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HICKS, SCOTT - GLASS: A PORTRAIT OF PHILIP IN TWELVE PARTS

THE GLASS PIZZA
The first day of filming was at the Philip Glass holiday home in Nova Scotia with Glass cooking pizza – and talking to filmmaker Scott Hicks, which set the tone for the rest of the film, Hicks tells Andrew L. Urban.


Filmmaker Scott Hicks was about to screen the completed film - Glass: A Portrait Of Philip In Twelve Parts - to his subject, Philip Glass; “I’d never felt as nervous showing one of my films since screening Shine to David Helfgott – but at least Philip wasn’t sitting on the floor next to me clutching my legs, like David was,” recalls Scott, as we talk by phone to mark the film’s release in Australia. Hicks is about to go into a rehearsal with Brit actor Clive Owen, before filming starts again for the day on The Boys Are Back. Hicks is in Adelaide, I’m in Sydney. The Australian release of Hicks’ profoundly personal portrait of Glass closes a story that began in 1999, when they met at the time that Hicks was making Snow Falling on Cedars.

“I expected an aloof intellectual but Philip turned out to be enormously likeable and we got on very well. We wanted to work together, and he did in fact score a couple of my 60 second tv commercials, but we could never get a movie going …”

That was until Hicks directed No Reservations (2007) – but by then, Hicks had completed his film about Glass. It had been suggested to him originally by Glass’ management in 2005, to mark the composer’s 70th birthday in 2007.

'intimate access'

Hicks couldn’t raise money at first, so he began “banking” some footage with a new HD camera. “The first day I shot happened to be at Philip’s Nova Scotia holiday house when he was making a pizza, “and he started talking to me. At first I had an impulse to stop him . . . I am the documentarian, don’t talk to me. But then I realised that’s how he wanted to do it and it also took away a layer of artifice.” And when finally the money was raised and Hicks hired a camera crew, Glass felt distanced and the crew was hurriedly dismissed. And if you think about it, the way Glass makes pizza is pretty much how he composes a symphony, building and inventing as he goes.

At the beginning, Hicks had enthusiastically agreed to make the film, but only on the condition that Glass “let me ‘in’ – I didn’t want to make a puff piece and I wanted access.” He got that and along with intimate access came the unexpected. Glass had insisted that he retain veto over material that was personal, to do with his wife and children. Hicks agreed. “I didn’t realise how important that would become.” The crunch came when the finished film included a teary Holly Glass revealing how she felt that her husband’s work and her life had come between them and they were being driven in different directions.

“Philip’s reaction to this material was quite complicated. His first comment after the film was ‘You’ve made a wonderful film – I just wish it wasn’t about me.’ After a great deal of to and fro, he called me and said, ‘The time has come for me to stop interfering with your film.’ And we remain friends, which at one stage I felt might not be the case. But,” Adds Hicks, “I did feel a responsibility to the film as a document that I was trying to make.”

 'personal portrait of the man'

And what he was trying to make was “a personal portrait of the man, not a complete biography, a mosaic of separate pieces. I don’t claim it to be the definitive work on Philip Glass.”

The title evolved in Hicks’ mind over time; “when raising money I had to try and tell people what I was making and the number 12 kept coming up.” Hicks being a self confessed “Glass tragic” it was perhaps subconsciously prompted by the seminal Glass composition from the 70s, Music in 12 Parts. And when he came to assemble all the bits of footage he had shot, “it fell spookily into 11 parts, so I said let’s make it 12.”

Published November 20, 2008
 

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