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Quick Links to Articles:
IndieWire interview with Phil Kaufman, added January 27, 2001
This is London feature on Michael Caine, January 17, 2001
American Cinematographer feature, January 2001
FilmUnlimited feature on director Philip Kaufman, January 14, 2001
BeatboxBetty interview with Geoffrey Rush, added January 11, 2001
Interview with Michael Caine, Toronto Sun, January 11, 2001
Rush feature/interview in the Guardian, January 5, 2001
BBC News feature on Wright, December 28, 2000
Quills Preview from Film Review magazine, added December 22, 2000
Jam! Showbiz feature on Rush, December 20, 2000
UK Telegraph article on Phoenix, December 18, 2000
Brief feature on Kaufman's latest projects, USA Today, December 15, 2000
Interview with Doug Wright, CNN, December 15, 2000
Interview with Rush, Orange County Register, December 14, 2000
"New, Old, and Forgotten," by Rod Hewitt for Rough Cut, December 14, 2000
Quills on film vs. on stage, December 10, 2000
Interview with Kaufman and Wright for IFP, added December 9, 2000
Hollywood Reporter article about the marketing of Quills, December 8, 2000
Entertainment Today feature on the making of Quills, December 6, 2000
Kaufman and Rush speak at the Los Angeles premiere (added December 3rd)
Michael Sragow feature / Rush interview, November 30, 2000
Article about historical accuracy in films, November 29, 2000
Planet Hollywood interview with Kate, November 2000
Planet Hollywood interview with Geoffrey Rush, November 2000
Rough Cut interview with Geoffrey Rush, November 28, 2000
Salon Magazine feature on Phil Kaufman, November 27, 2000
Los Angeles Times commentary on the film, November 27, 2000
Washington Post feature on Rush and the Marquis, November 26, 2000
Movie Web feature on the film, November 26, 2000
iF Magazine feature on Geoffrey Rush, November 24, 2000
Sydney Morning Herald feature on Geoffrey Rush, November 24, 2000
TV Guide Insider feature on Geoffrey Rush, November 23, 2000
Mr. Showbiz interview with Geoffrey Rush, November 22, 2000
Newsday Feature on the film and Kaufman, November 22, 2000
Premiere Magazine article about the corset Kate wears in the film, December 2000 issue
Interview with Geoffrey Rush (with some great quotes from Kate), Premiere Magazine
Dark Horizons ("Paul Fischer") interview with Geoffrey Rush, November 21, 2000
New York Daily News interview with Geoffrey Rush, November 19, 2000
New York Post article on film ratings / Kaufman, November 15, 2000
Los Angeles Times "Calendar" Feature on Kaufman, October 22, 2000
UK Independent on Sunday feature on "Marquis Mania", October 22, 2000
Movieline magazine (Special issue), November, 2000
David Thomson commentary, September 22, 2000
NY Times feature on Kaufman, September 10, 2000
Premiere Magazine, September 2000
Entertainment Weekly, August 18-25, 2000
The Independent, July 2, 2000  
Movieline Magazine
Premiere Magazine, November 1999
Total Film, June 2000
Sunday Times feature on de Sade, April 2000
Extra's Report
Article on actor Richard Weekes

January 27: Here's an interesting recent interview with Phil Kaufman:
"Can't Get No Satisfaction, Philip Kaufman Thrusts Again With 'Quills'," by Andrea Meyer for Indie Wire
    Philip Kaufman is no stranger to controversy. He's been making sexy movies that push people's buttons for years: 'The Unbearable Lightness of Being' (1988) is his adaptation of Milan Kundera's deeply erotic and political masterpiece. 'Henry and June' (1990) explored the personal lives of Henry Miller and Anaïs Nin, two of history's most celebrated writers of narcissistic soft-porn. Now Kaufman is back on sexual turf with 'Quills,' his big-screen version of Doug Wright's smart, complex play that fictionalizes the Marquis de Sade's final years in a French mental institution.
    Geoffrey Rush plays the notorious dirty storyteller who does battle with a government-sanctioned doctor (Michael Caine) hired to squeeze the pornographic impulse right out of him. With Kate Winslet as muse, Joaquin Phoenix as the good priest who just wants everyone to be happy, and a whole host of eccentric inmates, the result is a sex and gore-filled romp that delivers its argument about freedom of speech with an uncommonly entertaining and intricate punch. indieWIRE talked to Kaufman about sex and violence in the movies, the ratings system, and pleasing your public.
indieWIRE: How have audiences been reacting to the film?
Philip Kaufman: The reaction has been really wonderful. But occasionally there's somebody who says, "When the film takes a dark turn, why did you do that?" These audiences want "Tom Jones." They want the romp. They like the part of the film that we call the set-up. But the set-up is leading to a pay-off. And in order to be true to Doug Wright's work and, in order to be true to that tale, we had to make sure we were using all the Sadean colors. People say, "very funny," "very sexy," "very terrifying," and "liberating" is a word that comes out of the audience. And, strangely perhaps, women seem to really respond to the movie, not just because of the romance that's involved -- even down to the Abbé and the Marquis, to that love affair -- but it's full of love affairs and variations on love affairs, and of course having Kate Winslet and Joaquin Phoenix, as well as the other young couple. One couple is brought down by the works of Sade and the other couple, in a sense, is liberated by the works of Sade. That's the music of Doug's work -- it's a sort of symphony. It has its motifs and its dark themes.
iW: Where ratings are concerned, violence is always considered less offensive than sex. What's your opinion of that?
Kaufman: People can so readily accept WWF world wrestling, where chairs are broken over heads and total sadism reins supreme, and people have their kids watch it. Everyone just says, "oh this is just a romp in the park, it's a good time," and it's far more contagious to children, in terms of setting behavior patterns, than our piece, which is, in a way, a thoughtful piece about all this. That's my question. Whose behavior is the film going to influence? Is there anything in the film that is going to get people to rush out into the streets to try the very things that we're discussing in the film? That should be the only really criterion for evaluating something, whether it's on sex or on violence. We are discussing this, and hopefully it's within a context of love and beauty, as well as some of the other factors, even Sade's philosophical feelings about human nature, which was a part of his writing. He was a philosopher in a way, answering some of those things in the extreme. Just as Nietzsche was, who was outcast in many circles, Sade was dealing with what he viewed to be human nature. We see him observing it in the film, and he says to the abbé, "I've seen all these things. I've lived these things. You've only read about them."
Open the TV set and flip on the porno channel, and it's way beyond anything we did or were allowed to do or even cared to do. The reason I did this is because it was a great story, a great drama. When I read Doug's words, I thought, this is a great story. It's got the power of a "Little Red Riding Hood." Is this more terrifying than grandma being eaten? When the princess kissed the frog and it turned into a prince, was that bestiality? We have that scene where Joaquin makes love to Kate, and they say that's necrophilia, which it isn't. It's a dream within a dream. Orpheus descending into the nether worlds to get Eurydice -- is that his deep yearning for a necrophiliac experience of some sort?
iW: Yet you include a scene in which the work of Sade does incite a violent act. It's interesting where that fits into the debate about the potentially harmful influence of art.
Kaufman: That's a very complex thing. The way Doug has written it is astonishingly complex. You could say that it does incite the violent act. On the other hand, the person who perpetrates that violent act was violent before reading Sade. It's a mind fecund with violence. And Madeleine, she's a lusty girl, she's open, she understands that there is room for pornography. I think we all accept that now. Certainly since Freudian times, we all recognize that there is something called the libido, and that there are various ways of inspiring it. And Madeleine is an advocate of the libido. Doug said he wanted to make a movie that didn't just make conservatives nervous, but made liberals nervous as well, because then you're dealing with a true dialogue. Otherwise it's a one-sided polemic.
iW: Was it this dialogue that drew you to this project?
Kaufman: I would never have done it if it was just a polemic. I did it because it was a grand entertainment. It was funny and sexy and full of wonderful dialogue. I did it because I couldn't think of anything like it I'd seen. One of my favorite movies of all time is "Children of Paradise." And for me, it was this kind of dance that the characters do, one with the other, and the constant morphing and changing of partners that goes on within a film like that has always interested me. And hopefully there's some of that in "Quills," that kind of feeling, the complexity of relationships, where each scene provides a new way of looking at things.
iW: Yet the censorship issue that you explore in "Quills" has touched you personally. "Henry and June" was the first film to receive an NC-17 rating.
Kaufman: It still may be the only major studio film with an NC-17 rating. The ratings system needs revamping. We're perfectly content to be releasing a film that is not for children. And I don't think in any way we're courting children to see this movie. On the other hand, when we say, "Not for Children of All Ages," we're saying if you're of a mind to not like a film that makes you think or if you only like a film that leaves you feeling giddy and silly, this is not a film for you.
I felt betrayed with "Henry and June," because I really felt, within the code as it was, it should have been the same rating as "Unbearable Lightness of Being." We were ready to go to Washington to protest it, and that week the ratings system was changed, the head of Universal was backing it totally. Tom Pollock said, "let's be the first NC-17 film out." Well, it turned out that the film did great business when it first came out. It set records in some places, but very quickly theaters would not book it, because they thought it was the new X rating. We thought there would be a rating beyond this one, that suddenly we had liberated films for adults -- things that European films deal with in a more open way throughout my lifetime -- but the result was that the X was shrunk down to NC-17. So, in a way, it was the new X.
iW: Have you ever self-edited in order to ensure an R rating?
Kaufman: No, fortunately this movie was given an R without making any changes. It shows that at least the ratings board had expanded its considerations since the time of "Henry and June."
iW: How do you think the ratings should be revamped?
Kaufman: They just need more sophistication in some way. If it takes putting a warning: Smoking can cause lung cancer. Or maybe they need a few more tiers of ratings. They are always very lax about putting restrictions on violence for children's movies, which I think is much more harrowing than sexuality for children.
I must say that some of the arguments recently where they've been coming down on Hollywood, are partly out of political expediency, even the Democrats. They're arguing about trailers being shown to children or films being tested with underage children that are violent and so forth, and it's a valid argument. Filmmakers are arguing with distributors about that all the time. Somehow the argument goes right by the people exploiting the movie and goes back to the filmmakers. But I must say Jack Valenti has been very forceful and bright and cogent in his arguments. I have been very impressed by Valenti in defending Hollywood and free speech. The whole history of the last century -- there's been this incredible battle for free speech, and just when we're getting some measure of openness and some mature dialogue going, there's the chance of these reactionary things setting in. And reactionary, we always take it to mean right wing, but there's a left-wing reaction. It's all a big circle. There are extremes on either end, but we've come to know that left and right join up at the end of the circle.
iW: Are there things you think a mainstream audience won't like about "Quills"?
Kaufman: American audiences don't particularly like tragedy, because they like a happy ending. Even if it's violence -- people are killed and so forth -- they want a happy ending. That's why I did my version of "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" the way Don Siegel would have wanted his version to end, where you're left hanging. But, there is a great tradition of tragedy being liberating. For me, we can go beyond that. You can mix comedy and tragedy. That's what attracts me to most of the material I do. There's a mixture that doesn't fall into an easy answer. I've had that problem with my work. With "The Right Stuff," at the time people said, "how can you make it funny when it's just supposed to be about patriotism?" Certainly for me, it was not supposed to be about patriotism. As time goes by and the shrill critics back away from it -- they don't even give a shit as they're saying it, because they don't stay around a project -- "The Right Stuff," or a project like that, can have a life of its own.
It demands a certain bravery on the part of the audience not to simply pass judgment on the movie when it's over. We've become so conditioned by that response, and certainly critics are conditioned that way. As soon as it's over, you have to rush to your typewriter. I call to mind the fact that James Agee, one of the great film critics and screenwriters -- he wrote "The African Queen" among many other great screenplays -- when he was writing for Time Magazine, he wrote on two occasions, "I've just seen a movie. It moved me very much, and I can't write about it this week." Sometimes it would take him two or three weeks. One was "Monsieur Verdoux," and the other was de Sica's "Shoeshine." You have to be very brave to do that. We live in that time of sudden satisfaction, or sodden satisfaction or Sadean satisfaction, but taking some time to digest your food before you go into the waters of opinion is a very important thing.
iW: Do you think it might take awhile for audiences to grasp the message that's being delivered in "Quills"?
Kaufman: They'll know what it's about. It's all there. You can respond to the intelligence, to the wit, of the piece, and you can respond emotionally to the visceral qualities of the piece. It's not something that people have a real problem getting. It's not something that's difficult to get, nor is that outrageous. There will be people who say, "where the fuck's the spanking?" (laughs) There's stuff that will be shocking for some and not shocking enough for others, but that's not the movie we made.

January 17: Excerpts from an article about Michael Caine on This is London:
    His new film, Quills, is about the Marquis de Sade towards the end of his life, when, with the aim of silencing him, the maverick aristocratic pornographer was locked up in the Charenton lunatic asylum. Caine's take on the story is a quirky one, since he sees de Sade - hardly a role model in most people's eyes - as the hero of the piece.
    "There was a very liberal regime in Charenton, run by a monk, and de Sade was smuggling his manuscripts out through a laundry girl. The nation was appalled by the filth he was writing, so Napoleon sent a very severe doctor, Royer-Collard, whom I play, to take over the asylum. He couldn't murder a member of the aristocracy so he took de Sade's pens - his quills - away. But then he started writing on his suit and on the walls with his own blood and excreta, or dictating his ideas to the other inmates. They couldn't stop him. The film is really to do with the freedom to write, no matter what it is. He's played by Geoffrey Rush and it's an extraordinary performance, even though he's a bit on the thin side because when the Marquis de Sade was in Charenton he weighed only 400lb!"
    This last remark is a typical Caine touch. He researches his roles thoroughly - at least, the ones that matter to him - while affecting a blokey, ust-in-it-for-the-money-and-a-laugh nonchalance. "I'm not one of those actors who say, 'I must give the world my Hamlet.' I'm pragmatic. American actors tear themselves apart for a scene. British actors are lazy; we just do it. I'm joking and messing about right up until the start of the take, even if it's a very emotional scene. You've got to relax. The minute an actor causes any tension on the set, I walk away. I say, 'You pull yourself together and I'll come back when you're ready to laugh.' And it works."

January 11: The January issue of American Cinematographer Magazine contains a very interesting, detailed article about Quills, including a few new photos from the set. The article and pics are posted on a separate page - Go Here!  Excerpt:
"We wanted to give the impression that the walls were alive and dripping with madness," says [Production Designer Martin] Childs with a delighted laugh. "What was fantastically helpful to me - though probably not to anybody who had to schedule the film - was that Kaufman wanted to shoot the film in [continuity]. So we were adding green and decay as the story happened, a luxury we're normally never allowed. We were, for the first time in my experience, able to make a set live."

January 14: Here's a feature on Philip Kaufman from FilmUnlimited:
"How To Erect a Marquis," by Mark Morris
    If you have never actually read the Marquis de Sade, you might not know that he layered beatings, deflowerings and buggery with long stretches of philosophy: the Marquis wanted to enlighten his readers as well as turn them on.
Which is why it seems so appropriate that the fascinating new film about De Sade, Quills, should be directed by Philip Kaufman. Kaufman, on the evidence of his sprawling, erotically-charged epics The Unbearable Lightness Of Being and Henry And June, is a man interested in the places where serious art, the politics of liberation and lots of sex coincide. In short, you could call him the highbrow sex guy.
    Kaufman chuckles. 'The highbrow sex guy! I think my wife enjoys me being the sex guy. She gets a laugh out of that - and we've been married over 40 years. I only do films that interest me, and I'm interested in sex. Everybody is interested in sex. I would like to see more sex movies, not with slapstick sex, but explorations of sexuality and ambiguity of sexuality. But I never go about a movie saying I'm going to make a "sex movie".'
    Sex is a major part of Quills, a flamboyant black comedy about the last days of the Marquis. Set in the feverish atmosphere of the Charenton asylum, it has a brilliantly unrestrained and occasionally naked Geoffrey Rush as De Sade, Michael Caine as his persecutor, Joaquin Phoenix as an idealistic priest and Kate Winslet as a buxom laundrymaid. It is very funny, very theatrical and enjoyably lurid. And despite being openly provocative it has featured heavily in US end-of-year polls, picked up Best Film at the prestigious National Board Of Review awards, and Rush looks a good bet for an Oscar nomination.
    But all that has happened since I spoke to Kaufman. Then he was still anxious about the way it was going to be received. 'Disney movies are always advertised as "films for children of all ages". I would say this film is definitely not for children of all ages, not even for grown-ups who are looking for the Hollywood ending.'
    He worries whether audiences these days are too literal, whether they can only accept people doing fantastical things in movies if they talk in an everyday way. In Quills, which embraces its origins as a play (by Doug Wright), the dialogue is theatrical; the performances, like the extra-large sets, are not meant to be lifesize. And it isn't intended as a historical account of the Marquis de Sade. 'By the end,' Kaufman explains in a deep, slow voice, 'the actual boring biopic approach has been forsaken, and in a way it's as though the Marquis has been brought to his end by a character who has risen out of his own literature, the perfect Sadean hero, the hypocrite who acts like he is doing good but will behave in the most abominable way. I wanted the film to have certain Grand Guignol qualities because he was a writer, he was a director, his life was about storytelling, about myths.'
    On the day we met, Kaufman could have been forgiven for not wanting to talk about films, sex or anything else. He had had food poisoning, and hadn't eaten in two days. But sitting back on a plump sofa at the Dorchester Hotel in London, he seemed to be enjoying himself. He has a decadent elegance to him, very much a match with his films. At 64, the longish hair and trimmed beard are mainly grey. Chicago-born, he has spent nearly four decades living in bohemian San Francisco.
    For a well-known director, Kaufman doesn't make a lot of films: Quills is only his fifth since 1980. This isn't due to any Kubrick-like perfectionism, he claims, it's just that the people with the money won't let him make the films he wants to make. 'Sometimes you get to the point where the producers say to you, "you can make it, but only if you get one of four stars". I've had that happen.'
    Kaufman doesn't much like working with stars, especially American stars. 'There is a certain spoilt quality about them. They get used to living like millionaires, and acting like millionaires, and there is often a lot of bad behaviour associated with money.' Kate Winslet, Kaufman allows, is an exception and he gratefully acknowledges that her presence in the film was the main reason Quills made it to the screen.
    Kaufman isn't one of those film-makers who always wanted to be a director, not a Spielberg type, making ambitious short films when other kids were in the playground. He studied history at the University of Chicago, tried Harvard Law School, dropped out, and went back to study more history. It shows in his early films, which examine American history and its big myths: The Great Minnesota Raid (1972), which told the story of Jesse James; The White Dawn (1974), about whaling; The Wanderers (1979) and The Right Stuff (1983). He also wrote the script for Clint Eastwood's The Outlaw Josey Wales (1976). 'I was thinking of being a history professor at one point, and I thought I could redo history the way it might have been.' He revisited a modern American myth in his 1978 remake of the Invasion Of The Body Snatchers, and helped create one by working on the story for Raiders Of The Lost Ark.
It was in Europe in the early Sixties, teaching English and trying to be a writer, that he decided he wanted to make films. 'I was really inspired by European films. I loved American movies but round the time I lived in Europe in the early Sixties you had the new wave. So I went back inspired by Godard and Truffaut.'
    His first film, Goldstein, released in 1965, picked up a prize in Cannes and the praise of Jean Renoir, who said it was the 'best American film I have seen in 20 years'. And his reputation was transformed when he found his way back to Europe in 1988 with The Unbearable Lightness Of Being. Its author, Milan Kundera, was at the peak of his reputation, as was the film's male star, Daniel Day-Lewis. And the film made Juliette Binoche's name for an international audience.
    Already in his fifties, Kaufman was abruptly immensely hip. The film he made on the back of that breakthrough, Henry And June, gained notoriety rather than critical acclaim. The plentiful sex, including lesbian scenes, caused the film to run into trouble with the US ratings board. The fight over its release eventually led to the creation of a whole new ratings category in the US, the No-Children Under 17 (NC-17). 'Blockbuster [the video rental chain] to this day refuses to stock Henry And June in the US, even though they do porno films, which are not rated,' Kaufman notes. 'Hypocrisy: that's what I like about the Marquis de Sade - he railed against hypocrisy.'
    Greil Marcus, a long-time Kaufman supporter, describes Quills as 'a horror movie about the Rights Of Man'. Kaufman nods. 'It is about freedom of expression. That's our First Amendment. You'd think the kind of conservatives who've criticised Quills would be the first to defend the Constitution.'
    Quills is released on Friday.

January 11: I found this recent interview with Geoffrey Rush on the 'BeatboxBetty' entertainment site:
CelebBetty: Geoffrey Rush, Written by BeatBoxBetty
In the role of a lifetime, GEOFFREY RUSH explores the art, beauty and perversion of the legendary Marquis de Sade. And as you'll see once you drink him down slowly in the erotically hypnotic 'QUILLS' - he's just the man to do it.
Q: Okay. I've just gotta ask; how many hours did you have to spend naked playing the Marquis de Sade?
RUSH: Who's counting? Well, I suppose, the last week and a half, two weeks . . . It was probably the last couple of weeks.
Q: Was that difficult at all to do?
RUSH: I had no problems with it in terms of vanity. I mean, you have to check your vanity in at the door when you go into the studio with something like that. The costume designer said a great thing ... she said, "You know, you're wearing your nakedness like another costume," and I thought, "That's perfect. That's exactly what I need to keep doing."
Q: So was it better to be in that powder blue suit or naked?
RUSH: There's something very liberating . . . I can't divorce it from the specifics of this story, which is about a man being stripped naked and you do see him go from being a very foppish, flamboyant, arrogant, civilized, decaying creature to unmasking him. Who is the writer? Who is the man inside all of this posturing? Just when you think he might be humiliated and diminished by that act of repression, he messes further and much more darkly with the priest's mind.
Q: What made you want to take such an unglamourous role?
RUSH: The Marquis, for me, I think is as close as I'm ever going to get to being a romantic lead. I live with that.
Q: Touché. Was it also because you get to do play such a span of emotions in 'Quills'?
RUSH: To a degree. I like to explore a character ... and discover dimensions and surprises within a character through playfulness. That's very much how KATE WINSLET approached what I think was the necessary mood on set and MICHAEL CAINE is very much like that, so there was a great deal of, not sort of trivial whimsy, but [the film's director] PHIL KAUFMAN's like that.
There's gotta be some kind of delusional fantasy at work here that can quickly take you into how, to a degree, flamboyant the character is because he's kicking out hard at the world and wanting it to kick back hard . . . He'd be a handful at a dinner party, wouldn't he? If you invited him over, you'd get the charm and you'd get the wit, but then you just might get this mouth, in more ways than one probably.
Q: In what other ways did you gain insight into the Marquis de Sade?
RUSH: I knew quite a bit about him because I'd been in [and translated] 'The Marriage of Figaro' and I'd been in 'Marat Sade' on stage. You can't even begin to touch any aspect of that compact period of the French Revolution without making contact with the Marquis de Sade, Robes Pierre, Napoleon, Thomas Payne and Beaumarchais. You're not looking at the history properly if you don't get impacted on by those kind of major figures. I went back and reread a lot of stuff and that's useful, but you can't play writing and you can't even work out who wrote this [or] what he's like . . .When they put the play on in the asylum and the doctor is scandalized, but he doesn't want to make a great public show but kind of berates the priest, we really liked the idea of when the priest comes back to the Marquis' room, the Marquis is hoeing into this great supper like he's at Sardy's waiting for the reviews to come out. [He's] enjoying the meal and thinking, "Fabulous! They hated it! Great!" It's just finding those tiny moments to give you some sort of insight as to how perverse he is without it necessarily being offensive.
Q: Was Kaufman a strong director in terms of his vision?
RUSH: I think you only get into battles when you realize that you don't connect about a vision for the character, but I think you have to augment each other's vision and that's what happens.
I think I brought much more humor to the role than he'd anticipated when he read the script. He was surprised. He'd come back from the dailies and he'd say, "How can you make this guy so likeable, because he's depraved and horrible, but I'm finding that I'm watching you on screen and being really interested in what the Marquis' thinking and doing." He encouraged that and then, on some days, he'd just whisper to me and go, "This is the scene where we have to see the man," and you know what he means.
Q: What was this perspective on Sade?
RUSH: I think everyone appreciates Sade. There was no intention to write a biography with this story - with the details and the shifts in his life, you'd be making an 8 hour movie. I think [that the film's writer] DOUG WRIGHT, on this version of the story, was fascinated by what he would describe as the symbiotic relationship between the oppressor being the artistic muse.
The more hot under the color Jesse Helmes gets, the more prolific Robert Mapplethorpe becomes or the more vocal Robert Mapplethorpe becomes. The line I have in the film where he's being dunked in the chair -- not for corrective purposes, but kind of for political dissidence -- I say, "You self-righteous fuck. Don't you realize that the more you torture me, the deeper you root my principles in my heart?"
There's something fascinating about that. If neither of them were there to challenge each other, Mapplethorpe might be very underground and forgotten. [Wright] was much more interested in that than, "I want to do a play where people wear powder blues and tights and I can write them some zingy one- liners."
Q: How did you avoid taking your work home to your wife?
RUSH: We've worked together quite a bit [on stage] and we hardly ever talk about what we're doing in a domestic situation. If I'm in something and Jane's not, or vice versa, then we inevitably use one another as a sounding board or a big bitch session about who you've been working with that day. You know what I mean? "You can't believe what happened in rehearsal!" or "The director's got no idea what he's doing!"
I think Phil hoped there might have been some weird, psychotherapeutic type games that were going to go on in creating the characters, but it was there in the extraordinary scene... we know we're going to get something domestic from this guy who presents himself with such a cunning and manipulative personality [with] the wig and the touch of make-up and the old rancid, but fabulous, three-piece suit.

January 11: The Toronto Sun has an interview with Michael Caine:
"Using The Caine" - Busy Michael Caine Gets Evil in his 98th Role in Quills, by Jim Slotek
    It's royalty on the phone from London's Chelsea district. With his recent knighthood in mind, I ask Michael Caine if I'm to call him sir. "NO!" he fairly bellows over the line. "Call me Michael."
    A working-class London yob at heart -- and still the hardest-working man in cinema -- Caine, 68, is dutifully putting in time promoting Quills, the art flick that stars Geoffrey Rush as the Marquis de Sade and Caine as his malevolently self-righteous nemesis, Dr. Royer Collard.
    According to various media calculations, Quills is Caine's 98th film. The day after our talk, he and his wife of 28 years, Shakira, are off to vacation in Mauritius and Bali before he moves on to Vietnam to shoot his 100th, a remake of The Quiet American with Brendan Fraser. (Number 99 was a British gangster film called Shiner, due out in April.) "I've never counted, but 100 sounds right," he says. "Some of them you have such small parts in. Pictures in which I play the lead must be about 60. The other 40 would be little parts, guest shots and all that, y'know. I'm the last name on the list in a couple. They're movies like A Bridge Too Far or Battle Of Britain where you turn up for a five-minute part. Whatever, you still get paid."
    Not all of them, however, carry more prestigious rewards like, say, Oscars. An underdog in the best supporting actor category, Caine won his second Oscar last year (after Crimes And Misdemeanors) for The Cider House Rules. The studio is pushing him for Oscar consideration for Quills, a movie that also boasts stellar performances from Rush as de Sade confined to a madhouse, Joaquin Phoenix as a conflicted French priest struggling to run the asylum with compassion, and Kate Winslet as a virginal charwoman obsessed with both the priest and the debauched inmate. "Not a lemon in the bunch," agrees Caine with a laugh. "I have a lot of competition from my own castmates. I think Geoffrey will get nominated. Kate might. Joaquin deserves one. And I think it works against me that I've won twice."
    Nonetheless, he is the yin to Rush's yang as the not-so-good doctor (among other things, the brutal husband of a teenage bride). Collard is a political appointee sent by Napoleon himself to halt the smuggling of the Marquis' infamous sado-masochistic writings to his publisher. A proponent of the Iron Maiden treatment of mental disorders, he's perfectly willing to use torture to kill the Marquis' muse. "A reporter attacked me recently saying, 'You made this picture defending the Marquis de Sade, this terrible filth.' And I said, 'Yes, that's what I'm doing.' And they said, 'Why?' And I said, 'Because he must have the right to write, and I must have the right not to read it. Because what happens is directly after someone censors something and tells you what you can and cannot write, the next step is to tell you what you can and cannot read. And very often the next is to tell you what you must read, as in Das Kapital or Mein Kampf.' "
    He characterizes Collard as "one of these religious zealots who, in the name of a God of love, would do anything to other human beings. On the other hand, he was very enjoyable to play because when you get something as extreme as that, you joke and have laughs on the set. It was not a serious set. I had to do a scene in bed with a girl of 17 (Amelia Warner) who's playing my wife. And the only way we could accomplish that, her and I, was to laugh through the whole thing. At times when she grimaced, she was holding back laughter. It's pretty embarrassing at my age to be doing that with a girl who's young enough to be my granddaughter."

January 5: From the Guardian:
'Wizard of Oz,' by Stephen Moss
    Geoffrey Rush spends the entire two and a bit hours of his new movie, Quills, locked in the cell of a lunatic asylum. This is perfect preparation for a day at the Dorchester, where he is incarcerated in an ornate room, given a constant supply of coffee by publicists, and asked to perform for the benefit of a group of cynical journalists. Luckily, Rush is so vivid that he survives both with aplomb: brilliant as the imprisoned Marquis de Sade (some critics have tipped him for a second Oscar), and in his hotel room appearing to offer up freshly-minted answers to questions he has probably already been asked six times that day.
    Quills, which is directed by Philip Kaufman, tells the story of the final years of Sade, condemned to the asylum of Charenton and forbidden to write, but smuggling out his incendiary texts with the help of a laundry girl, played by Kate Winslet. It is a costume drama that eschews historical fidelity in the interest of questions of universal significance good v evil, freedom v censorship, the double-edged sword of creativity and a broader audience. Thus Winslet as an early 19th-century French laundress, Michael Caine as an authoritarian doctor, and Joaquin Phoenix as the well-meaning priest who runs Charenton - none of them remotely believable, but perhaps that isn't the point.
    The critic Anthony Lane was suitably dismissive in the New Yorker, but spared Rush the executioner's blade. 'If you can stomach this stuff,' he wrote, 'Quills should be seen simply for the presence of Geoffrey Rush. Of all the lies perpetrated by the film, his alone will win you over; in place of the Marquis de Sade, perhaps the most wearisome of revolutionary writers, we have a charming combination of scoundrel, flirt, dandy, nudist and wit.'
    When Rush is on screen, the movie comes alive; when he isn't, it feels laboured and ludicrous. It is like one of those flabby novels with one terrific character, where you find yourself skipping pages in the hunt for his next appearance. It is a bravura performance locked in that one room, remember from an actor who, in the three years since he won the best actor Oscar for Shine, has become a superstar without losing his sanity and good sense.
    Rush is a valiant defender of the film, and obviously enjoyed working with the literary-minded Kaufman, director of The Right Stuff and The Unbearable Lightness of Being. 'You get offered something like this and you have to take the bait and rise to the occasion,' says Rush, before launching into a fluent exposition of the historical background to the film.
    'The period in which it is set is full of great extremes a period in European history when the world was changing at an enormous rate, from an aristocratic, feudal structure into hopefully a democratic one. On one side of the coin, you have Rousseau saying man is a noble creature, give him the right nurturing and goodness will prevail. On the other, you have the marquis going, 'No, man is a nasty little depraved animal, take a look at yourself." Rush is, as you may have gathered, an actor who both reads and thinks.
'I tried not to judge the marquis too much,' he says. 'I was interested in the inner personality of the man as a writer, as a creative force who still has unavoidable connections and presence 200 years later. I wanted to assess the distance between the man and the writer, and the story takes you on that journey. He has a fear of intimacy and constructs a brilliant edifice around himself, but that is part of the sadistic personality and search for control. In playing him, I had to ask myself, 'Am I being too big, too crude? Am I using a machete when I should be using a scalpel?' But a machete can be pretty effective in the cinema.'
Rush, who is 49, is tall, rangy and fluid: even sitting down, all his limbs seem to be moving simultaneously. He chainsmokes and wears the battered outfit he perfected in the 20 years he spent on the Australian stage before Shine brought him to the attention of Hollywood. He comes across as a human being, and there can be no greater compliment for an actor, especially one enjoying albeit relatively late a meteoric film career.
    It is probably his stage work, past and present (he has no intention of letting it go), that has kept him sane. He has been attached to the Belvoir Street Theatre in Sydney since 1985, working principally with director Neil Armfield and achieving notable successes with Gogol, Chekhov, Jonson and Beaumarchais, exploring what Rush calls 'the grubby corners of the classical repertoire'.
    Hollywood has latched on to him as a character actor who can play historical figures Sir Francis Walsingham in Shekhar Kapur's brilliant Elizabeth, Philip Henslowe in the Oscar-garlanded Shakespeare in Love, and now Sade but he doesn't want to abandon modernity and is happy to be wearing a three-piece suit in John Boorman's forthcoming film of John le Carre's The Tailor of Panama.
    The latter was shot last spring, but after that Rush took a five-month break. 'The last three years have been extraordinary,' he says. 'I wanted to assess that on a personal level and on an aesthetic level. I spent time at home in a meaningful way, rather than a constantly disrupted professional way.' His solitary engagement in that period was to appear in a production of David Holman's The Small Poppies, a play he commissioned about a child's first day at school. Very un-Hollywood; very Geoffrey Rush.
    Even Shine, in which he played the mentally unstable pianist David Helfgott, was a slow-burn triumph, giving him time to adapt to the transformation it would bring to his life. 'I read the script in 1992, and knew as an actor that the story was great, very vivid and very direct. In a strange sort of way, it fitted into a broadening repertoire of characters that I was playing on stage. Even though it was about a pianist in Perth, I found a connection through having played Lear's Fool. The film got put on hold for lots of different reasons until 1995. It finally came out at Sundance and people responded very favourably, but then it didn't open for months and months.'
    Rush gives the impression that if the rollercoaster started by Shine careered off the track tomorrow, he wouldn't be the least bit bothered. 'An actor's life is a series of three-month blocks with great question marks constantly over the future,' he says matter-of-factly. 'I don't really know what I'm doing after this. Things have been talked about, but nothing's set. People have this image that you must have scripts arriving by FedEx and beeping going on outside your door all the time. But it doesn't quite happen like that.'
    Clearly, however, quite a few FedEx packages are arriving at his Melbourne home, and he is careful about what he accepts: 'There are some aesthetic guidelines at work, and there's also a sense of do-or-die daring. I keep thinking, 'Well, what do I have to lose?' It's always been the most interesting time in my theatrical life when I've deliberately not got into a rut with something. Instead of asking what my strong suit is and playing to that, you go, 'No, I'll try something totally different', just for your own amusement and your own sense of variation.'
    At the moment, that means not accepting every historical role, every reprise of Henslowe and Walsingham, that comes his way. 'Choosing parts is based on a series of instincts and hunches,' he says. 'It's extremely random and haphazard.' Neither his instincts nor his aesthetic guidelines kept him out of two panned movies in 1999 Mystery Men and House on Haunted Hill but he makes a case for having said yes to both.
    'I had very high hopes for Mystery Men, just in the sheer eclecticism of the cast. It was a sample of the greatest comic minds in contemporary America, from Ben Stiller to Paul Reubens to Tom Waits. It was an unusual film because it had a level of irony and fantasy which, with an Australian sensibility, I understood really well: the idea of suburban backyard superheroes. But America was baffled by it, and maybe as a film it suffered by not trusting its own instincts enough. If it had been slightly more subversive, it might have worked better.'
    And House on Haunted Hill? 'It was a time for genre-hopping, a time to have a taste of what my current fortune had given me, and I liked the idea of being in a horror film. It was jumping into a playpen that I was not at all familiar with. The director [William Malone] was a great aficionado of the horror genre he got very excited one day, and told me that the guy doing the underwater stunts was the son of the guy that played the original Creature From the Black Lagoon. But again that film had a kind of commercial drive to it that satisfied what it set out to do. It was made for the Halloween weekend, blitzed that weekend, did all right the next weekend and then was gone. It made three times the amount of money it was made for.' A limp defence, but we'll assume his intentions, and his attraction to the hammy role of Stephen Price, were pure.
    One point Rush makes about all these films the failures as well as the successes is that they involved big casts or, as the thesp in him prefers to call them, large companies of people. He clearly enjoys the buzz of collective theatrical endeavour, which is why it wasn't just his angular Elizabethan face that made Henslowe the perfect role for him.
    Rush, who grew up in Queensland, came from a resolutely non-theatrical background. His father was an accountant and his mother a shop assistant, but he fell in love with the footlights early. 'I caught the tail end of vaudeville, travelling tent shows. The tent must have held 700-800 people, like a canvas version of the Palladium with a proscenium arch down one end. They would do a variety show at night and, in the day, the same company would do an Aussie version of the traditional English panto. I went when I was six and was hooked.
    'I ran the school drama club at high school, where we always did grand three-acters like Charley's Aunt, The Admirable Crichton, and Arsenic and Old Lace. We liked plays that had canvas doors. Then I went to the University of Queensland at a time, in the late 60s, when the world was shifting at an enormous rate. It was a giddy time with police raiding our local record shop to confiscate copies of Hair.'
He got a job with the newly-formed Queensland theatre company, where he spent three years, and in the mid-1970s studied for two years at the Lecoq school of mime, movement and theatre in Paris. 'I could have gone to the national drama school in Sydney, but I felt I would be doing more of the same. I knew my preference and facility was for something a little European, something physical.'
    He must love the stage because he married an actress, Jane Menelaus, who plays Sade's estranged wife in Quills, and they appeared together in The Importance of Being Earnest while on their honeymoon in 1988. They have two children, aged seven and five. Rush says he manages to spend around 60% of his time at home in Australia, with the rest split between the UK and US.
    He has never appeared in London's West End, but would like to give it a shot, though on his own terms and not as a visiting Hollywood celeb. 'It would be a great challenge, but I feel more and more that I would like to extend a greeting from our side of the world and bring something over with the company I work with.'
   As for his film future, he realises that Hollywood can be a fickle master. 'You look for precedents: people from a theatre background who were heroes before I got into film acting, like Gary Oldman, Daniel Day-Lewis and Alan Rickman. You look at their careers and think there's a period of good fortune, there's a period of excitement, and then a period of boredom and indifference to it because it's not giving you back what you put into it.'
    If that happens to him, Rush knows he has his old love to fall back on. 'I've always been a lifer. I've always liked the idea from my very early days as a professional actor that I could do it for a living. When I was in my 20s, I worked with actors who were in their 70s. That's the washing line that I want to hang it out on.' Quills opens on January 19.

