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"The more intense the love, the more incongruous Francis and George become because of the difference between them," he observes. "The more you love someone, in a way, the more you can hurt them -- and the more they can hurt you. Dyer's death might have been an accident. Bacon took it as a suicide. When someone chooses to take their own life, I actually respect that, particularly in recent years with AIDS. Friends of mine have taken their own lives because they didn't want to go on any more. I respect that. I don't see that as chickening out. It's certainly not the easy way out."
"You know," Maybury continues, "ten years before George Dyer there was Bacon's love affair with Peter Lacy. Lacy didn't actually commit suicide, but he drank himself to death in a piano bar in Tangier. Bacon was told Lacy had died on the eve of his Tate retrospective. It was almost ten years to the day when George tops himself! And then when Bacon dies, he leaves $12 million to another East End white boy, John Edwards. That was the official amount, but it was probably considerably more than that."
Maybury believes that Bacon's frankness -- about sexuality and everything else -- might well have played into the hands of the painter's detractors. But for him it's key to his interest in the artist.
"There's always been an argument against Bacon because of the theatricality and formulaic aspect of his work," Maybury explains. "That John Berger essay in Ways of Seeing, comparing him to Walt Disney, is a part of that. It's the English disease of resenting success. Bacon was a success on such an intellectual scale. At the same time he single-handedly erased Graham Sutherland and that whole Neoromantic school of English artist. Just wiped them off the face of the scene! That to me was the most exciting thing about Bacon. Despite the deluge of Abstract Expressionism and American heroic painting, which we've all since found out was sponsored by Bill Paley and the CIA anyway, Bacon was still painting the figure. That was a very radical thing to be doing. So there was a lot of resentment against him, especially on the part of people who had hitched their wagon to the Abstract Expressionists."
There was also resentment against Bacon the man, whose dandified eloquence was captured several times on film, a fact that helped Maybury and Jacobi enormously.
"I got my hands on every documentary there is on Francis Bacon, and we looked at them," the filmmaker recalls. "We decided early on that it shouldn't be an impersonation. Derek [Jacobi] doesn't try and impersonate his voice. But what he does do is the body language, the gestures. There was one tape that Dan Farson gave me that was never broadcast. It was him interviewing Bacon. Dan Farson was acting as the straight man, feeding him lines. He knew he could get him to make Baconesque remarks. But when Bacon disagrees with something Dan Farson says, he spins his chair around.
"You know in interviews, Bacon has this incredibly urbane, almost kind of chi-chi way of talking. He'll slip every so often into the very 'Serious Intellectual Francis Bacon,' but then this coquette kind of appears that's completely contradictory to that. Like Warhol, he hid it behind that fantastic character he'd created. Bacon in London was much like Warhol in New York. And in a funny kind of way when he died it was much like when Warhol died. I certainly didn't know Warhol, but he was a hero of mine from my school days. When he died you really felt a chunk of New York had died too. The same was true with Bacon. I met him at parties -- people introduced me -- but in a sense I didn't want to know him. I was terrified of him on one hand, and on the other it's, Never meet your heroes, they'll always disappoint you."
Over the years Maybury has been a player in gay bohemian scenes almost as wild as Bacon's. His video-film Remembrance of Things Fast (it won the 1994 Independent/Experimental Award from the Los Angeles Film Critics Association) reflects this. Its mixture of documentary, narrative, and purely abstract imagery finds gay porn star Aidan Shaw drifting through a landscape also inhabited by the likes of Swinton and Rupert Everett.
"We, his friends, couldn't have been more surprised by Rupert's success with My Best Friend's Wedding," says Maybury, laughing. "He's Mr. Gay America now, isn't he? Lord knows he didn't plan it! It was his usual indiscriminate way of choosing roles. Just think of his career trajectory. First Another Country, then Dance with a Stranger, then he did that dreadful movie with Bob Dylan, Hearts of Fire. It's unwatchable. He had a wonderful time with Bob Dylan, though, and got a naked ego trip out of it, standing in a stadium in front of 20,000 people, pretending to be a rock star. Then those French films, and then Remembrance with me. Rupert is the most hopeless strategist known to mankind. But she always lands on her high heels!
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