11 November 1925 |
London, England, UK
John Guillermin (born 11 November 1925) is a British film director, writer, and producer who was most active in big budget, action adventure films throughout his lengthy career. He was born in London and attended the University of Cambridge.
His more famous films include I Was Monty's Double (1958), Tarzan's Greatest Adventure (1959), Tarzan Goes to India (1962), Waltz of the Toreadors (1962), The Blue Max (1966), The Bridge at Remagen (1969), The Towering Inferno (1974), King Kong (1976), Death on the Nile (1978), Sheena (1984) and King Kong Lives (1986). From the 1980s he worked on much less prestigious projects, and his final films consisted of lower budgeted theatrical releases and made-for-TV films.
Guillermin also directed fifteen episodes of the late-1950s sitcom The Adventures of Aggie.
Early life and career
Guillermin was born in London to French parents. After mustering out of the Royal Air Force at the age of 22, Guillermin's directorial career began in France with documentary filmmaking. He moved to Hollywood in 1950 to study film-making methods. Town on Trial (1957) showed his early craftsmanship, with Guillermin managing to get a menacing performance from the usually benign John Mills. Guillermin in time became known more as a general entertainment director than as an auteur director, and in his later career as a director for films with big budgets and spectacular effects. He also became known as a pipe smoking exacting perfectionist filming and refilming scenes to get exactly what he was looking for. Unusual camera angles and hand held camera shots were part of his methodology.
Memoirs of actors, editors and producers indicate Guillermin was a difficult man to work with, certainly not unknown with film directors. He is described in Norma Barzman's book where he was meeting to discuss The Blue Max project as having a "cold, stiff-lipped manner". Elmo Williams, producer of The Blue Max, described Guillermin as a "demanding director, indifferent to people getting hurt as long as he got realistic action… He was a hard-working, overly critical man whom the crew disliked. However, Guillermin was a master at camera setup".
Producer David L. Wolper wrote that Guillermin was "the most difficult director with whom I'd ever worked". Wolper further described Guillermin as “a real pain in the ass”. Guillermin was directing Wolper’s The Bridge at Remagen in 1968. When some members of the Czech crew were late for the first day of filming, Guillermin screamed at them. He was told by a crew member if he did this again, the entire crew would walk off the set. Guillermin later told Wolper he couldn’t set foot on the set one day because of the complexity of the filming. Wolper told Guillermin he was therefore sacked. Guillermin apologised and was re-employed immediately.
Ralph E. Winters was employed as editor for King Kong after a nice conversation with Guillermin. Winters described the director as "A skinny guy, dark, with very sharp features”. In the screening room, Winters would witness a frustrated Guillermin kicking the seat in front until it broke. Winters got an apologetic phone call the next day, and 23 years after the film released, Guillermin called to compliment him on his work on King Kong.
Before filming started on Midway, producer Walter Mirisch replaced Guillermin with Jack Smight after Guillermin requested more time and equipment, particularly aeroplanes, than the budget allowed. In 1983, Guillermin was also replaced as director on Sahara by Andrew V. McLaglen.
Novelist James Dickey, who worked with him on the unfilmed Alnilam project in 1989, wrote that Guillermin was "one of those megalomaniacal directors who have to be given the gates of Heaven before they consider doing a project".
In the late 1970s he was attached to make The Godfather Part 3 and worked on a script with Dean Reisner and Mario Puzo.
On 20 July 1956 Guillermin married actress and author Maureen Connell (2 August 1931- ). Together they had two children: Michelle (July 1959- ) and Michael-John (25 January 1963 - 24 March 1989). They lived in the Los Angeles area from 1968. Maureen wrote a sometimes autobiographical novel, Mary Lacey (1980). In this book the heroine grows up in Kenya, moves to London, becomes an actress and marries a film producer (as Maureen did, except that she married a director). Maureen and John are now divorced.
- Evening Standard British Film Award 1980, for Death on the Nile.
- I Was Monty's Double (1958),
- Tarzan's Greatest Adventure (1959)
- Tarzan Goes to India (1962)
- Waltz of the Toreadors (1962)
- Rapture (1965)
- The Blue Max (1966)
- House of Cards (1968)
- The Bridge at Remagen (1969)
- El Condor (1970)
- The Towering Inferno (1974)
- King Kong (1976)
- Death on the Nile (1978)
- Sheena (1984)
- King Kong Lives (1986)
- Barzman, Norma. The Red and the Blacklist: The Intimate Memoir of a Hollywood Expatriate. New York: Thunder's Mouth Press, 2003. p. 394.
- Williams, Elmo. Elmo Williams: A Hollywood Memoir. Jefferson, NC: McFarland and Company, 2006. p. 199
- Wolper, David. Producer: A Memoir. New York: Scribner, 2003. p. 169
- Winters, Ralph E. Some Cutting Remarks: Seventy Years as a Film Editor. Lanham, Massachusetts: Scarecrow Press, 2001. pp. 105–6.
- Heston, Charlton. In the Arena: An Autobiography. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1995. pp. 464–5.
- Mirisch, Walter. I Thought We Were Making Movies, Not History. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 2008. pp. 332–333.
- FILM CLIPS: LIFE ON THE NILE WITH GUILLERMIN Lee, Grant. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) [Los Angeles, Calif] 20 Sep 1978: f14
- American Cinematographer, 1977, vol. 58.
- Dickey, James. The One Voice of James Dickey: His Letters and Life 1970-1997. University of Missouri, 2005. pp. 435–436.
- ”Maureen Connell” in Contemporary Authors Online. (includes marriage date and names of children with Guillermin)
- Plain, Gill. John Mills and British Cinema. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2006. p. 156.
- Quinlan, David. The Illustrated Guide to Film Directors. New York: Barnes & Noble Books, 1983. pp. 124–125.
- Wood, Susan. "A Feminist Tale of Two Continents" Washington Post, 5 June 1981, page D2 (includes information about Maureen Connell Guillermin)