Interview with Peter S. Beagle
Date: April 21, 2014
(Back in April of 2014, Aaron Golden and Gregory Milne were lucky enough to get a chance to sit down with legendary writer, Peter S. Beagle, and his agent, Conner Cochran. They sat down and talked for a couple of hours about everything surrounding the creation, loss, and claiming of the Last Unicorn, but, sadly, the sound file of the interview was damaged. A lot of effort was put into saving that file, and we finally managed to get it transcribed a couple of months ago. At the time, we sat down and wondered about when the best time to release it was, now that we’d had to delay the interview so long, and considering what a gift we thought this interview was, it made sense to us, for us to release it as a gift to you. So, without further ado…)
Greg: We’re gonna ask you a few quick questions regarding the writing process, and then I know you have a lot you wanted to share about…
Peter: Yeah, just the quest we’ve been on for thirteen years.
Greg: Exactly. Just a few things I wanted to start with. We’re going on this whole tour with Last Unicorn for its anniversary, and you’ve written three different iterations of it at this point between the novel, the screen play and the graphic novel. I’m wondering how you approached adapting it to the different iterations, the other two being much more visual of course.
Peter: Well, the screen play seemed surprisingly easy, if only because writing the novel was so exhausting. I sometimes tell people sitting at one of these conventions, that there isn’t anything on the table that wasn’t more fun to write than The Last Unicorn. But comparatively speaking, the screenplay was simply a lot easier because by then I knew the story, and I generally knew what would work in screenplay adaptation and what wouldn’t. There were a couple of occasions where I took something out in advance and the producers put it back in, which surprised me. I fully expected them to cut it from hell to breakfast. In fact, they were surprisingly easy to work with, they respected the material, and they did better with it than really anything of theirs I had ever seen. So I don’t have a lot of complaints and I don’t have much in the way of disaster stories.
Maybe the actors in general knew the book and loved it and approached it with astonishing intensity, even if it was just a day’s work. And as far as the graphic novel goes, I wouldn’t have known how to handle it for even a minute. But the writer, Peter Gillis, did a beautiful job and always stayed in touch literally to explain to me what he was doing, and how he was laying out the story in the series of pictures and strips and sequences. It’s almost like being a director in a very real sense—I was constantly in awe of the way he was doing it and the fact is he was able to keep something like 80% of the novel’s dialogue in that graphic novel. It’s much closer to the original book than the movie is.
Connor: He’s leaving a couple things out, I’m gonna make one minor correction – the tour that we’re doing has nothing to do with the anniversary of the film. It’s happening now only because it was the first chance we had to do it after finally getting legal clearance to do it.
Greg: Oh, I’m sorry–
Connor: That’s fine. I’m just going to be a fact-checker. There have been things done on an anniversary basis but this isn’t one of them. We would have done this sooner if it was legally possible sooner. We’re having fun now. The comic book – he always under credits himself here. Peter Gillis, who we chose as the adapting writer has a lot of history in comics. He was one of the big names in the 80s. Just before the writer-creator wave finally crested and –boom- it made Neil Gaiman and Alan Moore and Frank Miller, semi-household names…at least in some households…Peter Gillis was basically one of that same crew, remarkably innovative comics guys. He did extraordinary, ground breaking work at first at DC and Marvel, and then dropped out of the field because creators were being treated so badly. If he had stuck around for the year and a half he would have caught that same wave with everyone else and he would have been incredibly famous. So I’ve known Peter back then, and I knew him again around 2004-2005 and thought he might be the right writer to work with Peter on this. And we mentioned it a couple times, and Peter became convinced of his ideas… and he underplays his involvement, because Peter Gillis – yes, Peter Gillis actually wrote the adapting script, but indeed, massive amounts of it are just straight from the book. Like cut and paste to rearrange—only writing what he needed to play connect the dots where compression required it. And Peter was involved at every level. He saw the scripts, he saw the specialists that Peter Gillis was contacting all the time.
And there were two other people involved with it as well, the editor deserves tons and tons of credit. Mariah Huehmer, she was remarkable. And really, [incoherent mumbling]. And I was involved at every stage, we saw every treatment, we saw every page of script, there was a lot of back and forth, many emails: “What about this? What about that?” and in the end it was Gillis, Mariah, and I doing our best to make certain that Peter’s wishes were fully realized on the page. There were some moments that were rough, we ran into a couple of business issues. And it worked out okay in the end, but it was rough. When we started the book –they have a standard practice which is their graphic novels are always six issues put together, and their comic books are always 21 pages, then the rest of the book is editorial filler, ads, etc. And we told them going in that six issues was not going to be enough, with this number of pages per issue to do the graphic novel. They said “Nah, it’ll work out.” Well, we got to the end of issue four, and it was clear that there just weren’t enough pages to tell the story. And Peter did his best to fit in with their demands and it was a nightmare. It was compressing the second half of the book into two issues instead of the four issues we thought. So we managed to, through various means, Mariah and I managed to squeeze ten more pages into those two books, and it was a bit internally rough and bizarre when it happened but it all worked out. And it’s wild that it works as well as it does. If Mariah had not been championing that, the book would not work. It would be a lovely beginning and a terrible ending and we would not love it as much as we love it.
Greg: Speaking of the graphic novel, what was the inspiration to adapt it to that format at that point in time?
Connor: Well, there’s a little bit of background here, because IDW wasn’t the first place to try it. You’ll find that business-y questions I tend to answer, because he doesn’t tend to do those things.
Peter: To put it mildly!
Connor: Everything else in the world is being adapted as graphic novel, so we really wanted to see Peter’s work in graphic form as well. I certainly did, I’m a comics guy, I worked in the field as a writer myself. I knew a lot of companies, a lot of people. So we wanted to see it happen. We were approached by one company, way back around 2002, 2003. And we could just never get a contract together with them, we just never agreed on terms. And then Scholastic launched its graphics line, and they had all these press releases about how they were determined to do it right and creator friendly etc. And so I contacted them, and sold them on the idea of a Last Unicorn graphic novel. We did sign a contract and everything, it was pretty interesting. When we started our discussions, they asked if there were any artists we’d suggest and I suggested two and we did wind up with one of them, Michael William Kaluta. He was a very talented man. And then we ran into the fact that Scholastic had never ever ever done a graphic novel, EVER. I mean, they had licensed other people’s work, but this was going to be their first original graphic novel in a graphics line. It just turned out they didn’t have the faintest idea how to do it. They thought they didn’t have to pay attention to how comics were made. Traditionally, historically, they made a million illustrated books? So their idea was that the writer and the artist never talk to each other, they just both talk to the editor and the editor coordinates everything. But no interaction between the two creative members of the team. And we did go along with at it first but eventually we got him to finally meet Kaluta and Kaluta did a bunch of character sketches and did some thumbnail breakdowns for the book, and Peter wrote his first script. First session, they really wanted to compress the book. As badly as IDM was trying to compress the second half of the book, Scholastic wanted to compress the entire book that way. What is twelve pages at the beginning in the IDW graphic novel, Scholastic wanted to do two and a half pages, one of which was a full splash.
Aaron: <muffled sounds of suffering>
Greg: <laughs> Aaron’s our comic book reviewer, so he’s right there with you.
Connor: So basically, we got the edits back on Peter’s first attempt at writing it by himself –this is before we brought someone like Ellis in. Peter took the first avenue entirely by himself, and their edits came back and they were just appalling. It was gonna be The Last Unicorn for brain dead three year olds. It wasn’t anything that any fan of Peter’s would like, and it wasn’t gonna attract anyone new, so we cancelled the contract. Sorry, but this is not what we agreed to.
So we cancelled and didn’t know what was going to happen next. About a year and a half later, IDW knocked on our door. We actually met someone who knew the people in editorial at IDW, and he contacted them and said “You should talk to Connor and Peter about The Last Unicorn.” And they contacted us. And it went very well from there. Lots of points here: their editor, Chris Ryle, kept suggesting artists. And there was nothing wrong with any of them, but there was nothing right with any of them. They were all perfectly normal comic book artists: serviceable, standard work…and that wasn’t what we wanted for Last Unicorn. We wanted magic for The Last Unicorn. And that’s when Chris gave up and handed it over to Mariah, who suggested the artists Renae and Ray. They sent one page of character pencils, and the cover –the art that became the cover for issue number one, as a finished colour piece. We took one look at it and went “That’s them. This is definitely the art.” Because it was so imaginative and so true to the tone of the characters. They did a spectacular job.
Greg: That’s beautiful artwork in there, for sure.
Connor: And that’s a credit to Renae. Not many people know this! Now this is a pro….She completed the first issue, and just about 24 hours later went into labour.
Connor: So for a birth of child present, we sent her a reclining chair for nursing mothers that had a work table built into it, so she could nurse….AND DRAW.
Greg: At the same time!
Connor: —While relaxing. Which she did!
Greg: <laughing> Just as an aside, my sister, three years ago when she had my niece, was still on her laptop as they were wheeling her in…!
Connor: Yeah? Well, yes, then you know exactly… I really admire the professionalism. And they did a truly spectacular job. Page after page after page, that is just brilliantly beautiful. And I’m happy. We actually got the license rights to the art. We’re gonna be doing all kinds of merchandising, posters, prints, clothing. There’s about to be some clothing. Fun stuff.
Greg: Excellent. Okay, going back to the tour, there are two questions I wanted to ask…One, what is it you think’s so endearing about The Last Unicorn specifically that’s had it carry on for so long?
