C L A R E       P E P L O E

  Clare Peploe, who was born in Tanzania and studied French and Italian at the Sorbonne and Perugia Universities, got her first break in feature films as assistant director to legendary Italian director Michelangelo Antonioni on "Zabriskie Point". Following that she worked with Bernardo Bertolucci as assistant director on "1900" and "La Luna".

Peploe's first film as director was the short "Couples and Robbers", which she also wrote and which received both Oscar and British Academy nominations. Her feature film debut came with the romantic drama "High Season", which won a Silver Shell at the San Sebastian Film Festival. Her thriller "Sauce for the Goose", based on the Patricia Highsmith novel, won the Prix du Public at the Festival de Cognac.

When Clare Peploe first read the book Miss Shumway Waves a Wand (the novel upon which "Rough Magic" is loosely based) by British pulp novelist James Hadley Chase, the story immediately attracted her. Like many independently produced features, "Rough Magic" required years of tremendous determination to bring to the screen. With the support of UGC and Bridget Fonda, Clare Peploe finally succeeded in doing so.

These are a few of her thoughts on "Rough Magic.

"I read a book which was given to me by my sister some years ago called 'Miss Shumway Waves a Wand', by James Hadley Chase, and found it incredibly funny. I thought, this could be a very wacky film because it displayed the kind of humour which had you laughing out loud while reading, as well as film noir suspense elements."

"I particularly liked the fact that in the book the shock of the magic was so crude and that's what makes it so funny. There was nothing New Age about it - it swung from the sublime to the ridiculous and the switch was very funny. The Myra character did far more in the book; she actually split into two, which is a very good story element but too complicated for a film."

"I had seen "Single White Female" and thought that Bridget was excellent. I am a good friend of Barbet Schroeder, who directed the film, and he offered to send the script to her. She read it and liked it so much that we arranged to meet and it was really on meeting her that I realised Bridget had such soul. You can see it in her face and its very moving. She has the mixture of being touching, humourous and very clever - she knows everything about the movies. It was instant love, I thought she would be ideal for the part and never wanted anyone else."

"Bridget was great, very loyal. We had a lot of effort, physical effort to make in shooting the film, with all the locations and design glitches and weather problems, but once she commits she really gives everything - I don't know how to praise her enough."

"We take risks with a deliberate mixing of genres. It starts as a kind of film noir, becomes this love story and then suddenly this more farcical and humorous element is introduced through the magic, which spins you around. It is not a 'difficult' film, in fact it's easy to enjoy."

"Bill Brookfield and I saw the magic of her meeting with Tojola, the shaman, as carrying a great psychological significance. It was an introduction of the female figure as archetype. I don't want to sound corny, but we sneak in the idea of a great female intuitive understanding."

"Myra has no mother, she is an orphan character, sent on this journey to find the shaman by the magician, who is a sort of father figure. So it's a search for some alternative understanding of the world, a search for a mother and very much in contrast to the world which she is about to enter. A world where she is supposed to be marrying this very rich man who represents the fictitious image that America of that day was trying to present, a fake optimism, the post-war lie."

"I hadn't really had a shamanistic experience but I've been in a lot of countries where there is a strong belief in such things. I was born in Africa, where that is very strong. Friends of mine have recounted experiences that are unbelievable. I am by nature very sceptical - I believe it when I see it, but I am very moved by people who have the capacity for belief and when I went to do location scouting in Guatemala, I encountered several things that shook me."

"For example, this character Maximon, an idol figure from a myth who is worshipped by the local people. He was supposed to have slept with all the women in the villages and was therefore so dreaded by the men that they chopped his legs off. But because Mashimon was so powerful, the villagers encountered natural disasters as a result - earthquakes and volcanic eruptions."

"I was told where I could find Maximon, that he was living in this little hut, and there I found this guardian who was looking after him. There was a pregnant woman praying to him - this wooden idol with no legs. They took my bottle of booze and poured it down his throat, and then we drank some ourselves in front of this idol, and had a cigarette....But it was the way the people prayed and believed so much in this character - it was moving, touching. In holy week, Mashimon is carried with a figure of Jesus to the Catholic Church and there is this extraordinary mixture of pagan ritual and Christianity."

"It goes back to Mayan times. Some Catholic priests in Guatemala were very clever and asked the Indians to come and worship in the Catholic churches, knowing they would never give up these rituals. When I went to mass there on August 15th, which is a holy day, there were Indians doing their rituals on the floor of the church while the Catholic priests gave mass and holy communion. It was so moving that I went up and took communion also."

Clare Peploe lives in London with her husband, Bernardo Bertolucci.



A UGC Images -
Recorded Picture Company Production.