James Whale: You might not think it to look at me now, but there was a time when I was at the very pinnacle of my profession. The horror movies were behind me. I’d made Showboat. Major success. Big box office. So now I was to do something important. The picture was called The Road Back. It was an indictment of the Great War and what it did to Germany. It was going to be my masterpiece.
Clayton Boone: What happened?
James Whale: The fucking studio butchered it. They took the guts out of my picture. They brought in another director to add some slapstick and the movie laid an egg. A great, expensive bomb for which I was blamed. And after that I was out of fashion. I could no longer command the best projects, so I walked away. Why should I spend my time working in this dreadful business?
Clayton Boone: Do you miss it?
James Whale: Mmm. Oh, it was all so long ago. Fifteen years. Making movies is the most wonderful thing in the world. Working with friends, entertaining people. Yes, I suppose I miss it.
This is one of those movies I remember really love when I first saw and then didn’t watch again for years only to rediscover it all over again. It features a stellar ensemble cast consisting of pretty much every British person ever. The cast went on to win the Best Ensemble at the SAG awards. I remember when Sir Ian McKellan won the SAG for his role in the first Lord of the Rings movie, he quipped something about being the only British actor not in Gosford Park. The film was nominated for 7 Academy Awards – Best Picture, Best Director, Best Supporting Actress Dame Helen Mirren, Best Supporting Actress Dame Maggie Smith, Best Art Direction, Best Costume Design and won Best Original Screenplay – Julian Fellowes. The curious thing about Julian Fellowes is that, at least for me, I loved this film to death and was absolutely bored by two of his latest efforts – Vanity Fair and The Young Victoria. It makes me wonder if perhaps those screenplays would have been fine if he’d had the same calibre director as Altman, or if this screenplay was a one hit wonder?