"Certainly there are directors who pushed the envelope more provocatively or pleased greater numbers of audiences (less provocatively), but there are few directors who have so successfully managed to entertain with a distinctive, personal touch as Billy Wilder. To read about his life and films in the legend's own words makes Conversations with Wilder
indispensable. The only comparable pleasure is another viewing of The Apartment
." Christopher Bolton, Powells.com
(read the entire Powells.com review
Synopses & Reviews
In Conversations with Wilder
, Hollywood's legendary and famously elusive director Billy Wilder agrees for the first time to talk extensively about his life and work.
Here, in an extraordinary book with more than 650 black-and-white photographs including film posters, stills, grabs, and never-before-seen pictures from Wilder's own collection the ninety-three-year-old icon talks to Cameron Crowe, one of today's best-known writer-directors, about thirty years at the very heart of Hollywood, and about screenwriting and camera work, set design and stars, his peers and their movies, the studio system, and films today. In his distinct voice we hear Wilder's inside view on his collaborations with such stars as Barbara Stanwyck, Gary Cooper, Marilyn Monroe, Jack Lemmon, Tony Curtis, William Holden, Audrey Hepburn, and Greta Garbo (he was a writer at MGM during the making of Ninotchka). Here are Wilder's sharp and funny behind-the-scenes stories about the making of A Foreign Affair, Double Indemnity, Sunset Boulevard, Love in the Afternoon, Some Like It Hot, The Apartment, and Ace in the Hole, among many others.
Wilder is ever mysterious, but Crowe gets him to speak candidly on Stanwyck: "She knew the script, everybody's lines, never a fault, never a mistake"; on Cary Grant: "I had Cary Grant in mind for four of my pictures...slipped through my net every time"; on the "Lubitsch Touch": "It was the elegant use of the super-joke." Wilder also remembers his early years in Vienna, working as a journalist in Berlin, rooming with Peter Lorre at the Chateau Marmont always with the same dry wit, tough-minded romanticism, and elegance that are the hallmarks of Wilder's films. This book is a classic of Hollywood history and lore.
"Conversations with Wilder is devoted to fascinating and detailed discussions of the work, with...Wilder dispensing wise little jewels that add up to an inspired manual on how to write and direct a film." Sarah Kerr, The New York Times Book Review
"[T]he first serious investigation in print of Billy's seventy-year career as a filmmaker, an investigation in which the subject was an elusive and evasive co-conspirator....It is this cat-and-mouse context that makes Conversations with Wilder so wonderful." John Gregory Dunne, The New Yorker
"Crowe's book is a pleasure....He was drawn to Wilder out of admiration and the idea of doing an extended interview book, such as François Truffaut did with Alfred Hitchcock in the 1960s. He's well-equipped: he does comedy himself; he is a writer-director; and he has a real tenderness for the older man, enough to handle those moments when Wilder is brusque, forgetful, or pretty rough." David Thomson, The Los Angeles Times Book Review
"It's always best to hear straight from the director about his own work. This book of interviews is just that: rich in information and autobiographical detail, filled with wonderful anecdotes and observations, often irreverent and hilarious, and sometimes surprisingly moving. Cameron Crowe's book is like Wilder's best films: sharply observed, absolutely succinct and precise, funny but always with a very strong, serious foundation. Billy Wilder is one of the few genuine masters we have left, from a period in film history that is now gone. Which makes Conversations with Wilder all the more precious and valuable." Martin Scorsese, director of Taxi Driver and GoodFellas
About the Author
Cameron Crowe was an associate editor and frequent contributor to Rolling Stone. In 1979, he wrote the book Fast Times at Ridgemont High and later adapted it as a screenplay. He wrote and directed Say Anything, Singles, the Academy Award-winning Jerry Maguire, and Almost Famous. He lives in Los Angeles and Seattle.