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Mike Figgis / Director

May 23, 1999|STEVE HOCHMAN

With "Leaving Las Vegas," English writer-director Mike Figgis was drawn close to the Hollywood sun. But he chose to veer away, and his lyrical, provocative new "The Loss of Sexual Innocence" is as un-Hollywood as they come. Figgis, 49, is following that with ultra-indie "Miss Julie," and the documentary "Hollywood Conversations" featuring big wheels of the film biz.

LET'S MAKE A DEAL: "After 'Leaving Las Vegas' people said, 'We want to be in the Mike Figgis business. Give us the phone book [as a script] and we'll do it with you.' "

OR NOT: "Having come from small theater, I reminded myself that you don't have to make a film that everyone will like. If you make it well, there will be an audience."

FESTIVE OCCASIONS: "The festival circuit is something you have to embrace--a window of opportunity. But it's become a social circuit. At Cannes you leave with such a bad taste in your mouth that you've abused your privileges as a filmmaker. The San Sebastian and London festivals are not like that--still interesting and a wide range of films without hype."

COMMERCIAL BREAK: "Only been to Sundance last year and did enjoy it. Screened 'Sexual Innocence' there. My film was started late because they couldn't find the Hugo Boss clip to show before it."

CALLING MISS MANNERS: "I watched a personal friend of mine [at Sundance] take five mobile phone calls during the film and not disguise that he even made a call, and then he came up after saying how much he enjoyed it. I find that very offensive."

IRISH EYES: "There are some very interesting Irish writers emerging through theater now making their first films. The young writer Conor McPherson who wrote 'The Weir' is making his first film. With the prodigious Irish literate tradition, one suspects they will come through with a lot of force."

DETERMINATION: "I nursed 'Miss Julie' for six or seven years. Originally had Juliette Binoche and Nic Cage in mind, but they're both now Oscar winners and it became hard to get them at the same time. So I said I'd do it without them. Then I lost my financing. But I own my own cameras now, raised a budget, built a kitchen set and shot in three weeks."

NORTHERN LIGHTS: "I'm loving what's coming out of Scandinavia. 'Celebration' was one of the best films I've ever seen. A good, clean, healthy renaissance there. More interesting than the so-called British renaissance."

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