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    ‘The Man Who Fell To Earth’ Special Feature, 40th anniversary!

    March 18th, 2016 | by Nick
    ‘The Man Who Fell To Earth’ Special Feature, 40th anniversary!

    Throughout September we will be featuring the amazing ‘The Man Who Fell To Earth’ – check back regularly for new posts Including an exclusive Q&A with Candy Clark!


    You can purchase ‘The Man Who Fell To Earth’ on DVD via Amazon UK & US here:


    David Bowie original self-portrait as ‘Thomas Jerome Newton’ (click to enlarge)

    In developing his character, the multi-talented Bowie created a sketch of himself as an alien. Accomplished in artist pens and gouache on 12 x 17.75 in. beige artist paper, tipped to 16 x 20 in. ivory backing paper. Signed over the right shoulder of the image, “For Nick, Love Bowie”. In the upper right corner, Bowie has also written an inscription in an alien language of his own invention. The sketch was originally presented to director Nicolas Rogue, who in turn gifted it to Bowie co-star Candy Clark. The sketch exhibits minor fading with some slight edge chipping. In overall, vintage very good condition. From the personal collection of actress Candy Clark.


    David Bowie “Thomas Jerome Newton” screen used hotel registration card from The Man Who Fell to Earth. (British Lion, 1976) Vintage original screen used 4 x 6 in. printed registration card for Hotel Artesia. David Bowie fills this card out on screen. Over the course of many takes, Bowie has written his character name on the front and comedic nonsense and scribbled cartoons to amuse himself on the verso. He writes in blue ink, in part: “Newton Thomas Jerome Herbert from: Brixton Prison…six years for rape of chickens, cows, and vultures…two years for Smartie, smash and grab, two months for nose picking in Hyde Park…” and more. In production used good condition. From the personal collection of actress Candy Clark.



    These and other amazing Bowie items owned by Candy Clark are being auctioned, click below:®ionID=&stateID=&fdt=&tdt=&fr=0&to=0&wa=david%20bowie&wp=&wo=&nw=&upcoming=0&rp=&hi=&rem=FALSE&cs=0&ns=0&isSC=0&row=1



    Watch the 35th Anniversary trailer for The Man Who Fell To Earth here:


    bowie cc tmwfteDavid Bowie and Candy Clark during the filming of The Man Who Fell To Earth.


    The Inside Story of The Man Who Fell To Earth:

    Nicolas Roeg and more tell the full story of Bowie’s greatest on-screen role..




    David Bowie is currently working on Lazarus, a musical production inspired by The Man Who Fell To Earth. In this feature we discover Bowie, in 1975, at his commercial peak. That November, he hit No 1 in the UK with the reissued “Space Oddity”, following a Top 5 album (Young Americans) and his first US chart-topper (“Fame”). An infamous television documentary, Cracked Actor, captured his fractured mental state as superstardom took its toll. Then he began work on a movie with director Nic Roeg called THE MAN WHO FELL TO EARTH – “a mind-stretching experience in sight, in space and sex” – and things really got freaky for Bowie…


    It is January 26, 1975 and, at his London home, film director Nicolas Roeg is transfixed. On his TV screen, a pale, hollow-cheeked English rock star is staring out from behind paranoid, sunken eyes. As part of their Omnibus strand, the BBC are showing a fly-on-the-wall documentary made by young film-maker Alan Yentob. Tracking its subject across America, Cracked Actor offers an insight into the strange life of Britain’s leading music icon, David Bowie. Immediately, Roeg knows: he’s found his man.

    Since arriving in the US in April ’74, Bowie had been shedding skins at a furious rate. Having killed off Ziggy Stardust at the Hammersmith Odeon the previous summer, he’d begun his journey from the Orwellian nightmare-scape of Diamond Dogs to the zoot-suited white soul of Young Americans. When Yentob’s crew arrived in Philadelphia to film studio sessions that August, they found a man in transition. Ditching the elaborate stage rig of his Diamond Dogs Revue, Bowie worked up a new look and set-list tailored to his current obsession with the music of Black America, renaming it The Philly Dogs Tour.

