Legendary British filmmaker and author Alex Cox recently came through The Society Club during a UK-tour with Oldcastle Books to talk with us about his latest book, "The President and the Provocateur", a weighty, research-driven and gripping exploration into the parallel lives of Lee Harvey Oswald and John F. Kennedy. Cox, known for his cult-classic films such as Repo Man, Sid and Nancy, and Straight to Hell, has continued his prolific career across myriad platforms both behind the camera and on the page, including "10,000 Ways to Die", a director's take on the Spaghetti Western.
For "The President and the Provocateur", Cox spent years researching the history of the Kennedy Assassination whilst teaching the art of screenwriting and filmmaking at The University of Boulder, Colorado. 50 years after both John F. Kennedy and Lee Harvey Oswald were murdered, Cox provides a chronological account of their lives' strange intersections, their shared interests and the increasing evidence which suggests that Oswald was working for a branch of the government, most likely the FBI or IRS, as an agent provocateur.
During the book launch of “The President and the Provocateur” at The Society Club, you discussed the importance of laying things out in chronological order when you can’t understand something properly. Beyond doing that for historically accurate timelines, do you find that also to be a helpful tool when developing fictional story lines?
AC: "I tend to write fiction from beginning to end, so yes, in that sense. I think [with "The President and the Provocateur"] a timeline always makes sense when trying to unravel historical subjects and so the parallel lives of the two men made sense - also as a way to evaluate them both."
How much does music influence your creative process?
AC: "Not so much any more. Unless writing music-themed films, of course!"
Do you outline heavily before embarking on a new project or have a specific routine when writing?
AC: "For non-fiction, I make lots of notes! Less in the way of complete outlines."
Do you believe in the writing “muse” who enters the room and awakens the characters on the page or do you think it’s just a matter of sitting down and writing?
AC: "Just sit down and write. You have to put the time in."
How much do you adhere to structure?
AC: "Structure is imporant for screenplays, less for the non-ficiton stuff."
What is one of your favourite books?
AC: "Moby Dick, the ALICE books."
What advice do you have for the aspiring writer?
AC: Sit down and write!
*"The President and the Provocateur" is available for purchase at The Society Club.
About Alex Cox
Alex Cox studied law at Oxford, and film at Bristol and UCLA. He is the director of a dozen feature films (including Repo Man, Sid & Nancy, Walker and Revengers Tragedy), the author of various scripts and three books –X Films, 10,000 Ways To Die, and most recently, The President and the Provocateur. He lives in Oregon, where he is a volunteer firefighter, and teaches film production and screenwriting at the University of Colorado at Boulder. His films are available from Criterion, the BFI and Microcinema. Visit his site here.
Cocktail Confessions with Alex Cox
A fictional character you'd like to have dinner with?
The cocktail that best personifies you.
The artist who arouses, inspires, and tingles you.
AC: Lewis Carrol.
The song that takes you back.
The book on your bedside table right now... You know, the one next to that sumptuous nightcap?
AC: Wooden Os, a book about Elizabethan theatres.