By Amy Nicholson
By LA Weekly critics
By Zachary Pincus-Roth
By Amy Nicholson
By Amy Nicholson
By Amanda Lewis
By Amy Nicholson
By Anthony D'Alessandro
Beatty: The intention of the trailer was to convey the idea that the means of expression and the mode of expression would be societally impermissible. Surely you cannot say motherfucker or cocksucker in a movie trailer, because you can't get it played. So, then I had to go for things that were unacceptable, but then you had to ask yourself why are they unacceptable. "Malt liquor and chicken wings." "They always put the big Jews on my schedule." Somehow, the combination of words is unacceptable. They're not what is politically correct. You don't go forward without a certain amount of trepidation. I mean, I'm an inhibited WASP from the state of Virginia. I don't drop my pants easily, um, in public.
Weekly: It was interesting watching your recent interview on This Week With Sam Donaldson and Cokie Roberts - it was like watching outtakes from Bulworth. The questions were so inane, and when Cokie Roberts drew herself up in her best pinched schoolmistress air, chastising you for making a film that would undermine the public's faith in the government, it was great comedy.
Beatty: [Laughing] Yeah, yeah. Well, when you analyze Cokie - who's a very nice woman, works hard, does a good job - she doesn't realize the fact that she's working for Disney, her brother is one of the most important lobbyists in Washington, her mother was a congresswoman, her father was a congressman, and her mother is now ambassador to the Vatican . . . She means well. It's very difficult to be in that position and look at the statistics in a different way when we're fed a positive spin on so much that shouldn't be spun positively. I didn't want to be rude; I was down there promoting a movie, and I wanted to be good-natured about it. But we spoke afterward, and she really, in a good-natured way, said, "It makes me nervous when people do things that make the public have less faith in the government." And I said, yeah, me too.
Weekly: There were three instances when I thought Bulworth faltered. The first is the drug dealer's turnabout. Even on comedic and satiric terms, that seemed forced, unbelievable.
Beatty: It was a little neat, huh? Well, it's a style. Because, really, how could [the characters] make all those transitions in a day and a half? Everybody gets wise a little easily . . . Let's just say it was not done frivolously or in an unexamined way. My feeling was always that we were doing a musical, and musicals have certain formulas, certain marks that have to be hit. Like in a Noel Coward play. This is a different cultural milieu, but that's what we were going for. It was pretty meticulous, whether it failed or succeeded.
Weekly: The second was when Bulworth rescued the black kids from the white cops. That seemed to drift over into pure white-savior territory.
Beatty: You know, sometimes you just do things even though they're expected. It's like, at a given point, the fat lady sings. I mean, another way of saying what you're saying is, isn't that a cheap joke? And it probably is.
Weekly: The last thing is when Nina says to Bulworth, "You my nigga." Because that's a term of endearment - and a controversial one - that black folks use with one another; when she says it to him, it's bestowing so many layers of validation on him, and that's what makes it a real eyebrow raiser - again, even within the confines of satire. I mean, on one level, she's simply saying, you're my boo . . .
Beatty: Boo? I don't know the expression.
Weekly: Roughly, it's like sweetheart. But, when Nina says it to him . . .
Beatty: Where's it come from? Boo. Does it come from booty?
Weekly: No. It's something you could say to a friend or child as well as lover.
Beatty: My boo. I like that. I like it so much, I'm gonna use it tonight. It sounds sorta French. Ma boo. My boo. I like that.
Weekly: But even more than a sweet thing, "your nigga" is someone who's got your back, someone who's been through the fire with or for you, and it's very much rooted in shared trials, shared blackness - it's an affirmation grounded in blackness. When Nina calls the senator that, it's just the ultimate white-boy fantasy - to be granted that title on top of his own skin privileges.
Beatty: Yeaaah. That's an interesting point, because I took this picture up to Oakland for a screening, and when it got to the point where I had this long kiss with Halle, three of the brothers who were sitting up front - big, strong, good-looking guys - got up and started heading for the exit. Then they heard bang! from the screen, and they turned around and went back to their seats . . .
On one level, we're forced to admit that we may never know the answers between the sexes, between the generations, between the races. But I would put the races pretty far down on that list. I mean, her saying that to him is a leap, but it's just a movie; it's not a cure for cancer.
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