A wonderful recent interview with Ian McEwan, one of my idols. The image of him at his writing desk, above, is like a dream of how a writer’s study ought to look. Full interview below.
This is exactly how I feel.
“You call it procrastinating, I call it thinking.”
“Procrastinating is a vice when it comes to productivity, but it can be a virtue for creativity. What you see with a lot of great originals is that they are quick to start but they are slow to finish.”
Sir Ian McKellen delivers a stirring speech written by Shakespeare but never performed in his lifetime, as the play was banned by the Queen’s censor. Here, Sir Thomas More confronts a mob in London on May 1, 1517, as they riot and attack immigrants. (For more on the play and the historical background, look here.)
Grant them removed, and grant that this your noise
Hath chid down all the majesty of England;
Imagine that you see the wretched strangers,
Their babies at their backs and their poor luggage,
Plodding to the ports and coasts for transportation,
And that you sit as kings in your desires,
Authority quite silenced by your brawl,
And you in ruff of your opinions clothed;
What had you got? I’ll tell you: you had taught
How insolence and strong hand should prevail,
How order should be quelled; and by this pattern
Not one of you should live an aged man,
For other ruffians, as their fancies wrought,
With self same hand, self reason, and self right,
Would shark on you, and men like ravenous fishes
Feed on one another.…
You’ll put down strangers,
Kill them, cut their throats, possess their houses,
And lead the majesty of law in lyam
To slip him like a hound. Alas, alas, say now the King,
As he is clement if th’offender mourn,
Should so much come too short of your great trespass
As but to banish you: whither would you go?
What country, by the nature of your error,
Should give you harbor? Go you to France or Flanders,
To any German province, to Spain or Portugal,
Nay, anywhere that not adheres to England,
Why, you must needs be strangers. Would you be pleas’d
To find a nation of such barbarous temper
That breaking out in hideous violence
Would not afford you an abode on earth.
Whet their detested knives against your throats,
Spurn you like dogs, and like as if that God
Owned not nor made not you, nor that the elements
Were not all appropriate to your comforts,
But charter’d unto them? What would you think
To be thus used? This is the strangers’ case
And this your mountainish inhumanity.
A 1960 interview with Orson Welles about “Citizen Kane.”
Q: What I’d like to know is where did you get the confidence from to make the film with such —
A: Ignorance. Ignorance. Sheer ignorance. You know, there’s no confidence to equal it. It’s only when you know something about a profession, I think, that you’re timid, or careful or —
Q: How does this ignorance show itself?
A: I thought you could do anything with a camera that the eye could do or the imagination could do. And if you come up from the bottom in the film business, you’re taught all the things that the cameraman doesn’t want to attempt for fear he will be criticized for having failed. And in this case I had a cameraman who didn’t care if he was criticized if he failed, and I didn’t know that there were things you couldn’t do, so anything I could think up in my dreams, I attempted to photograph.
Q: You got away with enormous technical advances, didn’t you?
A: Simply by not knowing that they were impossible. Or theoretically impossible. And of course, again, I had a great advantage, not only in the real genius of my cameraman, but in the fact that he, like all great men, I think, who are masters of a craft, told me right at the outset that there was nothing about camerawork that I couldn’t learn in half a day, that any intelligent person couldn’t learn in half a day. And he was right.
Q: It’s true of an awful lot of things, isn’t it?
A: Of all things.