This past November Severin were commissioned to shoot a featurette on the making of the late Derek Jarman’s controversial 1991 film Edward II for a UK DVD release. The interviews with star Edward Waddington, Producers Antony Root and Steve Clark-Hall, Cinematographer Ian Wilson and human rights activist Peter Tatchell were shot at St. Giles In The Fields church in the west end of London. The shoot also afforded a trip down to the treacherous terrain of Dungeness on England’s south coast where Jarman kept his famous and unlikely garden at Prospect cottage and to his final resting place at the nearby Old Romney Churchyard.
We were particularly pleased that we were able to get legendary thorn-in-the-side-of-bigots-everywhere Tatchell for the piece at the eleventh hour. At the close of the shoot day he briskly walked up to the location from a protest on the Thames that he was trying to execute on November 5th (bonfire night in England) outside the houses of Parliament which hadn’t worked out. He proceeded to give a fascinating interview about Jarman as a friend, an artist and a fiercely committed activist and of the volatile political climate in England of the early 90s. Tatchell is not in the credits of Edward II but as research went on it was clear that he and Jarman were campaigning a lot at the time of its making against the draconian laws that were astoundingly still on the books restricting gay rights and these activities had a big influence on the film. Jarman had recently come out as one of the first British public figures to reveal that he was HIV positive and did a ton of tireless work educating the public about the disease and breaking down the stigmas and public paranoia associated with it. Unfortunately the British media at the time did not help matters by publishing headlines such as “The Gay Plague That Threatens Us All.” Anti-gay violence was at an all-time high but politicians and the police were complicit in demonizing and often arresting gay men for victimless behavior. Jarman was incensed at actor Ian McKellan at this time for accepting a knighthood from the establishment that had was treating the gay community as second class citizens. Together Jarman and Tatchell were key figures in the non-violent direct action group OutRage! Who staged protests and demonstrations up and down the country.
As Jarman was adapting Christopher Marlowe’s 4 century old play Edward II for the screen he came up with the idea to include an OutRage protest in the film. While the story of Edward and the brutal murder of his lover Piers Gaveston had parallels to what was happening in contemporary England, it was the inclusion of the modern day activists in his film that would erase any doubt that we had progressed little over the centuries. One of the controversial things OutRage did in those days was threaten to out public figures for their hypocrisy in their opposition or indifference to gay equality. Equipped with whistles, members of the group would ambush a given bishop or politician and literally “blow the whistle” on their alleged homosexuality. An impromptu example of this occurred on the set of Edward II I and the clip below will not appear in the final edited version of Jarman’s Edward because the UK distributor of the film, perhaps wisely, thought some people may not see the amusing side of the story. Enjoy this censored scene from Jarman’s Edward!