Recently I had the privilege of interviewing film director Marty Davidson in honor of the 35th anniversary of the release of the movie "Eddie And The Cruisers" and the director's birthday on Nov. 7.
The movie tells the story of a fictional rock star named Eddie Wilson who vanishes under strange circumstances in the 1960s and 20 years later his band, The Cruisers, tries to solve the mystery. The film's theme song "On The Dark Side" was a big hit in 1984.
How did you first get interested in making movies?
Davidson: At first I wasn't interested in making movies. I thought I wanted to be in the theater. I was in a school play in the 6th grade when I was 11 years old, and I got a lot of laughs… I liked making all those people in the audience laugh at what I was doing and I never forgot that… I remember loving doing (theater), and that all became a part of my life, but when I graduated high school I thought I had to go off to college and have a real career so I went to Syracuse University to become a lawyer. I used to watch television shows like "Perry Mason" and thought a lawyer got to perform in front of a jury in front of an audience of onlookers, in front of a judge and that looked very theatrical to me and interesting and that's what I thought I wanted to do. After a year of college I knew that wasn't what I really wanted. I wanted to be on stage, to be a theater actor so I left college to study acting and went to the American Academy Of Dramatic Arts, and everything was geared to the theater. I started seeing movies long before you were born in I'd say 1960, and they were making something called art films… I thought this is something that interests me. I want to get involved in film, make movies, little small films about real people.
Can you explain what a director does and why it's an important job?
Davidson: His is the vision. We are creative interpretive artists meaning that we are given a script a screenplay that somebody has written. We interpret what the writer is trying to say but then we're also creative people so we have to bring our own vision to what that author has given it. Each director will not only interpret the author's words, but he will add his own touch to it, his own creativity, and that is his overall job, and he has to bring that to the screen and has to deal with maybe 150 people who are part of the production. That starts with actors, it's a cinematographer, art directors, production designers, set designers, all these other people who are part of it and they all have to come to this person at some point and ask lots of questions that help them do their job and it's up to him to bring out the best in all these people without ever losing sight of the tone and the artistry that he wants to bring to the film.
As a director who has worked on many movies what is the easiest and hardest part of the job?
Davidson: There is no easy part to the job. For every single day that you wake up even in your dreams... you are concentrated. You have a responsibility to not only the author but also the financier and the actors to help them be at their best. It is life consuming. It is every single minute of every single day that you're making a movie and you are thinking how do I get the best of myself. How do I not waste a moment of my day to concentrate and give everything in my soul, really, everything I have to offer to this production so that we bring out the best that everyone involved has to offer, that's the hardest part. The easiest part is to create an atmosphere and a playground so all these other 150 people who are part of it are at their best and then sit back and watch what they bring to it and take pleasure in their talent.
What was it like to work with Sylvester Stallone and Henry Winkler on the movie "The Lords Of Flatbush"?
Davidson: Basically for all of us it was a beginning. It was a start and I would say that I been at it now over 40 years, I've never enjoyed anything more in my life than that experience for many reasons: for the opportunity to be finally directing a movie but more because we started with total innocence. All we were going to do was work together and try and see if we lend our talents to one another that this would be a beginning for all of us, and we were open to each other and we trusted each other. There really wasn't much of a script to begin with so what I did was for a period of 7 weeks before we started shooting, I met with these actors every single day and we would do improvisations. I would set up situations and they would use their own language, their own talents, creativity to create these scenes. Then I would take those scenes, those thoughts they gave me in those improvisations and put it into screenplay form. We were always looking for how we could build this piece together, and they plunged in and they trusted me and I trusted them, and it was glorious.
What advice do you have for young people who want to become directors?
Davidson: It's not an easy choice. Somebody famous once said something I live by. His name was Branch Rickey. He owned the Brooklyn Dodgers baseball team when I was growing up. He's famous for bringing Jackie Robinson to baseball, and signing him the first African American to play in the major leagues. He once said that luck is the residue of design. Now you have to be very lucky to become a film director. There are only a handful of them. It's like saying you want to be a professional basketball player. There aren't a lot of them. A lot of people would like to be professional basketball players but only a handful get to do it, that is also true of directing films. Only a handful of people get to do it so it requires a lot of things: a certain dedication, commitment, tenacity, and luck. And luck is described as the residue of design so everything is about what you put into it. What you design for your life, your commitment to something, your belief in yourself. Your commitment to this dream of yours, and one thing you should never forget is to be open to everything. To be open to music, to be open to art, to be open to light, to be open to any form of creativity through architecture. All of those things are required to become a film director.
Rodeo thanks Marty Davidson for giving the world wonderful films like "Eddie And The Cruisers." Special thanks to Sandy Davidson for the pictures of the production of the film.