    Painfully thin and lost in a blizzard of coke, Bowie was filmed in the back of a limo either flinching in drugged panic from police sirens or sipping from cartons of milk. Yentob captured a lad going slowly insane. But this was no average rock casualty – articulate and sensitive, he was cracking under the strain of the fame he’d once craved.

    At one point, an insect fell in his cup. “There’s a fly floating around in my milk and it’s a foreign body,” he slurred, distractedly. “That’s kind of how I felt: a foreign body. And I couldn’t help but soak it up.” Bowie confessed to Yentob much later that he watched the film “again and again”. When the BBC man pressed him as to why, he replied: “Because it told the truth.”

    Back home, Roeg was convinced he’d found the alien lead for his new sci-fi epic, The Man Who Fell To Earth. “I didn’t want an ‘actor’,” he later explained, “but someone who had the possibility of being unique.”

    Playing genial host to Uncut in his rammed Notting Hill study in late September 2005, The Man Who Fell To Earth’s director recalls the impact of Cracked Actor 30 years on.“It seemed Bowie was slightly to one side of pop star, just like Dylan,” says Roeg. “He was coming in from leftfield, using a lot of odd disguises and dressing up. Watching him in the limo talking, I noticed the artificial voice. It wasn’t definable as a brogue or accent. It was English, but you couldn’t tell exactly where from. It was all quite curious.”The Man Who Fell To Earth was trailed as a “powerful love story, a cosmic mystery, a spectacular fantasy – a shocking, mind-stretching experience in sight, in space and sex”. Already boasting an extraordinary CV that included Performance, Walkabout and Don’t Look Now, Roeg’s was a science-fiction film in surface detail only. Channelled through Bowie’s character (Thomas Jerome Newton), Roeg pursued his interests in the themes of dislocation, communication, time, and the conflict  between our inner and outer lives. Set against the eerie beauty of the New Mexico landscape, it had more to do with man’s fall from Eden than any far-flung galaxy. Invasion Of The Body Snatchers it wasn’t.

    At the still centre of Roeg’s sensory-shifting pyrotechnics – what he called the film’s “fractured grammar” – was the character of Newton, reclusive and uncomfortably numb in a vast new world that gradually began to suck away his innocence. With his frail demeanour and delivery, Newton seemed an extension of Bowie. All strange sex, breathtaking cinematography and weird science, The Man Who Fell To Earth was one of the most ambitious and brilliant fantasies of the last century. You can trace its time-as-liquid motif through everything from Memento to Donnie Darko, but even three decades on, there’s really never been anything like it.

    Roeg entered David Bowie’s life at a critical point. The transatlantic success the singer had long desired had become reality. Despite the UK phenomenon that was Ziggy, America had remained oblivious to his moonage daydreams. It wasn’t until David Live (released in late October ’74) that Bowie dented the US Top 10. The critics were finally drooling, too.

    The Diamond/Philly Dogs tour had been physically and mentally sapping, but it proved an artistic and commercial triumph. In March ’75, the cerebral soul of Young Americans consolidated his position, while the John Lennon co-write “Fame” would land him his first Billboard chart-topper in August.

    And yet all was not well on Planet Bowie, as evinced by Cracked Actor. The strain showed in Bowie’s face. Emaciated and chalk-white, his orange hair only made his appearance more shocking. In public, he seemed agitated. Interviewed on Dick Cavett’s Wide World Of Entertainment the previous December, Bowie squirmed in his chair, fidgeting with a walking cane and constantly sniffing. His coke habit was getting serious. Cavett’s questions didn’t help. “What is your private life like?” he asked. An ill-at-ease Bowie shifted in his chair, muttered, “Do you mind if I take this off?” and discarded his coat. Elsewhere, the host wondered why rock stars tend to have premonitions of doom. “’Cause they’re pretty nutty to be doing it in the first place,” grinned Bowie. “You know, very tangled minds.

    Very messed-up people.” “It was horrendous,” Bowie recalled in 1994. “I had no idea where I was, I couldn’t hear the questions… I was out of my gourd.”

