Tales and adventures of making a film with Warner Bros. in the 1960s and 70s  (IMDB: Internet Movie Data Base )

With Special Appearances by Tommy Lee Jones, Hugh Hefner, Genevieve Bujold, Jack Nicholson, Robbie Robertson, Martin Scorsese, Alanis Obomsawin, Raul Julia, Sam Waterston, Al Pacino and Marguerite Corriveau, and a cast of thousands...


Eliza's Horoscope began in a coffee bar on  Bishop Street  in Montreal in the spring of 1967, when I overheard two female university students discussing their romantic activities with men in terms of astrological signs.


I was surprised.


Of course I'd heard of astrology and horoscopes but it never occurred to me that people would take astrology so seriously as to take amatory decisions based on people's signs. But in the spiritual disarray of that era, I soon saw that this made sense.


In Quebec, which was in the throes of the Quiet Revolution, the Catholic Church was losing the powerful hold it had long held over French-Canadians; and in the Western world in general, people were in a quandary as to what faith to embrace to try and make sense of life.


People were trying different paths, from Buddhism to Hare Krishna sects to the Moonies, not to mention the spaced-out spiritual visions of Timothy Leary and LSD.


I realized that astrology was another alternative, though it was one which I personally found hard to credit for a number of reasons.


Anyway, I’d always been leery of palm readers and other fortune tellers because I feared I might do something to try and make the predictions come true - or to avoid their coming true.


I was just turning thirty.


I'd had a number of important love affairs - enough to realize how difficult it was to find the right person to fall in love with to the point that you could feel here was a potential life-mate. And by now I'd also had enough experience to know that women in love often wanted to have a child.


I was born into Toronto's upper middle-class. That's the level of society my father, who began in poverty, finally achieved through his remarkable success in business.


So I knew something of how the well-off lived and played, at least in Toronto.


We also had a farm on which I'd worked during my teenage summers, so I knew something of the life of farm labourers and their families.


My social conscience, which had been awakened a little at the University of Toronto, had been sharpened while at Oxford, where I discovered the practical application of leftist views for the first time, and they had made me see more clearly the excesses of the rich - which I'd experienced first-hand - though I'd also known enough of the good life to realize that it did have its attractions.


But my  Oxford education  made me realize as never before that the poor usually got a raw deal in our society, and that in all conscience I could no longer ignore this fact.


In that era,  Mao  and the Chinese Revolution held a certain romantic attraction for people concerned with social injustice - since the horrors of Mao's Great Leap Forward of the late fifties and then the Cultural Revolution that began in 1966 only became generally known a few years later.


Early in the 60s I had my first contact with Indians when I considered doing a documentary on a female Indian activist from the  Caughnawaga  Mohawk Reserve outside of Montreal.


Then in the fall of 1966  Patrick Watson  introduced me to Alanis Obomsawin,  a beautiful Abenaki Indian singer who had just joined the  National Film Board  in Montreal.


She made me vividly aware of Indian lore and legend; and I started to read seriously about North American Indian history and life.


In turn, this gave me a new sense of the Red Power movement that was beginning to make itself felt in North America.


And of course I was struck by the fact that there was good evidence that the Indians had originally come from Asia - hence were linked to the Chinese.


As for the effect of Indians on the question of spiritual belief, I already had the notion that religion should have its basis in nature; hence it was absurd for people in North America to believe in religions founded in the Middle East.


Thinking about the Indians made me realize that because of their profound experience of nature in North America, they would provide the best guides for establishing a new set of spiritual beliefs on this continent.


So it was natural that I ask Alanis to suggest some Indian names for my production company. I finally chose  O-zali,  an Abenaki Indian word meaning "angel".


Finally, there was the city of Montreal.


My experience of it had begun in earnest in 1963 when I made a documentary about Elaine Bedard, a well-known French-Canadian model and TV personality, and then began a relationship with her. Our relationship caused me to come to the city every weekend during the three years from 1963 to 1966 when I was working in Ottawa as Assistant to the Secretary of State.


