Page THREE from Kent Fletcher scrapbook of the time he played PERCIVAL in the film "Lord of the Flies"
THE NEW YORK TIMES, SUNDAY, JULY 13, 1961
Tale of Young, Marooned British Boys Takes Shape in a Caribbean Locale
By Al Dinhofer
Vieques, Puerto Rico
What isn't new on this tiny "possession" of Puerto Rico fifteen miles off it's East coast? Last April Vieques made big news when it was reported to be the retreat base for survivors of the Cuban counter-revolution landing. Several weeks ago the "Lord of the Flies" company stormed the beaches with a cast of thirty-three lads for the filming of William Golding's novel published in England eight years ago.
Director Peter Brook and co-producer Lewis Allen four months scouring the Caribbean for "the" location. "It was a question of logistics," said Brook. "Where else could we find virgin beaches, mountain areas and dense vegetation, all close enough together to make it practical to shuttle thirty-three boys without distraction or interference?" The only minor interference to date has been the whirring flappers of Marine helicopters passing overhead. The Navy Department occupies four-fifths of fish-shape Vieques' twenty-four-square miles.
Oxford educated Brook has racked up an impressive list of Broadway stage credits in recent years, directing "House of Flowers," "The Visit," "Faust" (for the Metropolitan Opera) and "Irma la Douce." His screen effort's are "The Begar's Opera" and the yet-unreleased French film, "Moderato Cantabile." Lewis Allen (Allen-Hodgdon Productions of New York) produced "Big Fish, Little Fish" for Jack Gelber's play, "The Connection," which was lauded at this year's Cannes Film Festival.
Seeking "proper" British accents, Brook and Allen interviewed some 4,000 boys in New York, Washington and Puerto Rico. For the thirty-three chosen ages 6 to 12, it has been a veritable ten-week summer camp in the tropics with lots of sports and games when not on set with Mr. Brook. Nonprofessionals (except one), the boys are living dormitory style in the shell of what was once a pineapple factory. Cooks, counselors and a registered nurse are included in the company.
"The scrip allows the boys to have the time of their livers," Brook said. The story concerns a group of schoolboys whose plane crashes on a tropical island while they are being evacuated from London during World War III. Faced with the problems of survival, they attempt to create a community. Civilized instincts emerge along with primitive ones. Some of the boys deteriorate to barbaric-behavior, smearing themselves with clay. (The company's make-up department consists of several cups of local mud.) A major question plaguing the boys is whether they will finish the job before returning to school in September. In addition to shooting on Vieques, sequences will be filmed in the caves of Arecibo and El Yunque rain forest, both in Puerto Rico.
"When you come right down to it," said Allen, "most of my efforts go into keeping the boys interested. They're all very bright. If they get gored, they'll lose interest in the production. So we keep them occupied all the time." Several of the boys started a local paper called "Vieques Variety," which contains camp gossip along with feature stories on cast members. A few of the lads got together recently and started making their own 8mm color movie "Something Queer in the Warehouse."
"They're picking up a good deal about the mechanics of film-making," according to Brook. "This could easily become a miniature Hollywood."
Tom Holliman, camera man agrees the kids are becoming aware of "the art of cinema." Each week the boys are invited to see the rushes of the films. After one screening, a pint-size thespian came up to Holliman and said in a chipped British accent: "I want to thank you for a job well done."
Hugh Edwards, 10, of Hertfordshire, England, has one of the few key roles. He's an intelligent-looking lad who wears glasses and has a face so round that camera man Holliman remarked "His face is so spherical, I can't find a spot on it to focus my camera."
"Man" of Experience
Kent Fletcher, 7, of New York is the production's only professional, by virtue of having appeared in a television production of "Peter Pan." After Kent competed a particularly trying scene, one of his performing associates rushed up to him and said, "I though you did a magnificent job!"
Nicholas Hammond 10, of Washington, is learning to handle the "clapboard," the barber-pole-striped sigh containing the specific number of the scene about to be photographed. Hammond discussed the business of directing with the sound man. "If you were directing, how would you do it?" the sound man asked Hammond. "Completely different," the boy replied.
Brook, who doesn't mind competition in the least, has been giving the boys daily lectures about not looking into the camera when it's in "action." The lectures are par for the course when working with amateurs or children, according to him. But what is distracting is that several of the boys have been following him around for days seeking information on how one wins an Academy Award.
Until now Puerto Rico has been anything but Academy Award prone. In fact, the island has been a haven for "quickie" producers sometimes seeking tax-free deals through the Commonwealth government's Economic Development Administration.
One of the firs films made here, "The Man With My Face," was produced by Ed Gardner of "Duffy's Tavern" fame, who lives here for "tax" reasons. An uninspired effort, it starred Barry Nelson. Other films in this category created here (1958-59) were "Machete," Counterplot" and "Whiplash." Occasionally the major studios send teams to Puerto Rico for location sequences.
"Lord of the Flies" is the first attempt to produce an art-house product here. Government financial assistance was not sought by produce Allen. "As you can judge from our relative seclusion here, the one thing we don't want is interference." He emphasized.
Box Office Demands Be Damned!
By Al Dinhofer
The green-hide monster called money has interfered with artistic endeavors since someone in loin-cloth scribbled on the walls of a cave. As time went on the pursuit of profit continued to foul up creativity to the point of financial return. Motion pictures, the single modern art form of our civilization, have been kicked from here to capital gains by that group of west-coast wheelers and dealers known ominously as The Money Men.
Now, along comes a young man to our island, a film producer, who says he has solved the problem of compromising his films. Lewis Allen, 37, will produce a movie called "Lord of the Flies" in Puerto Rico starting in June - and box office demands be damned! It will be made entirely "on location" without set or interiors, Cinema-Scope or Technicolor.
Instead of begging the major Hollywood studios to help finance his films, he audaciously employs a new system for raising money. Allen has formed a limited partnership company (Allen-Hodgdon Productions) and permits people to invest in his films. This is exactly as it's been done for decades with stage productions.
Why no one has thought of or attempted this idea before is anybody's guess. "To begin with, " Allen says, "we'll be producing films costing in the neighborhood of $150,00. We will keep away from the million-dollar spectaculars. We are interested in content, not spectacle."
Last year Allen-Hodgdon Productions filmed "The Connection" (in eight weeks) in New York for about $150,00. "The Connection" was taken from Jack Gelber's prize-winning off Broadway play about the shockingly corrosive effect of narcotics.
Allen has been invited to screen "The Connection" next month at the Cannes Film Festival. He hopes to make a distribution deal for "The Connection" with one of the film companies from all over the world represented at the Festival. Up to now such a procedure has been unheard of in the film "business."
Lord of the Flies" will be created in the same manner, "maintaining total artistic freedom and integrity," according to British-born Peter Brook. He will direct the feature film.
Brook, who also wrote the screenplay, has directed for stage and screen. For the Broadway stage he directed Truman Capote's musical, "House of Flowers," Jean Anouilh's "The Fighting Cock" (with Rex Harrison), "The Visit" and this season's musical hit, "Irma La Douce." Brook's film credits are "The Beggar's Opera," starring Lourence Olvier, and a French film, yet unreleased, "Moderato Cantabile."
"Lord of the Flies," taken from a novel by William Golding, an English schoolmaster, describes the adjustment of a group of British schoolboys marooned on a tropical island after a plane crash.
If Allen and Brook are the smilingest producer director team you ever met it's because, as they put it: "We didn't come to Puerto Rico to look for investors. We have all the backing we need."
Purchase the DVD at AMAZON.COM Lord of the Flies - Criterion Collection
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