Whit Stillman and Chloë Sevigny Look Back at The Last Days of Disco by H.W. Vail for Vanity Fair (June 11, 2018).
The article talks about how elements of disco are still in vogue today, the soundtrack, how Stillman got into Studio 54, how Winona Ryder was almost cast, and how the great literature he read talks about social gatherings that were lacking in the early ’70s.
Asked where his preoccupation for this rarefied (and dwindling) stratum of society originated, Stillman pointed to a critical observation he made upon graduating from Harvard. “I guess it comes from a feeling I had when I got out of university, in June 1973. It seemed like society was totally atomized,” he said. “There were no connections; there was no social fabric. So when you read the world of Tolstoy and War and Peace, social gatherings were all connections between people. Or Jane Austen, where there are always connections. Or Fitzgerald . . . I guess it’s trying to imagine and reconstruct the links between people, and ask, ‘Is there really a social fabric at any time?’”
Stillman talks about why Alice was “friends” with Charlotte, his experience in clubs, the sound mix of the film, and his future projects.
Do you have any updates on The Cosmopolitans and Dancing Mood?
I’m working on both and I have another possibility, something written by someone else. It’s the first time I’ve been offered a good script, frankly. I’m waiting for things to settle at Amazon to finish The Cosmopolitans scripts and submit them. I’m recasting what I was thinking of doing for Dancing Mood. It might be called something else, but I really hope both of those things will happen. I also have the chance to, maybe, do a TV series based on the Love & Friendshipnovel I did. In that there’s a continuation character, Rufus Martin-Colonna, who is a really funny character. So there might be this funny, silly English aristocrat in the 1800s as a TV comedy. Essentially it’s the same character Tom Bennett played in the film. In the novel he’s the nephew of Sir James Martin played by Tom Bennett. But if it becomes a TV show, I would like Tom Bennett to play the nephew.
Stillman talks about the genesis of the film, costumes, novelization, his favorite song in Disco, and more.
What was going on in your life when you were writing The Last Days of Disco script?
It sort of came out of the editing of the prior film we worked on, Barcelona. When we were in Barcelona, we had a really tough shoot physically with a lot of night shooting. Then we had a wonderful day in a chic, old-style European disco club, Up & Down, and did a big disco scene there and really had a great time shooting. If you’re doing a film like this set at night, if it’s a disco you can actually shoot during the day, so it’s the easiest day for night. It’s really sort of fun. Normally on these films, you’re exhausted all the time. We were looking at what we shot in the two disco scenes in Barcelona and it just seemed so visual and so cinematographic. In our kind of films, you have to strive hard to make it look like anything — it’s people talking and things like that. In this case, those scenes had a sort of action and beauty, and we had the idea of two lovely girls in nightclubs. I myself loved the disco era. I loved the music and the atmosphere, and it gave me a chance to go back to that time.