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The Movie Simon West Has 'Seen A Million Times'

Aug 18, 2012
Originally published on August 18, 2012 7:14 pm

The weekends on All Things Considered series Movies I've Seen A Million Times features filmmakers, actors, writers and directors talking about the movies that they never get tired of watching.

For director Simon West, whose credits include Con Air, The Mechanic and The Expendables 2, which opened in theaters this weekend, the movie he could watch a million times is the cult British film, Withnail and I. "I instantly fell in love with it," West says.


Interview Highlights

On his favorite scene in Withnail and I

"I think my favorite scene is quite near the beginning, where they're drunk and hallucinating from lack of food. They have to go into the kitchen because they're trying to make a cup of tea, and the sink is full of dirty dishes. Paul McGann is convinced there's something alive living in the kitchen sink. And so Richard E. Grant puts on these big rubber gloves, and he's going in to attack whatever is living in the sink. It's like something out of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas." [Editor's note: It's actually Paul McGann who dons a big pink rubber glove in this scene.]

On why he loves the film

"It's just very funny and very well-written, and I don't know anyone that's watched it that hasn't fallen in love with it."

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

CHERYL CORLEY, HOST:

All summer long, we've been asking people who work in film about the movie that changed their lives, including this one from the director of "Con Air."

SIMON WEST: Hello. I'm Simon West, and I'm a film director. And the film I've seen a million times is "Withnail and I." It stars Richard E. Grant and Paul McGann and was written and directed by Bruce Robinson.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "WITHNAIL AND I")

PAUL MCGANN: (as Marwood) Do you want a cup of tea, Withnail?

RICHARD E. GRANT: (as Withnail) No.

WEST: It did rapidly become a cult film, and so it was played in art house movie theaters in London a lot. And so I caught it about a year after it was actually made and I instantly fell in love with it.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "WITHNAIL AND I")

MCGANN: (as Marwood) I've some extremely distressing news.

GRANT: (as Withnail) I don't want to hear. I don't want to hear anything.

MCGANN: (as Marwood) We've just run out of wine. What are we going to do about it?

WEST: It's just two desperate guys, out of work actors, living in this terrible flat in London that they never do the washing up. They have no food, no money.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "WITHNAIL AND I")

GRANT: (as Whitnail) Something's got to be done. We can't go on like this. I'm a trained actor reduced to the status of a bum. I mean, look at us. Nothing that reasonable members of society demand as their rights. No fridges, no televisions, no phones. Much more of this, and I'm going to apply for meals on wheels.

WEST: They're just getting more and more depressed and more and more down about their lives and their careers. And so Richard E. Grant's character, who is the Withnail of the title, goes to see a rich uncle who has a cottage in the country.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "WITHNAIL AND I")

GRANT: (as Withnail) What should we do?

MCGANN: (as Marwood) Can out of it for a while, into the countryside, rejuvenate.

GRANT: (as Withnail) Rejuvenate. I'm in a park, and I'm practically dead.

WEST: Of course, it's a disastrous trip. When they get there, it's raining, it's dark. They get in an accident with a bull.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "WITHNAIL AND I")

(SOUNDBITE OF SCREAMING)

WEST: All the way through this, Paul McGann's character is waiting to hear whether he's got this job, a sort of minor role in a film. When Paul McGann's character finally does get the message whether he's got this minor part, they've actually offered him the lead in the movie.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "WITHNAIL AND I")

MCGANN: (as Marwood) They want me to play the lead.

GRANT: (as Withnail) Congratulations.

WEST: The whole film ends with Paul McGann's character cleaning up, cutting his hair, sobering up, basically, and going off for his new life and his new career. And you obviously get the feeling that he is going to blossom and be successful. And Richard E. Grant is probably going to go down further and further.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "WITHNAIL AND I")

MCGANN: (as Marwood) I shall miss you, Withnail.

GRANT: (as Withnail) I shall miss you too. Chin, chin.

WEST: I think my favorite scene is quite near the beginning where they're drunk and hallucinating from lack of food, and they have to go into the kitchen - because they're trying to make a cup of tea - and the sink is full of dirty dishes and Paul McGann is convinced that there's something alive living in the kitchen sink.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "WITHNAIL AND I")

MCGANN: (as Marwood) Listen to me. Listen. There are things in there. There's a tea bag growing.

WEST: And so Richard E. Grant puts on these big rubber gloves and is going in to attack whatever is living in the sink.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "WITHNAIL AND I")

GRANT: (as Withnail) Stand aside.

MCGANN: (as Marwood) You don't understand. I think there might be something living in there.

WEST: It's like something out of "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas," and it's just very funny and very well written. And I don't know anyone that's watched it that hasn't fallen in love with it.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "WITHNAIL AND I")

GRANT: (as Withnail) I feel unusual. I think we should go outside.

CORLEY: That's director Simon West talking about "Withnail and I," the movie he could watch a million times. West's new film, "The Expendables 2," opened in theaters this weekend. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright National Public Radio.