Category Archives: John’s Interviews
Joan Darling (bottom left), part of the cast of Owen Marshall: Counselor at Law (1971-1973)
Joan Darling entered show business as an actress on the New York theater scene in the 1960s, then became a fixture of early 70’s television. In 1974, she made the leap from acting to directing and quickly made history as one of the first and most successful women directors in television. She had an instant knack for it—her debut, Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman, a soap opera parody, has become an enduring cult classic for its dark-edged humor and deep understanding of the desperation and sadness of the American home.
Highlights of her career include a Mary Tyler Moore episode, Chuckles Bites the Dust, which, for its deft tightrope-walk between comedy and pathos, TV Guide calls the greatest television episode ever; a classic M*A*S*H episode, The Nurses, which revolutionized the way the show portrayed women; and a leading role in an episode of The Psychiatrist, directed by a pre-Jaws, pre-Duel Spielberg.
These days, Joan teaches acting and directing classes at the Sundance Filmmakers Lab. She agreed to a phone interview, and in about an hour, I learned more about the arts of acting and directing than I ever thought possible:
Lawrence Gordon Clark, with one of his monsters from The Ash Tree.
Y’all ever see that movie The Signalman? About the British railwayman who sees a ghost? It’s part of a series the BBC did from 1971-1978, called A Ghost Story for Christmas. All but a handful of these films were adaptations of M. R. James stories, and all but one were directed by Lawrence Gordon Clark, who’s directed dozens of programs and telefilms for British television from the 1970s to his retirement in the early 2000s.
Mr. Clark wrote a book called The Christmas Ghost Stories of Lawrence Gordon Clark, a collection of the original M. R. James and Charles Dickens source material alongside recollections of the productions. He also has a short story collection, Telling Stories, due out soon.
Mr. Clark was kind enough to speak to me about M. R. James, Alfred Hitchcock, and his long and fascinating career:
The Man Who Built R2D2 and Brought us ‘Battlefield Earth’: An Interview with Roger Christian (Part 2)
The Man Who Built R2D2 and Brought us ‘Battlefield Earth’: An Interview with Roger Christian (Part 1)
Roger Christian built the future with his own two hands. As set dresser for Star Wars and production designer for Alien, he’s the man who, among other things, built R2D2 and made an industry out of turning scrap metal into spaceship walls. As director of films such as The Sender and Battlefield Earth, he’s no stranger to the dizzying highs and lows of filmmaking. His life’s work is a reminder that it is no mean feat to get by in this industry.
These days, Roger has a book coming out, a new film, Stranded, available on Netflix, and is currently gearing up for the imminent release of his long-lost companion piece to The Empire Strikes Back, the short Black Angel. I was very honored that he took the time to sit down with me.