What David Bowie Movie ‘Absolute Beginners’ Did for Its Director
Director Julien Temple reflected on the failure of his 1986 movie Absolute Beginners, which flopped at the box office despite the presence of David Bowie in a leading role, the chart success of the title track and praise from Martin Scorsese.
At the time, Temple was accused of causing the collapse of Goldcrest Films and beginning a wilderness era for British moviemaking in general. But in a new interview with The Guardian, he said he’s found himself less at odds with the film's legacy than he had been in the past.
“It’s been an albatross around my neck since I began making films,” he said. “It’s still difficult for me to get funding because of it. I had to leave the U.K. Scorsese helped me get a green card, actually. I couldn’t get work here. I was very much the one who’d been blamed for destroying the British film industry. Now I would be proud of that, but it was a little overwhelming at the time.”
Watch the ‘Absolute Beginners’ Trailer
Temple explained that he now has "mixed feelings: It has certainly had a huge impact on my career, forcing me, possibly, to go in directions that I wouldn’t have gone otherwise. If it had been successful, I think I could have been found upside down in a Jacuzzi in the Hollywood Hills. So, I’m lucky I’m still around, hungry to make films.”
Set in London in 1958 amid social upheaval including racial tensions and musical revolution, Absolute Beginners was based on a book Temple had sent to Bowie. The director initially asked him to supply music for the soundtrack, but Bowie, after reading the script, asked to play the character Vendice Partners, as he said in an interview at the time (see below).
The movie also featured the Kinks’ Ray Davies. Temple – who’s set to release Crock of Gold: A Few Rounds With Shane MacGowan, a documentary about the Pogues frontman – said he remains interested in making a movie about Ray and his brother Dave.
“I was surprised to find that Shane saw the Pogues in terms of this crusade, this mission, quite a serious thing to underpin what he was doing with that band,” Temple said. “I think Ray is a very deep thinker as well. It’s a difficult industry to be serious in – not necessarily taking yourself seriously, but your work seriously. I certainly find people who are considered difficult very rich subjects for a film. Because that energy - they are willing to use to defend who they are, in whatever way they can - is an interesting thing to understand.”