|Transcript of Question/Answer Session with Jonathan Lynn - Saturday, October 16, 2004|
Following the Clue Floorshow presentation by Sins O' The Flesh in Los Angeles, Jonathan Lynn took approximately twenty minutes to answer questions pertaining to the movie. The following is a transcript of the Question & Answer Session. The transcript has been slightly edited for content and clarity.
The audio file of this Question/Answer Session can be downloaded here: Lynn's Q&A
(Applause) I heard a rumor that Madeline Kahn's [flames] scene was kind of a misread, but [she] just kind of rolled with it. Is that true or was it really in the script?
No, it wasn't entirely in the script. She came to me when we were doing the scene and said, 'I want to try something different here.' So I said,'what'. She said, 'let me show you.' So I said, 'okay." So we just rolled the camera and that's what she did which was hilarious. So we didn't do what was in the script at that point - ever.
Wasn't someone a notorious ad-libber on the set?
No. There were no ad-libs on the set apart from that one moment from Madeline. That is the only ad-lib in the picture.
Are there any missing scenes?
Yes, quite a lot, I would say. There are no missing plot scenes. There are lots of shots. I edited it very tightly. So there were quite a lot of shots that were tightened, and there were one or two scenes when they went upstairs - not whole scenes, but shots again. There are no actually missing scenes. I think there was a scene where the motorist crashed his car, which didn't have any laughs in it so we took it out.
What was your favorite scene?
I don't know if I have a favorite scene. Um, I think, I think I like the Singing Telegram best.
How many days did it take to shoot it?
To shoot the Singing Telegram? How many days did it take to shoot the whole movie? I absolutely can't remember. It was twenty years ago and I've not the slightest idea. It didn't take - it was a relatively short schedule, but it was tremendously complicated because with all the different endings, every shot had to work for every solution. So there were a lot of things that had to be established so that when people - as I thought they might do - painstakingly went through the film subsequently, it all actually made sense in a mad way. So that meant that it was a very precise shooting script, which I really didn't deviate from.
How do you feel about what these amazing people did to your movie? How they changed it and made it [into a floorshow]?
Oh tonight? Oh, I loved it, yeah.
How did they do it? Did they call you up and ask you?
No. I just heard about it.
I have a question about one of the producers of the movie, John Peters. Was he the same one that produced Barbara Streisand back in the 70's?
He was. He was, yes. And he actually invited us to his house one weekend in Aspen. (To wife) Do you think it is all right for me to tell this story? He invited us to his - my wife is shaking her head. But, well, it is not all right for me to tell this story. So yes, it was John Peters.
I understand that you based this on a parody of an Agatha Christie book, and I was wondering what you used for source material?
No, it has nothing really to do with Agatha Christie. There was the board game. And the board game contained all of the rooms that are in the movie and all the principle characters. It didn't contain the motorist, or the cop, or the butler - or Mr. Boddy, come to think of it. But yeah - Mr. Boddy is in the game - he's the body. It didn't contain the French maid. But it contained all the main characters, and all the weapons, and all the rooms, and the secret passages, and my job - I was hired by Paramount Pictures to write a script that was a film of the board game. I thought it was the silliest idea I had ever heard, but they were paying me. So I said yes.
I recently saw the film Murder By Death, and I'm curious as to know why there are similarities between the two movies. And I wanted to know if you had seen it and drew from it?
Which film came first?
Murder by Death.
Murder by Death came first? Really? Are there any real similarities? The similarity is that it is a country house with people trapped inside trying to find out who the killer is, which is kind of a staple of - I mean to that extent that is based on an Agatha Christie notion, but I don't think there are any other similarities.
I noticed that this movie is very similar to Rocky Horror (cut off by audience dissent)...
The only similarity to Rocky Horror is that it has got Tim Curry in it, I think. I don't think there are any others.
Both have a castle set in New England.
Yeah, it is not very similar, but it is all a matter of opinion.
Was this filmed in England also?
No this was filmed here at Paramount on Stage 16. It was all filmed on stage - even the scenes outside the house in the rain were all filmed on stage at Paramount.
Were you pleased with the set that they built you, or was your budget limited?
I loved the set that was built. The set was incredibly expensive. It was by far the most expensive item in the program - in the movie. Way more expensive than any of the actors or scenes. I loved it.
What is your favorite weapon?
My favorite weapon? I don't have a favorite weapon. I'm sorry. I don't have one, no.
Do you have a favorite of the endings?
No. For me, I like all the endings and I like the fact that they are all possible, and I think that it was a mistake when the film was originally released to show them with separate endings. I think it would have been better if it had been as it is on the tape and the DVD when they are all there. Because for me, the ingenuity of the story depends on the fact that all of the endings make sense.
The house is called, "Hill House." Is that a nod to Shirley Jackson and the Haunting of Hill House or is that just a generic name?
It's a nod to Debra Hill, who is the Producer. I reckon it is her house.
