The '70s are remembered for many things: crazy fashions, political scandals, psychedelic rock 'n' roll and, oh yeah, great movies. From The French Connection to Star Wars, Dog Day Afternoon to Apocalypse Now, it was an era overflowing with classic films made by and starring larger-than-life personalities. They (and their movies) are the subjects of IFC's new documentary A Decade Under the Influence, which opens theatrically in select cities today.
Co-directed by Richard LaGravenese and the late Ted Demme, who previously collaborated on 1994's cult Christmas comedy, The Ref, Influence features memorable clips from a myriad of '70s films and new interviews with such screen legends as Francis Ford Coppola, Julie Christie and Robert Towne. "There were some people we couldn't get who I wish we had gotten," LaGravenese confesses to TV Guide Online. "Warren Beatty, Spielberg, Lucas, a lot of them were unavailable. But it was great meeting all of the people that did participate. They were very gracious about giving their time."
The film's release marks the end of a long and difficult production process for LaGravenese. After kicking around the idea for years, he and Demme shot their first series of interviews in December 2001. The following January, however, Demme passed away leaving the future of the project uncertain. A month after his friend's death, LaGravenese took four of the nine interviews they had completed and produced a 16-minute trailer he showed to the film's backers at IFC. The network was very pleased with the work-in-progress and filming resumed. "We shot our last interviews the first week of December 2002, exactly one year after we started the project," LaGravenese says.
Following its theatrical run, Influence will play on IFC this August in an expanded three-hour form. "That version goes more into the independent film scene and looks at all the people who have broken through," the director reveals. The film will also hit DVD that same month with more bonus features not seen in either the theatrical or television releases. LaGravenese hopes that the documentary will... well, influence, a new generation of film buffs."I'd really like it to reach a younger audience who aren't that familiar with this period," he says. "I showed it to film students at Columbia University while I was still editing to get feedback. One girl said, 'I only know Jack Nicholson old. It was nice to see some of his earlier work!'" Jack would no doubt agree.