Boston Free Press
Issue Number Five
[June, 1968], p. 4

Antonioni Flick

Sally Dennison

Thursday June 13, THE FREE PRESS found Miss Sally Dennison, Antonioni's powder blond wunderkind, holding court at the Arlington Street Church. Assisted by Boston's Pied Piper, the ubiquitous Ed Beardsley, Miss Dennison was seeking a boy for the lead in Antonioni's upcoming film, Zabriskie Point. Although exhausted by examining hoards of long-haired males, Miss Dennison kindly granted us the following interview:

Q: First, on the whole thing, what is it? The movie?
A: It's a movie. What do you mean, what is it?
Q: It's Antonioni, right?
A: Yes.
Q: What's it going to be called?
A: Zabriskie Point. Which is an actual place in Death Valley.
Q: Who's writing it?
A: Antonioni.
Q: He's writing the script himself?
A: And Sam Shepherd, who's an off-Broadway playwright.
Q: Is Shepherd doing the research for it?
A: No, Antonioni's done the research for it, but Shepherd is there because he's a hip young kid and he's a writer.
Q: How old is Shepherd?
A: Sam's about twenty-three, I don't know.
Q: What's he written so far?
A: He has an off-Broadway play running now in New York.
Q: What's it called?
A: Red Cross. And he's had several others. "La Turista"...
Q: Do you know what the story line is?
A: Yes.
Q: Could you sort of go into that briefly?
A: All I can say is that it's a story about American contemporary youth.
Q: You can't sort of give any background on it?
A: It's a secret.
Q: It deals with the New Left?
A: It doesn't deal with the New Left, no. It has the New Left as a background because that's America... because that's part of America... the New Left. The Resistance. The Kids. Everything.
Q: You're looking for the lead now?
A: Yes.
Q: What kind of a lead is it to be?
A: It has to be a young man who's involved with what's going on.
Q: Why does he have to be involved? Why can't he just sort of act it?
A: No! No, because he's got to be human. There's a truth in this film. We can't write the truth in for someone who doesn't have it.
Q: Well then, if you get someone who does have it, and you start doing the script, will you allow him to ad lib...
A: Well, it will depend on how he moves. But his background will be important for his character.
Q: You're looking for someone five foot nine...
A: A little bit taller because the girl is tall.
Q: Who is the girl?
A: I can't say. Her contract isn't signed yet. She's not an actress. She's unknown.
Q: Are there going to be any known actors?
A: No.
Q: This is the first time he's done that... without known actors?
A: Well... I mean David Hemmings wasn't particularly known.
Q: Yeah, but Vanessa Redgrave was.
A: Yes, but she wasn't really known that much. Only to people who are in the business.
Q: Is this the first time Antonioni's done anything political?
A: He's not going to make a comment on it. It's just going to be there.
Q: How long have you been looking for this male lead?
A: About three months.
Q: Where have you, looked so far?
A: All over the country.
Q: Have you found anyone in Boston?
A: I can't say. I don't know. I'd have to think about that.
Q: How long do you think it's going to take you to get the movie started?
A: I don't know. We're mystified. We're very mystified. We can't find this boy. We know he must exist.
Q: How long have you worked for Antonioni?
A: I've been on this film for about three to six months. I don't really know.
Q: Did you work on "Blow Up?"
A: No.
Q: How old are you?
A: Twenty-six.
Q: How did you get in with Antonioni?
A: I'm a friend of his. I've known him for about three years.
Q: Where'd you meet him?
A: In Rome.
Q: Didn't Emmet Grogan work with him for some time?
A: Not really, no.
Q: That was the story in Ramparts.
A: Yes.
Q: What actually happened?
A: We talked to Emmet. That was all.
Q: Is Emmet helping on this movie now?
A: No.
Q: Where is this thing going to be shot?
A: On the West Coast. Los Angeles, Phoenix, and Death Valley.
Q: When are you going to start?
A: Probably in the middle of July. I hope.
Q: How long do you think it will go on for?
A: A long time!
Q: One year, two years?
A: Oh, no! The shooting schedule, no. We'll shoot til we're finished. Maybe sixteen weeks, I don't know.
Q: There's not going to be any political comment?
A: The political atmosphere, because that's America. America is extremely political; that will be there as a background, as a basis for the film.
Q: Well, is the story basically about America, about American youth....
A: American youth. It's just two people, two young people.
Q: There are only two people in the whole thing?
A: There are three people. Two young people and an establishment character. A lawyer.
Q: And then a cast of thousands?
A: Well, there's an extra scene which will have...
Q: Just one scene involving extras?
A: Yes.
Q: And the rest is just going to be shots of the couple?
A: Yeah.
Q: Is there anything else? I've sort of exhausted my questions.
A: No. I'm trying to think if there's anything else. I've had my brain picked so much I'm... I can't even remember what I'm doing. The big thing we're concerned about now is finding this boy. Because we found the girl in a similar fashion. We found her by just seeing her.
Q: What type of character is she, without giving her name?
A: She's nineteen. And she's there. And she's alive. And she's with everything, and moving, and thinking.
Q: Is she politically active?
A: I don't know. She may be in her head. She's in. She goes to Berkeley.... Because of the nature of the picture, because it's so contemporary, we keep changing it. As each movement comes in, we have to change it to keep up with what's happening. As a background for the film. He bases all his films on a truth. Basis of truth.
Q: What is the sort of basic truth?
A: The story that happens in the film actually happened, was reported in the newspaper. It's a true story.
Q: What's your interpretation of "Blow Up?"
A: I have no interpretation of "Blow Up," It was there....
Q: What's it like working for him?
A: Wonderful. It's very difficult. You have to work very closely together. Very close with him.
Q: Is he emotional? Sensitive?
A: He's emotional, extremely sensitive, extremely intuitive.
Q: How old is he?
A: In his fifties....
Q: How long would you say he was here getting background?
A: About two years; he's been traveling all over the country...
Q: Since "Blow Up"?
A: Yes, since "Blow Up."
Q: He's been all over America?
A: Yeah. And all over America. Been more places than probably most Americans.
Q: You really can't give any indication what the movie is going to be like?
A: What it's going to be like. It's just two young people. And something happens to the boy and he does what he does and the girl and the boy meet...
Q: Just describe the type of guy you're looking for one more time so maybe we can put it in the paper.
A: He's a young, twenty, twenty-one, twenty-two, twenty-three... that age. .. he's a boy who's been involved in the student revolt. He's alive. He's thinking. He has a mind. He's what you see on the streets here. He's what you see when you go to Berkeley, or when you go to...
Q: Are there going to be campus scenes?
A: There may be campus scenes now because the campus scene has become so important in the last couple months.
Q: About how many kids have you interviewed so far?
A: I'd say probably totally in the last three months, probably seen over a thousand people. And that's not counting the actors. This is just kids from schools and, you know, who are involved.. .
Q: Did that give you hope for America?
A: Yes, yes. Incredible.
Q: Are you from America?
A: Yes, I'm from America. Framingham. Well, I come from New York now, I live there. That's where I live. Have lived. .... Why we're talking to people is because we want to know where they're at. That's the only way we can.
Q: You can really find where they're at by sitting in that room?
A: I can't find out completely. I'm not an analyst. I find out whether they're alive, whether they're thinking, whether they're intelligent.
Q: What kinds of questions can you ask them?
A: First of all, I ask them why they came to see me.
Q: What's the usual response?
A: Curiosity. Boredom.
Q: How many people you've talked to know where it's at?
A: I think of the thousand people I've talked to who are the kids, most of them know what's going on.

Interview by Rowland Koefod

Mel Lyman