When I left Ottawa in September 1966, even though my relationship with Elaine had come to an end I decided to establish myself in  Montreal  because I sensed, from my experience of it, that the city would provide an ideal environment for me as a film maker - which is what I'd been before going to Ottawa.


With regard to the physical layout of the city, I found that some of the poor sections of Montreal, like St-Henri, especially around the Jacques Cartier Park, or on Fullum Street, near the Jacques Cartier Bridge, were seemingly much more attractive as living environments than middle-class areas of the city, though of course that was an easy, romantic notion for someone like me who lived comfortably in a coach house apartment in the centre of Montreal.


All these experiences and reflections came together to form the basic story-line of Eliza's Horoscope.


Eliza, a young farm girl, wants to have a child, hence wants to meet the love of her life. Because of an encounter with a mysterious one-eyed man, she comes to Montreal to consult Rose Quong, an old Chinese astrologer living in a boarding house in a working-class district of Montreal.


She asks Rose Quong who the love of her life will be, and when Rose Quong gives her prediction - that he will be a rich and handsome Aries whom she will meet in the next ten days.


Eliza sets out to make the prediction come true, taking rich and handsome literally and thus not realizing when she meets Tommy, a young Indian involved in the Red Power movement, who is an Aries and who is rich and handsome in spirit and imagination, that he too fulfils the prediction.


Also involved in Eliza’s life is her boarding house roommate Lila, an old music hall performer, now a bar waitress, who tries to woo Eliza away from astrology and into an embrace of the Roman Catholic faith.


Eliza’s blindness about Tommy leads to tragedy, but her whole experience in Montreal leads her to a new understanding of love.


I asked the Canadian Film Development Corporation, as it was then called, for some script development money, and they complied. I finished a first draft of the script while living with a singer named Susan Jains, who, after I'd made some short films with her, seemed to me the right person to play the lead in my feature.


At that point the film was called Susan’s Horoscope.


In 1962, I'd made a documentary about Hugh Hefner called The Most, which had won many international awards.


When Hefner saw it, he told me how much he admired my talent and that he'd like to help me get into features, but I’d gone to work in Ottawa instead.


So when I'd completed the draft of my script for Susan’s Horoscope, I asked Hefner if he might get involved in providing financial backing for the film.


Hefner invited me to come to Chicago to discuss it with him and while there to stay at the Playboy mansion.


Just before leaving for Chicago, I had a falling out with Susan Jains.


While staying at the mansion in Chicago, I met  Elizabeth Moormana brilliant girl from Houston who'd started medical school at the age of fifteen, had a breakdown, and at eighteen, as a kind of off the wall therapy, had come to work as a bunny at the Chicago Playboy Club.


Hefner declined to get involved in my film project, but within a short while Elizabeth Moorman agreed to come live with me in Montreal - and I subsequently changed the film's title to Eliza's Horoscope.


In making a number of documentaries, starting in 1960, I'd always worked in 16mm black and white. So to get ready to do the feature, I thought it would be a good idea to make a test film in 35mm colour, starring Eliza.


Not only would the test film give me the experience of working in 35mm colour, it would prove, I was sure, that Eliza could carry the starring role of the film.


A few months later, I met cameraman Jean Boffety, from Paris, who was in Montreal to shoot Paul Almond's feature Act of The Heart,  starring his wife, Genevieve Bujold.


I asked Boffety to shoot the ten minute test film. He agreed, and brought along as his assistant, a young Dutch-Canadian named  Paul van der Linden.


At the same time, I discovered that Ingmar Bergman's longtime editor, Ulla Rhyge, had recently come to live in Montreal. I arranged to meet her and asked her to edit the ten minute film.


And so, in the spring of 1969, the ten minute film was made.


Not only did this test film prove that Eliza could carry the role, it turned out to be a very good advertisement for the look and style of the whole film.


As well, it suggested to me that surrounding myself with tested veterans like Boffety and Ulla Rhyge was the best way for me to make up for my inexperience in making features.


