In 1973, writer/director Robin Hardy teamed with Christopher Lee to create the cult classic "The Wicker Man." His companion piece to that film, "The Wicker Tree," has finally hit theaters 39 years later. In it, young gospel singer Beth and her cowboy love interest Steve leave Texas to preach door-to-door in Scotland. After being rejected, they are welcomed with joy and enthusiasm to Tressock, the border estate of Sir Lachlan Morrison. They assume their hosts simply want to hear more about Jesus. How innocent and wrong they are.
I had the wonderful opportunity to talk with Mr. Hardy in great detail about both "The Wicker Man" and "The Wicker Tree."
Why do you feel "The Wicker Man" has been so successful over the years?
[I'm] slightly amazed at its huge success. Christopher Lee and I really distributed it in the United States. It [became a hit] in the United States, not in the U.K. It's become what it has from us taking it all over the U.S. with a crowd of really eager students who loved it. It's been very exciting.
What always amazed me, though, was that no one tried to use the mixture of comedy, eroticism, and really scary stuff in one film before. If they did I hadn't seen those films. It's that mixture of genres that I think is fun to do. You'll see that I very much do it in "The Fantasist," but in a slightly different context. It's not about religion in any way. I always wondered why no one else had really tried to do that sort of thing. Then the remake came and it just threw all that away.
I want to give you an opportunity to share your feelings about the remake of "The Wicker Man" since you brought it up. Most genre fans look at it as a complete desecration of the original version.
They threw the music away. The music they use was like wall-to-wall elevator music really. They threw the comedy away except unintended comedy. When poor Nicolas Cage tumbles down the hill in the monkey suit or whatever it is he's wearing. They threw any sense of romance away. The only sex they had was sort of change of gender -- men with women, women with men. I felt that when we made "The Wicker Tree" we would show that the kind of mix of those various parts of the genre would work again as well as it worked in the first film. Some people think it has and some people think it hasn't.
It's astonishing because the writer/director [Neil LaBute] has done very good work. He's quite well known here in Britain for his work in the legitimate theater. In fact, one season ago he had no less than two plays on our equivalent of Broadway and they were good. So what could have got into his mind? I don't know.
Nicolas Cage is an extremely accomplished character actor. I don't see him as a leading man but then that's my particular view of him. I thought "Captain Corelli's Mandolin" was a serious piece of miscasting. I've seen him in other things that I very much admire. How these two guys got themselves into that …
Apparently Nicolas Cage wanted to play [the lead role]. His writer didn't begin to give him a role like that. That was very bad luck for him. It's so bad in a way that it's impossible to feel it as a desecration [of the original film]. It's just a ridiculous, misguided exercise really. The only reason I ever had a certain amount of shock about it was [because] the movie had 20 some producers if you look at the credits. I don't know what they all did.
They had my name put on the script and it was announced in Variety and The Hollywood Reporter. It was a script by somebody else. They credited me too. I had to get my lawyers to get my name off it. Why they would put my name on it was maddening. It would have been different if they had a contract with me and were paying me but they weren't doing either of those things. I think the producers were ultimately at fault. They were a bunch of people who obviously had no taste whatsoever.
For more articles by Eric Shirey, check out:'The Wicker Tree' as Polarizing as 'The Wicker Man'
Eric Shirey is the founder and former editor of Rondo Award nominated movie news websites MovieGeekFeed.com and TheSpectralRealm.com. His work has been featured on Yahoo!, DC Comics, StarWars.com, and other entertainment websites. Eric has interviewed and worked with actors like Harrison Ford, Brooke Shields, Gerard Butler, Brendan Fraser, Selena Gomez, and many more.
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