Q-Time Bandits is rated PG. Is that better to have than a G?
A-That’s the theory of everyone in distribution, including George Lucas. Both Star Wars pictures are PG. The theory is followed in England also. For Time Bandits there, we requested an A, which is like a PG.
Q-How did Time Bandits come to be?
A-I wrote two other scripts that didn’t go anywhere, although they made important statements. Afterwards I said, "I want to do a film which is fun for the whole family." With half a dozen pages, I went to Denis O’Brien, who had put up money for The Life of Brian. He said "Go ahead," and I went ahead. It’s as simple as that. I wanted to the whole film from a child’s point of view. But I wondered if a kid could sustain the whole film. So I surrounded him with a gang of interesting dwarfs, the same size as the kid.
Q-Isn’t it unusual that, with Ralph Richardson, you personify the Supreme Being?
A-I don’t think it’s that unusual. tales. Isn’t the Wizard of Oz a Supreme Being-type character? I think children have always had a fascination with "The Big Question."
Q-OK, then isn’t it odd for a children’s movie to end with disorder and not closure?
A-That was a conscious decision. I always resent that children’s movies are so neatly packaged. When they’re over, no questions need to be asked, and everybody can get back to whatever they were doing. So I tried for a very ambivalent ending, allowing the child audience’s mind to roam a bit. Time Bandits may even cause parents and children to start up a dialogue about where the story goes.
Q-At the end of Time Bandits, the protagonist’s parents disappear into thin air when they touch a microwave oven, and Kevin (Craig Warnock), ll, is left alone. How do children react to this on-screen trauma?
A-The film has been out a few months in England, and it’s parents who are often bothered by the ending. The children aren’t worried about it. A kid walked out and said the best part was when the parents blow up. My own daughter, four-and-a-half at the time, said, "Kevin told them not to touch it, but they wouldn’t listen. That’s what happens when parents don’t listen to kids." Almost every child I talked to has had that fantasy at one time or another. The boys identify with Kevin, The girls tend to be a little more practical; they wonder who is going to make the meals at night. They come up with interesting answers, better than my solutions.
Q-Time Bandits is a bit scarey, isn’t it?
A-Kids do get frightened. I wanted to scare them, that’s part of the value of a fairy tale. A child goes through it and comes out the other end, alive and strengthened. I resent the new bowdlerized fairy tales. In the new Red Riding Hood, the wolf doesn’t eat Granny anymore! And the Woodsman isn’t a woodsman. He’s Daddy! I also resent the Sesame Street approach to life. It doesn’t prepare kids for the fact that there are nasty and evil things out there in the world. If you can’t see stories about these things, you won’t be ready when they come around the corner.
Q-And what of Time Bandits’ violence?
A-The word "violence" is a silly word that doesn’t have meaning any more. Road Runner cartoons are violent. Tom and Jerry cartoons are violent. But I don’t think there’s anything dangerous about either of them. In Time Bandits, Kevin is obsessed by violence. He’s a modern kid! So when he meets Agamemnon (Sean Connery), he wants to learn swordfighting, how to kill Trojans. Time Bandits does not deny that Agamemnon is a bloody warrior. He kills to survive. He’s a Greek warrior. However, I don’t think he’s particularily proud of what he does. Agamemnon’s always taking Kevin away from his obsession. He’s teaching Kevin magic.
Q-Is Time Bandits at 110 minutes too long for a child’s attention span?
A-No, just for yours. I’ve sat with four-year-olds who haven’t moved for the while film. There are moments of much dialogue that I don’t think are kids’ favorites, but they get through them.
A-If adults come expecting a Monty Python film or non-stop comedy, they’ll be disappointed. If they come wanting a flight of the imagination, Time Bandits works, I think.
Q-And grown-ups who are parents?
A-It’s awful when they don’t take their kids to children’s movies because the pictures sound boring from an adult perspective. Well, I was being quit greedy when I wrote Time Bandits. I wanted to have parents next to the kids watching the film.
(Parents’ Choice Magazine, Winter 1981, Vol.4, No.4)