Cover image for Adventures of a suburban boy
Adventures of a suburban boy
Boorman, John, 1933-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
London ; New York : Faber and Faber, [2003]

Physical Description:
314 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm
General Note:
Includes index.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
PN1998.3.B66 A3 2003 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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In Adventures of a Suburban Boy, John Boorman, hailed by the Observer as 'arguably Britain's greatest living director', offers an enthralling memoir of a creative life spent turning dreams into celluloid, and money into light.

One of cinema's authentic visionaries, Boorman nevertheless enjoyed an archetypal English suburban boyhood in the 1940s and 50s, attending Catholic school and finding his first employment in a dry-cleaner's. But his abiding passion was for film, and he got his first break during the 'gold rush' era of British television in the 1960s. After directing several innovative documentaries for the BBC, he graduated to motion pictures, first filming pop stars The Dave Clark Five for Catch Us If You Can , before venturing to Los Angeles to make his first Hollywood picture - and his first masterpiece - Point Blank . The film inaugurated Boorman's profound friendship with star Lee Marvin, which also led to a second professional collaboration on Hell in the Pacific .

What follows are accounts of Boorman's joys and agonies in the making of such extraordinary pictures as the terrifying backwoods adventure Deliverance , the fantastical epics Zardoz and Exorcist II: The Heretic , the glorious Arthurian legend Excalibur , his magnificent drama of imperilled Amazonian tribes, The Emerald Forest , and his semi-autobiographical, multi-Oscar-nominated Hope and Glory . Among the many friends and collaborators of whom Boorman offers vivid portraits are Lee Marvin, Sean Connery, Richard Burton, Marcello Mastroianni, Burt Reynolds, Jon Voight, Helen Mirren and Nicol Williamson.

Author Notes

John Boorman was born in London in 1933. After working as a film reviewer for magazines and radio, he joined the BBC in 1955 as an assistant editor, and later directed a number of documentaries. His first feature was 'Catch Us If You Can' in 1965. His latest film, Country of My Skull , opens in 2003. He is a five-time Academy Award-nominee, and was twice awarded Best Director at the Cannes Film Festival for Leo the Last (1970) and The General (1998). He is the author of Money Into Light: The Emerald Forest - A Diary , as well as the being the co-founder and editor of Faber & Faber's long-running series Projections: Film-makers on Film-making .

Reviews 4

Booklist Review

Considering how cerebral and idiosyncratic his films are, it is remarkable that Boorman has sustained a commercial career for nearly four decades, even if much of it has been spent on the periphery of the mainstream, producing an ignominious flop like Exorcist II or Zardoz for every box-office smash like Deliverance or Excalibur. In this memoir, he is as thoughtful and expressive as his films. Beginning with his childhood in London during the Blitz and a wonderfully lyrical account of his family's exodus to a riverside suburb (the stuff of another success, Hope and Glory), he explores both triumphs and travails. Given his innate pessimism, he renders the latter more vividly, from the disastrous location shooting of the aptly named Hell in the Pacific to his foredoomed attempt to work for Disney on Where the Heart Is. Particularly memorable is his account of friendship with intemperate actor Lee Marvin. The traits that distinguish his movies--keen observation; skepticism about the normal; respect, bordering on awe, of nature--are manifest in this engaging, provocative autobiography. --Gordon Flagg Copyright 2003 Booklist

