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There is perhaps nothing quite as Hollywood as an affair between an attractive, ambitious young starlet and her much older, much more famous leading man… Yet somehow, even in a town where tales like this are a dime a dozen, the story of Florence Aadland and her daughter, Beverly, still manages to stand out.

Only 15 when she met the legendary if already middle-aged, actor, Errol Flynn, Beverly and the former matinee idol would begin a passionate, Florence-approved affair that lasted until his sudden death only two years later. The subsequent media firestorm that ensued would label the teen a Lolita for the ages, but it’s her mother’s 1961 memoir that truly immortalized the controversial romance, offering up a rare and unfettered glimpse of a town where all that glitters is most definitely not gold.

Fortunately, the ‘tell-all’ also provides the basis for the fabulous new film from writer/director team, Wash Westmoreland and Richard Glatzer. Starring Oscar Winners, Kevin Kline and Susan Sarandon, along with über-talent, Dakota Fanning, The Last of Robin Hood is an end of summer delight; a thoughtfully composed, phenomenally-acted slice of Hollywood Babylon that is not to be missed. And naturally I couldn’t wait pick the brains of the dynamic duo behind it…

Errol Flynn is certainly an icon, but not necessarily a venerated one… Is that what made you want to tell this story?

Westmoreland: “Exactly! So many people’s biopics end up being hagiographies, like they never did anything wrong, or if they did, they learned a moral lesson from it. With Errol Flynn, that isn’t the case. His own biography was called ‘My Wicked, Wicked, Ways’ – it’s a book he wrote in the last year of his life and detailed every bad thing that he’d ever done. He didn’t want to be turned into a saint, and we have no intention of doing it either.”

In your professional partnership, who decides who does what?

Westmoreland: “Well, we have a very unusual circumstance.  Richard is living with ALS and he lost his ability to speak three years ago, so with Last of Robin Hood, and with our current feature film, Still Alice, we had to work out how to co-direct like two directors, one voice, literally.”

“We write together, we conceptualize our films together; we have the same passions. So when we’re on set, I am doing the talking because I can speak, but I am conveying what Richard and my ideas are. Richard has a speaking device, otherwise known as an iPad, which he can type into. So he can weigh in, but obviously it doesn’t have the same speed or fluidity that you often need on a film set. So our dynamic is really that I’m more the immediate, nuts and bolts person, and Richard is the overview person, looking at the grand scheme of things. And by the way, if it’s a dispute with an actor that I’m having, Richard can just go in with the iPad and just settle the argument in two seconds.”

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Speaking of actors, how is the work itself different when you collaborate with Oscar Winners like Kevin Kline or Susan Sarandon versus say a group of newcomers like in your last film, (2006’s) Quinceañera?

“It is different. When we were doing Quinceañera, we had a lot of first time actors, so in a way it was very easy– you told someone what to do and they said, yes, and did it. When you’re dealing with a movie star, the reason why these people are great and the reason why their films are consistently great – why Susan Sarandon can be good in a bad film – is because she brings her own stuff and her own vision to it and it’s very strong and it’s very well thought out. “

“So you’re immediately entering into a situation where there’s a very strong point of view, that often coincides with yours – because we always make sure before a film actually goes into production to talk about this stuff and to dialogue about how various scenes go. But inevitably, there are different viewpoints, so when you’re working with a movie star, you have to take in a way, the gift that they bring you, that they have their own vision and if you’re lucky, it coincides with your vision. At times when it doesn’t, you have to get into it, and that’s sometimes hard, but the result is that the film is strengthened by two honest viewpoints being expressed and the resulting solution being what actually happens in the scene.”

How did you get Kevin and Susan to be a part of this?

“They are magical together and they worked together once before in a movie, in 1989, called, The January Man, so they knew each other from back in the day. Kevin came on first and then when we approached Susan, she was so excited about the idea of working with Kevin. And then Dakota obviously was the new person to the mix, but she’s so incredibly professional and talented and wonderful that she connected strongly with both of them.”

Dakota Fanning is perfectly cast in this role, and I wonder, there is this propensity to assume that because she grew up in front of the camera, this is perhaps what her childhood was really like… Can you talk a bit about that, and about prepping her for this part? Did you even have to?

