Candy Clark was a successful model in New York when she won the role of Jeff Bridges's girlfriend in John Huston's FAT CITY (1972). She followed it up with an Oscar-nominated turn as the lovable Debbie in George Lucas's AMERICAN GRAFFITI (1973), a fresh face amongst fellow newcomers Richard Dreyfuss, Ron Howard, Charles Martin Smith, Paul Le Mat and Harrison Ford. Candy has been a vivacious, natural, charming addition to the cast of films such as THE BIG SLEEP (1978), HANDLE WITH CARE (aka CITIZEN'S BAND) (1978), BLUE THUNDER (1983), AT CLOSE RANGE (1985) and the very underrated MORE AMERICAN GRAFFITI (1979). She has worked with some of cinema's top talents, and recently had roles in ZODIAC (2007) for David Fincher and THE INFORMANT! (2009) for Steven Soderbergh. She will soon film an important role as JJ (A.J. Cook)'s mother in the top-rated TV series, 'Criminal Minds'. I interviewed Candy about her experience making the brilliant sci-fi film THE MAN WHO FELL TO EARTH (1976) with David Bowie and director Nicolas Roeg (her partner at the time), one of her most loved films and performances.

When did you first hear about the movie?
The first time I heard about it was when I was given the script by Nic Roeg. I was waiting for him (he was in a business meeting) and he said 'Here, read this.' And then I read it while I was waiting for him, and I thought 'This is fantastic'. Then he said 'Well, you wanna be in it?'. And I said 'Yeah!' (laughs).

When did you first meet Nic?
I met him here (L.A.) at a birthday party at Si Litvinoff's house. (Litvinoff was one of the film's producers.)

How long were you involved with the film before it started filming?
About six months. I had the script before we started filming, so I read it every day and thought about it. As a result, I had a lot impressions and thoughts about things I wanted to do because I had so much advance notice. It was really helpful.

What was your first impression of David Bowie?
I thought he was the right choice, and he was perfect as a man from another planet. I had never seen him in concert which was a good thing because I would have totally been in awe when we made the film. So when I met him he was just another actor, basically. I never really followed his career. I liked The Rolling Stones, people like that. I had seen that film he did, ZIGGY STARDUST AND THE SPIDERS FROM MARS (1973), in the theatre when I lived in New York City. I like those kind of documentary/ biography kind of films. When I met him he looked totally different from Ziggy Stardust.

How was working with him?

He was very normal, very down to earth. What I liked about when we worked together was that he, being a musician, didn't mind doing the dialogue. We had a lot of lines and dialogue to say, and the script was so well written that we wanted to do it word for word and period for period. I didn't want to change anything because I really liked the writing, and so David was so used to rehearsing as a musician that it didn't bother him to go over, run the lines over and over again. When we were doing one scene, we would be running over the lines for the next scene. He liked to practice a lot, which was great for me.

It is commonly accepted that David was at the height of his drug use during the period. Did you see any evidence of this?

Not at all. I think he vowed not to do drugs with Nic. Whether he kept that vow or not I never knew. All I know is that he was very professional and he was there on time every day. That's all I can vouch for, my experience. I don't know him as being wild. I know he had a big entourage around him, so we didn't hang out much or socialise because he had a lot of people he brought with him to the location. They kind of stayed to themselves and hung out with each other in the evening.

Was it always David that Nic wanted?
He got the idea from Arlene Sellers, who was a producer. She said, 'Hey, how about David Bowie?'. Once it came up it just seemed like a natural. So Nic went after David Bowie and they're both British. He had ways to get to him. Once David read the script, I mean why would he ever turn it down? He is the main character. He was perfect. He was at the height of his handsomeness. He was young and thin, perfect for that character. His skin was just beautiful. He just never looked better. When I look back on the film, I just go 'Wow!'. He really photographed well, and he was really good as the character. I would say brilliant.

