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 Post subject: Heston talks The Omega Man in Fantastic Films Magazine
PostPosted: Thu Feb 14, 2013 12:43 am 
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Found a great article posted on The Omega Man forum on IMDb, where Chuck discusses the making of the movie in great detail.

Fantasic Films (Don Shay): How did The Omega Man come about? I understand that was one of your personal projects.

Charlton Heston: Yes it was. I had read a paperback by Richard Matheson called I Am Legend, and thought it was just marvelous. Last man on Earth stories are always intriguing - I think it's a fantasy everyone has from time to time, to be the last man on Earth and be able to go into a department store and pick up a new shirt whenever your other one gets dirty, or go to a museum and take whatever paintings you want home with you. And I thought the book also incorporated some convictions I have about the human race. So I was really knocked out by it.

I showed it to Walter Seltzer, for whom I had done several films, and he liked it too. So we started moving on it, and Warners was just at the point where they were about to commit when Walter called me up one day and said, "I think we're dead on I Am Legend." And I said, "Why?" He said "It's already been made." And I said, "You're kidding! Who made it?" And he said, "Some bunch of Italians." And sure enough, it had been made just a few years before and released as The Last Man on Earth. Vinnie Price was in it.

We took a look at it - and nothing against Vinnie, but it was a nothing production. I was furious. But strangely enough, I think **** Sheppard was the significant executive at Warners then, and he said, "Look, this really doesn't count. Nobody saw it. It's nothing." So they went ahead with it - which must be very rare, maybe unique in fact, to undertake a remake of a terribly unsuccessful film. They'll remake a huge hit ten or twenty years later; but to remake a flop, a terrible film, three years later is something pretty rare.

FF: The Omega Man didn't resemble the book at all.

Heston: You're quite right. I know Matheson feels very ill-served by both versions of the film.

FF: Matheson's a very talented screenwriter. Was there any consideration given to having him write the script?

Heston: No, we'd already decided to deviate so much from the book that we didn't think he would have accepted it. Our basic decision to demythologize the story was, I think, a good one. Maybe it wasn't - maybe we should have left the vampires in. But somehow, when you're doing a last man on Earth story that involves all kinds of scientific plausibility, it seemed that vampires would not fit very well and would really get you into another kind of story. Instead, we tried to render the spooks in scientific terms, with a blood disease and albinoism and photophobia and all. Now that may have been a basic error in judgment; but in any event, it was the idea that we had, and it all fit together well.

The problem was that it wasn't done very well. The film could have been much better than it was; but as it is, it's simply a fairly ordinary filming of a marvelous idea. In fact, of all the films that I've made that I really cared about, with the possible exception of Major Dundee this is the one that I'm least happy with.

FF: What happened to it?

Heston: Lots of things, I think it was made under too great a pressure at the time. The makeups weren't done well, and they were photographed with too much light so you saw them. They simply weren't frightening, and that was a major flaw.

FF: Was the film cut a lot in post production? There are a lot of inconsistencies in it. For example, in the stadium, someone throws a switch and all the lights come on with no explanation of where the power's coming from.

Heston: Well, I don't recall exactly, but I'm sure there was at least a genuflection in the direction of an explanation in the original cut.

FF: Did you find the narrative device of having Neville talking to himself difficult to handle as an actor?

Heston: I loved the idea of that. People do talk to themselves. The problem is that they don't talk to themselves in the way writers have them talking to themselves. Based on my own experience, your tone and manner in talking to yourself is usually exhortatory - you're usually criticizing yourself, and you talk in the third person. "You dumb sonofabitch, how could you forget that!" You never say the kind of musing things that writers write for you. But people who are alone a great deal do talk to themselves, and I think we could have done more of that and done it better.

I think, in a sense, the sequences in the beginning where he's all by himself are the more interesting ones. That's the last man on Earth. Once you're no longer the last man on Earth, then all of a sudden you're in a different story. The business of playing chess with himself I think is fine. And that odd apartment. Obviously, the longer you live alone, the more the way you chose to live would seem bizarrely abnormal because your own personal idiocyncracies would become more and more dominant, completely unaffected by normal considerations of what everybody else does. The business of dressing for dinner, for instance, is based on a combination of what I'm inclined to think I might do, and the record of nineteenth century Englishmen who used to dress in the desert. And I think, to that point, that any intelligent man would impose certain requirements of form upon himself to guard against the gradual erosion of any personal discipline at all.

FF: In your death scene at the end, you end up in a position that looks very much like Christ on the cross. Was this intentional?