“Dakota is very self sufficient, and very very smart, and sharp as a whip. We did discuss with her, the character of Beverly, but her own situation I think was very very different. She was a child star, but it was because she had this natural connection to acting. With Beverly, I think you’re looking at a case where she was more of a vehicle for the mother’s dreams and desires. So it was a very different situation and I think Dakota just interpreted the role beautifully. Beverly was very young when all this happened, but she was an old soul and so Dakota has that old soul quality to the extent that she often seems like the adult in the room.”

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The film unflinchingly examines, but doesn’t judge, a cross-generational romance… was that something the research/material begat or were you both adamant about being impartial?

“Going out with someone who is underage is wrong and you don’t need a film to tell you that, so the morality was something we didn’t want to heavily lay into the story. We were more interested in the characters themselves—how they saw the relationship–and also how fame cast over the whole situation this sort of moral permission for this all to happen.”

“Florence’s investment in Hollywood and the bright lights really allowed her to encourage this affair. I think it’s very truthful if you look at a lot of situations where younger people are brought into affairs with Hollywood stars in an inappropriate way, there’s often something about the glamour of Hollywood that makes people turn a blind eye. Now having said that, Beverly Aadland was consensual in that relationship, and she was brought up to be much older than she was. And she, to the end of her life, defended Errol Flynn. Again, that’s not to say that the relationship was right or wrong, but her view of it, we think we accurately reflected in the film. She had the honesty of emotion  — even in this very difficult situation with the mother’s manipulations and Flynn dying — to really connect to him in his last years.”

How much of this story did you know before you began work on the film? Had you read Florence’s book?

“Florence’s book was the absolute starting point. It’s an amazing book—it’s out of print, but we want that situation to be remedied. It was heralded when it came out – people like W. H. Houghton and William Styron really championed the book and said it was an American Masterpiece. Florence wrote it with a gentleman named Ted Tomey, who was a crime writer and it just strikes this amazing tone – somewhere between a tell-all and kind of an apologia for what happened. It has Florence’s very distinctive sense of humor all over it, and then it has a certain beguiled innocence to it but also a very underbelly, gritty, this is how the world is, feel to it. So it was  through ‘The Big Love’ that we became interested.”

I wonder if the story had any bearing on Gypsy?

“I think Gypsy happened before this. I don’t know the dates either… The book came out in 1961, but there are certain archetypal connections between the two stories for sure.”

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I’m just looking it up and the musical came out in 1959, but Gyspy Rose Lee’s memoir (on which the show was based) was published in 1957– must have been in the public ethos at the time… What do you think it is about stories like these – involving über-ambitious stage moms – that the public still finds so fascinating?

“It has a darkness to it; it has a Hollywood gothic quality to it. It’s something about living your own life through another person and how that affects both parties… it’s an interesting subject. I think extrapolated, it reaches out to the general concept of parenthood. Of course, modern parenthood is all about not projecting your own desires on your children but inevitably there’s something in this dark myth that speaks to the general case.”

I certainly understand. I wanted to be an actor as a kid and my parents said, take a class on Saturdays… I can’t help but think once and a while where I might be if they had packed up the wagon, sacrificed their own lives, and headed west for Los Angeles…

(laughing) “It has almost a religious quality… Movies give you a certain kind of immortality. You can watch a movie with Steve McQueen in it and he’s running around San Francisco in his car doing Bullitt and he still has a life in a way. This didn’t exist in the 19th century. This became, in a way, the religion of the 20th century– there was this mechanism that would extend your life past your death and also create this kind of worship from fans. It’s a very 20th/21st century phenomenon, and you can see the allure for people and for Florence it was religion—it was worth any price to get in that door.”

Our time is coming to an end and I have to ask, can you say anything about your upcoming film, Still Alice (starring Kristen Stewart, Julianne Moore, and Kate Bosworth)?

“I shouldn’t say too much about Still Alice because it’s going to premiere (next week) at the Toronto Film Festival. We are very excited to have two films in play at the same time. We feel very blessed—maybe they’ll end up in the cinema at the same time… who knows?”

You must have done them literally back to back?

“We went straight from one into the other. We wrote Still Alice while we were waiting for the money to come together for Robin Hood and it’s a filmmaker’s dream. Everyone dreams about making a movie every year and we got to do it the last two years. It’s just fantastic!”