To describe cult rocker Nick Cave as a reluctant screenwriter is something of an understatement.
He won widespread acclaim for his scripting debut, “The Proposition,” a violent and poetic Australian Western directed by his friend John Hillcoat.
The pair, both Aussie expats living in the trendy resort of Brighton on Blighty’s south coast, are now working together on a second project, an English tragicomedy named after the Leonard Cohen song “Death of a Ladies’ Man,” with Ray Winstone set to star. They’ve also formed a company, Titan Films, to develop other ideas.
Yet Cave claims to harbor no conscious screenwriting ambitions, and he admits to being horrified by the realities of the movie biz.
“I’m very comfortable in my day job as a musician,” he insists. “The last thing I ever wanted to get involved with is Hollywood. The way it works is that people get an idea you could possibly do something, but there’s a one-in-a-hundred chance that it could get made. It’s a waste of fucking time, and I have a lot to do.”
His prejudice was confirmed a few years back when Russell Crowe asked him write a sequel to “Gladiator,” but his characteristically perverse script proved impossible to finance (see box).
Nonetheless, Cave clearly is still open to persuasion by the right person with the right idea. The thought of writing screenplays never occurred to him before Hillcoat asked for help with his long-cherished dream of making an Australian Western. Both admit they were surprised by the result.
“It just poured out of him,” Hillcoat recalls. “All those rock ‘n’ roll years in hotel rooms of watching films in slightly altered states, they must have become hardwired into his subconscious.”
“Nick’s an all-round genius and very definitely a screenwriter,” testifies Paul Webster, who is producing “Death of a Ladies’ Man.” “It’s an incredibly poetic meditation on life in England that mixes outrageous comedy with real pathos, and it has all the trademark darkness of Nick’s music as well as his humor.”
“Scriptwriting allows me to explore things I wouldn’t normally be able to,” Cave admits. “There’s something wonderfully adolescent about ‘Death of a Ladies’ Man’ that I’m not allowed to get away with anymore in rock music.”
Birthplace: Warracknabeal, Victoria, Australia
Inspiration: “It’s exciting to be given a basic scenario, or just a genre, and to create a character and allow him to exist. You disappear into a zone, you lose yourself in it. It’s a great antidote to the world.” Favorite unproduced script: “Gladiator 2” – Cave’s script “finished with a 20-minute war sequence that ended up in Vietnam, and then in a toilet in the Pentagon, with Russell as this rage-fueled eternal warrior,” he says.
Rep: Agent Anthony Jones (PFD, London)