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Random Thoughts About Insignificance

Theresa Russell as Marilyn Monroe in Insignificance.
Random thoughts following my post about the new Criterion edition of Insignificance:

1.  I particularly remember the thrill, while we were shooting at night outside Carnegie Hall (the location for the original, iconic sequence in which Marilyn Monroe's dress is aroused by the air blowing up from a subway grating in The Seven Year Itch), when legendary Broadway and film choreographer/director Bob Fosse came by the set.

It was my honor to escort Mr Fosse around, and although he was more interested in talking about Insignificance than his own work, we did chat a little about his astonishing movies, Lenny and All That Jazz.

I watched All That Jazz again recently, and aside from being blown away - as always - by the vast casting call opening scene, in which dancers are whittled down from a vast crowd to a few, to a background of George Benson's amazing rendition of On Broadway, I love the entire movie's huge energy and insight into Broadway (and Bob Fosse himself) - and its effortless homage to Fellini's 8 1/2.

Bob Fosse's wonderful All That Jazz.
2.  Prior to filming, while we were still in London, I remember Nic Roeg asking me to call Billy Wilder and ask him how he shot that particular sequence and what it was like working with Monroe.

I called at an appointed time - and got Mr Wilder out of the shower at his home in Los Angeles! Initially rather annoyed (to say the least), he defrosted somewhat on the phone and talked about the interminable waiting for Marilyn...but I was amused - and a little afraid, even given our trans-Atlantic distance - to experience a taste of his infamous Germanic temper.  

(We also had the benefit - and inspired casting - of Tony Curtis in Insignificance, as The Senator/Joe McCarthy, and he of course had his own tales of working with Marilyn on Some Like It Hot.)

3.  Another huge thrill for me, working on the movie, was to call David Hockney (again at Nic's suggestion), and ask whether he would consider creating one of his photo collages of Theresa Russell for a more mysterious and time-bending version of the infamous nude Marilyn Monroe calendar, seen in a bar scene in Insignificance (Gary Busey, as The Ballplayer/Joe DiMaggio promptly tears it up).

It turned out that Hockney was a big fan of Nic and Theresa (just as I was of Hockney), and it was fascinating to watch his process as he prepared for the major photo shoot of Theresa that would form the basis of the meticulously assembled collage (which has since been exhibited at museums around the world).

David Hockney's startling photo-collage of Theresa Russell.
I remember Hockney looking at a book of Picassos for inspiration and remarking, in his dry, northern English accent, "I love this one, because you can see the bum and the other bit at the same time."

4.  Watching the film again on the Criterion DVD, I was struck by how incredibly beautiful the sequence is where Einstein and Monroe clumsily undress, to the accompaniment of Gil Evans' exquisite jazz rendering of Mozart's Jupiter Suite (Symphony 41).

Nicolas Roeg has always had a remarkable talent for marrying image and emotion to music - think of the extraordinary sequence of tender marital sex between Donald Sutherland and Julie Christie in Don't Look Now, or the beautiful encounter after a breakup between Theresa Russell and Art Garfunkel (to Keith Jarrett's transcendental jazz piano piece, Koln Concert) in Bad Timing...or the groundbreaking, pre-music video "narrative song," Memo From Turner by Mick Jagger in Performance.  The score of Insignificance is no exception.

Ironically it prompted a song about Nic himself by Big Audio Dynamite, called e=mc2, and featuring dialogue samples from Performance.  It may just be the only pop song about a film director!


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