December 28: BBC News has a nice feature today on Quills creator Doug Wright:
"Quills Ruffling Feathers," by Rebecca Thomas
    Screen writer Doug Wright is a clean cut, open-faced Texan who candidly admits to being obsessed with the scandalous, censored 18th Century French writer the Marquis de Sade. The fixation has been with him for eight years and has borne fruit - the soon to be unleashed star-studded movie Quills, directed by Philip Kaufman. "I have been living in the shadow of the Marquis de Sade, and Philip has finally purged him from my life and nightmares and put him into everyone else's," Wright says.
    Wright's black comedy is based on his award-winning stage play of the same name. Sir Michael Caine, Geoffrey Rush, Kate Winslet and Joaquin Phoenix are among the actors who agreed to take part in the screen version.
    Wright says he is more than happy that both he and his work should be seen to avoid the violent stereotype attached to Sade. It was with the aim of exploring and shaking up social assumptions over behaviour, censorship and free speech that he wrote Quills. "Art's healthiest function is to critique society and its institutions and make us question what we accept to be true," Wright says. "The right wing say violence in art leads to violence in the world. The left wing say free expression at any cost. I hope what the movie posits is: What if both statements are true?"
    Repression - Quills enters this debate by painting a half-fiction, half-fact account of the frenzied sequence of events leading up to Sade's death in 1814. Wright sets his drama in the real-life asylum Charenton, where Sade spent his last 10 years after being banished there by Napoleon.
    Sade, played by Oscar-winning Shine actor Geoffrey Rush, continues to write his novels - containing everything from necrophilia to rape. Laundress Madeleine - played by Kate Winslet - smuggles out the manuscripts to be published and devoured by Sade's fans. But Napoleon gets wind of Sade's insatiable scribbling and despatches notorious physician Royer-Callard, played by Sir Michael, to find a "cure" for the Marquis' wicked pen. Everything goes rapidly downhill from then on, as the more Sade is repressed, the more manic and vicious his writing - and methods of expression - become.
    Wright first encountered Sade in a biography given to him as a gift - and says he was immediately sucked in. "I was so compelled by the insane drama of Sade's his life that I started reading everything he'd written," he explains. "I found his works, more than 200 years old, among the most disturbing, extreme yet exhilarating I'd ever encountered. I realised how naive I was to flatter myself that I was so broad-minded - I had to examine Sade further."
    Compelling - Wright used the story of Dr Royer-Collard as a spring-board for his drama. Royer-Callard was shocked to find Sade writing in his cell and holding literary discussions with inmates. He promptly ordered a police raid to confiscate Sade's work, judged to be "a series of unspeakable obscenities, blasphemies and villainies". "When I came across the detail, I immediately thought expanding upon it would make for an intriguing story about what happens when you deny a really volatile imagination its only means of expression," explains Wright.
   The film is mischievous and dark, compelling and repugnant at the same time. Also worth stressing is that Quills is not in any way pornographic. Such contradictions are in line with Wright's central debate but also illustrate the complex character of Sade himself. "I hope I presented him with his strongest attributes of wit, extravagance, tenacity and drive and his negative side which included his rage, violence and narcissism," says Wright. "Sade was a monster who was nonetheless extremely instructive showing that oppression is often the surest muse."
    Cathartic - Wright is effusive about all of his lead actors, but in particular Rush and Winslet. Of Rush he says: "He was able to present Sade in the full range of his complexity. He brings a malicious glee to the role." As for Winslet, the writer calls her the project's "patron saint" for being the first big name to back the film. Her role was pivotal to the story, he adds. "Madeleine is the only character in the movie who has a temperate balanced attitude to Sade's fiction. She reads it and is amused by it. It's cathartic for her. Then, she puts it away and carries on with her duties."
    Wright says he hopes the French will see Quills as his intended "fantasia on Sade's life". Overall, he wants his film to strike a chord with adults everywhere. "I want it to have the historical and artistic import to seduce the arthouse crowd. But I also want college kids and older to recognise Sade as the original rebel, before Eminem and Marilyn Manson, and the most incendiary writer that ever lived."

December 22: My pal Sylvia, who has the great site Dougray Scott in Focus, scanned this article for us from Film Review magazine's special issue - 'The Essential 2001 Preview':

December 20: Jam! Showbiz has a feature today on Geoffrey Rush. Read the entire article -- "Quite a handful" . Here are the excerpts about Quills:
    Rush is back this holiday season in a role that could easily nab him a second Oscar nomination and even a second Oscar. In Philip Kaufman's sensual melodrama Quills, Rush plays 19th-century French pornographer the Marquis de Sade. He gets to rant and rave, prance and preen, cajole and seduce in grand theatrical fashion. He also gets to give glimpses of de Sade's raging inner turmoil. "Playing a madman is one of the great screen metaphors, akin to playing a gangster," says Rush. "It's a great dramatic premise to deal with characters who are mavericks or somehow outside the mainstream."
    Enticing as such roles are, there are some pitfalls. "The Marquis comes to us demonized. Everyone associates his name with sadism. I wanted to find out who the guy would be if he was your dinner party guest. For one thing, he'd be quite a handful."
    Quills is based on the award-winning off-Broadway play by Doug Wright and follows the events leading up to de Sade's death. Though he stresses he did not accept the role because he thought it might get him an Oscar nomination, Rush admits he, the picture, its director, writer, and his co-stars Kate Winslet, Joaquin Phoenix and Michael Caine all have a good chance of getting a nod from the Oscar nominating committees. "Quills is being released in the same time-slot as Shine was, and I'm noticing a similar pattern of advertising it and presenting it to critics and the public. I'm hoping it does get award nominations because that will help broaden its audience base and its impact and generate some buzz."
    Rush, 49, denies that Wright's play and the film try to make de Sade heroic and to soften potentially shocking material. "It was always a concern of all of us associated with the project to try to understand de Sade. I don't think that is synonymous with trying to make him appealing. I think the picture is dark and dangerous and just about as ironic and weird as a mainstream film can get."
    Like Kaufman and Wright, Rush has been intrigued by the response of the test screening audiences for Quills. "Some people respond to its rigorous intellectual line. Other people respond to it as a great gothic B-movie with lurid dimensions that they find entertaining, exhilarating and appealing."

December 20: The Telegraph published an interview with Quills costar Joaquin Phoenix on the 18th. Here are excerpts:
"You Must Be Joaquin"
    Joaquin Phoenix is on what he describes as a 'junket'. He is propped up in a small room with uncomfortable chairs in the 'Fox Hospitality Suite' at the Dorchester Hotel in London. Fox has several stars on the go here. Kate Winslet, who appears alongside Phoenix in next month's Quills, is in another room…
    Chain-smoking himself, he talks enthusiastically about Quills, a tragic farce about the Marquis de Sade's last years, which were spent incarcerated in an asylum. Geoffrey Rush, who won an Oscar for his performance in Shine, plays the Marquis in an oddly Frankie Howerd manner (there are endless asides of the 'Ooh, mind your pikestaff' variety). Phoenix plays the Abbé Coulmier - an idealist priest who runs the asylum in a liberal fashion - while Kate Winslet plays a saucy but virginal laundrymaid. 'It's all about censorship and expression,' says Joaquin in a gruff, low voice. 'Locating the film in the past allowed us to explore themes that are relevant now without people getting uncomfortable. If we had used the equivalent of the Marquis today' - he thinks for a minute - 'maybe Marilyn Manson or whoever, it would have been too close to home.'
    Joaquin's character in the film is chaste but in love with Kate Winslet. Meanwhile the Marquis is intent on luring her into his cell for a spot of deflowering. 'The Marquis and Coulmier are two sides of the same coin,' says Joaquin. 'I suppress my sexuality. I say, I love her as a child of God. But then there's the scene near the end where we both have these epiphanies. Coulmier realises you cannot embrace your ability to love but deny your sexuality, and vice versa. I have this big transformation - it was incredibly demanding…'
    His character in Quills is the complete opposite. 'It was hard for me to understand how committed Coulmier is to his beliefs,' says Phoenix. 'You know, there's a line where the Marquis is talking to Coulmier about the Virgin birth and he says, Yours is an entire religion built on an oxymoron. And I was like, I f-ing agree with the Marquis, man! I mean, an entire religion built on an oxymoron is a little suspect to me, you know what I'm saying? And Philip's going' - he adopts a pained undertone - 'Joaquin, you're not the Marquis. You've got to get into this character. And I go' - he slaps his hand on his thigh - Oh yeah, right, OK.'
Read the entire interview -- You must be Joaquin

December 15: From USA Today:
"Kaufman Directs His Attention to 3 Projects," by Susan Wloszczyna
    Geoffrey Rush plays the Marquis de Sade in Quills, but the film's director, Philip Kaufman, has never been one to rush his projects. His last movie was the 1993 thriller Rising Sun, and before that came 1990's Henry & June, the explicit Henry Miller bio. But, he says, the long breaks are "not by choice. I do get a lot of scripts sent to me, but I haven't liked a lot of them."
    Right now, he's juggling a trio of possibilities, and their start dates depend on whether the scripts are up to snuff. One is Henderson the Rain King, based on the Saul Bellow novel. Jack Nicholson is in talks to star. The second is a drama based on the Aldrich Ames spy case.
    The third seems most likely to surface first, the life story of Liberace, with Robin Williams still eager to impersonate the flamboyant pianist, who died of AIDS complications in 1987. "Robin was in my office the other day, saw a photo of Carol Channing and Liberace together, and impersonated both of them talking to each other. We fell down laughing," Kaufman says. "We've never worked together, even though we're friends. I think he could get it right."
    The flashy entertainer may seem an unusual subject for the often-literary Kaufman, but he is intrigued by "the time - the '50s and '60s - and how everyone in America perceived him as just a continental kind of guy. He won a libel court case in England (in 1959) and had to deny he was gay. It's an interesting story for our times."
    Much like de Sade's struggles in Quills, Kaufman is intrigued by the whole expression-vs.-repression aspect of Liberace's life. But, mostly, "I'm drawn to the good story. I don't always have to be the sex guy."
December 15: From CNN:
"'Quills' Scribe Channels Sadistic Sade," by Jamie Allen, CNN.com Senior Writer
   When Oscar-winning actor Geoffrey Rush utters perverted, passionate lines in "Quills," audiences see him embodying with zany relish the Marquis de Sade. The French author's controversial works and sexual deviancies landed him behind bars for nearly 30 years, and gave the world a new term to describe inflicting pain and suffering on others: sadism. But Doug Wright, who penned the "Quills" screenplay from his own award-winning stage play, saw something more in Rush's performance as the Marquis, who died in 1814. "I teased Geoffrey. I told him he had become my id," says Wright, a New York resident who will turn 38 on December 20. "Every antisocial thought I ever had, he was gleefully acting out on screen."
    Wright's antisocial thoughts, and Sade's, are creating a critical stir with "Quills," which also stars Michael Caine, Kate Winslet and Joaquin Phoenix. The National Board of Review handed the film this year's best picture honor.
Meantime, "Quills" is just starting to reach audiences across the country. It expands to 50 more theaters this weekend. "This is my first movie, so it's pretty overwhelming to see all those characters that were living in my own fevered little brain suddenly 30 feet tall," Wright says in a telephone interview earlier this week.
    Prose 'floored me' - Wright got an undergraduate degree from Yale and earned a master's degree in playwriting from New York University. His plays "Watbanaland" and "Buzzsaw Berkley," among others, were showcased in the New York theater scene before the idea for "Quills" came along.
    Wright began investigating Sade in Christmas 1993, when a friend gave him a biography of the author. Wright was interested enough to turn to some of Sade's fiction, such perverse works as "Justine," "Juliette" and "The 120 Days of Sodom." What Wright saw made him rethink Sade, and himself. "I flatter myself a terribly liberal New York playwright, but his prose floored me because it was so extreme," says Wright. "I found myself asking, 'Wow, does this have any value? Does this merit a place on bookshelves?' And I thought, if he could unnerve me so completely, then maybe he'd be a worthwhile subject for drama. Maybe he'd be the kind of figure about whom I could write a parable about free speech that made liberals and conservatives equally nervous."
    Wright soon began work on the stage version of "Quills," partly in response to congressional hearings on funding for the National Endowment for the Arts, at the time under fire for some controversial exhibits it had underwritten. The play premiered at the New York Theater Workshop in 1995, winning an Obie for best play. The next year, Fox Searchlight had optioned rights to it.
    The studio didn't brush Wright aside. Instead, it hired director Philip Kaufman, who helmed "The Right Stuff" (1983) and "Henry & June" (1990), among other titles. He worked closely with Wright to turn the play into a two-hour, R-rated affair. "We had to streamline the play's ideology and make sure that any ideas we wanted to impart to the audience really had to happen through the fabric of the story," Wright says.
    A moral obligation - The result is a compellingly dark, comic, tragic tale set near the end of Sade's life, post-French Revolution, at an early 19th-century asylum in Charenton, France. Kaufman and Wright have created an alternate world that reflects Sade's probings into the dark nature of the human animal. It was not always a comfortable project, says Wright. "There were times when I would finish writing a sequence and I would see the face of my very well-mannered, deeply Presbyterian mother staring back at me from my imagination, looking at me with her lips pursed like, 'Douglas, what do you think you're doing?'" laughs Wright. "But if you're tackling a figure like Sade, you have a moral obligation to be true to his spirit."
    Sade's spirit is alive and well in "Quills." He lives in an asylum "cell," a two-room apartment with hundreds of books, elaborate quills, plenty of writing paper, a desk and a bed. Castles have been less well appointed. When Sade offers a guest a drink and says, "Bottoms up," it's a clever double-entendre, a sexual reference and a cue to the audience that the Marquis' world is one where up is down, down is up.
    Sade's time at the asylum is highlighted by Winslet's Madeleine, a comely, curious laundress. When she isn't batting eyelashes at the asylum's repressed abbe, played by Phoenix, she smuggles Sade's scandalous writings to a publisher, who presents them to an astonished, and titillated, French public. Ultimately, the stories fall into the hands of Napoleon Bonaparte (Ron Cook), who orders a doctor (Caine) to investigate. Though the sneering doctor's torturous treatments -- they include a dunking machine and the removal of Sade's writing equipment -- are purportedly to "heal" Sade, they don't have the desired result. Robbed of his writing tools, the Marquis refuses to be silenced, and uses his blood for ink to avoid censorship. Adultery, necrophilia, rape -- startlingly, mixed with comedy -- ensue, building to a climax as unsettling as Sade's own musings.
    'Great millennial figure' - While "Quills" doesn't pretend to be a wholly accurate biography of Sade, Wright thinks the author's life is worth a look nearly 200 years after it ended. "I think he's a great millennial figure because he represents one of the darkest extremes of Western culture," says Wright. "I think he wrote in uncharted waters. His writing is pitch black, and I don't think any writer before or since had touched bottom in the human psyche. I think Sade goes there and goes there relentlessly."
    Wright, meantime, will head to new horizons with his work. He's planning to direct a collection of one-act plays in New York next fall, and he's working on a legal-comedy screenplay for Warner Bros. But he says his experience with Sade & Co. will be hard to top. "I should just announce my retirement," he says. "It's not going to get better. It's just not."
December 14: Here's a feature on Quills and interview with Geoffrey Rush:
"Made His Marquis," By Barry Koltnow, The Orange County Register
    It is a cruel, hard fact of Hollywood life that the actor most identified with a particular stage role probably will lose it to a better-known film actor when the play is made into a movie. Rocco Sisto understood that. Though he played the Marquis de Sade for two years in Seattle and New York, he knew he would not be picked for the plum role once "Quills" was sold to the movies. He was resigned that when he met with "Quills" author Doug Wright.  Wright had asked Sisto to dinner to break the news that the studio had indeed selected a better-known screen actor to play the role in the movie version. But when Wright told him Geoffrey Rush would assume the role, Sisto nodded and smiled. "Thank God," the stage actor said. "An actor's actor."
    Rush is that rare movie actor considered big enough to carry a smaller-budget film such as "Quills" but still respected by the kind of actors whose salaries lack the requisite number of zeroes consistent with movie stardom. In fact, the Australian actor still seems a bit awed by his elevation in Hollywood status since his 1997 Oscar. On a recent promotional swing through the United States, he was overwhelmed by the size of the Beverly Hills hotel suite reserved for him. "This is not what I'm used to," he said, shrugging apologetically.
    Rush won the coveted gold statuette for his portrayal of concert pianist David Helfgott in "Shine" and may have to get accustomed to this kind of movie-star treatment if one is to believe the early Oscar buzz on his performance in "Quills." He portrays the infamous French writer in his final days, when he was imprisoned in an asylum and hounded by the government of Napoleon Bonaparte.
    The film is directed by Philip Kaufman ("The Right Stuff") and also stars Kate Winslet as a young laundress who smuggles the marquis's writings out of the asylum. Joaquin Phoenix plays a priest who befriends the writer, and Michael Caine is a sinister physician sent to the asylum to punish the marquis.
    "Quills," which opens Friday in Orange County, is a dark, twisted and often funny film about a 19th-century writer who was dark, twisted and often funny. Wright, who spent eight years studying the Marquis de Sade while writing his play and then adapting it for the big screen, said he is still unsure whether the writer was a genius or merely insane. "Some people say that he was a much-maligned genius while others say he was a total madman," the playwright said. "The chilling truth is that both descriptions are not mutually exclusive. He was simultaneously an abomination and a profound thinker."
    Rush, 49, said that playing the writer has not necessarily cleared the air in his mind, either. But he expects audiences to be fascinated by a historical figure that few people know anything about, except that the word "sadism" is derived from his name. "We don't expect that everybody in the audience will be a history buff," the actor said, "so this is a wonderful opportunity for people to meet the Marquis de Sade. And believe me, the pleasure is all his."
Rush said the film probably faces an uphill battle getting audiences into theaters because the marquis has such a vile reputation.  "At a recent test screening, 95 percent of the people in the audience said they expected the film to be offensive, salacious, scary and nauseating. Instead, they were enthralled and moved. I think audiences will find this fellow truly entertaining. If he were alive today and appeared on the Jerry Springer show, the ratings would go through the roof. If you combined various aspects of Lenny Bruce, Marilyn Manson, Howard Stern and Larry Flynt, they still couldn't touch the marquis. In an age where historical figures get such short, shallow, sound-bite appreciation, people like the marquis become terribly interesting."
    The Mel connections -- Rush, who has been married 12 years to actress Jane Menelaus (she appears as the marquis's wife in "Quills"), began acting in high school and continued learning his craft while studying at the University of Queensland. After college, he joined a repertory theater company and, three years later, moved to Paris to study at a prestigious school of mime. "I wasn't there to learn how to do white-face mime," he explained. "I went there to learn more about acting through movement." He returned to Australia and built a solid stage resume. It was during this time that he shared an apartment with another young Australian actor named Mel Gibson. They roomed together while appearing in the play "Waiting for Godot." "Mel already had done 'Tim' and 'Mad Max,' so he was well on his way to a film career," Rush said. "We all knew it was just a matter of time for him." It took a little longer for Rush, who got his break when "Shine" director Scott Hicks cast him in his first starring film role. "I was lucky that Scott was familiar with my stage work, but I was even luckier that he was looking for an actor who was not tall and tan with pecs." The film role, and the Oscar that followed, changed Rush's life forever. He said it opened his career to an "international level," which is another way of saying it made him a movie star. "Suddenly, I was meeting directors I had never had an opportunity to meet, and I was working with actors with whom I had never had a chance to work. An Oscar gives you an extraordinary profile in this business."
    Although he has done some stage work since the Oscar, he also has appeared in an astonishing number of films, including "Shakespeare in Love," "Elizabeth, "Oscar and Lucinda," "Les Miserables," "Mystery Men" and "The House on Haunted Hill." Those last two films, considered commercial and critical flops, have led some critics to berate Rush for poor judgment. "It's been an amazing three years, and I'm not sorry for anything I've done," he said. "There was no strategy to capitalize on the Oscar. I consider the financial windfall a payback for 25 years of penury. I won't apologize for that. As for the work, I'm not sure what I was supposed to do. I don't know what path I'm supposed to follow after winning an Oscar. There is no book out there that gives you tips on how to conduct your career after winning an Oscar. If there was, I would have read it."

December 14: Rod Hewitt of Rough Cut wrote this article about Quills and previous Kaufman films:
"New, Old, and Forgotten - What Came Before 'Quills'?"
    What writers, what artists have not at one time or another believed themselves to be criminals? What artists, in discovering the hidden veils of their own souls, have not worn them as heroic garments and, in so doing, made themselves feel more alive than ever before? In Quills, the new film by Philip Kaufman, this sentiment of the romantic outlaw is washed across the screen with a beautiful acid.
    Kaufman, if he is not the most under-rated director of his generation, is certainly the most under-appreciated. In his films, Kaufman can move from the primeval world to the dream world to the realistic world with the balletic touch of a butterfly. In the midst of a space journey in The Right Stuff, aborigines appear and throw light into the heavens, performing an act of magic and alchemy far superior to that of modern man. In his film The White Dawn, modern men become shipwrecked in the Arctic. They are rescued by Eskimos, living in a near dream state, who take these orphans into their world. And then these modern men, never truly able to live without destroying, must be destroyed themselves.
    In "New, Old, and Forgotten," we will look at Quills as well as two other Kaufman films: for the old film, his Unbearable Lightness of Being (1988), and for the forgotten, his only western, The Great Northfield, Minnesota Raid (1972).
    All three films share an outline, a series of beautiful, ghostly resemblances: Quills is a comedy of mad manners set in the French Revolution; The Unbearable Lightness of Being is an erotic dance of sensibility that takes place around the Russian invasion of Czechoslovakia; and The Great Northfield, Minnesota Raid is a cowboy film set in the aftermath of the Civil War. The first resemblance is that all three films are traced for us in mirrors. In Quills, the Marquis de Sade (Geoffrey Rush) appears for the first time in a mirror that multiplies him in all his intricacies. In Unbearable Lightness, the mirrors double and triple the characters as they face each other in their sexual complicities. In Northfield, Minnesota, the mirrors reflect not only the present but future: in Cole Younger's mind, his own fate is hidden in a mirror he must find. All three films are also brought to their dramatic high points by inquisitions. In Quills, Dr. Royer-Collard (Michael Caine) brings the force of society to bear upon the Marquis de Sade. In Unbearable Lightness, the Russians countermand reality for Tomas (Daniel Day-Lewis). In Northfield, Minnesota, the Missouri State Legislature withdraws a promised amnesty, causing Cole Younger (Cliff Robertson) to return to his outlaw world
    The final concurrent outline, the most perfect shade that the three movies share, is that in each, the predator becomes the prey. In Quills, this theme is stated in the opening scene: a young woman grows orgasmic as she is about to be put to death on the guillotine, and an unseen narrator (Rush) explains how quickly someone can go from being the predator to becoming the prey. Throughout the rest of the film, the Marquis de Sade and those who are charged by his imagination all take this journey from victimizer to victim.
    In Unbearable Lightness, the serpentine Tomas is like a beautiful snake shifting in the grass. Perfectly aware of his selfish actions, he is drawn into his own web with a burnished narcissism. But then, as Tomas falls in love with Tereza (Juliette Binoche), he subsumes his identity and, in a sense, loses the armor of his ego and is ultimately erased from life. In Northfield, Minnesota, Cole Younger and his band at first preside over their inventive robberies -- are heroes to children and grown-ups alike -- and then are vanquished and humiliated despite their heroism and invention.
    What brings Unbearable Lightness and Quills together is the eloquence with which Kaufman deals with betrayal. In both films, the real theme is not one person's betrayal of another -- it is the betrayal of life. Tomas will lie and he will betray his beloved wife but, ultimately, he will not betray those small pieces of honor that make up our souls, those tiny badges that keep us committed in a universe that is sometimes too cruel to bear. Tomas will not give in to the Russians on any level, and his role in the world is reduced from brain surgeon to field worker. De Sade is reduced from an underground writer and the magician of a mental institution to a corpse. The leader of de Sade's inquisition, Dr. Royer-Collard, is far too weak, far too practical to be a devil. He is instead an institution, still alive today, a monstrous and simple complex of denial and its hypocrisy; simple in its urgings, yet complex in its forms. Royer-Collard not only betrays de Sade but, ultimately, all of life when he becomes the publisher of the books written by the man he has obliterated.
    But the film that mostly directly parallels Quills is Kaufman's lost, forgotten, and rarely seen film on the last days of the Younger-James Gang. The Great Northfield, Minnesota Raid, which some might call a revisionist western, is a treasure among film lovers who want to vaunt their knowledge of unknown film. The film accedes the boundaries of the western while remaining one of the most realistic films about the west ever made. Its story -- which relates the ill-fated raid by Cole Younger and Jesse James and their gang on the bank in Northfield, Minnesota -- is like that of Quills: It's about the temperaments of two men.
Cole Younger is a man of vision, enchanted by the future, by technology and game and play, a man committed to sexuality and freedom. Jesse James (committed to the screen with fire and presence by the young Robert Duvall) -- a former guerilla with Quantrill's Raiders and known killer of women and children -- is a self-righteous religious bigot who speaks in tongues, believes his messages come from the lord, who shuns contact with liquor and women although he effects his final escape dressed in women's clothes. That the story is true is undeniable. History has left Cole Younger and his brothers adrift. Jesse James has become an icon of the American outlaw, but there is no exaggeration in the way Kaufman portrays him. James indeed wore women's dresses a number of times -- always with the excuse that he was in disguise -- but the readiness of the costume, combined with the religious zealot capable of massacre, leaves us with a true monomaniac. He is the kind of man Americans admire, one whose contradictions are so vast that he is not only unexplainable, he will never be anything less than a mystery of our nature. Those who lie behind us in this puzzle are there to point us forward to the questions about ourselves and our souls.
    And, at this juncture, Jesse James and the Marquis de Sade become silhouettes in the world of Kaufman.
    In Quills, great license is taken with the life of the Marquis de Sade, who died in the Charenton institution at the age of 74. But strict realism is not at play here. Kaufman's de Sade is fashioned out of men from the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries, and de Sade has arrived in this new century carefully wrapped, a beautiful version of the need to exist sometimes purely on impulse.
    Not a real artist with letters, de Sade was an artist of shock. Every generation needs a provocateur, a character who removes the boundaries of society and reality long enough to shock us, enflame us, and -- for most of us -- to cause us to want to destroy him. De Sade plays out his role in Kaufman's film with a glee that would have fit beautifully in the operating room of Altman's MASH.
    Geoffrey Rush's performance reminded me of George C. Scott's as Patton, a man presiding over himself and his ego. At times, de Sade is unable to distinguish between his role and his real self. Rush's de Sade, much like Patton, uses the implements at hand to create a knighthood for himself. The quills with which de Sade writes, when lost, give way to chicken bones; when that implement, too, is lost, the Marquis writes with his own excrement to continue creating his universe. In this story, never is writing anything less than the decisive fate from the body of the creator.
    Kaufman creates a world in which de Sade becomes the orchestra conductor, and in which the other characters become instruments of his music -- gleeful purveyors of his vision who sometimes add their own notes to a composition that, if perverse, is also deeply human and vulnerable.
    But it is Kaufman's skill that empowers this piece. Funny, hypnotic, rapturous, he keeps turning his tableaux in bold and beautiful shades. He takes the story from level to level, the way a dreamer moves from one dream into the next, and he continues to find meaning.
    Great film is almost always about rebellion: from Star Wars to Gone with the Wind to a world in extreme like Quills. Kaufman has fashioned a film of rebellion and desire that can stand beside any film at any time, speaking not only for the need for those urges -- the need for our desperate and vulnerable souls to find a path no matter where the darkness takes us -- but speaking also for humankind.
    You cannot close your eyes to this movie without having a shade, swift and wild, kissing your eyes, reminding you of what you may never know if you do not keep looking. This film is erotic and intimate; in creating a world of sacrificer and sacrificed, Quills is very close to being religious. Only a master can achieve this, and only a master can bring us back from this magic spell. The wand for his film is firm in Kaufman's hand; few directors have ever ruled a kingdom this well.