    Interviewed by US magazine Creem, Bowie waxed lyrical about UFOs, Hitler and conspiracy theories. He was approaching mental collapse (a point he’d reach later in 1975, when a narcoleptic existence and self-abuse left him prey to all manner of demons). Young Americans went on to lodge itself in the American charts for nearly a year, but its creator dismissed it – to Rolling Stone’s Cameron Crowe – as “the squashed remains of ethnic music as it survives in the age of Muzak Rock, written and sung by a white limey”.

    In April ’75 came another apocalyptic farewell: “I’ve rocked my roll. It’s a boring dead end. There will be no more rock’n’roll records or tours from me. The last thing I want to be is some useless fucking rock singer.”

    All of which made Nic Roeg’s offer of the lead in his adaptation of Walter Tevis’ 1963 novel even more appealing.

    It wasn’t entirely unexpected. Bowie’s relationship with film was slight, but the courtship had lasted some years. In 1967, avant-garde film-maker Michael Armstrong had cast him in black-and-white short The Image, in which Bowie stood motionless in the rain while a painter created his portrait. He’d briefly appeared in powdered wig for BBC2’s 1968 drama The Pistol Shot. He was an extra in The Virgin Soldiers, while a 30-second advert for Lyons Maid ice-cream (directed by Ridley Scott, no less) returned him to the small screen in early ’69.

    By July 1970, he’d reprised his role in Pierrot In Turquoise – Lindsay Kemp’s travelling mime production, renamed The Looking Glass Murders for TV. More recently, Bowie had tinkered with the idea of a Diamond Dogs screenplay. Intriguingly, Dogs – his first completed script – was intended for Terence Stamp, playing father to Iggy Pop, with Bowie directing. He’d also been approached by Elizabeth Taylor to take a part in The Blue Bird, but Bowie found the script tedious. More impressively, he’d been slated to star in The Eagle Has Landed, but nothing came of it. As it turned out, he very nearly missed out on The Man Who Fell To Earth, too.

    Producer Si Litvinoff knew Roeg from the ’60s. They’d met on the set of François Truffaut’s book-burning attack on totalitarianism, Fahrenheit 451, on which Roeg had served as cinematographer (incidentally, one of the tomes seen aflame was The Man Who Fell To Earth). In March ’66, Litvinoff had optioned the rights to Anthony Burgess’ A Clockwork Orange, with an initial view to Jagger starring and Roeg directing. Stanley Kubrick eventually got the job in 1970, while Roeg settled on another Litvinoff production, 1971’s Walkabout. In late ’74, Litvinoff was looking to develop Out Of Africa for Columbia, with Roeg at the helm. While negotiations were taking place, Roeg and Litvinoff went on a double date in LA, one of the consorts being American Graffiti actress Candy Clark. Roeg and Clark soon embarked on an affair, with the latter eager to appear in a version of a screenplay Roeg carried, written by fellow Englishman Paul Mayersberg. At the Beverly Hills Hotel, Roeg showed Litvinoff the draft for The Man Who Fell To Earth, and asked him to produce.

    The director’s initial choices for the role of alien businessman Newton had been author and Westworld director Michael Crichton, and Peter O’Toole. At 6’ 9”, the towering Crichton was perfectly suited to the imposing protagonist of Tevis’ story, but it didn’t happen (Crichton went on to write Jurassic Park and create ER). The intervention of tenacious CMA casting agent Maggie Abbott was crucial.

    “Nic and Si told me they were thinking of Peter [O’Toole] when they took me to lunch to discuss the casting,” she tells Uncut. Fatefully, O’Toole was unavailable, shooting Man Friday in Mexico. “I tried to talk them into Mick [Jagger] but Nic knew him so well and said he wasn’t what he had in mind. He wanted someone who looked frail – as if he had no bones in his body – and I immediately cried out, ‘David Bowie’!”

    Abbott was convinced of her client’s screen potential: “His studied movement and polished self-projection made him a star; he just needed the right movie part.” When she saw Mayersberg’s script, she just knew: “He had just the charisma the character required. It had nothing to do with acting experience.”