Peter: I can make jokes or all sorts of off-hand comments…which covers the fact that I don’t always know. Sometimes I get a glimmer…the thing that always stays with me is how many people relate to the Unicorn’s search for her own people. So many people bring that up, as though they had felt, verbalizing it perhaps, displaced in the world. Or alone. I still remember a young Asian woman who couldn’t stop crying. I get criers, it’s not really a joke, people sometimes stand there, afraid to approach me, and tremble. The only thing to do is get up, give them a hug, and talk to them. And eventually they stop crying. But she couldn’t. I finally took her aside, and we talked about the fact that she was Korean by birth but had been adopted by an American family who she loved…but there’s one line that kept reverberating in her: when the butterfly says “You can find your people if you are brave.” And she kept going around and round with that. And so I hugged her and I told her something I had never told anybody: which is that I stole that line from a poem by Margaret Widdemer. Nobody remembers old poetry. She was the first woman to win the Pulitzer Prize for poetry back in the 1920s*. I met her when I won third prize in a poetry contest when I was in high school, she awarded me a copy of her collective work. And there’s a poem in there with the recurring line: “And I could find my own people, if only I were brave.” And I pelstoned that line without even thinking about it when I was putting the Butterfly’s ragbag speech together.
Connor: Of course, the entire Butterfly’s speech is an assemblage of quotes, so…it’s perfectly legitimate that you steal someone else’s line! <laughs> That’s what the Butterfly DOES, he communicates through quoting people.
Peter: –Until finally, he manages –briefly- to break out in telling the Unicorn “No, don’t listen to me, Listen.” Anyway…to get back to the original question. A lot of things appeal to people out of their own histories in that story. I feel sometimes like Schmendrick, when the first time he actually casts real magic summoning up the shades of Robin Hood, Maid Marian and the Merry Men…people who never existed, really they’re myths, and yet there they are. And at that point he falls on his face, picks himself up, and thinks: “I wonder what I did…I did something…” Which is very much the way I feel about The Last Unicorn. Finally, fifty years later.
Connor: I’m gonna toss some perspective in from the outside watching… He’s right about the personal, the deep personal emotional connection many of them have. We all grew up isolated, us geeks maybe a little more than others until today’s culture. Though I suspect there’s something a little more to it than that, and for me, it’s this: this is a book which for me says two things. It says magic isn’t gone, and there’s always the chance that magic can come back. And that’s something I think we all want to believe in, that hope is not gone, that life can be good, that we can find our way to [indistinct]. To me that’s very primal in the book. Sacrifice is involved, loss is involved, people don’t necessarily get what they want in the short term, but the world is renewed in the story. And that I think is a message that’s very powerful. The other thing I think he did, is he completely ignored all storytelling convention. It’s not structured, there is no “How to Write Your Screenplay” book or “How to Write Your Novel” book that would ever recommend the plot structure in his book. It is absolutely against all the rules. And yet, because of that, it’s [a] realer. People watch the movie…we all watch thousands and thousands of movies, we walk into movies we watch the first five minutes and you know how it’s going to end. You watch the first two minutes of The Last Unicorn, the first twenty minutes…you have No idea! If you’ve never read the book, you have no idea what’s about to happen at any stage of this thing. And it doesn’t go where you think it’s going to go. The prince and the princess don’t wind up happily ever after. He just tells a real story instead of a story. And that stays with me.
Peter: That may also have to do with the fact that I was literally winging it. I had no idea where the unicorns were when I set out. Really I didn’t. And I didn’t know what Schmendrick the magician was going to do to rescue the Unicorn from the Red Bull. I only knew when I got to that point, and then it seemed the only way to go. But it was almost right up to that moment when he transforms her, I honestly didn’t know how the hell I was gonna get out of this. I did know…I *did* know, that the Unicorn couldn’t remain in a human form. That I was very clear about. People often tell me that they found the book sad. They loved it, but they found the ending sad. And that may have to do with the fact that they’d been trained by Disney and other folks that the hero and heroine always wind up together.
Connor: Love always triumphs.
Peter: That there is such a thing as a happy ending. But Schmedrick himself says “There are no happy endings, because nothing ever ends.”
Greg: Quick follow up for that, then a business question for you…So, with the book being around as long as it has and subsequently the movie, it’s a story that’s touched generation after generation after generation. Yet again when you have the graphic novel out. How does it feel seeing new generations pick up your work?
Peter: I’m not being modest when I say that it still startles me. The only person who ever called the afterlife of the Last Unicorn so to speak all those years ago is the guy that book is dedicated to, Robert Nathan. He’s an author I discovered in high school and college. I sent the book to him in manuscript, he’s much older than I but we were friends for the last twenty years of his life. And Robert didn’t even notice the dedication. He called me from Los Angeles to say, “This is gonna be the book people know, who don’t know that you ever wrote anything else. You’re gonna be stuck with this, the way I’m stuck with Portrait of Jennie.” Which was one of his forty or so novels, it was written about the year I was born. Which was made into a successful movie, and an Italian opera, and a musical, and it overshadowed everything else he ever wrote. He told me at the time, “You watch. Check the obituaries when I die. They’ll say ‘Robert Nathan: author of Portrait of Jennie and many other books, died in Los Angeles today…’” which is exactly what happened! And may very well happen with me.
Connor: Not if I have anything to say about it!
Peter: True! But he also would add, “It does beat the hell out of not being remembered at all!”
Connor: That’s very true. Part of my quest is to make certain that more of his work is recognized. Neil Gaiman has done an extraordinary job making sure that “Neil Gaiman” is the property and not Sandman, not Coraline, not Neverwhere, but that Neil is the star, and the works are the works of the star. Nobody was doing that for Peter, so this one book has become overwhelmingly known. There’s a lot of people who know the book but don’t even know he wrote it. They don’t know the author. They just know the book, they know the movie. And he is kind of a surprise to them. One of my favourite things to do at the table, people come up and go, “The Last Unicorn!”, and I say, “Do you know the movie or the book?” And sometimes they say the book, sometimes they say both…but when they say the movie, I say, “Bear with me. This is the movie. The screenplay was written by a guy named Peter S. Beagle, based on his own novel. This is his novel, see? ‘Peter S. Beagle’. Aaaaaaaand this is him.”
Peter: Sometimes I get squeals!
Connor: Oh, not “sometimes!” <laughs> Ninety percent of the time it’s like…! They just haven’t been paying attention, there’s this quiet, older guy sitting at the table, I’m standing there, and it’s like <squeaaaal!> Total meltdown, ninety percent of the time. It is so much fun to do.
Greg: There was the girl, again an aside, I’m sorry…who was in line in front of us, who was interviewing you, and she was practically vibrating in her shoes.
Connor: And what’s fun is that he has a lot of fans who are well known, I mean, these people become famous writers or artists or actors or musicians…and to watch them go all fanboy or fangirl and just squeal is immensely amusing. We had dinner in January with an actor and an actress/singer who are huge fans of The Last Unicorn and they wanna work on a project with us in some fashion. That’s under discussion. The actor is Josh Duhamel, who did the Transformers films, and his wife Fergie from the Black Eyed Peas. To watch these people…I mean, she’s selling Mick Jagger on stage for heaven’s sakes, and there she is in this public restaurant just beside herself because she is sitting next to Peter Beagle and she can’t help it. Because when she was eight, she would hold slumber parties, and play the movie, and put a gold star on her forehead and sing all the songs and pretend she was Lady Amalthea. So for her, it’s her childhood.
Peter: And I loved sitting next to her, because we talked about singing and song writing. I worked as a singer on occasion, and I believe firmly -and I quoted this to her- Hilaire Belloc’s line that “it is the best trade in the world to make songs, and the second best to sing them.” And I put making novels somewhere in third! So that was fun. And yes, it’s delightful to discover that, for instance, William Goldman turns out to be a fan, because The Princess Bride is one of the things I mention when I talk about writing something that set out to be both a fairy tale, and a spoof on fairy tales at the same time…which is one reason it took so bloody long to get right! And one of the very few books I know that does that is The Princess Bride.
Greg: Excellent. I have a business question for you…
Connor: I’ll try to be shorter in my answers!
Greg: That’s fine! So, tour having just kicked off… It was yesterday? It was on the island?
Connor: The Canadian tour kicked off in Victoria last Thursday night.
Greg: So, how did scheduling this whole tour come to be?
Connor: Well, we launched the tour – let’s actually talk about how the Tour came to be, the idea for the tour…
Greg: That’s what I was going for. Sorry.
Connor: No, I just wanna set the stage. Back in 2009, we were invited to come to a Renaissance festival in a place called Waxahachie, Texas. The guy who invited us to come—the guy who made that connection, also knew somebody at the Alamo Drafthouse theatre chain in Texas. And he recommended to them, that he was bringing this author in, wanted to show the Last unicorn, project the DVD and get the author to answer some questions from the audience. So they said yes and we said yes. We arrived on the Thursday night in Austin Texas, outside the Alamo Drafthouse, and discovered it was kinda cool to see Last Unicorn on the marque…that was pretty neat. But what we discovered was that it had sold out the auditorium. And it had been sold out for several weeks. And all they had done was post it on their website. They didn’t promote it. And I was just kinda blown away that people would flock to watch a projected DVD, and meet the author…because they knew it from home video and now they could see it on BIG SCREEN and that was exciting to them. So we said, “We’re here the whole weekend, we could come back and do it again if you want.” And he said, “Sure! Let’s do it again tomorrow night!” And twenty four hours later, completely sold out again. Well…there appears to be something here! And I suggested to the owners of the movie that they try re-releasing it in theatres, you know, like they did with Disney re-releases. And they completely banned us. Their analyst came back and said “Nah, nobody’s interested in this. There’s no point in putting money in something like this.” –blah blah blah. Just lots of negativity. And at that point we were still fighting with them over the fact they weren’t paying Peter, which is another whole epic story. The next year, we had found some 35mm prints of the movie. And so Peter’s gonna be the guest of honour at Wondercon in San Francisco, and we thought “Okay! Home turf, San Francisco—easy! And we got these 35mm prints, I’ll find a movie theatre, lets! There’s a movie theatre around the corner from Wondercon, let’s rent it or do something and do this thing!” Couldn’t get the theatre to say yes. Couldn’t get the theatre interested in saying yes. Scrambled and scrambled and scrambled, finally found a little tiny theatre several miles away from the convention that was willing to be rented at a fairly high fee. And so we put up shows. And we had –not sold out shows because it was a 500 seat theatre—but we had 200, 300 people come each show. And that was very exciting. And not bad for nine days of promotion! It was only nine days before Wondercon that I got the theatre to say yes. We also learned that the 35mm print is not the way to go. Because, A.) These were old prints. And although they were in as-good condition as they could…but they broke. Several times. Each night. And we also learned something which none of us had really remembered. And that was B.) that the 1992 theatrical release was shorter by six or seven minutes than the movie everybody knows. The distributor butchered it, just randomly cutting sections out so they’d have more time for cartoons or concession ads, or whatever the local theatre might want. So there’s all these shocked gasps as the movie would go by and there’d be sections missing.
