“Queen of the Desert” producer, Cassian Elwes, came onto the film scene at the age of 23 with the 1983 film, Oxford Blues. He would go on to make 30 movies over a 10 year period. Then, in 1994, William Morris asked Mr. Elwes to run the independent film department for their agency; which he did for 15 years and made 287 films. You may best recognize his name for producing the critically acclaimed “Dallas Buyers Club” starring Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto; both of whom won Academy Awards for their performances in the film.
Mr. Elwes describes Robert Pattinson as ‘talented and committed’ to RPWW about his work, as T.E Lawrence, in “Queen of the Desert”.
RPWW: How did you get involved in producing Queen of the Desert?
Cassian Elwes: I’m a huge fan of Werner Herzog’s films and literally chased him around for a year to let me be involved in Queen of the Desert.
RPWW: In your role as producer, what specific touches did you have on the making of Queen of the Desert and/or the finished product?
CE: I worked on every aspect of it. The script, the casting, the plan, the editing, the distribution, and I raised all the money.
RPWW: Could you tell us what you liked about Werner Herzog’s approach in telling this story?
CE: Werner is incredibly clear about what he wants and needs but at the same time is frugal and pragmatic. There’s not a lot of waste in his films. We used everything he shot. And he’s a true artist in his approach and taste. I loved every second of working with him because you get to be there in his thought process. It’s inspiring and by letting me in, he gives me more confidence to talk to other artists.
RPWW: Lawrence of Arabia has been played by big names before (Peter O’Toole most often comes to mind). Why do you think Werner Herzog chose Robert Pattinson to take on such a big responsibility and how do you find he did
in this role?
CE: We specifically didn’t want to repeat Lawrence so he wanted someone very different from O’Toole , a young man who would be confident, appealing to other young people, and at the same time a confident actor. Pattinson has a large following and for sure they’ve never seen him play a part like this. He was in the moment he heard Herzog
wanted him. He was Werner’s first choice.
RPWW: Do you have a fond memory of working with Robert Pattinson (i.e. on-set work, meetings behind the scenes)?
CE: He’s actually pretty shy but he’s very talented and gave everything he had.
RPWW: Do you recall any feedback you heard from Werner Herzog regarding Robert Pattinson’s performance in Queen of the Desert?
CE: Werner absolutely loved working with him and would do it again in a second. And he’s wonderful in the movie.
RPWW: The release dates for the movie do not appear solid for many countries around the world. Any projected release dates you can share with the fans?
CE: The release dates will solidify once the United States date is in place and that’s still a work in progress.
RPWW: Why should people go see Queen of the Desert?
CE: It’s a very romantic vision of the Middle East in this terrible moment of modern strife in the area and reminds us that these are a proud and noble people with a rich history. Perhaps in its own way it may soften people’s stance to these poor refugees understanding that they are not all extremists but in fact humans who need our help.
RPWW: We recently became involved in supporting the social media campaign for the Horizon Awards 2016 to help send two female directors to the Sundance Film Festival for networking opportunities. What makes you passionate about this cause in particular?
CE: I’ve seen first hand the sexism that pervades Hollywood at this moment. Sundance and women in film issued a report that I read about how difficult it is for female directors to get their films made and it just made me mad. And rather than wring my hands and feel bad , I decided to get off my ass and do something about it. I can’t change people’s attitudes about women by myself but if I take some small steps, I’m hoping I will inspire my peers to take the same steps. If there are enough small steps they will become strides. We all have the power to change the world.
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Thank you Mr. Elwes.