“Hollywood was never the same after ‘Bonnie and Clyde'”

“Hollywood was never the same after ‘Bonnie and Clyde'”
“Hollywood was never the same after ‘Bonnie and Clyde'”

Lhe man is as discreet as his work is monumental. From his time as an assistant at Disney (“Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea”, “Mary Poppins”) to his first steps in Hollywood (“The Midnight Mercenary”, “Daisy Clover”), from “Bonnie and Clyde” to “Little Big Man” to his loyalty to Francis Ford Coppola (the “Godfather” saga, “Apocalypse Now”, “Tucker” …) – with whom he was at the last Cannes Film Festival – the sets of some of the most memorable films in the history of cinema have come from the imagination of Dean Tavoularis.

Accompanying his wife, actress Aurore Clément, to Fema, whom he met half a century ago on the set of “Apocalypse Now”, the “art director” presented Michelangelo Antonioni’s film “Zabriskie Point” on Friday, July 5. The opportunity for this artist, who was the subject of a retrospective at the Cinémathèque in 2022, to discuss the highlights of his career.

The first memory of cinema

“I used to go there every Saturday when I was little. It was something! I remember the Dracula films, Frankenstein. Later, they were American comedies. I continued to go to the cinema. I saw Stanley Kubrick’s first 16-millimeter film. In Los Angeles, there was a theater [cinéma] called The Cornet. I went to see Antonioni’s “L’avventura” (1960). Hollywood was making light comedies at the time and this film was a shock. I started thinking about how films are made. It occurred to me that it was a job, like driving a taxi or being a doctor.”

The first cinematic experience

“That’s when I first worked in a studio, at Walt Disney. I started on an animated film, with dogs. One of them takes his girlfriend to the zoo, where there’s an alligator. I spent months drawing teeth… At one point, I told my boss I couldn’t do it anymore, it was driving me crazy. Since I had studied architecture, I left animation for the studio’s art department. I participated in the filming of “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea,” with Kirk Douglas, Paul Lukas, Peter Lorre, with this giant squid attacking the submarine.”


Dean Tavoularis: “It was an exciting revelation to go to the studio every day with these iconic actors.”

Romuald Augé/SO

“There was some good in the studio system but it was dictatorship, with always approvals for the script, for the casting… All that was swept away.”

The most exciting shoot

“When I left Disney, I worked as a production designer on more open and exciting films. One of the first was “Ship of Fools” (by Stanley Kramer, 1965), based on a famous book [le roman de Katherine Anne Porter]”Ship of Fools” (1962), filmed at Columbia Studios in Hollywood. The story takes place on an ocean liner, during the rise to power of the Nazis in Germany. It had Simone Signoret and many other incredible actors. It was an exciting revelation to go to the studio every day with these iconic actors.”

The Break with Hollywood

“Nothing (laughs). Maybe “Bonnie and Clyde.” I had in mind to work on films, after I left Disney. I started working with Stanley Kramer, like on “Ship of Fools.” Outside of films, I was always fascinated by the fact that Hollywood made such boring films. We split from Warner Brothers, after a fight between Warren Beatty and Jack Warner. Jack Warner was the boss and wanted “Bonnie and Clyde” to be made in the backyard of Warner Brothers studios, what they called Western Street, without ever going to Texas to shoot anything, but with Jack Warner’s name on it. Warren said, “Yes, I’ll make this film, but I’ll make it in Texas.” And that was the break. A historic break, because it was the filmmaker who was moving away from the studio and the system. Hollywood was not the same after “Bonnie and Clyde.” I was in the eye of the storm and I saw the transition. In my opinion, there was good in the studio system but it was dictatorship, with always approvals for the script, for the casting… All that was swept away. There are many books on this subject.

The filming of “Apocalypse Now”

“I was sure I was crazy!” [Coppola a dit lors de la présentation à Cannes : « Nous étions dans la jungle, nous étions trop nombreux, nous avions trop d’argent, trop d’équipement, et nous sommes tous devenus fous »]. Things were happening one after the other and you wondered when they would end. And then you stop asking yourself the question, you go back to it like a robot. Everything is the same, everything is different, the days follow one another and are all the same. It was weird and you had to adapt. It was a dead end.

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