Nic Roeg’s ‘Insignificance’ (1985) Is One of the Director’s Late-Period Gems


With the exception of the atypical children’s movie The Witches (1990), visionary director Nic Roeg’s career began its long slide into semi-obscurity after his purple patch in the 1970s-early 80s. This period saw a run of superb pictures, including Performance (1970, co-directed by Donald Cammell), Walkabout (1971), Don’t Look Now (1973), The Man Who Fell to Earth (1976), Bad Timing (1980) and Eureka (1983).


As budgets declined Roeg (like Robert Altman at the same time) took to directing film versions of stage plays and TV movies – at one point reduced to directing Samson and Delilah for TNT in 1996. The movie starred Liz Hurley as Delilah, never a sign of quality, as her acting skills are limited. At best. 






One gem stands out from Roeg’s later work, 1984’s Insignificance, an adaptation of the Terry Johnson (Dead Funny) stage play.


INSIGNIFICANCE Trailer (1985) - The Criterion Collection


The plot concerns an imaginary meeting in a New York hotel room between Marilyn Monroe (Roeg’s then wife Theresa Russell), ex-husband Joe DeMaggio (Gary Busey), Albert Einstein (Michael Emil) and an on-the-skids Senator Joe McCarthy (Tony Curtis).



Curtis (sans his late-period trademark Mr. Whippee snow cone wig) is especially good in the picture, playing a repellent character with real conviction. Not a bad cast for such a modestly budgeted production.




The soundtrack is pretty good – and includes Roy Orbison’s neglected classic Wild Hearts Runs Out Of Time:

➜Roy Orbison - "Wild Hearts Run Out Of Time"



FUN FACT: ex-Clash member Mick Jones’ band Big Audio Dynamite paid tribute to Roeg with the hit E=MC2 the year after Insignificance was released – see if you can get all the references:

Big Audio Dynamite - E=MC2

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Stephen Arnell

Culture Comment Content Provider. Portrait courtesy of artist Darren Coffield. 'Non satis me tempo'