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Known for his work on the raunchily written Miami Rhapsody and Grapevine , Hope Springs director David Frankel talks to Roe McDermott about love, sex, intimacy, and eh, Richard Nixon.
The Hot Press Newsdesk, 25 Sep 2012
For most children your parents are a constant source of embarrassment. But director David Frankel was not most children, and his parents were certainly not most parents. Frankel’s father is Max Frankel, Holocaust survivor, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, ex-White House correspondent and former editor of the New York Times, whose acquaintances included Presidents Richard Nixon and Lyndon Baines Johnson.
“I think the highlight was meeting LBJ. That was pretty remarkable,” says the warm and funny Frankel. “We flew down to the LBJ ranch outside San Antonio and he gave us tours and let us ride ponies. It was a very special experience.”
Frankel aimed to follow in his father’s footsteps and become a journalist. He soon realised the world of objective, fact-based stories wasn’t the ideal medium to share the funny, emotional tales he wanted to tell.
“I was deeply inspired by Woody Allen and really appreciated the work of Mel Brooks. Life is hard for most of us. If you can laugh it makes it bearable. As satisfying as it is to work on great dramas, comedy is even more pleasurable.”
So Frankel turned to film and television, slowly climbing the ladder of witty, often controversial comedies. Soon he was notorious. His short-lived 1992 series Grapevine was banned by two television stations for its blunt dialogue about sex.
“Grapevine was pretty unique for the time in terms of talking about sex. And I do think it chartered the way for shows like Sex and the City.” The latter is a show Frankel worked on subsequently. He attributes the appeal of these icons of TV to the raunchy subject matter.
“You’ve got to provide something that the audience hasn’t seen before, that’s going to be so thrilling that they want to watch – even though you don’t have special effects and people just sit on couches and talk. Intimate talk about sex is one of those things. It’s like eavesdropping. You can’t help it! And we all want to talk about it. If I go out to play golf with my golf buddies, inevitably everyone ends up saying that we’re not having enough sex. It’s something you have to laugh at!”