When British filmmaker Ken Russell died Sunday at the age of 84, fans chose to remember his films--the envelope-pushing Women in Love and The Devils were both cited endlessly--however, there was another side to Russell known only by the select group of talent who were, um, lucky enough to work with him.
"Women In Love was a very difficult film to make and Ken Russell was an exceedingly difficult person to work with," remembered Larry Kramer, who wrote the film, an adaptation of a D.H. Lawrence novel released in 1969. "He did not like Americans, particularly when this American was the screenwriter/producer. He almost gave me a nervous breakdown. (He gave Paddy Chayefsky a heart attack over Altered States. Paddy loathed him.)"
It's not an opinion Kramer is alone in.
"It has, of course, to be said that he was capable of almost any enormity in the careless rapture he brought to making his films," said an obituary printed in the Guardian. "He could be dreadfully cruel to his undoubted talent, almost as if he was defying himself, let alone those who supported him."
Still, even though working conditions were less than ideal, Kramer seems to have developed something resembling respect for Russell.
"He had one of the greatest of visual eyes, perfectly suited to the English landscape, but he had no ability to cap his rampant excesses," Kramer went on. "Left to his own devices, Women In Love would have come out looking like The Devils. We had a lot of fights, but it turned out to be a great movie so something between us worked. It certainly was the best movie he ever made. I never really wanted to make another movie after making this one with him. To protect one's sanity perhaps some creative people are best left to work on their own."
Or, as Russell wrote about himself in 2008, "I believe in what I'm doing wholeheartedly, passionately, and what's more, I simply go about my business. I suppose such a thing can be annoying to some people."