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Donald Cammell: Wikis


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Donald Seaton Cammell (17 January 1934 – 24 April 1996) was a Scottish film director who enjoys a cult reputation thanks to his debut film Performance, which he co-directed with Nicolas Roeg.



Born in the camera obscura (then known as outlook tower) on Castlehill, near the castle in Edinburgh, Scotland, the son of the poet and writer Charles Richard Cammell. The older Cammell wrote a biography of Aleister Crowley focussing principally on the occultist's poetry and Crowley, who lived near the Cammells for a time, knew the young Donald. A prodigy, he was a society portrait painter and, thanks to family connections, a prominent fixture of the 'swinging London' social scene of the 1960s, specifically of what became known as the 'Chelsea Set'.

He wrote and co-directed Performance with Nicolas Roeg in 1968, though didn't get another film produced until Demon Seed in 1977. He also made the eccentric horror thriller White Of The Eye in 1987. Between infrequent film and TV directing jobs, Cammell directed music videos for the likes of U2.

When Cammell's 1995 film Wild Side was cut by the producer, he committed suicide in Hollywood, California by shooting himself, though his wife claimed the wound was not immediately fatal, and that he asked for a mirror so that he could watch himself die. (This is disputed in the published Cammell biography.) A posthumous "director's cut", commissioned by FilmFour, and edited by his widow and co-screenwriter China Kong and editor Frank Mazzola, was released in 2000 to critical acclaim.

In 2005, Fan-Tan, a novel Cammell conceived with actor Marlon Brando in 1978, was published.


Cammell was a central figure in the making of Performance. In writing the screenplay he drew on his familiarity with the London underworld of the 1960s and association with the pop musicians of the day. In his collaboration with Roeg, Cammell concentrated on working with the actors and did most of the prolonged editing of the film in California; producer Sanford 'Sandy' Lieberson and co-director Roeg were busy on other projects.



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