Connor: Yeah. It was really surreal. It was not a good experience, because you want the whole movie there. So we decided to never show the 35mm film again. Ever. But I knew that this thing [tour] might , work, based on what had happened in those two experiences. So the minute we actually settled this legal conflict over the film, I pitched a company on letting us put a tour together. And they said yes! “Sure let’s try it!” They were very enthusiastic about it, “Whatever you want!” And then the difficulties began. Because…we had to raise funds, it’s an expensive process to try to put something like this together, we had to try to get theatres involved…so my first plan—naïve, non-theatre person that I was—was, in America, there are three major cinema chains: AMC, Cinemark, and Regal. And if you have any two of them on your team, you can cover the entire country. Now there’d still be blank spots, but any two of them, you’re everywhere. So I went to AMC first cuz I had a childhood connection with AMC. The world’s very first multiplex cinema was the Ward Parkway one and two. Just outside, in the suburbs of Kansas city on the Missouri side of the state line. And I was there opening weekend, that was my local movie theatre. I was there every weekend until my family moved out of Kansas. So I went to AMC first, and pitched it in their Los Angeles office. And they didn’t believe any of my numbers. But ultimately they said yes, and then they started backtracking. They said, “Well, we can’t let you do a whole tour, but we’ll try a couple of dates and see if they work, and if they work then we can set up another couple of dates, and if they work…” –so, basically one impediment after another. Oh! And the final one was they wouldn’t allow any signings in the lobby. We had to do all the signing in the auditorium itself. Which basically meant that these lines, [indistinct]. This is not gonna work very well! So we gave up on the major chains. Started to plan a tour based on independent cinemas, arthouse cinemas, and small regional chains that would be more flexible.
At which point we ran into another problem! We were planning on starting in the Fall of 2012. And…you can really…you don’t have to quote all this, but you gotta understand what we went through. Because we didn’t want to be dealing with Christmas season, or the summer season. We wanted to start when things were deader, and we wouldn’t have to be competing for screens, and theatres might be more willing to try something unusual to see if it worked. Well…as we aimed towards that start date, a distributor came out of nowhere, this company named Park Circus, they’re based in Glasgow Scotland, and they popped up and said, “Excuse us, we find you online talking about this Last Unicorn tour…we have the contract to do theatrics. Who are you, and why do you think you have the right to do this?” It was a very polite email, very English. So I called them, and as surprised as I was to discover that they existed they were shocked to find out that I was doing this with the permission of the CEO of ITV. Who apparently had forgotten they existed. Because they did so little business with the ITV film library, that at the CEO level, he just didn’t know they were there.
So, at first I thought this was a good thing. Because that’s their job, they book theatres. I’m not a theatrics distributor! I didn’t relish the notion. I failed with the two big distributor plans. I didn’t relish the notion of having to negotiate with like four hundred theatres over time! So I was like, “Great! We’ll do this together. We’ll work it out. You’ll book me my theatres, you’ll get some of the money, and they’ll get some of the money, and it’ll be great.” And at first they said sure. And then it became obvious that they just didn’t get the idea. They didn’t believe anybody would come and see The Last Unicorn, they firmly believed that no one would ever buy a movie ticket more than four or five weeks in advance at the max, so there was absolutely no point in laying out a rock and roll style tour, “here’s our next six months of shows,” Not Interested. Took me months…and in the end, I actually had to force the tour into existence despite them. I had to make it happen even though they were raising road blocks in every direction. I kinda cheated. We got an email in January of 2013 from the Cartoon Art Museum in San Francisco. And they basically said, “We heard about this tour you’re doing! Come to San Francisco! Can we do a promotional event for the Cartoon Art Museum and be a partner in the San Francisco showing?” And I wrote them back and said, “Not only can you be a partner, but how would you like to do the premier? His birthday is April 20. It’s a Saturday. We can show the movie, have a big party for him at the Cartoon Art Museum, and it would be entirely a fundraiser for you.” And they said yes. So then I call ITV and they said, “Great! Let’s do this!” And then I contacted Park Circus and said, “ITV has said yes to a fundraiser on April 20. So that’s when we’re gonna launch the tour. And oh by the way, you’re not gonna make any money from it, it’s all for them.” I was not nice. Ahem.
Of course, this made them raise even more road blocks, so it cost us a lot to get the tour off the ground, but it happened. We had the premier. Now, as that was scheduled, March, before the premier, we were back in Texas at another Renaissance Fair. Cuz they have lots of Renaissance Fairs in Texas and he’s very popular there. We’ve learned that they work and he makes a lot of money at them. And as we were there, we’re telling people that we wanted them to come do the screening tour and they kept saying, “Oh, Drafthouse! Oh, Drafthouse!” Which is a huge chain…And we knew them from that first experience, so I said to Park Circus, “For momentum out of the premier, let’s set up all Drafthouse, just go for two weeks of Drafthouse locations.” And they said, “Well, we’d rather wait and see how the premier does first.” So I called the Drafthouse and said we’d like to do this. And they said, “We’d LOVE to have that! It is the beginning of June though, so it’s summer blockbuster season and we really don’t have any screens available. Here’s what we can do for you…” and they came back to me a couple of days later and said, “We can give you seven shows: three in Austin in different locations, one in San Antonio, one in Houston, one in Kansas City, and one in Denver. And it’ll be in the smallest auditorium in each place, and it’ll be one show in each place.” -now since the Drafthouse is food and movies, we’re talking like, eighty seat auditoriums. Which was kinda depressing to have to drive from California to Texas and all around this big loop for a maximum of 540 people… but we had to have some kind of evidence, some kind of proof that this would work. So we said yes. And we loaded up the van, and it was a really dangerously low, we kinda scraped all the way to Texas with this incredibly loaded van. Peter shoved inside the boxes…
Peter: I kept referring to it as my experience of being either an astronaut in a space capsule, or possibly the Russian dog Laika, when she was first sent up into space.
Connor: Yes but we let you come back to Earth!
Peter: Yes. The dog never came back.
Connor: So we drove, and got to Texas. It was a Sunday, the first show was at the Alamo Ridge downtown, in Austin. It was scheduled one in the afternoon on the Sunday. And we got there to find that they had so many tickets sold that they moved us to their biggest auditorium and it was completely sold out at 180 seats. We then, during that show, were told that their normal big numbers at that location for a Sunday one o’clock show are typically twenty, or twenty five people. And they’d be thrilled to get that many people for a Sunday one o’clock show downtown. And we got 180. While we’re there, we learned that the show the next night, the Austin in the old Drafthouse Village, had already been moved into the largest auditorium, which had already sold out, and they added a late show which was nearly sold out in the same large auditorium. And this is what happened: as we progressed, we discovered that at every location they had to move us to the biggest auditorium. Most locations, they added a second show. We also had Fort Collins with only four days of notice, two shows in a smaller art-house cinema, all sold out shows. Every. Single. Show. Completely sold out. So we were thrilled. We were very happy and we went home thinking now Park Circus would get it and follow our lead, and everything would be hunky dory. No. I’m…so naïve. What they learned from it was that people would come see the movie.
So they basically said, “Well, heck this tour thing! Let’s just book the movie!” And they started booking it in opposition to us. They knew, for example, that our tour was scheduled to be in Southern California, coming out of Comic Con, and with the momentum of the publicity of Comic Con, we wanted to be in Southern California with shows in San Diego and LA…Ya know, obviously. Well, they went and started booking shows in Los Angeles in August that he couldn’t be at, because he was scheduled to be back here. It was really ugly. And this is the fun part: I had been resisting for a year going to ITV and telling them about my problems with Park Circus. So I called our contact, told him how well we’d done, he was thrilled…told him how much better we would have done if we hadn’t been hitting impediment after impediment after impediment. He got angrier and angrier, and said, “I’m gonna take care of this.” And the next day, I got an email from him, it was one word long. It was the word: “Sorted!” –with an exclamation point. This guy is the master of the terse email, I love working with him, because I talk a lot, and he’s very Irish, he’s just BOOM. And what was attached to it was a memo to him from one of his underlings, and it said, in response to his inquiries, [was] that Home Entertainment has contract with Park Circus and Park Circus has agreed to release World Wide Theatric[al] Distribution rights to Connor Cochran effective immediately.”
