AC. How did you get started in film?
Basically, I talked my way in! I had a script that Id written and made some appointments with some of the studios. You could still do that in those days! I claimed that Id made training films for the government, absolute rubbish of course, but they believed me. Then they asked me if they could have a look at some of them to see how good I was. I couldnt of course because they didnt exist. So I said, "Terribly sorry but theyre classified so theres no way I can let you see them" They hesitated for a moment but they must have been desperate because they eventually agreed to finance my film. Ive never looked back since.
AC. Do you see yourself as a film director or a food critic these days?
MW. (Lighting huge cigar) Oh definitely a director, dear boy. I love making movies. I love eating food too, of course, but movies are my first love. I enjoy being a food critic but I do it as a hobby. I always pay for my own food, for example, because otherwise I feel that I havent got any right to complain about something that I havent paid for. If I had my way film critics would have to pay to see the movies they review. How can they complain about something when they get to see it for free?
AC. Youve had a rather rough ride from the critics over the years havent you?
MW. I can honestly say that Ive never been worried by a bad review in my life. Critics often seem to complain about a film just because they can. Derek Malcolm once said that hed hated every film Id ever made. So I arranged for him to receive a video copy of every single one of them with a card that read, "Happy viewing love Michael" I find some critics attitude strange because they treat all films the same way. Ive never claimed that Im making art. I make films that are designed to entertain.
AC. Barry Norman described one of your films as the "most offensive thing Ive ever seen" didnt he?
MW. I think Barry Normans hair is one of the most offensive things Ive ever seen but I dont go around shouting about it. As I say people just love to complain. Poor old Alan Parker is having exactly the same problem at the Film Council because it hasnt produced instant results.
AC. Alexander Walker was recently very critical of the Film Council. Do you think he was justified in that criticism?
MW. I think its pretty clear that he was wrong in a lot of the things he was saying. How can he expect films to make a profit when theyve not even been released yet? Frankly, I think its rather premature to start being critical of them yet. Theyve only had a short while to start trying to turn around the years of neglect that the British film industry has suffered. I was so incensed that I almost paid for a large billboard to be erected saying, "Alexander Walker wouldnt know a decent film if it bit him on the arse" in three foot high letters. But my solicitor advised me that it was probably libellous so I decided against it. He once had a go at Death Kill 6 too.
AC. The Death Kill series have been a particular target for the critics havent they?
MW. Good grief, yes! Ive got a scrapbook which contains every single bad review those films have had. It runs to thirty-three volumes. Mostly people complain about the violence. In retrospect, the chainsaw massacre in the Nunnery in Death Kill 9 may have been slightly over the top but apart from that I would defend every single violent moment in those movies. Some people just seem to have a problem with Charles Bronson running around performing random acts of vigilante revenge. What they forget is that we clearly set up the character so that he has a motivation for what hes doing - his cat was run over by a truck. The other thing I hear a lot is that we did far too many in the series. Thats just rubbish. Each one had a good, strong storyline. Possibly we were running out of steam a little by Death Kill 17 but its still a damn good film.
AC. You also tried your hand at directing comedy with Crash, Bang, Wallop!" which starred Oliver Reed and Roger Moore.
MW. Yes. I love comedy. Nobody makes really funny movies any more so I thought Id have a go. The critics hated it, as usual. They savaged poor Roger. Someone wrote that he was "so wooden you can practically see the varnish". They just dont understand that Roger does most of his acting with his feet so a lot of the performance tends to get lost during the close-ups. Unless its a close-up of his feet. People also complained that the film was "too coarse". It was about a pornography ring being run from the library of the Vatican! Naturally, it was coarse!
AC. Your food column has attracted some equal flack hasnt it?
Apparently Anthony Worral-Thomson has a picture of me on his dartboard. Just because I complained that his lamb was a little bit too well done for my taste. If he cant take criticism then he shouldnt be cooking.
AC. I believe you actually said, "The lamb is so tough you could use it to patch an inner tube. Actually Id probably prefer to eat the inner tube."
MW. (Laughing) Did I really say that? It sounds like one of my more favourable reviews. I was once at a celebrity dinner and they had that bloody awful Jamie Oliver there. He was saying things like, "Awight mate. Liked the last film. Tewwific. Geezer. Fancy some grub? Its pukka. I cooked it me self, like," I told him to stop talking gibberish and asked him if hed started shaving yet.
AC. Youre going to be writing a review of this restaurant for the Evening Standard. What do you make of it?
MW. Generally, I cant complain too much. Its called "Im Spartacus!" so thats got some good filmic connotations. The décor is a bit weird. Lots of cabinets full of bird skulls and odd sculptures. Its a bit like eating your dinner in the Natural History Museum. Also the name of the restaurant should be reflected by using some sort of theme like putting all the staff in togas or something. As it is the name is meaningless. Its like Planet Hollywood without Arnold Schwarzenegger. Did you know that Spielberg has a theme restaurant chain? Its called Dive! Dive! The whole place is done out like a sunken submarine. Thats that kind of effect they should be going for. Also I noticed that theres no little basket of mints next to the front door. Its the little details like that that people look for. Theres a reason why the Bernie Inn is so popular.
As for the food. Its all very well to serve clams with lamb but I think most people would really prefer a nice plate of chips. Did you know that at Little Chef you get unlimited rounds of toast when you get the full English breakfast? Imagine that. As much toast as you want. Wheres the waiter? I want my bill.
AC. Michael Whiner, thank you.
Note: Michael Whiner is currently being sued by Ann Widdecombe for describing her as having a "Planet of the Apes" haircut. The case comes to court next summer.