Publisher's Weekly Review

British film director Boorman, famed for Deliverance, Excalibur and The General, is a product of WWII. More specifically, he comes out of the semidetached suburbs of WWII London. His memoir-part family history, part film bio-is both tender and restrained. Boorman's emotional life was shaped by his parents' triangulated marriage-his mother was in love with his father's best friend-and his longing to escape the drabness of suburban life. "I vacillated between overweening ambition and despair," he notes. Enamored of broadcasting, he got a job editing news clips for Britain's ITN network in 1955 and became so adept, he was recruited by the BBC, where he rose to produce documentaries. Yet film remained his first love. He got his break in 1965 with Catch Us if You Can. The die was cast: Boorman became a darling of British cinema, eventually seeking recognition in Hollywood. By all accounts, he did not achieve the financial success others did, but he managed, despite occasional setbacks, to fulfill his artistic vision. Why, he asks, are people so drawn to moviemaking? "We are escaping the vague dissatisfactions of safe and comfortable lives. We want to be extended, tested." Boorman pushes the envelope, creating inspired cinema on small budgets, often in dangerous locales. A devoted father, he also discovers the gift of friendship with Lee Marvin and Jon Voight. Not a lurid tell-all, this is an honest appraisal of a life well lived. It begins and ends with Hope and Glory, Boorman's semi-autobiographical film about a boy's suburban childhood, whose critical acclaim proves that the suburbs served him well. 40 b&w photos. (Nov.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Those with a strong interest in the various components of filmmaking, as well as fans of Hope and Glory, Deliverance, Zardoz, Excalibur, and Point Blank, will find this autobiography by director Boorman particularly fascinating. In an engrossing narrative, cinematic in tone and structure, Boorman recounts growing up in an English suburb, an experience that deeply influenced the perspective and subject matter of his work and from which the title is derived. Stories of his family, childhood friends, school, neighborhood, and everyday culture are set in both happy times and darker ones, including the period of the London Blitz. Boorman smoothly segues into his vast and often eccentric professional life, in the process introducing readers to Lee Marvin, Richard Burton, Sean Connery, and others. Throughout stories of his personal life-all told with honesty, finesse, and wit-he mixes in details about locations, scripts, finances, and the successes and failures of his cinematic projects. Consequently, these pages contain not only a self-portrait of a modern director/ filmmaker but also an informative analysis of the creation of important films that represent modern cinematic art and the probing thematic issues it explores. For circulating libraries and film collections.-Carol J. Binkowski, Bloomfield, NJ (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

School Library Journal Review

Adult/High School-This autobiography by the director of films such as Deliverance and Hope and Glory works as a telling celebration of the man's career. The book starts plainly enough with Boorman's childhood in London during the chaos of World War II. When he failed entrance exams for academic schools, his parents struggled to pay for and push him through private school. After spending some time in the military, Boorman gradually moved on to newspapers, documentary films at the BBC, and, finally, Hollywood pictures. Much of the rest of the book is devoted to anecdotes like tromping through swamplands to find the perfect site for Deliverance or dealing with the combating egos of actors in Hell in the Pacific. Boorman treats his successes lightly, using them as examples of how he pulled his projects together. He doesn't shirk from examining his failures. Overall, the book is a frank portrait of a man who, through extreme persistence and hard work, found success in the competitive world of Hollywood films.-Matthew L. Moffett, Northern Virginia Community College, Annandale (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



Adventures of a Suburban Boy Light and Shadow If you plant oaks you necessarily take a long view. As with children. Both are acts of faith in the future of a precarious planet. When I came to this simple Georgian house in the Wicklow Hills of Ireland some thirty-four years ago, the ancient oaks I inherited cast their spell on me. They rooted me to the place. Although I was drawn away to distant forests and wild rivers, making movies, I have returned to raise my children and tend my trees.   The great pioneer film director, D. W. Griffith, believed that film was the universal language promised in the Bible that would herald the Second Coming; and so it must have seemed in the glory days of the silent era. In the first twenty years of the last century, film swept the world, effortlessly crossing barriers of class, race and nation. A measure of the speed of this revolution was that scarcely five years after his arrival in Hollywood, Chaplin was the most famous man in the world, and probably the highest paid. In The Lost Girl , D. H. Lawrence describes Nottingham miners watching those early films: while they looked at the live music hall acts out of the corners of their eyes, embarrassed, uneasy, they stared at the movies, unblinking, mouths agape, like men in a trance, mesmerised. The power of film lies in its links to the unconscious, its closeness to the condition of dreaming. In my dreaming youth, like so many others, I was as entranced as those miners, coming to believe that film was the ultimate art form, that it could include everything and everybody, reconnect us to all that had been taken from us. I was born in a faceless, mindless London suburb amongst people who had lost their way in the world, who had forgotten who they were, and had fallen from grace.     In the Arthurian legend, the Grail was lost because men had sinned against nature. The world became a wasteland. The Fisher King's wound would not heal. Only by finding the Grail could wholeness, harmony and oneness be restored, and the King be healed, and grace restored. I have sought that lost grace in the film-making process, where the material things of the world - money, buildings, sets, plastic, metal, people - disappear into a camera and become nothing but light and shadow flickering on a wall: matter into spirit, the alchemists would say. Memories are even more shadowy and insubstantial ... (c) John Boorman, 2003 Excerpted from Adventures of a Suburban Boy by John Boorman All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.