So basically, ITV told them to either follow my lead or they were going to remove their contract from the entire ITV library. And their response was they didn’t wanna follow my lead, but they’d give it up. They didn’t wanna deal with me anymore, I was too much of a pain in the ass. Apparently. So by the end of August last year, I, me personally, became the world wide distributor for The Last Unicorn. Which is very strange, because ITV is a seven billion dollar a year company. And I can’t think of anything in the history of the entertainment business even vaguely like this. The equivalent would be Disney announcing tomorrow that henceforth all of their movies would continue to be distributed by their own distribution company, except for Peter Pan, which they’re giving to this guy named Lyle in Calabasas, California, and Lyle is not a theatrical distributor at all. “We like Lyle’s ideas! Seriously, Lyle’s a great guy. He’s our man for Peter Pan!” That’s what they did! And I’ve been running with it ever since. And what happened here, Canada…now, you guys are Canadians, kudos to Cineplex! I really want you to pat them on the back, please…if you feel like it…when we were doing our Pacific North West shows last November, I knew we’d be in Seattle, we’d be in Portland, we wanna be right next to the border, so I kept two days clear to try to get to Vancouver and show the movie in Vancouver. And I couldn’t get any theatres in Vancouver to pay attention. Any theatres, the art house cinemas, nobody would even answer the messages I would leave.
Greg: Did you try the Rio?
Greg: Cuz, I was gonna say, they specialize in this kind of thing.
Connor: Nobody even replied. And a part of it was because it was so late, I mean, I got the distribution rights at the end of August, and there I was in mid-September trying to set up a November show. It’s not a lot of time. They probably just looked at it and went, “We’re already booked.”
Connor: So I thought to myself, “Okay, I don’t want two holes in the schedule like that. Just because I can’t work with a major chain in America, doesn’t mean that….maybe I can work with a major chain in Canada. I mean, Canadians are smart!”
Greg: No argument! <laughs>
Connor: No! And seriously, I don’t mean that to be pandering. I have tremendous respect for everyone I’ve ever met in the business field from Canada. They just seem to have their act together more than American business does. So I called Cineplex Toronto Corporate office, had no idea who to talk to so I just left a voice mail. And two hours later, I was called by a guy named Brad Ladouceur, who is head of Front Row Centre Events, and the Specialty Programming section of Cineplex. He said flat out, “I love this idea, this fits perfectly with what we do. I will give you these two theatres near Vancouver…and if the shows go well, we get a good audience response, I’d like to talk to you about doing a whole tour.” And I said, “Tour?!” And he said, “Yeah yeah! All of Canada, we could put a trailer together, we’ll work closer. We could do a whole big thing out of this, if it works.” And I said, “Fantastic! Absolutely!” And we had ten days to promote these shows, per the time we said yes. And we had sold out shows. Ten days, ten days only. Langley, and Richmond.
Greg: We did actually cover that one! We had a correspondent do a day-of review, we had no awareness in advance of it really.
Connor: And I basically checked in with him the day of the first show at Colossus in Langley. And I called Brad said, “How are we doing?” And he said, “You can announce the tour.” So one of the first things I did was I went up to the audience before the show and I said, “You know, we had this thing going, and if you came out, there would be a tour. So congratulations. You just opened those doors. We’re going to come back because of you.” And we’ve been planning the tour ever since, we’ve been working on the right time of the year to do it for them, and how things could work…and there’re pluses and minuses, there’s still limitations on it that I’m not thrilled with, but that we’re stuck with because of the structure of the company. We’re just going to do our best to work with it. I’d love to be in a few more places, but there was this limited window of time, and we can’t do Saturday night shows – most places we can’t do Friday or Saturday night shows, because those are blocked out problem things. And many places, we can’t do Tuesday night shows, because that’s blocked out for their normal Front Row Centre plans. But they really did a great job putting a tour together despite those limitations and working within the structure, and it just worked really well.
Greg: Just to follow up on what you were saying earlier about using the old 35mm prints. So with this tour now, what are you using?
Connor: We’re using DCP digital print. This is what makes it possible, technically. We could not carry around – we don’t have the money – well, A.) almost nobody’s got 35mm projectors anymore, so that…but B.) just financially, the cost of prints, the cost of transporting prints, it would be hugely prohibitive for a tiny little company like ours to even begin to…no, DCP is a hard drive. It’s so easy to just send it around. Very simple. Now, where it came from is fun. This would be a huge deal in Germany. The book has always been a big deal in Germany, since it came out there in 19…70, I think…71 or 70. And the movie, when it came out in 1983, in West Germany and Switzerland actually out-grossed Star Wars.
Connor: In the same territory in 1978, Star Wars did 3.75 million dollars. In the same territory just a few years later, 1983, Last Unicorn did 4.5. And it’s huge. It’s just…it’s a big deal in Germany.
Connor: So when the home videos were being made around the world, the masters that the English company were supplying to various distributors were pretty bad. They weren’t quality at all. And the Germans didn’t like that, and did their own remastery job. They found the original elements and produced their own DVD, and it was WAY the hell better than everybody else’s DVDs. Basically, Lionsgate was the American distributor and they put out the crappy version, the masters they were supplying to the English company. And I lobbied them for a year and a half to put out a better version. They kept saying there isn’t a better one, we have the best masters—they have the same masters as everyone else. But I wouldn’t give up, so they eventually gave me a meeting to shut me up. They just realized I was never going to stop unless they listened to me. So I set up in their conference room, with the German version, and the American version, audio off, two different monitors, and three Lionsgate executives walked in. Hit play, and about three minutes in one of them finally snapped, and said something, and this quote, I love this quote, was: “Fuck! Ours is crap!” At which point they listened to me! And I said, “If you license the German master, license the British art—because it’s the best cover for the DVD—we’ll give you extras. Here’s a list of extras we can supply you. We will get Peter to promote it to his fan base. And I guarantee, if you release it with this one and this one and call it the 25th Anniversary re-release, if you follow this plan you will sell at least as big as you’ve already sold. I promise you.”
And by the time they put the new version out in February 2007, they had sold 540 thousand copies of that one. And since 2007 I am pleased to say I was dead wrong in my prediction, we’ve actually sold four million copies. So they like us at Lionsgate now. So Lionsgate, when they did their Blue-ray 2011, did their own mastery job to make it really really good. And it’s great! It’s a very nice job. And in trying to get some of the money back for having licensed the version that they licensed from the Germans, they offered it to the Germans. And the Germans said, “This is very good. But we think we could do better.” And they did! And they spent…who knows how much money. And they came up with an absolutely, wonderful, brilliant…it is an extraordinary version of the film. And that is the master that they used for their own blue-ray, and that’s the master that we’re showing with the DCP. It is the best it has ever been. It’s wayyy better than the 35mm film prints. It’s gorgeous. You will see flaws in the animation you’ve never seen before! Because it’s that good! And that’s what we’re showing. And DCP makes it possible. They don’t cost that much to make, they are easily transported. In America, what we do, is we had to get four that we had made, and we would send them out, and they’d be forwarded to the theatres and then we just collect them as we’d go. We had more made for Canada, we had twelve. And for Canada, we finally took the Park Circus logo off the front and put our own logo on.
There’s one more story on Park Circus I will tell you. When we were going for that Premier in San Francisco? We kept saying, “Well, I wanted to see the DCP before we showed it.” They said, “Why? I mean, these are the only elements available. If you don’t like something, it’s not like you can change something…” I said, “Well, I still don’t want to be showing it to an audience without seeing it myself first just to check.” They said, “But they’re gonna charge you for that!” And I said, “Well. I don’t care. I still need to see it.” So I called the people in Burbank, and they said of course we can do a quality control check, there’s no charge for that. So Peter and I and another guy from the team drove down to Burbank, and watched the movie in the screening room there. And right up to the very last frame, I was going, “They were right! I didn’t need to see it, it’s perfect. Fantastic.” And then we got to the last frame. Movie fades to black, there’s a crescent moon. And the very last little—barely see that it’s gone—and on DCP we watched, literally the next frame, slamming onto the screen: BIG, BRIGHT, BLUE, European anti-video-piracy message. “Try ripping this off and we will come and get your parents!” And it wasn’t just, “Video piracy is wrong, kids.” It’s an evil-Europe, basically “YOU’RE A CRIMINAL” kind of message.
And I was like….I really don’t want my audience at this very emotional moment to see it…that’s not what I want to happen! So we had to spend $500 to have that removed, and our own placard put on the back. And now what it says in the movie is: “Peter S. Beagle and ITV of PLC Thank you for coming to this special screening”, and the Comic Press logo. And it’s a nice message now, and it stays up for a few seconds and fades to black again. And the Park Circus logo was in the beginning of all those recent DVDs because they were the distributors…but they’re not the distributors now! So we finally pulled it together and got the animation made through Comic Press, and that’s the new logo in the beginning. So we open with the butterflies and Comic Press…and it’s our movie now! The Front Row Centre of Events team have been spectacular: Brad LaDouceur, Matt DeVuono, Amanda Cacciatore, Liddy Gilmore…we love them. Canadians coming to see this movie owe that team all the credit. I mean, we knocked on the door, but they didn’t have to say yes. And they certainly didn’t have to be as excited and supportive…they didn’t have to do anything they’ve done. And we really are very grateful to them.
Greg: Excellent. One thing I’d like to bounce back to, on the restoration and everything…what did it feel like seeing that newly remastered, high definition version of the film after all this time?
