Adrian Lyne: Magnificent Obsessions

Certainly Lyne's hoping such is the case with Jacob's Ladder, the top-secret storyline of which is intended to tease an audience into guessing at what's really happening to hallucinating protagonist Tim Robbins, before arriving at what Lyne is hoping will be the surprising denouement. From the footage I've seen, this could be a giant leap forward for Lyne: for once, his characters are speaking to one another, and Robbins seems an inspired choice for the role of Jacob. His lumbering goofiness and dimply smile help to off-set this dark story. But it's all too soon to tell; the finished film isn't available to see.

"Tell me about the film," I say. "Any major problems?"

"Bruce [the writer] saw the demons and the devils in a strictly Biblical sense," says Lyne. "I argued that people are familiar with Biblical demons. They've seen the 'devil' before, and I felt that if they're familiar with the demons, there's a lack of terror. Ridley Scott did an extraordinary devil in Legend, but it wasn't terrifying, because you looked at it and said, 'Oh, that's the devil.' I tried to root [my demons] in flesh so people wouldn't be able to reject them." Here again we see Lyne's magnificent obsession with the look of his films; he's fretting over whether his demons will sell.

"There's a scene of a nurse with horns. Now you can't put a nurse with horns on the screen. The audience will howl with laughter, and your movie will stop dead. I got rid of the horns and put two red sores on her head. We spent months discussing that and trying to get the right kind of sores."

How telling, I thought, that Lyne, when given an opportunity to discuss the project, said nary a word about the U.S. Army shooting drugs into our own servicemen (in effect, trying to kill them twice). I conclude that Lyne is not a political animal. Nefarious governmental policy doesn't goad him to anger. What does make him bilious is repressed and repressive Anglo society. "In England, or in America, they have no problem putting a guy who's about to blow his brains out on the six o'clock news, but they won't let you show a woman's breast. I can't stand the English. They moan too much."

When not working in Hollywood, Lyne lives in France where, he says, "You see nude women on the box all the time. And nude men, for that matter."

I mention to Lyne that, in his films, there seems to be an abundance of close-ups on feet. "Are you a foot fetishist?" I ask. He lets out with a high-pitched whinny and shakes his head. "You need something to cut to," he says.

Lyne himself is an awfully engaging dining partner. There's an impish quality about him. He does a dead-on imitation of a snooty English actress who turned down a role in one or his films. One reason he cast Glenn Close, he says, is she liked to have fun. "She was not the stay-at-home intellectual that she usually plays." All the actors who've worked with Lyne speak of his willingness to listen.

Lyne is still wide-eyed about his success.

"Of course I've been lucky," he says. "But a lot of directors get a break and then they're told they're geniuses, and they start to believe it. This town is filled with directors who think they know what they're doing because people tell them as much. The moment you arrive at that position, and think you don't need advice, you're in trouble."

"How would you rate yourself as a director?"

"I'm stumbling around in the dark. Maybe one day I'll do a good movie."


Jeffrey Lantos has written for American Film and Cosmopolitan, and is a frequent contributor to these pages.

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