Two years back, I had a chance to meet the ace director and one of my favourites; Hugh Hudson. With a heart full of queries and an eagerness to learn more from him, I decided to approach him and have a tête-à-tête on cinema
Born in London, he’s an ex-army lieutenant in the Army Reserve of Officers till 1960 but later his career took another path and from the industry of arms and ammunitions he shifted to the world of art and cinema. We are talking about the ace director, Hugh Hudson, who was in the city for the Mumbai Film Festival (MFF).
During the course of our discussion, Hudson opened up about films and his career. Hudson’s film career dates back to 1960 when he kicked off his career as an editor. “Yes, I started my career as an editor. I feel that editing is the most important part of filmmaking, the only original ingredient in filmmaking. Everything else takes place elsewhere – like acting happens on stage and you’d write stories in books. Editing, however, you do on the film, so that’s the original thing about film,” he said.
Hudson commenced his directorial career with a lot of documentaries and ad films. It was because of his great contribution to the advertising world, that he was awarded a special Cannes Lions award on the 50th anniversary of the Cannes Lions International Advertising Festival in 2003. But after making few successful ads for the British Government, Hudson soon shifted to directing features.
About the shift, he said, “It’s a natural progression, a film is about stories of people, they are not superficial. But at the same time, I also enjoyed making ads because I learned a lot while making them.”
He credits his tenure of ad filmmaking as one when he learnt the most, “I learnt a lot of technical things during that point in time.”
Hudson’s been making films for over 40 years now, but he’s never ever found it monotonous. “I am quite a passionate person, I am passionate about telling stories to people through my cinema. If I am not making films, I would be either directing a music video or I would be shooting a documentary. Cinema excites me so. How can you get bored? It’s a wonderful way to earn a living and have fun. So to me, there is no possibility of getting bored.”
In 2011, Hudson headed the chair of the jury for the Mumbai International Film Festival and his most significant film; Chariots of Fire was showcased at the festival. The film is about two athletes who are running for different reasons; one who believes in god and is running for the glory of God and the other runs to overcome his prejudice. Many say that the film was inspired by the line “Bring me my chariot of fire” from the William Blake poem. Talking about that experience, Hudson narrates, “The first thing that attracted me about Chariots of Fire was its story and its characters for what they were doing. Everybody tried to stop them but they did what they wanted to do. Apart from that I also loved the idea of running, the concept of sports being a metaphor for life was something that really motivated me to do this one.”
Apart from directing a film like Chariots of Fire, Hudson has also worked with the likes of Al Pacino when he made Revolution with him. Recollecting that experience, Hudson said, “He’s a great man, we are still very good friends, in fact I see him quite often. Whenever I am in America or whenever he comes to London, we always catch up. When we were shooting the film there was this big scene in the middle of the film where his son is getting beaten up by British armymen and he has to cut his feet. To shoot that, Al Pacino for the first day never came out of his dressing room. The second day he came out, walked around a bit and went back and everybody went berserk including the producers. On the third day he came down early in the morning, gave his shot and in half a day the whole thing was done. That’s Al Pacino, a man with perfection.”
According to Hudson he never worked in Hollywood but he worked with Hollywood actors who did British films. Talking about dealing with actors, he said, “I just made British films in Hollywood manner and followed the classical way of doing cinema and as far as the actors are concerned, I never faced any problem with any of them.”
When Revolution was released, it was ridiculed by most of the critics. Hudson believes that one of the reasons was his association with the British Labour Party. “At that time I was too successful as a director and I was making 10-minute films for the Labour Party and most of the right wing press didn’t like that and attacked me for that. Also, I think, the film was released too early; it needed a narration.” So, in 2008, Hudson re-edited it, giving the film its much required narration by Al Pacino and called it Revolution Re-visited. This, later came to be known as an all-time ‘cult’ favourite from British Film history.