Written by: Tony Lazlo, CC2K Staff Writer
Four-time Oscar nominee Peter Yates died over the weekend after a long illness. He was 82.
Like a lot of kids of the 80s, I saw Breaking Away at a fairly impressionable age, but I most remember Yates for his cult fantasy epic, Krull. It’s funny – I never wrote about Yates directly for this site, but I did talk in detail about Krull in a separate essay about, of all things, the Super Mario Bros. movie. From my essay:
But Peter Yates made Krull into a successful cult classic by committing to every goofy detail in its script and casting actors who would do the same. Stars Liam Neeson and Robbie Coltrane make early career appearances, and stalwart character actor Alun Armstrong delivers the movie’s best performance as the lead brigand. David Lynch regular Freddie Jones shows up to bluster his way through the Obi-Wan Kenobi role. There aren’t many clips of this classic online, but here’s a memorable scene with Freddie Jones and Francesca Annis, who was central casting for “breathy classical actress” in the late 70s and early 80s. Oh, she also appeared in Lynch’s Dune with Jones.
Krull works not only because everyone involved commits to every detail in the script, no matter how goofy it is, but mostly because it knows what it wants to be. Krull wants to be a grand fantasy, and it succeeds, largely due to Yates’ light touch with the performers, some great location shooting and the Glaive (the spinning, razor-sharp starfish weapon that appears on all the posters).
A graduate of the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, he was a stage actor before working as an assistant director for Tony Richardson. Yates’ feature directorial debut was the early 1960s low-budget Summer Holiday (1963) with Cliff Richard And The Shadows. He soon graduated to the 1967 crime thriller Robbery, a fictionalized version of Britain’s The Great Train Robbery. It was a short jump to his first American film, Bullitt (1968), starring Steve McQueen in one of the definitive cop movies of all time thanks to that car chase through the streets of San Francisco. Other films he directed included John and Mary (1969), Murphy’s War (1971), The Hot Rock (1972), For Pete’s Sake (1974), The Deep (1977), Eyewitness (1981), The Dresser (1983), Krull (1983), Eleni (1985), Suspect (1987), The House on Carroll Street (1988), An Innocent Man (1989), Year of the Comet (1992), Roommates (1995), and Curtain Call (1999). He earned two Oscar nominations (director and producer) for Breaking Away, and another two (director and producer) for The Dresser.
If you have any favorite Yates movies or moments, please share them below.
Author: Tony Lazlo, CC2K Staff Writer
Robert J. Peterson is a writer and web developer living in Los Angeles. A Tennessee native, he graduated from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism. He’s written for newspapers and websites all over the country, including the Marin Independent Journal, the Telluride Daily Planet, CC2KOnline.com, Offscreen, and Geekscape.net. He co-hosts the podcasts Make It So and Hiram’s Lodge. He’s appeared as a pop-culture guru on the web talk shows Comics on Comics, The Fanbase Press Week In Review, Collider Heroes, ScreenJunkies TV Fights, and Fandom Planet. He’s the founder of California Coldblood Books.