Faye Dunaway on Barfly; Excerpts from her book (1 Viewer)

I love the movie Barfly as so many of us Bukowski fans do. I had seen on Amazon that Faye Dunaway had a book out about her life. It was published in 1995 so it is old news. I would imagine that plenty of Buk fans made have read this long ago but I wanted to see what was in there and I figured I would share what I found. I was hoping that I could learn some new facts about the movie which would be fun. After having read the whole 403 page book there was only 3 1/2 pages about Barfly. What a total let down. I am still glad I read the book. Throughout the book I was reminded what a big star Faye was and how she was in so many big movies of the 1970's. I learned all there was to know about her stage career.

There is one sentence that I read which is very wonderful and that is that Barfly remains one of Faye's favorite movies.

So I have typed all of the text of those pages using my Dragon Speech Recognition gizmo for all of your reading pleasure. None of you have to read the 403 pages to find the few pages on the Barfly. I did the investigation for you.

Faye Dunaway: Looking for Gatsby
This is an excerpt of Faye’s book for the benefit of Buk dot Net members.
(Faye is living in England with her husband Terry who is a photographer. This is from the from page 351.)

He was assigned to take some photos of Mickey Rourke, and I went with him to meet Mickey. We met for dinner at the Chelsea Gardens in London. Over a table filled with great Chinese food, Mickey began telling me about a new film that he had just gotten involved in. There was a meaty role for me, if I was interested. Was I ever.

My hair is limp and matted, the color of wet sand. Shadows hang like dark half moons under my eyes. My close are stained and looked slept in. A fine layer of grime leaves my face looking sallow. This stranger that I have become looks back at me from the mirror. If there were any life left in her, the eyes would no doubt mock me. As it is, they are dead, the remnants of a fire extinguished long ago.

When I walk onto the set, the director, Barbet Schroeder, smiles and tells me I look much too good. It takes a few more passes to get to the lower reaches of where I need to be for this character that has become so important to me. Wanda Wilcox, as I see her, is the one who will pull me out of the pit in which I’ve been trapped. This character in Barfly, who has given over her days and nights to the bottle, is my way back to the light. This is a role that I care deeply about. I haven’t felt this passion for a character since Network. I saw the promise of a comeback for me in the deglamorized face of Wanda, a woman of sweet vulnerability.

It is early 1987, and I have fought like a wild cat to keep this project alive. After I met with Mickey Rourke, then Barbet, the financing began to fall apart. Menahem Golan and Yoram Globas, who are executive-producing Barfly had run into financial difficulties that went far beyond this particular project. By 1987, they were in a desperate fight of their own to keep Cannon Pictures afloat. The sources they usually went to for funding had dried up.

One weekend I stayed on the phone for hours, talking to anyone who would listen, including the head of the French bank Credit Lyonnais. The producers, Tom Luddy in San Francisco and Fred Roos in Los Angeles, and I conferred hourly. Tom and Fred, whom I adored and have been good friends with ever since, and I mounted a Three Musketeers campaign to get this movie to work. Yoram was in a different European city every time I talk to him that weekend. Menahem was working out of New York. I refused to stop pressing them. I had learned a lot about the business from my association with them during the years in London, and I had a fairly good sense of what they needed to make it happen.

These guys were like buccaneers, swaggering through Europe selling ideas, getting pre-sale commitments so their movies could be made. They were bold and aggressive, but the international movie market had tightened and financing had become tougher to come by. But with Barfly, they had a script with a great deal of quality to it, and a wonderful cast and crew attached to it. I knew this was a deal they would not lose money on, and that was my message to anyone I talked to all weekend long.

But by the end of the weekend, Golan and Globas had decided they weren’t going to make the movie. Barbet told me they had set an enormous turnaround figure- the amount that would have to be paid to them by another person who would come in wanting to make the movie. What they claimed to have spent on the project, which they wanted to be reimbursed for, was such an impossibly high figure that Barbet became very upset. They would give the film back, but at a very high price, and at a price that we thought was inflated. The details were such that another suitor would be discouraged by this kind of price. It looked as if Barfly might be lost to us.

The film was as important to Barbet as it was to me. It was to be his first film made in the U. S., with American actors. And it was his project- he had initiated it, developed it, had been passionate about the work of Charles Bukowski, upon whose life Barfly was based, for many, many years. So now, to be faced with losing his project without a decent turnaround, without the real possibility of setting it up somewhere else, upset him enormously. Finally Barbet went to the office of one of the producers carrying a tiny Black & Decker chainsaw, small but real. “See this finger?” he said, holding up his pinky finger. “I don’t need it, really.” Then Barbet held up the saw, and flipped it on and off. “Every day I am going to come here and cut off a piece of this finger,” he said. “I will come day after day, until nothing is left or until you give me my deal. I will be here tomorrow.”

