The summer gave us a pair of Spielberg classics E. Indeed, one of the most appealing aspects of Summer Lovers is the innocence both its protagonists and the film itself project — arriving between the sexual revolution and AIDS, the film has a wistful, lighthearted quality that would have been unthinkable a few years earlier or later.
Gloriously photographed in a palette of tan skin against white sand and blue water, Summer Lovers has never been properly presented on home video until now. After years of boxy full-frame editions, the good people at Twilight Time have finally given Summer Lovers the Blu-ray it deserves: Having left the grind of studio filmmaking behind to follow his own muse, the director is now engaged in a series of innovative projects, the most fascinating of which is a narrative virtual reality film entitled Defrost.
That DVD, available at http: What was your starting point when you sat down to write? I was doing a press tour for The Blue Lagoon and one of the journalists told me he had just gotten back from the Greek islands, where there were a lot of young people running around naked on the beaches. That got my attention [laughs]. It sounded like there might be a movie idea there, so I took a trip to the islands and observed what was going on.
In the case of Summer Lovers, I was thinking about those French films but I also wanted it to be commercial for an American audience.
Well, the sexy part is the French influence, and the sweet part probably came from trying to make it palatable to general audiences. Anyway, all the studios turned Summer Lovers down until George Litto at Filmways decided to make it, and he was going to launch a major campaign behind the movie. Unfortunately, Orion bought Filmways during post, and as you have probably heard or experienced yourself, when a studio changes hands it kills the movie. It went from having an eight million-dollar ad campaign to virtually nothing.
You had three very strong actors in the leads — Kleiser: She had a child who was around six years old at the time, and about four years ago he wrote to me and asked to see Summer Lovers. I sent him a copy and he wrote back that he was in tears after getting to see his mother for the first time since he was a child, as she was when she was alive and beautiful.
It was really touching. I noticed Daryl Hannah in the Warner Bros. This is not a joke. Speaking of running around the islands naked…there is a lot of nudity in the film— Kleiser: All of the dialogue when people are walking by naked was gone, so the movie made no sense at all. The movie must have been something like ten minutes long! How do you put your principal actors at ease when they have to play so many of their scenes with no clothes on? Well, we were in an atmosphere where everyone on those beaches was naked, so that made it easier.
In the beginning the actors were a little skittish, but then they were in the environment doing dialogue scenes with naked people walking all around them, and that loosened them up. A lot of their scenes are improvised — I just gave Peter and Daryl ideas and let them go. Getting back to the nudity thing, not only do you have a lot of nude scenes with your principals, but the extras are naked through most of the movie. The movie gets a lot of texture from those extras, as well as the documentary shots of life around the island.
A lot of that footage was shot by Peter Collister, who had worked on Blue Lagoon as an assistant to Nestor and is now a big director of photography. He appears in the movie too — I used a lot of the crew in the movie in small parts. You also have that actor from Spetters, Hans von Tongeren, in a small role. That was a total coincidence. Then after the movie, he killed himself in the same way that his character did in Spetters — he rode a wheelchair in front of a truck or something.
We had to use donkeys — they were our grips and our Teamsters. We were also moving back and forth between islands; at one point we took a ship and filmed scenes on it along the way. All of the places where we were shooting came from my initial writing — I did a scout while I was working on the screenplay and wrote all those places in.
Were your shots compromised by the terrain at all? In other words, did you have to modify your compositions according to the limitations of where you were shooting? I loved the colors there — the blues and whites — and I experimented with filters to get rid of the haze and make the colors really pop. The actors are inherently beautiful too, but what do you do to help them along in terms of accentuating their attractiveness?
Well, first you shoot your actor from every possible angle and figure out what looks the best, but then the trick is usually that actors look best with long lenses and backlight. I want to ask about the music in the film, which is a combination of source music — mostly pop songs of the time — and a synthesized score by Basil Poledouris.
Well, I wanted an international pop score to reflect all the different cultures on the island, but I also wanted to use Basil because I thought he was fantastic. So I listened to the top ten songs from every country I could think of and then laid them in throughout the movie; once I did that Basil came in and filled in the emotional parts with his score.
Did the film change at all in the editing process, or was it pretty close to how you envisioned it from the beginning? Same thing with Blue Lagoon. Did you test screen it at all?
Yes, that was a nightmare. Once Orion took over the movie Mike Medavoy wanted to figure out what he had, so the decision was made to test it in Tempe, Arizona, where the university was supposedly a real party school. We brought our work print and projectors and showed the movie to college students there, and the moment nudity came on they all started cheering like crazy. Then the film broke and we had to fix it and start it up again.
Again, as soon as there was nudity the kids went crazy — and again, it broke down. The splices just would not go through the projector. The hard part is getting it out there — you have to do your own publicity, your own distribution…you know, when I was working for the studios all I had to do was say action and cut.
Now I have to do everything. His website is www.