit (laughs). And also with Willow’s dance people often ask well why were they not offended by that and her nakedness, well they were not that stupid . I mean it is just a dance and she has nothing on , big deal you know and it is quite tastefully done (at this moment Robin leans back and gives me what can only be described as the cheekiest smirk you could imagine). I think that obviously it is not a Christian film , but is a film in which Christianity Is explored along with Paganism and I believe fairly thoroughly.
(my Wicker Man wooden boxset now signed by Robin – lovely stuff)
Now I did ask Robin about his final film in the Wicker trilogy . After The Wicker Man and The Wicker Tree . BUT my portable recording device was hit with some interference and I was unable to hear clearly the final (only 1 minute) of the interview.
I will say that Robin is pushing ahead with the third film named The Wrath of The Gods . It is where finally the gods will get their comeuppance . It is loosely based on the final act of Wagner’s Ring Cycle opera and has been written and Robin does have a cast in mind . He laughed when he said all he needs now is the funding !!
It is a shame the final minute cut out but I hope you get the drift.
It was a dream come true to interview Robin Hardy and can I just say what an absolute gentleman he is and I could have sat in his company the entire evening . Also well done to the Grimmfest team for the whole evening which saw The Wicker Man screened in all it’s glory at the wonderful Stockport Plaza.