In the summer of 1969, I was so convinced that I’d soon get the backing to do my film that I started to do some pre-production.


I rented a small house as a production office, I commissioned the making of a fiberglass centaur statue needed for one the scenes in the film, and I engaged Francoise Berd, who knew everybody in the Montreal acting world, to start looking for actors to play supporting roles.


I'd seen Lila Kedrova in Zorba the Greek, for which she won an Academy Award, and knew that she had recently married a Canadian theatre director and that they were living in Sault Ste Marie. I flew to see her about playing the role of Lila, showed her the test film, and she agreed.


As well, I decided to try and get Fellini's art director, Piero Gherardi, to work on my film.


So I flew to Rome to meet him.


He too was impressed by the ten minute film and said yes.


While in Europe, I re-contacted Jean Boffety and through him met Agnes Guillemot, Jean-Luc Godard's editor, who agreed to edit the film.


Meanwhile, I made calls to Canadian production houses trying to interest them in my film, but nothing came of these initiatives.


So in August I decided I'd try my luck in New York.


A friend there knew someone who knew Fred Weintraub, the head of East Coast production for Warner Bros. I called and got an appointment with Fred. It turned out that he was a great fan of The Most; and he was very impressed by my test film. Still, he didn't say yes to my film project; he said "Maybe".


All this time, I intended to be the writer-director of the film, not its producer. But after meeting a slew of producers, in Canada and the States, I decided that I might have trouble seeing eye-to-eye with the producers I'd met, and that it would probably be best if I produced the film myself.


This decision led me to call on someone in Toronto who was expert in budgeting films to help me produce a budget for Eliza's Horoscope.


When I'd been living with Susan Jains, she'd introduced me to Robbie Robertson of The Band.


He too was a great admirer of The Most, and we became friends.


I didn't realize it at the time but Robbie came originally from the  Six Nations Mohawk Reserve  in Brantford, Ontario.

So when I told him about Eliza's Horoscope, he related to the Indian theme in the film.


After I got back from New York I called Robbie in Woodstock and told him about my meeting with Fred Weintraub - and a couple of weeks later Robbie called me back to say The Band would like to do the soundtrack of my film.


 I immediately phoned Fred Weintraub and told him.


That changed everything.


The Band had just been on the cover of Time Magazine. Fred figured that even if the film wasn't a commercial hit, Warners would still get an album from one of the hottest bands in the world at the time.


Fred invited me to come to New York, where he put me up at the St. Regis Hotel, and asked me to do a rewrite of the script with Warner's story editor, Eleanor Timberman.


I arrived in New York in December and stayed until the spring, coming back to Montreal once a week to do a radio show on the arts which I'd been hosting for the CBC since 1967.


Eleanor turned out to be a wonderful story editor, we got on wonderfully, and she became a solid supporter of the film - indeed she played a crucial role in guiding it through the maze of Warner Bros. politics - for of course in a big company like Warners, which at the time was making a dozen features a year world-wide, getting a film approved is a political process, involving a lot of executives, each of whom has an agenda.


Hence, I soon realized that part of my task in selling the film to Warners was to psyche out the politics of the place.


 I did so with Eleanor's help. And in May 1970, Warners gave the final okay, for a film budgeted at $1.2 million, shooting to start in August, with the unknown Elizabeth Moorman as star.


During the rewriting of the script, Eleanor and I discussed casting. Warners had a casting office in New York, so we asked them for help in finding someone to play the Chinese astrologer, and someone to play Tommy.


For the astrologer, they came up with Rose Quong, an actress in her nineties, who was originally from Australia and who had started her acting career in England in the 1920s and 30s.


She seemed perfect for the part.


For the role of Tommy, I went to see an unknown Al Pacino in a play at the Lincoln Centre, I met with Raul Julia, I met with Sam Waterston, I met with others.


Nobody seemed right.   And then I met  Tom Lee Jones.


Part Indian - his grandmother was a Comanche - and the son of a Texas oil rigger, he had graduated cum laude in English literature from Harvard where he'd played on the football team and starred in a number of campus theatre productions.


