Hello Alan it’s great to meet you, how are you?
Very well thank you, things are going very smoothly.
You wrote Fashion Beast almost thirty years ago. Why are we just seeing it now?
Is it really that long? Wow. That’s been the strangest aspect of it. It’s like some sort of time capsule that I can’t remember burying. I’d completely forgotten about it. Apparently Malcolm had as well. We both put a lot of energy into it. We were both very pleased with the screenplay and how that turned out, but in the way these things do, the money ran out on the project and the film never got made. Then my publisher happened to find a copy of the screenplay online and quite astutely thought ‘actually, this could be adapted as a comic.’ Because I didn’t have to contribute any labour to that, I was keen to pursue it.
I knew it was going to be adapted by Antony Johnston who’s adapted my other work and he’s really good at it, so I just sat back for a while as the book progressed. I didn’t know whether it would work as a comic because it was written as a screenplay. As much as I trusted everyone involved, I just didn’t know. Having seen it, I think it’s probably worked better as a comic, at least in terms of preserving my narrative. If that had been made as a film in 1985 it wouldn’t have anything of the story that’s in the comic. They would have given it a happy ending and taken out all the stuff about nuclear winters and AIDS. This comic is exactly the vision Malcolm and I shared.
'We're living in a dystopia.'
The way you write is very precise and considered. When it came to adapting the script to a graphic novel, were there any changes to be made, other than adding artwork?
Well, I didn’t have anything to do with that process. I would imagine the publishers would have had to break down a two hour screen play into ten comic book sections that would probably have a month between each instalment. They did a great job of that. The biggest problem would have been adapting things that were intended purely for the cinema. When I did the opening sequence, I imagined each character having their own background music as they get ready, the dog outside is barking. I would have added all these layers to the music. I thought Malcolm McLaren could have sorted that out nicely. The publisher’s solution of the overlaid sound effects kind of gives you the idea. It works as well as anything could do.
The rest of it seems to have flown like a dream. There was certainly no need to change any of the writing. Some of the staging and angles may have been altered to better fit a comic book.
How much input did Malcolm have? Was he checking things over, or did he say, ‘this is what I want. Off you go’?
That was pretty much it. I met him; he gave me a choice of three films to make. The one that immediately appealed to me was ‘Fashion Beast’ a combination of the Beauty and the Beast fable and the strange and tragic story of Christian Dior. Malcolm gave me a couple of books on Dior, a few on fashion, just so I could acquaint myself with that world. He suggested Flashdance and Chinatown as other influences I might look at. It was a bit overwhelming at first, but I began to see what he meant. After that, he pretty much left me to my own devices.
'Fashion Beast' is a combination of Beauty and the Beast and the tragic story of Christian Dior.'
I wrote a treatment to begin with where I suggested setting it in an indeterminate time, so it could have elements of the past and future. Setting it in an everycity that could be anywhere. Malcolm liked these ideas and the gothic atmosphere. He liked the real world concerns. In 1985 The Cold War was at its hottest, everybody was living in imminent fear of nuclear annihilation. That worked its way into the story. We were also becoming aware of nuclear winters. I was aware of the environmental possibilities for the future of the planet. AIDS was just becoming a noticeable phenomenon too. So a lot of things in that treatment turned out to be rather prescient, purely by accident, but nonetheless...
A lot of your works deal with these dystopian themes. Why are we still interested in them today?
We have to be interested because we’re living in one. I used to work things into my stories as markers of dystopias. I remember when I started doing V for Vendetta and was setting it in the far, unimaginable future of 1997, I decided that this was going to be a fascist police state. The best way to get this over to the reader, quickly and simply, was by placing security cameras on every corner, doesn’t that look fascist. Of course, the Blair government gets in in 1997 and introduces security cameras across the country, almost as if David Blunkett or somebody had had V for Vendetta read to them...
With Fashion Beast, we have this world where the fashion industry is seen as a dark and gothic place. Events in this century...Alexander McQueen, Gianni Versace, John Galliano, people like that... there is obviously something ugly and dark within the heart of fashion. The fashion world, no surprise, is on the same planet as all the rest of our world, so of course it’s affected by politics and the environment and the changing sexual attitudes. It isn’t in isolation; it’s not cordoned off or in quarantine. Fashion is affecting the world, and the world is affecting fashion. The vision in Fashion Beast was very, very striking. I wrote this in the mid 80s and not a word of it has been changed and it’s much more relevant and comprehensible in the modern world than if it had been released thirty years ago.
Fashion Beast is out now.
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