Rick Schmidlin - Interview, Memphis. 9th January 2001, At The Peabody Hotel
This interview was done the morning after the re-edit shown in Memphis on the 8th
I can but thank Mr. Schmidlin for his time, and this will appear in the next issue of "Essential Elvis UK" with an update.
There's still quite a bit of confusion regarding the remaking of the 1970 classic and it's release. Our good friend David Wilson talked to producer Rick Schmidlin in Memphis during Elvis' birthday period and started by asking him why the DVD release date was delayed and he explained that it was because the actual pulses and the menu required intricate engineering that doesn't effect videos. The delay wasn't due to extra footage being added as fans had suspected. "The DVD was delayed because we had to do all the new mastering, all the surgery as the ended needed to be changed" he explained. David proceeded to find out more by asking several questions...
How did you feel when songs like Are You Lonesome Tonight and Cattle Call had to be omitted from the final release?
When decisions were made not to continue the supplement I went through the most depressing three months that I've gone through. I mean the fans were depressed but I was living it daily. This had an impact on everything I was doing in life so I became even more upset. The people at Turner did everything they could. They pulled every string to get the supplement together but it couldn't be done. Then we had the problem with Cattle Call/yodel, which had to be taken out of the theatrical but not out of the home video and DVD. That was a publishing problem. The publishers would not grant the rights for the theatrical without changing financially. I was the first one to know and I knew how everybody else would feel.
But they are two different songs, are they not?
Yes, but it's the same story with both publishers. They were controlled by the same people and for some reason it didn't happen. Last night was the first time I saw the movie without it and it was very upsetting for me.
Again, the Turner people tried everything they could and tried every means possible but it was a no win situation. I found out about it the day after the London screening but I thought Turner would able to get publishing rights.
You couldn't get the rights for Are You Lonesome Tonight although it was used during Elvis: The Concert during last year's tour.
There's a difference between performing it that way and performing it on video film. They simply do not want it in the video and there was nothing that could be done. Turner went out of their way to try and get it done and it wasn't done casually. The people at Turner knew exactly what the fans felt and they wanted to please them. They didn't want a product that wouldn't please the fans. So, all in all, everything was tried to get this work done.
Are you aware that Oh Happy Day and the live version of Little Sister, which were originally planned for the bonus sixty minute DVD feature, will be taped off the Internet and bootlegged onto video?
Why do you think it's there? It's not just to be viewed, it's there to share. I mean, I can't say go ahead and bootleg but don't we all record our favourite Elvis movie? Why would we have VCRs if we didn't do it?
The new ending is amazing.
I tried to come up with something good and it's just about perfect.
Is part of it screen-cut?
You wouldn't have been able to get a big camera into Elvis' dressing room and yes, it's cropped a little bit. But it includes every bit of Elvis that we had. We had the credit, we needed to put something in the corner and I
knew fans wanted this footage and so we added it on very quickly to get it done. That's why we didn't know that the film was going to show here until late because we had to get the prints made.
During some of the songs, Suspicious Minds included, Elvis is wearing a different suit when there's a wide shot. We see him wearing the opening night suit, the distance shots from behind show the red ladder belt on the chain suit.
I think they originally went in and filmed what we call pick-up shots. They were going with geographical shots. They'd get all the audience shots and the overhead shots on the same night.
It only adds to the speculation that if there's a different suit seen at a distance, there must be a lot more footage that's yet to be seen.
Everyone thinks there's hours and hours of film. Those cameras stopped and started and when you're sitting there watching the original tapes, no one actually recorded the songs. I was horrified when I looked at the material
in the beginning because I couldn't find anything complete. This is why we have to do things the way we did because we don't have complete this and complete that. It's not because we want to put a bunch of old ladies in the
audience, it's because we've nothing else to put there. You have to realise when you're going into this that there's a lot of things, as a filmmaker, that you have to address. There's a lot of things that you think will happen that don't and there's a lot of changes. I'm trying to educate fans on filmmaking, it's not just someone sticking it together and putting it out on video. It's a serious, hard business and nobody invests a million dollars for the sake of it.
Do you feel you've done a good job personally?
I'm just as happy as everyone else with what is happening only I've a direction to get in and do things. The people are trying to trust me. I'm a filmmaker who has made movies for twenty years and that's why they made the decision to go with me. They know that I'm a big Elvis fan and they know I make movies. When you're living in LA and dealing with a million dollars of somebody else's cash, you have to know how it's done.
There is supposed to be a single release in the UK to coincide with the movie.
It's all forward moving stuff right?
Will there be any kind of follow up to the video/DVD release?
Right now I'm busy working on something but patience comes to those who wait. Here's an Elvis story; when I was sixteen I was a dishwasher and my boss was an Elvis fan. All I ever heard were his latest eight-track Elvis tapes and I'm sure That's The Way It Is was in that collection. This guy was a slave driver, he treated people like dirt but he happened to be an Elvis fan. The diner's still there and I'm sure he is too and he's never stopped loving Elvis. I'm not a vindictive person but I have great pride in knowing that he probably got his TV guide yesterday and read about his
ex-dishwasher's film. You know, all things happen for those who wait and if you believe in yourself, things can happen. There's nothing I'd like more than to continue working with this material and if I haven't exploited the fans and exploited the company I'll be there and I will keep me ear to the ground to listen to what everybody is saying.
The movie really has given the fans a chance to see Elvis as a human. Do you know if Lisa Marie has seen it yet?
She has and that's what Lisa Marie liked about it, to see her father as a human. There was a very special screening for her and Priscilla, I believe it was at the end of August or the beginning of September, and they are really nice people. You know that in your country you have royalty, how we embrace them and how private they have to be in their lives. When you meet Lisa Marie and find that she's so human and down to earth, you realise that she is the product of our own royalty. I wonder what her album's going to be like?