Anthony Frewin discusses writing a film about the Stanley Kubrick impersonator, Alan Conway
Having worked very closely with famed director Stanley Kubrick, screenwriter Anthony Frewin brought a unique perspective in crafting the screenplay for Brian W. Cook's, Color Me Kubrick. The film is based on events during the shooting of Eyes Wide Shut in London from 1998-99, when a man pretending to be legendary director Stanley Kubrick got into many of the city's most exclusive parties, restaurants and nightclubs. Playing on his willing victims' star-struck desire to believe, he was successful despite bearing no resemblance to Kubrick.
We recently had a chance to interview Anthony Frewin to discuss his work on the film and his relationship to the late filmmaker.
What did Stanley Kubrick think of having an impersonator?
Anthony Frewin: While it was a source of great irritation he was also very philosophical about it and just shrugged his shoulders. There was really nothing he could do about it. Yes, he could have sought a legal injunction against Conway but in order to do that the 'victims' of Conway would have to come to court and publicly declare what had happened. Needless to say, the 'victims' didn't want to do that.
How did you come to find out about Alan Conway?
Anthony Frewin: Messages were forwarded to me from the Warner Bros offices at Pinewood Studios from 'friends' of 'Stanley's' who were trying to contact him after the numerous times Conway had changed his telephone number. I spoke to them and soon realized we had a serial impostor on our hands.
I have heard that Kubrick was a fan of the script in it's early stages? What did he say about it?
Anthony Frewin: Stanley never saw the script and he died in 1999, several years before we went in to production.
How did you come to work with Stanley Kubrick?
Anthony Frewin: I started as an assistant with Stanley in September 1965 on the pre-production of 2001: A Space Odyssey at the MGM Studios in Elstree, some fifteen miles north-west of London. My father was also working for Stanley and it was through him I went down there for an interview.
There are many books written about Stanley Kubrick, many stories, did you see this film as way to have fun with some of that? To maybe play with the myth a little bit via the Alan Conway character?
Anthony Frewin: No, not really. The film is about Conway and celebrity.
This film seemed to me to be a more about the cult of celebrity, and how people wanted to believe that they were talking to Stanley Kubrick. No matter how outlandish Conway's ideas were, the fact that they were coming from "Stanley Kubrick" gave them legitimacy. Do you think that's an accurate reading of the film?
Anthony Frewin: You've hit the very nail on the head here! Exactly. A very accurate reading. The whole sorry saga of Conway and his 'victims' always reminded me of a piece of dialogue written by the great Nat Hiken in Sgt. Bilko. It goes like this.
Sgt. Bilko: Why did you do that, Paparelli? You're a sane, intelligent, rationale human being!
Paparelli: Sorry, sarge. I forgot.
A lot of Conway's victims were sane, intelligent, rationale human beings but the moment they touched the hem of fame/celebrity, encountered 'Stanley,' these qualities went out the window. Amazing. It wasn't that Conway was a masterful con-man, it was that his marks were so easily duped. The film is really a riff on present day attitudes to celebrity. A tag line for the film I wanted to use but was dropped was this: "They wanted something for nothing - He gave them nothing for something," which just about sums it up.
Having worked so closely with Stanley Kubrick is there one thing in particular you wish you could tell the world about him? Maybe a perception that has always been wrong but nobody seems to talk about it?
Anthony Frewin: There are two things here that have always been overlooked. One was Stanley's compassion and the other was his humor. He was and is frequently portrayed as some emotionless tyro but nothing could be further from the truth. Stanley wasn't always easy to work with and you really earned your nickel but as Michael Herr said, nobody earned their nickel more than Stanley himself.
I know that Stanley Kubrick made films in very long intervals. In studying the director, I have come to realize that he was like this because he needed to feel a certain passion toward each project. Thus, he didn't make films every single year. I was curious if this is correct? Because I know that he was always working on things... they just didn't always manifest themselves as movies.
Anthony Frewin: You're correct here. Stanley would figure that if he was going to spend five or so years of his life on a particular project it had to be something worthwhile. He used to say, 'It is easier to fall in love than find a good story.'
What are you working on now?
Anthony Frewin: I've just finished the revises on a novel about anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial that comes out in May. It's my fifth novel and I've finally realized I'm not a novelist and should keep to screenplays. Oh! to be able to write as well as Michael Herr or Thomas Pynchon!
Color Me Kubrick comes out in limited release on March 23 from Magnolia Pictures.