December 10: From the Boston Globe:
"Why Attention Must be Paid to Live Theater," by Ed Siegel, Globe Staff
    …Reading books is a solitary experience. Television and movies can only in the rarest of instances come close to the sense of catharsis and transcendence attained in the theater…
    Regular theatergoers take it for granted that there's nothing like a live performance - which, I think, is why the theater is perennially in trouble. The uniqueness should not be taken for granted. How many times in the theater have you found yourself wishing you were at home watching ''The West Wing'' or checking out the latest highly touted release at the Kendall? If all that theater producers and playwrights, of either commercial or noncommercial stripe, offer are plays that do the same kind of things that good movies and television shows do - provide mild entertainment or provocative but not soul-stirring drama - then the lure of live actors is going to attract nothing but an elite audience. Others quite rightly ask why they should be paying as much as 10 times as much for the same experience.
    Recently, though, I had the opposite experience - being in a movie theater that made me lust to see a play again. And the operative word is lust. When the generally ecstatic reviews for ''Quills'' came out, they confirmed my sense that Doug Wright's play was one of the best-written dramas of the 1990s. Given director Philip Kaufman's track record (''The Unbearable Lightness of Being,'' ''Henry and June''), along with those of Geoffrey Rush and Kate Winslet, this certainly promised to be a stellar moment in what seems to be a rather nondescript cinematic season.
    And it is a thoughtful and faithful translation for the screen. This isn't a docudrama about the Marquis de Sade, but a multilayered investigation of freedom, license, censorhip, sexuality, and sensuality that doesn't shy away from de Sade's dark side even while affirming the artistic spirit that drove him onward, at least within the parameters of the film. Historical accuracy is not an issue.
    So why then did the film leave me so unmoved? It comes back to that sense of transcendence that film and television have such difficulty capturing. The Berkshire Theatre Festival in Stockbridge had no trouble capturing the play's essence, even with a cast of advanced students, when it staged the play in 1997.
    ''Quills'' is largely concerned with the government's attempts to silence the marquis - efforts represented both by a liberal priest, through compromise, and by a conservative magistrate, through coercion. But de Sade keeps finding a way to keep writing, even as his tools, his quills, are taken from him. To say, then, that ''Quills'' is an impassioned defense of the artistic spirit and an uncompromising defense of freedom of speech is accurate, but diminishes its scope to the same kind of politically safe argument that it's condemning.
    In the theater, the play makes not only an intellectual argument but an emotional and sensual one as well. Through much of the play, de Sade prances around the stage in the altogether. Is this titillating? You bet. Are we seduced along with the women and priest? Absolutely. We may have doubts about his inability to compromise and about the fact that his art drives an inmate at the asylum where he's imprisoned to murder, but those doubts, amid our captivation, is what makes the play special. Even if Rush's body were more pleasant to look at, the film could never match the play's subversive sensuality.
    Perhaps it's because of the nudity that ''Quills'' has never been staged closer to Boston, in the cradle of Puritanism. Too bad that none of our local theaters have had the combination of good taste and guts to put it on here, where even plays that call for nudity are routinely covered up by local theater companies. (Perhaps the Lyric Stage Company of Boston's uncompromising staging of David Hare's ''The Judas Kiss'' may put the community on a less prudish track.) Not that we're looking for the theater district to reunite with the Combat Zone. But the nudity in ''Quills'' is symbolic of the fearlessness of the play's vision, which doesn't come across on an emotional level in the film.
    Eric Hill, the director of BTF's Unicorn Theatre, where ''Quills'' was staged, noted the difference. ''The impact of the language in the theater, coupled with the visceral nature of that story, is something that the film cannot reproduce. It's a clear example of material that is distinctly written for the theater and so effective in the theater. When translated to film, it immediately becomes diluted by the celluloid barrier between the audience and what is happening.''
    The ending of ''Quills,'' as the audience is showered with parchment copies of De Sade's writing about artistic freedom, was one of the most transcendent moments I've ever experienced in the theater.
It's a call to arms against censorship of the left as well as of the right. Plays like Paul Rudnick's ''The Naked Eye'' at the American Repertory Theatre or Jonathan Reynolds's ''Stonewall Jackson's House'' don't approach it (though I haven't seen the current New Repertory Theatre production of the latter).
    This sense of sensual and political uplift may be at the opposite, joyful extreme of experience from ''Death of a Salesman,'' but it is still what makes the theater unique. As Elizabeth Franz (whose Mrs. Loman will haunt those who saw her for years) said to the Globe's Maureen Dezell this week, ''I wake up jealous of myself that I can come to the theater and have an audience take a journey, have them trust me enough with the rest of the actors to feel, to weep, to be vulnerable, to come with us and expose themselves as we are exposing ourselves; meeting and ending up at the same place and learning something about life.''
    The theater itself is always in such precarious position that, like Willy, it often gets by on a smile and a shoeshine. But it's movies and TV shows, even good ones, that are a dime a dozen. There's only one place to see the human soul - for better or worse, whether it's Willy Loman or the Marquis de Sade - stripped naked and then, one hopes, reconstituted in the spirit of those who witnessed it. Audiences and artistic directors shouldn't settle for anything less.

"Quills: A Very Touchy Subject" -- Interview with Philip Kaufman and Doug Wright by Lisa Y. Garibay
    Focusing on the notoriously uninhibited Marquis de Sade, Quills marks the extraordinary return of filmmaker Phillip Kaufman (Henry and June, The Unbearable Lightness of Being, The Right Stuff). From playwright Doug Wright's luminous script to the outstanding efforts of the ensemble cast, Philip Kaufman, Doug Wright and Geoffrey Rush discuss their inspiration, and how Quills got made despite its controversial subject.
    Every few years, all of the elements come together to create something extraordinary that just works from beginning to end. Such is Quills, marking the first film in seven years from celebrated filmmaker Philip Kaufman (Henry and June, The Unbearable Lightness of Being, The Right Stuff). The story- focusing on the infamous Marquis de Sade - came from playwright Doug Wright, and Geoffrey Rush provided the embodiment of the Marquis' legendary wit and weirdness alongside an ensemble cast that included Kate Winslet, Michael Caine, and Joaquin Phoenix.
    It's clear throughout the film that each of these individuals poured their hearts into their work, despite it's controversial subject (or perhaps inspired by him?). Here, director Philip Kaufman, writer Doug Wright and star Geoffrey Rush discuss the madness in the making of Quills.

Philip, it's been a long time since your last directorial effort. What was it about this material that you felt it was the right time to get back behind the camera?
Kaufman: It was just one of those fortuitous things. One day after seven years of searching for projects to do and having everything that I wanted to do come to naught and get caught in - for want of a better word - "development hell" over and over again, one day I heard this loud plopping sound outside my door. I opened the door, looked around, and there was this package in a brown paper wrapper with the cackling voice of the Marquis struggling to get out. (Grins) I read it and I just right away loved the writing, loved the story - I was chilled by it, was amused by it, and sat there rather stunned for about an hour thinking how would I make this…could I make this?
Given the state of American politics right now, is it the right time for a movie like this?
Kaufman: It's kind of amazing, isn't it, suddenly, that all sorts of issues that we discuss in this movie have come to the forefront. I mean, certainly the deep element of hypocrisy that is at the root of this piece - the Marquis' gleeful attacks on hypocrisy - seems to have deep relevance. When I read it, it was during the time of the Clinton-Ken Starr dance that they were doing at the time which was certainly brought to full culmination by the publication of that great book called The Starr Report, which brought all of those issues right into everybody's households including households with children in them.
Do you think that you responded to the material in part because of your experience with Henry and June, that having been the first NC-17 film that was supposed to be about art and ended up being attacked as if it was pornography?
Kaufman: I just respond to all kinds of things if they're good. I mean, people talk about Henry and June, The Unbearable Lightness of Being, and Quills as meaning obviously I must be interested in… (Laughs) Look, I'm interested. I'm interested in sex, but no more so than any of you! Why don't we have more films that are adult, sexual-oriented, or about sex in America?
I just think Americans, given the chance to see these movies properly promoted and exploited - given a little bit of a build-up - maybe if one of these films appears every once in a while, they can just be knocked-off, so to speak. Like with Henry and June: the film was doing great business, and then suddenly in Boston and Texas they wouldn't allow it in theaters anymore! Blockbuster Video - even though they have sections for those off-color movies - still will not stock Henry and June, which is about writers and about serious, adult subjects.
Doug, why wasn't any of the Marquis' actual writing included in the script?
Wright: The reason that we didn't literally quote Sade is because most of the English translations are by a man named Austrin Wainhouse and we didn't have the rights to those translations. I also wanted to write stories that would further my narrative. But I have to say that the stories the Marquis tells in the tale: communion wafers are used in foreplay; rather insidious men dig up dead bodies in order to gratify themselves; and a wicked surgeon carves new orifices in a prostitute in order to reach his own level of sexual ecstasy.
So I think that the clips you hear in the film are emphatically true to his fiction. In fact, he was writing this epic novel, 120 Days of Sodom, and each day was supposed to be a new sexual atrocity acted out in this secluded chateau. And even with his prodigious imagination, he ran out of steam on about Day 89. So the last 30 days of that novel are fragments of stories he might have written had he the energy to finish it, and I took my tales from them and said, "You didn't finish them - I will!" So I hope that they reflect the full insidiousness, toxicity, and the very, very black wit of his work.
Philip, did you have to fight with the studio to get this made the way you wanted it to be? I'm sure you didn't want to go through anything like Henry and June again.
Kaufman: The script was sent to me by Fox Searchlight, so by the time I got into it there was a studio that wanted to do this, which in my experience was extraordinary. With Henry and June my wife and I took a year out of everything, just to sit and spend a year writing that and then trying to sell; fortunately, we were able to make that movie. But in this case, the gods shone upon us and sent us the Marquis de Sade! (Laughs)
Doug, how literally are we supposed to take the film's view of the Marquis de Sade? Is he symbolic of something or are we supposed to take this as the authorial opinion of him?
Wright: Well, I think that the Marquis de Sade is a very potent Rorschach and has been for a lot of writers. I think to suggest that our movie is the definitive portrait of Sade would be preposterous, because he's lost to us. In the last ten years alone there have been five new biographies that have debated his personality.
So I think I've done what other writers have done in the past, like Peter Weiss in Marat/Sade or Yukio Mishima in Madame de Sade. I've plucked the mythological Sade from history and plunked him down I hope in a parable about our time and the nature of violent art in an unstable culture. I've taken those aspects of Sade that most intrigued, titillated and appalled me - I've incorporated them into a character that I call Sade and placed him in our story. I think the writer or critic or academic to beware is the one who claims to have discovered the definitive Sade, because he's gone. I think that this is very much the Sade of Quills.
Philip, what was it about Geoffrey Rush that drew you to have him play Sade? This is one of those roles that every actor must want to play.
Kaufman: The minute I read the script I also thought, I'm going to get great actors. And it did draw them - all as a labor of love. You think, who are the greatest actors of a certain age in the world? You start off with seven or eight people, then you think, who can do this language? And certain ones start dropping off. And then when I met Geoffrey by chance he was shooting a film here - he was in town and I said I'd like to meet him, because I think not only is he a great actor but every time I see him I don't recognize him. You know, one movie to the next, he's always - in other words, we have this, as Doug's describing, this mysterious Marquis, and the chance to have an actor who isn't readily identifiable in the starring role was great. Geoffrey had read the Marquis in college, he's lived this full life, he studied in France, he really didn't start acting in movies until he was in his early 40's, and he's very funny, he's physical, and the surprise I believe is that he's sexy.
Scenes like Geoffrey's full-frontal nudity - was that difficult?
Kaufman: Geoffrey is an actor absolute. He felt it was necessary to do it. When it came time to take off his clothes, as Jacqueline West the costume designer said, "Geoffrey, here's your final costume." And I would point out that in that moment, when he takes his clothes off and his wig, that's when the film becomes truly contemporary. That is a man of today and the only other man in the room is the Abbe, who's dressed in this Commes de Garcon abbey's outfit. You know, it could be of today - there's some churches in North Beach in San Francisco and I see guys walking around in very similar kinds of things.
So when the two of them are together in that room, I feel it becomes a very kind of contemporary kind of film. But I would point out that Geoffrey not only was comfortable with his nudity, but…half of the crew were woman - the assistant directors, there was a woman doing the boom - and everybody who had to be in the room, everybody was totally natural. It was shot in England and I don't' know if that would happen in other countries, but they all to a person loved the material, the subject matter, what it was saying, and Geoffrey was just sort of walking around.
There was no pressure on you to trim as it were the full-frontal nudity? One of the things about American films is that there's this great hypocrisy that you can have full-frontal female nudity but not the other way around.
Kaufman: No, we had no problems at all. To my mind, that shot just felt it - hopefully the ratings board felt that too - had a kind of a beauty and illustrated the loneliness. That shot in a way penetrates the man who was impenetrable and you feel that he's stripped of all things. I don't know. I heard the ratings board loved his penis, so… (Laughs)
Wright: I do think actually American movies are obsessed with sex, but as long as its infantilized, as long as it's Jason Biggs and an apple pie, or Cameron Diaz's hair. But I think what's exhilarating about Phil's work is that he's not afraid to present adults in erotic encounters, which seems absolutely unheard of in American movies. So I think that the teen market is saturated with what you would call sex films - much more overt sex films than ours, which is about the Marquis de Sade!
Could you talk about the relationship between the Marquis and the Abbe?
Wright: I think that the story between Geoffrey and Joaquin in the movie could be termed a kind of love story, and I think it takes that journey, and it never becomes physical but I think you get a sense of this bizarre and unsettling mutual attraction between the two of them and I think it reaches its crescendo in the scene where Sade is stripped of his clothing. I do hope that we get a sense of [the Marquis'] omnivorous omnisexuality, which I think was very much a part of his nature. Also, when the Abbe is leaving his room with the quills and he implores, "Well, bugger me then!" I hope that gives a sense that he was rapacious sexually and any number of characters in the film might fall prey to that.
The other thing that was very interesting was the amount of irony in Michael Caine's character, the fact that Sade talked rhetorically about Sadism but it seemed like everyone else practiced it.
Kaufman: Michael Caine - Reyer-Collard - is the Sadean hero. I mean, the Marquis says, "Ah, he's a man after my own heart!" It's almost as if he's the Frankenstein monster risen out of the Marquis' own literature come to drive him to his death. So we're now going back to an earlier question - it's not a biopic of the Marquis. Although Reyer-Collard was a real character - there's a street named after him in Paris - and Madeleine was a real character, the Abbe - although he was a four-foot hunchback - was a real guy too.
Then there's the question of art provoking violence. In the end, you can clearly argue that Sade's work provoked a great deal of tragedy and violence, but what point did you want the movie to make about that?
Kaufman: We wanted to give both arguments on either side of the censorship debate a full airing in the movie, the notion that violence in art can create violence in the culture and also the notion that art should always be unfettered and be allowed to reflect any aspect of the human experience. I think what we're trying to point to is an even larger truth that partisan argument doesn't allow, and that's that one of the great ironies in the history of art is that the oppressor is always the most reliable muse.
There's nothing more seductive you can say to an artist than, "No - don't do that." And so we think of people like Jesse Helms and the late Robert Mapplethorpe as adversaries; I think they were actually locked in an intensely symbiotic dance. Helms capitalized on those photographs for his reelection, the Mapplethorpe capitalized on Helms' condemnation of them to sell the prints. I think that oppression and creation go hand in hand; that's the history of art, the history of innovation in art, and that's why the arguments about violence and art will never be conclusively answered, but will be reformed for each generation.

December 8: I found this story in the special Hollywood Reporter issue, "Oscar Watch Preview":
"Marketing -- Fox Searchlight's 'Quills' is getting a lot of ink," by Beth Laski
    The Philip Kaufman-directed Marquis de Sade drama has been awarded heaps of critical acclaim and this week was named the best film of 2000 by the National Board of Review - all this for a film showing in only nine theaters nationwide to date, a film that has relied heavily on strong word-of-mouth, good reviews, some print advertising and few TV buys.
    "Quills" rolled out in nine theaters in Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, Boston and Toronto on November 22 and will expand December 15 to add more theaters in those cities and 13 other cities. By Christmas, the film will be open in about 50 markets.
    "This is a film - on first glance - that would be definitely outside of the mainstream, a film that by all accounts would be a risky movie," Kaufman said. "My feeling is that while formulas may work for a period of time, people get tired of those movies. There's a bigger audience that's been staying away from movie theaters that wants to see more interesting, specialized, provocative, challenging, sexy, wickedly funny - I'm just looking at the poster, there's a few more." Kaufman was quoting from selected reviews used for marketing the movie.
    Searchlight, 20th Century Fox's specialty division, developed "Quills" over five years with Doug Wright, who adapted for the screen his Obie-winning play. Searchlight senior vp production Joe Pichirallo shepherded the project for the division now headed by Peter Rice.
    Kaufman and stars Geoffrey Rush, Kate Winslet, Joaquin Phoenix and Michael Caine took cuts in their usual pay to allow the film to be made for about $14 million.
    Searchlight is expected to spend less than $10 million by year's end to market the film produced by Julia Chasman, Nick Wechsler and Kaufman's son Peter.
    "A film like 'Quills' needs recognition to cross over to audiences going to suburban mall theaters, where this might be the only art film they'll see in a year or two," Fox Searchlight president of marketing Nancy Utley said. "At the Christmas season, you have to make it a movie someone will choose to see, especially when in the same mall might be 'Unbreakable,' 'Family Man' or 'What Women Want'."
    Utley said her marketing department started to screen the film early "to people who we thought would like it. We got them spreading good word-of-mouth." She said: "The most important thing is that the audience needs to be prepared for what they're going to see with this film. It can be shocking, and we set out to let people know ahead of time what they were getting into." Utley said she and her staff "could have cheated by selling the movie as sex, but that's not really what the movie is about."
    Pichirallo said: "Part of our mission at Fox Searchlight is to find new and powerful voices. There was something incredibly pwoerful about the story Doug came up with. We boiled it down to a human story, but at the same time, it has a powerful message at its core - the relationship between art and repression and the responsibility of the artist. It does not provide easy answers and does not lapse into an all-good or all-bad ending. I knew from the beginning this would not be an easy movie to make."

December 6: I found this nice feature on the making of Quills in Entertainment Today:
"A Sade State of Affairs" -- With Quills, director Philip Kaufman and stage scribe Doug Wright bring their own version of the Marquis de Sade to the screen (psst... it's not a history lesson) By Eric Layton
    Philip Kaufman reluctantly acknowledges that a movie about the Marquis de Sade might be a hard sell to the average filmgoer. But then again, the type of flicks the average filmgoer consumes hold very little interest for this director, who's sitting in a Beverly Hills hotel suite promoting his latest screen effort Quills. "In my mind, there's not many movies out there that I wanna go see," the graying, professorial 61-year old relates. "It's not like the '60s and '70s, when I was first going to movies, and there was something provocative and thoughtful about them."
    Until this past week, anyway. Quills, starring Geoffrey Rush (winner of the Best Actor Oscar for Shine) as the French literary provocateur Sade - an 18th century literary heathen whom biographer Neil Schaeffer credited with "putting the bottom to literature" in the New York Times - is a fervent, cerebral knockout of a picture that's as proudly roguish as Sade himself. Fleshed out by fantastic actors (Rush, Joaquin Phoenix, Kate Winslet and Michael Caine) and deliciously adapted for the screen by Doug Wright, who won an Obie for the eponymous off-Broadway play, it's simply one of the best pictures released by Hollywood this year.
    Kaufman, the acclaimed, oft-awarded screenwriter and director of such films as The Right Stuff, Henry and June (the first NC-17 movie) and The Unbearable Lightness of Being, could easily be mistaken as a European auteur; he's not. Rather, he's a native Chicagoan who attended the University of Chicago, spent a year at Harvard Law school and ultimately changed his career path after he became enamored of the new wave of European filmmakers. Besides his aforementioned credits, Kaufman shared a co-story credit with none other than George Lucas for Raiders of the Lost Ark, penned the script for The Outlaw Josey Wales and helmed the 1978 version of Invasion of the Body Snatchers.
    Yeah, Kaufman's been around. So it's hard not to listen, and see his points, as he laments the formulaic, by-the-numbers nature of modern mainstream filmmaking. And it's telling when he expresses the confusion he felt when he learned that the bloodshed in Quills seemed to impact viewers at advance screenings more than the savagery in an average shoot-em-up movie would. "The little violence that we have in the movie is much more shocking to a lot people than the blasting away that goes on in all these movies, and I wonder why that is."
    Indeed, a symposium about the psychology of today's moviegoer could go on for days, weeks even. But whether or not people go see Quills, and if they do, whether they're taken aback by its (comparatively tame) violence, seems superfluous to the matter at hand. Boiling his whole motivation down, Kaufman says, "It's an entertainment. I [enjoyed it] because it was a tale - it was a really good story. And I wanna be a storyteller."
    Without Wright, Kaufman wouldn't have been able to tell said story. The thirtyish playwright is suitably juiced over his involvement with Quills - a dream job that found him not only inking the screenplay, but playing a substantial role in the creative process as the film was shot. In short, he was tremendously exhilarated to be involved. "[Collaborating on Quills] was astonishing, certainly, regarding the cast and in regard to this potentially difficult subject matter," Wright says. "The four great reasons to see any movie are Geoffrey Rush, Michael Caine, Kate Winslet and Joaquin Phoenix. And as a first-time screenwriter, the week I got those four phone calls was amazing. I realized that the only graceful thing to do was retire."
    The conditions that foster any great collaboration is a synergy, respect and communication between the artists. For Kaufman and Wright, as well as the actors, that was pretty much the creative climate of Quills. "Working with Phil was astonishing, in large part because of his generosity; he knew how dear the play was to me and how fiercely I cared about it," affirms Wright. "So he really included me in the process of the film, and many, many times he handed me back sheets of paper and said, `These aren't ready yet, kid.' And like the Marquis, he locked me away in a cell and made me write. But he never tore the pages out of my hand and gave up on me. And I also knew from our very first meeting that there was a very wicked gleam in his eye that matched the tone of the material. And I thought, `If I put my playwright's ego aside and entrust this tale to this man, I stand to learn an enormous amount about a new medium, a medium I don't yet know.'"
    Wright was allowed to be on the set for the entire shoot, and the scribe saw virtually every take. "It was remarkable," he says, continuing, "and it also let me rewrite the script as we worked. Being on the set allowed me, under Phil's guidance, to constantly hone the script in a manner that let us enrich the story as we went."
    And what was the main challenge of converting his play into a film? "I think the characters in the play have an iconic stature; each character represents an idea. And there's a flamboyant, camp theatricality to the play that plays gorgeously onstage but can really curdle onscreen. And so I think the challenge was taking these larger than life figures from the play and giving them flesh and blood."
    One of the main things Wright, and Kaufman, want to get across about Quills is the fact that, while rooted in real events (that rascal Sade was all too real, especially for the Napoleonic regime who persecuted and jailed him), is nonetheless a story - creative liberties have been taken with this libertine. In other words, this is not a definitive biopic, people. "It is largely fiction," Wright maintains. "I'm working in the same tradition as Peter Weiss, who wrote Marat/Sade, which is an imagined theatrical event in the asylum. So this movie takes a few rudimentary facts, combines them with the spirit of his fiction to tell a sort of parable about issues in our time: violence in art, incendiary artists working in an unstable culture… I plucked Sade from the musty old pages of history and plunked him down into my own tale. And we feel that's extraordinarily important to say about the film up front. Nobody goes to see A Bug's Life and leaves the theater thinking they're an entymologist, but if people have corsets and wigs on, everybody thinks they're getting a history lesson. For God's sake, like, read a biography if you want the truth - this is a movie."
    And speaking of biographies, does Wright feel there is a definitive one of Sade? "I think one thing that makes him a great figure for drama is that the camps are so divided. In the last 10 years there have been about five new biographies alone. I'm particularly fond of the [one by] Maurice Levei - I think that it's a stunning work, but each of them stresses a different aspect of his nature, and, read together, you start to puzzle together some possible piece of the man, but I can't claim that my Sade is in any way definitive. The aspects of Sade that [affected me], I've tried to incorporate to the best of my ability, but at the end of the day, I'm subjective, I'm a writer and he is the Marquis de Sade of Quills. He's not the definitive Marquis de Sade of post-Revolutionary War France." (Fittingly, given the subject matter and themes of Quills, the play, the NEA/Robert Mapplethorpe controversy was raging when Wright wrote it. Talk about inspiration.)
    Apart from a bit of queasiness about Quills' violence, Kaufman mentions that response from early Quills screenings was tremendous, on the whole. Meanwhile, Best Picture buzz abounds, and directing, writing and acting nods are certainly not out of the question for the film come awards season.
      In the meantime, Kaufman hesitantly shares that he's in the script-searching phase for his next possible project, which is about another flamboyant, simultaneously loved and reviled artist: Liberace. Though it's too early to confirm anything about the biopic, including its casting, the filmmaker says that "A friend of mine named Robin Williams would like to do it." And are there any other projects in the pipeline for Kaufman? "I'm hoping to do the next Doug Wright script." "Back to my prison cell," Wright says, laughing.

December 3: Kaufman and Rush spoke about the film at the L.A. premiere:
"Larger Than Life - 'Quills' director Philip Kaufman, writer Doug Wright and actor Geoffrey Rush wax political," by Fiona Ng
    He chronicled the birth of the space program in "The Right Stuff" (1983) and remade the sci-fi classic "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" (1978). But even as he talks about his upcoming film "Quills," director Philip Kaufman just couldn't seem to get ignore the notoriety of "The Unbearable Lightness of Being (1988) and "Henry & June" (1990).
    And it's no wonder. After all, "Quills," like its two eyebrow-raising predecessors (The Milan Kundera-based "Unbearable" follows the tryst between a sex-minded doctor and a monogamy-minded woman, and "Henry & June," about the life of writer Henry Miller, was the first film ever to get branded with an NC-17 rating), has at its core the same potentially touchy topic: Sex (of course), but as bound up in the imagination of a literary outlaw whose oeuvre included titles such as "The 120 Days of Sodom" and the same man whose name would later inspire the term sadism -- the Marquis de Sade.
    "I just respond to all kinds of things if they're good," said the 64-year-old Kaufman by way of explaining his taste in projects. "Look, I am interested in sex but no more than any of you. And [what I want to know is] why don't we have more films that are adult sexually oriented or sex films that are about sex in America."
    But that's not to say that Kaufman (and by extension, "Quills") is merely obsessed with the three-letter word. If anything, the film -- which revolves around the Marquis' institutionalization in the asylum Charenton during the mid-18th century -- uses its taboo topic to reflect upon freedom of expression, state censorship and the meaning of art, issues still relevant to our times.
    Call it an allegory, if you will. "I think that the Marquis de Sade is very potent Rorschach and has been for a lot of writers. I think to suggest that our movie is the definitive portrait of Sade is preposterous because he is lost to us," said playwright and screenwriter Doug Wright, who penned the original play whereupon the film is based. "I think I've done what other writers have done in the past and I've plucked the mythological Sade from history and plunked him down, I hope, in a parable about our time and the nature of violent art in an unstable culture. So I've taken those aspects of Sade that most intrigue, titillated and appalled me, [and] I've incorporated them into a character I called Sade and placed him in our story. This is very much the Sade of 'Quills.'"
    A successful Off Broadway play in its own right, the stage version of "Quills" was bore out of the National Endowment of the Arts funding struggle between conservative Sen. Jesse Helms, R-N.C., and controversial belated photographer Robert Mapplethorpe that erupted in the late 1980s. Perhaps surprisingly, the process of adapting the play into its current cinematic form proved to be much less of a difficulty than its potentially controversial nature may have otherwise foreshadowed. "There was something that arrived at my doorsteps [one day], which was sent to me by Fox Searchlight. So by the time I got into it, there was a studio that wanted to do this, which, in my experience, was an extraordinary thing. I usually spend years, like in 'Henry and June.' ... But in this case, the gods shoned upon us and sent us the Marquis de Sade," Kaufman said. "It's just one of those fortuitous things."
    With funding and distribution in place, the next step was to find an actor with the right chops to embody the Marquis on screen. And the search would eventually lead the director to Academy Award winner Geoffrey Rush. "The minute I read the script, I also said I was going to get great actors. I know it will draw great actors and it did draw them, all as a labor of love," Kaufman said. "When I met Geoffrey ... [I thought] not only is he a great actor, but every time I see him I don't recognize him. ... In other words, we have this, as Doug [Wright] described it, this mysterious Marquis, and the chance to have an actor who isn't readily identifiable in a starring role was great," Kaufman continued.
    Besides Rush, Kaufman also enlisted an ensemble cast that includes Kate Winslet (as the chambermaid who smuggles the Marquis' manuscripts for publication), Joaquin Phoenix (as the good-hearted young priest overseeing the asylum) and two-time Oscar winner Michael Caine, who plays a morally questionable doctor who has been dispatched by Napoleon to "cure" the Marquis. "I think everyone knew that it was material that had to be met head on. You could diminish the piece or the dimensions of the argument by shying away from it and delivering safe, comfortable and not very dangerous performances," Rush said of the challenges that came with taking on such a project." [The character] has got a mouth on him. He is going to say, 'I am not going to sweep it under the carpet, we're going to air this stuff. We're going to talk about it. It's going to be out there.'"
    And with that, the actor has provided the best summation of what "Quills" has set out to do.

November 30: Following are excerpts from a feature from Salon Magazine by film critic Michael Sragow, an admirer of the film:
"A Demented Peacock," by Michael Sragow -- Oscar-winner Geoffrey Rush talks about "Quills," playing a great pervert and what's so funny about sadism --
    To quote Doug Wright's screenplay, the first aural and visual impressions you get of the Marquis de Sade in "Quills" are a "reptilian" eye and a voice at once "mellifluous" and "low." His hand sports an amber ring containing "an arachnid trapped in stone." Yet from the get-go, Australian actor Geoffrey Rush imbues this ominous figure with a nihilistic joie de vivre that's both infectious and unsettling. It's crucial to the complexities of Philip Kaufman's exuberant, rending tragicomedy that the man who prances through the intersection of pleasure and pain remains a life force and an art force. Rush comes through with flying colors -- albeit ones ranging from gore-red to dung-brown. He gives Sade an anarchic erotic glee that's inseparable from his theatrical imagination and volcanic urge to write. It's fitting that Rush used as a major source book Francine du Plessix Gray's biography "At Home With the Marquis de Sade: A Life," which emphasizes Sade's seductive dance with surrogates for his distant mother, while Kaufman relied more on Neil Schaeffer's "The Marquis de Sade: A Life," which pivots on the Marquis' vain attempt to find a moral and intellectual authority to substitute for an absent father. Thanks to Rush and Kaufman (and, of course, Doug Wright), "Quills" has a quivering blend of yin and yang.
    With a kind of anti-noblesse oblige, Rush's Sade uses his superior wit to ensnare everyone who surrounds him at the Charenton insane asylum into fatal or near-fatal flirtations with his perverse worldview. That includes the liberal Abbé de Coulmier (Joaquin Phoenix), who tries to run Charenton as a City of God, and Madeleine Leclerc (Kate Winslet), the innocent laundress who helps Sade smuggle out his writing.
    Ironically, he doesn't need to spin his twisted wonders on his enemy, physician Royer-Collard (Michael Caine), who answers Napoleon's call to squelch the writer's blasphemous and profane work. Royer-Collard, a righteous hypocrite, is already a more dangerous sadist than Sade is.
    Kaufman has referred to the four leads as a quartet, and they are matched brilliantly. Caine brings subtle notes of savvy to his Machiavellian doctor. Phoenix has never been sharper or more commanding, while Winslet is gutsy, intuitive, alluring; together they're unsentimental heartbreakers. Yet Rush registers as their fellow player and also as their mad conductor, whipping them and the audience into unpredictable crescendos of laughter, snorts, gasps and tears.
    Amid general acclaim, some critics have voiced surprise at Rush's wholehearted submission to the script's combination of depraved vaudeville, Grand Guignol and even grander tragedy. But you can see elements of Sade's shrewdness, furtiveness and unpredictable genius in the body of film work Rush has built from his shattered concert pianist in "Shine" and his master spy in "Elizabeth" to more lowdown parts like the ruthless thrill-park impresario in "House on Haunted Hill" and the mad scientist named Casanova Frankenstein in "Mystery Men."  I think Rush was at his best as theater-owner Philip Henslowe in "Shakespeare in Love." It allowed him to wed his appetites for high and low culture -- he says he loved being a character dressed in a suit that made him look like a stink bug, who ordered no less than William Shakespeare to cut to the chase, with prose. "Quills" permits him to vent the same iconoclastic impulse on a riskier stage -- while demonstrating the heartbreaking human sacrifice exacted by the need to create art.
    I interviewed Rush two weeks ago, on the morning of the movie's premiere in director Kaufman's home city, San Francisco.
Sragow: I first saw the movie with eight people spread out across a large screening room; everyone was laughing to themselves but nobody could hear anybody else. It turned out everybody loved the movie and thought it was hilarious.
Rush: It kicks up with a bigger crowd; you get big surprise laughs. You know when audiences go "Whooaaa!" and then think, "We all just did that together and we didn't think we were going to" -- especially with a film that's presumably going to be about sadism. I think they're delighted to discover that it's about sadism in many different forms -- including the ways a society can be sadistic. At the beginning, when you see rough hands on a delicate young woman's neck who is breathing heavily, you think, "Oh, hang on, we're watching something in a kind of 'porn-ish' genre." When they find out what's really happening, people go "Ohhh!" It's scarier than the end of the "Jurassic Park" ride at the Universal tour; it's like the kind of nightmare where you're falling, falling, falling. Within the first two minutes of the film Philip Kaufman is already messing with your mind. I love that.
Phil and his team shot all the location stuff -- they managed to find French-style architecture in the environment of Oxford, England -- before I even got on the film. I felt like the bridegroom that showed up extremely late. But Phil was in such glee, so wired up and excited -- "We have the camera, here's the guillotine blade, let's put the neck of the audience on the block" -- I thought it was just brilliant.
Sragow: Did Phil approach you for "Quills," or did you go after it?
Rush: My agent rang and said, "I've got this script about the Marquis de Sade." Phil and I had lunch and chatted about things we liked and felt an unspoken kinship. It's the sort of like-mindedness that comes from having the same curiosities. After you meet someone like that, in your mind you check him out and you say, "Wow, he's done 'The Right Stuff,' 'The Unbearable Lightness of Being' and 'Henry and June.'" Then you find out he co-wrote 'Raiders of the Lost Ark' and 'The Outlaw Josey Wales,' and you feel honored to be part of all that.
My agent seems to think that my greatest stumbling block is always feeling as if I'm wrong for a part. I knew about the Marquis, from university days; he was a counterculture icon then. I've been in "Marat/Sade" and "The Marriage of Figaro"; if you look at anything to do with that period, the Marquis stands astride it like a Colossus. And I knew he was physically bloated and big, so I instantly read that into it. But when Phil got going, he started to talk about the artist as outsider, as maverick, and the Marquis as the beginning of a tradition that takes in Jean Genet and Henry Miller and Lenny Bruce. "The mind," he said, "I'm interested in the mind of the guy."
Then I heard that Kate Winslet was interested, and I am a really big fan of hers -- I'm fascinated by her repertoire. We mutually flattered and excited one another by saying, "Oh, I'll do it if she does it," or, "I'll do it if he does it." Which is sort of real in a way, because you think that with material like this, you need a great actress like her. Then, you're on a plane, you're going to do it, and finally you're standing around in a horsehair wig. Phil was the wild beat generation alchemist putting all this together. He was constantly grinning like a Cheshire cat over the whole production. He gave it this wonderful dangerous humor in the process of making it and in the substance of it.
I can play games with myself, and think: "This is Joaquin's movie, we are following the Abbé." But then Phil comes along and says I'm the ringmaster, not the figure on the side; I'm the one lighting fuses everywhere and leaving matches burning and not worrying where they fall. That gives you something. And so does Doug Wright's dialogue for the Marquis. It's not just written to convey information.
It's like when you read a Billy Wilder or Ben Hecht screenplay and you think, "This guy is so snappy and ironic and sharp and sentimental, all in the same little batch." The American wisecrack tradition powers the machinery of Doug Wright's script. It's got great zingers; I'm amazed at how florid Doug can get and still be as keen as a razor on a line. When the Abbé throws the Bible at the Marquis and says, "Learn from this," de Sade instantly picks it up, spits on it and says, "This God of yours strung up his only son like a side of veal. I shudder when I think what he'd do to me." You become aware that every time de Sade opens his mouth it's to say something lurid, provocative or foul, all to bait the other person into engaging with him. And as amusing and as provocative as that is, there's something desperate and painful about somebody that constantly has to keep seeking companionship in this way. We realized that was the undercurrent of the piece.
I mean, the guy is incarcerated. So like some old weird wasp living away in his little nest, he lures insects in so he can play. There's a great line in Doug's original play -- a great image of the Marquis that is not in the film. The Abbé refers to him carrying on "like a demented peacock." That became a really useful working image in terms of how I saw him strut and parade and be totally at home in his deluxe suite in the asylum, lounging around in a sort of shabby decadence.
Another great thing was the wig. I didn't want to have a wig that made me look like Captain Cook, because, burdened with that, I wouldn't be able to put across the vitality and immediacy of the material. But they found, through some etchings, a fantastic, louche, rather stylish and attractive headpiece and I realized that, with my physicality, he could look like some randy old mountain goat, with horns. Looking at the shape of that thing gave me another really useful image. It's as if de Sade is precariously standing on some craggy clifftop where you could topple at any moment. But he manages to perch -- elegantly. That's useful in terms of figuring out, how do you sit on a chaise longue? How do you breathe life into the incidental moments, for a guy who for most of the film is in one room?
Sragow: Your wife, Jane Menelaus, is perfect in the role of de Sade's wife, and the one scene with the two of you is stunning. De Sade operates with her the way he operates with the audience, drawing her in with wryness, even tenderness, before turning on her.
Rush: It's the antithesis of great prison moments in movies; she brings over his dildoes.
Sragow: Did the casting help that scene?
Rush: When I knew that Michael Caine was involved, and Joaquin was about to sign, I asked Phil, "Who's playing the wife?" And he said, "I don't know. I'm finding it really difficult to cast. People are looking or sounding too contemporary or they don't mesh with the quartet." I asked, "What are you looking for?" He said, "Somebody between 35 and 45, who has a vulnerability and a beauty and aristocratic bearing and also rich emotional undercurrents." Then he asked, "Your wife's an actress, isn't she?" I said, "Yeah, but she hasn't acted for a while. She's been parenting. But we worked together lots on stage." In a jocular sort of way he said, "Someone like her."
We got the script, and she read it, and I've never seen her get so fired up about a part. She has been very committed to our kids, but she said, "I'm going to go for this." I said, "OK, let's hire a studio." We put down a scene with me off camera. I encouraged her to just have a chat with the camera, because the people watching this wouldn't know her. We waited for a couple of nail-biting weeks, and then got word from casting. Phil might have hoped for some weird psychotherapeutic game-playing, but it was all on the page -- the scene cries out "domestic roller coaster."
Sragow: You've talked about the choreographic elements of your acting. When you parade naked around Joaquin, you give the Marquis an odd tragicomic dignity.
Rush: It's part of his resilience, isn't it? At first you think that it's a great act of humiliation to strip somebody naked and then chain them up. But the Marquis manages to use that to probe to even deeper levels of provocation. I never went to dailies but the costume designer [Jacqueline West] went. At that point her job with me was truly over, but after seeing that scene she came back and told me, of my naked skin, "You're wearing it like another costume." The game got notched up to another level. That's how we played "Quills."

