Film Directors on Directing

By John Andrew Gallagher | Go to book overview

James Toback

The Gambler, Fingers, Love and Money, Exposed, The Pickup Artist, The Big Bang! -- the titles of James Toback's movies reflect his themes and obsessions. Toback's films are off-beat, visceral, and highly original, with characters who constantly confront their own contradictions, and generally split critics and audiences right down the middle. People seem to either love or hate Jim Toback movies.

Born in New York City in 1944, Toback graduated magna cum laude from Harvard, did graduate work at Columbia University, and taught literature at the City College of New York. He wrote for such magazines as Esquire and Harper's, and in 1971 published a book, Jim, based on his relationship with football hero-turned-actor Jim Brown. Toback's original screenplay, The Gambler ( 1974), directed by Karel Reisz, set the tone for his subsequent film work with its riveting portrayal of a compulsive gambler, played by James Caan. In 1978, Toback made an astounding directorial debut with Fingers, a brilliant and violent drama about an aspiring concert pianist ( Harvey Keitel) who lives a double life as a collector for his loan shark father. Fingers was poorly distributed, but was highly praised by such filmmakers as R. W. Fassbinder and François Truffaut, who selected it as one of his all-time favorite films in a 1979 American Film Institute poll, the only current film to make his list.

Championed by Warren Beatty, Toback followed with Love and Money ( 1982), memorable for a performance by veteran director King Vidor; Exposed ( 1983) a quirky melodrama with Nastassia Kinski as a high fashion model embroiled with a European terrorist ( Keitel); and The Pickup Artist ( 1987), starring Molly Ringwald and Robert Downey, Jr., a comedic departure for the director. Toback's next film, The Big Bang!, is a self-financed, low-budget documentary examining the attitudes of males and females towards such subjects as sex, love, money, politics, and religion.

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Film Directors on Directing
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Preface and Acknowledgments ix
  • John G. Avildsen 1
  • Tony Bill 21
  • Michael Cimino 37
  • Abel Ferrara 49
  • James Glickenhaus 57
  • Menahem Golan 75
  • Stuart Gordon 89
  • Ulu Grosbard 101
  • Anthony Harvey 115
  • Dennis Hopper 127
  • Ted Kotcheff 141
  • Adrian Lyne 159
  • John Milius 169
  • Alan Parker 183
  • Franc Roddam 195
  • Mark Rydell 209
  • Susan Seidelman 221
  • Joan Micklin Silver 231
  • James Toback 241
  • FrançOis Truffaut 259
  • Wim Wenders 269
  • Bibliography 279
  • Index 283
  • About the Author 301
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