Director Blake Edwards Displays a Bronze Touch

Times Staff Writer

Perhaps best known as the creator of "Victor/Victoria" and the Pink Panther movies, film maker Blake Edwards is also a sculptor. Two of his larger bronzes--"Reclining Figure" and "Interlocking"--are now on display in the courtyard between the Century Plaza Towers, part of the Third Sculpture Walk produced by the Los Angeles Arts Council.

Edwards, 67, is the first to admit that his fame as a director has boosted his recent success as a sculptor. "I'm selling a lot," said Edwards, interviewed in his bungalow at Culver Studios, which, legend has it, was Vivien Leigh's dressing room during the shooting of "Gone With the Wind."

"I'm not foolish enough to believe it's all because it's good," he said.

Edwards knows there are some people who are interested in his work only because he is "Blake Edwards-the-director-turned-sculptor." But, Edwards said, he ultimately decided that that was no reason to stop sculpting or not to show his work.

Edwards is acutely aware, however, of how much easier he has it than poor, unknown artists. "I can afford to fail all over the place," he said, "and a lot of great talents can't." With its sometimes staggering foundry costs, metal sculpture is one of the dearest arts. "I don't know how poor, talented sculptors manage if they aren't discovered rather quickly," he said.

A lifelong painter ("I'm in the midst of a frantic watercolor thing"), Edwards did his first sculpture--a small abstract form he still has--20 years ago. His wife, Julie Andrews, was one of his first fans.

"She really thinks I'm talented. She likes what I do, and she thinks it should be shown," he said. "I have a wonderful cop-out. It's not me. It's my old lady who is doing this."

Asked if his wife paints or sculpts, Edwards said, "No. She sings."

Until now, Edwards has painted in one of the bathrooms of his Malibu home (where the floor is impervious to art) and sculpted in the tool shed. He will soon move into a full-fledged art studio on the property. The new studio, built on a bluff, "looks almost like a wing in flight," he said. "It was expensive," he acknowledged, "but not crazy rich-man's expensive."

Self-taught, Edwards said the single greatest influence on his sculpture was British artist Henry Moore. The director recalls shooting a TV special that used Moore's sculpture-strewn English estate as a backdrop and being fascinated by the scale and complexity of Moore's huge forms. "His work was three-dimensional, and film is not," Edwards said. "It excited me that it confounded me. It excited me that I couldn't get a handle on it."

Edwards speculates that "if there is any connection between directing and sculpting, it would be angles."

The film maker said he finds sculpting "very therapeutic." If the arts were drugs, he said, sculpting would be a tranquilizer. "I can get enormous relief emotionally from working with that clay." Painting, he said, "is joyful, but I can still get a tight gut from it."

So far, Edwards' paintings and sculptures have been well received by critics. Should the critics turn, he said, his skin has been thickened by the scathing reviews some of his films have received. "I don't like it, but I can handle it."

The Century City exhibit, which continues through January, also includes sculptural works by Gilad Ben Artzi, Betty Gold, Baile Oakes and Charna Rickey.

Edwards said he "felt very honored" to be included. "I love that my stuff is outside, and people can walk around and see it," he said. But, he added, "the doing is what gives me the greatest pleasure."

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