A Visit to James Mangold’s Office

Inside Criterion / Production Notes — Dec 13, 2010

If you’ve read Faber & Faber’s 1998 publication of the Sweet Smell of Success screenplay, you already know from the book’s afterword that director James Mangold (Girl, Interrupted; Walk the Line) studied under the late filmmaker Alexander Mackendrick in the early eighties, as an undergrad at Cal Arts, and has quite a lot to say about him and the film. Recently, I was lucky enough to meet up with Jim at his Tree Line Film office in Los Angeles, where he graciously allowed me to shoot a video interview with him about his memories of Mackendrick and what made him a unique instructor, even offering a little study of the film framed within the teachings that he absorbed during his studies. It went exceptionally well: Jim’s a lively speaker but not at the cost of coherence, thoughtfulness, or valuable stories—kind of the perfect blend you look for in an interviewee. I think it’ll make a terrific companion to the film, and interestingly enough, will go hand in hand with some other goodies that'll be on the disc, and with the excerpts from Mackendrick’s classroom materials that we’re including in the booklet.

Jim doesn’t shy away from expressing his love for cinema, as shown by a couple of the posters that decorate his office. That’s him in front of a framed Sweet Smell of Success one in his office, above, and he also has a gorgeous Czech original for Loves of a Blonde (below), directed by Miloš Forman, who mentored Jim during his later studies at Columbia University. Anyway, it was a quick trip for me—I think I went from New York to LA and back again within thirty-six hours—but it was worth it. Big thanks to Jim and Magnus at Tree Line for fitting me in to their schedule and leaving me with material that’s not only entertaining and interesting but a bit touching. I think it’ll be an appropriate celebration of a talent who has, unfortunately, been largely forgotten but, many years after his passing, has left us in his body of work a crystal-clear perspective on the craft of filmmaking.