‘Get Carter? I thought no reputable actor would do it’: how Mike Hodges shook up British film

To be clear, a producer did not pull a loaded gun on Mike Hodges on the set of the Omen sequel. It actually happened in an office, during an argument over the film’s budget. And, as Hodges recalls today, 45 years on, “he didn’t actually aim it at me. He just withdrew it from his bag and pointedly laid it on the desk.”

“I asked him what he meant by it, and he said he’d love to shoot me, but couldn’t, because there would be consequences,” he explains over Zoom from his home in rural Dorset. “So I really was having a nasty old time of it.”

Back then, Hodges was hot property: the gifted, ambitious director and screenwriter of Get Carter, who had gone to make his mark in America. Arguably, it would have been in Hollywood’s own best interests to help him, since his revolutionary British gangland thriller, released in 1971, had marked him out as one of his generation’s most promising talents. Instead, even when he wasn’t being menaced with a firearm, his enigmatic, often unclassifiable work was regularly received by the business with suspicion and bafflement.

Of course, his uproarious 1980 take on Flash Gordon thrived, and will continue to do so for as long as shining space palaces, epic laser battles and Brian Blessed in leather underpants all count as great entertainment. Yet many of his best films were all but buried on release.

That is what makes Hodges’s forthcoming BFI retrospective doubly vital. Titled Return of the Outsider, and running throughout May, it brings all nine of his features back to the cinema, including a new 4K restoration of Get Carter, as well as his Bafta-winning 1994 mini-series Dandelion Dead and a number of other television projects.

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