VIFF 2017 Interview: BOMBSHELL: THE HEDY LAMARR STORY director Alexandra Dean
By Jason Whyte
Posted 09/29/17 19:18:21
"BOMBSHELL is the untold story of the actress Hedy Lamarr who was known as "most beautiful girl in the world" but was secretly an inventor, barely acknowledged for her brilliance during her lifetime. She worked on a way for the Allies to blow up Nazi submarines during WWII and invented a secure communication system that we still use today in our bluetooth, wifi and GPS. Using never before heard tapes of Lamarr, Bombshell reveals the unbelievable true story of one of the most misunderstood and overlooked figures in the 20th century." Director Alexandra Dean on BOMBSHELL: THE HEDY LAMARR STORY which screens at the 2017 Vancouver International Film Festival.
Is this your first VIFF experience and will you be in Vancouver to attend your screenings?
This is my first VIFF experience and I'm excited to attend my screening in Vancouver on October 8th!
Tell me a bit about yourself and your background, and how you got into the whole filmmaking business.
I started out as an investigative journalist producing newsmagazine segments for "NOW on PBS." From short docs at PBS I started doing in-house documentaries at Bloomberg television and eventually decided to start my own company where I could make feature documentaries on subjects that really mattered to me, which includes brilliant movie star inventors!
How did this movie come together from your perspective?
This film really came together starting with a generous grant from the Alfred P. Sloan foundation. Our producer, Katherine Drew, had read a book by Richard Rhodes called HEDY'S FOLLY about Hedy and her invention, and she gave it to me to look at, and I fell in love with Hedy and her inventive mind. Together we wrote a grant application to Sloan for the documentary and also reached out to Michael Kantor at American Masters to see if he would support the project. We were very fortunate that they both did!
While you are working on a movie, what keeps you going? What drives you, creatively? How much coffee?
Buckets and buckets of coffee! Also, I love the hunt for new material... it's like the world's greatest treasure hunt. Each find is another piece in the puzzle that helps us start to build a clear portrait of our main character.
What was your biggest challenge with this project, and how did you over-come it?
Our biggest challenge was finding Hedy's voice. She'd never done an interview about her invention on television or radio. All that existed was an autobiography called ECSTASY AND ME by a ghost-writer that Hedy said made everything up. She actually sued the publisher for $21 million saying it was full of lies. Six months into the production we were extremely lucky to find audio tapes of Hedy telling her story in her own words to a journalist in 1990, tapes that had never been published. Suddenly we had Hedy's side of the story and we scrapped the film we were making and started again using her voice to narrate her own story.
If you had to pick a single favourite moment out of the entire production, what would it be?
My favorite moment was the day we received a call from the journalist who recorded Hedy. He said: "I have been waiting 25 years for you to call me. Because I had the tapes."
For the aspiring filmmakers who read our site, I would love to know about the technical side of the film and working with your cinematographer?
We were very lucky to shoot with the amazing Buddy Squires who was our main director of photography. Filming with him was like watching a master musician at work.
What are you looking forward to the most about showing your movie to audiences here at VIFF?
I am really looking forward to seeing how the audience reacts to Hedy's surprising story. I wonder if the reaction will be different from New York and San Francisco and Vermont and Nantucket. I think it might be!
Where is this movie going to show next?
Bombshell will open in theaters on November 24th, starting with the IFC Center in New York and then Nuart in LA. It will open in Canada at around the same time.
If you could show your movie in any theater in the world, which one would you choose and why?
We were lucky enough to show Bombshell at the historic Castro theater in San Francisco during the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival. It's a gorgeous old cinema that looks like a playhouse and even has an organ that appears from below the stage and plays for the audience of 1300 before every film! It was the best. I would love for the film to show there for a theatrical run.
Movie theaters are the best place to see a movie, but sometimes they can be distracting! What would you say or do to someone who is talking, texting or being overall disruptive during a screening of your film?
Please, please, please have mercy on the filmmaker.
There are many aspiring filmmakers reading us for our articles and reviews for inspiration. If you could offer a nugget of advice to them on how to get their start, what would you say to them?
Find a story that you can fall in love with on many levels because it may consume years of your life and you want to stay deeply in love with it.
And finally, what is the best movie you have ever seen at a film festival, and why?
I love STEP by Amanda Lipitz, which is in theaters now. It's so beautifully shot and very moving!
This is one of the many films screening at the 2017 Vancouver International Film Festival taking place in beautiful Vancouver from September 28th to October 13th. For more information on this film screening times, point your browser to www.viff.org.
Jason Whyte, efilmcritic.com
Twitter: @jasonwhyte / Facebook: jasonwhyte / Instagram: jason.whyte