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Bill Condon
by Lawrence Ferber

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In 1999, openly gay writer-director Bill Condon took a pretty spectacular trip—to the stage of Los Angeles’ Dorothy Chandler Pavilion to collect a Best Screenplay Oscar for Gods and Monsters. Previously, Condon had worked with some less prolific monsters, directing and/or writing genre pics like 1980’s cult sci-fi titles Strange Behavior and Strange Invaders, 1995’s Candyman: Farewell to the Flesh (an entry in out horrormeister Clive Barker’s urban boogeyman franchise), 1991’s F/X2, and 1987’s gothic Sister, Sister (his feature directorial debut). Post-Oscar, Condon broke into the mainstream, snagging a 2002 Oscar nomination for his Chicago screenplay. In 2004’s Kinsey, he assumed the director’s chair again and brought the life of Alfred Kinsey—sexuality pioneer and creator of the famed Kinsey Scale—to screen. Two years later, Condon has brought another long-awaited movie version of a Broadway smash to screen by writing and directing Dreamgirls. An exuberant, richly layered tale of a Supremes-style girl group whose members learn the sometimes cruel price of fame, it made an instant star of Jennifer Hudson, former American Idol finalist, as vocal and emotional powerhouse Effie White. Will Condon or his cornucopia of Dreamgirls cast and crew get to take another first class voyage to the Oscar stage? While waiting on that possibility, Condon took time to sit in the VIP Lounge with us.

Which of your films’ stars would make the ideal travel companion?
Dreamgirls’ Jennifer Hudson, because she could sing me to sleep on the plane.

You’re a two-time Oscar winner. Those goodie bags they give out are famously stuffed with items like free trips. What’s the best swag you’ve ever scored?
You don’t get a goodie bag unless you present an award (and I have only been nominated or won). So it might have been when Ian McKellen was staying at our house and he left behind some Jet Blue coupons. We went to New York with them.

What place in the world is on the top of your list to visit, and what do you want to do while you’re there?
I was just in London for three days and want to go back and spend three weeks there and see a lot of theater. I did see Billy Elliott, and that’s the problem.

What are the most essential items in your suitcase?
My iPod.

What is the first foreign country you ever visited?
Austria, it was in high school, which meant it was 1971, and the highlight was taking the Sound of Music tour around Salzburg.

What is first thing you do when you get into a hotel room?
I wish I could say I’m like Ian McKellen and immediately go rip pages out of the Bible, but there don’t seem to be bibles in the hotel rooms I stay in these days. So it’s figuring out how to get online.

When choosing a hotel, whether for business or pleasure, what are some of the amenities you consider absolutely essential?
A DVD player because I’m always carrying something I haven’t seen or looked at but have to put in as soon as I get into the room. We’re putting together the DVD of Dreamgirls, and last night I watched a compilation of the expanded musical numbers on the DVD. In the film, the musical numbers often cut away to other scenes, but on the DVD you’ll get to see the complete numbers on the stage as they existed in performance.

What is the best or most unique souvenir you ever brought home, and where is it right now?
We have the entire curtain from the Dreamgirls number in our garage because we’re cutting it up and are going to give the pieces out at the cast and crew screening.

If you were the president of an airline company, what changes would you make to improve business and customer satisfaction?
They would never let the captain of the airline get near a microphone because they inevitably interrupt something important with their inane conversation about altitude.

What is the most memorable locale to which one of your films has taken you?
A swamp in the middle of Louisiana where a murder took place while we were shooting Sister, Sister, in 1986. A man had shot his wife, I guess. We all had to leave the swamp quickly and hide in our cars. That’s what happens.

If you could meet with anyone from the past, who would it be, where would you meet, and why?
Oscar Wilde in jail. So that I could tell him we’d still be talking about him hundreds of years later.

If you were stranded on a desert island what three things would you hope to find there?
DVD player. A TV set. And a copy of the movie, Cabaret.

[Published: February 2007]

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