    Her charges took little convincing. In London,  Litvinoff, with Roeg present, was shown Yentob’s film. Remembers Litvinoff today: “I had been a fan of his [Bowie’s] and was excited to see it, especially since I very much liked ‘Space Oddity’ and thought – and hoped – that he would like the project. Nic had some other casting possibilities in mind, but after seeing Cracked Actor, we were both convinced he was ideal and we very quickly asked Maggie to push for him. And she did.”

    A meeting was arranged at the singer’s flat in the west village in New York in February ’75. While Litvinoff was across town trying to tie up Robert Redford for Out Of Africa, Roeg was at Bowie’s for an appointment that the latter had clearly forgotten. Hours later, the embarrassed host arrived home to find Roeg patiently waiting in the kitchen.

    “When he came back, it was very late,” recounts the director. “But Bowie went straight into it, said he liked the idea and that he’d do the film.” Litvinoff was on his way over, too. “I rang the doorbell and it was opened by a lovely black girl with orange-dyed hair wearing the Clockwork Orange sweater that Ritva of London had made in a limited edition,” he recalls. “It was Ava Cherry, who was then with David. I thought that was a lucky sign.”

    Intended backers Columbia pulled out after realising their ideal man, Robert Redford, wasn’t in the lead role. In stepped the newly formed British Lion, led by producers Michael Deeley and Barry Spikings. On the shoot, by all accounts, it was tense between company and crew. At one point, according to Litvinoff, “Devious Deeley” shut down an open bar for them that the executive producer had set up with his own money.

    When filming began at Lake Fenton in New Mexico that June, Roeg’s choice of lead seemed wholly justified. “Bowie arrived in New Mexico in the same limo as in Cracked Actor,” he recalls today. “So we used it in the film and cast his driver [Tony Mascia], too. I was conscious not to disturb him at all. There were certain people who were concerned about his unconventionality as an actor, wondering if he was being used as some sort of gimmick. Some executives even suggested post-synching another voice over Bowie’s. I just said, ‘Are you mad? His voice is it!’ Every time someone mentioned how curious his delivery was, it pleased me more and more.”

    Bowie understood implicitly what Roeg wanted. “I think Nic and David got along very well,” offers Litvinoff. “And I think there is mutual admiration. They are both extraordinarily well-read, inquisitive and sophisticated, with unique, original and provocative avant-garde taste.

    Compared to its heady mix of metaphor and allusion (to Icarus, Howard Hughes, Christ as Saviour, even Bowie’s own life), the plot of The Man Who Fell To Earth is simple. Thomas Newton lands on earth to save his drought-stricken home planet. To finance the return trip to his wife and children, he leaves the sagebrush desert for New York, where, employing top lawyer Oliver Farnsworth (Buck Henry), he reveals nine basic patents that will net him $300 million in three years. With Farnsworth’s guidance, he forms World Enterprises, a huge corporation and secret cover for his intergalactic mission. Money pours into Newton’s empire due to a string of mind-blowing inventions based on alien technology.

    In the meantime, Newton remains hidden from public life, returning to New Mexico to disappear into the anonymity of a sleepy smalltown hotel. There, he becomes involved with room-maid Mary-Lou (Candy Clark). Suddenly, Newton’s quest almost becomes secondary to his plight as Roeg explores what it is to be human through time-shifts, man’s relationship with his environment (particularly the barren wilderness of the American West) and willingness to be corrupted.

    Visually, it’s a ravishing film: from sweeping vistas to flashbacks of formless pale dunes on Newton’s native planet to Bowie’s flame hair against a cobalt sky. Innocuous as it may at first seem, the scene that cuts to the core of Roeg’s film is quite fleeting, set inside a local Presbyterian church. With Mary-Lou gazing up adoringly at Newton’s side, the congregation launch into “Jerusalem” – her special request for her new guest. Newton struggles through, but doesn’t know the words. The worshippers trill it effortlessly. And there it is: an alien pretending to be English, confronted with Blake’s quintessential hymn to Albion, out in a foreign desert chapel in the back of beyond. Newton fears that, by not knowing the hymn, his cover could be blown. It perfectly captures the film’s sense of displacement.

