St. Patrick’s Day, 2003, Kenneth Anger wrote a letter asking me if I wanted to line-produce his next film Arrangement in White on Green. It was to be a film about cricket. A sports film was the last thing I ever imagined the director of Lucifer Rising would make. I was intrigued. I called him on the number supplied.
Oh, hello, Paul, thanks for phoning. Did you get my letter?
Well, what do you think?
I am up for it. Anything I can do to help.
That’s good, that’s really good. I’ve got Jack Cardiff as cinematographer and Sir John Paul Getty jr. is bankrolling the production. He’s a billionaire, you know.
Even better. But just one question. Why cricket?
Well, it’s a film about Getty’s cricket ground, Wormsley. That’s in Oxford. You know Oxford? Well I need someone based in the UK to produce, set things up, as I will be in LA until filming commences. How far is Glasgow from Oxford? I know it’s in England but I guess you can get there okay?
That’s not a problem.
Oh, that’s good. You know cricket is actually filled with occult symbols?
No, I didn’t.
Oh, yes, yes. I mean it’s a purification ritual. That’s why they dress in white. And the wickets, well, they’re really a wicker gate. And the three stumps, that’s an occult number. Three nails and you know.
I didn’t know.
[I was picturing Monty Python‘s spoof Pasolini cricket film The Third Test Match, a man frantically rubbing his groin with a cricket ball.]
Oh, yes. Cricket is very much tied-in with paganism. Even the lines on the pitch, is that what you call it?
The cricket field, well, the lines are taken from pagan symbols.
I was flattered by the invitation but beginning to think maybe my drink had been spiked by those damned low-lifes in the local bar who I knew would do something crummy like that and think it funny. Hell. I would think it was funny. But maybe this is all real. Occult magus Kenneth Anger making a film on cricket? Now this I got to see.
Okay, so what’s the plan and what do you want me to do?
Anger rattled off a list of things – stock, gear, accommodation, etc., etc. Anger would deal directly with Getty. I’d get the big intro further down the line. It all seemed too good to be true and I should have guessed it was but I was reading Anger’s typed letter as he spoke.
I first met filmmaker, writer and occultist Anger in New York, April 1997. I was interviewing him about Montgomery Clift for a documentary on a select band of talent/genius and how their various ailments impinged on their craft. You know the kind of thing. Beethoven and deafness. Virginia Woolf and bi-polar disorder. Nijinsky and schizophrenia. Clift – his addictions and the damage done to his beautiful face in an horrendous car crash. Anger gave a good interview – all the right titbits – and we got on. When I returned to Glasgow, I wrote him a thank you letter. He responded. I replied. And that’s how we corresponded, on-and-off, for the next thirteen years.
I asked Anger what he had for a budget.
Well, I asked Paul for $250,000.
Ask him for $500,000. He can afford it.
You think I should?
Of course, what have you got to lose?
Maybe I will.
Though we spoke regularly on the phone I could not get Anger to commit to a date when he would come to England to start filming. There was always some vague something in the way.
I suggested taking the proposal to Channel 4 to see if they would be interested in putting in some funding.
Is that television? Anger asked. You know I don’t really watch television.
He pronounced television as if he had uncovered something septic in his granola.
The following week, he sent me his proposal to “present” to Channel 4. It was a piece of cheap paper with the following written in black felt tip:
IN WHITE ON GREEN”
to be filmed at Sir
Paul Getty’s private
cricket ground, Wormsley
music Sir Edward Elgar’s3rd Symphony
I was beginning to think this film would never happen.
Doing some research, I discovered a few things didn’t add up. Small things like Getty’s estate Wormsley is in Buckinghamshire. Getty bought Wormsley in 1986. He then spent an estimated £60 million building and renovating the estate–planting trees, building a swimming pool–over the next six years. He also added a cricket ground. Getty had been introduced to cricket by Mick Jagger. In September 1992, the cricket ground hosted its first match under the captaincies of Imran Khan and Bob Wyatt. All interesting in itself but not the kind of content I thought Anger would consider as suitable for a film.
A month to the day Anger wrote his letter, Sir Paul Getty died on the 17th April 2003.
I called Anger.
You’ve heard the news?
I know. I knew this would happen.
Well, I guess that’s the end of it.
Anger let out a world-weary sigh.
I wish I’d asked him for a million, he said.
Anger wrote me around 60+ letters. Yet, he rarely revealed much about himself. Just a few things in passing: his cruising Hampstead Heath in the sixties; how he had predicted the events of 9/11 in 1995; his feuds with certain celebrities; his plans for new projects. Every letter was accompanied by press cuttings, magazines, film festival programmes, and a wide selection of books.
We corresponded for thirteen years. It all fizzled out around 2010. Thirteen years later, Anger died in a care facility in California on the 11th May 2023. He was 96.
Here is a small selection of a few of those letters.
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