Sensitive but tough as nails. I flew him up to Montreal, we did a test film with him, and he got the part.


By the way, as you might suspect, in the original script the chief characters had different names.


It was only when they were cast that I asked the actors if we could use their real names for the characters as I felt that doing so would give the actors greater identification with their roles.


In the case of Rose Quong and Lila, that we used real photographs of them as young women was an added reason for using their real names.


You may notice that in the film Tommy Lee Jones is referred to as Tom, because that’s what he called himself at the time.


After Warners gave the go-ahead, I called Boffety who confirmed he could do the first month's shooting of the film, but then he had to leave because he'd already committed to shoot a feature in France in September.


When I called to confirm with Gherardi, however, he said he'd been asked to work on an Italian production of Pinnocchio and was taking that job instead.


I suspected that because Warners was involved, he'd been counting on a big-time fee, and was dismayed when I offered him only what the budget of our modest film could afford.


But perhaps it had to do with his not wanting to go far from home because he felt he was failing - for indeed he died not long afterwards.


 In any case, what to do now about an art director?


The costume designer, I'd already decided on: Francois Barbeau, an extraordinarily gifted designer in the Montreal theatre.


When I told Warners of my dilemma, they proposed Art Lourie, living in Hollywood, who had been the art director on Jean Renoir's classic film La grande Illusion.


(As it turned out, Lourie wasn't quite right for the job, because he was aging and because he wasn't familiar with Montreal. Fortunately, Barbeau learned fast, and a few weeks after the start of production I let Lourie go, and Barbeau took over as art director. My relationship with Barbeau was the closest of anyone on the crew.)


Meanwhile I had a problem with Eliza.


While I was living in New York over the winter, she'd gone to live with friends in California.


When I called her excitedly in May to tell her at last we had a deal with Warners, she said she wasn't so sure she wanted to do the film. I was astounded.


Selling Warners on making the film with an unknown as star had been a big part of the challenge in getting Warners to greenlight the film, because studios usually like to go with an established star, especially with a first time director - and in my case, a first time producer-director.


I asked Eliza to fly to Montreal to discuss the situation.


Meanwhile, I contacted Genevieve Bujold, who'd become a friend, and asked her whether she would do the film if Eliza said no.


Genevieve had already committed to making The Trojan Women that summer, with Katherine Hepburn, Vanessa Redgrave and Irene Pappas, but she said she'd try and break her commitment in order to star in my film.


However, when Eliza got to Montreal, I managed to convince her to do the film.


(I might add that in the middle of shooting I finally found out what had caused Eliza to hesitate: she'd fallen in love in California, and when the shooting was over, instead of staying with me in Montreal, she planned to return to her new love in Hollywood. I was thunderstruck by this development, but of course had to set my emotions aside as best I could and get on with the shooting.)


During the shoot, I had to deal with two attempts at revolution from among the crew.


A few weeks after shooting began, the first production director I appointed, an American, secretly tried to get me replaced as producer-director by his brother-in-law, an established Hollywood director.


He didn't understand that once a Hollywood studio has committed to you, they aren't going to change their minds unless something awful happens.


The only thing that was happening in this instance was that the production manager saw a chance to further his own career in Hollywood by currying favour with his brother-in-law.


It didn't work.


I fired him and replaced him with someone else. When I heard a few years later he had died of a stroke, I did not weep.


The second attempt at revolt occurred with Michel Brault, the cameraman who replaced Jean Boffety when Boffety left after the first month of shooting.


I deliberately made the film without signing an agreement with a union so that, for example, I wouldn't have to interrupt scenes just when they were getting going, because a union rep was calling a mandatory coffee break.


Michel Brault was head of the French union of film crew workers, and after a few weeks on the job he announced that unless I signed an agreement with his union, he and all the other members of the film crew would quit.


That evening, I called Paul van der Linden, who had been Boffety's assistant, and asked him to take over as cameraman, and he agreed.


I had the production director inform the crew that was the case, and everybody showed up for work the next morning.