November 29: From the Bergen Record:
"Hollywood Fills in History's Blanks," by Bob Ivry, Staff Writer
    In Hollywood, history is hokum. If reality doesn't fit into three-act melodrama, it gets forced. They add a dash of the mythic, tack on a happy ending with swelling musical accompaniment, and cover up the whoppers with an attitude of high seriousness. Sheesh. Anyone who uses movies to learn history is in for one twisted education.
    That's why it's so nice, for a change, to herald a couple of films that chronicle the lives of historical characters, yet make no presumption about the veracity of the events. Like "Ragtime," E.L. Doctorow's popular novel, which used real historical figures in fabricated situations, both "Quills" and "Shadow of the Vampire" let imagination fill in what we don't know (and, in some cases, take the place of what we do), while conveniently dealing with characters who by now are so long dead there's not much chance they'll sue.
    "Quills," which opened Wednesday, fictionalizes the story of the last days of the Marquis de Sade, and "Shadow of the Vampire," opening Dec. 29, unabashedly paints the chaotic production of the 1922 classic silent horror film "Nosferatu" with a mythic brush. Both films consist of sustained flights of fancy using real people and their work as jumping-off points. And while some of the films' elements are no doubt accurate -- and their scripts are undoubtedly literary, if not historically faithful -- the filmmakers, to their credit, make no claim to anything more than speculative fiction…
    In "Quills," Geoffrey Rush plays Sade, locked away by order of the Emperor Napoleon in the Charenton insane asylum (also the setting for another famous flight of fancy, Peter Weiss' play, "Marat/Sade"). As he fights for his right to continue to write, he falls in love with his chambermaid, a damsel named Madeleine (Kate Winslet) who has also won the heart of Sade's compassionate jailer, Abbe Coulmier. The chaste love triangle hums along nicely until until Napoleon dispatches the evil Dr. Royer-Collard (Michael Caine) to shut Sade up once and for all.
    The history books tell us that at least part of that story is true -- one major exception being that in life, Coulmier was a 4-foot-tall hunchback; in the film, director Philip Kaufman has Hollywoodized him into Joaquin Phoenix.
Like Katz's experience with "Nosferatu," "Quills" screenwriter Doug Wright says that he was fascinated with Sade's work from the moment he was exposed to it. Once he read an account of Royer-Collard's nefarious "cures" for Sade -- which, in the movie, include dunking him in cold water, stripping him of his clothes, and finally chaining him naked in a dungeon -- Wright's imagination took over. "When I came across this detail, I immediately thought that expanding upon it would make for an intriguing story -- a story that happens when you deny a really volatile imagination its only means of expression," Wright says.
    Like Katz, Wright was less than obsessed with adhering to the facts and chasing them to their logical conclusion. Also like Katz, Wright had historical records from which to draw -- the prodigious writings of Sade. Though "Quills" may not have as its central premise as outlandish a notion as the vampirism of a real-life character, Wright did take plenty of poetic license to juice up the action for a modern film audience. "I wanted the story to be full of melodrama, terror, and Sade's incendiary sense of humor," Wright says. "I wanted to represent not so much the fact of his life as the spirit of his life."

November 28: PlanetHollywood.com has an interview with Kate - thanks to Jeanne for the email tip! It's posted in its entirety on the "Article Archive" page. Here's are excerpts on Quills:
    Kate Winslet doesn't mind taking on a daring role now and then, but don't expect anything too depraved of her in Quills. Winslet once again plays with audience expectations as Madeleine, an innocent French washerwoman at the local insane asylum. She's enamored of the writings of its most famous inmate and aggressive aspiring suitor, Geoffrey Rush as the Marquis De Sade. But Madeleine instead has her eye on Joaquin Phoenix, the resident priest. Winslet talked about her own passionate preference for such unusual roles, and her prevailing career philosophy after Titanic that good things come in smaller packages.
Planet Hollywood: What got you excited about being in a movie about the Marquis De Sade?
Kate Winslet: I chose to do Quills because it was a fantastic script. It was unbelievable, I just loved it. And I loved the fact that it was an ensemble piece. Because they're heaps of fun you know, there's just so many people to play with and laugh with. So it wasn't a conscious decision to, you know, do a period movie, it was just something that really grabbed me.
PH: De Sade was a pretty bizarre figure. Will we be seeing anything really strange in Quills?
KW: It's not what you think, not really. The movie is based on a section of his life. And it's not as wild and sexually explicit as everyone is imagining it to be. It's about the man himself. And he was really quite an extraordinary individual.
PH: When you were in the research phase for the film, did you envelop yourself in all things De Sade?
KW: Yep, absolutely. I got right inside there. I read heaps of De Sade biographies. That's what I always do. And I found out as much about my character Madeleine as I could, because she had really existed. I found out all about the women and working classes of that time.
I love delving into research like that. It can be so fascinating. And it enabled me to understand Madeleine. You know, what kind of life she has led, her hopes and desires, and the way she would express herself.
I came across a picture of a French girl ironing, and that became a huge inspiration for me. And that led to me approach Madeleine as a girl from the lower classes with little education, but who has a mind of her own and very romantic notions of the world.
PH: Why would such a childlike young woman like Madeleine be fascinated by De Sade?
KW: Madeleine is an innocent girl who has clear ideas about right and wrong, and the Marquis has no choice but to accept that. And she looks up to him because he is so bright, and has a powerful imagination.
But she isn't in love with him. The man she's really in love with is the Abbe, Joaquin's character. That's the real reason she won't leave the asylum, no matter what danger she might face by remaining there.
PH: It couldn't have been too hard to play someone who's got a huge crush on Joaquin Phoenix, even if his character is a priest.
KW: Absolutely. And Joaquin is amazing to work with, I think he's one of the most outstanding actors of my generation. He really lived in the skin of his character.
PH: You deflect very smartly the advances of Geoffrey Rush as De Sade in the movie. But what do you make of all the younger woman/older man attractions in movies, like you and Harvey Keitel in Holy Smoke?
KW: It isn't something I consider at all, or really think about. And it's interesting working with actors who are older than myself, because they've got so much experience under their belts, and they just have many things for me to learn. And I find that is terribly fascinating. But I wouldn't take a role that I didn't think was going to stretch me or challenge me in some way.

November 28: PlanetHollywood.com also has this interview with Geoffrey Rush (thanks again to Jeanne for the find):
"Geoffrey Rush's Shine-y New Role" - Exclusive interview by Planethollywood.com Special Correspondent Prairie Miller.
    Much more than just a period biopic about the Marquis De Sade, Quills is a passionate, exhilarating, stunningly mounted, and an oddly poetic tale. Add Academy Award winner Geoffrey Rush to the mix, and you've got a magical performance lending humor and compassion to a far from sympathetic figure. Not exactly a post-French Revolutionary hunk, Rush presents Sade more as a peculiar bookworm, and a deeply impassioned character whose sensuality resides primarily in his words. Rush, who co-stars in Quills with Kate Winslet, Joaquin Phoenix and Michael Caine, confided to PlanetHollywood.com the guilty pleasures of disappearing into this complicated role, and the occasional embarrassment of having to perform in scenes without benefit of a costume.
Planet Hollywood: Do you think people can still be shocked by the Marquis De Sade?
Geoffrey Rush: Wait, have you read any recently?
PH: You've got a point. Do you feel this movie will shock people?
GR: That's one aspect of Sade's personality. He is a mixture of all these contradictions, for someone who does write pretty toxic and perverse literature. Sade himself was a pretty funny guy, you know? And sadism is something that can occur in wit. It's the need and the desire to demean, and take revenge on the world.
PH: Were you surprised to find so much humor in Quills?
GR: Oh, no. I knew it was going to be hilarious, on a number of levels. There is a kind of pre-John Waters touch of just the curiosity of what makes up human society. But also surprising for me was to find myself -- an Australian -- playing a Frenchman, in English! As for the humor in Quills, there's a great American linguistic tradition of the wisecrack that you see here. You know, dialogue that sort of sings with the intensity of the packaging of ideas and wit, into very rhythmical lines and self-contained aphorisms.
PH: What was the challenge of playing a real person like De Sade?
GR: Being true to his descendants, so that they wouldn't come around and bash what I've been saying! You know, you've destroyed the reputation of my great, great, great grandfather. But Sade had in his own lifetime a certain tabloid celebrity away from his writing, because of various debauches. He was pilloried in the press, and demonized in pamphlets. And then on top of that were his writings. And he was incarcerated as a political and moral dissident. To play that, you know I don't think you can actually play a legend or an icon only. And that was the fascination for me -- which is true of most writers -- that what they put on the page may not necessarily be who they were. I think in this case, there's a hell of a lot of overlap.
When we were shooting in London, we hung out at an Irish pub that had lots of photos and portraits of great Irish writers on the wall, ranging from Joyce to Swift. I thought, wow, look at that. Because you know them, you know their literature. But there's something when you see a portrait, and you look in their eyes.
That's a writer's face, not an actor's. And I said, that's what we've got to find. You know, if you have a snapshot of this guy, what do you see in the man? What sort of creature might he be, sitting next to you somewhere? Probably someone very charming, terribly bright and extremely well read. But don't let him offer you a lift home!
PH: You give the best performance by a naked actor this year in Quills. Was it difficult to act with your clothes off?
GR: Well, liberating could be the word! There is something liberating about that. In particular, it's very hard for me to divorce it from the moment by moment reality of what is happening in the story at that point. And I just hoped I could deliver.
PH: Talk about that peculiar relationship between your character and the confused priest played by Joaquin Phoenix.
GR: We were moving from a kind of edgy but civilized relationship between this very progressive, Rousseau type priest, and the Marquis as some sort of aging, decadent rock star. You know, who had his own deluxe suite at the asylum, and a lot of legend behind him. And who was quietly writing to purge his demons, but smuggling it out. So those two had a little setup there. And you get to see more and more of the facade, this armor that Sade built up, his wit as his key weapon and his sadistic rapport with people. Which is not necessarily just a sexual one, but it's there in his humor. I mean, it's the ability to be the control freak through humiliating and demeaning your opponent. That's the premise of the sadistic exchange.
So you reach a point where Sade is finally stripped of his identity, when the priest becomes determined to stop his writing and curb his impulses. And that strengthens the resolve of the Marquis even further, until he is finally stripped down to being a naked animal.
PH: Why are you drawn to playing madmen in (films such as) Shine and now Quills, and how difficult is it for you to play men who are so debased?
GR: It did occur to me occasionally, this is what I do for a living?! I mean, here I am doing this in front of a theater full of strangers. But you're kind of focused in on some other area of what you're required to do on that particular day. I should tell you, on my contract there was this hilarious bit that was stapled on as an addition. It was called the Nudity Waiver!
PH: What was that all about?
GR: It outlines all of this stuff, like the artist agrees to appear blah, blah, blah, that sort of thing. But I was terribly amused by the notion of a Nudity Waiver. Because you can't imagine when you're signing that weeks before, how the chemicals are going to react on set, and what on any given day you're going to actually be doing. But you sort of imagine that you're going to be there going, Whoo, whoo!! So it's a strange thing. But they didn't want the nudity to become a distraction. Because you're confronted by a full length figure all the time. So in telling the story cinematically, a lot of distractions were created from that. Not quite though in the Austin Powers style, with well placed bowls of fruit and candelabras!
Rather, the aim was to gain further and more expansive dramatic impact from the very nature of what the nakedness means at different points. For example, the Marquis is shot always through the grate, or through the hole in the wall. I mean, he is a prisoner and he is whispering into your ear. It cuts between that, and extreme wide shots of this tiny little naked man in this vast empty stone chamber. Where he is igniting the world with his stories. You see him kind of crunched up into a little ball finally, and that's the low physical point that creates some kind of sense of where he is. And it's out of that where he realizes that there is still another arrow in his quiver. And he thinks, I'm not beaten yet. You know, the gun slinger still has more fight, one more bullet left in the gun.
PH: The Marquis feels if he cannot create art, that he will die. Are you filled with that same kind of passion as an actor?
GR: That's an interesting point. I think whatever your level of success as an actor, that doesn't change one's own self-doubts, uncertainties or anxieties. They're always present, because the reality is that you often don't know, in the itinerant nature of your work, what's going to happen in three months time.
So you always live on that slight knife edge that, this could be my last film. Or I'm about to be found out, and this one will flop. And nobody will hire me again. So you're constantly playing aspects of that game in your mind. But I think for me, for whatever reason, if I could never act again, there's one thing that I would miss the most -- and probably fight hard to maintain. And it sort of informs a little bit the projects that I do. I do like those stories that are microcosms that amplify the world at large. So whether it's the backstage mercantile world of the Elizabethan theater, or Charenton, the asylum, it takes teams of people to create the scale of that story. I'm quite unashamedly a dressing room slut! I love the ambiance and the heritage, and the camaraderie of that. And I would miss that enormously, that's a very pleasurable thing to be connected to.
PH: You wowed mainstream audiences with an offbeat movie like Shine, and you're sure to do the same with Quills. What's your secret?
GR: If you deaden an audience, then you're eventually going to get a very lackluster, deadened response. But if you keep them on their toes and keep it sharp, then the exchange will always become interesting and never diminished. I think that says a lot about what entertainment can do. And I think that's a lesson for movies. You know, people can argue, this is what they want. And then you go, well yeah, but there might be other things that you really want. And if you communicate that with a degree of passion, then you'll probably find that there are people out there who also want to be part of that.
PH: I hear there was an amazing chemistry between you and Joaquin Phoenix on the set.
GR: Right from the beginning, even on our very first meeting I thought, we live continents apart, we live cultures apart. But we are bonded by a common language, and common global connections in some ways. He's a different generation to me, and yet I sensed enough areas of like-mindedness. Joaquin spoke very excitedly, passionately and thrillingly about his own experiences of sitting in movies in the dark, where he said, there's got to be a transfusion of energy from the screen, and you don't have time to analyze it. But you get caught up in it, and two hours later you're out blinking in the sunlight and thinking, where am I, what happened. And he engendered that kind of quality on every minute detail of the process of making the film. Which was fantastic. He said, we're not making a period film, or following a predictable set of signals being sent out to the audience. We've got to kind of provoke and delight and challenge them at each twist and turn of what they see, and what they hear and experience. That obviously affected the chemicals that he brought together in the various actors. And that's rare, and fantastic to be around.
Also tantalizing about Quills, is the almost symbiotic relationship where the oppressor becomes the muse, and that one can't do without the other. Somehow you are watching and acknowledging in the performances those forces that are there. And seeing no easy solution, but kind of connecting with the powerful passions in those conflicts. Which is enlivening, you know? And it's great, you feel alive because you feel as if you're understanding the processes that shape life. That's pretty thrilling.

November 28: Here's an interview with Geoffrey Rush from Rough Cut:
"Marquis Value - Geoffrey Rush Takes a Walk on the Wild Side in Quills," reported by Ray Greene
   Geoffrey Rush is one of the more unlikely leading men in recent Hollywood history. A stage-trained character actor of Australian nationality, Rush's main claim on the attention of moviegoers before 1996 was that he had once roomed on the road with a young Australian actor named Mel Gibson. Rush's early and middle career were periods of some distinction (mostly in the legitimate theater) but no cinematic impact. By the mid-1990s, Rush's distinguished reputation on the stage and his distinctly unglamorous appearance meant that no one -- not even Rush himself -- expected that he would achieve anything like major impact as a bona fide movie star.
    All that changed with the release of Rush's career-making performance as a mentally ill classical pianist in Shine, the independent feature smash that garnered Rush a surprise Best Actor Oscar for 1996. Hardly an Oscar season has passed since then without some sort of generously highbrow offering featuring Rush in a major role. Rush even nabbed a showy supporting role in Shakespeare in Love, an Oscar winner itself for Best Picture of 1998.
    This year's Oscar contender is Quills, director Philip Kaufman's startling discourse on censorship and artistic extremism, starring Joaquin Phoenix as a French priest who runs a madhouse during the Napoleonic era and Rush as the incarcerated Marquis de Sade. The film is based on an award-winning play by Doug Wright (also responsible for the screenplay here), and Rush's bravura performance as the infamous French novelist has been widely hailed. Factor in strong supporting turns from Kate Winslet as an asylum laundress and Michael Caine as a kind of secular version of the Vatican's Grand Inquisitor and Quills emerges as a film that is destined to be talked about.
    The soft-spoken and erudite Rush has highly informed opinions on the subjects of Quills specifically and acting in general, as he proved in a roundtable discussion with some Internet journalists during a recent promotional swing through Los Angeles.
RoughCut: Did you read the Marquis' works when you were younger?
Rush: Not legitimately, but he was a sort of required extracurricular reading. I don't think of him as having actually been on our reading list at school [laughs], but he was definitely a major countercultural icon in the late 1960s and early 1970s.
RC: In doing the character, what surprised you about the Marquis that you may not have been aware of from your reading?
Rush: This is a particular version of the Marquis, I would say. This is Doug Wright's take. I think the play that the film is based on was originally triggered by a genuine concern on the author's part with what was happening with the NEA [editor's note: the National Endowment for the Arts, which funds American artists through government grants] and [controversial American photographer] Robert Mapplethorpe and [conservative senator] Jesse Helms. The Marquis became a suitably lurid metaphor that was amenable to an analysis of how mutually exclusive or inclusive are the forces of expression and repression. Doug would phrase it in terms of a symbiotic relationship between the oppressor and the muse, or the oppressor as muse. Does Robert Mapplethorpe's work become more celebrated because it gets banned by these people who say "We shouldn't be supporting this, we should stop this"? And how much does Mapplethorpe then create more art to aggravate that situation?
RC: What do you mean when you refer to this as a "version" of the Marquis? Is this entirely a fiction?
Rush: Well, it's a version in the sense that there was never an intention to make it a biography, though the elements of his life are pretty well realized. He never wrote on his suit in blood, but that's a great metaphor for obsession and cunning and resilience, and he did write a great many letters to his mother-in-law in his own blood...
RC: Really?
Rush: Yeah. And he didn't have his tongue torn out at the end of his life, but in a way he did. He was somebody silenced by two hundred years of history; his work was banned for a very long time.
RC: The second half of this movie was incredibly harrowing to watch, and it seems like it might have been harrowing for you as an actor. Does that sort of stuff seep into your daily life when you're playing it?
Rush: It's interesting isn't it? Because the impact of what you get in a few hours, for us, is a process that takes more than twelve weeks. So it's never, on a daily basis, as intense, but it has moments of that. There's something about the nature of Phil Kaufman as a director -- the first time I met him, although we come from different continents and different generations and quite different backgrounds -- you find a kinship. You giggle at the same things, you delight and inspire and cajole each other in your working relationship. And he seemed to operate on that level of playfulness and had great clarity of vision and purpose in making this film with a lot of relish. That's reflected in the casting. Kate Winslet is an actress who, for my taste, plays very much on that level, so that, on the set, you surprise yourself in what aspects of the character you discover. Not whimsical and trivial about it, but you kind of approach it without being too wrongly overly analytical about it. You don't deconstruct it too much ... you follow instincts.
Michael Caine is like that as well. Michael Caine is a great raconteur. He's a legend, and he brings highly enjoyable anecdotes to work, and he tells you great stories about the absurdity of the profession that he's encountered over a thirty-five-year period. But then, when the camera is on, it's like galvanizing white heat that you've only got to respond to. All of the actors had that kind of approach.
RC: To your way of thinking, was the Marquis insane? Was there a madness to him?
Rush: It wasn't a legitimate reason for his incarceration at Charenton, which was actually a lunatic asylum. But he was regarded so because of the perceived depravity of his writings. And I suppose there was something deeply disturbing about his cavalier, mocking hatred of the church, and of any kind of institution. I think on the psychological profile, they would say there's probably some delusional paranoia there, but it's not insanity, I don't think he actually warranted being in a lunatic asylum. He had a fair dose of neurosis and psychosis, but he wasn't insane I don't think.
RC: How did you research the character?
Rush: I did some research inspired by one of the biographies I read that had given a psychoanalytical profile of de Sade, which I found very interesting. Because it's very hard to invent out of nothing the man who wrote in such an extraordinary way. The events of de Sade's life are just amazing. He was an aristocrat, whose mother was working as a lady-in-waiting for a higher aristocratic family. And she apparently was very emotionally distant from him. But then she had lost through infant mortality the child before de Sade and the child after him in quite close proximity, so you're thinking, "Well you're dealing here with a woman in an abnormal state of grief, or some suppressed grief." She put all of that emotion into the nine-year-old son of these aristocrats she worked for, and one day, de Sade, when he was four, just bashed the living daylights out of this nine year old, through resentment, anger, whatever. The Freudians would describe that --and I love this phrase -- as he perceived himself as being unlovable to the mother. And that creates, according to Freudian theory, a great fear of intimacy.
You're sitting on a time bomb of extraordinary rage. And at the same time, you mask all of that with charm, wit, brilliance. This psychologist I was talking to said that often the people with this complex become fiercely brilliant, because it's part of the layers of defense they build up. So that gave me a good groundwork for the bitchy wit. I mean, the wit is sadistic. It's a way of belittling or demeaning the person you're with.
RC: Do you always do a lot of research when you're playing a historical character?
Rush: Yeah. I mean, I do think there's a point where the research can poison things. You can't play historical writings about a character. Sometimes you find cheap and easy and vivid things that are useful. In the play Quills is based on, the priest refers to the Marquis as carrying on like a demented peacock, and I thought, "That's a brilliant image."
RC: Then is this a characterization that's based primarily on your imagination?
Rush: You're given certain events in the play that describe certain parameters. This is a person who exists within the license and the privilege of being an aristocrat, which is a very significant part of the society of the time. The script tells me this is someone who likes to talk dirty all the time [laughs] ... you know, that's part of his provocation. It's like some idiot at a party who's constantly being lewd, and you think, "Why?" It's Lenny Bruce, he's got a mouth on him, he's saying, "We're gonna air this stuff, we're not gonna sweep this under the carpet."
RC: Did you find some of the more overt aspects of the material especially challenging?
Rush: I think everyone knew that the material had to be met head-on. You could diminish the piece or the dimensions of the argument by shying away from it and delivering safe, comfortable and not very dangerous moments of performance. So, together, you find out where those dangerous moments are, and you go for it. The greatest moment of liberation is when the Marquis actually escapes from the cell and dances on the table in the dining room. Now that's just great cinematic thinking, constantly seeing what you can find within four stone walls. That gives you an enormous kind of release for the character in a very swift amount of screen time. And you know that he's going to be gradually unmasked in the course of the film.
We shot all of that in-sequence, once they'd done the exterior location stuff, which I wasn't involved in for the most part. It was great to journey through all that in script order, because you literally went a day at a time, and you got a bit scared making the movie, because it gets pretty nightmarish at the end, and you think, "We're heading toward that." But you didn't have to over-anticipate it, because you could take all the appropriate steps before getting to any particular moment of performance ... you built the character chronologically. The scene where I'm forced to strip was, in the play, a sort of comic virtuoso moment, displaying the Marquis' wit. But we felt as though we'd already established that, and that somehow the relationship between the priest and the libertine needed to get much more complicated -- I needed to mess with his mind in a much more dangerous and manipulative way.
RC: An interesting revelation occurs when the Marquis actually grieves over the consequences of using some of the inmates to transfer one of his stories orally, when they riot and commit acts of violence. It suggest that, for all the fascination with anarchy in his works, the Marquis may have been more a provocateur than an actual sadist. He was capable of appalling himself.
Rush: Yeah. He's part of that syndrome. Completely cavalier, a total lack of concern for the consequences of his actions. There must be something in the psychological make-up of a person who spends a lot of his life in and out of prison, not for criminal activity but for punishment. It's a kind of endless cycle: "I've been a naughty boy, I have to be locked up.... I quite like being locked up." There's something strange about it.
There's a lot of interest again in de Sade, I think, for a couple of reasons. As a great historical figure, he's got wild, irrational, fascinating contradictions and dimensions to him. He's such a major presence in the formation of democracy, when aristocratic feudal structures were changing within a generation ... less than a generation. To our current perceptions, where we get so much information overload, and major figures in our public life seem to be just glimpses and flashes of experience through a narrow band of impact, we kind of gravitate toward a figure like the Marquis -- we're intrigued by such potency.
The other thing that's brought him to our attention again is academic. A lot of his letters are being translated into English for the first time, and he wrote an amazing letter in prison to his wife -- from an earlier time, not from the Charenton time. His uncle, who raised de Sade as a child, was a priest who enjoyed the company of hookers [laughs]. So that had a fair amount of impact on the young de Sade, I think. This uncle was a notable biographer of Petrarch, the writer of the Italian sonnets. There's a figure in Petrarch's work -- this muse, this glorious, idealized, perfect, beautiful young woman called Laura. And I think somehow de Sade appropriated her as being an ancestor. And he wrote a beautiful letter to his wife about how he'd woken up in the middle of a dream where Laura had appeared to him as an ethereal vision in white, and she'd said, "Suffer no more. Come away with me. Leave your earthly surroundings." Almost like suicide. And he'd woken up sobbing, saying, "Oh, my mother. You're my mother." When I read that, I thought, "Well. This is a therapist's dream."

