Once at the theatre, I had a big surprise. Besides Mr. Weiner, two actors of the series were present: Christina Hendricks (the voluptuous office manager Joan Harris) and John Slattery (the irresistible Roger Sterling, one of the agency's partners), who both spoke briefly at the end of the event.
Through the answers to the questions made by Olivier Joyard, journalist of the Inrockuptibles, Weiner retraced his career and the amazing history of the TV series that changed his (and many others) life. Weiner explained that after some cinema studies, he became one of the numerous unemployed screen writers in Los Angeles and he remained so for 5 long years (helped to survive by his wife, an architect). In 2000 he wrote the pilot of Mad Men and tried to sell it to some networks. David Chase from HBO, the creator and executive producer of The Sopranos, happened to read it and he was so impressed by the script that he immediately offered a job to Weiner. This is how he became a writer and producer for the last three seasons of the series. Quite well known after this job, Weiner tried again to have Mad Men produced by HBO or Showtime, but they both refused. Apparently, they were very scared by the fact that the series was a period drama. They didn’t believe audience could be interested to follow week after week the life of a bunch of guys from a Madison Avenue advertisement agency in the ‘60s. Plus, no film stars were involved in it. In the end, it was the small and inexperienced AMC who accepted to produce the show and ask Weiner a complete series of 13 episodes. He then called a group of people he has loved to work with on the Sopranos and… well, the rest is history. Listening to Weiner talking about all this, I suddenly realized that the most important thing you should have to succeed in the show business is stubbornness, and a good dose of self-confidence. Weiner doesn’t look like an easy kind of guy: he looks like a man who can be very upset if he doesn’t get exactly what he wants, the way he wants it. He probably must be very tough to work with. He is taking care of every single detail of Mad Men and he believes so much in his plot, his characters and his talent, that in the end he managed to have things exactly as he conceived them (including music and costumes).
You can see, you can feel how proud he is of himself and of what he has achieved, you can even perceive a bit of revenge spirit in him, and who can possibly blame him? Mad Men, the series nobody wanted to produce, is now a world phenomenon, the TV show that has received more awards in TV history, the TV show that gave to all the actors involved (completely unknown at the time of the first season) the status of film stars, and to Weiner the status of genial writer. Weiner is so passionate and accurate about the story he wants to share with his audience, that the audience rewarded him. I think this is the secret of Mad Men’s universal success.
Weiner also talked about his references for the series, especially a bunch of European movies. Two were the titles he quoted: Les Bonnes Femmes by Claude Chabrol ("The interesting thing about this movie is that all these women's dreams… crashed, in the end, and I loved it!") and La notte by Michelangelo Antonioni (note of the blogger: this is also Zazie’s favourite Italian movie!): "I wanted to make an entire episode somehow based upon the movie, and showing images from it, but it was impossible to understand who had the rights and so I had to give up. But Draper go to see the movie at a certain point of the show!". I don't even want to imagine the episode he could have written about it... who's got the rights of La Notte, for heaven's sake?
|Les Bonnes Femmes by Claude Chabrol|
|La Notte by Michelangelo Antonioni|
At the moment of the questions from the audience, a girl told Weiner: "You know, everybody is nostalgic about the ‘60s, but looking at the series and at the women’s conditions, I am actually happy of living in this time".
Yes, sure. But they were dressed so much better, honey!