Tuesday, March 14, 2006

I had the opportunity of interviewing Ray Bradbury last week for a story about our city of Springfield choosing his book Fahrenheit 451 for a "one city, one book" program.

Bradbury was great to chat with and if I had more time I would have branched into other subjects.

I did ask him about his reactions to Peter Jackson's King Kong and he said that "ten minutes into the picture I began crying because I knew Kong was in the hands of a lover."

He beleived the Academcy snubbed Kong and that it should have been nominated for "Best Picture."

When I told this to my Kong loving friend Steve Bissette, he instantly chided me for my lack of critical assessment.

Bradbury is seeking a deal to make a new film based on The Martian Chronciles and would like Jackson to direct it.

From the article I wrote:

Ray Bradbury didn’t have censorship on his mind when he wrote the novel. In a telephone interview from his Los Angeles home, Bradbury said that an incident with a police officer and his love of libraries provided the inspiration for the novel.

Bradbury recounted an incident in 1949 in which a police officer questioned why he and a friend were walking through a fairly deserted area after a meal. They were doing nothing more suspicious than walking on a sidewalk.

The incident led to the short story “The Pedestrian.”

“The Pedestrian got me started,” he said.

A year later, he added, he “took the character out for a walk.” The revisiting led to his writing of Fahrenheit 451, first as a short story and later as a novel. The novel took him just nine days to complete.

Bradbury described himself as a “library educated person.” He never attended college, but went two to three times a week to a library from his childhood through his late twenties to read and learn.

He said that “it broke my heart” to learn that the ancient library of Alexandria in Egypt had been burned three times – twice on purpose, and once by accident. He also spoke of his horror of how the Nazis burned books that they viewed as harmful to their regime.

“You can’t touch libraries,” he said.

Fahrenheit 451 was published in 1953, a time in which there was growing fear about the menace posed by the Soviet Union. Bradbury said, though, at the time he wrote the novel there wasn’t any threat of censorship. He said the earliest casualties of the Red Scare were people in the motion picture industry who were blacklisted for alleged Communist ties.

“They were easy marks,” he said.

Bradbury maintained that a society such as the one described in Fahrenheit 451 could never happen in the United States today.

“We’ve got to consider we have a very healthy society,” he said.
He said that censorship would be “impossible” because all aspects of society are watching one another.

Speaking on the 1966 film adaptation of Fahrenheit 451, Bradbury said he was “80 percent pleased” with the movie directed by Francois Truffaut. His main complaint is that the famed French director cast British actress Julie Christie in two roles, which Bradbury believed confused audiences.

Although he had written screenplays – one of his most notable was adapting Herman Melville’s Moby Dick for director John Huston – Bradbury was not involved with the script of Fahrenheit 451. He said that Truffaut’s first script “was so bad he couldn’t get any one to star in it.”

Oskar Werner, who had starred in Truffaut’s Jules and Jim, forced the director to re-write it. Werner played the lead role of Montag the fireman.
Bradbury revealed there is a new movie version of the novel in the works with a script by Frank Darabont, the director of The Shawshank Redemption. He said there are talks going on with Mel Gibson to produce the film.

Bradbury is one of this country’s most popular writers – there are over five million copies of Fahrenheit 451 alone currently in print – and among his 30 novels are The Martian Chronicles, The Illustrated Man, Something Wicked this Way Comes and Dandelion Wine. He has also written 600 short stories.

He has been active in making movies himself. He was nominated for an Academy Award for his animated film Icarus Montgolfier Wright and received an Emmy for his script for The Halloween Tree.

Besides scripting Moby Dick, Bradbury wrote the 64 scripts for his own television series Ray Bradbury Theater. He said that he writes his books in such style that they are easy to adapt.

He recounted that director Sam Peckinpah wanted to film one of his books. When Bradbury asked how Peckipah would adapt the novel, Peckinpah responded that he would tear pages out of the book and stuff them into the camera.”

In 2000, he received the National Book Foundation Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters.

Out of everything he has written does he have a favorite?

“All of my books are my children and I love them all,” he said.

“I’ve had a jolly time, a great life,” the 85 year-old writer added...

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