Peter: Well, well I remember…isn’t it…the turning point for me wasn’t even this particular version. It was seeing the film one more time, that some point, still…you know, the old DVD version…but watching an audience react, and I found myself saying aloud to anyone I was with, “Oh my god, the bloody thing’s a classic!” It had taken that long for the impact of the film to soak in, watching it with an audience. And I say that because I hated everything Rankin/Bass ever did, and I was braced for the worst when I finally saw the film. And even the fact that it wasn’t anything like what I had been expecting, didn’t solidify my opinion of the movie as a movie until quite a while later. So by the time we got to the wonderful German print…I knew…yeah, it’s not just a lot better than I expected it to be, it really does stand by itself, and it really is a unique achievement. And it took me that long to appreciate it for what it is, for itself. I was just grateful for anything I liked and for anything that wasn’t a disaster. I remember screaming at Michael Chase Walker because I was horrified when he told me Rankin/Bass was gonna be doing it. And I screamed, “Why don’t you go all the way and sell it to Hanna Barbara?!” and he said very solemnly, “They were next.”
Connor: It’s true. Michael had knocked on every studio’s door. And there was interest everywhere, but nobody bit. There was a Disney buying committee saying, “Make this movie, make this movie,” but executives ignored it. At Warner Brothers, it was being considered. Again, the buying committee report was “We must do this!” but they decided to wait until they saw The Lord of the Rings film that was coming out that year did for them. And it was not a successful film at all in its initial release, so there was never a part two, and all these problems. And Warner Brothers backed off of all fantasy iterations because Lord of the Rings didn’t do well. Which basically left only second tier and third tier and fourth tier companies to go to, and [indistinct—Michael Basley bought the rights to–?]. It turns out it was the best thing they could have done. They kind of apparently knew that they would never again get a shot again at material at this level. It was material they would normally never see. And they gave it their very best. There’s a Miyazaki connection people don’t know about.
Connor: Well, not a direct Miyazaki connection. Here’s how it is: Financed in England, produced by Rankin/Bass, American company…but all of the work was being done in Japan, which was a process of Rankin/Bass going to less expensive animators in another country. And they hired –most of the animation was done by a company called Topcraft. And the minute they finished The Last Unicorn, Miyazaki hired them to make [indistinct]. And in fact, he didn’t just hire them, the studio top rep was in financial difficulties, he came in and took them over and bought them up and turned it into Studio Ghibli. So most of the animators and designers who worked on The Last Unicorn, became the core team of Studio Ghibli. And all of those – Nausicaa, Kiki, all of them, the great Miyazaki early movies, were done by many of the same people as who worked on The Last Unicorn.
Peter: Which is why it’s often thought of as a proto-anime film, and why we do keep getting invited to anime conventions.
Greg: Excellent. That’s…really all we have, if there anything else you guys would like to—
Aaron: Your life story. Because you’ve been saying that there’s this epic journey of how it got to where it is now.
Connor: I’m gonna let Peter start this and we can tag-team a little bit. Peter, do you wanna describe how you felt about your life when you and I met each other in September 2001?
Peter: Despondent, for lack of a better word. Just…doing what I do for a long time. And it’s not that I didn’t have individual fans, it’s not that I didn’t get wonderful letters on occasion…But nothing much was happening in terms of getting beyond the bills. And I was slipping back. So much was catching up with me, that I tried not to look at it terribly closely. I was just writing what I could write, and taking the occasional gig, which got smaller and smaller and cheaper and cheaper. It was a bad place. And I got by mostly by not paying attention to it.
Connor: The score card, when he and I met, was that he had been so cheated for so long by studios, that he was literally six weeks away from being homeless. His house was in foreclosure, it was gonna be auctioned in six weeks, he had no place to go, he was going to lose all the equity in it. He was hugely in debt, he was going through a really messy divorce. It was not a good time. He was living on rice and beans, and loans from friends. Every now and then, a tiny little publisher would send a cheque and he would eat meat that week. His life was in a bad place! And that was just clearly wrong. So, we started working on it. We had mutual friends for a long time, but we had never crossed paths until 2001. And I had been a fan of his work since I was fourteen years old. And it was just wrong that the man who should have been set for life on The Last Unicorn had been basically robbed blind, beaten up, and tossed in a dumpster by the industry. So we started working on things. I started fighting for his rights, I started fighting for him to get paid by the people who owed him money, started trying to get his rights back from bad deals or rotten contracts. This…lemme share the contract story. Remember the conversation we had about this?
Peter: Oh yeah.
Connor: About a year into work, I mean, I’d never been a business manager before, I just…unlike most artists and writers, I’m not afraid of business people. My father was a cement salesman. I grew up to sell cement. Couldn’t be more boring than that, but the business was doable. About a year into working with him, we had this conversation. I said, “Okay, I have now read every contract you have ever signed in your entire career, and I just have one question. Why did you sign them! They’re all terrible!” And some of them are like kryptonite! And he said, “Connor, you got to understand. My people are Russian and Polish Jews. I was raised believing the path to safety as you might with the Cossacks: you don’t make a fuss. In fact, your mother actually literally survived her first childhood because…
Peter: <clears throat> Because whenever the Czar’s Cossacks were turned loose for a little R&R in the Jewish quarter, my mother and family would run straight to a particular gentile family, which always put their own life on the line by taking them in and hiding them in the cellar. And you had to be very very quiet, because the Cossacks were upstairs tramping around. And if you were discovered, your benefactors would be killed too.
Connor: So he literally was raised, “You don’t make a fuss. You just hunker down…” And I said, “But didn’t your agents–? Why did you sign? Couldn’t you see these were bad deals?” He said, “These were the deals my agents told me I should sign. They were advising me to do it. Personal issues, we hide from the Cossacks.” And I said, “Well it’s good for you that I came along. Because my people went to war for hundreds of year over a cow. And then we made it our national epic.” The Irish, the Battle of the Calvary of the Colonists. The great, early Irish epic. And it literally is a multi-generational war over someone who stole a damn cow.
Peter: You know the colour of the cow was done in a silver brown-ish.
Connor: Right. A brown cow. For Heaven’s sakes! Where did that–?! So, you know, I’ve been fighting for him ever since. It’s working out pretty well. He’s had an extraordinary decade of productivity as a writer. We’ve gotten almost all the rights back. The ones that we can’t get back, it’s just not legally possible to get back. We got him paid large sums of money that he was owed. We got these new deals, new partners, new things happening. It’s on a day by day, moment by moment story, as a thirteen year, kinda remarkable quest. There are many bizarre little details, that involve a lot of late night travelling places and going to conventions and sitting at a table and hocking things. Conversations…he wrote Two Hearts, the sequel to The Last Unicorn coda, it’s a brilliant, beautiful, wonderful story. It had not yet been published. So in 2005, I went to Penguin Books in New York City, then their rock sub-division of the official publisher of The Last Unicorn. And went to their publisher and said, “There’s going to be a sequel to The Last Unicorn. You should sign this man up to a big contract, so he can live for two years while he writes this book, and there’ll be this huge, wonderful selling sequel to this big book.”
The conversation—I’m paraphrasing, but this is basically how it went: “Well, I read your memo,” says this woman, “But I’m afraid we don’t see Peter Beagle the same way you do.” “Oh? How do you see him?” “Well, we think of him as this brilliant writer who every couple of years writes an amazing book, and it sells to the same ten or twelve thousand people who bought the last one.” “Well, if it really is an amazing book, then it sounds like a failure of marketing not a failure of writing. But leaving that aside for a moment, this is the sequel to The Last Unicorn. There are millions of Last Unicorn fans on the planet. The book has sold in twenty five languages, it’s huge!” And she said, “Well, sequels don’t always do as well as you think they might.”
And what was really going on there, what she’s really saying is: “We haven’t succeeded in his last few books. I will never be able to get the kind of advance you’re asking for out of the accounting department. I’m not willing to spend the capital that would be necessary to do that, so please don’t trouble my day.” So I said, “Okay, I just have one question for you. As we sit here, the animated movie version of The Last Unicorn came out on DVD in America for the first time twelve months ago. And in that twelve months, Lionsgate has sold a hundred and fifty thousand copies with no advertising and no promotion. Were you aware of that?” And she paused, and looked confused, and said, “There’s an animated movie?” That was the kind of support he was getting from his publishers. So it’s been an interesting challenge. Bit by bit, day by day. But we’re doing really really well now, in terms of what’s going on. Again, kudos to the people who deserve it! The…actually, this is fun. We get to talk about Andrew!
Peter: <laughs> Ohh, okay!
Connor: This is good, this is great guys. So. The company that was cheating him, was Granada Media. They….well. In 1999, Karl Debitie in England, bought the film library that The Last Unicorn was part of. And they started doing new business with it, and doing a lot of cable deals, and a lot of money was being made. We found out about this in 2003, when they put an article in the Quarter about how they’d just done in the previous year nearly two million dollars of business with this classic animated movie called The Last Unicorn. So I contact them, “You owe my client money!” And their first position was, “We don’t owe him any money because no one ever told us there were any active contracts when we bought the film library.” I said, “That makes no legal sense at all.” Then I pointed out, “That doesn’t change the validity of the contract. Sorry, but you owe my client money.” And then they retreated to, “Well, we don’t owe any money, because we bought it out of bankruptcy. And that cancels all the old obligations.” And I said, “Legally you’re right. From the day you bought it in 1999, everything prior to that, cancelled. But, it also cancels all of the liabilities prior to that, which means that you have no negatives to put against it. So show me all your accounting from 1999, and what this has earned, and pay him his legal share. By contract.” And they retreated from that by saying, “Well, we don’t owe Mr. Beagle any money because there’s never been any problems.”