November 27: Salon Magazine has a nice feature on Phil Kaufman:
"Philip Kaufman - The director of 'Quills,' the new film about the Marquis de Sade, discusses sex, writers, repression and his movie's parallels to the Starr-Clinton fiasco," by Stephen Lemons
    Aside from the late John Huston, that titanic presence known for translating writers such as B. Traven, Herman Melville and James Joyce to the screen, there may be no greater cinematic savior of scribes than director Philip Kaufman. Among his relatively small output of motion pictures (he has directed 11 since 1965), Kaufman, 64, has made films drawn from the work of Tom Wolfe ("The Right Stuff"), Henry Miller ("Henry and June"), Milan Kundera ("The Unbearable Lightness of Being"), Richard Price ("The Wanderers") and -- eek! -- Michael Crichton ("Rising Sun").
    Now, the Marquis de Sade's getting the Kaufman treatment in "Quills." Geoffrey Rush is Sade as rock star, prancing about his cell in the mental asylum at Charenton like an 18th century version of Mick Jagger. This literary mad hatter goes head-to-head with Michael Caine's malevolent, black-clad, prude turned torturer Dr. Royer-Collard, and in the resulting conflagration Kate Winslet's starstruck washerwoman, Madeleine, and Joaquin Phoenix's sympathetic, tormented Abbé Coulmier, the liberal, do-gooding director of Charenton, are torn asunder.
    This is literature at its most dangerous and depraved. Instead of the watered-down product of modern-day pedagogues who play artist in their university cubbyholes, we get the real thing -- the Father of Sadism, imprisoned for the product of his scandalous pen and willing to defy despotism to the death. Forevermore, Rush's Sade will be the model for the more outrageous class of aspiring scribblers. And for this we owe Kaufman and screenwriter Doug Wright (whose play is the basis for the film) a debt of thanks.
    I talked with Kaufman as he sat sipping a glass of ginger ale, dressed in black, his gray-trimmed, hawklike countenance reminding me so much of "L.A. Confidential" director Curtis Hanson that I'd assume the two were brothers if I didn't know better.
    You seem attracted to stories about and by writers. Why?
I really don't know. I read, therefore I'm interested in writers. The truth is, I'm drawn to all kinds of things. I was drawn to this because I thought it was a terrific story when it was sent to me. I liked the sort of game that was at the heart of it -- the game of expression and repression of expression, heightened expression countered by heightened repression and so on. And I liked this extreme character of de Sade. I guess I'm attracted to extremes because I think they help you define the center. Joaquin is the center of the piece, and he's defined by the extremes on both sides of him. It just seemed to me to be a great story, set back in its time but something that seemed to have relevance for our time. Now that the film is coming out, it looks like we're back in another time where repression of expression is all the rage.
    That theme of repression and control seems to be of great concern to you.
It does concern me. Certainly "The Unbearable Lightness of Being" is all about trying to force writers to say certain things, about that totalitarian mentality. In our case, if we were doing the Humpty Dumpty story, that totalitarian mentality would want you to say, "And all the king's horses and all the king's men miraculously, through cooperation and solidarity, put Humpty back together again." The very people who were railing against communism in a way want to create the same kind of bland society, but based on capitalism. The danger is not so much in the economic structure of a society but in its intellectual structure.
    Is there something in your experience, other than being an artist, that has given free expression such significance for you?
There are many ways into that question, and I don't know that it's so psychological. We have a thing in the Declaration of Independence -- the "pursuit of happiness," it's called. It's not saying we're entitled to happiness but, rather, its pursuit. And it should be great fun along the way. To me, thoughts are fun and art is fun. The strength of our society should not be idle entertainments but the joy of pursuing ideas. Certainly it becomes clear after a while that happiness is not just having money. You can have a lot of unhappiness by not having money, but the reverse is no guarantee of happiness.  I don't know if I can give you any deep neurotic reason for wanting to pursue these things. In some ways, "Quills" is about a writer, but in some ways it's even more about the Abbé Coulmier, the character played by Joaquin Phoenix, a liberal guy trying to create sanity in the asylum through painting, music and all forms of art.
The Marquis is in a sense sitting on one shoulder, goading him on, irrepressible. He's the force of art whispering in his ear. In the other ear is Michael Caine as Dr. Royer-Collard, who is in some ways the force of this primitive science, "the doctor" sent in by the state, or Napoleon, to repress the Marquis.
Joaquin, the central spirit, represents us. He's trying to drive his vehicle down the road, and sitting in the rearview mirror behind him is the ever-voluptuous Kate Winslet. It's a tale of a man caught in the middle, and his obsessive relationship is with the Marquis, which is one of the great romances of the movie.
    With whom do you identify most in the film?
I feel close to the Abbé in some ways. But in some ways I feel closer to Madeleine. She's the character who finds some sort of joy in the Marquis' literature, whereas the Abbé doesn't really find much value in it. Is there something to be said for the writings of the Marquis? Is there something to be said for pornography? And is there something to be said against both? I hope our film is balanced and rich enough to encourage debate and discussion. How potent, how virile, is art? Can it influence people in bad ways? Or is repression a far worse thing? You know Madeleine is the most noble, least neurotic character in the whole piece. Some of her observations about the Marquis echo writers as diverse as Simone de Beauvoir, Angela Carter and Camille Paglia -- women who've written about him as well as men like Octavio Paz and Luis Buñuel. I have to go back to Doug Wright's thesis -- that by giving a rebirth to the most notorious writer of all time we might be able to shed light on this question of repression and self-expression.
    The passages of Sade's work that are read in the movie are pastiche and not from his work at all. Why? Was there any attempt to soft-pedal Sade?
Doug wrote those passages in part because he didn't have rights to the translations, but he wrote these stories truly in the spirit of the Marquis, using the vocabulary that the translations have used. What's really interesting about that is that a lot of these words that were incendiary in their time now seem almost harmless and laughable, because they have this archaic quality. We went through all of that with Lenny Bruce. He was sort of hounded to death because of "fuck." Now there's not a comedian in the world who doesn't stand up in a nightclub and use that word. Children even use the word. But in Doug's telling, "backside" is one of these shocking words for Napoleon as he hears it.
I don't think we soft-pedal anything. These stories are pretty extreme, but the way we're telling them makes them somewhat more humorous. The very first story is a bishop who lifts up a woman's dress, puts a wafer on her privates and plunges his "pikestaff" into her "very entrails." And there's the story the Marquis tells through the walls to the other prisoners of ripping the prostitute's tongue out and cauterizing the wound with fire. That's in the nature of a Sadeian story.
Where the film really becomes a sadistic, Sadeian tale is when the Marquis' tongue is being cut and turned against him. Some people just want it to be a "Tom Jones" romp. But the story, in order to validate itself, has to take these dark turns. The metaphor is the birth of a writer, played by Joaquin, who arrives at the end of the film as a storyteller. But it's the Marquis' voice who speaks through him from beyond the grave, saying, "I leave you now with the Abbé Coulmier, a man who found freedom at the bottom of an inkwell and the tip of a quill."
    Geoffrey Rush said you encouraged him with these visions of a dissolute rock star holed up in the Ritz-Carlton. How did that vision of Sade take hold?
Partly in our talking about it, partly from Doug's original material and partly from myself thinking of Mick Jagger down in the lower depths. But a lot of it comes from Geoffrey Rush. I remember the day when Geoffrey finally put on the Marquis de Sade suit and came onto the set and walked around in those white heels. You could just feel we were up at another level.
Of course, I thought Geoffrey was perfect for the Marquis. When I first met Geoffrey, I found him funny, witty. He's physically interesting; he's provocative, thoughtful; the words go on and on. He approaches everything in a very original way. He was reputed to be Australia's greatest theater actor and always looks different from movie to movie -- you can barely recognize him sometimes. He brought a lot of humor and sophistication to the role.
    You've said previously that Sade was not "the Hannibal Lecter of literature." Were you worried about portraying Sade as a monster?
Yes, I definitely wanted to avoid that. For instance, there's that scene where Kate goes into the Marquis' bedroom, approaches his bed and throws back the curtain to see a skeleton. The Marquis says, "Oh, did I scare you?" And she says something like, "Scare me? I'm twice as fast as you." Right away, she pooh-poohs him, and we realize there's a human dimension to this guy. Whatever you think of de Sade, he was a complex figure and we should not look for easy answers with him. He was, strangely perhaps, against the death penalty, and he was never put in prison for murders or anything like that. In a sense, he was imprisoned for his writing -- really by his mother-in-law, for more complex reasons than we can go into.
    When you took on this story, were you looking for a way to comment on current events?
Well, it just had resonances the minute I read it. I read it during the Ken Starr-Clinton fiasco. To my mind it was a fiasco because there was so much hypocrisy on the part of the pursuers. And it culminated in Starr's publishing this report that became an instant bestseller and was all over the Internet, much like Dr. Royer-Collard does at the end of the film when he publishes the Marquis' works.
I don't know if we did that scene because of the Ken Starr parallel, but it seemed like the proper ironic twist. Just a couple of weeks ago in the New York Times, they had that big front-page article about porno and these huge corporations that market it. We could open that door (indicating a TV cabinet nearby), flip on a channel and see porno far worse than anything we put in the movie. It's the deep hypocrisy of those who would purify the culture. A lot of people behind this represent the most conservative forces. If there's money to be made, they will do it. So Michael Caine's character in a way mirrors those forces. I also like the fact that Caine ends up with Charlotte the Squealer, the Linda Tripp of the film, the woman who tattles on Madeleine because she's smuggling the Marquis' works out of Charenton.
    You got an R rating for "Quills," but there's another film out right now, "Requiem for a Dream" by Darren Aronofsky, that doesn't seem any more objectionable and yet got slapped with an NC-17 by the Motion Picture Association of America. You had trouble yourself with the NC-17 rating on "Henry and June" -- do you know why "Quills" coasted by with an R?
I have no idea. You know, we got an R and I was just happy I didn't have to go through an appeal. On the other hand, I think the ratings system needs some reworking. I don't think this is a movie parents should bring underage children to. My wife has this line: "This is not a film for children of all ages." It's not a Disney movie, obviously, and some people are going to be offended by the sexuality. If it's going to be too strong for them, they shouldn't come to this movie.
Others might find it provocative, thoughtful and sexy. But to my mind that's an adult audience. Not every movie I make do I feel that way about, but certainly I feel that way about "The Unbearable Lightness of Being," "Henry and June" and this film.
    What exactly would you do to rework the ratings system if you had that power?
I don't know. I just think it needs to be thought out a little more carefully. Maybe there needs to be a couple of different kinds of R's. If there's an NC-17, it should not be the equivalent of the X rating. We should open up the adult categories more and more and encourage Americans to see adult-themed movies. I think otherwise we deny ourselves movies about sexuality. I mean, everybody's thinking about sex all of the time. Look at daytime TV: "Oprah" and all of those shows talk about sex constantly. And yet we pretend we're not interested when we're talking about movies, where sex is depicted as just a visual with two beautiful bodies coming together and has nothing to do with the mentality of sex or with enlarging the libido.
It's almost as if the more a movie's cleaned up, the more pornographic it becomes. It's anti-human, and more like jerking off to magazines. Whereas European films have traditionally been able to go into adult relationships. I think there's a huge audience in America for those kinds of films.
    The odd thing is that anyone of any age can walk into Barnes & Noble, pick up Sade and read the most grotesque, macabre depictions of sexuality ever imagined. Why is it that it's the visual that disturbs people?
You know, I don't think it frightens people. I think there are people who really want to control the culture, and it's a holdover from Puritanism. But movies make a lot of money, and there are persons who want to get in and control the content of those things.
On the other hand, I think there's a good argument for not marketing certain things to children -- a lot of that is valid. The danger is if the argument is not held within close boundaries. You'll see Joe Lieberman arguing correctly against test-marketing R movies with younger children; there's something terribly wrong about that. But the other side says, "It's not just the marketing. We ought to go into all Hollywood movies and all content." That's where it gets really scary. A lot of that comes from the urge to control others in every way. Often it's from people who are the deadest inside, the most desiccated personalities.
The perfect example is the Grand Inquisitor scene in "The Brothers Karamazov," where Christ comes back to earth and the Inquisitor says he has to be sentenced to death once again because he's ruining the setup -- that people need miracle, mystery and authority, and he's going to destroy everything. Similarly, the Marquis is presented in this film as someone who would disturb the status quo and therefore must be kept imprisoned.
    Are there any artists of our age who challenge society in the way Sade did?
Well, Doug Wright said he wrote the play because of Robert Mapplethorpe and Jesse Helms. They were engaged in this death-lock struggle, and theirs was a symbiotic relationship where they actually needed each other. As for me, I think Henry Miller was important that way, as well as Lenny Bruce, James Joyce and D.H. Lawrence. All of those people were banned and repressed because of what they wrote and said.
    I hear your next film is going to be about Liberace.
I hope we get to do it. He's another one of these extreme characters I'm attracted to. Right now we're working on the script.
    Any idea at this point of whom you want for Liberace?
A friend of mine named Robin Williams would love to play him. He was in my office not so long ago. There was a picture of Carol Channing and Liberace we were looking at, and he did this brilliant dialogue between the two of them. We all fell over on the floor. In a way, he has lived the Mr. Showbiz life himself, so there's an aspect to the character he would really understand.

November 27: From today's Los Angeles Times:
" 'Quills' Has a Point for Today's World - The movie about the Marquis de Sade means to underscore the ongoing struggle between expression and repression," by Justin Davidson, Newsday
    "Quills," Philip Kaufman's new movie about the Marquis de Sade, is a parable masquerading as a costume drama. Set in Napoleonic France but directed at Clintonian America, the film tackles an issue that leaped to the foreground of the recent presidential campaign: how to calculate the social effect of sex and violence in popular entertainment.
    "Quills" treats the last of the marquis' 27 years in captivity with a scenario that seems like an experiment in Hollywood hybridization. The valiant pornographer from "The People vs. Larry Flynt" inhabits the madhouse setting of "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest." The marquis, a sane but deviant fop (Geoffrey Rush), languishes luxuriously in the asylum of Charenton, publishing underground smut from his cell. A copy of his obscene vampire romance "Justine" somehow finds its way to Napoleon, who dispatches the ferocious luminary Dr. Royer-Collard (Michael Caine) to silence the marquis' writing and straighten his twisted mind.
    Rush's marquis belies the character's ghoulish reputation. Untroubled by the distorting burdens of civilized behavior, he wanders around in shabby finery and a dusty wig, consumed by earthy instinct. He is nothing but a grandly crude aristocrat, a good-natured virtuoso of vulgarity, more Howard Stern than Grand Guignol.
    Caine's Royer-Collard, on the other hand, turns out to be a less literary but more literal sadist than his patient. His preferred form of therapy is to strap patients into a chair that flips them backward into a pool of ice water. He embodies a sanctimonious, bureaucratic sort of evil, bent on eradicating any threatening and destabilizing behavior.
    For all the meticulous attention to Empire detail, however, make no mistake: This is a movie about the present. The marquis' outrageous novels stand in for all the gangsta rap, performance pieces and dung-encrusted canvases that ever offended a righteous politician. Kaufman has said that he thought of Royer-Collard as a Kenneth Starr-type inquisitor, which would, I suppose, make the marquis an early 19th century Bill Clinton, the seductive embodiment of a period's collective carnality. The analogy begins to stumble almost immediately, though, for the simple reason that high-minded intolerance just isn't what it used to be. Indicting one period with evidence from another does not make for a terribly convincing case.
    A latter-day marquis might, in some parts, be ostracized or fined or even forced out of business, but he would hardly be committed. Today, his arch and wordy scenes of violent sex would be included in collections of "Best Erotica" and sold at Barnes and Noble. Napoleonic France provides a better template for a tale of censorship and repression. Totalitarian and moralistic, the setting also offers the advantage of a hypocritical society, one that willingly suffered through the revolutionary years of terror but which flinches at a little fictional pain.
    With directorial sleight of hand, Kaufman merges the contest of French philosophies in the early 19th century - enlightenment, rationalism, sensual romanticism, absolutism - with the early 21st century notion of writing as therapy. At some point during the film, the marquis' gothic sexual fantasies metamorphose from pornography into art. That's because what's important to Kaufman is not what the marquis wrote, but his overpowering need to write. In today's sugary, Oprah-tic terms, his compulsion, not his talent, entitles him to honor. He pens comic-book vindictive fantasies? Well, he has Issues that need to be Worked Out. His prose is overripe and rococo? Ah, but he has Feelings he must Express.
    Curiously, the excerpts from the marquis' writings that Doug Wright's script doles out are actually quite tame. The language is replete with elaborate euphemisms such as "Venus mound" and "pikestaff," and the subject matter ranges no further than some rather laughable perversions. Kaufman has his R rating to protect, of course, but choosing more genuinely scabrous excerpts might also nudge the audience out of sympathy with the marquis.
In the film, neither the marquis nor his books injure anyone (except for the pride of the long-suffering marquise) - until the emperor decides to quash his writing, beginning a chain of events that leads to blazing cataclysm. The marquis, locked in solitary confinement, deprived of paper and quills, narrates his final story through a chink in the wall. His fellow inmates - a stereotyped collection of droolers, mutterers and brutes - whisper his gruesome tale from cell to cell, until it finally reaches the marquis' amanuensis, the newly literate chambermaid Madeleine (Kate Winslet). With each new detail, the lunatic messengers become progressively more inflamed.
    Kaufman casts the marquis' writings as a form of protest art - Napoleonic rock 'n' roll. The marquis' natural allies are the dispossessed: Winslet's heavy-breathing ingenue, the asylum's lumpen staff, the convent girl whose marriage to Royer-Collard amounts to sexual enslavement, the Parisian poor who buy "Justine" out of wheelbarrows from a furtive hawker. With no investment in the status quo or its burdensome conventions, these people are free to find his books titillating, unifying, even liberating. Far from acting as an agent of degradation, pornography here echoes the raw defiance of the marginalized classes. The message for our day is clear: Any attempt to limit access to raunch is inherently undemocratic.
    Yet even as the film builds its defense of liberal libertinism, it acquires some reactionary overtones as well. If sexually audacious literature can channel popular frustrations into harmless fantasy, then the safest step for a prudent, prudish autocrat is simply to leave it alone. The marquis' writings acquire their political potency only when the authorities try to stop the flow of ink. This lesson, too, is clear: Allow outrageous entertainment to be produced and it will sate the people's basest and most basic needs, its venom dissipating quickly. Suppress it, and the populace might explode. To those who see subversive potential in free expression, "Quills" offers advice laced with Marie Antoinette-like disdain: "Let 'em write books."
    The film's dispiriting implication has become the entertainment industry's standard line of defense. As soon as the moralists start searching for cultural sources of evil, Hollywood and the pop music corporations rush to proclaim the benign irrelevance of their products: Violence on television corrupts nobody, repellent song lyrics act as a safety valve for people's primitive urges and boiling discontent.
    In the same vein, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum in Cleveland contains a wall of television screens and billboards titled "Don't Knock the Rock," featuring fragmentary clips of Sens. Ernest Hollings and Jesse Helms, Tipper Gore, Jerry Falwell and others over the decades decrying the evil effects of whatever the kids are listening to these days. The polemic not only dishonestly glosses over the distinction between criticism and censorship, it also mocks the forces of outrage and therefore trivializes the art form itself. If rock 'n' roll never represented a genuine threat, then what was it all about?
    All this represents a self-defeating hypocrisy on the part of the entertainment industry. At least the Royer-Collards of the world have always believed passionately in the social power of art.

November 26: From the Washington Post (thanks to Ashley for the tip!):
"Geoffrey Rush's Marquis Role," by Sharon Waxman, Staff Writer
    Beverly Hills, Calif. -- "Imperious, choleric, irascible, extreme in everything, with a dissolute imagination the like of which has never been seen . . . there you have me in a nutshell, and kill me again or take me as I am, for I shall not change." -- From the last will and testament of the Marquis de Sade
    A script lands on your desk. It's a good script, the first leading role you've been offered in a major Hollywood production. And the role you're asked to play is … the Marquis de Sade. If you're Geoffrey Rush (and in this case you are), you seize the opportunity with glee. True, you're not going to get the girl; your character, after all, is an 18th-century pervert locked away in an insane asylum. But so what? Your Marquis won't be a nasty caricature, drooling and leering from the wings. No, he'll be sly and clever, with a wicked sense of humor and a hint of sexual danger that will make him irresistible. Your Marquis will have refined taste and a certain flair. He will stink of perfume, decorate his stone cell with velvet drapes and candelabra, suck on roast pheasant and invite the abbey-warden in for a glass of Bordeaux. And he'll scribble his taboo texts with feverish excitement and a feathered quill--at least until the madness sets in. For the madness is sure to come.
    "He's seething with anger in the way that often comes out in brilliance, because that's control - and strength, charm, arrogance," says Geoffrey Rush. The actor, 49, is smoking and sipping a glass of wine in the midday California sun, an alien from the planet of Laurence Olivier blinking at the airbrushed beauty of the Four Seasons Hotel. "I tended to play some scenes as if I was a 4-year-old, demanding my due," he says. "I was interested in finding the tantrums just below the surface."
    Thus Geoffrey Rush - whose gifts were introduced to the world with "Shine," "Elizabeth" and "Shakespeare in Love" - brings us the next gem of a performance in the not-for-the-squeamish drama "Quills" (opening in Washington Dec. 8). The film, directed by Philip Kaufman ("The Right Stuff," "The Unbearable Lightness of Being"), has been making noise on the Hollywood buzz circuit since last summer as a powerful tale about repression and freedom with unmistakably contemporary overtones.
    Kaufman "has created a protean Gothic shocker: sensual, witty, touching and, ultimately, jolting," one enraptured critic, Michael Sragow, wrote in Salon as far back as July. "Audiences will settle into this movie as into a pungent and exotic bath whose elements are not herbs but sharp emotions: from randiness to romantic longing, from revenge to bereavement and atonement."
    Rush is joined in the cast by Michael Caine, who plays the repressive disciplinarian to Sade's unbridled sybarite, and by Joaquin Phoenix and Kate Winslet. The entire cast is winning praise, but Rush - who goes from bewigged and silk-frocked erotic to stark-naked lunatic - carries the film, his Sade praised by the New York Times last week as "a gleeful voluptuary unfettered by either morality or what for him would be the most venal of sins, sentimentality… As portrayed by Rush, Sade's spoiled conviviality is a disease; this awe-inspiring sociopath infects others with the need to do his bidding, and they go along happily." Even the reticent Rush seems satisfied. "This was pretty special," he acknowledges, lighting up another in a string of Benson and Hedges. "Phil [Kaufman] said from Day One: 'I want a transfusion of energy from the screen into the audience.' And you've got to back that up - with humor, with rigorous argument, with ideas, with fun… I knew [the director] would galvanize this disparate group of actors - just throw us into the furnace and see what slag emerged. He insisted on it being pleasurable to watch this quartet of people, and I think he's achieved all of that."
    "Quills" began in the 1980s as a play by the New York-based Doug Wright, a fictional tale set among historical characters. But the work sprang from contemporary events: Wright's anger over Sen. Jesse Helms's attempts to yank federal funding from photographer Robert Mapplethorpe and from the National Endowment for the Arts. "I came to think of Jesse Helms and Mapplethorpe as bedfellows rather than adversaries," says Wright, "helping one another's careers, fueling one another's rage, coasting on one another's fame. Extremism seems to breed extremism. The more declamatory the politicians become, the more extreme the artist becomes."
    This theme is at the heart of "Quills." Michael Caine, playing the real-life Dr. Royer-Collard, is sent by Napoleon to the asylum of Charenton to squelch the unrepentant Marquis de Sade, imprisoned in the late 1700s for publishing erotic novels. Unknown to the enlightened head of the asylum, Abbey Coulmier (played by Phoenix), Sade is smuggling out his writings with the help of a young laundress, Madeleine (Winslet). But as Collard brings his severe methods to bear on the stubborn Sade, gradually stripping him of the trappings of civility - and finally leaving him naked, in an empty stone cell - the writer responds with ever more extreme acts of defiance, mocking his critics and persisting in writing his prose in wine, in blood and finally, in his own excretions. The madness of this tug-of-wills is mirrored in the asylum, which devolves into a truly terrifying madhouse, with all control cast aside. "The more you suppress the Marquis, the more the terror is unleashed," Rush says. "The more repressive Collard becomes--the more the Marquis loses his defenses--the more his arrogance becomes overpowering."
    But the script, by Wright, does not absolve the Marquis of responsibility for his incendiary writings, either. It is not only Collard's tactics that unleash the beast among the asylum inmates; it is also the writer's sadistic, provocative prose. Amazingly, it still has the ability to shock today: In "Justine," Sade created a husband who ritually bleeds his wife to death; in "Juliette," the heroine of the title performs a black Mass with the pope, disemboweling a pregnant girl on the Vatican's altar.
    Sade the character was a natural fit for the theatrically trained Rush, but when he received the script for "Quills," he says he thought what he always thinks when offered a juicy role: "There's somebody great out there who should get this part." But he was tempted by the Marquis, whose writings have been continually revisited over the past two centuries and have inspired at least half a dozen other movies (including a French film called "Sade," scheduled to be released next year). "Some of his writing is shrill, cantankerous, nasty--but there's something about it, you can't get away from it," the actor says. "There are not many people who convey such a terrifying, depraved view of the human soul with such relentless force. In my mind he's a great figure of history. I didn't think, 'Oh, maybe this is a bad career move. Will my audience like me?'" he says. "When you get intoxicated by the ideas, when you laugh out loud scene by scene, you put your hand up pretty quickly."
   If Rush seems at ease in a period film shot in Europe about grand ideas like freedom of expression and its limits, he seems equally out of place in Hollywood. Seated at the terrace restaurant, he is striking-looking but far from movie-star handsome: His wispy brown hair, with bits of gray, falls across a long, pale face punctuated by brilliant blue eyes. He is lanky, wearing a rumpled white dress shirt and jeans. He speaks in long, literate sentences about "Quills" and the state of art-house film.
    A fair-haired, California-firm waitress approaches, and Rush squints before giving his order: "Do you have calves' liver?" he asks. "And mashed potatoes? I love liver and mash." She suppresses a smile - the menu is mostly sushi and chopped salads - and checks with the chef, returning to say they do not. Rush settles on the lamb chops, and orders more wine. Sigh. He may never get used to this place.
    The son of an accountant father and shop assistant mother, Rush grew up in Melbourne, Australia, and took to stage acting early; he was plucked from a troupe at the University of Queensland in 1971 to join a new state theater company. A few years later he took off to Paris to study mime. For a time, he cultivated the role of the tragicomic clown, playing such characters as "King Lear's" Fool and a St. Petersburg clerk confined to a mental asylum in "The Diary of a Madman."
   It's no wonder that Scott Hicks, who directed "Shine," sought out Rush to star as David Helfgott, the child prodigy pianist who spent years in psychiatric institutions before finding his way back to the stage. The actor, as Hicks has noted, is drawn to characters "whose minds wander the fine edges of sanity." The performance astonished audiences who had never seen Rush, and won him 1996's Oscar for Best Actor. Since then he has portrayed the owner of Shakespeare's theater in "Shakespeare in Love" (which brought another Oscar nomination, in 1998) and the quietly menacing consigliere in "Elizabeth." He also joined less successful productions, playing Javert in "Les Miserables" and co-starring in the forgettable "House on Haunted Hill" and "Mystery Men."
    But generally he has avoided the nonsense of Hollywood stardom. He still lives in Melbourne when he's not filming abroad. He is married to an actress, Jane Menelaus (who plays the Marquis' estranged wife in "Quills"). They have two children. "The last three years have been a very different kind of life," he acknowledges, referring vaguely to his sudden renown. "We keep in touch with what we're about as a family."
    His salary has taken an appreciable jump from the $500 a week he earned for a couple of decades as a theater performer. But he lives simply, taking public transportation most places. "That's my style," he says. "You can radiate and manipulate your own sense of celebrity if you choose to. If you walk somewhere surrounded by 10 people, you'll attract attention. Maybe some people need that."
    And he turns down most offers of work. "In my own befuddled brain I should keep a list - part of your creativity is what you don't do… I like every project to have some element of surprise." Many proposals seem attractive at first, he says, but upon scrutiny, "you think, 'Sure, it's a gleaming product, but it's not true. It's not honest. Not real.'"
He recently turned down the role of a British soccer coach in a movie about a team living through a plane crash. "The challenge of that was amazing, but ultimately I think the guy had some regional background that I was never going to find," he says. "I couldn't find the cultural juice of that person, nor the authentic dialect. It's a gut feeling. You follow your hunches."
    He has another major role coming up, in a John Boorman thriller due out in December, "The Tailor of Panama." He pauses. "I have acted for a long time, but I have no definition of it now. I just go out and put my fingers on the holes and hope the right tune comes out. And on a good day, an interesting tune."
    "No kind of sensation is keener and more active than that of pain; its impressions are unmistakable." --"The 120 Days of Sodom," the Marquis de Sade
    Born Donatien Alphonse de Sade in 1740 in Paris, the Marquis lived through the end of the French monarchy, participated in the Revolution and witnessed Robespierre's terror as the modern state was born. Sade was first jailed in 1768, for accosting a prostitute. Although he spent 27 years behind bars, it was primarily words, not deeds, that kept him there. The word "sadism" derives from his sexually obsessive writings; in jailhouse novels he stubbornly expounded on his philosophy that "virtue is vice, and vice is virtue." Reversing the Rousseauian principle that the natural order of things is noble and virtuous, Sade insisted that self-restraint goes against human nature, writing: "Crime is the soul of lust. What would pleasure be if it were not accompanied by crime? It is not the object of debauchery that excites us, rather the idea of evil."
    Three times Sade dodged the guillotine (he witnessed hundreds of beheadings from his Paris jail cell). Near the end of his life Sade was placed by Napoleon in the less repressive Charenton asylum, with his relatively good conditions paid for by his family. He died there in 1814, of respiratory failure.
    In an attempt to understand the source of Sade's philosophy, Rush read deeply in Sade's writings and consulted psychiatrists. He learned that when the Marquis de Sade was 4, he won notoriety for violently beating the Prince of Conde, his aristocratic superior and elder by four years, in a dispute over a toy. His parents sent him away to the care of a doting grandmother, who along with his four aunts indulged the Marquis' every wish. His father, an ambassador, disapproved and sent him to live with an uncle, the Abbe de Sade, who also dabbled in earthly pleasures. Says Rush: "When I spoke to a psychiatrist before the shoot, he told me this kind of anger, resentment, this fear of being unloved - of being 'unlovable to the parent,' was the quote - creates a personality which is fearful of intimacy, fearful of love, who will go to the abyss. It's complicated. He was aristocratic, however else you want to define him. He had a narcissistic personality disorder."
    Wright says Rush would show up for early scenes bathed in pungent patchouli oil, and that he focused on humor mixed with sexual menace to interpret the script. "We've seen him be vulnerable and eccentric in 'Shine,' bombastic and hilarious in 'Shakespeare in Love,' but I don't think we've seen him deeply sexual or volcanic in the way he is in this movie," says the playwright, who had seen many interpretations of Sade in the stage version. "I've seen spectacular actors tackle this role…  I've seen it acted 50 times. But Geoffrey brought a depth of feeling to it that really levels me, a demented conviction that I think puts it over in a cathartic way."
    Director Kaufman shot the film in sequence, allowing for the deliberate, gradual shift in tone from naughty cat-and-mouse by the incorrigible Marquis into the crescendos of horror in a madhouse gone mad. Wright honed and revised the script along the way, cutting several scenes of dialogue between the Marquis and the abbey after the director decided that this ground had been covered. And there were long discussions about exactly when Sade would remove his wig, a pivotal moment in the emotional and physical stripping of the character. They decided to make it the final, dramatic gesture when the wardens take Sade's clothing. "It is the first time," says Rush, "when you see the Marquis have to reveal himself. You're aware it can't get bigger, louder, funnier; it's got to be something that creeps in deeper."
    For Rush, playing out the tragedy of his character in scenes that day after day required him to be nude and utterly exposed, "Quills" revealed new elements of his own abilities - but only later, when he watched the completed film. "I saw things in my performance that I never actually did," he acknowledges, reaching for a final cigarette. "Part of screen magic is when the director is in tune with you, and when the editor is in tune with you and they create more than is actually there. That happens in this movie." Rush adds: "Creativity is about combustion, throwing a lot of unfamiliar chemicals into the beaker, and you don't know what's going to happen."

November 26: From Movie Web:
"Meet the Marquis de Sade - The Pleasure Is All His"
    Every once in a rare while, a human being comes along who questions all the basic assumptions of society, who probes the very limits of morality, who negates the old, comfortable ideas of what it means to be human. Throughout history, such people have always been viewed as dangerous - and have, ironically, prompted the most extreme and morally questionable responses. At the turn of the 18th, century, in the wake of the bloody French Revolution, one such dangerous maverick was undoubtedly the Marquis De Sade, the originator of the term sadism. Sade was so scandalous he continues to shock us in the 21st century - and his legacy continues to raise the debate about just what to do with those who gleefully explore the most sinister taboos.
    QUILLS boldly enters that debate by imagining the final days of the Marquis De Sade as a blistering black comedy thriller, a battle between lust and love - and between the brutality of censorship and the unpredictable consequences of free expression.
    Featuring a cast that includes Academy Award winner Geoffrey Rush, Oscar nominee Kate Winslet, rising star Joaquin Phoenix, and Academy Award winner Michael Caine, QUILLS playfully turns Sade's story into a sexy, sinister and at once shattering tale he himself might have written. The motivation at the core of Doug Wright's scathingly witty stage play and subsequent film adaptation: to channel Sade's blasphemous and morally challenging sense of mischief, eroticism and creative triumph into a moving tale of madness and love. And it was this provocative tone - part scandalous entertainment, part bold inquiry - that Philip Kaufman hoped to capture on screen.
[Movie Web published, at the end of the above feature, commentary on de Sade by screenplay author Doug Wright. It's posted on the "Wright Interviews" page.]

November 25: From if Magazine:
"Actor Geoffrey Rush on 'Quills,' The Marquis de Sade and Running Around Naked on Film," by Pamela Harland
    Oscar talk has begun again for Australian actor Geoffrey Rush. Four years ago Rush took America's breath away with his portrayal of the deeply disturbed, yet amazingly talented, piano prodigy David Helfgott. Rush earned many awards including the Golden Globe and the coveted Oscar that year. Since then Rush has appeared in good films like SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE and ELIZABETH and not so good ones like MYSTERY MEN and HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL. Yet since 1996 we haven't seen another performance from him quite so endearing and brilliant as the tortured soul Rush played perfectly in SHINE. Until now. Rush again is at his finest in Philip Kaufman's QUILLS.
    Rush, 49, plays The Marquis de Sade, the controversial French author of sexually explicit novels like JUSTINE (1791) and JULIETTE (1797). Kate Winslet co-stars with Rush as Madeline LeClerc, de Sade's laundress who smuggles his last writings out of the asylum. And last year's supporting actor Academy Award winner for THE CIDER HOUSE RULES Michael Caine is Sade's doctor.
    The film has garnered more Oscar buzz than any other film released this year planting the actor at the top of the list come award time. But you won't see Rush carrying on about any awards. He'd rather not jinx the project. "It's exciting there is a buzz around the film," says Rush. "I can't whittle away on the excitement. Audiences are responding and getting it and being enthralled by it and not being shocked and being turned off by it or scared of it because it's too sassy and smart and entertaining for that." But don't misunderstand Rush. By all means he has high hopes for the Doug Wright written QUILLS and the possibility of the film receiving oodles and oodles of awards. "We want to see lines around the blocks," says Rush, "and maybe a little gold."
    Rush, whose "Gold" for SHINE sits comfortable on a bookshelf in his study, relished the opportunity to work with famed director Philip Kaufman. Knowing of his eclectic work on such renowned films as THE UNBEARABLE LIGHTNESS OF BEING, THE RIGHT STUFF and HENRY AND JUNE, Rush worried maybe the two of them would not relate coming from completely different backgrounds and different generations. Surprisingly the two did click. "We just found that we connected," amazes Rush. "We giggled at the same things and I think it's a very important part of the process that you don't hate the director because it probably means the project won't be very good. If you aren't going to have some kind of collaboration between you and the director you will as an actor retreat into one's trite and tested and true and safe self. You will never be brave enough to be free wielding and adventurous." The Rush/Kaufman mix proved to be successful. And Rush applauds Kaufman for his ability to provide a certain kind of atmosphere on set. "Phil Kaufman generates a great daringness and enthusiasm and openness with which he can discuss ideas and everything counts."
    Married for 12 years to actress Jane Menelaus - he and Menelaus have two children Angelica, 8, and James, 5 - Rush says he and his wife bounce ideas off one another when working on projects except when they are working together. In QUILLS Menelaus plays Renee Pelagie and Rush says the two never discussed the making of the film for the entire length of the shoot. "When we work together we hardly ever talk about what we are doing," explains Rush. "If I'm in something and Jane's not or vice versa than we inevitably use each other as a sounding board. Most of that is really big sessions about who you are working with that day. `You can't believe what happened in rehearsal. He has no idea what he is doing.' Or whatever."
    Just as he did in SHINE Rush leaves nothing to the imagination in QUILLS. He gives each role his all … literally. In QUILLS, like in SHINE, Rush appears sans clothing. But Rush insists it's no big deal and suggests it's part of the character he is revealing and not really the actor. "I never really have any problems in terms of vanity," says the modest Rush. "But it was the costume designer whose job was well and truly over for me at that point who said a great thing. She went to see the dailies and came back and said, `You wear your nakedness like another costume. That's perfect, that's exactly what you need to keep doing.'"
    While Rush explains his ability to be so comfortable whilst so bare it is obvious he finds something very invigorating about acting in the buff. "There's something very liberating about it," says Rush. "I can't divorce it from the specifics of the story which is about a man being so stripped naked you see him go from being a very foppish, flamboyant civilized kinda creature to unmasking him and revealing who the writer is and who the man is inside of this costume. Just when you think that he might be humiliated and diminished by that act of repression he messes up further and much more darkly with the priest's mind."
    Next up for Rush is THE TAILOR OF PANAMA, co-starring Pierce Brosnan and Jamie Lee Curtis. Rush plays Harry Pendel, a man who has a secret past he is hiding and who wears three piece suits throughout the film but, jokes Rush, " I don't get to take any of them off." Brosnan befriends Rush in the film which Rush says involves domestic fidelity and trust along with international fidelity and trust. While filming it wasn't he whom the fans went crazy for admits Rush, it was Brosnan. "People certainly recognized Pierce. In certain areas the town would be filming and people would be like it was a Hollywood premiere shooting outside of the hotel. There were people ten deep with cops holding them back saying, 'Bond!'"
    Maybe he doesn't have the smoothness, debonair grace and popularity as James Bond but Rush has the charm and talent of a movie star. And most likely, come Oscar time it will be he who receives the attention for QUILLS which Rush says, "It's as close as I am ever going to get to being a romantic lead. I live with that."