Did you read the Walter Tevis book in order to prepare?
Yeah, I read the book. The book was totally different from the script. There are similarities but the character in the book was really, really tall - 7 or 8 feet tall, with white hair. It touched on similar things, but it's two different stories basically.

There is a rumour that Nic considered 'Jurassic Park' author Michael Crichton due to his height (6'9").

I never heard anything about that.

Why did you have to double David in one scene?
At that time David wouldn't fly, and there was a scene where he was meant to come out of the World Enterprises building in New York City through revolving doors and into a waiting limousine. That was me in his clothes wearing an orange wig! As I walked out I could hear people saying "That's David Bowie!" . I didn't correct them! I had to put my hand up to jaw in the scene because our jawline is different. The clothes fit well, but they were a little big, and long in the leg. I had volunteered to do the scene because I wanted to go to New York City.

How was filming in New Mexico?
New Mexico is a beautiful state. It's known as 'The Land of Enchantment', and it is, it is just a gorgeous part of the country. It's got mountains and deserts and it's just beautiful. We were based in Albuquerque and we had some locations out of Santa Fe . I love Santa Fe, it's a beautiful city. I was there last year. I went back to see it again. Went on a little vacation there, it was just as pretty now as it was back then. Went back to the hotel called La Fonda and walked through that. It's just a great city. I could live there easily.

What were the people like?

Just normal people like you and me. There's a lot of American Indians based out of there. Everyone's very nice. It's still got a real small town feeling, kind of thing.

It must have been strange for the residents to have their area taken over by a movie crew.
No, they always have movie crews going through New Mexico. It's so close to California and it has such a lot of different atmospheres, locations and scenery that it's a great location for film shoots.

Was the whole shoot an enjoyable experience?

Oh yeah, the whole thing was fantastic. Everybody got along, everybody did great. It was very easy going.

After the movie did you make any other movies that were as enjoyable to make?

Yeah, I went on to make BLUE THUNDER (1983) and MORE AMERICAN GRAFFITI (1979). They were fun. But THE MAN WHO FELL TO EARTH was the part I had the longest so I really got to think a lot about it and plan what I was going to do. Or as much as you can without being on the set, you know, because once you're on the set with the other actors, all those plans go out of the window. Now it is live and in person. It's like if you're a basketball player - you can think about throwing hoops and what you're going to do in the game and all of that but once all the players are there, it's totally different. It's out of control and you just do the best you can

What is Nic's directing style like?

Very much like a coach. I mean, any time you see a scene, he is just a couple of inches out of frame. Just right there, you could see him out of your peripheral vision, watching you.

Does he favour a lot of takes?

There were a fair amount, although David and I had our lines memorised and we had it down pat. It didn't take a lot of takes, not an abnormal amount. He wouldn't just go on and on and on, no. If he was going to redo it, he would tell you ''Try to do this, this time'. It wouldn't just be you are redoing it and redoing it the same way.

What was the most challenging aspect of your role?

The thing that was most challenging, I guess, was to keep track of the time period, how many years have passed and what the characters look like at different stages. The ageing and all of that. You really had to keep track of it.

Was acting in heavy make-up difficult?

It was, because it took forever to get it on and there were all these rubber pieces that were glued onto your face. You didn't want to crack it around the cheeks and around the mouth, so you couldn't eat. You really had to conserve the make-up, and you couldn't laugh or do anything that would pop it off. You had to be really careful and save it for the scenes. You had to drink through a straw, and it was hard to get on and hard to get off. You had to get solvents to take it off your face and it went really slowly. And it was really painful.

How did you feel about appearing nude in the film?
Nudity has never been my favourite thing to do. Back in the '70s, you know, everyone had to do it. It was faddish and new, and it is was kind of mandatory if you wanted to be in the films. That was the agreement, you had to do it. Now you see nudity and you just shrug your shoulders.

Did the script change at all during filming?

