THE JERUSALEM POST
The entertainment Supplement of
A mind-bending movie
British director Ken Russell joins forces with Uri Geller to make a film about the Israeli-born psychic. Russell says the two men met by a ‘cosmic’ coincidence.
By Allison Kaplan Sommer
Director Ken Russell promises that his chronicle of the life and times of Uri Geller will venture beyond traditional biographical films.
“Our film goes into the future,” he told reporters excitedly at a news conference this week in Tel Aviv.
“But I’m forbidden, under pain of death, to speak about that aspect of the film … because … the future hasn’t happened yet.”
Russell will be telling the life story of one of the world’s best-known psychic performers, whose apparent ability to stop clocks, bend spoons and read minds has won both passionate believers as well as plenty of skeptics who call him a fraud.
From the classic rock opera Tommy to D.H. Lawrence’s Woman in Love, biographies of composers including Liszt and Mahler to his latest spate of erotic films such as Crimes of Passion and Whore, Russell’s art, like Geller’s, usually elicits extreme responses of passionate admiration or disgusted rejection.
Russell carries himself like a proud and carefree man who, after nearly three decades of making films, has earned the right to relax and not take it too seriously when his work is attacked on either artistic or moral grounds.
“I can’t predict everyone’s moral code in the whole world,” said Russell, 66.
“I’d have to be personally introduced to everyone in the whole world. That might take a bit of time. You can’t please everyone, but why should you? You should please the truth.” Russell suddenly catches himself and laughs, shaking his head.
“I’m preaching a sermon here. I should stop.” The British filmmaker is convinced that once he tells Geller’s story to the world, the skeptics will change their minds.
RUSSELL SPENT the past week in Tel Aviv casting Uri and scouting locations for the film, which will be shot in December and January. The film is based on the autobiography Geller wrote describing his Tel Aviv childhood, his discovery of his special powers and his ascent to world-wide recognition.
Russell said the film originated in a “cosmic” coincidence.
“We’ll do a slow dissolve to 1974, when I was making Tommy. The producer of Tommy was Robert Stigwood – who I’m told is now the third-richest man in England with œ150 million, most of it mine from Tommy, that I didn’t get. Never mind. I don’t begrudge him that little million or two.
“Anyway, while I was doing this film Tommy, Stigwood said, ‘I’ve met the most extraordinary man. His name’s Uri Geller. Have you heard about him?’ I said, ‘Well I’ve heard about him as much as anyone else.’ And he said, ‘No, no, there’s much more to it than that and in fact, I have the rights to his books I just bought. And it would make a wonderful film, and you would be the right man to direct it.'”
For reasons which Russell doesn’t know, Stigwood never got around to making the film and allowed the option to lapse, leaving the project in oblivion. It was not until this year that Israeli film producer Doron Eran decided to resurrect it.
“We then cut to London, where I’m walking down the street looking in a video shop,” Russell said, continuing his tale told with film terminology.
“A man is beckoning me. I look around, but no, he means me. I go in the video shop. He’s the manager of the video shop, and he said ‘Look!’ and there was a whole shelf of my films. I thought nobody saw them any more. But he had 20 features of mine which was rather stunning and he said, ‘I’m a great fan of yours. You must join my video shop, blah, blah, – It’s got all sorts of interesting directors. It’s an unusual one, blah blah blah. And I can’t give you any more of my time. I’m off to see Uri Geller.'”
Russell joined the video shop, and soon alter he received a phone call from Geller. According to the psychic, Geller had complained to his friend, the video-store manager “If only I can find Ken Russell,” and the manager Immediately handed him the phone number.
“The chance of me going down that street and that man waving to me and Uri going in are pretty remote, but I really do believe in those sorts of things. Well, I was meant to make this film on him. I had no choice but to do it. It was fate.”
RUSSELL COUNTS himself among those who believe in Geller’s abilities. He said he would be unable to direct the film if he doubted Geller’s powers, which he said are a combination of art and science. After a long absence from the general public in Britain, Russell said, Geller recently made an Impressive appearance on morning television there.
“He did some amazing things with clocks and people’s watches starting. They had 75,000 telephone calls to the TV station of people who had their broken watches starting. And he did an amazing piece of telepathic drawing in the studio with the presenter, a very cynical Scottish lady. She quickly drew something on a piece of paper and said to him, ‘Hurry up, hurry up. Come on, what did I draw? You draw it too – but the news is coming up, hurry, hurry.’
“Well, that’s not the best sort of mood to put someone in who’s trying to use his powers of telepathy to ascertain what the lady was drawing. But nevertheless, under the circumstances he did very well. She held up her picture of a house with two windows, a door and a chimney, and he held up his picture of a house with a door and two windows in exactly the same place, but no chimney. It was identical [sic], apart from the chimney. And he asked her if, when she was thinking of the picture – because he asked them to think what they’d drawn – ‘You didn’t think of the chimney, did you?’ And she said, ‘No, I forgot the chimney.’ That spoke for itself.”
Israelis are the most skeptical of their native son. However, Geller’s dubious reputation here doesn’t bother Russell.
“I don’t have a very good reputation in England, and that doesn’t worry me,” he said jokingly. He said he learned during the course of the past week here that Geller has been out of the country for so long that many younger Israelis haven’t heard of him.
Even though he is directing the life story of a psychic, he said it is hard to predict the fate of the movie.
“People think of a film as just a film. I think of it as a living thing. I’ve never made a film that ever came out just as I planned it in my head, and I do plan very carefully – there’s no chance, no ad-libbing. I really think about it as long as I can, immerse myself in it, usually write the script if I can, and then start and have the whole crew, so we know what we are doing. We’re all going in the same direction, hopefully.
“And then we start the film, and then the film takes on a life of its own and very often a direction of its own, and you can fight it or go with it, and I go with it, because that’s what I’m meant to do.”
This is his first visit here. He said the chance to see the country made the film a particularly attractive opportunity.
“l always have an open mind. There are some places I want to see in the world, others I don’t. I was curious to see Israel, its having been in the news every day for the last 50 years, so I thought it’s about time I have a look at it.
“I’ve only seen one camel, though. I’m a bit worried about that.”
Cover photo by JEREMY FELDMAN The Entertainment Supplement of THE JERUSALEM POST Russell clowns around in Tel Aviv, where he has spent the past week casting ‘Uri’ and scouting locations for the film. (JEREMY FELDMAN)
Motivational Inspirational Speaker
Motivational, inspirational, empowering compelling 'infotainment' which leaves the audience amazed, mesmerized, motivated, enthusiastic, revitalised and with a much improved positive mental attitude, state of mind & self-belief.
“There is no spoon!”
“The world needs your amazing talents. I need them”
“Uri Geller gave an absolutely resonating talk on his life and career. He had every single magician in the room on the edge of their seats trying to digest as much information as they could. Uri emphasized that the path to frame is through uniqueness and charisma and that professional entertainers must be creative in their pursuits of success and never shy away from publicity.”
Tannens Magic Blog
“The man is a natural magician. He does everything with great care, meticulous misdirection and flawless instinct. The nails are real, the keys are really borrowed, the envelopes are actually sealed, there are no stooges, there are no secret radio devices and there are no props from the magic catalogues.”
James Randi (In an open letter to Abracadabra Magazine)
Sir Elton John
“Eternity is down the hall And you sit there bending spoons In your mind, in your mind”
“I Have watched Uri Geller… I have seen that so I am a believer. It was my house key and the only way I would be able to use it is get a hammer and beat it out back flat again.”
“Better than watching Geller bending silver spoons, better than witnessing new born nebulae’s in bloom”