In later years Michel Brault and I had occasion to work together again and we have been friends ever since.


These two attempts to undo me made me realize to what extent feature-film making could make people power crazy.


And it made more sense of Robbie Robertson's advice to me before shooting began: that I get myself a bodyguard, not because anyone might physically attack me, but just to give off an air of menace so nobody would try and fool with my authority.


I suppose he was giving his advice based on what he had learned from the music business when the stakes got high.


Once shooting was over, I had to contend with the insistence by Warner Bros. that I edit the film in California.

When they cut off the money to back up their demand, I couldn't pay Agnes Guillemot to edit the film and she couldn't wait around because she had other commitments coming up in


When Warners finally agreed that I could edit the film in Montreal, I looked around for an editor to replace Agnes Guillemot.


In Hollywood, I interviewed Martin Scorsese who had edited Woodstock, and was then editing an obscure film starring Mickey Rooney.


I liked Scorsese, and, having seen some of the rushes, he wanted to do my film.


Unfortunately he wasn't available to work on my film immediately, and after the long delay since shooting, I wanted to get going on the editing right away.


Jack Nicholson, whom I'd met when I accompanied Genevieve Bujold to the 1971 Academy Awards, suggested an editor he'd worked with whose name was Pat Somerset.


I hired Pat and he came to Montreal and worked for about six months. He did good work, but I wasn't quite satisfied with the result, so I decided to edit the film myself.


It took another year to complete the editing, during which time we had Tommy Lee Jones and Eliza come back to Montreal for some pick-up shooting.


Meanwhile, I began having troubles with The Band regarding the soundtrack.


The Band had some internal problems, and Robbie finally said they couldn't do the music as promised. So I began looking for alternatives.


I met with Theodorakis, the Greek musician who had done the music for Never on Sunday, and Yannis Xenakis, an avant-garde French composer.


I also flew George Crumb and William Bolcom to Montreal to screen the film.


They both were American contemporary composers whom I admired.


George Crumb didn't want to write special music for the film but he said I could use any of his already composed music I wanted.


William Bolcom, who was very enthusiastic about the film, was keen to do the track, but for some reason I didn't engage him.


(He has gone on to have a very distinguished career, winning a Pulitzer for his work.)


I finally chose a young unknown from Los Angeles who was willing to closely follow my instructions about the kind of music I wanted - because over the past couple of years I'd listened to a lot of music and picked out samples of things I wanted to go in specific places in the film.


The music for the film was recorded at Warner Bros. and Columbia recording studios in Hollywood in the summer of 1974.


For the recording we engaged top session musicians in LA. - Except for the player of one instrument, the Ondes martenot. I'd discovered this instrument during my musical research. Of French invention, it's an electronic instrument which produces a spacey, haunting sound.


I asked the composer to have the Ondes martenot represent Eliza on the soundtrack. Players of this instrument are rare, but I found a woman in Montreal who had remarkable mastery of it. So I flew her down to LA to play the Ondes martenot in the recording sessions.


I was glad to do so as I felt it some one from Montreal playing the instrument representing Eliza would mystically ensure the city's presence at the recordings.


Once the music was done, we laid the tracks and did the mix, our first mixing session being at the old Columbia studios where Mel Brooks had been mixing Blazing Saddles the week before.


There was plastic golf balls all over the studio, as I gather Mel and his crew kept loose by hitting golf balls at the screen. To try and get the mixing crew in the mood, I wore one of the black gowns from the astrology club and kept a lit Pascal candle in the studio.


And I handed out to the crew copies of The Double Helix, James Watson's account of how he, Francis Crick and Rosy Franklin, had cracked the DNA code.


When I passed out this book, I explained that the creative process by which these scientists had solved their problem echoed the creative process of making a film (or any other major artifact, for that matter). I'm sure the mixing crew thought I was a little strange, but no matter: they did an excellent job.


All during my time in Hollywood I'd been staying at the Chateau Marmont Hotel and driving a rented car.


The first time I came to Hollywood, however, I was met at the airport by a limousine and whisked off to the Beverly Hills Hotel.


