Director: Amanda Ladd Jones
Cast: Alan Ladd Jr, Ridley Scott, George Lucas, Mel Gibson
Amanda Ladd Jones created this documentary in part to understand her father’s absence for such a large part of her life, forever working late at the office making Hollywood happen. The problem is that his absence is felt just as keenly in the Laddie: The Man Behind The Movies.
To be clear, Alan Ladd Jr – aka Laddie – takes part in his daughter’s movie. He is on camera, well lit and in focus, and the mic is turned on. He definitely begins and ends sentences related to the production of Star Wars, Blade Runner, The Omen and Alien amongst so many genre landmarks. He speaks, but he doesn’t really say anything.
Instead, it falls to Jones’ formidable cast of interviewees – men and women who obviously hold Ladd in tremendous regard – to tell the stories that bring this fearless, pioneering movie mogul to life. We get Ridley Scott and Sigourney Weaver warmly recalling his input on Alien, George Lucas on how Laddie fought the studio to keep Star Wars trundling on and rescued 20th Century Fox in the process, and Ron Howard, Mel Gibson and a particularly louche Ben Affleck on how he gave them a shot behind the camera. It’s undeniable that Ladd has been a force for good in cinema – someone prepared to take the risks and push back against a creatively conservative system, and the doors that his daughter was able to open to secure interviewees is testament to that – but we’re not reviewing the man, we’re reviewing the documentary.
Jones admits that her father is taciturn and not prone to tooting his own trombone. Indeed, the most revealing and animated segment is when he spends more time explaining why he doesn’t want to talk about The Right Stuff than he spends talking about, say, Alien full-stop. Another segment in which one of the interviewees asks the camera whether “we’re talking about” Ladd’s explosive departure from MGM in 1988, a reminder perhaps a film made by a daughter about a (still living) father has its boundaries in terms of objectivity. Those little glimpses of the world behind the curtain and the cosy interview style – comparing notes with Mel Gibson on absentee fathers making up for lost time – give the whole thing the feelgood, celebratory vibe of something they show at the Oscars as they’re winching James Gordon into his man-suit…
Laddie will be available to rent and buy on digital download from 26th April