Screenwriter for The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel and now promoting his latest film Now Is Good starring Dakota Fanning and Olivia Williams, filmmaker Ol Parker tells us which book is the funniest ever written, when he might find himself in bed with Martin Amis and what he does exactly when his wife, Thandie Newton, is asleep.
1). What are you reading at the moment?
I tend to have about fourteen books on the go, keeping at least one under my pillow in the hope of absorbing it osmotically. But a current few are the new James Meek, Heart Broke, Jess Walter’s Beautiful Ruins, the magnificent 102 Minutes, about the extraordinary feats of heroism in the Twin Towers as they fell, and the genuinely game-changing HHhH.
2). As a child, what did you read under the covers?
I still read under the covers; my wife likes sleep more than I do. But back then, Mervyn Peake.
3). Has a book ever made you cry, and if so which one?
It’s cheesy to say Before I Die, since I just adapted it into a film, but it did absolutely flatten me. More recently - and there’s a common theme here – Philip Gould’s shatteringly humane When I Die.
4). You are about to be put into solitary confinement for a year and allowed to take three books. What would you choose?
Catch 22, because it’s the funniest book ever written. Taylor Branch’s phenomenal history of America in the MLK years, because it would bring me hope. And David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest, because I might finally finish it.
5). Which literary character would you most like to sleep with?
Maggie Tulliver from Mill On The Floss. Although I think Martin Amis says that too, and that’s not a menage for which I’m particularly gagging.
6). If you could write a self-help book, what would you call it?
‘We’ve Had 100 Years Of Psychotherapy, And The World Is Getting Worse.’ Unfortunately James Hillman has already written it. Quite brilliantly, although I disagree with almost all of it.
7). Michael Gove has asked you to rewrite the GCSE English Literature syllabus. Which book, which play, and which poem would you make compulsory reading?
Book – Tom Jones. They’ll love reading forevermore.
Play – I guess it has to be King Lear. It’s all in there.
Poem – Larkin’s ‘This Be The Verse’. Learn early what you’ll know later.
8). Which party from literature would you most like to have attended?
Gatsby’s at West Egg. Or Stephen Stelfox in Kill Your Friends has it pretty large too.
9). What would you title your memoirs?
‘Mention My Name’. (It’s a request made by desperate Hollywood types when they hear you’re having a meeting with someone more successful than them.)
10). Which literary character do you dream of playing?
Those dreams are over, sadly. Which is a killer. Uncle Monty in Withnail and I defines it as the most devastating moment in a young man’s life when he quite reasonably says to himself, ‘I shall never play the Dane’.
11). What book would you give to a lover?
Scruples by Judith Kranz. I borrowed it off my mum when I was 13, and that’s where I learned everything I know about sex.
12). Spying Mein Kampf or Dan Brown on someone’s bookshelf can spell havoc for a friendship. What’s your literary deal breaker?
I’d be more likely to struggle in a friendship with the kind of person that has a literary deal breaker. For example, I’ve never read a Robert Ludlum, nor probably ever will, but I’d be fascinated to meet the kind of person that does.Tags: Cinema, Hollywood, Shelf Life