November 24: Here's a feature on Geoffrey Rush from the Sydney Morning Herald:
"Rush For The Superlatives"
    Three years after winning the Academy Award for best actor, Geoffrey Rush's Oscar chances are once again being talked up. American critics have lavished praise on the Australian actor's latest screen performance, shedding his clothes to play the asylum-confined Marquis de Sade in director Philip Kaufman's provocative Quills, which premiered in the United States on Wednesday.
    "Geoffrey Rush could override the film's envelope-pushing subject matter to another Oscar nomination as that toxic free spirit, de Sade, the French nobleman and pornographer who straddled the French Revolution and Napoleonic era and gave his name to sadism," wrote The Boston Globe critic Jay Carr.
    "Rush dines stylishly on the scenery as the imprisoned nobleman who writes on his clothes when paper is taken away, writes on his skin when his clothes are taken away, writes with his blood when his ink is taken away, and keeps writing by smearing the walls of his cell with his own excrement when his blood runs low."
    According to The Los Angeles Daily News' Bob Strauss, "things are kept lively and vigorous in Quills, due in no small part to our irrepressible host".
    "Rush's performance is so far over everything we can't even see the top from where he's operating. It's a lip-smacking, eye-rolling, pun-hissing barrage of unbridled licence - unconscionable by many measures of good acting and utterly right for the game at hand."
    Elvis Mitchell of The New York Times praised the elegance of Kaufman's direction and his handling of the cast, which "make for the kind of euphoric stylishness that has been missing from moviegoing for some time. Much of that elan comes from Geoffrey Rush, who plays de Sade as a gleeful voluptuary unfettered by either morality or what for him would be the most venal of sins, sentimentality. De Sade is a flamboyant pansexual, a glittering vulture who exploits others for his own delectation."
    Rush's co-stars include Michael Caine, playing his nemesis, a fascist doctor, and Kate Winslet, as a virginal laundress.
    Rush will fly back to Australia from the US this weekend. On Monday he is due on the set of Lantana, Ray Lawrence's first feature since Bliss.

November 23: From TV Guide Insider:
"Geoffrey Rush's Risque Role," by Daniel R. Coleridge
    Geoffrey Rush - who won a Best Actor Oscar for playing a cuckoo concert pianist in 1996's Shine - has gone mental again. In Quills, he plays the Marquis de Sade, the infamous French aristocrat who was committed in the 18th century for writing erotic novels filled with sex and torture. Though it's a period piece, "[this film is] not musty and erudite," Rush tells TV Guide Online. "Its kinship movies are The Silence of the Lambs, The Exorcist and Sleepy Hollow. It's lurid... a great, gothic B-movie."
Indeed, luridness abounds as Rush spends much of the movie nude, alternately amusing and aggravating co-stars Kate Winslet, Joaquin Phoenix and Michael Caine with sinfully suggestive banter. "He's completely cavalier and loves talking dirty all the time," the actor laughs. "[But] I don't think there's one ounce of deliberately provocative, shocking material to sensationalize... the film. You don't have to have me fully naked in the movie, but in whatever moments you see it, it's not just there to expose flesh."
Still, Quills plainly has its gratuitously steamy facets. (Witness Phoenix's panting priest and Winslet's wanton washerwoman, ready to bust out of her bodice whenever she reads Sade's saucy stories aloud.) But rather than just a raunched up Merchant-Ivory flick, Rush sees this movie as an exploration of the Marquis's complex psychology.
    "[As an actor,] it's hard to invent a man who wrote in such an extraordinary way," he says. "So I did some research and was fascinated to find out that the Freudians would say he had a narcissistic complex. There's a great fear of intimacy, where you build up this personality based on humiliating and demeaning whomever you're with. [So the Marquis is] a timebomb of rage. But, at the same time, he masks all of that with charm and brilliance. That gave me a good groundwork for his sadistic, bitchy wit."
    Having stripped his naughty nobleman bare - figuratively and literally - Rush looks forward to covering up for future roles. Earlier this year, he wrapped filming on the John Le Carré spy thriller, The Tailor of Panama, co-starring Pierce Brosnan and Jamie Lee Curtis. "And I'm going back to Australia to do a film called Lantana," he reports. "I play a dean of law - in a suit!"

November 22: Mr. Showbiz published this interview with Geoffrey Rush:
The Aussie thespian gets down and dirty with de Sade in the controversial Quills - by Stephen Schaefer
    It's a little disconcerting, maybe even strangely disappointing, to find out that Geoffrey Rush - who romps around stark naked in Quills as the infamous Marquis de Sade, the 19th-century author and sexual predator who coined the term "sadomasochism" - is so down-to-earth. Whips, handcuffs, ball gags? Forget it; Rush won't even wear a leather jacket.
    Which makes his turn as the bard of bondage all the more impressive. The brutally bawdy biopic, adapted from Doug Wright's off-Broadway play by veteran Philip Kaufman and featuring Kate Winslet, Joaquin Phoenix, and Michael Caine, has some folks talking Oscar and others bemoaning its vulgarity.
    If Rush was concerned about the mixed reaction, he didn't let on. Resembling a British banker on casual Friday in a dapper double-breasted, pinstriped Armani suit, with his pale blue shirt open at the neck and no tie to be seen, Rush was in fine spirits. While sipping a soda and dragging on English cigarettes, the Oscar-winning Australian held forth on a variety of topics, ranging from de Sade's influence on modern society to the splendors of pornography and working in the nude.
How does it feel to be one of the trailblazing members of the Australian hunk brigade?
[Laughs] There have been other cycles, you know. I think it's all accidental. There's no secret establishment in the deserts of Australia where they're turning out hunky men and beautiful women ready to invade the village of Hollywood. I'd like to think what's interesting is we do tend to produce an individualist variety of people. I'm probably perceived here as being English, but I feel very Australian.
Was the word "Titanic" off-limits while filming Quills?
As to what - my naked scenes? [Laughs] The only thought that passed through my mind was that it's great [that Kate Winslet's] playing the laundry lass. I knew she'd be down on Titanic. But no, she's a great, playful actress and likes to make her discoveries through investigation and mucking around and I found that stimulating.
What made you decide to do Quills?
Gee, I could be cheeky and say it's the stage direction on Page 25 that said, "The Marquis tongue-kisses Kate Winslet." But, you know, your agent says, "There's a script here that I think you'll be very interested in about the Marquis de Sade, but I warn you, you'll spend the last third of the movie naked." That instantly makes your ears prick up. … It's one of those hot-potato scripts: You read it and you can't put it down and you wonder, "Where is this film heading?" The character has such extraordinary dimensions; he has the façade of being very charming and engagingly arrogant and witty, but he's packed with inner demons and rage and volcanic tantrum-throwing abilities.
Were you concerned about the nudity?
Are there going to be Austin Powers-type carefully placed bowls of fruit and candelabras? No. … It is, on one level, a prison story about an impulsive, creative, perverse genius who you can't keep down. When they strip him naked, they think they've got him. They've taken away all his resources - and the audience at this point is thinking, "Who is this man?" He does present such a brittle, impenetrable persona to the world. He is a legendary, fading, glamorous rock star of the aristocracy in his own deluxe suite in the insane asylum. So that degree of revelation was never a problem. It was so much a part of the events of the story.
Every generation seems to discover de Sade.
It's certainly true. When I was at university in the late '60s and early '70s, he was definitely a counterculture icon. He was on all our extracurricular reading lists. Then, to whatever degrees of sexual liberation were appearing on campuses or in society, he seemed a good hero to follow.
Why has de Sade remained so interesting, even controversial?
His writing, first, which is still toxic and perverse and intriguing enough in the dimensions of its depravity. But I think people are appreciating a weird sort of ironic, bitter humor there that hadn't been picked up before. That may be symptomatic of our own age, where there is so much change in such a very short time, where people lose track of a certain moral guidance or even clarity in politics. We feel some connection with those comparable things that were happening in the French Revolution, when the world was shifting from an aristocratic feudal structure to the new ideology of democracy. He can still work for us.
And secondly?
He was a tabloid hero. Even if he never wrote anything, we'd be fascinated by the notion of the celebrity he enjoyed because of his sexual proclivities. And again, that's something present in the last decade of contemporary life - a slightly prurient voyeuristic media dragging out the privacy of people when they've apparently crossed the line of what's newsworthy. De Sade was like that in his lifetime, 220 years ago. So he is the man of the millennium. Was he on any one of those lists, you know, this time last year? Who's the greatest musician, Mozart or Ricky Martin? [Laughs] I'd love de Sade to have been up there, because in a curious way, he prophesied the double edge of humankind.
You mean saint and sinner?
In an era where the Age of Enlightenment was taking over from centuries of superstition and mysticism, suddenly he's talking about man as a depraved beast; there is something in-built in humanity that aspires to God but likes to hang out with the devil. When we were reassessing ourselves this time last year and capping off the millennium, the 20th century came off pretty badly in terms of that nerve-ending exposure of what humankind is capable of. Whether it's the slaughter of Europe in the fields of World War I or ethnic cleansing or the Holocaust, the world operates in a pretty sadistic way to achieve so-called enlightenment of nobility and ideals.
Is there anyone the equivalent of de Sade today? Celebrities, perhaps?
There are probably minor examples that seem comparable. People throw around names like Marilyn Manson or Howard Stern. I think Stern's sense of humor is very Sadean, a deliberate provocation to stir up this material and challenge us and bring it out in the open. A certain in-your-face exposé of human raunchiness.
Larry Flynt?
I don't know. Flynt was a businessman finding a niche in the marketplace, perhaps overlapping de Sade. De Sade was locked away in a jail but compelled to write. He wasn't doing it as a businessman. He triggered more that underground lineage that leads through Baudelaire to Henry Miller and Jean Genêt.
Do you find the celebrity culture corrupting?
I don't know. I suppose I recoil or flinch slightly when I hear the notion of celebrity. It's not what I put down on my tax form; what I do put down is actor. But it's what happens if you do certain international films: You achieve a profile. Maybe that's why I choose to maintain my life in Australia. I really get only caught up in that other side of it in promoting the films, I suppose.
Is porn really a censorship issue?
I did a film with John Boorman, The Tailor of Panama, and it's about copyright and control. John was saying, "Isn't it amazing?! The Internet is the most democratic expression you can find. There's no one who can control it." What's more interesting is who's trying to control it. I think that is what [Quills] is sort of about, watching the eternal cat-and-mouse game of the forces of repression and control operating against the creative impulse to express.
Ever watch the Spice Channel in a dark hotel room?
What's the Spice Channel? Is that like Panty World or something? I'll tell you a great story: A friend of mine was doing a school project with her niece, who's like 7 or 8, and it was on beavers. They looked up stuff on the Net through Ask Jeeves - and it took them a long time to get off those [porn] sites. They discovered they actually had greater success by typing in the words "dam builders." To me that reveals a hell of a lot.
When you first started, in your poor struggling student days, did you ever consider going into porn?
[Laughs heartily] Ah, isn't it funny, I must go to the wrong parties. I never met anyone who said, "Hey, do you want to earn some bucks on the side?" Interestingly enough, one of the last things I did at university - in the fashion of the times, people always took their gear off - I'd come out in this comedy sketch and say, "This is where the people get their gear off." And I'd just strip and get a laugh and pragmatically walk off the stage. That's as pornographic as I got.
Are porn stars legitimate?
I don't know. There's a backlog of movies where people are clothed that I'm desperate to catch up on. It tends to be an area that is there to serve quite a specific function. Unfortunately, great acting isn't one of them.
How does leather make you feel?
I don't really wear leather. Not for any ideological reasons, but I always feel a bit self-conscious. I suppose it's from my youth; hoodlums wore leather in my youth. I don't have leather anything apart from belts and shoes. Nothing with studs on it. I find it annoying to even have the label on the inside of my shirt rubbing against my backbone, so I'm not into that degree of titillation. Somebody asked me the other day, "What's your personal threshold of pain?" And it was a good question in terms of this question. I said, "I'm the kind of guy who's testing if the iron's hot, I get annoyed if it singes my finger." So I don't wait for everybody to go out so I can do more with the iron.
So, if given a choice to be either a sadist or a masochist, you'd definitely prefer to be the sadist?
I suppose in very broad strokes, the very nature of acting is to a degree sadistic. One has to think of sadism as not being sexual, because the sadistic personality means to demean and humiliate the person they're encountering. Maybe there's something in the equation that's in the nature of wit or humor. If you involve a member of an audience in some kind of exchange, it's instantly sadistic. But in a playful way.
Isn't acting masochistic? You're constantly being rejected, being exposed to humiliation?
That's true, if you take it into the full job description. Whether you thrive on it or not, there is that fundamental question that keeps coming up: Why do I keep doing this to myself?
Aren't we all either sadists or masochists at heart? Is that part of the appeal of de Sade?
It's a big spectrum, and psychologists tell me that more often than not, it's present in the one personality. De Sade himself was sadomasochistic. He was in and out of prison so many times in his life that there must have been a subliminal pleasure of kicking the world, and he must have been secretly enjoying the punishment he got from that. So, yeah, both sides of the coin are in there.
Which was worse: House on Haunted Hill or Mystery Men?
[Laughs] I don't wish to really judge them as final products, because the experience of making both of them was fantastic. In some ways, I chose to make an apprenticeship that I knew I needed to serve, because I had a lot of success with one of my very first films with Shine. But all I could see in Shine were my mistakes. So in the haphazard nature of an actor's career, I happened to do a few "period" films in a row. … I look back on them for the shoot. They didn't end up hitting their mark, but it depends on whose perception. House on Haunted Hill served its function: It was made for 7 or 8 million bucks and it grossed $40 million in two weekends. I think at that point it was the highest-grossing Halloween film ever. It depends on how you view success.
For Quills, success might be measured in Oscars.
It is heading towards that period of the year when more challenging, less comfortable material is aired. If the analysts use the words "Oscar bait" or "Oscar buzz" around something like that, it's exciting to think the film might get a leg up. Quills is not going to open wide, it's going to make a journey to finding an audience. Sometimes finding an audience for this sort of film is helped by generating buzz.

November 22: I found this feature in Newday:
"Kaufman Interprets Sade in 'Quills'," by David Germain, AP Movie Writer
    LOS ANGELES (AP) -- When Hollywood decided it was time for a film about that most sexually lurid of writers, the Marquis de Sade, it was not hard to settle on a director. Philip Kaufman has made a career out of adapting difficult literary material for the screen. He relished the prospect of crafting the harrowing yet wildly comic ''Quills,'' a fictionalized account of de Sade's asylum years as a writer oppressed by the state.
    The film stars Geoffrey Rush as the brutally subversive de Sade. Kate Winslet co-stars as a laundress who smuggles de Sade's writings out for publication, Joaquin Phoenix is the asylum Abbe who is sympathetic to de Sade's need for expression, and Michael Caine plays a vicious doctor dispatched by Napoleon to ''cure'' and silence de Sade at any cost.
    ''In a way, it smacks of a fable almost -- a fairy tale,'' Kaufman said. ''An ogre in the dank cave writing away, his work being smuggled into the outside world by a virginal maiden, with a virginal abbe in the place. Then the emperor sends someone to repress this guy, and this game begins of expression vs. oppression.''
    As director of ''Henry & June,'' the first movie saddled with the NC-17 rating -- a box-office kiss of death -- Kaufman does seem an ideal choice to spin the tale of an artist fighting a puritanical bureaucracy. The 64-year-old director often has taken on extreme material and characters from unconventional points of view. He spun an anti-hero variation on the Western with his depiction of the Jesse James gang in ''The Great Northfield, Minnesota Raid'' in 1972. He made acclaimed films out of such seemingly uncinematic books as Tom Wolfe's ''The Right Stuff'' and Milan Kundera's ''The Unbearable Lightness of Being.'' He audaciously remade ''Invasion of the Body Snatchers,'' transforming the sci-fi classic from a tale of small-town paranoia to one of urban madness with a chillingly hopeless ending. The lusty ''Unbearable Lightness of Being'' failed to grab mainstream audiences. ''Henry & June,'' an explicit tale of sexual relations among Anais Nin, Henry Miller and his wife, initially did strong business under the NC-17 rating but faded as theater owners balked at showing it.
    Still, Kaufman said he believes ''Quills'' and other intelligent, sexually charged films have box-office potential if given a chance. ''I know there's a big audience for movies like this,'' Kaufman said. ''I feel that films that expand the libido, that are sexy in nature, that are about sexuality, things we talk about all the time in our everyday lives, they can be stimulating and healthy. Yet the hypocrites who want to control everything say they are unhealthy.'' Since his last film, 1993's ''Rising Sun,'' Kaufman had struggled futilely to get other movies off the ground. Then he was approached by Fox Searchlight for ''Quills''; it was the sort of dark project Kaufman typically had to pitch to reluctant studios.
    ''Quills'' screenwriter Doug Wright, who adapted the script from his own play, said he was thrilled when Kaufman signed on. ''I thought he had the fearlessness and wicked sense of humor that was right for the movie,'' Wright said. ''He makes incredibly smart movies that never feel rarefied or dry, and this particular tale needed to feel like a reckless, full-throttle ride.''
    Before meeting Kaufman, Rush had wondered whether the director's earlier adversities might have left him ''embittered, world weary and despairing. Instead, I just met this vibrant dynamo of enthusiasm and lucid ideas,'' Rush said. Kaufman shares a connection with writers such as Miller, ''artists compelled to express with no restraint,'' Rush said. ''He almost occupies a comparable position in the film industry. He keeps wanting to create, which I think he does very well, really serious but delightful adult entertainment.''
Though he grew up in Chicago on a diet of American films, Kaufman came of age in the 1950s, when he felt U.S. movies had been diminished by Hollywood blacklisting. Living in Europe in the early 1960s, he was influenced by new-wave cinema from France and Italy, along with the films of Akira Kurosawa, Ingmar Bergman and other international directors. His films often have been described as European in sensibility.
    Nearly a decade after ''Henry & June'' prompted the Motion Picture Association of America to create the NC-17 classification, Kaufman said it is time to reevaluate the ratings system again. Instead of a designation for serious adult films, NC-17 essentially has become the new X rating, which mainstream theaters equate with porn, Kaufman said. ''It was a betrayal to the adult world in a way, but people haven't stopped rallying to the cause,'' Kaufman said. ''Hopefully, we're approaching a time where they realize the system needs to be more complex.''
    ''Quills'' picked up an R rating, which means children conceivably could see it if accompanied by an adult. But Kaufman is clear about the movie's audience. ''This is not a film for children. We're not trying to get children in to see this movie,'' he said. ''But I think it's a great date movie because people can really talk about it afterward, which you can't do with most movies you see.''
    Kaufman, who has collaborated with his wife, Rose, on several films and whose son Peter was a producer on ''Quills,'' hopes to avoid another run of tough luck like the one he had before this movie, when project after project fell through. He is focusing on three projects: a film biography of Liberace, an adaptation of Saul Bellow's ''Henderson, the Rain King,'' and a film about convicted spy Aldrich Ames.
''I hope I don't spend a lot of time in bitterness,'' Kaufman said. ''I can tell you that being unemployed for long periods of time is never a happy time. I and the people around me suffer from that. I'm unemployed more than many of the unemployed are unemployed. Years go by. But at the same time, I'm always optimistic. I'm always looking for something else that I'm going to be involved in. And when the going gets tough, you go for cappuccinos.''

November 21: I scanned the article in the December issue of Premiere about the corset Kate wears in Quills. GO!

November 21: I have typed the interview with Geoffrey Rush from the December issue of Premiere Magazine. There are some great quotes about him from Kate.
    Geoffrey Rush -- He shines in roles that require "filling off the perch." In Quills, he takes his biggest plunge yet, playing the notorious Marquis de Sade.
    You'd know that Geoffrey Rush is an actor simply by observing him. His conversation is peppered with references to the great dramatists. He lifts his chin with an aristocratic subtlety. He makes gentle flourishes with his hands to accentuate his points. Even his signs are theatrical. As the 49-year-old Australian reflects on his salad days, a Marlboro Menthol perched just so between practiced fingers, he appears the caricature of the actor's actor. Until you realize he's the real thing. "I was in Paris as a student at a mime and movement school in the '70s," rush recalls. "I read Henry Miller when I was there; I read Ulysses. You talked, breathed, and drank a lot of red wine and literature…"
    And one can easily picture him as a wide-eyed thespian-to-be sitting in just the same way, in a brasserie somewhere on the Left Bank. Today, however, the lean, casually dressed actor is nursing a Guinness in the garden of an L.A. hotel and discussing the literary descendants of the Marquis de Sade. The late-18th-century author, whose writings aimed to elevate sexual perversion to a philosophical plane, is an actor's dream role, and one that Rush brings passionately to life in Philip Kaufman's scabrous and sexy Quills. Based on Doug Wright's play, the movie chronicles the Marquis's incarceration at Charenton Asylum outside Paris, where he endures systematic depredation at the hands of a hard-line government official (Michael Caine) and the tortured Abbe Coulmier (Joaquin Phoenix). Sade begins as a preening, obnoxious, and quite funny rake, and is eventually pushed to the darkest limits of his own resolve. And Rush embodies the struggle for survival with a frankness that is truly shocking.
    "I scare the living daylight out of myself sometimes by saying, 'Okay, now is risk-taking time,'" he says. "There is a line in the play that's not in the film - 'You're carrying on like a demented peacock.' And I thought, 'Yeah, that's it.'"
    "Geoffrey is shameless and unafraid," says Kate Winslet, who plays a young maid at the asylum who helps to smuggle out the Marquis's banned writings. "He doesn't have any hang-ups or pretensions of his own. He would just really lay it on the slab."
    "Kaufman (The Right Stuff, Henry & June) is similarly enthusiastic. "I think a lot of the major actors were fearful of playing such a controversial role," he says. "It is, after all, the Marquis de Sade. Not every movie star is willing to expose themselves, risk everything, to go into it."
    Midway through the film, the abbe forces the Marquis to doff his tattered clothing and spend the remainder of his imprisonment naked. How did Rush handle the weeks of physical and psychological exposure? "You drink heavily," he deadpans, then adds more seriously, "I don't approach my work in a kind of psychotherapeutic way, but there is something terribly cleansing about getting to play all that stuff out. There were some new dimensions to this character that weren't in my repertoire."
    That's quite a statement considering the diversity of roles already on Rush's resume. A classically trained actor who has sifted through most of Chekhov and Shakespeare onstage, Rush burst onto the film landscape with his Oscar-winning performance in 1996's Shine. Oddly enough, while Rush prepared to play the film's disturbed piano virtuoso, he was weathering his own "pre-acute panic disorder." In retrospect, he takes that difficult period in actorly stride. "I think it's in that moment of falling off the perch that the most interesting things happen to you as a person. And that's always what you're drawing on."
    Since Shine, he has appeared in such projects as Elizabeth, Shakespeare in Love, Mystery Men, and House of Haunted Hill. But with Quills, he goes to his greatest lengths yet to capture the, um, scent of the character. "I wanted to have a smeeelllll," he purrs, "so that when other actors were near me, there was something… And I thought, patchouli oil. So I used to douse myself with that every day. And it was great because people would go, [Sniffs] 'Wow, you smell great!' And that became a very important key, because it made me feel…louche."
    "It fucking stank!" Winslet exclaims with a laugh. "I would just be the whole time, 'Geofrrey, you stink!'" Winslet, who claims her character's defiant but playful onscreen relationship with Sade is the same as the one she has with Rush offscreen, was prepared for his intensity on first meeting him. "He looked really serious," she says. "And I remember thinking, 'Oh, pleeeease don't be one of those serious types.' And within five minutes I realized that he's got just about the wickedest sense of humor of anyone I've ever known. If you want me to describe Geoffrey Rush in a nutshell: He is naughty, wicked, and brilliant. And I know that if he reads that quote, he'll find it a complete turn-on." The Marquis would, undoubtedly, be proud.
    Next year, Rush will star in The Tailor of Panama, director John Boorman's adaption of the John Le Carre novel. Just as he did with his piano-playing and patchouli-dousing, the actor immersed himself in the craft of tailoring to portray the duplicitous expatriate of the title. But he shrugs off all this intense preparation as just a part of the actor's job. "My analogy is, if you dare to take on the role of Hamlet - no matter how good your voice is, or how good your stamina - if you don't pull off a flashy sword fight at the end, you're fucked."   -- J.A.F.

November 21: Dark Horizons scored an exclusive interview with Geoffrey Rush:
"No Oscar Rush For Geoffrey Who Bears All For His Art" -- Exclusive Geoffrey Rush/Quills interview by Paul Fischer
    Ever since his Oscar win for Shine, Aussie Geoffrey Rush has been in high demand, the most sought after character actor in Hollywood. Now back on screen in the much anticipated Quills, Rush again 'shines' as the lascivious Marquis de Sade, a performance which may well garner the actor a second Oscar. 30 years after first seeing him on stage opposite an unknown Mel Gibson in Waiting for Godot, Paul Fischer met the actor in Los Angeles, where they discussed the Marquis, acting and Oscar talk.
    Geoffrey Rush has better things to think about than the dreaded Oscar buzz. In a year considered by most lacklustre at best, in terms of Hollywood product, a biting and timely satire on sex, politics and censorship, has tongues a wagging here. In this sexually conservative town, it is ironic that a film that pokes fun at that very conservative, is being touted as a major Oscar contender, with Rush a likely recipient. Jovially courting local media in a trendy LA hotel, Rush dismisses the so-called Oscar talk. After all, as Shakespeare so eloquently put it, 'The play's the thing'.
    Quills is a predominantly fictional work that reconstructs the unknown fate of the Marquis de Sade, the writer and sexual deviant who was imprisoned in Charenton Asylum for the last 10 years of his life. In the film, directed by veteran Philip Kaufman (The Unbearable Lightness of Being, Henry and June) the Marquis de Sade (Rush) befriends the director of the asylum, Abbe Coulmier (Joaquin Phoenix), and both share affections with the asylum laundress, Madeleine (Kate Winslet). But when Napoleon sends in a doctor (Michael Caine) to cure the Marquis of his supposed madness, the Marquis's rebellious character only grows stronger. Although Quills, based on the acclaimed play by Doug Wright (who also wrote the screenplay), is set in eighteenth century France, Rush points out the film's contemporary relevance. "This is PARTICULAR version of the Marquis, I would say. The play that it's based on was originally triggered by a genuine concern on the author's part of what was happening with the NEA [America's controversial National Endowment of the Arts] and the infamous Maplethorpe-Jesse Helms goings on in the art world," Rush explains. The actor sees the Marquis - in this interpretation - as being a "suitable lurid figure and metaphor as to how mutually inclusive or exclusive the forces of repression and repression." To elucidate further, Rush sees this piece as representing the "symbiotic relationship between the oppressor and the muse." Quills is not your standard movie biography, Rush says, "though the elements of his life are pretty well realised." Rush did read a lot about the Marquis, including psychological and Freudian profiles of the man, "but I also think there's a point where there's research poison." Rush used Wright's play as the foundation to building this extraordinary character. "He exists within the license and privilege of being an aristocrat, which was a very significant part of his society at the time. The script tells me that he's someone who likes to talk dirty all the time, and that's part of his provocation."
    Quills is a film punctuated by Rush's quite brazen performance, one that becomes more intense and raw as the film ensues. Indeed, the actor spends the last act of the film totally nude, symbolising the stripping away of the Marquis' artistic self-expression. Looking at the movie, it seems like a harrowing ordeal for an actor to go through, but for this classically trained man of the theatre, it was part of an overall creative process. "The impact of what you get in a period of two hours, for us is a whole process that takes over 12 weeks, so it's never on a daily basis as intense; it has moments of that." Despite the film's intense material, Rush sense that there was "a continual sense of playfulness" on the set, inspired by director Kaufman as well as the ensemble cast with which he worked.
As conservative Hollywood can be, none of that conservatism is prevalent in Quills. The piece's tackling of the material clearly attracted Rush to become a part of it, and he willingly embraced it. "I think everyone knew that it was material that had to be met head on. I mean you could diminish the piece or the dimensions of the argument by shying away from it and delivering safe, comfortable and not very dangerous moments in performance. So collaboratively you find out where those moments are." While most films are shot out of sequence, Quills was not, which enabled this actor's actor to work methodically on the remarkable and harrowing journey that Sade undertakes. "It was great to journey through all of that in sequence because you literally went a day at a time", which Rush recalls was scary at times "thinking ahead to the nightmares that lay ahead. But you didn't have to over-anticipate it because you could take all the appropriate steps." That includes the scene where he is forced to strip. "That was done in a more comic vein in the play, but by the time we'd gotten to that moment in our film, we'd already established that tone beforehand, and somehow the relationship between the priest and the libertine at THAT point, needed to get much more psychologically sinister."
    Rush first became familiar with the Marquis de Sade as a young student at Australia's Queensland University, though he admits that the Marquis' work "was what you'd call extra-curricular' reading; I don't think the Marquis de Sade was actually on our official reading list", the actor insists, grinningly. But perhaps in a touch of irony, studying the Sade's work all those years ago may have further feulled his own passions to act. "I never thought of that on any conscious level but maybe so." After Rush moved to Sydney and shared lodgings with up-and-coming Thespian Mel Gibson, the pair treaded the boards in Samuel Becket's Waiting for Godot. Much has changed since those halcyon days. While Mel concentrated on movies, Rush became one of Australia's celebrated stage actors, until Shine changed his life. Asked how he has changed, and his perceptions of acting, have changed, since that Godot period, reflects on the larger-than-life characters that have defined the actor in a certain way. "There's a kind of theatrical metaphor of madness which is a great liberator for revealing the absurdity of the world. So in some ways there's a repertoire there of me playing con artists and sleaze bags and idiots in Shakespeare and the like, that I've explored in different ways." At the same time, Rush adds reflectively, "I always try and find the antidote to that", such as a five year old starting school on stage. Rush may have a gallery of eccentrics to his career, but the fun is surprising himself, and audiences.
    "It's a very European mentality, particularly in films. I think in America there's a kind of a singularity in the hero, but European is defined by many figures in a landscape with complex layers and the storytelling being much more obtuse and less predictable." Predictable is not what you get from Mr Rush. By the way, he quickly adds as we conclude, his next two films will be "nice and contemporary. I also manage to keep my clothes on." Rush is next due to return to Sydney to appear in a new film from Bliss director Ray Lawrence.
    Quills opens in Los Angeles and New York on November 24.

November 19: Today's edition of the New York Daily News has an interview with Quills costar Geoffrey Rush.
"What Made the Mad Marquis Tick - In 'Quills,' actor Geoffrey Rush gets to grips with the Marquis de Sade," by Celia McGee
    In the notorious saga of the Marquis de Sade, the secrets are dark, the sex is kinky and the message is transgressive. And rediscovering him is something that "happens every generation," says Geoffrey Rush, who plays Donatien Alphonse Francois de Sade (1740-1814) in "Quills," a new movie about the depraved aristocratic French author and philosopher that opens Wednesday.
    This phenomenon is happening again now, reckons Rush. The 49-year-old Australian actor, who won an Oscar for his performance in "Shine," is proud to have played the man who gave his name to sadism. (Daniel Auteuil also recently played the marquis in the French movie "Sade.") The last time Sade ruled in all his satanic majesty, Rush points out, was "in the late '60s," when a generation in revolt glommed onto the Marquis "as a kind of writer of the counterculture."  That went for the 18-year-old Rush, too, then a university student in thrall to the forbidden pornographer for "the sexual challenges" he seemed to offer to society at that point. "We must have brushed under the carpet that he was an artistocrat and a monarchist, because that didn't fit with our political beliefs in 1969," he says.
    "Quills" director Philip Kaufman and screenwriter Doug Wright, who adapted the movie from his own play, did not brush it under the carpet. Their Sade is a supercilious, unbridled fop given to embroidered waistcoats and snobbish put-downs. The mind-twister they offer us is that Sade is also a mad genius who refuses to be censored.
After a brief prologue set during the "Terror" period of the French Revolution, Rush's Sade turns up in the dank fortress of Charenton, an asylum for the insane, where he has been imprisoned for his outrageous beliefs and outlawed writings.
    Laundress Madeleine (Kate Winslet), a sweet and voluptuous virgin, smuggles his compulsively written manuscripts out of the asylum to be published. Meanwhile, the gentle priest (Joaquin Phoenix) in charge of Charenton battles with a heartless doctor (Michael Caine) sent by the puritanical Napoleon to "cure" Sade - to break his spirit and permanently silence him. The asylum's other inmates - damaged souls condemned to oblivion - form a kind of "large Greek chorus," Rush says, underlining the story's manic assault on religious, artistic and moral convictions.
    So while the "Quills" audience may feel it is watching a deviant bloodbath that offers no hope for the mentally disabled and even less for the cause of art, Rush says Kaufman and Wright are saying "a lot about freedom of expression, whether it's on the creative or the political or the imaginative level. Sade's writing," the actor continues, "was informed by the philosophical and political crises of his time, an era when Europe and North America were shifting from centuries of aristocratic, feudal structure into an almost fanatical system called democracy - and part of that process was the Terror. It was an absolutely bloody, tyrannical and partly hypocritical conflict."
    Kaufman says "Quills" struck him as a parable about such hypocrisy when Wright's script first "landed on my doorstep in a brown-paper wrapper from Fox Searchlight. It came to me right at the time when all the Kenneth Starr and Bill Clinton stuff was going on, and on one level it's about that," with Caine as a stand-in for Starr pursuing virtue for perverted ends.
    In the opening sequence Kaufman devised for the film, a close-up shows a young woman palpitating as if she were in the midst of a lewd encounter from one of Sade's novels. But when the camera plunges down toward her neck, it emerges that she's about to be guillotined. "Philip wants to make the point that it's the society that's being sadistic," Rush says, "that history is the greatest pornographer of all."
    Blame it on Mom - In Sade's case, Rush discovered, the personal and political were gruesomely intertwined. Researching the Marquis' life, he found that Sade's behavior and attitudes may have been formed by the remoteness of his mother, a lady-in-waiting who had lost her two other children in quick succession and who desired to push her surviving son into the ruling class. Talking with a psychoanalyst friend, Rush says, "I came to see how events in Sade's early childhood would have played a crucial role in his psychosexual development. Sade's mother was devoted to the son of the household she served, and when Sade was 6 or so, he smashed the living daylights out of this boy."  The young Sade was sent to live with a smothering grandmother and then his uncle, a decadent priest "who lived in a Gothic chateau on the edge of a cliff with beautiful libraries and music rooms in the upper stories, and subterranean basements of dark passageways and peepholes underneath." This was followed by study with the Jesuits in Paris. "Some adolescence!" Rush says.
   Sade, he concluded, had "a narcissistic personality complex, a fear of intimacy where pain is created by feeling unloved by the mother. It creates rage and resentment, and one of your trump cards is inflicting humiliation. You kick out at the world to get it to kick back at you - probably to give you pleasure."
    Trafficking in blood, violence and cruelty, "Quills" wants to "keep an audience on the edge of its seat," Rush says, "and leave it speechless at the end." Like Sade's writing and the provocation it causes in "Quills," he adds, the movie "is supposed to be cathartic, is supposed to cleanse you by getting everything out in the open, is supposed to tackle issues and ideas in ways that grab you and make you think." Yet Rush wanted one of his more memorable contributions to be an appreciation of the Marquis' sharp comic edge. "He's a kind of alchemist, a ringmaster to the struggle between good and evil, and the rubble and edification that come out of that."
    A wicked sense of humor is a quality not lacking in Rush himself. "It's like something Jerry Springer could have a field day with," he says of one of Sade's more tawdry tendencies. He glances over at the TV, but, alas, it's tuned to "Sally Jessy Raphael."