All very glamorous. But the next day I asked the Warner VP of administration, Charlie Greenlaw, who was paying for all this: The studio?


No, he said, your production.


Well, since I wanted as much of the production money as possible spent on the film and not on frills I quickly got myself a rented car and moved from the expensive Beverly Hills Hotel to the more downscale though historically famous Chateau Marmont.


(I immediately sensed that some at Warner Bros. thought my refusal to go along with the perks meant that I wasn't prepared to share their culture of excess, and they were always suspicious of me after that.)


With the film now completed, I hunkered down at the Chateau Marmont to deal with the distribution, marketing and publicity people at Warners. But there was a problem.


Or rather two problems.


The first problem was that Fred Weintraub, the Warners East Coast Production chief who had godfathered Eliza's Horoscope, had tried to oust the West Coast production chief, John Calley - but he'd failed in his attempted coup and had to resign.


So John Calley was not very keen on any of the films Fred Weintraub had backed.

John was frank about this.


"You can appreciate my being lukewarm about Fred's pictures", he told me. "And your picture is difficult. It's not the usual fare that Warner puts out".


The second problem was this was the year Warners released The Exorcist, which was making them a pot full of money.

So they had much less interest in whether they put an effort behind my picture in order to recoup their relatively modest investment in it.


Put the two together and it was clear Warners was going to give Eliza's Horoscope a muted distribution.


When I thought the situation over, I decided to ask Warners if they would give me the film to distribute.


It took them the better part of a year to decide, but they finally said yes, provided I forego my producer-director fee, which amounted to some $80,000.


So I did. And that's how my company, O-zali Films, became the distributor of Eliza's Hosocope.


The original deal with Warners granting me the distribution was for ten years, but they have renewed it until the year 2015.


Little did I know what I was letting myself in for?


The first public showing of the film was in the summer of 1975 at the Festival of the Americas, a film festival on the Virgin Islands, where the film won an award (I can't remember exactly what).


Next it was shown at the Canadian Film Awards,  held in Niagara Falls in the early fall of 1975, where the film won five awards. (The organizers told me Tommy would also have won the award for best male performance, but they didn't want to give the award to an American).


Next the film represented Canada at the Tehran International Film Festival held in November 1975.


When I got back from Tehran, I decided to launch the film in the nave of a church in Montreal. I thought the event would underscore the film's basic theme of spiritual quest, while providing an unusual event that the media could remark upon.


And so I arranged to premiere the film in the Unitarian church on Sherbrooke Street in Montreal.


For the occasion I spent money to transform the church into a cinema. We put up a big screen in front of the sacristy, built a 35mm projector booth in the balcony, and bought foam cushions for all the seats.


Every Saturday night the screen had to be taken down to allow for the church's Sunday morning service, and then we put up the screen again Sunday afternoon.


The film played for five weeks. And while some people obviously got a great deal out of the film playing in the church, others wondered whether it was playing there because it wasn't good enough to go into cinemas.


To make matters worse, after that initial run, when I wanted to get the film into cinemas in Montreal, cinema owners were piqued that I had used the church venue, hence refused to show the film in their cinemas.


The film did show in mainline cinemas in Toronto, Winnipeg, Calgary, Edmonton and Victoria. But the place where it enjoyed its greatest success was Vancouver, where the influential Vancouver Sun film critic called the film "an unrecognized Canadian masterpiece", it played in the city's most popular art house, and the crowds were lined up around the block.


Unfortunately, the film was released in Vancouver in late November and the cinema there was already booked for releases by major studios for the Xmas season, so despite its notable success the film only played two weeks in Vancouver.


And so it went.


Trying to distribute the film proved to be costly and very difficult. Though I had dealings with a number of independent American distributors who wanted to handle the film, for one reason or another these deals fell through and we never did get distribution in the States - though the film was shown in LA in the spring of 1977 as part of a festival of Quebec films, and got a stirring review from the LA Times critic, Charles Champlin.