    “In America, they didn’t get that at all,” laughs Roeg. “They just thought it was fair enough: Newton wouldn’t know the hymn because he was an alien. I never bothered trying to explain that to them.”

    The idea of being English in the States was central to Bowie’s portrayal of Newton. “In terms of speech,” says Roeg, “the one thing people can tell immediately in America is whether you’re English. Then they accept whatever you do because it means you’re weird. So it was perfect for Mr Newton to pretend he’s English. It made the actual heart of the plight of this poor ‘man’ much more truthful because it wasn’t untruthful in terms of who Bowie was.”

    As the nowhere girl whose life is ripped apart by Newton, Candy Clark’s character seemed equally at odds with her surroundings. “I think The Man Who Fell To Earth is No 1 in the list of films that I’ve done,” declares Clark from her home in California. “There was a lot to do with Mary-Lou. She was a complicated character, very quirky. I’d had the script for about six or seven months prior to shooting, so I got the chance to think about it, plan it. I wanted to make her as false as Thomas Jerome Newton, with the false fingernails, eyelashes and wig.”

    And what about her relationship with Bowie off-screen?

    “We didn’t hang out much socially, but I really enjoyed him. David Bowie was so perfect for the role that it was very easy to imagine he was from another planet. He was really at the height of his beauty. He had really thick hair that he dyed that lovely colour and his skin was just gorgeous.”

    As the story progresses, Newton gradually succumbs to human vices. Obsessed with television, he fills an entire wall of his lakeside hideaway with TVs, simultaneously babbling with bursts of Elvis, Love In The Afternoon, images of war, teen flicks, Billy Budd and mating lions. He develops a fondness for Martini. His affair with Mary-Lou doesn’t satisfy him, distracted as he is by thoughts of his dying family back home. She, like everyone else, has no idea of his true identity. Finally, exasperated by his elusiveness, she freaks out. In the notorious scene that follows, Newton takes to the bathroom and slowly removes his human façade. Emerging in his natural, cat-eyed form, a terrified Mary-Lou pisses herself. It was a scene that drew the wrath of the US censor.

    “It’s that thing about always wanting to know more about your partner,” says Roeg. “Candy’s a highly intelligent woman and a terrific actress. As a motive for that scene, all that was already a part of Candy’s natural being. Just in her human structure, she’d understand that pleading. But it shows you don’t want to delve too deeply into someone. When he exposes himself, it’s a complete shock. Because people daren’t expose themselves completely.”

    Remembers Clark: “The day we did that scene, Bowie wasn’t even there. He’d drunk some milk and got sick. So when that door opens, it’s just me and the camera. They intercut him later, because he was sick as a dog. The image I used in my head was a frog. When you touch a frog, it pees all over you because it’s scared. The other image I used was from those nightmares you have as a kid, where you’re running from something and can barely move; like you’re in a block of ice. I was also in an improvisation class at the time and remembered something another actor did, which was throw himself backwards so his feet were on the wall momentarily. I used that idea, as if I’d just seen something with so much impact it physically threw me back. I got a lot of bruises for it.”

    For Roeg, Newton’s ‘unveiling’ was pivotal: “The lover’s oldest question is, ‘What are you thinking, darling?’ There’s a terrible tragedy to that in terms of human relationships and exposing yourself for what you are. Rather than, ‘Who are you?’ it’s more a question of who someone isn’t. And Bowie was quite marvellous at that. I didn’t want him acting that way. That was important.” Indeed, Bowie admitted as much in 1993: “Just being me as I was was perfectly adequate for the role. I wasn’t of this earth at that particular time.”

    Faced with her genital-free lover, a repulsed Mary-Lou flees. But Roeg is audacious enough to portray the gloopy alien sex in Newton’s head. It was, as film critic Alexander Walker famously put it, “like watching a stick insect at work”. WitNewton back in earthly guise, the sex scenes between Bowie and Clark also suffered at the hands of the American censor.

