Wednesday, December 3, 2008

David on Tantrums & Tiaras


Just over fifteen years ago, David Furnish attended a dinner where he met pop superstar Elton John, an evening that would forever alter Furnish’s life. Two years after that fateful evening, Furnish had quit his job at a prestigious London advertising agency, moved in with John, and, as he famously documented in Tantrums and Tiaras (his first foray into filmmaking) joined John on his 1995 world tour.

This week, a director’s cut of Tantrums and Tiaras is being released, the first time the film has been available in any home format in the U.S. Furnish recently took time to talk with AfterElton.com about why he made the movie, how it changed his relationship with John, and what it’s like to be one half of the highest profile same-sex couples in the world.

AE: Why a director’s cut of Tantrums and Tiaras now?
DF: I think because people keep asking for it. It didn’t come out on either home video or DVD in America. At the time, Elton’s management … they were very much opposed to it coming out in America. They were very nervous about how it might be received. They were happy for it to go to air, but they didn’t want it to be available in a sort of [permanent] format. Both Elton and I are in much different places now in our lives in terms of career management and things like that.

AE: Did doing the documentary in the first place change Elton or change your relationship in any way?
DF: It had a much bigger impact on us than either of us anticipated. I would almost like to refer to it as video therapy, because at that point I was very new to that world and that life. I had left my career in advertising to go on the road with Elton for a year and make the documentary. It really gave me an opportunity to get to the bottom of things that just didn’t make sense to me or things that frustrated me about our relationship at the time.

Having the camera in my hand was like holding a weapon, an interrogative weapon and a shield at the same time. You felt sort of protected and empowered by it. And it allowed me to ask him all sorts of things, like when we were on holiday why he wouldn’t go out and do stuff and … his therapist’s view on how his therapist thought he was at that time. And I think Elton looked at it and found it to be very revealing and enlightening.

I think he’s very much a different person now since that documentary was shot. I think he’s more confident. I think his self-esteem is so much better. I think he’s much better at dealing with his fame and his celebrity now than he was then. I think he’s able to sort of look at the documentary and laugh at himself and see some of the craziness in his life. And some of it’s just him and just his wonderful larger-than-life way of enjoying life and his personality and his way of embracing life.

AE: So at that point in your relationship you didn’t feel comfortable saying, “Why aren’t you going to do these things that I want to do?” Was your relationship still kind of too new for that?
DF: Yeah, it was too new. And to be perfectly honest with you, I would say - and I think Elton would agree with me - when we started seeing each other, the playing field wasn’t really level. I think it was the first kind of real relationship I had ever been in in my life. I was so sort of focused on my career before; I didn’t really have a big, long-term relationship. And Elton was this big, huge, famous person and it’s not that I ever bowed and scraped to him, but I think because it’s almost like being in a relationship with a corporation when you’re with someone like that because there are so many people dependent on him. There’s so much work in the business of being Elton John. It can be a 24-hour-a-day type thing.

And [now] we’re very much more as a couple on a much more equal footing. That was also a very insecure period for me professionally because I had left my career in advertising and I managed a big division of the second largest ad agency in London and I was on the board of directors and I kind of had to reinvent myself if I was going to be in a position to support my relationship in the longer term. That meant having a career where I had much more flexibility and I didn’t have so many people dependent on me on a day-to-day basis. So I was feeling quite vulnerable when I shot the documentary as well.

AE: Have you thought about doing a sequel?
DF: I’ve thought about it and people have asked me, but to be honest I wonder if I could make it with the same level of objectivity that I had then because it was such a new world to me. I had never been on the road with Elton. Now it’s just so much like second nature to me. I wonder if I could bring up the objectivity that it would really need to be as good and as entertaining.

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