The acclaimed, eccentric and polarizing British film director of Tommy, Women in Love and Altered States Ken Russell has died, after a series of strokes, at the age of 84.
He told NPR in 1991: “My films assault people, but that’s because the images are potent. I don’t have any gratuitous scenes in my films. They’re actually integral to the plot.”
Russell relished controversy, says his longtime producer Daniel Ireland.
“He lived for it,” Ireland says. “Ken sort of celebrated being bad.”
“He was very, very smart in picking actors. If you look all through his career — Glenda Jackson, Vanessa Redgrave — [he cast them] all at the beginnings of their careers.”
Russell had an eye not just for strong actors who could handle his strong subjects, but material that shared his flamboyant sensibility.
He enjoyed one of his rare critical successes in 1975 with his adaptation of the Who’s Tommy, a rock opera about bad acid trips and child molestation.
I love the “over the top” quality Russell brought to TOMMY. Ann Margret was fantastic in the movie, as was the entire cast.