    As in so much of Roeg’s output, the vitality of the sexual act is crucial, from Jagger and Pallenberg in Performance to Art Garfunkel and future Roeg spouse Theresa Russell in Bad Timing via Sutherland and Christie in Don’t Look Now. In the case of The Man Who Fell To Earth, the demented Newton’s enjoyment of Mary-Lou begins sadistically (with him brandishing a pistol) before he reveals it only fires blanks (an allusion to his impotence vis à vis his task on earth).

    With Roeg and Clark an item during the shoot, was there any trepidation over that scene? “Oh no,” laughs Clark, “I think Nic kinda liked it! He got a kick out of it. You English people can be very kinky”

    Back to the plot: randy chemistry professor Nathan Bryce (Rip Torn) has become obsessed with Newton’s corporation. Offered a vital, but unspecified, job by Farnsworth, his mind develops its own libido and he quits fucking his girl students to concentrate on World Enterprises. Oblique and illusory so far, the film threatens to reveal all in a memorable scene inside the newly built spacecraft. Newton, sensing Bryce’s confusion, prompts him to pose the question he’s been meaning to ask since day one. Torn narrows his eyes, leans forward and dumbly asks: “Are you a Lithuanian?”

    Litvinoff recalls the day of the shoot. “I knew Rip well and assumed that, when he arrived, he would be wound up tight and be defensive and very edgy.

    I knew David pretty well, too, by this point, and knew he was staying up late learning his lines and composing the music that could and should have been the score. Since most rock stars in the ’70s had those reputations, he had promised me not to do any cocaine during the shoot. I also knew he had an aversion to pills. When Rip arrived very edgy, the two of them walked round and round each other like caged animals sizing each other up, and I sensed that help was needed. So I got some tequila in a paper cup for Rip and I ground up NoDoze [caffeine-rich tablets] for David to snort. It ultimately calmed them down. And this only after having to deal with the aforementioned British Lion person [producer Deeley], who came into the spaceship outraged at what he thought was David snorting cocaine.”

    Bowie stayed coke-free during the three-month shoot. Instead of his $200-a-day habit, he had his suitcase full of books, painting, UFO-spotting and work on a partly autobiographical volume of stories called The Return Of The Thin White Duke. He was also beginning to dabble in the occult, an obsession that would have terrifying consequences. It was his flirtation with the Kabbalah, diabolist Aleister Crowley, the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, its connections to Nazi iconography and Egyptian mysticism that would bring him close to a breakdown within a year. For now, he was praising Roeg’s magical touch as “like that of an old warlock”. Still hyper-thin (not far off the 90lb that Newton weighed in Tevis’ novel), Bowie’s diet largely consisted of ice-cream.

    As for laying off the other white stuff, was it something that Roeg had discussed with Bowie? “I decided to not do anything or say anything,” he insists. “You can’t reason someone out of anything. I’m not into the guilt thing or trying to cure anybody of their humanity. There are certain things I wouldn’t want to know about someone anyway, even those nearest and dearest. And I wouldn’t want them to know certain things about me.”

    By the end of the film, World Enterprises has become too great a threat to American big business. The sinister government agency that has been tracking Newton since he first landed decides to take action. Betrayed by Bryce, Newton is kidnapped as he prepares to leave for home in his spacecraft. Mary-Lou is bought off. Farnsworth – in an odd moment of slapstick and horror – is attacked in his home by two heavies in football helmets. Attempting to throw Farnsworth from his apartment window, the glass fails to break. “I’m sorry,” whimpers the lawyer. Next time they succeed, and he hurtles to his death. Examined by a medical team and detained for what may be years, Newton is finally released a broken man. By now alcoholic, his final act of desperate defiance is to cut a record for his wife – The Visitor – and hope radio play will send its airwaves out into space towards her.

    Notwithstanding its atmosphere of philosophical solemnity, The Man Who Fell To Earth is quite mischievous. When Bryce finds The Visitor in a record shop, he passes a display stand of Young Americans sleeves. In the final scene, during which Bryce tracks down Newton to his favourite bar, the alien asks if he enjoyed the record. Bryce flatly replies, “Not really.” It’s there in odd echoes of Roeg’s previous work, too. When a hooded Newton appears to Bryce in hallucinatory form while lake-fishing, it’s akin to the Venetian nightmare of Don’t Look Now. There’s even a veiled kiss-off to Bowie’s recent past as the credits roll – a drunken Newton slumped in his chair to the refrain of Artie Shaw’s “Stardust”

    “Non-acting” or not, The Man Who Fell To Earth remains Bowie’s greatest film outing. “His performance is incomparable, one of a kind,” gushes Litvinoff. “As good as it gets. I can’t imagine – and I have tried – any other actor in the part.”

