Insightful documentary about the influential Hollywood screenwriter
If the term ‘maverick’ is an overused one when it comes to describing 1970s Hollywood veterans, it’s more than fitting for John Milius. Just his screenwriting credits alone are enough to make the hairs on the back of your neck stand on end. An uncredited writer on Dirty Harry, this self-dubbed 'Zen Anarchist' was also the force behind Jeremiah Johnson and Apocalypse Now. And that’s before you consider his cult directorial credits – films like Big Wednesday, Conan The Barbarian and Red Dawn.
Joey Figueroa and Zak Knutson’s documentary Milius is a straight-up tribute to the man himself – a collage of talking heads and clips that, in format at least, is as conventional as Milius was radical. All the big guns are present, rushing to pay tribute, with a roll-call that feels like a Hollywood who’s-who, including words from Spielberg, Scorsese, Coppola and Lucas. There are more personal contributions, including Milius’ son, and while there’s a lot of love in the air, the filmmakers don’t shirk from addressing his more objectionable side – hard line right-wing politics and a love of guns that, he believes, stalled his studio career.
With plenty of anecdotes for film fans to chew over, that would probably be enough. But the real poignancy comes in the final third. After feeding us footage from a 2004 interview with Milius – to the point where you begin to wonder why there’s nothing new from him – the directors then switch to present-day. If you’re unaware of what this renegade raconteur has been dealing with in the last few years, it’s a shock to the system – and Spielberg’s genuine emotion at what’s happened to his friend is quite touching. As last acts go, its one hell of an ending – something Milius might well appreciate.
Limited release from Fri 1 Nov.