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Wizards: An Interview with Ralph Bakshi, Part Three

Monday 2nd April 2012 by Allisonnnnn

In celebration of the 35th anniversary of the animated classic, Wizards, FOX has released the epic fantasy film on Blu-ray, complete with a commentary by legendary filmmaker Ralph Bakshi, who was able to take the time out of his busy schedule to sit down with Geekscape.  This is the third and final part of the series, you can find part one here.

A: This has always been a point of curiosity for me: Avatar.  When he pulls out the gun and shoots Blackwolf, I was sitting there, because movies have a formula, you know.  He’s not supposed to do that, even though sometimes we wish they would.  But He’s supposed to fight with magic and then the power of love will come and suddenly he’ll get a big burst of rainbow unicorns or something.  But he shoots him.  Which left me sitting there going, “He… he totally shot him.  He shot him with a gun after backhanding that Viking.  He shot him.”  I didn’t know what to think.  What was behind that choice?

RB:  It was for a lot of reasons.  One of the reasons I went into it was your thinking, secondly, look— Avatar was old.  He was tired.  I set up the whole picture showing that he wasn’t sure what he could do.  He was brave enough to go through it and he would try to keep everyone together, but throughout the picture he wasn’t sure of himself.  He made mistakes.  And towards the end what with Eleanor and all that had happened to him, when he was popping the flowers around—he was out of it.  There was no way that he could magically beat his brother.  The only way to stop his brother was with what his brother uses to hurt everyone, and that’s the gun.  Avatar had to win for the sake of his species.  What I also say, technology for the right reasons is fine, it’s technology for the wrong reasons that’s bad.  Avatar getting rid of Blackwolf is a right reason and he blew his brains away.  He could not beat him magically.  That’s why he called him a son of a bitch.  But he did it and it worked.  He got him, which is more important than anything.

A: Do you think he felt guilt for using technology or because he was willing to take that sacrifice for everyone that would it taint him somehow?

RB:  You’re very bright.  I’m not putting you on.  Picture two starts: everyone’s happy, but Avatar is off in the woods and he’s depressed.  He killed his brother, he just shot his brother.  He hated him, but he was his brother.  He used technology which he didn’t want to use—he dirtied himself.  He’s in a very bad way.  So that’s how picture two starts.  He’s leaving the community, they’re going home by themselves and he’s leaving because of these issues.  I wanted to show that even though he hates his brother, killing him was not easy for him to do.  He took the hit for everybody.  That’s religious to some Christian people, I would suppose—not that I am pushing that.  But he had to stop the death of all those wonderful creatures.  But he had let himself down and one’s self is very important, so I’m going to be discussing how people let themselves down by selling out, by not whistle-blowing.  So yes, you’re very right, picture two starts with Avatar in bad shape.

A: And Eleanor, she goes with him.  What’s the connection between the two of them?  It doesn’t exactly seem like what one would typically expect.

RB:  I’m not sure.  I’m an old man, I was old then.  Old men and young girls—I would change that.  I wouldn’t have—I heard the end the other day—I haven’t seen the picture since I made it, and I won’t see it.  I won’t look at any of my pictures.

A: Why?

RB: I’ll tell you in a second.  But when they rode off together, I was surprised at myself.  I wouldn’t have done that today.  I’m not sure what their relationship is.  Well, he’s sexually attracted to her, but I don’t know what her reaction is.  She’s toying with him, she loves him, she’s playing with him, she’s funny, she loves him enough to play with him in a way that makes him feel good.  She’s a good girl, she likes him that way— that’s the best I could come up at the time.  Past that, I wasn’t sure where I was going with that.  And now today, as an old man, I won’t go anywhere with it.  In other words, she belongs with Weehawk or she belongs somewhere else.  And that might be how she grows up, when he tells her, listen, now you’re on your own without me, this is what is means to become a full-fledged fairy, not hanging on to me.  I’d play it that way.

A:  So why don’t you watch any of your own films?

RB: Well, I’m not sure they’re as good as people say they are,  and I’m not sure that if I looked at them, I would like them myself.  So the only way I can maintain a certain position of agreeing with people is to not to see them again.  And I’ve always done that.  It’s a question of fear—I’m not going to see Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings because I don’t want him to have done a better picture than I did.  It’s a way of hanging a certain curtain in front of yourself.  People enjoy my movies and they send stuff in and they love the films and I want to agree with them.  The only way to agree with them is by not seeing the movies myself.  It’s a thing I have, but listen, once in a while I will walk by a screen and take a peak, and it’s not bad, what I see.  The picture that I can look at over and over again is CoonskinCoonskin I could look at forever, it was the greatest picture that I ever made.  Because it’s got all these ideas– Miss America, imagine Miss America being Palin before she was Palin.  It’s amazing.  But that’s why I don’t look at them.

A:  You said you would change the ending, or you wouldn’t do the ending the same way.  What would you do now?

RB: I bet it would be very happy.  Everyone would be dancing in the firelight and Eleanor would be dancing and singing and they’d be playing music, a great Lawrence of Arabia scene.  Everyone’s singing and dancing and and Weehawk would say, “Has anyone seen Avatar?” and I’d roll the credits.

A:  You said it’s supposed to be a trilogy.  Do you know what the third one is going to be about yet?

RB:  The third one will have to depend on how the second one works.  What happens in there will inspire the third one.  It’s always worked that way, one picture will get me to the next.  Heavy Traffic got me to Hey Good Lookin’ so each picture was a progression of ideas I learned from before moving on.   So I’d have to see what the second came out to be.  It could be terrible.  I could do number two and it could be a piece of garbage.  I don’t know how I did one, I haven’t the slightest idea of how I wrote that.  I haven’t the slightest idea!  I just sat down and wrote it and I obviously was a different person.  But that’s what I wrote and that’s what came out.  I don’t know what I’d write today.  I don’t know that I’d be around physically for the third one either.

A: If you complete Wizards II and you’re not around for three, is there someone that you’d feel comfortable doing it, or would you just hope that the right someone comes along and picks it up?

RB: It would be somebody in the studio that would be able to do it.  If I did II, there’d be a lot of kids in there that would have to rise to the occasion.  Matter of fact, all the kids that work for Pixar right now I hired them out of school to work on Mighty Mouse.  All of them  Andrew Stanton, Jim Reardon, all the top names at Pixar trained on Mighty Mouse.  And all those guys, they all started from Cal Arts.  I yelled at them.  And they’re really yelling at this kid, Andrew Stanton— they’re blaming him for John Carter on Mars.  Everyone’s yelling at this kid.  All the press have been down this as the biggest failure in the movies because it cost three-hundred fifty million dollars to make, like it’s his fault.  But I like the kid, I’m saying get off his back.

A magical princess shows you two doors labeled “Part One” and “Part Two”.  If you choose the door labeled “Part One”, turn to page 43.  If you choose the door labeled “Part Two”, turn to page 18.