Six years and four months ago, Vanity Fair contributor Sam Kashner interviewed the extremely press-shy Richard Lester. It happened “on a chilly morning at a gastropub near a marina in Chichester, England,” Kashner writes. One of the topics was Lester’s two Beatles films, A Hard Day’s Night (which opened on 7.6.64, or almost exactly 50 years ago) and Help!. In honor of the HDN anniversary or the recently released Criterion Bluray or both, VF has published an article by Kashner about the ’08 encounter. The piece also contains references to the here-and-now.
Richard Lester, now 82, in a still from the website of 2013 Febio Fest, which Lester attended.
Kashner’s article deals with Lester’s decision to quit directing due to the death of actor and longtime Lester friend Roy Kinnear, who suffered a fatal heart attack during the filming of Lester’s The Return of the Musketeers (’89). This was preceded by a performing accident in which Kinnear was “thrown from his horse, fractured his pelvis and suffered massive internal bleeding.” The 54 year-old Kinnear died the next day.
“Lester was devastated,” Kashner writes. “Even now, 25 years later, he can’t talk about it. All he says when the subject comes up is, ‘It’s painful. I’m sure you appreciate that. He is…he was…wonderful.’ Whether it was the death of his friend, the ensuing lawsuit [from Kinnear’s wife] or changes in the movie industry, Lester would never again direct a feature film.”
“25 years later”? So Kashner spoke to Lester within the last six months? Under what circumstances? If Kashner and Lester spoke this year, why not discuss the re-mastering process that led to the Hard Day’s Night Criterion Bluray?
If I could talk to Lester you can bet I’d at least ask — politely, delicately — about his decision to crop A Hard Day’s Night at 1.75.
HE: “Obviously you decided that A Hard Day’s Night would look better within a 1.75:1 aspect ratio, which you obviously prefer to the more common 1.66:1…” Lester: “That’s right.” HE: “But why? I mean, the Criterion Bluray is immaculate and the 1.75 cropping isn’t that bothersome for the most part.” Lester: “Nice of you to acknowledge that.” HE: “But there are two or three framings that look needlessly over-cropped. The press conference shot when Ringo says he’s a ‘mocker’ — that’s definitely over-cropped. We all know that 1.66 was quite the prevalent British aspect ratio during the mid ’60s, and that the film had been cropped like that for the last 50 years and that Criterion itself issued a 1.37 version on a laser disc back in the ’90s…” Lester: “But the leaders say 1.75, Jeffrey.” HE: “I realize that but…I’m sorry but I don’t see how it really matters. I only know that perfectly good visual information has been sliced for no reason than an arbitrary call on your part…no offense.”