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LAist Interview: George Hickenlooper

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Though hardly a mainsteam name, George Hickenlooper has managed to carve out a long filmmaking career full of varied and fascinating work. From documentaries (Mayor of the Sunset Strip, Monte Hellman: American Auteur) to narrative features (The Man from Elysian Fields, Factory Girl), Hickenlooper has always delivered unexpected and satisfying stories. Two of his best documentaries are also two of his first: Picture This: The Times of Peter Bogdanovich in Archer City, Texas and Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker's Apocalpse.

The films almost work as companion pieces. In Picture This, Hickenlooper explores the life of Bogdanovich during the filming of The Last Picture Show, while in Hearts of Darkness we visit Coppola as he was making Apocalypse Now. In both films, we see a director struggling to make his movie in the face of profound spiritual and personal crisis. I had a chance to speak with Hickenlooper about the recent DVD release of Hearts of Darkness and the controversial decision by the Coppolas to present Eleanor Coppola as the film's author.

Hi, George. How are you doing today?

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Good, good. Busy doing all the strike stuff.

I can imagine. So Hearts of Darkness was the first big break you had. Can you talk about the lead-up to that? How it all came together.

I had directed a documentary called Picture This about Peter Bogdanovich and the making of the Last Picture Show. I was actually in post-production on that. That film is about Peter Bogdanovich and how he had a personal, visceral breakdown when making The Last Picture Show. His marriage had fallen apart. So it was really a story about a director struggling to make a movie with all kinds of personal issues going on. So thematically it was sort of the primer for Hearts of Darkness.