James Ivory in Conversation How Merchant Ivory Makes Its Movies

Robert Emmet Long Foreword by Janet Maslin

April 03, 2004
James Ivory in Conversation How Merchant Ivory Makes Its Movies

"This series of conversations . . . informs and engages. Ivory charmingly speaks about a career that includes credits ranging from A Room with a View to Surviving Picasso. He offers insight into his technique and artistic approach, selection of subject matter, choice of actors, and interactions with associates like producer Ismail Merchant and writer Ruth Prawer Jhabvala. . . . Illuminating and often humorous."
- Carol J. Binkowski, Library Journal

"From sensitive enfant terrible to playful elder statesman, James Ivory has carried a delicate candle of pure hedonism through the violent decades, sheltering it from every hostile wind which sought to extinguish it. One of the few to whom one can unhesitatingly apply the phrase 'citizen of the world,' he has spent a lifetime scattering beautiful moments across the continents."
- Wallace Shawn

"James Ivory is one of our greatest living directors, and these pages, deliciously poised between diplomacy and indiscretion, brim with his vast experience of every nook and cranny of the film world. Offering precious insights into how the cinematic cultures of Europe, Asia and America, of Arthouse and Hollywood, came to be blended into a ravishingly beautiful body of work, Ivory also draws for us a vivid picture of what it really feels like to put together an independent movie. But perhaps most striking is the way this book illuminates the human face of film-making, and becomes a touching testament to the deep friendships - the bonds of trust, affection, professional respect - that have made possible the unique triumph that is Merchant Ivory."
- Kazuo Ishiguro

"Robert Emmet Long's James Ivory in Conversation transforms what might have been a routine Q & A into a lucid film history told from the unostentatious matter-of-fact viewpoint of that least narcissistic of productive and creative directors, James Ivory, with 25 films to his credit in a career that has spanned more than 40 years. He has become almost inseparably linked with producer Ismail Merchant and screenwriter Ruth Jhabvala to form the most famous collaborative troika in film history. As Mr. Ivory's perceptively assiduous Boswell, Mr. Long deserves much of the credit for the felicitous outcome of the project. This is a must-read for all venturesome cineastes, particularly as a counterweight to all the reverse snobbery heaped upon the troika for succeeding commercially with serious and tasteful literary adaptations into film."
- Andrew Sarris

James Ivory in Conversation is an exclusive series of interviews with a director known for the international scope of his filmmaking on several continents. Three-time Academy Award nominee for best director, responsible for such film classics as A Room with a View and The Remains of the Day, Ivory speaks with remarkable candor and wit about his more than forty years as an independent filmmaker.

In this deeply engaging book, Ivory comments on the many aspects of his world-traveling career: his growing up in Oregon (he is not an Englishman, as most Europeans and many Americans think), his early involvement with documentary films that first brought attention to him, his discovery of India, his friendships with celebrated figures here and abroad, his skirmishes with the Picasso family and Thomas Jefferson scholars, his usually candid yet at times explosive relations with actors.

Among the candid comments included in the book are the following:

On critics
"I came to believe that to have a powerful enemy like Pauline Kael only made me stronger. You know, like a kind of voodoo. I wonder if it worked that way in those days for any of her other victims - Woody Allen, for instance, or Stanley Kubrick."

On Andy Warhol as a dinner guest
"Once he came to dinner with a group of his Factory friends at my apartment. I remember that he or someone else left a dirty plate, with chicken bones and knife and fork, in my bathroom wash basin. It seemed to be a symbolic gesture, to be a matter of style, and not just bad manners."

Supported by seventy illuminating photographs selected by Ivory himself, James Ivory in Conversation offers a wealth of previously unavailable information about the director's life and the art of making movies. At once an engaging glimpse into the world of a filmmaker known and praised around the world and a behind-the-scenes look at some of the most lauded films of the last several decades, James Ivory in Conversation is a must-have for both budding filmmakers and all enthusiastic lovers of film.

Robert Emmet Long has written or edited over forty books that reflect an unusual versatility, ranging from works on Henry James to James Thurber, from the films of Ingmar Bergman to the Broadway musicals of Jerome Robbins. His book The Films of Merchant Ivory (1997) is the standard work on the subject. Janet Maslin is film and book critic for the New York Times.

Forthcoming in Fall 2005 is a major motion picture from Merchant Ivory Productions and Sony Pictures Classics titled The White Countess, starring Ralph Fiennes, Natasha Richardson, and Vanessa Redgrave. Written by Kazuo Ishiguro, directed by James Ivory, and set in Shanghai in the late 1930s, The White Countess is the story of the relationship between a disillusioned former US diplomat and a refugee White Russian countess reduced to a sordid life in the city's bars.

Available at Amazon Books

350 pages, 6 x 9", 70 b/w photographs
$24.95 (£15.95), cloth
ISBN: 0-520-23415-4
World Rights

Subscribe now and stay up to date

Stay up to date on new releases and re-releases of your favorites