Was there any problem getting a PG rating because there is a lot of drinking, smoking and a lot of emphasis on George Washington's crotch.
Yes, there is an enormous amount of sex and violence in the picture, and I don't know how - I didn't understand ratings - but they gave us a PG rating and I didn't argue with it.
Is there any particular reason why you chose to make three different endings?
Yes, I was asked to. I wrote the film originally for John Landis who is one of the executive producers, but he was originally going to direct it. His idea was to have four endings to be shown in different theatres, and so that was what I was hired to do. So I wrote it with four endings. And then John decided not to direct the film and I was asked to direct it. So that is how it already was. Then we shot all four endings, but I dropped one of them because I didn't like one of them.
Did your actors audition or did you know who you wanted in your film?
No, I didn't know anybody here. I had always worked in England. They, I think they all came to read for me. No, maybe not Madeline Khan because I knew her, but I think all of the others came to meet me and read. And I knew Tim Curry because I'd been in school with him. I'd known Tim since I was fourteen.
Do you remember anyone else who might have auditioned that didn't get it that went on to be somebody else?
What was your fondest memory from the shoot?
The wrap party.
What was so special about it?
It was really fun. My family were in England for some of the shoot. My son, Teddy - who is here tonight - was one of the P.A.s (Motions to Teddy) We had a very good time at the wrap party, but the whole thing - working with all the actors - was really fun. It was a really fun film to make actually.
No it wasn't easygoing. It was easygoing for the actors. It was never easygoing for the director.
What was a typical day like on the set? Was there a particular person who liked to play practical jokes?
No. There were no practical jokes. Well, actually, there was once. There was one practical joke when we were doing the Singing Telegram scene and we were shooting and the camera was running and we rushed to the door - everyone rushed to the door and opened it - and instead of the Singing Telegram there, there was a Mickey Mouse which John Landis had hired from Disneyland and sent over. I think that was the only practical joke.
What was the fourth ending?
I can't remember. I have no idea. I can't remember I'm afraid.
When they gave you the assignment to do a movie of this board game, what did they say had to be in it?
I was the fifth writer. There had been various others - the most famous of whom was Tom Stoppard. The brief was to do a broad comedy set in the house using the rooms in the board game, the weapons in the board game and the characters in the board game. That was essentially it, and it had to be puzzling, funny, and have multiple endings. And I thought they were insane, but as I said, they paid me, so I had a go and they liked what I wrote - to my great surprise.
Did you write it from scratch or did you take what the other writers had [written]?
No, John Landis had worked out sort of half a story. He pitched the story - it is not exactly as it is in the movie, but it sort of approximates what it is in the movie - and he pitched it and got to the moment when the butler said, 'and now I'm going to tell you who did it.' And I had been sitting there really rapped for fifteen minutes so I said, 'who did do it?' He said, 'I don't know. That's why I need a writer.'
There are a lot of inside jokes with the U.N.O. W.H.O and stuff. What I want to know is that when Lesley Ann Warren says, 'anybody could have picked up the candlestick. You. Him.' Is she pointing to Yvette or Tim Curry?
I have absolutely no idea. Teddy, do you know? (Teddy answers). It is deliberately ambiguous.
Since the studio was already crazy enough to release the film with separate endings in separate theaters, did they happen to track which ending did the best - box office wise?
I don't think they did because it was sort of a random release virtually - with different endings. And I don't think anyone worked out which did best, no. The main problem was that none of them did terribly well because everybody said, 'I don't know which ending to go and see.' So instead of going to see all of them - which is what the studio had intended - a lot of people opted for not going to see any of them because they didn't know which one to go to. So, um, but I don't think anybody tracked which was which, no.
Since we are coming up on the twentieth anniversary of the movie, are there any plans or would you have any interest in revisiting it for a special edition DVD?
I would actually like to. I would like to put a commentary on it, but you'll all have to write to Paramount and ask for that. Otherwise I'm sure it wouldn't happen. (Teddy gives contact name.) Write to Martin Blythe and ask him for a special edition with a commentary - twentieth anniversary.
Do any of those missing scenes that you talked about [exist] - are they sitting in a vault somewhere or are they gone?
Who knows? Couldn't tell you the answer to that. Probably both. I mean probably they are sitting in a vault somewhere and crumbling.
Did Parker Brothers express interest in any other board game movies?
Not to me.
Did you keep any props from the film or did anybody else keep anything of interest?
No, I didn't keep any props from the film. (To Wife) Did I? What did I keep? (She answers, 'The Gargoyles') Where are they? Where are they now? Apparently we have the gargoyles somewhere in England. I've still got the clapperboard, I think. And I think that's about it.
Do you still keep in touch with Tim Curry?
Yes, absolutely. We've been friends for a long time.
Do you see him much?
Are you working on anything new?
Yes, lots of things.
What are you working on?
Um, I'll tell you when they happen. (Teddy suggests everyone buys Jonathan Lynn's other DVDs to put him in demand). Okay, well, thank you very much everybody.