And…basically for eight and a half years, I would knock down their claim, and they would retreat to another claim. They would eventually circle around to an earlier claim that I would knock down, and we were just in this big loop. There was one particular executive, this woman who was just a nightmare, and she was the villain in all this. And it became apparent that basically they hadn’t done their due diligence when they bought the film library, and they didn’t realize that they were bound to be paying anybody, and they were covering their asses because they knew that if they admitted they had gotten it wrong and they had to pay these people, they’d probably get fired for their incompetence. So that’s what was going on. Finally, in 2010, we gave up on ever getting them to see reason. For eight and a half years at that point, we’d been trying…fighting, getting no where. And in 2010 we decided, “That is it, we have to sue. There is just no other option.” And we started to prepare the lawsuit. So we knew we’d need a law firm that had offices where we lived, but also had high power offices in London. Cuz…even if we won in California, because the contract was under California law, we might have to chase the money to England. So we got them on board and convinced them to work, let us kinda be the lawyers and they would be our law professors. So…I’d write the lawsuit, do the research, and have them correct me. Cuz we couldn’t afford them! <laughs> Lawyers are expensive! And doing the research for that, we stumbled across something. Which was that ITV was the parent company, of this smaller company that had been cheating Peter.
ITV, that very year, had had a change of CEOs. They did their bleeding money for a couple of years, and they brought this turn around guy in from outside the company whose job was to eliminate waste, eliminate fraud, make things that could be more profitable more profitable, just to ruthlessly reshape the company as necessary to make it work. And all the articles about him coming on board said there was some trigger number –they didn’t say what it was, but if they could get ITV back up to that level of performance, that he would get a personal 15 million pound bonus. So now, there’s a guy at the top of the top, who has no incentive to cover anybody’s ass, no incentive to protect anybody, plenty incentive to make more money for the business and his shareholders and plenty of personal motivation to make more money. So I said, “Let’s try one last try, before we go to court.” And I conceived of a three step plan.
Step One was a very nice two page letter: “Dear Mr Krozeur [SPELLING], My name is Connor Cochran, I represent Peter S. Beagle – you don’t know him, he’s the author of The Last Unicorn. It’s a product that’s owned by one of your subsidiary companies, that’s been mismanaged to the point where not only has it not made tens of millions of pounds for your shareholders that it could be making, but I’m going to have to sue your company in a high profile lawsuit—“ This very polite letter, describing everything that happened, “I would much rather be working with you, doing successful profitable collaborative effort—“ blah blah blah. It was a very nice letter! And I had it messengered from the lawyer’s offices in London to the CEO’s offices, not through the mail, straight messenger, so it would get noticed. Step Two: they gave me. I loved that. I expected them to not answer me, instead to frank it downstairs to the woman who’d been cheating Peter. Because they were basically, “What the hell is this?!” and send it down to whoever could answer questions on what it was. And yes, that’s exactly what they did. And she wrote a letter, very short letter, full of bullshit, which was basically: “Well, you know we don’t owe Peter any money, we’ve shown you we don’t owe Peter any money. We’re always happy to do something with more money in business, if you’ve got an idea send it to me.”
So she writes this short, brief, really bullshitty letter, and now I get to do Step Three. Which was to write another letter. “Dear Adam—“ not to Mr. Krozeur. “Dear Adam, I am darkly amused that the person tasked with responding to my previous correspondence is the executive who single handedly cost your shareholders tens of thousands of pounds and therefore has no incentive to be honest with you whatsoever. If you want to be associated with thirty years of bad business practices this early in your tenure that is your choice of course. But I would hope that you would consider that it might be better to have more information with which to make your decision. So please see the attached document. I’m much more interested in working with you than working against you. Blah blah blah blah, Sincerely, Connor Cochran.” And attached to that was a thirty eight page phenomenally detailed deposition about every lie, every cheat, every piece of bullshit for eight and a half years of these people. And some of it was just grotesquely stupid. And I sent it off.
Two days later I get an email from someone I have never heard of named Andrew Girard. And it says, “Dear Mr. Cochran, while not admitting the truth of anything in your attachment, or the accuracy of anything in your attachment, I feel it would be best for both parties to meet to come to a better understanding of our mutual positions. And I want to assure you, that ITV is always interested in anything that might make a profit for its shareholders and Mr. Beagle.” It was signed Andrew Girard, group legal director. And I looked it up on the organizational chart, there’s the board of directors, and you see Krozeur, there were three people who reported directly to him: one of them was Andrew, and indeed this is the man who signs the annual shareholder reports for this seven million dollar a year company. If this were an American…I knew we could make a deal. But I worked for the BBC for several years in the 80s, I knew that I couldn’t trust that necessarily. That it might not…he just might be very polite. But in the end we had months of correspondence, then we finally met face-to-face. And he blew us away. We meet in New York City, and…Peter’s gonna wanna tell you this, Peter–? We’re gonna want you back for this!
Peter: Okay! Right there!
Connor: Cuz we’re in New York City meeting Andrew! You gotta tell this part. I’ll augment it, but you gotta tell it. <pause> [INDISTINCT] It’s not his interest at all. Which is why he got in so much trouble!
Greg: Hey Aaron, does any of that sound familiar?
Aaron: <laughs> Yeah! Actually, all of it!
Connor: Okay, so we go to New York City…to meet with Andrew Girard. It’s the fall of 2010.
Peter: I thought we were about to that point.
Connor: Yep. And we are meeting the 44 of the Met Life building above Grande Central terminal. This view, south…forever. Now, that’s Park Avenue! And it’s Andrew and his attorney, and Peter and our attorney. And it begins like this, cards are being exchanged, and I say, “I don’t know if you’re a reader Mr. Girard, but I brought you a bunch of Peter’s books.” And he says, “Not only am I a reader, I’ll have you know I read The Lord of the Rings fifteen times by the time I was seventeen years old!” And I thought to myself…he’s a geek! And then I said, “You know, Andrew, Peter here wrote the screenplay for the animated Lord of the Rings in 1978. He also had introductions in books, they’re still in publisher’s editions…” and he said, “Really?!”
Peter: Clearly, there were reverberations on both sides. He said my first novel, A Fine and Private Place, he said, “You know I’ll be reading this on the plane going back, because you quote the first two lines of my favorite poem.” –Which was Andrew Marvell’s To His Coy Mistress. And he quoted the first lines, and I quoted the next two, and he quoted the next two…
Connor: They tag-teamed their way to the end of this very long poem, while the three of us are like….? It’s a long poem! It took a while!!!
Peter: It is a long poem! But I have a trash memory for poetry, song lyrics, anything like that that’s really caught my attention. In fact, one of my son’s favorite memories, is he was about fifteen and he came down with me to see some of the recording for The Last Unicorn. And we were introduced to Christopher Lee, who had just finished recording Haggard’s speech on his first sight of unicorns. And Christopher also knows yards of – had one of those English educations where you memorize yards and yards of poetry, like Girard, like Andrew. And we discovered that between us, we knew just about all the lines of the G.K. Chesterton poem, that begins: “Before the Romans came to rye or out to seven strode/ The rolling English drunkard made the rolling English road.” And we set off reciting the whole poem. And my son’s memory is of all three of us, going to pee, and Christopher and me roaring that poem back and forth with each other in the acoustics of the men’s room. And it was the same way with Andrew, really…It was an unusual business meeting.
Connor: Two and a half hours of the meeting, was him and Peter schmoozing about favourite authors. While his own lawyer is going, “What am I doing here?”
Peter: Periodically, his lawyer and our lawyer would growl at each other…
Connor: Just to prove they were there!
Peter: Yeah! Mostly it was poetry.
Connor: And the other half of the meeting was bizarre, because half of that wasn’t negotiation and discussion, it was Andrew asking us questions about what had been going on for the past eight years, because as it turned out, he had been trying to find out how much truth there was in the document…and people weren’t answering. The people that no longer worked at Grenada wouldn’t even answer him. And the people who still worked there basically were ducking and dodging and giving him answers that he didn’t trust. So, it was very clear to Andrew that something really awful was going on. And he shocked us at the end of that meeting…he just shocked us. He goes, “Listen. I want you to know something. I do not believe that ITV is in the business of hanging on to properties that’s not going to do anything. So either we are going to find a way to work together, or we’re going to find a way to give this back to you.” Which was never even anything near what we would have dreamed of suggesting. Like…give us BACK the entire movie?! What? Well. But we negotiated more, we met a couple more times, Andrew became a friend and an ally. And everything that’s happening now is good about the Last Unicorn, comes from the fact that we found a person in a position of authority who actually has an ethical and moral sense.
Peter: That’s what got me. I come from a long line of Jewish left-wingers. My mother was the only member of her family who wasn’t a Communist. My father had been a Communist for about ten minutes. And the whole notion of a capitalist moral sense was absolutely inconceivable. It took me a while to take it in. It was about as conceivable as a racehorse with three legs.
Connor: What really happened here, is they understood the pitch: Andrew did his research, and concluded that yes, Peter was being cheated. And the amount of money involved is trivial to us for this seven billion dollar a year company—this is wrong, we can fix this. But more to the point, they all listened to the other side of the argument. Which was that the film rights deal that was made in 1978 was a remarkably stupid deal. Because it didn’t even make much sense in that media universe, and in today’s media universe it makes no sense whatsoever. The rights were distributed between Peter and the film company that just left it impossible to do good business. You wanna go make money this way? You need to have this right this right and this right. Well, Peter had this one, film company had this one, and this one’s kinda muddled. And unless they work together, it’s not gonna happen. And they’re not working together. That’s why there’s never—you can buy merchandise for the most obscure media properties. But there’s almost nothing for The Last Unicorn except for knock off illegal merchandise. Because it was all tangled up and crazy, and stupid. Here’s an example of how stupid it was. Well, this one’s not so stupid, then there’s a really stupid one. In 1978, he retained all game rights. And that’s not surprising, because ’78 the film companies didn’t understand there was value in game rights. Now you can’t make a major movie unless there’s a game rights deal. They’re not gonna leave that off the table now they know how much money there might be in it. So Peter has the game rights, and they don’t, and that’s one of the other impediments. But here’s the stupid one…I love this because it’s so bizarre. They defined two different kinds of sequels in the 1978 movie deal. The movie company could make sequels whenever they wanted, and they just have to pay a fee for each one.