Heston: That was just a personal indulgence. It seemed to me an interesting idea, but I didn't think it would register as clearly as it did. It goes back to a thing we wanted to get in that I liked very much, and that was that these people - whatever you want to call them - fall really into two groups: the ones who are night creatures, totally photophobic and mad and extremely dangerous; and then this tiny group of mostly young people and children who were probably infected also, but the disease hadn't begun to progress. They could still live in the daytime, and were quite defenseless against the night creatures.

Being mostly children, they were highly impressionable and susceptible to strange ideas, and as such could easily become very superstitious - in the way a primitive people would - about this strange house with lights in it and this curious omnipotent creature that races about the city killing. Indeed, they regard him as almost superhuman - a god.

Well, we had a scene that I liked very much, which was cut quite early, involving one of these children who live in the daytime and hide in the night like rabbits. In this particular scene, a little girl rides her bicycle to Neville's house and leaves an offering of flowers and fruit and says a prayer to him about keeping the night people away. We used a girl about nine or ten, and she was really quite good. I thought it was a marvelous scene and I was very sorry to see it go. Then, of course, if you follow that a little bit further, to where Neville's blood becomes the basis for a serum that will save mankind, then the Christ analogy becomes almost inescapable.

So it was at that point that I said, "Let's play with this a little in the death scene." I thought it worked; but it seemed to annoy some people, I think probably because the picture wasn't really that good. I think if the picture had been better, it wouldn't have bothered people. Plus you're not prepared for it - it looks like just a gag. If we'd kept the scene with the little girl, it might have been more of a whole.

FF: Why was it cut?

Heston: Just a time cut. In almost every film, there is a tendency to make it as tight and exciting and with as strong an impact as possible. But that kind of cutting invariably loses some textures and points of character development. It's often difficult to strike a balance. I've gone through it for 25 years and there are arguments on both sides.


Credit goes to user AnthonyOsika on the Classic Horror Film Board (http://monsterkidclassichorrorforum.yuku.com/)

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 Post subject: Re: Heston talks The Omega Man in Fantastic Films Magazine
PostPosted: Thu Feb 14, 2013 9:23 am 
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Very interesting little interview; thanks, Thorn. I found out at least one thing I hadn't even been aware of - that deleted scene with the little girl leaving flowers in front of Neville's place.

I actually bought the first few issues of Fantastic Films magazine when it began, back in 1978 or 1979. But, I didn't get any of the later issues (vol.2 or the 2nd year), for whatever reason, so I missed out on this particular Heston interview.


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 Post subject: Re: Heston talks The Omega Man in Fantastic Films Magazine
PostPosted: Wed Feb 20, 2013 4:55 pm 
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In another interview, for which the link was given in THE OMEGA MAN thread, some seven-or-eight months earlier, -- Chuck said that he was quite satisfied and happy with the film. Now in this interview he sounds otherwise. But i am delighted to find that he himself mentions the Christ-analogy regarding the symbolic significance of neville's blood-- something I have been mentioning several times in the forum-- and I have looked for long for at least one comment from Chuck himself. Now it shows that yeah, he had really thought of this.

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 Post subject: Re: Heston talks The Omega Man in Fantastic Films Magazine
PostPosted: Wed Feb 20, 2013 9:25 pm 
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I've read other statements by Chuck about The Omega Man made years after it was made where he was critical of it and of his portrayal as Neville. He felt he could have done better in the role and that the movie should have been better. Around the time it came out, it did good at the box office so the success of the movie may have clouded his judgment of it before he could take a few steps back and look at the project with some distance to it.

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 Post subject: Re: Heston talks The Omega Man in Fantastic Films Magazine
PostPosted: Tue Feb 26, 2013 12:14 am 
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Well, Look at what we have here -- it's Fantastic Films #14 (Feb., 1980):
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After I saw this thread, I checked at eBay and found there was at least one copy of the magazine in auction; it wasn't too expensive, about $5. Anyway, it arrived in the mail today. The interview with Heston is actually much longer than the excerpt above concerning The Omega Man; it covers all his sci-fi films. I'll try to transcribe parts of it later, in the appropriate parts of the forum. In the meantime, check out the introduction to the interview:
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 Post subject: Re: Heston talks The Omega Man in Fantastic Films Magazine
PostPosted: Tue Feb 26, 2013 3:00 pm 
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Sweet! Two reasons for me getting this magazine, Chuck and Star Trek!

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 Post subject: Re: Heston talks The Omega Man in Fantastic Films Magazine
PostPosted: Sun Jul 14, 2013 3:11 am 
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THE GREATEST MOVIE OF ALL TIME.... THE OMEGA MAN

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