No, that was what it was. It was some of the best writing I had the opportunity to work with, so I didn't want to change anything, and when you're doing a film, if it is not there in the script, it is not going to be there on the screen. The script is the most important thing, it's like the blueprint for building a shopping mall or a house. If you don't have that, it's going to be all over the place.

Were there any scenes that never made it to the finished film?

Oh yeah, we probably overshot, and it has to be a certain amount of time. Once it is all edited, some of the weaker or lesser scenes got eliminated. I don't remember what they were. It was such a long time ago.

Did you ever meet Donald Cammell or his brother David? (Donald co-directed PERFORMANCE with Nic, and David was involved with THE MAN WHO FELL TO EARTH in the early development stages.)

I met Donald way back in the early '70s. He was kind of on the party scene and out and about, a bachelor around town. David, I don't think I met.

Did Donald ever visit the set?

No, as far as I remember, he didn't come to the set. Most people don't make the effort to visit other people's sets.

Was Paul Mayersberg (the film's screenwriter) present during filming?

Yeah, he was there.

How was working with Rip Torn?

Very easy. Good actor.

When was the first time you saw a version of the movie?

Like a year later. It was the final cut that was going to be screened in England, so I went to England and saw it.

How did you feel about the finished film?

I thought it was fantastic. I could fill in what Nic was going for because I was so involved in the movie, I was there. I thought it was great, and I think it did get good reviews in England.

It has become a big cult film.

Yeah, it still is. That uncut version is out and it's building its audience in the US. I am glad it's got a following because Nic Roeg put a lot of blood, sweat and tears into the movie.

Have you seen much of Nic over the years?

Here and there, not a lot. He lives in England now and has a quiet life. Once in a while he directs something.

I wish he directed more. I guess his films went out of vogue. It's sad.
He's very picky. I don't know, people's careers start off and they arc and they go down. Like Nic Roeg said, "Nothing lasts forever". I think his career does last forever because of films like THE MAN WHO FELL TO EARTH, WALKABOUT (1971) and DON'T LOOK NOW (1973). They go down in film history.

If you were to do the role again, would you do it any differently?
You know, I have never thought about it. It'll probably never come to me again. It's a once in a lifetime thing, and I thought I did a great job, really. I really put a lot of thought and effort into it, and thought about the clothing and the character, and that's as good as I could do.

If you could give advice to the 1975 Candy Clark what would it be?
I would have advised her that when she went to the film festival in Cartagena, Colombia, to get a hepatitis shot. But that was prior to THE MAN WHO FELL TO EARTH. That was right after AMERICAN GRAFFITI. I got infectious hepatitis, and I took care of it and went right into the hospital and stayed two weeks in bed. Four weeks in total, all lying down. I took it very seriously. I lost an acting job in REPORT TO THE COMMISSIONER (1975). I was leaving for that job and within two days I was hospitalised. I had that glitch in my career. I had done research for several months, running around with the New York Police Department Undercover Section and all that and got the wardrobe ready. I really wanted to do it and begged them to wait for me to get well, but they couldn't as they were leaving for location. I saw the movie after it came out and there was Susan Blakely (she got the role overnight because they needed to replace me) in my wardrobe. I couldn't believe it. Oh! Oh, well. At the time I was very upset. But, you know, you get sick, you get sick.

How does the film impact on your life now?
Well, I am still talking about it! People love it, and it gives me a certain amount of notoriety or prestige I guess. People admire it, and as a result admire me! It's been a very good thing in my life for sure. 

I would like to thank Candy for the generous use of her time and for her candid answers.

Candy was interviewed by telephone, 3rd April 2012.

Paul Rowlands is a Japan-based writer. After completing a BA Humanities course (majoring in English and Science) at the University of Chester, he moved to Japan in 1999. He writes for the James Bond magazine, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, has had articles published on Press Play, and has had an almost lifelong obsession with cinema, something the advent of DVD only increased. 

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