Fifty years after making 12 Angry Men, Sidney Lumet talks about New York filmmaking:
Imagine how American cinema would have been shortchanged had the immigration restrictionists of yesteryear had their way. No Pacino, no Brando, no Allen, no Coppola, no De Niro. No American cinema as we know it.
You’re a linchpin of New York’s so-called seventies golden age. Did it feel like that then?
You know, I never really was friends with all those guys, and I don’t know why. Woody—well, he’s Woody, so you don’t expect to be hanging out with him. But Scorsese and all those guys? We didn’t hang out. I never felt like there was a school of New York filmmakers. We were all doing our own things. That stuff about a movement came later.
When people talk about that golden age, what they usually mean is that today’s films stink.
I think it’s a great time right now for New York film, actually.
So, who’s inheriting the mantle?
Oh, I can’t say names. Somebody would get bent out of shape.
Then, in the abstract, what do you imagine the next wave will look like?
Well, we were shooting out in Astoria, and one day I was watching all these kids standing outside a school near the studio. It was just marvelous: Indian girls in saris, kids from Pakistan, Korea, kids from all over. So I think you’ll see more directors from these communities, telling their stories. You know, I started out making films about Jews and Italians and Irish because I didn’t know anything else.