Interview with HUMANITAS Winners Wash Westmoreland and Richard Glatzer
Today, Hollywood scandals are as common as street performers on the Venice boardwalk. People stop to watch for a second and then move on to the next. Back in the late 1950s, the circumstances were different. When the love affair between Errol Flynn and under-aged Beverly Aadland leaked, the press and public went wild.
In The Last of Robin Hood, writers and directors Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland focus on what was happening behind the scenes of the infamous affair. Kevin Kline plays Flynn, a solidified star known for his role as Robin Hood. Aadland, played by Dakota Fanning, is a hopeful 15-year-old actress who meets Flynn on set one day. He falls for her immediately and turns a blind eye to her age. With the help of her mother, Florence (Susan Sarandon), the two’s love affair blossoms into a torrid romance destined for a fatal end.
I had a chance to chat with Westmoreland and Glatzer about finding the true story within the tabloids. We discuss the challenges of shooting a film in the 1950s, working with their incredible cast and what about Errol and Beverly’s affair still remains relevant today.
Paste: Errol and Beverly’s love was definitely surrounded with scandal at the time, with many saying it was grotesque and manipulative. What did you uncover researching them that inspired you to make a far more sincere film?
Westmoreland: The tabloid headlines were the way most people knew about the story. All three of the people were taken apart in the national press. You see this happening still today. It’s Britney Spears or Lindsay Lohan who get torn apart by the press. This is one of the first cases of this happening. We were interested in what was happening between the headlines. Once we knew Beverly, we started getting a feel for the human side of the story. What is was like for her.
Glatzer: We felt the need to tell her story.
Paste: Was it difficult to get her to speak with you?
Westmoreland: Initially, she didn’t want to talk to anybody. Especially not people who read her mother’s book. She doesn’t like various ways the story was presented. She was really resentful. Initially, she was very friendly but didn’t want to talk about Errol Flynn. It took a number of visits before she would trust us. She would tell us incredible details and word-for-word conversations.
Paste: Susan Sarandon plays Florence with a naivety and desperation that seems to justify her questionable actions. Was it important to you to make her sympathetic?
Westmoreland: That was one of the reasons why we wanted to cast Susan. All three characters were condemned enough in the press. For Florence, this is from the book; her first love was not Errol Flynn. It was Beverly. It was misguided mother love. Susan is so used to in movies … always saying the right thing! In this film, she has equal power and conviction but more or less saying the wrong thing. These occasional existential windows into fame are dead on. I think Susan just really jumped at the chance. [Florence] has pain and stuff that happened in her own life. She resented other Hollywood mothers. She always had her own unique identity.
Paste: As directors you really build the world here. Tell me about the challenges of making a film set in the 1950s.
Westmoreland: You’ve got to find your time machine that goes back. We wanted something that felt truthful to the time. We looked at a lot of movies from that era. We wanted to give it a sense of the late ’50s and also the way the camera moves.
Glatzer: It’s so hard on a budget. When you cast an extra, it’s hair; it’s wardrobe.
Westmoreland: I think really in the recent evolution of period films all the details have to be right. You have to become obsessed with every detail! Different underwear for women made you a different shape. Even the way people walk. Everything has changed with hip-hop.