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Roman Polanski on Rescuing 'Weekend of a Champion' From Obscurity and His Advice to Filmmakers

By Ramzi De Coster | Indiewire November 12, 2013 at 12:01PM

In light of the upcoming November 22 theatrical release of Roman Polanski's restored and re-cut 1972 documentary "Weekend of a Champion," last week's New York City screening paid tribute to the film's decades-long journey by following with a rare press conference that included Polanski himself via Skype as well as Jackie Stewart, the Formula 1 film's star subject, and producer Brett Ratner, both of whom were present in person.
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"Weekend of a Champion"
"Weekend of a Champion"

Roman Polanski on why he made the film: 

"The reason I made the film was first because I wanted to make a film about a friend, about Jackie specifically, and two because I like that (Formula 1) very much and I thought (it) was a very cinematic, very visual kind of sport and it was not really being filmed that much because there was no television every week where you could watch the Formula 1 races."

Roman Polanski on directing documentaries: 

"I never considered myself talented in this direction. I didn't consider myself a director of documentaries particularly in that period. Documentaries were not as frequently successful as they are now, there are many more of them now because of the television. You see many more documentaries in the theaters, in those times it was very very seldom that you could hope to have any kind of success with a documentary in a general theatrical release. In those times when I decided to make this film I asked my friend Frank Simon to direct it. Frank was a young American director from New York who I met in Cannes at the film festival, he was showing a documentary called 'The Queen,' it was about the first drag queen contest in New York. It was a very good documentary, funny and unusual and quite daring. Unfortunately it was famous in May 1968 when there was a kind of student revolution in France and the festival was aborted, so Frank never got the prize, but I got a friend in this festival and we brought him, 'we' because we were a bunch of friends in fact, and I decided to make this film, I said I'll produce it, you direct. And the first 'Weekend of a Champion' was directed by Frank Simon, I worked a lot on it I filmed, I often had camera in hand, I helped with the editing etc. But he did the first version of this movie." 

Roman Polanski and Jackie Stewart on "Rush":

Roman Polanski: "I've seen 'Rush' and I can tell you at the beginning I thought 'Oh my god I think I'm going to walk out of it' but I somehow sat through and it gets better and better and finally after I would say a few minutes of patience, it gets you really involved and (the film is) very satisfying. I think it (also has) a great couple of actors looking exactly like the fellows we both knew and it's a very good movie. I think that movie actually doesn't enjoy the success that it deserves, it's a really nice motor-racing movie."

Jackie Stewart: "I think so too, I have seen the movie and I like it. I think the actor that plays Niki Lauda--I think he's so good I would like to see him nominated because he was better than Lauda at Lauda. He studied him so clearly, and his walk, his expressions, the manner in which he lived his life, this guy really caught him and I hope he gets a nomination." 

Roman Polanski's advice to aspiring filmmakers: 

"It's a question of patience and perseverance, that's all I can tell you. You can't teach talent but you can tell someone how to sustain the adversity which is an enemy constantly on set. Whatever you do, whatever type of film you make, it requires a crew, it requires financing, it requires a lot of people around you. And those people even if they are all with you, even if they are all friendly and even if they all agree with the final result, they still have their personal agendas, they see certain things differently than you do. They think that certain things can be done in a different way maybe better in their opinion and then they have their personal problems. They have families and children and girlfriends and they're horny. So what you really need is to be patient and to be able to withstand all those problems."

This article is related to: Roman Polanski, Documentary, Brett Ratner, Cannes Film Festival, Interviews





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