    On its release in May 1976 (it received its UK premiere in March), critics generally agreed, though the film’s elliptical nature left some cold. In The New Yorker, legendary US reviewer Pauline Kael applauded Bowie as “the most romantic figure in recent pictures, the modern version of the James Dean lost-boy myth”. She likened his demeanour to “Katharine Hepburn in her transvestite role in Sylvia Scarlett”. The Guardian praised the film as a “political and moral allegory”, while The New York Times hailed it as “absorbing and beautiful”, singling out Clark and Bowie for special attention. The latter, said Richard Eder, “acquires a moving, tragic force as the stranger caught and destroyed in a strange land”. Famed US commentator Roger Ebert, meanwhile, found fault not only with detail (Bowie’s spacecraft “looks, so help me, like a hunting lodge with wings”) but with the “gaps of logic and continuity”

    Sniffing a hit, distributors Cinema Five decided to trim it by some 20 minutes. “You really couldn’t make head or tail of the cut version,” considers Clark. “It stinks. I guess they thought, ‘Hey, this is a hit! Let’s chop it to two hours.’ And it was hacked in two days. They hired some people who edited commercials to do it. And this is after Nic Roeg and editor Graeme Clifford had spent nine months cutting it. I was due to go on the road for Cinema Five to promote it, but I bailed out after a day. It was making me sick.”

    In the year of Rocky and All The President’s Men, box office business was steady rather than spectacular. “It’s unfortunate that, in the hands of a minor league distributor, not enough people saw it in theatres, despite an excellent critical response,” mourns Litvinoff. “But its audience and classic status are both growing.”

    After filming, Bowie threw himself into the Hollywood sessions for Station To Station, during which he sank back into a cokestorm of paranoia, sleep deprivation and black magic, creating, in the process, some of the greatest music (he) ever made. Bowie knew the drugs were killing him. The curtains of his Doheny Drive home permanently drawn, he would sit on the floor and scrawl pentagrams while black candles burned. Physically, he was fading fast. At one point, he weighed under seven stone, living off a diet of red and green peppers washed down with cartons of extra-rich milk. Meal times were 4am and 5am. The coke binges, allied to his phenomenal natural energy, meant he’d stay up for seven or eight days at a time, possessed by hallucinations and visions of doom.

    In 1997, he admitted: “I was just paranoid, manic depressive… the usual paraphernalia that comes with the abuse of amphetamines and coke.” There was even the much-fabled occasion when he had his indoor swimming-pool exorcised. Afterwards, according to wife Angie, the shape of the devil appeared at the bottom of the pool.

    In November, an appearance on ABC’s premier black music show Soul Train (an incredible coup for a white artist) saw Bowie miming to “Fame” and “Golden Years”. Between takes, he tried to field questions from the MC but was barely coherent.

    A few weeks later, a live satellite interview with UK chat show host Russell Harty saw Bowie all glazed expression and anxious tics.

    Then, having supposedly secured the deal, a projected score for The Man Who Fell To Earth fell through in December ’75. The Mamas And The Papas’ John Phillips eventually got the soundtrack job. Some commentators still believe that these recordings became 1977’s Low. Not so. As he told Uncut in April 2001: “The only hold-over from the proposed soundtrack that I actually used was the reverse bass part in ‘Subterraneans’.”

    Within a year, Bowie had settled in Europe and begun the process of exorcising the demons of his American nightmare.

    As for The Man Who Fell To Earth, it’s more striking than ever, even though Roeg is convinced it would never get made today – “for all kinds of extraordinary reasons”. This has little to do with censorship or subject matter but rather because, in this age of multiplex mass-marketing, film-making is becoming ever more reductive.

