Though he never did get Bettie Page to budge from her insistence on remaining off camera in his feature documentary about her life, Mark Mori is still the only filmmaker to have captured the intensely private Page’s life story on film—straight from her mouth, no less. The GSU film school grad told us about making Bettie Page Reveals All, and revealed a surprising shift among Page’s fan base.
What sparked your interest in making this film, and how did you land such an exclusive opportunity?
I was having lunch with my good friend and entertainment attorney, Bob Darwell, who was also representing Page. He showed me a pre-publication copy of the book Bettie Page: The Life of a Pin-up Legend—the “clean” version of Page’s life story. I hadn’t known who she was, but her image was so special I immediately recognized she had a strong resonance. I got the idea for the movie right then, and became more interested the more I dug into her story. Darwell introduced me to Bettie and I took her to lunch.
Why was it important to have Bettie narrate?
There are a lot of bits and pieces of information about her, but her story hasn’t been told fully and directly by her before. It’s mostly been told by other people, and often not in a cohesive way. Plus, her voice is the key to the whole film—even her voice is entertaining.
What was most surprising for you in making the film?
When Bettie talked about her 10 years in Patton State (psychiatric) Hospital—she had never talked about that publicly before.
What were the biggest challenges you encountered?
One was not being able to show her on camera. The other was assembling a person’s entire life story into a coherent structure in one film—especially someone who lived 85 years and had such an amazing life.
What has been most rewarding to you?
The emotional response I see this film having on certain young women—they feel so connected to Bettie, and this film has real meaning for their lives. Bettie’s fan base has flipped over the years from mostly men to mostly women.
What’s your next project?
A James Brown documentary is in development. His life story and contributions to music are publicly known, but this will be the unknown, behinds-the-scene story from a couple of insiders that worked closely with him throughout his career.
Bettie Page Reveals All will play at the Plaza Theatre from Dec. 25 to Jan. 3.
Read more: A documentary reveals Bettie Page’s secrets