November 15: There is an article about Quills director Philip Kaufman and film ratings in today's New York Post (spoiler alert!):
"Film Ratings Furor," by Lou Lumenick -- The "father" of the NC-17 rating says the classification system is "all screwed up" and is stifling the content of Hollywood movies aimed at adults.
    Philip Kaufman, who directed "Henry & June," the first movie to receive the NC-17 a decade ago, says it's turned into a box-office death sentence that forces some directors to make cuts to get an R rating. Though it's set in the early 18th century, Kaufman's latest, "Quills," which opens next Wednesday, is perhaps the timeliest movie of the year. It's about freedom of expression, explored through attempts to silence the notoriously kinky Marquis de Sade, still arguably the most controversial writer of all time.
    Kaufman feared the worst from the ratings board for a film that, among other things, includes a fantasy sequence where a priest (Joaquin Phoenix) makes love to a dead laundress (Kate Winslet). He was pleasantly pleased when the movie received an R. "Maybe my past battle with them put them on guard," the highly respected director (whose credits include "The Right Stuff" and the story for "Raiders of the Lost Ark") said during a recent interview in a Manhattan hotel room. "I didn't have to make any cuts at all."
    But Kaufman, 64, says other directors have been cutting scenes or censoring themselves before shooting to avoid delivering an NC-17 film, which is prohibited under studio contracts. The rating, which bars anyone under 17 from seeing a movie even if accompanied by an adult, came about in 1990 when Kaufman appealed the X rating that was slapped on "Henry & June," his sensuous drama about the writers Anais Nin, Henry Miller and Miller's wife, June. "The NC-17 was supposed to be a category for adult-oriented material, the way X was originally for films like `Midnight Cowboy.' At first, `Henry & June' was doing great business. But suddenly theaters wouldn't book it and some newspapers wouldn't carry ads for it. It had become the new X rating. I was very upset because what seemed like a breakthrough had come to represent an unacceptable category."
    Kaufman says the ratings board is far too lenient about what he considers gratuitous violence in films, at the same time it's obsessed with micromanaging sexual content. "Everyone I know thinks about sex all the time, and rarely has contact with the kind of violence you see all the time in movies. But for some reason, Hollywood is more comfortable with the violence. There should be more adult sexual context explored in American movies. I think that the public is ready for that, if it's done in a tasteful manner. The ratings system needs to allow for some complexity."
    Many of these hot button issues are explored in "Quills," including the question of the link between violence and artistic expression. In the movie's most brilliant sequence, the Marquis (masterfully played by Geoffrey Rush), who's had his writing quills and paper taken from him, dictates a story through a chain of fellow inmates, one of whom is inspired through his words to commit a heinous act. "But it's not that simple," Kaufman points out with a chuckle. He notes the Marquis' words have a very positive effect on the oppressed young wife of the doctor assigned by Napoleon to stop De Sade's writing - played with lip-smacking glee by Michael Caine, who Kaufman said based his performance partly on Kenneth Starr. "The subtext of this movie is the First Amendment," the director says. "To a lot of people in this country, it's far more important to have guns than freedom of speech."

October 22: Here's a nice feature on Quills director Philip Kaufman from the "Calendar" section of the LA Times:
"A Career Spent Near the Edge" - Philip Kaufman isn't afraid of tackling prickly subjects. 'Quills' is the latest example. By David Chute
    The timing couldn't have been better. It was almost as if the Hollywood-bashers in Washington had timed their salvo to tie in with Fox Searchlight's campaign for its fall release "Quills."
    The Federal Trade Commission issued its scathing report on Hollywood's sneaky practice of marketing films with extreme content to children on Sept. 11. And just a few days later director Philip Kaufman flew down to Los Angeles, from his home base in the legendary bohemian enclave of North Beach in San Francisco, to discuss his latest film, "Quills," an ink-black gothic farce about the extremes of free expression under siege.
    The film's irrepressible and monstrously entertaining centerpiece (portrayed with free-swinging relish by "Shine" Oscar-winner Geoffrey Rush) is none other than the Marquis de Sade, the 18th century pornographer and revolutionary misanthrope whose novels (including "Justine" and "120 Days of Sodom") have linked his name for all time with some of the rougher forms of off-center sexuality.

    As the director of the first film ever saddled with an NC-17 rating, "Henry & June" (1990), Kaufman would seem to be the perfect person to weigh in on the FTC report and related issues, or to make a movie that addresses them by implication. And he seems to know this.  "My wife Rose came up with the perfect ad line" for "Quills," Kaufman offers with a characteristic gleam of irony: " 'Not a movie for children of all ages.' " Politicians can rest easy; unlike other R-rated fare, "Quills" won't be marketed to the under-17 crowd. Kaufman and the studio know it's definitely a spicy meal, suitable only for adult palates.
    Throughout his career, Kaufman has been widely admired for consistently making adult-oriented movies with the personal texture and intelligence of an independent, even when he works for major Hollywood studios--a neat trick that few other filmmakers have managed to pull off. He will be honored for this achievement at the American Film Institute's Fest 2000, with a special tribute on Wednesday at the Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood. Six of Kaufman's 11 films will be screened during the festival, including "Henry & June," "The Unbearable Lightness of Being" and "Invasion of the Body Snatchers." "Quills" will have its U.S. premiere at the Egyptian as the closing-night gala presentation on Thursday.
    Like "Henry & June," "Quills" has both a strong intellectual and sexual charge. As the movie opens, the marquis has been locked away and forgotten, swept under the social carpet, in the lunatic asylum at Charenton, near Paris. Under the benign supervision of a liberal priest, Abbe Coulmier (Joaquin Phoenix), Sade is allowed to purge his insatiable demons on paper, achieving a kind of hectic equilibrium. But Sade is an obsessive verbal exhibitionist for whom the act of expression alone is never enough; he needs to rub people's noses in the spew of his imagination.
With the help of a levelheaded laundress (Kate Winslet), the marquis is smuggling his books out of the asylum to a fly-by-night printer, and the situation has become an open scandal. The main action of the film, which opens in Los Angeles on Nov. 22, is structured around a battle of wills between the marquis and a repressive "alienist," Dr. Royer-Collard (a funereal Michael Caine), who has been dispatched personally by Napoleon to plug the leak at Charenton and to clamp the lid down hard upon Sade's "creativity."
    For Kaufman, "the movie is an entertainment about the game of cat and mouse that the marquis plays with his enemies, a series of moves and counter-moves, and about the ingenuity that the obsessed writer summons to get around attempts to silence him." At the same time, he admits, "the film really is about the issue of free speech--about expression and the repression of expression. Those issues are central to Doug Wright's play and to his script, and they were talked about extensively during the making of the film."
    In fact, the free-speech angle was deliberately beefed up during the film's development process, as Wright adapted his 1995 play, an off-Broadway hit that was also the inaugural attraction at the renamed Geffen Playhouse in Westwood. At the time, Bill Mechanic was chairman and chief executive of 20th Century Fox Filmed Entertainment. (He resigned in May.)  "The movie I had in my mind when we crafted the play for the screen was 'A Man for All Seasons,' " Mechanic says. "My hope was to bring the ideas to the forefront and let it have reverberations, let it be about a man who would die for what he believes in."
    To its credit, the movie never tries to palm off Rush's snarling, grandstanding marquis as a saintly or a civilized figure, an innocent martyr with inconvenient ideas. "I don't think we whitewash the marquis at all," Kaufman declares. "As Doug portrays him, he is selfish and duplicitous and brutal, an aristocrat elitist who smacks his wife around. He is a terrible man." But he was also, the director believes, "the most extreme test case ever, to this day," of a society's willingness to tolerate its most assaultive voices. The one aspect of Sade's legacy that the movie softens, oddly enough, is the one that should be central to the serious issues it confronts: the actual content of the marquis' scabrous novels, which both Wright and Kaufman dismiss as "unreadable." The film may be a tad disingenuous here, implying at times that Sade's works can be stimulating to readers in healthy and even liberating ways. In fact, it's hard to imagine any sane person becoming aroused by the gruesome sexual violence that was the marquis' actual stock in trade. "The one thing you have to give Sade credit for as a novelist," Wright allows, "is that his stuff has been around for 200 years and we can still smell its stink."
    One odd consequence of Sade's unique status as a writer who went way too far and then some is that, even in the early 21st century, his novels cannot be read aloud in a Hollywood movie angling for an R rating. (Rather than bowdlerize the originals, Wright created several new passages of pseudo-Sadian fiction for the film.) Is it quite fair, though, to hold up a notorious writer as an icon of free expression and then, with a flick of the wrist, to withhold his actual words? Milos Forman's film "The People vs. Larry Flynt" was slammed, after all, for failing to acknowledge the repulsive, misogynistic character of the images that Flynt often published in Hustler magazine.  For Wright, however, there's a fundamental difference: "Larry Flynt was trafficking in imagery, and the marquis was trafficking in language. I think if you really read Sade's fiction you will find that he describes things in such a baroque and over-the-top fashion that they are biologically impossible. It becomes a phantasmagoric linguistic riff on perversity that has no visual component. As such, I think we can only regard him as a satirist. To simply present him as the Hannibal Lecter of literature felt reductive to me. I thought the most subversive thing I could do was give him back his wicked wink, his sense of humor."
    Most of the humor, and the considerable entertainment value of "Quills," resides in its tumbling, exuberant use of language. Rush, Winslet, Caine and Phoenix play off each other with the virtuosity of tight string quartet. This film is about the power of words, as much as anything: The marquis is drunk on them, and Napoleon and his minions are terrified of their subversive tendency to undermine the moral fiber of society.
* * *
    For Kaufman, too, words are powerful weapons. The director, who will be 64 on Monday, can still vividly recall a Moscow International Film Festival screening of his adaptation of Milan Kundera's novel "The Unbearable Lightness of Being" in 1988: "The Russians had never before seen the invasion of Czechoslovakia portrayed from the point of view of its citizens. They had seen some of the exact footage we used of the 1968 Russian invasion, but they had always been told that the citizens of Prague were weeping for joy because the Russians had come to save them.  So I can tell you, it can be a serious thing, bringing up a potent subject in a potentially volatile situation."
   "Quills" is the latest example of Kaufman's interest in what he describes as "people who push the outside of the envelope," citing a famous catch phrase from his 1983 film "The Right Stuff," about the early days of the space program. "To me, there's an element of sanity that the dreams of going to the extremes give us."
    Kaufman has stretched the envelope a few times himself. His first films were made far from Hollywood, in his native Chicago and then in San Francisco. This was in the early 1960s, long before independent film was an established marketing niche.  "Phil doesn't make very many movies," observes actor-director Ed Harris, who won high praise for his performance as John Glenn in "The Right Stuff." "And I think when he does decide on something it's a very, very important thing to him. He collects people around him that he really wants to work with and that have the same passion for the material that he does. Hence, you have a very focused set and it's almost a family kind of a deal.  There's a sense of wanting to surpass what you may have done in the past. He gives you a lot and you want to give it back to him."
    Kaufman is known for creating an intimate atmosphere on the set, which may have something to do with the freedom his actors have often felt to uncover themselves for his camera, both emotionally and physically. Rush spends the last 15 minutes of "Quills" in the buff and there are famously sexy episodes in both "The Unbearable Lightness of Being" with Lena Olin and Daniel Day-Lewis and in "Henry & June" with Uma Thurman and Maria de Madeirosh. None of these scenes, however, has the coy, smirking tone of a celebrity strip show staged for our benefit; they play instead as moments of real intimacy.  "There's a privacy about Phil and he brings that to his work," agrees producer Robert Solo, who hired Kaufman in 1978 to direct an urban new-age adaptation of Don Siegel's classic small-town science-fiction chiller "Invasion of the Body Snatchers." "If you have entered his realm, you're going to be OK. You're going to be private with him. So therefore there's a kind of easy, very personal relationship between him and the actors. There's a lot of trust."
    This group-bonding instinct is reflected on the screen, as well, in the tight groups of people that often coalesce in Kaufman's films, as congenital outsiders unite in a common purpose against the society at large: From the James/ Younger band of outlaws in "The Great Northfield Minnesota Raid" (1972) to the stranded Arctic explorers and their Eskimo hosts in "The White Dawn" (1974), from the New York street gangs in "The Wanderers" (1979) to the cowboy test pilots and astronauts in "The Right Stuff."
    Kaufman's work has often won strong critical support, but he has made only 11 films in the past 35 years, with long gaps between projects. "Quills" is his first major release since "Rising Sun" in 1993. Walrus & Associates Ltd., his production company, which is run as a close-knit family enterprise by Philip, wife Rose and his son Peter, has actively developed almost a dozen projects in that intervening seven-year period: an adaptation of the Caleb Carr bestseller "The Alienist"; biographical films about Liberace and 1930s jazz musician and author Mezz Mezzrow; a true-life spy thriller about Aldrich Ames, and more.  "We're always working on something," Peter Kaufman says. "Phil's always either writing or working with writers. If you could see our offices, they're just packed with scripts and storyboards." But so far none of those projects has gotten off the ground.
    The sheer range and variety of the projects may have been an obstacle at times. Whereas some directors seem to benefit from being strongly associated with certain kinds of themes and subjects, Kaufman's choices have been, to put it mildly, eclectic.  Notes Doug Wright: "He's done so many compelling films, but nobody associates all those wonderful films with the same director because they're all so different. He's definitely an artist and not a brand name." As Kaufman himself says, "I'm not the kind of moviemaker who makes a first film at 18 and then proceeds to make the same film over and over again for the next 50 years."
    Producers who respond to Kaufman's work tend to recognize qualities of wit and imagination that can applied to almost any genre. "It wasn't so much that I thought of him in terms of science fiction," Solo says of the decision to approach Kaufman for "Body Snatchers." "But I had seen 'Great Northfield' and 'White Dawn.' They were directed in a kind of not-straight-on style, something I found stimulating and disturbing."
    Kaufman's flair for off-center imagery paid off almost on a scene-for-scene basis in "Body Snatchers," Solo says. "Phil created an overall feeling of paranoia, and he communicated it to the audience with offhand things that had no obvious relevance to the story--little cuts like a phone cord withdrawing into the wall."
    After hitting the wall on so many adventurous projects, Peter Kaufman admits that he was startled when "the studio came to Phil with this Marquis de Sade project. This is the kind of thing we're usually trying to sell to someone else, and they're saying, 'You're crazy, no one will go see it!'" For Mechanic, however, the choice made perfect sense: "This was a high-quality piece and also a dangerous piece, and when you are looking for a director who has a sense of humor and can deal with sexuality, it isn't a long list."
    For the record, none of the creators of "Quills" think their film is suitable for children, with or without a compliant "adult guardian." Both Philip and Peter Kaufman expressed surprise and some discomfort when the film managed to snag an R rating. In fact, when the picture screened at the Telluride Film Festival in September, Peter said he tried to fend off a woman who was taking her young children in to see it.
    Wright sympathizes with Peter's impulse, but adds, "As a writer, I'm not going to limit the kind of material I choose to pursue because of slack-jawed parents who are shirking their responsibilities. To base policy on people like that would severely limit art and reduce its function in the culture.  "To say that Sade should be read is not to suggest that his view of the world is a tenable one. It's just that he is the opposition, and it's good to know the opposition."
* * *
    For Rush, the marquis was, among other things, "a notorious celebrity, very much in the modern mold, but one of the first."  When he was researching the role, Rush dug into Sade's past, learning that he had been expelled from the household of a "ruthlessly practical and antisocial mother who packed him off to live with his uncle." The actor then approached a Freudian psychoanalyst and laid out what he had learned, asking, "What would you say about this guy if you had him as a patient?' The shrink's response was spine-chilling, Rush says, "because it had a surprising amount of resonance with certain actors and show business people that I know. He said, 'This is a narcissistic personality, driven by the fear of being unlovable to the mother. He is building a wall to sort of push the world away, developing his power to charm and beguile, as if to keep the world from finding out that he is empty and tumbling into that abyss.'"
    Rush says he also came to a broader understanding of the term "sadism" that seemed to be related to the film's political concerns: "It is about kicking out at the world. The sense is, 'I want to hurt you, to challenge you, to question you, because it gives me pleasure.' "
    For Kaufman, the marquis' "notorious celebrity" had some surprising contemporary echoes: "Let us not forget that Lenny Bruce died for our sins. All the terrible words that he was hounded to his death for using are now the standard fare of every stand-up comedian. For me the marquis is often outrageously funny, and it often seems that you only get at the truth with humor, or at least that's one of the main ways. The question is, can we learn from dealing with the extremes? There is something to be said for the frailty of human nature and for how interesting that in fact is."

October 22: From the UK Independent on Sunday:
"Marquis mania: He's back."  One of history's most infamous writers and sexual deviantsis the subject of a flurry of new films and books. So just what is it that makes the Comte de Sade - as he is properly known - so enduring in his appeal?
    The Marquis de Sade died in the winter of 1814 in a mental asylum, so obscure a figure that the young doctor who attended him had no idea who this "haughty, morose, elderly gentleman" was. Sade wanted his grave to "disappear from the earth as I trust my memory shall fade from the minds of men". That his last wish - for his unmarked grave to be strewn with acorns to hasten its obliteration - should be ignored would have come as no surprise to a man who spent most of his life thwarted by others. But the libertine philosopher, infamous for his brutal, pornographic fictions, would have been amazed at the extent of his fame nearly 200 years after that lonely death.
    The French poet and critic (and no mean pornographer himself) Guillaume Apollinaire wrote in 1909: "This man who appeared to count for nothing during the whole of the 19th century may dominate the 20th." And, it seems, the 21st. Last week Harvill published the Marquis de Sade's Letters From Prison, a selection of the vast correspondence which even a harsh critic like Laurence L Bongie, author of a sternly revisionist biographical essay, admitted was probably Sade's masterpiece. In November comes the republication of one of Sade's most spritely pornographic fantasias, Philosophy in the Boudoir (Creation Books). Next month also sees the English publication of Nikolaj Frobenius's De Sade's Valet (Marion Boyars), a novel centering upon the character of Latour, the servant who attended orgies with his master, was convicted in absentia, like him, of the capital offence of sodomy and burnt in effigy in Aix-en-Provence. The book was launched with panache at the residence of the Norwegian Ambassador and Frobenius has already sold the film option to Hollywood.
    Also on the horizon are two new films about Sade himself. There's Philip Kaufman's Quills, a Hollywood offering with Geoffrey Rush as the Divine Marquis and Kate Winslet as the compliant laundress who befriends the ageing prisoner. Benoit Jacquot's Sade, a French production, fields Daniel Auteuil as the Marquis in a younger, more soulful incarnation. Both are being screened as part of the London Film Festival, but don't bother trying to get tickets for the screenings - they're already sold out.
    Why should this bloated, obnoxious aristocrat, utterly a product of his times, end up a cultural icon today? It's partly because he can be endlessly redefined and appropriated by successive generations. We have seen the Freudian Sade, the libertarian Sade, Sade the transgressive author, Sade the compulsive eater, Sade the gothic novelist, Sade the prisoner of conscience - even Sade the feminist. He was defended in an essay by Simone de Beauvoir, and one of his most perceptive commentators, Angela Carter, wrote a whole book in mitigation in 1979. The Sadeian Woman (Virago), a fascinating, only slightly dated polemic, is still in print.
    Sade was born in 1740 to an ancient Provencal family which claimed Petrarch's Laura as an ancestor. They owned numerous gloomy chateaux and vast tracts of land, and basked in the favour of the king. Aristocratic life in France looked as though it could go on indefinitely, untroubled by corruption, cruelty and flagrant criminal behaviour on behalf of the ruling classes; but it was Sade's misfortune to live through both the French Revolution and the rule of Napoleon, violently contrasting political eras united by a disinclination to allow him his freedom.
    Imprisoned at first under the terms of the despotic lettre de cachet - a document issued by the king to oblige rich families who wanted rid of disreputable offspring - the Marquis became plain Citizen Sade during the Revolution, an admired and pitied victim of the old regime who actually delivered a funeral oration to the murdered demagogue Marat. It was in this period of abundant pornography, frequently political and satirical in tone, that he published Juliette, a novel in which ingenious sexual tortures were heaped upon its virtuous heroine. However, he never entirely managed to shake off suspicion about his aristocratic roots, and when the Revolution entered its Saturnian phase, ghoulishly devouring its own children, he was sentenced to death, saved only when Robespierre beat him to the guillotine. Under the crackdown on morals instituted by Napoleon, the pornographer became a scandal and an embarrassment once more. Sade was hustled off to confinement in the asylum, this time for good. When he died there, aged 74, he had spent almost 30 years of his life in jails of one kind or another.
    Myths continue to cling to the Divine Marquis. Even the famous title is incorrect: he actually became Comte de Sade on his father's death. This paper's Paris correspondent, John Lichfield, recently repeated the canard that Sade was one of the prisoners liberated by the fall of the Bastille. He wasn't - in one of the many ironies of his turbulent life, he had been removed to the donjon of Vincennes just 10 days before, because he had been haranguing the crowds outside the prison with inflammatory speeches.
    More fundamentally, many people still think Sade actually was a murderer and torturer. They might be surprised and disappointed to learn about the crimes for which he was actually prosecuted: beating whores and dripping candlewax on their bodies; feeding them tainted sweets to make them fart; ordering them to curse the deity and masturbate with religious statues. The lurid dismemberments and rapes, the flayings, beatings and extremes of violence-for-pleasure which his name came to symbolise, take place only in his fantasies. Angela Carter observed: "His was a peculiarly modern fate, to be imprisoned without trial for crimes that existed primarily in the mind."
    Sade has long been seen as an important figure in European literary history, bridging the scepticism, fierce logic and materialism of the Enlightenment and the heroic individualism of the Romantics. His fictions, Justine and Juliette, were the dark river flowing beneath more respectable works. Now that subterranean influence can be openly admitted. He has been lauded in the same breath as Byron, and rehabilitated as a Gothic novelist - all those screams, groans and chains are just part of the genre trappings. Today, Sade's grisly masturbatory fantasies wouldn't look out of place printed up on the walls of the Royal Academy, accompanying the work of Jake and Dinos Chapman. Camille Paglia lauded him; Swinburne laughed at him; Flaubert was fascinated by him. He would feel at home with the internet, that playground outside space and time where anything can be enacted. It is after all almost a model of Silling, the inaccessible chateau of all the vices in The 120 Days of Sodom, where role-playing, disguise and story-telling are the only reality.
    "The imaginary has never hurt anyone," claimed film maker Catherine Breillat, speaking at the time of a dramatised "trial" of the Marquis on French television. Very liberal words. But are we any more comfortable with the implications of de Sade's writing today? Would a modern-day Sade escape condemnation in our morally flabby era of anything goes?
    Before we rehabilitate Sade too readily, we should admit that among the many perversions detailed in The 120 Days of Sodom are detailed accounts of torturing young children which might well fall foul of the News of the World and the sexual witchfinder-generals of Portsmouth housing estates. In pre-video days Sade's works were cited on flimsy evidence to have been the inspiration for Ian Brady's crimes - a self-exculpating hypothesis Myra Hindley seemed keen to promote in a recent newspaper interview.
    A profound rebel, Sade would have no truck at all with the contemporary pieties of political correctness. In his work, nothing is sacred: not women, not sex, not love, not God, not the Church, not the old, nor the young, the pregnant, the well-meaning and certainly not the vulnerable and innocent. It is possible - just - to read his work as vicious satire, heaping misanthropic scorn on power abuses and playing for ridiculous laughs, but this is a postmodern distortion.
    As a writer, Sade is profoundly unfashionable. He is boring, obsessive, repetitive. He dreams up vast windy structures for his fictions which even he, with all that time at his disposal, is unable to fill. The exhaustive brutalities of Sodom degenerate into a hurried list of atrocities that Sade is too apathetic to flesh out.
    Come on, you say. We're not interested in his literary merit, for God's sake. Surely this most celebrated of all pornographers can, er, deliver the goods? Anyone seeking to read his works with one hand free should be warned that Sade's proclivity for tedious weirdness like coprophilia short-circuits much of the eroticism in his work. "He is uncommon among pornographers in that he rarely, if ever, makes sexual activity seem immediately attractive," notes Angela Carter - surely a heresy in our sex-soaked era. He is not a celebratory writer. And set against the shrugging, it's- your-call anomie of the brothers Chapman, Sade is embarrassingly unironic and gleefully implicated in his own vision. Today he'd be in Broadmoor, not Hoxton or the Groucho Club.
    Suzi Feay is literary editor of 'The Independent on Sunday'.

October 17: Quills is featured in the Movieline magazine "Special Hollywood Most Issue":

September 25: I found an article about sex and violence in film that has some interesting commentary about Quills:
"Trailers" -
    It's the custom every fall for movie people to pick winners and losers in the season ahead… this fall I may be walking into the jaws of Lynne Cheney, Al Gore and anyone else eager to take advantage of the notion that sex and violence in American movies are too American for us to see… As it happens, I do make distinctions between sex and violence: It's my opinion that we don't know enough about sex, don't talk about it as much as we might and have lost the habit of seeing most movie imagery as a metaphor for sex. I worry more about violence -- not that there is definitive evidence one way or the other about the connections between violence seen and violence enacted. It's rather more that I grow afraid of people addicted to mythic violence. This is only a hunch, but that preoccupation with violence could be related to our ignorance of sex...
    Quills -- This film is taken from Doug Wright's award-winning play, and it's a portrait of the Marquis de Sade in his last years of confinement at the Charenton asylum. Kaufman's de Sade (Geoffrey Rush) is a very dangerous man -- he's whispering freedom, outrage, desire and liberty in every ready ear. And he's endlessly writing -- eventually, deprived of proper materials, he uses bodily fluids for ink and the walls of his cell as paper. For Kaufman, de Sade -- however crazy -- is a test case for free speech, and all he's calling for, really, through his streams of pornography, is the recognition of sexual need and variety.
    What makes "Quills" so remarkable is its vibrant, ironic tone. You feel the sharpness of a real quill; you hear the soul-scraping scratch of writing; you see de Sade as a monster and a spokesman for liberty. For this is a movie about the need for expression, a word that refers to direct utterance and sexual release, and that sees the two as related. In "Quills," it takes a reprobate to be the sexual counselor to a generation.
In this climate, that could get a movie into a lot of trouble. But it is so subtle and intelligent, I don't want to hear what Gore or Cheney thinks of it -- and whether it's good for me. So "Quills" needs courage in its own marketing. Yes, it's about sex and a notorious sexual outlaw. Yes, it's dark and very funny. And the distributor should be proud of that.
    There's only one reservation I have. "Quills" could be an NC-17 film, or NC-15. It is not an entertainment that any 4- or 5-year-old should see just because his or her parents go with him into the dark. Company means only so much at the movies. Our imaginations go into the dark alone, and "Quills" is full of things a child cannot understand. But the R rating is a measure of our shame: It allows parents to babysit their kids at perilous movies, just as it permits the maximum box-office income to the business.
    There ought to be a place for grown-up intelligence, for films and material not appropriate to children. A sophisticated society would honor the NC-17 rating and employ it carefully. It would be something like a badge of respect. Instead, we sentimentalize youth, and actually take risks by exposing it to things it has not yet experienced. That's where the movie business is vulnerable, and that's how the system of marketing we suffer under is likely to deny us adult entertainment (a phrase that need not be a synonym for pornography).
by David Thomson.

September 10: This feature is from the NY Times. Thanks to Gerard for the tip!