    “It’s such a financially driven business,” he explains. “It encourages non-progression. You have to see the different things around you while you’re filming. In the first scene of The Man Who Fell To Earth, Bowie is walking down the road and passes a children’s playground. Suddenly, just as we were going past, an old tramp in one of the rides sat up and belched. There’s no way we could have planned that, but it set us up for the end scene, too. The first human noise in the film is a belch and so is the last one, where Bowie burps at his table. So every aspect of that is due to the time we were filming. It’s all to do with this belief that everything is linear.”

    Candy Clark is convinced of the power of Roeg’s film: “It was very advanced then and it still is. And the cinematography is just over-the-top beautiful.”

    Si Litvinoff believes the film to be, along with Walkabout and Don’t Look Now, one of three Roeg “masterworks”.

    For the director himself, The Man Who Fell To Earth – unlike Thomas  Newton – achieved its goal. “I didn’t want to fall into the trap of curious people with pigs’ heads or ears as extraterrestrials,” he explains. “I wanted to touch on people who don’t quite understand what’s happening. When I was thinking of making the movie, it struck me how short a time it was since people with autism or cerebral damage were considered lunatics and chained to fences.”

    Through David Bowie, he succeeded: “For me, he is Mr Newton, in that I can only think of him as Mr Newton. I’ve never seen him as good in any other film he’s made since, probably because he wasn’t acting. The Man Who Fell To Earth was the perfect non-acting piece. I mean, how does an alien act?”

    The author of this article Rob Hughes  would like to thank Nicolas Roeg, Candy Clark, Si Litvinoff, Buck Henry and Maggie Abbott for their help. All were interviewed exclusively for this piece in September 2005. Two excellent Bowie tomes were also used: The Complete David Bowie by Nicholas Pegg (Reynolds & Hearn, 2002) and Strange Fascination – David Bowie: The Definitive Story by David Buckley (Virgin, 1999). The Man Who Fell To Earth is available on DVD on Anchor Bay.


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    Candy Clark, Nicolas Roeg and David Bowie.

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    David Bowie on set.


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    Astronaut Jim Lovell and David Bowie.


    Watch the US original theatrical trailer for TMWFTE voiced by William Shatner:


    Competition to win this signed by Candy Clark TMWFTE post card…


    For  your chance to win  simply answer the following question:


    For what film was Candy Clark nominated for an Oscar?


    Email your answer to

    Competition is open worldwide and closes on Sunday 27th September at midnight (UK) time.

    Good luck!

    This competition is now closed and the winner is Ann Mertens who correctly answered ‘American Graffiti’ congratulations Ann!

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    David Bowie on set.


    Read our exclusive Q&A with Candy Clark by clicking below:



    Pictures from the film set.







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    Watch ‘The Man Who Fell To Earth’ Q&A with Jarvis Cocker and director Nicolas Roeg from 2013:


    The Man Who Fell To Earth, Cast & Credits:



    Thomas Jerome NewtonDavid Bowie
    Nathan BryceRip Torn
    Mary-LouCandy Clark
    Oliver FarnsworthBuck Henry
    PetersBernie Casey
    Professor CanuttiJackson D. Kane
    TrevorRick Riccardo
    ArthurTony Mascia


    DirectorNicolas Roeg
    ProducerMichael Deeley and Barry Spikings
    Executive producerSi Litvinoff
    ScreenplayPaul Mayersberg
    From the novel byWalter Tevis
    Associate producerJohn Peverall
    EditingGraeme Clifford
    CinematographyAnthony Richmond
    Production designBrian Eatwell
    Musical directorJohn Phillips
    Costume designerMay Routh

    International posters for TMWFTE…







    Hair Stylist Martin Samuel with David Bowie on set.


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    David with son Duncan Jones and Nic Roeg.


    The Man Who Fell to Earth is a 1963 science fiction novel by American author Walter Tevis, about an extraterrestrial who lands on Earth seeking a way to ferry his people to Earth from his home planet, which is suffering from a severe drought. The novel served as the basis for the 1976 film by Nicolas Roeg, The Man Who Fell to Earth.







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