It's clear that English-born writer-director Alex Cox got into the movies to have fun. He sure didn't do it to get rich. Aside from his second and third movies, 1983's Repo Man and 1986's Sid & Nancy, Cox has had no major financial successes; he was rejected as a possible director for Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas (though he worked on the script), and his most expensive picture, 1987's Walker, shot in Nicaragua, cost less than $7 million.
But like most folks who hold an exalted place in the margins, Cox is full of good stories. X Films: True Confessions Of A Radical Filmmaker is Cox's filmmaking memoir, almost entirely about life on the set. He only brings up his background as it relates to moviemaking, as when he mentions his grandfather's auto-accident death as an inspiration for El Patrullero, his 1991 Mexican production. Cox intended to write a partial guide for young filmmakers, and while that means X Films is occasionally more technical than the lay reader can follow, it's imbued with sardonic good spirit and often highly readable.
Cox is a can-do guy who seems to relish his work. And anyone who treasures Repo Man or Sid & Nancy will find scads of fascinating stories about how Cox made them. While filming the former's baseball-bat confrontation between the repo men and the Rodriguez brothers, the movie's star, Harry Dean Stanton, insisted on using a actual bat rather than a fake, howling at the director, "Harry Dean Stanton only uses real baseball bats!" The movie was buried at first; it wasn't until the soundtrack album sold 50,000 copies on its own, once the picture moved to cable and video, that the studio was forced to give it a wider release. Another fun fact: Cox considered casting Sandra Bernhard as Sid & Nancy's Sid Vicious.
After Walker, which was buried by the studios (it was issued as a Criterion Collection DVD in February 2008), Cox, no longer bankable, began making super-low-budget films. X Films is clearly one-sided, but it's an entertaining side, especially when Cox sends himself up, as when a Dutch extra in Walker waits until the last day of primary shooting to walk up and punch Cox in the head. The director finds this laudable: "He'd waited nine weeks, respectful of my directorial authority, as long as it lasted," he writes. "I've always admired the Dutch—so able to combine justice with timing and common sense."