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Authors: Mark Kermode

Tags: #Film & Video, #Performing Arts, #History & Criticism, #Entertainment & Performing Arts, #General, #Great Britain, #Film Critics, #Biography & Autobiography, #Biography

It's Only a Movie: Reel Life Adventures of a Film Obsessive

BOOK: It's Only a Movie: Reel Life Adventures of a Film Obsessive
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It's Only a Movie: Reel Life Adventures of a Film Obsessive
Mark Kermode
Random House (2010)
Film Video, Performing Arts, History Criticism, Entertainment Performing Arts, General, Great Britain, Film Critics, Biography Autobiography, Biography
Film Videottt Performing Artsttt History Criticismttt Entertainment Performing Artsttt Generalttt Great Britainttt Film Criticsttt Biography Autobiographyttt Biographyttt

For all those who grew up believing that Planet of the Apesexplains all there is to know about politics, that Slade in Flamewas a savage expose of the pop world, and that The Exorcistrevealed the meaning of life, then you probably spent far too many of your formative years at the cinema. Just as likely, you soon realized that there was only one career open to you--you'd have to become a film critic. In It's Only a Movie, the incomparable Mark Kermode takes us into the weird world of a life lived in widescreen. Join him as he embarks on a gut-wrenching journey through the former Soviet Union on the trail of the low-budget horror flick Dark Waters, cringe as he's handbagged by Helen Mirren at the BAFTA awards ceremony, cheer as he gets thrown out of the Cannes Film Festival for heckling in very bad French, and don't forget to gasp as he's shot at while interviewing Werner Herzog in the Hollywood Hills. Written with sardonic wit and wry good humor, this compelling cinematic memoir is genuinely "inspired by real events."

It’s Only a Movie

A Cinematic Autobiography
‘Inspired by Real Events’

Mark Kermode

This eBook is copyright material and must not be copied, reproduced, transferred, distributed, leased, licensed or publicly performed or used in any way except as specifically permitted in writing by the publishers, as allowed under the terms and conditions under which it was purchased or as strictly permitted by applicable copyright law. Any unauthorised distribution or use of this text may be a direct infringement of the author’s and publisher’s rights and those responsible may be liable in law accordingly.

Version 1.0

Epub ISBN 9781409099161

Published by Random House Books 2010

2 4 6 8 10 9 7 5 3 1

Copyright © Mark Kermode 2010

Mark Kermode has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988, to be identified as the author of this work

This book is substantially a work of non-fiction based on the life, experiences and recollections of the author. In some limited cases, names of people, places, dates, sequences or the detail of events have been changed solely to protect the privacy of others. The author has stated to the publishers that, except in such minor respects, the contents of this book are true.

This book is sold subject to the condition that it shall not, by way of trade or otherwise, be lent, resold, hired out, or otherwise circulated without the publisher’s prior consent in any form of binding or cover other than that in which it is published and without a similar condition, including this condition, being imposed on the subsequent purchaser.

First published in Great Britain in 2010 by Random House Books

Random House, 20 Vauxhall Bridge Road, London SW1V 2SA

Addresses for companies within The Random House Group Limited can be found at:

The Random House Group Limited Reg. No. 954009

A CIP catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library

ISBN 9781847946027

The Random House Group Limited supports The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), the leading international forest certification organisation. All our titles that are printed on Greenpeace approved FSC certified paper carry the FSC logo. Our paper procurement policy can be found at

Roger Ebert’s review of
, which is mentioned on pp.85-6, first appeared in the
Chicago Sun Times
on 19 September 1986

Designed and typeset by Darren Bennett

Printed and bound in Great Britain by CPI Mackays, Chatham, Kent


Cover Page

Title Page

Copyright Page



1 ‘Come away, oh human child …’

2 Bright lights, big
City Life

3 ‘Come back to Camden’

4 California über alles

5 Bad mutha Russia

6 Radio Radio

7 Now that’s what I call quite funny

8 I shot Werner Herzog




‘Oh I used to be disgusted, now I try to be amused …’

Elvis Costello,
‘(The Angels Wanna Wear My) Red Shoes’

This book is
dedicated to the memory of
Arnold P. Hinchliffe
and Perry Keenlyside

It’s Only a Movie

Outspoken, opinionated, and never lost for words, Mark Kermode has carved out a career in print, radio and television based entirely on the belief that
The Exorcist
is the greatest movie ever made, and that the
Pirates of the Caribbean
films should be buried in a very deep hole where they can never bother anyone ever again.


We were somewhere near Lookout Mountain, on the outskirts of LA, when Werner Herzog’s trousers exploded.

It was a small explosion, admittedly, as if a firecracker had gone off in his pocket. But it was an explosion nonetheless, and in an area where unexpected bangs are to be treated with suspicion, if not outright alarm.

Herzog had been shot – that much was clear – and was even now bleeding quietly into his boxer shorts as a tiny plume of smoke drifted photogenically from his pelvic region and into the evening air of LA. And as we stood there, the bold Bavarian with a bullet in his groin and the befuddled British film critic with ridiculous hair from Barnet, I wondered exactly the same thing that anyone else would have wondered in similar circumstances …

‘If this were a TV Movie of the Week, who would play me?’

I’d like the answer to be Richard Gere, although physically the front-runner is clearly Jesse Birdsall, on whose behalf
I have been merrily accepting compliments about my sterling work in ‘that Spanish soap series’ for years. Apparently Birdsall and I are all but physically indistinguishable to the public at large, and I’ve simply given up trying to tell people that I’m not him (I’ve even signed autographs ‘with best wishes from Jesse’ to those who won’t take no for an answer). Sometimes I wonder whether this is a two-way street, and whether Mr Birdsall has ever been thumped for writing a rotten review of
Blue Velvet
or punched on the arm for dubbing Keira Knightley ‘Ikea Knightley’ in honour of her on-screen teakiness. If so, I apologise. And Jesse, if you’re reading this, everyone really
you in
and there’s a genuine sense of outrage out there that the series was cancelled. Believe me, I know – I’ve experienced the love first-hand.

But looks aren’t everything (did ‘Sir’ Anthony Hopkins look anything like Nixon? Was Kevin Spacey a dead ringer for Bobby Darin?) and since we’re in the realms of fantasy here I think I should get to choose whoever I like to play me.

And I choose Jason Isaacs.

Hello to Jason Isaacs.

In case you don’t know (in which case shame on you) Jason Isaacs is just about my favourite actor in the whole gosh-darned world. He’s done everything from gritty TV dramas to rom-coms, war flicks, fantasy films and sci-fi blockbusters. To some of you he’ll be best known as the fiendish Lucius Malfoy from the Harry Potter films, but to me he is (in the words of David Bowie) chameleon, comedian, Corinthian and caricature.

More importantly, he is also the person whom I most wanted to be as a child. You see, Jason and I were at school together, in the same class, although we never really spoke or even acknowledged each other’s existence. I thought he was incredibly cool and aloof, being one of the first people at school to own a skateboard (a Fibreflex with Gullwing trucks and lime green Kryptonic wheels) and the very first to swear out loud in an English class (‘Who made the bloody sandwiches?’). But it turns out that the real reason Jason never spoke to anyone was that he was just like me: isolated and alone, insecure and essentially out of place – albeit infinitely more handsome. If truth be told I think I had a sort of schoolboy crush on Jason Isaacs, and I’ve never really got over it. And if I get to choose who plays me in the movie of my life, then it’s Jason all the way – he knows the background, he’s done the research, and he would look really good with a quiff.

BOOK: It's Only a Movie: Reel Life Adventures of a Film Obsessive
11.43Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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