AC. How would you describe yourself?
MM. No, man. First mistake.
MM. With your first question youre trying to pigeonhole me. Trying to stick a label on me. Trying to pin me down. Dont judge me, man. Read my writing, watch my films. Form your own opinion.
AC. I already am. Er, I understand that you were kicked out of the National Film School?
MM. They didnt kick me out. I left. That place couldnt teach me anything about filmmaking. They wanted me to go to lectures and stuff. You cant learn like that. I cant even make some toast without unconsciously breaking it down into a series of shots. Its instinctive, right? I am a camera. Its that simple.
AC. What about the criticism that your first short, "Another Student Film about Drugs" was largely just a shallow sub-Tarrantino rip-off that plagiarised all its best dialogue from various comic books?
MM. Theres no evidence to support that.
AC. Apart from the six successful lawsuits by Marvel and DC Comics for copyright infringement?
MM. Oh, that evidence. We settled out of court so I cant really comment.
AC. What is your fundamental approach to directing?
MM. Hitchcock said, "Actors are like cattle". Thats wrong. Theyre much lower down the food chain then that. Have you ever spoken to one? All they talk about is who theyve worked with or what theyve just been working on or what theyre working on next. Theyre walking, talking boasting machines. I quite often take an electric cattle prod onto the set with me. I dont use it on them but once they see it they dont give me any more trouble. On The Exorcist, William Friedkin used to take a shotgun onto the set and fire it at random intervals. He understood about keeping actors on their toes.
AC. Has an actor ever walked off one of your films?
MM. Frequently. It doesnt worry me. Actors are like a cheap coffee mug easily replaceable. I once had an actor come up to me on the first day of shooting and say, "My character needs glasses". "What your character really needs", I replied, "is the bus-fare home because youre fired". As I said, I dont stand for any nonsense. Once people understand that theyre fine. And if they don't then theyre sacked.
AC. Its not just actors that have a problem with you is it? James Ferman (Former Head of the British Board of Film Classification) once called you, "that odious little turd" for example.
MM. That goes back to a film I made called Chainsaw Death Zombies which they refused to approve for release.
AC. Wasnt that on the grounds that it was blasphemous?
MM. It was for two reasons. One was that they said it contained nothing more then gratuitous sickeningly explicit violence. The other was that it contained a flashback scene that they said was blasphemous. Quite how showing a zombified Jesus cutting the head off Mary Magdalene with a rusty chainsaw is blasphemous Ill never know. It could have been because Jesus was also holding a crack pipe but frankly its a mystery to me.
AC. In fact the BBFC panel that viewed the film were so traumatised by the experience that they had to seek counselling afterwards didnt they?
MM. They all need to see a psychiatrist, if you ask me.
AC. What about your film Psychedelica which was variously described by critics as "baffling", "impenetrable" and which Sight and Sound declared as "crap".
MM. People just dont know what to make of a film sometimes. Film is an artistic medium. That was an abstract piece. You have to look at the deeper sub-text to find the meaning.
AC. What is the sub-text of Psychedelica?
MM. I have no idea.
AC. You were recently accused of getting £50,000 from the Film Council to make a short film, which you spent instead on drugs and high-class prostitutes
MM. There were some accusations but they never had any evidence. Well apart from the bit about the drugs and prostitutes. There was quite a lot of evidence to support that. But you can prove anything with facts cant you?
AC. Tell us about the feature that youre working on.
MM. Well, I have many projects at various stages of development. But Im about to start shooting, "Die Screaming with Sharp Things in your Head". Id describe it as Goodfellas meets Taxi Driver meets Lethal Weapon but set in East Anglia. Its got a brilliant script. Which I wrote.
AC. And who is appearing in the film?
MM. One thing that Im constantly hearing is that we dont have an equivalent of De Niro in this country. That theres nobody who can play a decent bad guy. Anybody whos seen Annie: The Musical cant fail to have been terrified by Tim Currys portrayal of the villain. He does this trick of looking like hes playing the part in a very camp, over-the-top way but is actually being very subtle in a way not unlike a young Gielguid. I think hes brilliant.
Weve also got Christopher Strauli, who many people may remember as Third patient in the sitcom Only When I Laugh and Anna Friel is doing a couple of days with us. Rhys Ifans has a part as well. We have to use him because the Film Council insist that he must be in every British film made from now on. I dont get involved with the politics. I leave that to the producer. Im an artist.
AC. Mark Marcus, thank you.