The Treat: Director George Miller on “The Happy Prince” by Oscar Wilde

George Miller, the director of the upcoming fantasy drama “Three Thousand Years of Longing” and the “Mad Max” series, described an audio story collection from his youth as a humorous artifact that gave him all the resources he needed to create stories in rural Australia in the early 1950s.

On Christmas morning, Miller remembers his parents giving him and his twin brother a vinyl record with the story “The Small One” about Jesus of Bethlehem on one side. The children’s tale “The Happy Prince,” by Oscar Wilde, was read aloud on the other side.

Originally, Bing Crosby and Orson Welles performed Wilde’s story adaptation for the Christmas Eve Philco Radio Hall of Fame presentation on December 24, 1944. The performance was so well received that the actors two years later recorded a studio CD, which ended up becoming something of a Christmas tradition.

My twin brother and I performed “The Happy Prince” practically every night for a whole year, if not hundreds, then certainly thousands of times. Eventually, we were able to almost verbatim read and execute it.

I came to the realization that I had discovered the entirety of my sense of narrative in that tale, including the traditional hero myth, all of my political beliefs, my conceptions of what it means to be cruel or empathetic, as well as any hopes or aspirations I had for a better world but wholly containing yourself out of consideration for another. That is a story with such a deep background.

I have no idea where Oscar Wilde got the idea for that tale. It’s nearly the ideal tale, and for us kids to hear it played in such an approachable manner so distant from the location where it was recorded, I presume New York, was just great.

I always believe there must be more to a story than first appears. There will be a lot of icebergs beneath the tip, and I couldn’t think of a story that, in my mind, is both so straightforward and has such a large amount of icebergs beneath it.

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