Split Screen 2000: Episode #61 - Projections: Walter Bernstein

From Faber & Faber's Projections: Tod Lippy's interview with Walter Bernstein

Tod Lippy: You once said your goal as a writer was to make "audiences go away dissatisfied in a satisfied way." Can you elaborate on that?

Walter Bernstein: This sounds rather grand, but I am interested in affecting people - in changing people. I want what I write to have an effect on them, and I want to present the world to them in a truthful, dramatic way - to show them the conflicts. I want them to go away feeling gratified that they've had an experience that has filled them with pleasure, but there should be a little bit of a burr under the saddle. That happens, I think, in all my movies. You know, The Front ends with Woody Allen going off to jail, and it's funny in a way, but I hope an audience goes away thinking, "What's going to happen to him there?" The same thing for the ending of The Molly Maguires. These guys get hanged at the end, and the man who caused that is going to become very successful because of it. What's going on there? You know, you come away from Death of a Salesman very shaken, very moved, but wow, is that enormously satisfying. Tod Lippy: Can I ask how old you are?

Walter Bernstein: Eighty.

Tod Lippy: What do you attribute the longevity of your career to?

Walter Bernstein: I don't know; I really don't know. Right now, I've lucked into a relationship with HBO, which has been a very happy and fruitful one for me. I don't have too much of a career in feature films at the moment. Maybe it's because it's a business run mostly by and for 15-year-olds. [laughs] Although maybe that's why I get work - they think I'm in my second childhood.

Tod Lippy: Do you think your experience during the blacklist somehow contributed to your resilience?

Walter Bernstein: I survived. Tod Lippy: But you did more than survive. You never named names, you managed to somehow find work

Walter Bernstein: Well, I survived on my own terms, I suppose.

Projections 11
New York Film-Makers on Film-making
edited by Tod Lippy
faber and faber
© copyright Tod Lippy, 2000

Split Screen: Projections - Walter Bernstein Credits

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