John Boorman on Lee Marvin – “A Spiritual Warrior”

John Boorman on Lee Marvin:

“For me somehow he was the essence of America – big, wild & dangerous.”

“It was an intense and inspiring collaboration. And scary. He taught me a lot about film acting and indeed, filmmaking. Scary because he was always pressing for the truth, the essence of a scene. And he could sniff out anything slack or false or second-rate. And the word with Lee was always in riddles. He posed questions. He hinted. He spoke in parables. He lived his life in that. He was always searching for a gesture that would replace a line of dialogue, the perfect move to express an emotion.”

“I always felt he was kind of a spiritual warrior. He was engaged in a kind of very personal quest and somehow the expression of violence he did on the screen so well – I always felt that it was kind of a burden that he had to carry.”

Every Lee Marvin story I hear makes him a more fascinating figure, both in his onscreen artistry and his life offscreen. It sounds a little odd to call him a great actor for some reason (possibly because of his own humility – after all he gave half the credit for his Oscar-winning CAT BALLOU performance to his horse) but he was one of the greatest ever in any context. You can put his work against that of any other great screen lead and he does not suffer by comparison.

Director John Boorman knew Lee Marvin about as well as anyone – having directed a pair of his best performances and been a lifelong friend thereafter. Back in 1998 Boorman made a documentary portrait of his friend for the BBC. Here it is, in awful YouTube quality that could really use an upgrade.