Phil Clarke is a man of many talents, hes a script consultant and of course a screenwriter ~ and most definitely a man with a ton of experience in the movie business, He has spent the best part of twenty years in the business, working with the likes of George Lucas, Tim Burton, Chris Columbus and Danny Boyle on a great range of films.
He has also worked on a whole host of smaller screen projects such as HBO’s Band Of Brothers, and the John Simm starring BBC drama/thriller State of Play. I dont need to go on do I. If you arent convinced that Phil Clarke is a totally talented individual……..well I dont know what to do. Trust me. He is. So without a few more sentences by me, check out what Phil had to say to my pre prepared Spending Time With…questions.
What’s the most ‘starstruck’ you have been?
I’ve had this feeling a fair few times. Hard to work out when I was most starstruck. George Lucas holding the door open for me on my first day on Star Wars: The Phantom Menace was quite a moment. Or there was the time Christopher Walken in full Headless Horseman garb said “Hi” in his own inimitable style and that single syllable almost made me soil myself. But I think the most starstruck I have ever been was when I met Christina Ricci. She was a bit of crush at the time and while I was chatting to a film colleague, she walked up. I turned to see who had joined us and I totally froze. And in a clumsy attempt to show her I wasn’t starstruck, I totally blanked her. Not my finest moment.
What was one of the most memorable films you saw as a child?
Rather a common answer, I’m afraid, but it’s Star Wars: A New Hope. Can’t get away from this, really.
What is one of the best pieces of advice you can remember being given?
Hands down the best piece of advice I have been given was about screenwriting, or more specifically storytelling. I was working as his on-set assistant on the first two Harry Potter movies so had many a chance to pick his brains. On the side, during the many down times in film-making, I was teaching myself all about the various paradigms that existed and asked him what he thought about them. He simply said: “Just write an entertaining story.” It reminded me that one can get fixated on the unnecessary at times, especially when you’re trying to learn all about a craft. But at the end of the day telling a story is all about entertaining. Pure and simple.
Have you ever gotten someone’s autograph? Which is the most memorable for you?
In my years in film and TV I’ve had the good fortune to meet many a star. And while I try and avoid asking for autographs (I find it all a bit tacky, in truth) there are times when I couldn’t help myself. The most memorable was on Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. I had a tradition that every film I worked on I would get the main players to sign the title page of the script. And after months of working with Alan Rickman staying in character as the icy Severus Snape, we wrapped him. Now was my final chance to get his scribble on my script page, so I approached his trailer, gave a nervous knock and hearing “Come in” I entered. I looked around. No Alan. And then to my horror I saw he was in the toilet! Rather than slip it under the door, I made my apologies and said I’d come back later. (I did and had a lovely chat with one of Britain’s best acting talents – nothing like Snape in real life.) Pretty memorable!
Do you have any traditions that you have when you are involved in a project?
When I am writing, I don’t have too many traditions, really. I do ask for a quiet space, somewhere I can focus without distracting and unnecessary noise. Typically, I don’t tend to be any use until I have had my morning coffee. And then it’s plenty of water throughout the day.
What was the most recent book you read?
The Woman In The Window by A. J. Finn ( a pseudonym for Daniel Mallory). A great Hitchcockian mystery thriller in the vein of Rear Window. The movie adaptation is already in post-production and is set to star Amy Adams and Julianne Moore. But I highly recommend it to anyone who wants a really good read. The film will have to go some way to beat the book.
Out of all the projects youve been involved with which one do you feel the most proud of?
I have always said that I felt most proud of being a part of Sleepy Hollow. I was around from the very start to well past production wrap. And it’s a great film with old-fashioned Hammer Horror sensibilities with superb acting talent (Depp, Ricci, Walken, Gambon, Richardson) not to mention ‘stars’ behind the camera (Tim Burton, Emmanuel “Chivo” Lubezki, Colleen Atwood, Rick Heinrichs, Chris Lebenzon etc etc.)
What film scares you?
Very few, to be honest. I love my horror movies, but nowadays they rarely get so under my skin that I can say they truly scare me. The one movie that comes to mind that creeps me out is not really a horror film. It’s a Brian de Palma movie called DRESSED TO KILL starring Michael Caine, Angie Dickinson and Nancy Allen. For those who’ve watched it, it’s the elevator scene. I’ll say no more.
What is the ONE single coolest movie geek thing you own?
I’ve managed to get my hands on a few unique pieces of film memorabilia over the years. Not sure what’s coolest. A tombstone from Sleepy Hollow? My signed script title pages? One-of-a-kind sketches from Harry Potter concept artists?
When you are being interviewed Do you prefer ‘interviews’ face to face, over the phone/podcast or by email?
Email. Gives me thinking time!
When a film or TV show comes out that you are in, what one person do you want to watch it first?
What was the last album you listened to?
Throwing Muses – University. I was having a bit of a trip down memory lane and revisited the 90s.
With regards to your own projects? What are you working on that you can tell me about?
A couple of thrillers, one with a time travel bent, the other involving sports.
Do you remember who got your first autograph?
Nobody has ever asked for my autograph. Well, unless you count the various productions wanting me to sign NDAs!
If you can sit down with any one living person and chat to them for two hours? Who would you choose?
Toughest question by far. Have agonised over this one. As a Spurs fan, I’d love to share a bottle of Malbec with Mauricio Pochettino (our manager). But when it comes to the movie industry, I think Jeff Goldblum would provide two hours of chat like no other person alive! If Jeff can’t make it, Michelle Pfeiffer. For reasons that should be obvious.
What’s the most difficult thing about your creative journey?
Finding time. Not enough hours in the day. Remaining focused. Keeping open minded and loose and not fixate on one version of an idea. It’s important to allow yourself to let other ideas in as the first idea is often not the best one.
And, the flipside. What’s the most enjoyable for you?
Many thanks to Phil for taking the time out to answer these questions. Im sure youll agree. He is indeed one interesting individual and if you are a fan of Twitter (and if not, then you should be) Head over there and say hi to Phil https://twitter.com/philmscribe