Upon sitting down in the conference room at the Charles Hotel for a brief interview with The Crimson, Alek Keshishian '86 tossed a pack of Marlboro Lights on the table with his left hand and inhaled Primatine Mist with his right. He waggishly shook his longish gray-streaked hair, explaining, "This is for my asthma, man."
Like asthmatic smokers everywhere--well, at least like Tonya Harding--Alek Keshishian is talented and driven. Not quite 30, he is well on his way to a long, lucrative Hollywood career. He has already made two major films, the recently released "With Honors" and the critically acclaimed documentary of Madonna's Blond Ambition tour, "Truth or Dare."
Possible future projects include a film about the life of Hart Crane and a movie version of his Harvard thesis ("Wuthering Heights," the pop opera). Undoubtedly, his success will continue, for, in the precise, insightful words of Brandon Fraser, star of "With Honors": "Alek's adept at telling the story; he has--I mean I admire this quality in his work, which is the capacity of technically telling the story by knowing where to put the camera. That's a skill that's, that's, it's not usually learned in terms of the physical talent, whatever that is. He has that; he certainly does."
Crimson: When you get to Harvard, the movie they show everybody is "Love Story." And I was thinking, "Love Story" is sort of boy meets girl, boy gets girl, boy loses girl. And this is sort of boy meets bum, boy gets bum, boy loses bum. It's sort of a baroque variation of "Love Story" to me. I don't know if you had it in your mind when you filming the movie...
Alek Keshishian: Well, being kind of anal, I guess I did. You know what? I didn't have "Love Story" in mind. I didn't. First of all, "Love Story" is about graduate students.
Q: It's about undergrads.
A: She was a graduate student, wasn't she? Wasn't she in med school?
Q: I didn't think so
A: I thought she was. I don't know. I might be wrong; I might be confusing it with "Paper Chase"... If it wasn't, they were really old to be playing those characters. Or maybe they were undergrads and it took them through graduate school. At any rate, you do have a point, but one could make that same point about a lot of movies. There are a classic number of stories that are told repeatedly, and hopefully you try to make them still work viscerally.
If you want to critically take them apart, most movies will lend themselves to that kind of layout, especially a Hollywood studio picture...They wait until their script gets like that before they let you make the movie--until you've proven yourself like a Spielberg or an Oliver Stone or something, at which point they'll let you make "difficult movies"...
What I mean by "difficult movie" is a difficult movie for Hollywood to market. How do you market a black-and-white movie about the Holocaust? Well- if I went in there and told them I want to shoot a black-and-white about the Holocaust, will you give me twenty-seven million dollars, of course they're gonna say no. You kinda have to work to that point. If I want to make a movie version of the play "Bent," which is about gays during the Holocaust, they're not gonna finance that for me right now, you know? I'm gonna need to pay my dues for them and make what's considered "entertainment movies."
Q: I got the feeling when I saw this movie, I thought, wow--this will be another "Love Story"--
A:--for Harvard students.
Q: Right, I could see people seeing it over and over and over again. And I could see a few persisting questions that would keep coming up with each screening. I think one would be, when Brendan Fraser's hard drive crashes: 1. Why didn't he back up on floppy? And 2. Why was he using that cheap IBM clone?
A: Well, he was using the cheap IBM clone because he is a scholarship student who doesn't have much money, so that answer is easy. In fact, we chose that computer even though we had a deal with Apple because I said that his character wouldn't be able to afford--that computer should be a fifth-generation hand-me-down that he, like, bought for twenty-five bucks.