Interview: Gracie Otto
She's making a documentary on producer and playboy Michael White — and you can be involved.
Actress Gracie Otto is making her directorial debut with a documentary, Chalky, on British producer Michael White. Michael is a something of a legend: he is behind projects such as The Rocky Horror Show and Monty Python and The Holy Grail, and remains to this day — despite being 76-years-old — a bona-fide playboy and partygoer. Oh yeah, and he also introduced Yoko Ono and John Lennon to one another. Gracie is currently crowdsourcing funds to get the film finished in time for Cannes Film Festival next year. For as little as $10 you can be involved, and for $250 your name will appear on the film's credits. Check out the trailer and our interview with Gracie below, and for more details on funding go here.
Alice Cavanagh: How would you describe Michael White in five words or less?
Gracie Otto: Adorable, enigmatic, optimistic, fun-loving.
What was your first encounter with Michael like?
It was in the early hours of the morning at a big celebrity party at Cannes and I kept noticing all of the guests gravitating towards this old man sitting there with his walking stick. I offered to get him a drink from the bar and he said "Bloody Mary", and when I came back he asked for my phone number!
What has been your craziest experience with him so far?
The last day of the Cannes Festival this year he decided we should drive to Italy for lunch — and we did!
What has been the highlight for you so far?
Just spending time with Michael is the highlight for me. Everyone who knows him understands what I mean — he just makes everything fun. And he has introduced me to a world of incredible people I would never have met otherwise.
Who have you interviewed for the film?
I've interviewed about 60 of his friends and colleagues now — Yoko Ono, Naomi Watts, Barry Humphries, John Waters, Lorne Michaels, Kate Moss, Greta Scacchi and nearly all of the Rocky Horror team. Probably the highlight was meeting Yoko Ono in New York, but I was so in awe of her that I couldn't really enjoy it at the time.
Is there anyone you have approached but have not been able to speak with yet?
I am still trying to get Mick Jagger. I've met him socially a couple of times and he has agreed to do an interview but I just never seem to be in the same part of the world to nail him down. And I still haven't given up on Jack Nicholson.
If Michael were to have a theme song/soundtrack what would it be?
He said on a radio program that the album he would take with him to a deserted island would be Bob Marley, but I think 'One' from Chorus Line describes him best.
Why did you think this film needed to be made?
Michael's story is inspirational — he was always at the cutting edge of everything in theatre, film, dance and art that was exciting and new. It is important for my generation to recognise the achievements of those who have taken risks and pioneered an exciting world for them.
If all goes to plan when are you hoping to release it?
My ambition is to have the premiere at Cannes next year. Michael has been going to Cannes every year (except one when he had a heart attack) for 45 years. Everyone at Cannes already knows and loves him and it's the perfect place to launch Chalky.