I made the final offer for a deal that Cannon could not refuse before Barbet’s finger suffered the slightest nick. I offered to work for no money up front, to forgo my salary in exchange for a deferment or a percentage of the profits. With that offer, Cannon found the money somewhere and gave Barbet his deal, and we went into production. Usually you celebrate when a movie production wraps; with Barfly, we celebrated the first day, a day that almost hadn’t come.

By February 1987, when we went into production on the film and Los Angeles, Barbet had been working toward this end for nearly 7 years. It had begun when he met Charles Bukowski, and American poet whom Barbet first films in a documentary, then convinced to write the semi-autobiographical screenplay for the movie.

Barbet’s is a craggy sort of intelligence, like the great French filmmakers, though he is an amalgam of various international cultures from South America to Paris. He is not like Kazan, who understands intimately the actor’s process so that if it short circuits, he can jump in because he knows precisely the point at which it has gone off track. Barbet doesn’t get involved in all of those details, very grown up and French, he just envelops you in this cloud of love.

There’s always a sense of balance and purity to his work, but there is an incredible incisiveness as well. His films bear his personal signature- intelligence and sophistication. When you look at “Reversal of Fortune” it is a beautiful film, the kind of film making that we generally don’t have here unless someone like Barbet imports it. And I knew he would infuse Barfly with all of his European sensibilities.

Once production began, everything seemed to be conspiring in our favor. Barbet was an absolute love and I adored Mickey. He prepares for a role for four months, if he can, and then tries to leave room for accidents. In other words, he leaves himself open for the completely unexpected. In one scene, he comes home with money, one of the rare occasions that we have any, and suddenly, without warning, tosses it all over me in the bed. I was truly surprised, but it was just as much of a surprise to Mickey. He hadn’t known he was going to do that. The freshness and our reaction to each other gave the moment a sense of real life.

My favorite scene is when we happen upon small plot of corn, planted on a vacant city lot, and steal a few ears. I remember when I bit into the corn, it was still green, and instead of spitting it out, I put the kernels in my hand like a child might. Barbet’s mouth fell open, and he said, “Ah! I didn’t know you would do it like that.” “What did you expect this character to do?” I asked him. “Spit it out and spew it all around the room?” “Yes.” He laughed. “I think so.” But she wouldn’t have. That would have been vulgar and Wanda had such delicate sensibilities. It was a nice moment, because you see in that just how terribly lost she is. It was, I thought, as we wrapped that scene, so nice to come back and do a character so out of control, so real, so vulnerable.

When the reviews began coming out on the film, I was more than heartened. They were the best that had come in years, and Wanda was doing just what I had hoped. Pauline Kael writing in The New Yorker said that “Dunaway plays the self-destructive Wanda with a minimum of fuss….. She wins your admiration by the simplicity of her effects.” And Vincent Canby in The New York Times said of both my performance and Mickey’s that they “rediscover the reserves of talent that, in recent years, have been hidden inside characters who wear designer wardrobes and sleep masks.” What I didn’t know at the time was that Barfly was only the first step down a long path that I would have to go to win back my place in Hollywood.

On a flight back from the Montréal film Festival, where Barfly was being shown, I met Warren Lieberfarb, president of Warner Bros. Home Video. He was in the midst of masterminding some deal, and I was enjoying some of the critical attention that Barfly was getting. We struck up a conversation when he introduced himself and told me he had loved me since Network. Warren was to become the next important man in my life

After Barfly, which remains one of my favorite films, I tried to be careful about the roles I choose, and within each role, I would always look for the softer side. But I was also faced with the reality that I had to work. I had to support myself and a child, and I wanted to ensure Liam’s future as well. It was a slow process.
Dear 5:28am, thanks for the Christmas Wish and I'll try to keep up the good work. But....I have to tell you your avatar has really gotten to me over time. I think about it quite a bit but didn't want to ask because I figured I would eventually find 5:28am in Bukowski poem or story eventually. Well I have to tell ya that over the last two years it seems like I have read damn near all the Bukowski there is and still I haven't found the answer to the 5:28am mystery. Can you tell me the answer to this puzzle oh dear learned one? That poor man looks to be so troubled.
That's At Eternity's Gate by an artist named Vincent van Gogh. He was real big in the 20th century.

Thank you mjp. I think I've heard of that guy. I believe he went through a blue phase. He also loved yellow and hence the yellow chair. (That was a wise crack) But seriously thanks. But that is only half the mystery. What about the 5:28 am?
Thank you very sad Van Gogh at 5:28 am for the clarification. I appreciate it. I hope other people are relieved as well now that the mystery has been solved.

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