Back to Graceland: An Interview with Demian Lichtenstein by Kent Hill

If you have seen the restored Lawrence of Arabia then there’s a chance you’ve seen the extras on the second disc? One such extra is an interview with Spielberg, in which he recounts sitting down with David Lean for a screening of the film. As they watched, Lean provided what Spielberg describes as a ‘live’ director’s commentary, pontificating about all aspects of the production while the pair sat through the movie.

Now Spielberg himself doesn’t do commentaries, but a lot of directors do. Of course I have a list of films that to date, do not boast a commentary track which I wish, so badly, that they did. Near the top of that list are a pair of movies that stick out. One is John Milius’s Farewell to the King and the other is Demian Lichtenstein’s 3000 Miles to Graceland.

But now for something really cool.

At the close of 2016 I had the chance to chat with Demian, and what eventuated was quite extraordinary. I was working my way through my questions when, all of a sudden, Demian started to unload his fantastic tales from the production, and it just kept getting better. As I listened, I imagined Spielberg listening to Lean, receiving first-hand all of those astonishing insights, and here I was in a similar situation getting the good oil on the production of Graceland.

It has become a cult film with the passage of time, but there remains no chance of Demian ever being gifted the ability to go back in and retool his movie. Perhaps in some small way set certain things to right.

I was tired when we spoke, it was 3am here Down Under, but, by the time we were through, I was energized and so sat back and re-watched 3000 Miles to Graceland with fresh eyes. Demian’s stories swirled in my head. When we were talking, just when I thought it was over, he went on. I received scene-specific commentary and even insights into scenes that were written but never shot.

It was a genuine thrill, along with being a great and one of the most surprising interviews I’ve ever done.

3000 Miles to Graceland is out there waiting for you to watch it again or to discover it for the first time. It makes me proud as a fan to think that this interview may serve as the bonus material we never received. A director’s commentary of a splendidly intricate and playfully unique movie with great anecdotes, favorite scenes and even deleted scenes in the form of unrealized story elements.

So, for all you fans and even the first-timers, the journey of 3000 Miles back to Graceland begins here, for your listening pleasure.

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