Philippe Mora is due back in Australia on February 14 to attend the first ever, back-to-back screenings of three of his documentaries in Brisbane, present two master classes on gonzo filmmaking in the 1970s, and shoot the final scenes of his innovative movie Absolutely Modern, featuring Austen Tayshus.
If time permits, the filmmaker will also film segments of The Sound of Spying, his experimental 3D musical about the Cold War and the Hollywood black list.
Based in Los Angeles for more than 30 years, Mora grew up in Melbourne and directed his first movie here, Mad Dog Morgan, the bushranger saga starring Dennis Hopper, David
Gulpilil, Jack Thompson and Frank Thring, in 1976.
His documentaries Gertrude Stein Mystery or Some Like It Art, German Sons and Continuity, which he dubs the Mosaic trilogy, will premiere at the inaugural You Don't Have to Be Jewish! Film Festival at the State Library of Queensland, staged by the Jewish Film Foundation of Australia.
The Gertrude Stein project is a mockumentary which posits the Jewish writer (played by Mora) didn't die in 1946 but led a hidden 'life after life', appearing in films by the likes of Hitchcock, George Cukor, Fritz Lang and Bob Fosse. German Sons chronicles the friendship between Mora, the son of Holocaust survivors Georges and Mirka Mora, and German musician/composer Harald Grosskopf, whose father was a Nazi Wehrmacht soldier. Both titles are available to rent or buy on Amazon Instant Video. Continuity is a homage to Einstein and relativity in the form of a comic thriller about time travel, in which Mora plays Agent Peter Lorre, codename for a CIA agent embroiled in a plot to destroy Communism by proving that God exists.
He'll film the final scenes in Melbourne of Absolutely Modern, a hybrid of live action, puppets and animation, which looks at the birth of modernism through a ménage a trois involving Australian painter Sidney Nolan (Clayton Watson), his wife and his mistress Sunday Reed (Rena Riffel). Mora plays art critic Lord Steinway and former Chelsea footballer Mario Melchiot is Steinway's illegitimate son. Austen Tayshus/Sandy Gutman, who appeared in Mora's 1999 UFOs doco According to Occam's Razor, will play Ern Malley, the fictitious poet who figured in one of Australia's most celebrated literary hoaxes.
Mora got the idea for The Sound of Spying when he was researching an article on unclassified FBI and CIA documents which revealed on obsession with homosexuality at the highest levels of the US and British governments for The Sydney Morning Herald in 2010. He wrote the narrative and the lyrics for 12 songs composed by Polish composer Adrian Konarski, including I Loved Kim Philby, This Stage Has No Curtain, Sexual Deviates, Bloodlands, The Lavender Menace and There's No Business Like Spybusiness.
Veteran actor John Apicella is playing Winston Churchill and John Jack Rodgers, executive director of the Stella Adler Academy of Acting & Theatre – Los Angeles, is Noel Coward. Other roles including Guy Burgess, J. Edgar Hoover, Cary Grant, Marilyn Monroe, Arthur Miller, Harry Truman, Joseph Stalin and Joseph McCarthy are being cast. Actor Tiriel Mora, Philippe's brother, will play two famous spies whom the director declines to name just yet.
Mora is immersed in casting The Surrealist, a 3D movie about an imaginary threesome between Spanish painter Salvador Dalí, his tempestuous wife Gala and the Mona Lisa. Alan Cumming is attached to play Dali with Judy Davis as Gala. The $US20 million film is a co-production between Australia's Column Pictures (in which Mora is partnered with Charles Waterstreet and Fred Bestall) and Canada's Arrow Entertainment, which is raising most of the money from private investors.
He'll deliver the master classes in Brisbane and Melbourne. There'll be plenty of anecdotes about working with the late Hopper, a legendary boozer. “Producer Jeremy Thomas and I had never seen anyone drink as much, even now,” he says. “I was convinced Dennis was going to drop dead and destroy my career and Jeremy's on our first outing. Because it was my first film I thought maybe all Hollywood actors behaved like that. But as soon as the camera switched on, he was a different person, amazing.”