Releases on TV followed on local stations in Toronto, Montreal, Ottawa, Calgary, but there was no national TV release, except in French Canada.


And in the eighties, when VHS began to boom, I made a deal for the distribution of VHS cassettes of the film in the States with a California company.


Unfortunately, that company went belly-up a year later.


Trouble was I'd already sent them a 1" magnetic master of the film so they could make the VHS copies. I imagine after the bankruptcy somebody got hold of that master tape and after Tommy Lee Jones won his Academy Award for his role in The Fugitive, pirate copies of Eliza's Horoscope began appearing on Amazon.com and elsewhere.


Indeed, you could recently buy a pirated DVD copy of the film at Wal-Mart.


Apart from not getting a cent from these sales, we have to endure the awful fact that the pirated copies are full of jump cuts which give the film an appalling jerky quality.


I'm now embarked on the time-consuming task of trying to get Amazon.com and others to desist from selling the pirate copies.


In retrospect it would have been much less costly for me and much better for the career of the film if I'd left the film with Warner Bros. and pushed from within that organization for the best possible distribution of the film. At least it would have been released in the States and internationally. Live and learn.


In any case, perhaps the greatest benefit of making Eliza`s Horoscope was that I met my lady love, Marguerite Corriveau.


We met in August 1970, at a nightly screening of rushes, shortly after she’d been hired as an assistant editor on the film


Thereafter Marguerite devoted herself to the film day and night for seven years.


Over the years I became so impressed by her intelligence, her determination and her loyalty to what we were trying to accomplish, despite the problems we had to endure with the film, which I grew to respect her and love her.


We started living together and eventually had a child and got married.


It’s wonderfully apt that through a film whose theme is a young girl looking for love, I myself came to meet the love of my life.


In any case, that Eliza's Horoscope exists has a lot to do with Marguerite, and I am profoundly grateful to her.


People often ask me how come I never made another feature film.


For one thing, as you can see the process is long and torturous.


I could have made things much easier for myself had I started on a second project while I was editing Eliza’s Horoscope, since I already had lots of contacts in Hollywood. But I was so certain that if I concentrated on making Eliza’s Horoscope as good as it could be, that would make it easy for me to make films in the future.


Well it didn’t work out that way.


At one point Kitty Hawks, Howard Hawks’s daughter, who was an agent and who signed Tommy Lee Jones to a contract with CMA after she saw his performance in Eliza’s Horoscope - which is how Tommy got started in Hollywood - did try and interest a Hollywood producer in having me do The Lord of The Rings.


But that idea didn’t go anywhere, and thereafter I got involved in other projects - renovating the Victorian townhouse we live in, writing HA!, investigating the suicide of Hubert Aquin which resulted in my documentary novel HA!, getting involved seriously in photography starting in 1986, and raising our daughter Africa, now fifteen.


Besides, I never came across another story that I thought so compelling I just had to make it into a film, no matter what.


Maybe in the next life.


-  Gordon Sheppard (1937-2006)

GORDON SHEPPARD OR THE ART OF DYING WELL  A documentary film by Francine Pelletier 2011 Here is the trailer

The Globe & Mail


...and staggered forth into the world I had left

...leopard-skin underpants


                       HA!  A kind of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance for suicide 

-  J.S. Porter 

"Taking account of Gordon's feature film Eliza's Horoscope, which I saw in Paris in 1976, 

his amazing renovation of a Victorian townhouse and the family that lives there, 

his photographic art which I first experienced in Montreal in 1993, 

and Gordon's extraordinary novel HA!

plus the many exchanges I've had with him over the last ten years, 

I can say that in my lifetime I have been fortunate enough to know three geniuses - Orson Welles, Peter Ustinov and Gordon Sheppard."

- Suzanne Cloutier 

Café Cherrier, December 2005






Playing in the Band

A conversation with Robbie Robertson

by Patrick William Salvo

An article published in the British music magazine Melody Maker (now merged with NME) on October 7 1972. The text is copyrighted, please do not copy or redistribute. Thanks to Serge Daniloff for sending us a copy of the original article.

