Michael Deeley: Thursday

Matthew Field has written an extraordinary biography about the exceptional film producer Michael Deeley.  His knowledge of Deeley’s work is so encyclopaedic that once during the interview Deeley asked Field for a point of clarification on his own work. 

We were told of the challenges in making the ‘Italian Job’ and even the tale during the filming of ‘The Italian Job’ of the driver and private plane on standby in Milan in case the mini car stunt scene went awry and Deeley needed to escape from the Italian police (life/art?).  We even heard what would have happened after the cliff hanging ending of the film – solving on of cinema’s great mysteries.  The producer pulled no punches in his distaste for The Deer Hunter writer/director Michael Cimino and their disagreements during the making of the oscar winning epic.

We were treated to clips from both of these films plus excerpts from ‘The Wicker Man’, ‘Don’t Look Now’ and perhaps the finest film which Deeley has produced; ‘Blade Runner’.  If you want to know which version of ‘Blade Runner’ to watch, Deeeley was clear the ‘the final cut’ is the definitive version.

John Kay: Wednesday

What I had expected was ‘the credit crunch for dummies’ what we got was something of a fireside chat about the economy with opinion writ larger than explanation.  Interviewer Jesse Norman didn’t so much interview as throw in some observations of his own; he is after all an author and academic in his own right.  The plum voiced Conservative PPC looked less at home at Hay than Kay, who is a centrist business economist and adviser to the Scottish National Party’s First Minister.

The chat was edifying and Kay gave us some clear views both on what went wrong and what we might do to set out on the long road to recovery.  He also provided one of the great soundbites of the economic crisis with Kay describing the integration of retail and investment banks as like ‘linking a utility to a casino’.

Frank Close: Tuesday

I have to confess to being slightly concerned when the eminent particle physicist took to the stage wearing a short sleeve T-shirt pulled over his long sleeved collared white shirt.  Not a great look and not aided by image of the cover of his book ‘Antimatter’ emblazoned on the t-shirt.  I think perhaps that Frank thought this form of advertising more likely to encourage the audience to buy the book (rather than less).  

This judgement call was echoed in the constant references to Dan Brown’s ‘Angels & Demons’.  Presumably this was another marketing ploy – along the lines of the fact behind the fiction of ‘Angels & Demons’.  I have no interest in Dan Brown and having fallen for it once will never read another of his books.  Frank Close is a real expert, the explanations were fascinating and I left wanting more of the physics and less of the marketing.

Stephen Fry: Monday

Desmond Tutu is supposed to be the headline ‘act’ at this year’s Hay Festival but I’m not convinced that Stephen Fry is not the bigger draw.  Tickets were sold out weeks in advance and there was a real sense of anticipation on the site as the hour of his homage to America approached.

Fry did not disappoint.  He fulfilled the role of chat show guest to Festival founder Peter Florence’s genial host.  The session was richer in anecdote than in structure but no worse for that.   With the voice of Billy Wilder, Fry reported that Agatha Christie had been a poor writer of dialogue but in the mind of the great Director “plots like a fucking angel”.  We were told of the Kenyan view that ‘Obama’ could have been their first “white” president and heard tales of Alistair Cooke’s charm, generosity and brushes with Hitler and Bertrand Russell.

Stephen Fry is rapidly turning into a national treasure and it is events like this that will help to seal the deal.

Jake and Dinos Chapman: Saturday

Jake and Dinos are less intimidating in the flesh than they are in print and the explosive confrontations into which other interviews have descended did not materialise at Hay.  In fact unreserved contrarians though they are they make quite a charming pair.

There is a line and Jake and Dinos are on a mission to cross it, which they did in this interview but in the main it was  engaging and revelatory.  Perhaps the most interesting insight from the session was their reaction to the fire in Leyton, east London which destroyed many priceless works of art belonging to Charles Saatchi including their acclaimed installation ‘Hell’.  In response to the claim that orginal art can not be recreated they are working on a reversioned installation – this time called ‘Fucking Hell’.  Tracey Emin’s famous tent the explicative ‘Everyone I Have Ever Slept With’ was destroyed in the same fire and the artist has been  adamant that she could not recreate it …. so, they claim, Jake and Dinos have recreated it, and they plan to show it and perhaps even produce multiple versions.  I hope that’s true.