With six decades in show business, legendary director Ted Kotcheff looks back on his life
Born to immigrant parents and raised in the slums of Toronto during the Depression, Ted Kotcheff learned storytelling on the streets before taking a stagehand job at CBC Television. Discovering his skills with actors and production, Kotcheff went on to direct some of the greatest films of the freewheeling 1970s, including The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz, Wake in Fright, and North Dallas Forty. After directing the 1980s blockbusters First Blood and Weekend at Bernie’s, Kotcheff helped produce the groundbreaking TV show Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. During his career, he was declared a Communist by the U.S. government, banned from the Royal Albert Hall in London, and coped with assassination threats on one of his lead actors.
With his seminal films enjoying a critical renaissance, including praise from Martin Scorsese and Nick Cave, Kotcheff now turns the lens on himself. Witty and fearless, Director’s Cut is not just a memoir, but also a close-up on life and craft, with stories of his long friendship with Mordecai Richler and working with stars like Sylvester Stallone, James Mason, Gregory Peck, Ingmar Bergman, Gene Hackman, Jane Fonda, and Richard Dreyfuss, as well as advice on how to survive the slings and arrows of Hollywood.
It's fascinating to go behind the scenes of the movies Kotcheff has directed, such as the gory First Blood and the hilarious Weekend at Bernie's, and the story of his life proves to be equally interesting. He was raised in poverty in Toronto by a Bulgarian father and a Macedonian mother, and he spins tales of persecution and perseverance with a deft touch. He can veer from pain and sadness, as in memories of being beaten by his father, to outright hilarity, such as his story of hiding garlic in his high school's ventilation system in response to racial slurs. But readers will primarily want the movie and TV magic, and Kotcheff delivers. A highlight is his description of living with Mordecai Richler in London, England ("The place was disgusting, but we considered it to be merely bohemian and reveled in it"), and eventually seeing Richler's masterpiece The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz realized on the big screen. As he explains why music matters, how Gene Hackman gets into character, and how shooting a nighttime kangaroo slaughter resulted in a change in Australian hunting policy, Kotcheff's love of the whole process of filmmaking shines through.