Greg: Just a flat fee?
Connor: Flat fee. I think it was $35,000 per picture. And why his agent would agree to that, I don’t know. But she did. He was given the right to do sequels to his own novel, and he would have 100% ownership of all media rights in those sequels, with only two holdbacks: he had to wait for five years after the original movie came out, and he had to give the movie company a ten day window to match any offer he got. Now, this is a phenomenally stupid provision from their side certainly. Now, imagine you’re trying to make a movie of The Last Unicorn. And you’re like, “We have movie rights, but we gotta let you know, there’s this guy Beagle, the original author—the beloved original author—who, if we make this movie, he can go make a sequel anytime he wants with anyone he wants. And the only way we can stop him is if we match whatever offer he says he’s getting.” So basically it’s a blackmail tool! “I’m Peter Beagle. You made The Last Unicorn. You wanna make a sequel? Pay me ten million dollars and I’ll let you make a sequel. Because if you don’t, I’ll go to all your competitors and ask for 11, and they’ll say yes. And you won’t match 11 so you’re screwed!”
Peter: Let’s not call it “blackmail”, it’s such an ugly word…
Connor: <laughing> It’s just such a ridiculously stupid legal contract! I have no idea how the lawyers on either side in ’78 came to that—I just don’t get it. But it’s wonderful now! Because what it means is that Andrew and ITV and us were working towards welding things back together, in a single unified package that we can jointly manage. And their rights, our rights, everybody’s rights, it ended in a good way. And they like us, just like Lionsgate likes us because we sold so many copies for them, ITV likes us because in researching things and working on putting this together I found them several million dollars they hadn’t been paid. So they paid us a little bit of money, which was good, and I found them a lot of money they hadn’t been paid…and I found out they owned rights they didn’t know they owned. Like the soundtrack. People wondered for years why the soundtrack only came out in Germany. And the answer is: it was illegal. But nobody knew it…except the record company. Here’s the story.
Peter: This is like one of those shadow plays they put on in India. It takes all night.
Connor: For example, even when the movie got released is bizarre. Do you know anything about what happened when The Last Unicorn was released in 1983?
Connor: Okay, this is a fun story. Just like they couldn’t get anybody but Rankin/Bass to make it, once it was made, Rankin/Bass couldn’t get any distributor to take it on. All the major distributors passed—they didn’t like it. It didn’t have a happy ending. Why would we put this in movie theatres? Finally, they got a little tiny distributor out in Salt Lake City by the name of Jenson-Farley to put it out. And Jenson-Farley didn’t have two nickels to rub together. But they put it out, some of these numbers not quite exact, but it was around 650 screens on November 19, 1982. And that weekend, it was the number five movie in America on a total gross basis. Despite the fact it was up against movies that were on 2000 screens. And on a per screen basis, it was actually the second best grossing movie that weekend. It was beating on a per screen basis E.T., An Officer and a Gentlemen, Creepshow, the first Rambo movie…the only movie beating it on a per screen basis was the re-release of Empire Strikes Back.
Now, next week, they add 6% more theatres because it was doing so well. And their box office goes up 6%. It didn’t drop, it stayed flat. They added more screens, and it went up the same amount. So it was doing this uncanny thing that most films never do, which is it opens and it just keeps rolling instead of tailing off. It’s doing really great! The entire promotional budget for this 650 screen release? $150,000. That’s $225 per theatre. Right? So…it zoomed along, Day Seventeen: Jensen/Farley goes bankrupt and pops out of existence. They’re gone. And as a result, no one knows, no one will ever know, what The Last Unicorn actually did in 1982 box office. Because with no distributor to report to, the theatres just kept running the movie and keeping the money. We know from anecdotal evidence and some other evidence that in many theatres it ran for a couple months. In some places, three or four months.
Peter: I was always pleased that the amount the German translation –they say it was done by a very old friend of mine, who was, you know a young German poet wandering loose around Santa Cruz doing some tutoring, and some odd jobs, and babysitting my kids on occasions. And…we got to be good friends. And I was working on Last Unicorn at the time, and complaining about it very loudly because it was driving me nuts. And I can remember saying to him, “If this thing ever gets published, if anybody ever wants to translate it in German, you can do it! You know it as well as I do!” And that’s the way it worked out. He did get the gig; it started off his own career as a translator for a boutique publisher. We’re still friends, and it’s always pleased me that they used his translation essentially to adapt the script for the German release. So he got some money out of it.
Connor: That actually may be one reason the book is so popular in Germany is that it’s probably the most accurate translation that any translator did. He was there while the book was being written, and reading [it] in English and discussing it with Peter. He understood it much deeper. So that’s the box office story, we don’t know what it truly did in Box Office –it’s down in the records as a failure because we only know what happened during those seventeen days. But if we actually knew the real numbers for America, it was probably one of the strongest films of the year. Strange, strange circumstances cloud this movie. It just goes on. So with Andrew, the tour was a possibility, the art prints are a possibility, there’s gonna be clothing, there’s all these different things we’re doing as we stitch this thing back together. Oh! The recording. Jimmy Webb really wanted the American soundtrack released. And so, when Frannie Bass couldn’t make that happen, I’ve actually seen the letters in that she said, “Would you let us try?” And they said, “Yes.” …and they tried, but failed. No record company in America has wanted to put out the soundtrack for Last Unicorn. Not even the fact that it’s a famous songwriter, nope, not interested. So. Now it’s the next year, 1983, and we really wanted to have a soundtrack out as part of the promotion for the movie. And so they start negotiating, and I’ve seen all the correspondence back and forth. But they can’t reach Jarvis, no contract is ever signed. But in the meantime, they had hired a guy to master the recording so it would be ready on time. And his name—we don’t even know what his real name was! He had a company called Klaus Zufallige music production. And he performed under the stage name of Klaus Zufallige, and “Zufallige” –which I’m mispronouncing horribly—is the German word for chaos, random, coincidence. It was his stage name. So he mastered this thing, and when there was no deal between the major label and ITC, he took the master and walked into Virgin Germany and offered it to them. And made a deal, giving them European distribution in perpetuity, in return for royalty.
Peter: I can’t help admiring this.
Connor: And so, it sold for decades out of Germany. Klaus Zufallige was paid the annual royalty. Now, I can’t guarantee that what I did in 2007 caused this, but I find the timing suspicious. In 2007 when I was fighting for Peter’s rights, I thought: I want to find out who owned the soundtrack rights, so I could license and do an American version and use the money from the sales of that to help fund his legal battle. I thought that would be poetically appropriate! As well as tactically smart. So I contacted the successor to Virgin and said, “Who did you license these rights from?” And they absolutely refused to talk to me, they refused to show me anything. And I couldn’t demand anything and force them to do it, because their contracts are their contracts, they didn’t have to share them. So I never found out who had the rights, or who they got the rights from. That was 2007. Now after Andrew, and we reached our settlement, and I was supposed to be putting a business deal together, one of the things was that I had to have all the facts, so Andrew actually wrote a little letter, basically saying: “This guy is our agent for The Last Unicorn. We’re the owners of the copyright. If he has a question, you gotta answer him.”
And so I went back to EMI with that letter, and they gave me a severely redacted copy of their contract and financial transactions with Klaus Zufallige music productions. And I said, “Who the hell is this guy?!” Started digging in, and eventually found out what I told you. Had to go back to EMI and say, “You know, I know this is gonna be unpleasant for you to hear, but this guy that Virgin signed a contract with in 1983? He didn’t have any legal rights at all. You’ve had a completely illegal edition since 1983.” And they went Oops! And they pulled it from circulation. It’s no longer in distribution. And here’s the thing, in 2007 when I was nosing around? Then I asked the questions in 2011 and they tell me, “Ohh, we don’t know where he is.” Then they admit that in 2007, he knocked on the door and said, “You know…my company’s not in great shape, my health is having problems. Instead of paying the annual royalties, why don’t you just pay me a buyout?” So I never asked how much money they paid him, but apparently they paid him a fairly significant amount of money as a permanent buyout. They thought they owned it forever. I suspect he got wind that someone was nosing around, and he decided to scamper. Nobody has any idea where he is!
Peter: I was raised to respect really first class chutzpah.
Aaron: And that’s the definition, right there.
Greg: It’s up there!
Connor: So, that’s why it’s only ever been released in Germany. And we’re gonna fix that. We’re gonna be putting out a new, remastered, complete soundtrack with all the music. All seventy minutes, not just forty minutes. It’s gonna be fun.
Greg: Do you have a date for that yet?
Connor: Well, no. Because it’s going to cost money to do it, and there’s all these different things being started at the same time. And they have different things…In this case, we know where most of the elements are, we’re going to have to find the right people to work on tapes decades old, we gotta find the right remastering engineers that I can trust to restore this audio and not to ruin these tapes. It is a sad thing that we can’t find the original multi-track masters. If we could do that, we could do an amazing remastery job. But we’ll do our very best. I’m hoping to have it out by the end of the year, but it’s more likely to be sometime next spring if all goes well.
Peter: Jimmy Web in his book Tunesmith, mentions that the nicest experience he ever had writing for movies was for an animated film called The Last Unicorn, which he said opened his work up to an entire new audience of seven year old girls.