Tell me something about the movie you're doing.
Well, there's a film that Richard Manuel (Band pianist) was in. It was a film produced in Canada by a guy we know that used to be with the Canadian film board. His name is Gordon Shepard. Anyway, we're beginning to start a new record and what's going to happen on this we're not really together on yet. I don't know what's positively going to happen.

The movie is called Eliza's Horoscope and it's just a kind of a long thing to explain. Anyway, I'm a little hesitant to go into it, because I'm not sure what's going to happen yet. The truth is it's only 90 per cent edited and it's just going to depend on some ideas. If our ideas match, or we can really go behind the movie, we'll do it.

Is it one of these "psychedelic" astrology movies?
No, it's not very psychedelic. No, I don't think that's how you would describe it. You might say it's a little freaky. Anyway the point is that I wouldn't really want to say because we might not do it. I might be a soundtrack thing and it may not, but Richard's already done his thing, he did it a few months ago. He plays the part of a wealthy man who belongs to a club with other men that have a kind of religion of their own going. And it's based on some things. It's complicated to go into and you can't even sum it up in a couple of lines. It's a whole story you know from beginning to end.

And is the main character Eliza?
Yes. He meets her and they have an experience together. He doesn't make it with her. He takes her to his place. It's like all monks. It's all these wealthy men that have gotten together and pawned their money so they've got something to do on Tuesday and Thursday nights or something. You know it's their club.

What other projects have you been into since you recorded Cahoots?
We've done some music. I just got together some music for whatever, we're gonna start recording again in about a week from now.

Do you have any songs written for that album, for the movie soundtrack?

Yeah, well, I don't really do it that way, you know. I don't really write a bunch of songs and say let's go do an album. I write them down when they come according to my feelings and ideas and then we when get down to the reality if making a record then I jump down and try to get into the songs. 

Very seldom do I ever have anything to kill time, though on Big Pink the songs were written beforehand. 


 Gordon Sheppard

Speaking from  Montreal 
April 2005

 The Making of...

Richard Ballentine

(Will be back soon 05_2015)

 Tommy Lee Jones & Eliza Moorman in EH 


 Alanis Obomsawin at Mariposa Folk Festival
 Alanis Obomsawin  


Élaine Bédard

« French Sweetheart »
Élaine Bédard


Rose Quong 1

Rose Quong

Rose Quong 2

Susan Jains 1967

Susan Jains  

Hugh Hefner & GS  1962

Elizabeth Moorman

The Film: PirateCopy


 Ulla Rhyge
  Ulla Rhyge 


Francoise Berd
 Françoise Berd

Agnes Guillemot

Agnes Guillemot 


Fred Weintraub 

& Bruce Lee 1972



Eleanor Timberman:
Victor Miller's pal

  New York Women in Film & Television Member





"How director Gordon Sheppard recruited the American actor and other details makes for a fascinating tale"
M.Rajnovic & T.Twell  

In 1970 Manuel portrayed the "bearded composer" in Warner Bros movie Eliza's Horoscope...

- Drive by Truckers 2004
- Ryan Adams & Jason Isbell
in Austin 2014


Richard Manuel & Eliza Moorman in EH



Genevieve Bujold, Katherine Hepburn, Vanessa Redgrave, Irene Pappas

The Trojan Women

Genevieve Bujold Richard Burton

Genevieve Bujold as Anne


TLJ  & Eliza Moorman on Mount Royal

























John 'Black Jack' Calley &  Mrs Calley










"The movie is a bewildering late-hippie country-girl-meets-big-bad-world story..with a very surprising guest spot by Richard Manuel of The Band, and credits that listed one man as the writer, director, producer, and editor..."

- Doug Harvey 
Post  12/2009




Marguerite Corriveau 





Kitty Hawks

From Aquin to Warhol


 HA  from Robert Fulford  

HA!  from McGill-Queens  

 JWM on GS


EH Clip on Youtube


OuraniaSeven and Axel's discussion on MySpace is Gone.