Interview with Alan Moloney
‘[The idea for Beckett on Film] was born out of a stage production that played in the Barbican in London as well as other places around the world,’ Alan Moloney explains. ‘Michael thought it would be a good idea to record the plays for posterity and he presented the idea to me. I had a sense that film directors should be attracted to it. We wanted to create a cinematic feel, rather than just filmed plays.
‘Beckett was fascinated by film and by the notion of recording. I think that an extension of that would have attracted him.
‘I started meeting people halfway through 1999 and talking about the work. The directors often came up with suggestions and we worked it through. As it gained momentum, after Neil Jordan agreed to participate, the concept gained kudos and then people were saying: “I’d just like to do any one of them.” But Anthony Minghella loved Play – it was the first play he’d ever directed, and it was the one he absolutely wanted to do. He’s a big Beckett fan. But some of the directors weren’t familiar with Beckett at all.
‘We didn’t need to put big [actors’] names in there, though obviously there are some very well-known faces. Channel 4 didn’t insist on famous actors, just ones able to play the role, which is why we get a mix of very well-known people and not so well-known.
‘Some of the plays were very hard to think of cinematically. Play, for instance, is three people in urns! That floated in my head for a long time until Anthony Minghella said: “This is the way I want to do it.” His approach is extremely cinematic – he contextualised it in a cinematic environment and that’s why it works as a film. That Time, directed by Charles Garrad, is essentially a head on its own. As written, it is surrounded by blackness. It doesn’t speak, it just listens to voices and in film terms that’s hard. But what Charles did is very beautiful and cinematic.
‘Nothing is definitive. This is the first time that all 19 plays have been filmed, but there have been other versions and I’m sure there will be again. I don’t know if anyone will try to do all 19 again. My advice to them would be: “Don’t! Because it’ll kill you.” But so far no one has criticised us for starting the project’