Connor: Everywhere you look in The Last Unicorn story, there are these bizarre, bizarre things. The Miyazaki connection, the illegal soundtrack…
Connor: And I don’t really blame them. The Last Unicorn doesn’t perform, doesn’t act like a normal object in the business universe. And so people used to dealing with business, it takes them time to learn what this actually is. And with IDW’s case, as I mentioned to you, they have these two business models: they do licensed properties that make a lot of money, and they use that money to fund things which they love but expect to sell only 500 copies, maybe a thousand…and that’s great, and maybe it won’t make any money at all, but it should exist. And in their heads, The Last Unicorn was one of those love projects, that they didn’t expect many people to buy. And in fact, by the time the tour’s done, it’s going to wind up being the best-selling book they’ve ever had.
Peter: Rather than budgeting for returns, and then not getting returns, and that hasn’t soaked in yet.
Connor: Yes, so this is the story: So they printed the graphic novel. The issues of the comics were printed. And then the next year they printed the white regular issue graphic novel. Premiered at number two in the New York Time’s best seller list for upcoming graphic novels, which was very exciting. The next week, I turned to the New York Times, like, “I wonder where we are this week!?” And we’re not on the list! We’re not there at all! And I thought, “Well…maybe it’s a comic shop thing. Maybe, you buy what’s new at the comic shop that week, and the next week you buy what’s new, and this list is very volatile.” But I looked at the list, and…there’s lots of things on there that’s been up for ten weeks, twelve weeks. Turns out, you can’t be on the New York Times best seller list, if there’s nothing to sell. If all the copies in distribution sold in the first week, and there are no copies in the store the second week, you can’t be on the best seller list, because there are no copies selling that week! Suddenly, they went “oops” and rushed…the copies were there, they just hadn’t distributed them!
So they rushed more out there, and we get back on the list a few weeks later, and we’re there for eight straight weeks. And we’re number three, in our ninth cumulative week, going, “This is great! This is wonderful!” And then the next week we’re not on the list anymore! And I found out that, again, they were so worried about book store returns, that they had stopped distributing. And in fact they had run out of copies. So I called them at this point, and I realized we had run out of copies. We were coming up to summer convention season, it was April, and we needed copies for his shows that we were going to be doing. And our contract says we have to buy them. So I call them and say, “I need this many copies.” And they said, “Well, we don’t have any.” “But…” “No no, we’re out.” “Well, are they gonna get reprinted?” “Oh, we were thinking of reprinting in November.” “Uh, I need copies NOW.” “Well we don’t have any.” “My contract says I can buy them from you.” “We really don’t have any.” “Well what am I supposed to do?!” “Oh, there’ll be enough book store returns to take care of whatever you need for your summer shows.” “No…you’re not going to get any book store returns.” “Oh, we’ve been doing this for a long time, we always get book store returns.” “Yes, but I’ve been doing Last Unicorn a long time. You will get NO book store returns.” “Wellllll…we still don’t have any.”
So I contacted their main distributor, they didn’t have any. I contacted the sub-distributors they used in the book trade, and after all these phone calls I was able to find about 390 copies that were not yet in stores, they were in, like, sub-warehouses. And I bought every single one of them. They lasted one and a half conventions. Then I was out. At which point, IDW says, “I guess we’re gonna be reprinting sooner than November.” And we’re marching towards comic con. And the new print run arrives into Fort Los Angeles, the morning of the first day of comic con…And it clears customs the day after comic con. I had seventeen copies that I’d gotten from various places around the universe, and IDW turned out had twelve in the office which they brought down to comic con. They all sold within the first twenty minutes of comic con, and then we had NONE. We took reservations, cuz we knew we’d be picking some up by Monday, but we didn’t have any there. It was really frustrating. So when the deluxe edition was decided to be done, they decided without telling me, they wanted to do it, I didn’t agree to do it…and they decided without ever asking me anything, that they were only going to print a thousand copies. There was going to be a thousand, signed, numbered copies. They never mentioned this to me. Until I wanted to buy a lot of copies for us to use. And they were like, “Oh we’re only gonna make a thousand.” I was like “That’s not enough! What are you thinking?!” “WELL it’s a very expensive book to print! We can’t risk returns!”
So I said okay fine. So I bought two thousand copies in advance. I paid them…yes, in fact, for the regular edition and the deluxe edition, I paid them $48,000, or 2000 each. Because I now tripled their print run for the last run, that lowered the price for the copy, and they made like 4000 copies instead of 2000 copies. And I sold all 2000 copies in a year and a half. So I went recently to buy more copies. They didn’t have any. So we went through the whole thing. We bought up a few hundred copies from various places, we’ve run out, and we’re waiting for them to reprint, which is going to be three, four, five months from now. It’s just insane. They just don’t get how many copies of this people want to buy around the world. Their big interest now—what they want to do is a $15 trade paper back edition. Which is fine, I can see that, you know. But their attitude is: they’ve sold as many of the expensive ones, now let’s get the people too cheap to buy the expensive ones, they’ll buy this one! –and I’m like…No! We can sell…I could keep selling two-three thousand copies of the $50 hardcover for the rest of my life. Minimum! Without breaking a sweat! Because there’s constantly, oncoming new people falling in love with The Last Unicorn and they want something of quality. Not necessarily just something cheap. They don’t understand the fans of this story.
It’s fascinating to watch the whole thing go by. In fact, we actually are renegotiating…the contract with IDW ran out in December of last year. So we’ve actually got a new license we’re negotiating. It’s not signed yet, so what I’m about to tell you is not official. But the loose terms are that we’re going to give them a five year license on that cheap trade paper back idea. And they’re going to do one more printing each of the regular and deluxe graphic novels, size to be determined…and that when those editions sell out, the rights to those editions revert to us, and we will then be able to print those high end editions from the same house. And then we’ll never have any problem running out again, because we’ll do it right! It’s been funny, the printer actually told me that if, on that white graphic novel, if they’d printed as many copies as we had sold so far in the first place, we would have made triple the profit. Instead, they’ve been reprinting it in little tiny runs, at much higher per unit costs, and if they would just have a little more courage, they would have made a lot more money. We probably made more money than they have on it, because our rate doesn’t change. I’m sorry, I’m going on and on with business crap!
Greg: That’s totally fine! I’m curious now, having heard the story of when you two met, and where you were at, at that time, I’m really curious to get your reaction looking back from then to where things are now.
Peter: I can only go with the Grateful Dead: “What a long, strange trip it’s been”…it’s like that. And having no sense of time, I’m astonished to realize how long ago this or that happened, how long it’s actually been, what the changes have been. And….is it really 2014? Like that. I also, having no sense of time, it’s very encouraging, because I’m absolutely convinced and determined that I will be here for the live action remake—
Connor: <warmly> You will be.
Peter: –and for all the other stuff that’s coming.
Connor: There’s talk of a stage musical. Very exciting. Some fairly significant people. Oh! And the [INDISTINCT] been fixed! We aren’t with Rock anymore. The people that—the woman that did that thing with, “There’s an animated movie?” I used the tour…Okay! The tour’s coming up. And I knew that that meant we’d be selling a lot of copies of The Last Unicorn, the novel. So I basically said to Penguin—I negotiated moving it away from Rock, the division it was in, to a much better, more prestigious division of the company, with people who actually got the business structure and would understand this. Because I didn’t have to sell their version. “Did you want to make this money on the tour or did you not want to make this money on the tour? Yes or no? And if you do, then you gotta move this book someplace where it’s gonna be treated right.” And that’s what happened. So we fixed that. It’s really good. It’s nice going into meetings with large corporations where we’re not struggling to get them to do the right thing anymore!
Peter: Let alone letting you in the door!
Aaron: I’ve actually seen this so I know that this is true—when the original Lord of the Rings movie came out, The Fellowship of the Ring, the Peter Jackson version…somebody, one of the publishing houses, commissioned a writer to do the novelization of the movie.
Peter: I heard that story!
Aaron: And got seven chapters in before somebody said, “You do know it’s a book, right?!” And I’ve read those seven chapters, and they’re terrible…!
Connor: I have not heard that story! That’s wonderful. That’s absolutely wonderful.
Greg: So…that is everything that we have. Do you have any parting words that you’d like to pass on to the readers?
Peter: Only, that first finding yourself somebody to work with, that actually knows what the hell’s going on…and secondly, just surviving. I don’t simply mean physically, I mean surviving in your head and your spirit. And believing that it’s actually possible for things to turn around. There’s a better way of phrasing that but I can’t think of it right now. We’ve been going over the whole epic of The Last Unicorn in one form or another, and taking it all in, in one long conversation…I think about it, and I’m amazed that I’m still here. I’m amazed the book’s still here. I talk about that to other people buying the book, because books come and go. Movies come and go. When Robert Nathan told me that about what was going to happen to The Last Unicorn, most of his books –except for Portrait of Jenny—went away, they’re out of print. Robert had been there. And fortunately he wasn’t dependant on the success of his books to survive. But all the same he knew very well the fragility and temporariness of the work of arts in the world. So in that sense, given everything that’s happened to The Last Unicorn, and the fact that it’s still here, and knowing what’s happened to the works of friends of mine, I feel so far ahead of the game. It’s almost dizzying.
Greg: Fantastic. Thank you very much guys.
Connor: Oh thank you. I’m going to ask you, before the interview’s actually in print, if you could email me just for the facts and spelling check.
Greg: Absolutely, yes– <mic cut>
*Margaret Widdemer was a US poet and novelist who won the Pulitzer Price in 1919, not the 1920s; the award was originally termed as the Columbia University prize, as the official Pulitzer Prize for Poetry was inaugurated in 1922. The organization now considers the recipients of 1918 and 1919 prizes to be the first official winners of the Pulitzer Prize. –source Wikipedia.