I pretty much concluded on 8.31 that Sam Taylor-Wood‘s Nowhere Boy is going to miss the mark due to hair-color, nose-prosthetic and casting issues. But if I had any doubts the indications and undercurrents running beneath this obviously skanky 5.29 Daily Mail story about Wood’s personal intrigues have removed most of them.
(l. to r.) Nowhere Boy director Sam Taylor-Wood; Ed Wood, Jr.; the young Stanley Kubrick; Sally Potter.
I’m not talking about the allegations in this vulgar tabloid story. I’m talking about what is plainly missing beneath or within Wood’s features.
One glance at those sad photos and it’s obvious she lacks that hard-to-define je ne sais quoi that heavy-cat film directors always seem to exude. I’ve eyeballed and spoken to hundreds of film directors over the years and I swear to God you can always tell if they’ve got any kind of focus or precision or steam-engine power in their films simply by looking at their faces and particularly from the presence or absence of a certain thousand-yard-stare that all visionaries (even the not-so-good ones) have.
Wood’s eyes tell you right away that she doesn’t have much going on inside. Certainly not to the extent that Jane Campion, Sally Potter, the Lina Wertmuller of the ’70s or Sofia Coppla have interior force, I mean.
If you took one look at the late Stanley Kubrick at any point in his life (including his early childhood) you knew right away he had a certain brooding heavy-osity and that he’d always be up to something grounded and solid. (Those harshly examining dark eyes told you he was a killer.) If you looked at the schmudgy and smirky features of Ed Wood you could also tell what he was about — i.e., not that much. Say what you will about Leni Reifenstahl but one look at her features and it was obvious she had mad currents running within. You can tell by looking at Wood that she’s into gliding along as best she can.
The only thing that bothers me about this whole interior-perception thing is, as I’ve noted before, that Matt Greenhalgh‘s Nowhere Boy‘s script reads quite well. But I’ve been around long enough to know that if a director is bad or mediocre enough he/she can ruin the best scripts without half trying.
On top of which Taylor-Wood, 42, and Johnson, 19, have been reportedly been romantic for several months. I’ve long been persuaded that films in which a director and a star are doing each other during shooting tend to be problematic or at least conflicted on this or that level. (Unless, of course, the director is a major world-class artist — i.e., Michelangelo Antonioni — and the star is Monica Vitti, and it’s the early to mid ’60s.) Creative focus during the directing of a motion picture and D.H. Lawrentian passion are two very different games. Sex almost always clouds vision.
Nowhere Boy is about the adolescent Liverpool days of John Lennon, who’s being played by the raven-haired, thick-nosed Aaron Johnson. A party was reportedly thrown by the Nowhere Boy producers in Cannes last May, and, according to a Daily Mail story, Julian Lennon, the late singer’s son, attended.
Lennon was asked by a reporter about his impressions of the Sam Taylor-Wood Wood/Aaron Johnson take on his dad’s early life. “I know what I know, I like what I know, and I don’t like some of what I know and I don’t particularly want to see someone else’s variation on that,” he said.