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Controversy In Foreign-film Category

March 25, 1985|KEVIN THOMAS | Times Staff Writer

The hosts--who this year included Schaefer, Milos Forman, Arthur Hiller, David Lean, Franklin Schaffner and Fred Zinneman--spoke of their reverence for the medium and for one another's work. But like the symposium itself, this was a more astringent gathering than usual, thanks mainly to the tart remarks of Lean, who was frank about not only how difficult a time he had getting "A Passage to India" off the ground but also about how recent British-accented Oscar winners such as "Chariots of Fire" and "Gandhi" nearly didn't get made at all.

Stressing his gratitude to Columbia--"the only studio that would touch 'A Passage to India' with a barge pole"--Lean wondered aloud whether "the people at the heads of studios can't or won't read.

"You Americans are fantastically generous, but when you think that David Puttnam could only just scrape together enough money to make 'Chariots of Fire' and how long it took (Richard Attenborough) to get to make 'Gandhi' it makes you wonder if there shouldn't be a hell of a shake-up at the studios. People like Mayer, Selznick, Goldwyn, Cohn and Warner--what else you might say about them-- loved movies. I'm not sure that the people at the top today do like the movies!"

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