"A Filmmaker Both Promising and Forgotten at 64" -
    SAN FRANCISCO -- FEW authentic American filmmakers have done as much to absorb and employ non-American ways. Yet Philip Kaufman deserves to be regarded as an American filmmaker. "The Right Stuff" examined our power, our progress and all our brands of heroism. And it had that old American acid - irony. But America didn't really enjoy that movie: the taste for irony had faded. So Phil looked farther afield: he made "The Unbearable Lightness of Being," a Czech film done in France; he did "Henry and June," about Americans in Paris and that stranger country called Sex. Again, America managed not to be impressed. But now, I think, he's got it: he has an Australian playing the Marquis de Sade in a picture made in England. Now only the dunces can miss the irony and the charming way in which "the English movie" has become the equivalent of an American genre.
    "Quills" is wickedly funny, impious, blasphemous, very sexy, very tender, very frightening - for it shows that prison may be a basic state - but also mischievous, subversive and liberating. It's Phil's best work yet, and don't be surprised if it's a dark-horse hit of the season and best-picture material - "The Marquis de Sade in Love"?
    All of which is more than welcome from a director who will be 64 when "Quills" opens in November, and who hasn't had a picture since "Rising Sun" (1993), a smart adaptation of the Michael Crichton novel about the conflict between American and Japanese business practices. It was an effective, streamlined thriller, good enough to dispel foolish claims that it was anti-Japanese, but not as personal as many of Kaufman's movies.
     I should admit that Phil Kaufman and I are friends. How close? Well, I've never quite known. But since before "The Right Stuff" (1983). His son, Peter, in a very gentlemanly way, once took out one of my daughters. I'm likely to bump into Phil at the Saturday morning farmers' market, where he gives good but gentle advice on the corn to pick, and we'll talk about jazz, basketball, soccer, having children and grandchildren, and so on. It's a San Francisco thing: we live only a few blocks apart and have the same couple clean our houses. I'm mentioning all this because I still remember the awful day, in 1990, when he showed me "Henry and June." This was well before the film opened but at a time when he was in shock and dismay, having heard that the film would be branded with the kiss of death, an NC-17 rating.
    Anyone could tell Phil needed support - just as America deserved and still deserves to be allowed to grow up and live happily with the NC-17 rating. There ought to be films no one under 17 should see. There ought to be some space for grown-up ideas, for intimacy and danger.
    Well, I didn't like "Henry and June" - it doesn't matter why now. But I told him. It was part of my being too proud or too stupid, or too much the critic, to find other things to say. Not that he was going to fall for evasions. Still, it showed me that filmmakers and critics have their own adjoining prisons. It cooled us, I know, and I hope we both regretted that.
    "Henry and June" flopped: no film can survive NC-17 commercially in these hypocritical times. And his previous movie, a stunning mix of sex and politics taken from Milan Kundera's "Unbearable Lightness of Being" (1988), was more admired than seen. There was some talk in the business that Phil Kaufman, who had been offered nearly every interesting project in the 80's, had gone into a corner in the 90's. Did he want to make European, art-house pictures?
    The fact was that although "The Right Stuff" had been a box-office disappointment, Hollywood had thrilled to its facility, the dance of adventure and slapstick, the paean to flight and the satire on hype and bureaucracy. It was also a picture that introduced a clutch of eccentric new actors, Kaufman types: not just Sam Shepard as the Gary Cooper-like Chuck Yeager, but Dennis Quaid, Ed Harris, Fred Ward, Lance Henriksen and Scott Glenn. The director's deft handling of "The Right Stuff," which cost far less than anyone thought it had because so many locations and sets were cooked up in the Bay Area, was noticed and appreciated.
    But facility, allied with evident intelligence (educated at the University of Chicago, he reckoned once to be a lawyer), could be read as a maverick spirit, an outsider's aloofness. Kaufman had let it be known some years earlier that he preferred to live in the Bay Area, with his wife (and sometime co-writer), Rose. He had done his time in Los Angeles, but he was unconvinced that a director needed to stay close to the source of power. That independence had its downside. As the writer and first director on "The Outlaw Josey Wales" (1976), Phil had had a showdown with his producer-star, Clint Eastwood. Eastwood said Phil couldn't make up his mind. Kaufman had said there were scenes where more than one or two takes might be justified: work longer with a thing and you might find more depth.
    Phil had been fired and Eastwood took over as director on what proved a very successful picture - which might have been better still, and might have punctured the absurd myth that Eastwood is a great director instead of just a very effective, rather brutal producer. A few years later, after he had had hopes of being its writer-director, Kaufman ended up with only a story credit (and a nice little percentage) on what turned into "Raiders of the Lost Ark."
    Some said he was too stubborn or suspicious of the business, too sensitive or too fixed on a private vision. You could see such traits in his early films - "The Great Northfield, Minnesota Raid" (1972), a screwball western about the James gang; "The White Dawn" (1974), a story of whalers stranded off Alaska; "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" (1978), a wonderful, cool, scary remake all done in San Francisco, in which the paranoia of Jack Finney's novel lapped over into the neurosis of New Age people; and "The Wanderers" (1979), a romantic gang movie, taken from the Richard Price novel.
    Kaufman can be wry about being both promising and forgotten at 64. His modest company, Walrus - which is him; Rose; their son, Peter, who is now Phil's co-producer; and a secretary - is based in the North Beach of restaurants and cafes. For economy's sake, they did some of the editing on "Quills" there in the office, with the editor, Peter Boyle, brought over from England. One afternoon this summer, we talked there, and I asked Phil to explain the gap since "Rising Sun."
    "Two solid years of my hiatus," he said, "was a thing called `The Alienist.' A wonderful period novel by Caleb Carr. It had very dark material. But when I set out on it, I said to Sherry Lansing at Paramount, `Are you really going to do a story about a boy whore who is killed?' And she looked me in the eye and said, `You bet we are.' We worked on the script, the locations, everything. Two years - no exaggeration. It was ready to go when the studio said, `Well, no, perhaps we're not.' There has been a crazy indecision over material. You can do anything if it's violence or horror, but get into the depths of real behavior and they lose confidence.
    "There have been other things. Eric Roth wrote a script about the C.I.A., `The Good Shepherd,' with James Jesus Angleton as the central character. Zoetrope was going to do that, then changed their policy. That was another year. I did a John Grisham novel, `Runaway Jury,' and though there hasn't been a Grisham film that hasn't made money, they didn't want to do that. Cecil Brown did a script for me about Mezz Mezzrow, a white jazz musician in the 30's who was also a drug dealer. `What's jazz?' they said.
    "And there were other things."
    The Walrus office is crowded with books and research materials, to say nothing of scripts. There was a plan for a movie about the Marvel Comics character Sub-Mariner; the story of Lana Turner and Johnny Stompanato, with David Peoples doing the script; a film about the spy Aldrich Ames. And as Phil comes out of "Quills," he is talking about two very different projects - a life of Liberace and a screen version of Saul Bellow's novel "Henderson the Rain King," maybe with Jack Nicholson.
    Who would have thought, then, that the project to come through would be the one concerned with the imprisonment of the Marquis de Sade?
    "Fox Searchlight sent it to me a couple of years ago; it was a script by Doug Wright, taken from his own play, which had done well off Broadway. I never saw the play, and I've never read it. But I knew his script could be something. I didn't know much more than the vague outline of de Sade's life, but this was a parable about freedom of expression and, in his case, the inability not to be expressive. It was about sexual urge and hypocrisy, and it meant more to me because I came upon it at the time of Clinton, Monica and Kenneth Starr."
    Phil read a lot about de Sade - from Simone de Beauvoir to Angela Carter - and was startled to see how respectable a literary figure he has become in France. But he wasn't so concerned with the real figure: fat, over 60, astonishingly selfish and probably impotent. In casting Geoffrey Rush, he wanted a modern satyr, a dangerous rascal, yet an inescapably attractive figure whose most insidious act is to whisper new ideas in innocent ears. Some will be outraged at the presentation; others may see a crucial, modern example of the artist as sick man.
    The drama of "Quills" is contained in an asylum where de Sade is at first happily confined. Behind bars, he writes his pornographic books, which are smuggled out by the laundress (Kate Winslet). De Sade has an eye for her, and she is attracted to him, but the conditions of prison allow for their delicious frustration. The abbé at Charenton (Joaquin Phoenix) is an idealist and a humanitarian, but he is in love with the laundress, too. It is his liberalism as a leader that brings a new, vengeful superior, a Starr in excelsis (played by Michael Caine). Thus the scene is set for the final confrontation between regulator and writer. But the regulator is doomed, for this author is ready to write when quills and paper are gone, in the very material of his body.
    The ending is tragic and blasphemous, and it involves an extraordinarily luminous necrophilia scene. Obviously, this is tricky material, the more easily shot in England, where bits and pieces of many noble buildings served to make the asylum, and where the dedication of Kate Winslet, who was the first performer to commit to the film, inspired a cast that includes such actors as Patrick Malahide and Billie Whitelaw in smaller roles. The movie looks and talks like the 18th century, but the sense of nobility and self-destructiveness in the sex and the writing are utterly modern. And the whole thing ripples with comedy. You marvel at the sustained lightness of touch in a film that could have turned preachy, and may yet be forbidden in certain unironic places.
    In the longer view, you can see de Sade as one more of Kaufman's outsider heroes, dangerous to themselves and alarming to society. I wonder where he will go next - I could still see him finding his kind of saintliness in a Liberace or a James Jesus Angleton. But there's something else odd: Phil loves stories of adventure, remote settings and voyages, but he is an uncommon family man among filmmakers. I can think of no one else who works so closely with wife and son.
    Yet the Phil I try to know is also a touch distanced from even his beloved family. I think he has a profound sense of being alone. It is the perfect basis for a subject he hasn't really tried yet - the family, the real American family, like O'Neill's Tyrones, and the way in which they sail on another dark sea from the one floodlit with "family values." Above all, what Phil has done with "Quills" is help us see our kinship with monsters, demons and those divine surgeons who know the quill can be sharper than the sword - and so much more enjoyable if pointedly applied to soft skin
    David Thomson is the author of "A Biographical Dictionary of Film."

August 15: As I reported yesterday, Quills is featured in the September issue of Premiere magazine, "Fall Preview" section. I was able to purchase it today - thanks again to Gretchen for the tip! I have the scanned the (small) pic and transcribed the article:

The Pitch: In early-19th-century France, the Marquis de Sade (Geoffrey Rush), the notorious author of The 120 Days of Sodom and the sexual libertine who put the "S" in S&M, scribbles away in an asylum under the watchful eye of the kind but naive Abbe Coulmier (Joaquin Phoenix). A Feisty chambermaid (Kate Winslet) helps the chronically imprisoned writer smuggle out his salacious manuscripts, but soon an emissary (Michael Caine) of Napoleon arrives to break his pen.

The Big Picture: "It's about the timeless debate over censorship," Phoenix (Gladiator) says of the movie, which playwright Doug Wright adapted from his controversial off-Broadway play. "Amidst the tumult of France during that period," Phoenix adds, "the safe haven is in the madhouse." From the madhouse to the White House, then: "[The script] came to me during the summer of '98," says director Philip Kaufman (The Unbearable Lightness of Being, Henry & June), "when Ken Starr was busily pursuing Bill Clinton. That kind of moralizing, persecuting spirit was revived in America." Kaufman relished the opportunity to indulge his own provocative impulses. Says Rush: "He was always sort of gleaming off-camera in the rehearsal room, saying, 'It's the Marquis de Sade! He's the alchemist of sssexxx!'" But the film gives voice to a rigorous moral debate as well. "It's a true story that is humorous and witty in its inception," Kaufman says, "but finally shows some of the bloody, dire consequences of both pornography and the repression of pornography." Not to mention the perverse fun of it. "In every waking moment of his life, [de Sade] was out to challenge the world and what it stands for," Rush says. "And he kind of enjoyed that the world hit back pretty hard."

(Fox Searchlight, November)

August 14: Quills is featured in the August 18-25 issue of Entertainment Weekly, in a "Fall Preview" section.  Thanks to "MAngel" for the tip!

I found this article in the Independent:
"The Marquis de Sade Was The Most Provocative Artist of Them All," July 2  -
    Not one but two movies about the Marquis de Sade are coming out this year. Boyd Farrow investigates.
     Over the last 20 years sado-masochism has seeped from the sexual underground to mainstream culture . Yet despite the endless media fascination, few are familiar with the life and works of the granddaddy of S&M, the Marquis de Sade.
    A real marquis, Donatien-Alphonse-François, the Comte de Sade spent almost 30 years locked up for indecent perverse behaviour, firstly in the Bastille, and then, at the personal behest of Napoleon, in the lunatic asylum of Charenton. It was during his incarceration that "the philosopher of the obscene" wrote several of his lurid works.
But Sade's place in history will be re-examined later this year with the release of two major movies about his life. Benoit Jacquot's Sade, a biopic based on Serge Bramly's novel La Terreur Dans Le Boudoir, will be released in France next month; Quills, directed by Philip Kaufman and starring Geoffrey Rush, Michael Caine and Kate Winslet, will open in the US in the autumn.
    Quills is set almost entirely in the gothic Charenton where the Marquis (Rush) is routinely tortured by a doctor (Caine) who believes he can beat the madness out of him. Naked and having had all his writing materials confiscated, the Marquis is still compelled to scribble on his bedclothes, until Madeleine, a young maid played by Winslet, falls under his spell and agrees to write down his fevered thoughts and smuggle them out.
    Kaufman is no stranger to literary or cinematic controversy. His 1990 film Henry & June, about Henry Miller's relationship with the writer Anaïs Nin, was the first movie to be given an NC-17 rating by the Motion Picture Association of America. However, the director believes that if Quills is controversial, it will not be for its sexual content but because it dares to scrutinise the idea of free speech.  "The film is not really a paean to S&M. It is about a writer, and it explores the limits of what a writer can say or do," Kaufman explained, speaking from his home in San Francisco. "I was also interested in the whole question of what the limits of pornography are, how it is balanced with repression in society and what are the consequence of the two extremes."
    The New York playwright Douglas Wright, who wrote the play Quills and adapted it for Kaufman's film, says he became as fascinated with Sade's mystique as much as his writing. "I had always had an interest in artists who thought of themselves as provocateurs, and Sade was the most provocative of them all," says Wright. "At a time when government funding for the arts was a major issue, I was interested in artists who suffered for what they produced. Sade's life definitely illuminates this."
    Quills was first staged at the radical downtown New York Theatre Workshop in 1995 but, much to Wright's surprise, it went on to enjoy successful runs in far more conservative locations. "It was meant to be provocative, but I attribute its wide success to the fact it was presented as an intellectual debate of our culture. We weren't luring audiences in by promising them something salacious. I called it Quills to underscore the fact it was about a writer facing censorship in his own time and that it was his writing instruments that were confiscated.
    "Sade is an interesting millennium figure because he is the most extreme example of literary irascibility we have ever had," notes Wright. "The world Sade prescribed is completely untenable. I wouldn't want to live in it but at the same time I wouldn't want him to be banned from bookshelves. He should be available for people to read if for no other reason than to make us vigilant about some of the horrors in the human psyche. Especially in the US, where this repressive puritan stain just buries things under the carpet. This movie is meant to challenge audiences."
    Throwing down this challenge, perhaps surprisingly, is the notably conservative 20th Century Fox, whose Fox Searchlight division, responsible for The Full Monty, optioned the play. After Wright was retained to write the screenplay, Fox sought out Kaufman to take the helm.

Movieline Magazine featured the following story about Quills:
    "Can you see straight down my top?" Kate Winslet asks Geoffrey Rush as she kneels outside the door to his cell and he peers out the small peephole into her cleavage. She and Rush are on a London sound stage rehearsing a scene from Quills, director Philip Kaufman's movie about the Marquis de Sade, and both actors are in a rambunctious mood. "I have to be careful with Geoffrey because he's such a giggle," Winslet confides. "I'm not usually this high-spirited, but he brings something out in me." Winslet plays a young laundress in the Charenton asylum in France where the Marquis has been confined in the years after the French Revolution; he has enlisted her to smuggle his manuscripts out to a public that still eagerly awaits his latest chronicles of unspeakable perversions.
    American audiences have never shown wild enthusiasm for kinky subjects, and among American directors, Philip Kaufman is rare in evincing curiosity about the darker secrets of sexuality. Kaufman helped launch the NC-17 rating with Henry & June a decade ago, and he has shown a flair for eroticism in many of his movies, including 1988's The Unbearable Lightness of Being. Quills is his first film in more than six years. During part of the interim he toiled on another sexually audacious project, the adaptation of Caleb Carr's novel The Alienist, which remains stuck in development hell - no doubt in part because the subject of male child prostitution is a controversial one for any studio to tackle.
    An impressive group of actors seems ready to fly in the face of public squeamishness with Kaufman on Quills.  In addition to Rush as the Marquis, and Winslet as the laundress Madeleine, there is Michael Caine as a doctor who institutes his own tortures to quell the libidinous rantings of the Marquis, and Joaquin Phoenix as a priest who champions more humane methods of treating the miscreants in his care and harbors a secret lust for Madeleine.  Kaufman notes gratefully that none of the actors balked at the script's provocations.  He is a particular fan of Winslet's. "Kate just glows," he says. "She's outspoken, uninhibited, totally enthralled with acting."
    In a way, Winslet's character is the heart of the film - a young, innocent woman who is stimulated rather than repelled by the Marquis's salacious fantasies.  "I know some people describe Sade as a misogynist," Kaufman says, "but many women have embraced his writing.  Simone de Beauvoir was one of the first people to discuss him seriously.  Angela Carter wrote a provocative book about him.  Camile Paglia champions him."  In the film, Madeleine is the Marquis's greatest enthusiast.  "This laundry lass loves his writings because he provides entertainment in a rather dark, drab world," Kaufman says.   "I try to look for beauty and humor in everything I do, and I think there is a lot of beauty in this mental asylum.  Any time people try to keep their spirits up in a grim situation, there is beauty.  Madeleine is open to experience, even in the most horrific of places.  That's why Kate is the ideal actress to play the part.  She's completely game for everything."
    Quills did not originate with Kaufman but with screenwriter Doug Wright, who first created it as an off-Broadway play in 1995.  The subject appealed to Wright because of the political battles raging in the '90's over controversial art.  "I decided to appropriate Sade to write a parable about our culture," he says.  " I wanted to write a freedom of speech polemic using the worst possible case history."  In the movie, Napoleon Bonaparte is the early 19th century analogue to New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani or Senator Jesse Helms - the commissar crusading to suppress pornography.  When the Marquis's quills and manuscripts are confiscated, he uses a chicken bone and a carafe of wine to cover his bed sheets with erotic stories.  And when he loses those, he uses his own blood to continue writing the tales that obsess him.  Wright admits that his interest in Sade was not purely intellectual.  "I find his writings sexy, because he dealt with human appetite ungilded.  I think we all want to be infants again, reveling in our own bodily functions, having all our hungers sated.  That's why Sade is both repellent and alluring.  Some of his writing soars, and some of it is adolescent pornography.  Still, it touches a nerve.  I thought I was pretty jaded, but Sade's work is more shocking than anything in contemporary culture."
    The sets at Pinewood Studios outside London where Kaufman is working with Winslet and Rush are adorned with a riot of outré sexual paraphernalia, all part of the production design by Martin Childs, who won an Oscar for his last period re-creation, Shakespeare in Love. The Marquis's cell is packed with weird erotic sculptures and antique dildos; his walls are lined with explicit sexual drawings, and his shelves contain oddities like female body parts soaked in formaldehyde.  Much of the detail may register only subliminally, but it all contributes to the ambiance of rank, unfettered sexual obsession.  How shocking will the movie be?  "I did not feel the compulsion to create visually what Sade did in his stories," Kaufman says.  "I was not looking for sexually horrific images.  This was not meant to be Pasolini's Salo [a graphic cinematic adaption of Sade's fiction from 1975]."  Kaufman even hopes that his movie will get an R rating.  He notes bitterly that despite the publicity surrounding Henry & June, the NC-17 rating never became the label for serious-minded erotic films; it quickly became the exact equivalent of the old X rating that it was meant to replace, and today all directors, even when they are working for art-house companies like the one making Quills, Fox Searchlight, are required by contract to deliver an R-rated film.
    This movie is not meant to fly in the face of the MPAA," Kaufman says.  "But I suppose there are things in it that will be shocking."  One such episode is a tryst between Winslet and Phoenix that is tinged with necrophiliac overtones.  Whether that scene will make it intact to your local cineplex remains to be seen, but Kaufman's film is likely to challenge audiences by delving more deeply into the mystery of sexuality than most movies do.  "The exploration of sex, which is on everyone's mind, seems to me more important than the exploration of murder, which is not on everyone's mind," says the director.  "The more we can understand sexuality, the better we'll be as people."
Written by Stephen Farber

Excerpts from the November 1999 Premiere magazine article about Kate, written by Holly Millea:
    Today the script calls for a goodbye of the painful sort.  A goodbye weighted with love unrequited and unrelieved, between Madeleine and a young priest (Joaquin Phoenix), who is sending her away from the asylum, away from temptation, and beyond that, away from the only life she has ever known. Lump-inducing, indeed.
    Which is why Winslet, wearing an itchy wig and a bone-crushing corset, has red capillaries webbing the whites of her blue eyes and crimson botches splashed across her dairy-queen complexion.  "A lot of actors, when they have to do crying scenes, think of something sad," she says, recovering in the makeup trailer while having her hair removed.  "I just can't do it that way - it's not completely honest with the character.  I have to think about the situation.  Otherwise, I really think it's cheating."  And yet:  "I've always somehow been able to cry."
    "Kate has a terrifically powerful imagination - so powerful, it's dangerous," says Kenneth Branagh, who directed her as Ophelia in his Hamlet.  "When you engage the way she does, it's a bit scary.  It's not like, 'I remember when my pet tortoise died...'  The other day, she called and said that she was approaching a difficult scene in Quills.  She said, 'I don't think I can do this anymore.'"
    "Oh, watch!" Winslet says, looking in the mirror as the makeup woman peels back the fine, nearly invisible lace attaching the waist-length wig to Winslet's hairline.  "This is going to look disgusting!"  And it's off with her hair, unveiling the actress's own, shorter tresses beneath, matted close to her head.  A few spritzes of water, a running-through of the fingers, and she's back in 1999, throwing on a black leather jacket, jumping into the back of a sedan...
    Quills is a closed set, which means that no one other than those making the movie is allowed on.  Since Winslet is working long hours, the first interview is to be conducted after she wraps for the day, in the car on her way home.  No problem.  Standing by.  A car and driver, hired by Winslet, are sent with instructions to hurry, as she will be finishing early.  Hour drive.  Stalled traffic.  Rain.  Anxiety.  Security gates float open, as arrival is expected.
    A sedan pulls up the drive. Journalist and driver exit car.  Journalist looks relieved, as people are still about.  A fortyish man, curly salt-and-pepper hair, in jeans, approaches...[Producer Peter Kaufman, , the son of the film's director, shoos them away. The driver hopes that planes fly over the set and disturb everything.]
    "Peter's just fiercely protective of his actors," Winslet explains, days later, sitting bare-midriffed in a Soho eatery.  As it turns out, planes had been interrupting the shoot that afternoon. "A total nightmare," she says, rolling a cigarette.  "We were doing this difficult scene - Madeleine's last day at the asylum - and we had planes going overhead every 30 seconds."
   It had been a hell of a first week on the set of Quills...On Saturday, Winslet was whipped with a cat-o'-nine-tails for letting the Marquis de Sade out of his cell.  "And it really bloody hurt," she says.  "We had a fake whip, but the guy had to use some force so it looked real.  I'm really bad at saying, 'No, I'm not going to put myself in this position.'  I did my usual, 'This is fine.' Ridiculous, but it helps to give some genuine reaction to being whipped."

I transcribed this June 2000 Total Film article from Karen's scan:
    Kate Winslet's developing a rep for getting her kit off on screen. She's done nekkid for Leo's art classes in Titanic, gone the full monty in Jude, and even urinated in the buff as a tough-cookie cult member for Holy Smoke. So it should come as no surprise then that she spends parts of Quills in her birthday suit. But what did you expect in a film about the Marquis de Sade, directed by Philip Kaufman, him behind the sexually-charged Henry & June?
    Still, if Winslet-watchers can keep their eyes off her for a sec, Quills has plenty to offer. It's France, 1807, and Geoffrey Rush is the Marquis, banged up in the nuthouse when the government can't decide how to punish him.  Also on hand to up the thespian quotient is recent Oscar winner Michael Caine, playing a doctor brought in to try and 'cure' de Sade with some unorthodox (and doubtless very painful) medical treatments.
    Adapted from Doug Wright's play, the story features the incarcerated Marquis sneaking out pages of his diary with the help of his chambermaid, Winslet's Madeleine. And something extra for those not after nudity or acting kudos?  Pauline McLynn, better known as Father Ted's mad housekeeper, Mrs. Doyle, has a small role.  So there may well be tea on the menu. Ahr, go on, y'know y'want to. Y'will.
    UK release - December.

I found this April 16, 2000 article about the Marquis de Sade in the Sunday Times (UK):
"The Return of Hideous Kinky," -
    There was more to the Marquis de Sade than his liking for weird sex, says Bryan Appleyard. His dark view of human nature may yet hold true. "Either kill me or take me as I am," said the Marquis de Sade, "because I'll be damned if I shall ever change." He also wanted to be forgotten. He wanted his grave to "be sown with acorns so that ... the traces of my tomb may disappear from the face of the earth, as I flatter myself that my memory will be wiped from the minds of men". But, on his death in 1814, the grand master of perversion was given a Christian burial. He also failed, sensationally, to be forgotten. He is now memorialised on thousands of internet sites as the S in S&M - Baron Leopold von Sacher- Masoch is the M - and in the word "sadism", which has come to denote all forms of cruelty for pleasure, sexual and otherwise.
    The truth of the man, however, is far more complex. His catalogues of sexual variation, mixed with anti-authoritarian rantings, are a deliberate and manically focused expression of the vision of natural man as a monster. All of us know there are crimes we could commit, even want to commit, but, for some reason, don't. De Sade imagined a world in which all restraint was gone and all crimes committed. The natural state, free of social inhibition, was hell.
    Now his memory is to be revived with a rush of films about weird sex and two, Quills with Kate Winslet and Sade with Daniel Auteuil, about the man himself. Meanwhile, no fewer than 27 books about him have been published in the past five years. De Sade, the godfather of the contemporary impulse to let it all hang out, however weird and vile "it" may be, is back. A short, fat, unattractive man who was imprisoned eight times, sentenced to death twice and forced into an arranged marriage, he has returned once again to haunt the contemporary imagination. But what, exactly, is he? And why is he once again fashionable?
    One obvious answer to the latter is that weird sex is simply the next big thing for the movies. With militaristic violence of the Schwarzenegger/ Stallone kind rapidly dropping out of fashion, sexual extremity is merely the industry's next marketing tool. But there is more to it. The last time de Sade was revived, in the 1960s and 1970s, it was predictable. His books were widely published for the first time and he became an aspect of the age's libertarian aspirations. "If it feels good, do it," we said, and that included most, if not all, of the fabulous sexual variety he catalogues in interminable detail. De Sade was on every student's shelf: he represented a heady combination of political and sexual revolution. Film directors such as Pasolini, writers like Susan Sontag, theatre directors like Peter Brook, all fell under his spell.
    But it was always an edgy, ambiguous revival. After all, Ian Brady read de Sade, and the Moors murders could just as legitimately be described as a case of two people doing it because it felt good. Of course, there were also enough less sensational casualties of 1960s excess to raise questions about the social viability of the ideology of sexual liberation. And when Aids came along in the 1980s, it became impossible to sustain the illusion that sexual experimentation was entirely harmless.
    But that phase seems to have passed. In part this is because sexual naughtiness is not quite the thrill it once was. When, in the 1970s, de Sade's novel Juliette (1797) was to be republished, fierce campaigns were launched against it and The Times argued that it should be suppressed under the Obscene Publications Act. In the event it wasn't banned, and his three main works - Justine, Juliette and The 120 Days of Sodom - are widely available.
    Of course, even if we had banned it, we could still buy it from amazon.com. Like so much else in the globalised, wired world, it's there if you want it. In fact, I suspect, this is an aspect of de Sade's present revival. Sex is being consumerised like everything else, and the ideology of consumerism requires the maximum elaboration of choice. De Sade, before he is anything else, is the supreme master of sexual choice.
    But he also had an aristocratic disdain for the bourgeoisie. He spent a third of his life in prison and was outraged by the oppression of his lusts by a society in which the wealthy bourgeois were seizing power at the expense of his own class. As a result, he welcomed the French Revolution and shouted incitements to the mob from his cell in the Bastille.
    The consumerisation of sex also entails making it bourgeois, however. De Sade must be turning in his grave at the spectacle of every conceivable perverse gratification being offered on the internet. Precisely because e-sex is virtual, it can easily become more extreme - more Sadean - than the real thing. And he would have been horrified at places like Elizabeth's B&B (bed and bondage) in San Francisco, where middle-class suburbanites go for a quick flogging after work. Perhaps he would also have been appalled at the use of sadomasochistic erotica as a high-society style in the photography of Helmut Newton and Robert Mapplethorpe. Even Geri Halliwell's performance at the Brits - where she appeared on stage from between a gigantic pair of female legs - signals that the Spice Girls' tame-sounding motto of "girl power" includes public sexual extravagance that would have been unthinkable even 10 years ago. How much longer before we see S&M boutique-brothels opening in places like the Bluewater shopping centre in Kent? Already, I note, the Ann Summers chain of sex shops has taken over Knickerbox, offering commuter fetishism to the masses.
    This normalisation of perversion takes the political sting out of sex. If nobody can be shocked and everybody can do it if they like, it is impossible for bondage to bring down the bourgeois state. The old-school feminists still see pornography and male sexual fantasy as an apparatus of repression. But more robust feminists such as Camille Paglia embrace pornography and especially de Sade as the florid expression of the real forces that lurk within the culture, whether we like it or not. Still, it is hard to see this as a particularly challenging social posture, since it is another way of accepting bourgeois, normalised perversion.
    Yet there remains something deeply challenging about de Sade. His fans are not all pornography consumers, nor are they all combatants in the American sex wars, like Paglia. For many, he is an artist, philosopher and prophet of enormous significance. He has a range of distinguished defenders. Speaking up for the artist is Peter Ackroyd: "If art can be defined as the capacity to cause wonder, then Sade is an artist." For the prophet, here is Anthony Burgess: "Sade prophesied an age of mass murder, and our century has seen it, all in the sacred name of progressive politics." And for the philosopher, here is Robert Hughes: "He was the most savage and truthful critic of politics and society that 18th-century France produced." He was, said his biographer Geoffrey Gorer, "the arch-critic of authority, human and divine". If the authorities didn't like weird sex, very well then, he would do weird sex until it killed him.
    The key to de Sade's real significance is his historical location - at the height of the Enlightenment. The 18th century saw the creation of the modern view that the world was accessible to human reason. Science would lead us to understand and conquer nature. For most Enlightenment thinkers, this was an optimistic idea. For Rousseau, it meant we could one day sweep away the darkness and oppression of human culture and get back to nature. But for others, notably Voltaire, there was a dark side. In anticipation of Freud, it was seen that there was an unavoidable conflict between the "natural" instincts and civilisation.
    De Sade took the darkest view of all. He was the flip side of Rousseau. A militant atheist, he saw no guiding principle in nature other than predation. Unleash the natural man and what you got was not Arcadia but the carnal anarchy of The 120 Days of Sodom or the unrelenting exploitation of Justine. "What I call evil," he wrote, "is, it seems, a great good relative to the being who sent me into the world. God is most vindictive, he is wicked and unjust. The sequences of evil are eternal; it was in evil that he created the world, and it is evil that keeps it in existence; he perpetuates it for evil's sake."
    He was an angry, obsessed precursor of Nietzsche. He flung the insights of the Enlightenment back in the faces of the optimists. "Nothing human is foreign to me," ran the classical motto that Montaigne, that great precursor of the Enlightenment, had inscribed on his study wall. De Sade took this principle to its logical and terrible conclusion. He celebrated the most extreme possibilities of the human; like Nietzsche, he foresaw wars and destruction arising from the reign of reason. Human beings were just not good enough to deal with rationality. As Jack Nicholson famously said to Tom Cruise in A Few Good Men: "You can't handle the truth." The unhandleable truth was the virulent destructiveness of human nature.
    It is here - not in his endless and boring celebration of sexual excess - that his real contemporary relevance is to be found. For his question is being asked more precisely and more urgently than ever before: in what does our humanity consist - in nature, nurture or in some transcendent order, whether cultural or divine? De Sade tested the issue to destruction in his life and work. We are testing it through the intimate issues posed by the science of genetics and by the attempts of a godless political and intellectual class to organise a postreligious society and morality. The scientific mind knows - or thinks it knows - that the Enlightenment was right and that nature offers us no mirror or consolation. We try, therefore, to remake nature in our own image, to design the baby, engineer the crops or virtualise the world. If de Sade was right, it will all go horribly wrong. And, strangely, it will also go wrong if Rousseau was right, for we shall have desecrated nature, our only source of goodness.
    But, for the moment, what we have is a fashionable revival of this peculiar but, in his way, clairvoyant man. This time he will probably be used as little more than a symbolic adjunct to, and a literary affirmation of, the world of consumerised sex. The next Sadean revival may be more terrible and salutory.
    A fair crack of the whip - …Due out later this year are two Marquis de Sade biopics, with Daniel Auteuil in the French production Sade, and Geoffrey Rush and Kate Winslet in Quills, which was shot in England last year for Fox. Winslet subjected herself to whipping for her art…

Ain't It Cool News featured a report September 10, 1999 submitted by "Mike", an extra who worked on the film:
    "I have wanted to contribute to your site for a long time. And finally now I have the chance. I worked as an extra for a couple of days on the set of the new film from director Philip Kaufman. He is, of course, the director of films like The Right Stuff and ehm...the awful Rising Son, and Henry & June which was the first motion picture to get the NC-17 rating. As an extra I had absolutely no info on what the film was all about and the set was completely closed. But one of my friends from drama school has a bigger part in the film and he told me what I wanted to know about it.
     "The working title is 'Quills' - the same title as the 1995 play, which it is based on. Playwriter Douglas Wright actually won the Obie Award in 1996 for it, and he has also adapted it for this film. But there were some strong indications on the set that the film's title would change before being released. Mentioned was 'The Marquis'.
The film is about French writer Marquis De Sade. In many of his writings, de Sade described in detail various sexual activities that he himself practiced. Consequently, the term sadism, used by psychiatrists to denote that form of neurosis wherein sexual satisfaction is gained by the infliction of pain on others, is derived from his name. In his philosophy, both criminal and sexually deviant acts are regarded as natural. His works were therefore labeled obscene and their publication was banned well into the 20th century.
    "The story takes place at a criminal lunatic asylum in France where de Sade (Geoffrey Rush...great) is committed. The infamous pornographer is being committed because of his tales of horror and sexual obsession, and worse. Sexual crimes. He is being tortured by Priest Abbe de Coulmier (Joaquin Phoenix...great). Coulmier is not a violent person but he is being forced to do it by the asylum doctor. Royer-Collard (Michael Caine...even greater). So why does de Sades' tales still turn up in public once in a while? Because of the young maid (Kate Winslet...just as great) who works at the asylum. So they take away anything for de Sade to write on. But he still has bedclothes and writes on them with wine, blood, and some things you can't even imagine! Now Sade is left naked in his cell with nothing but straws to sleep on. So he starts whispering the stories from cell to cell. To one lunatic to another. Until Madeleine, the maid, can write them down on the other side of the walls. A plan with disastrous consequences for both Madeleine and de Sade.
    I believe we will see some new sides of Kaufman's talent here. The film will be very dark and scary. With everything from torture to ghosts coming back to haunt the dying lunatics. And normal people going totally bonkers because of the influence from de Sade (like Priest de Coulmier does). And then you ask, will it have a lot of sex in it? I don't think so. It will be a sexual film. But only in terms of the relationship between de Sade and the young maid Madeleine, who's actually a virgin and obsessed with fantasies about de Sades' writing.
    "So the scenes I was in were unfortunately not in the set built as standin for the French prison of Charenton, which I heard from my friend should be pretty scary. I would have liked to see it but it was absolutely banned. That's why I think it will be something unreal that we haven't seen anything like before. The scene involved a conversation between the doctor and the priest. Michael Caine and Joaquin Phoenix. It was at the point were the priest gets ordered to start torturing de Sade, after they find out that the maid is releasing his writings.
     "This looks like a really great performance from Phoenix. His part is the most demanding in the movie. Going from a noble priest to a lunatic haunted by ghosts. I'm also looking forward to see Geoffrey Rush and Kate Winslet. Damn, I didn't meet her! We all know what Rush can do and Winslet is in the smallest of the four leading roles, but I think this is something we have never seen her do before. I mean, curious about sadism!! That's something.
     "Your MPAA will probably not go easy on this one. Maybe Kaufman did this just to challenge them. I don't know. A solution could easily be like the one for Eyes Wide Shut. We will see a different version here in Europe, and in America it will be cut to an R rating. Maybe it's because it's my first work in a film as an 'actor' but I'm really looking forward to this one. Who knows. It could be like Seven. A film that just crawls under our skin and stays there."

An actor who worked on Quills was profiled in a British newspaper in August 1999; here are excerpts:
    Actor Richard Weekes has landed a role in a star-studded film just one day after leaving drama school. The former Cheltenham College student will star in Quills alongside Titanic actress Kate Winslet, screen legend Michael Caine and Oscar-winner Geoffrey Rush.
    Richard plays a part called The Fop, who reads the Marquis' writings to crowds. He appears at the start of the film and has about 30 lines. He said: "I was a bit worried because the car to take me to the read-through was late. But when I arrived Kate Winslet tapped me on the shoulder, said not to worry about it. She introduced me to everybody and they were all really friendly. They seemed more interested in me than being big stars."