By Besha Rodell
By Patrick Range McDonald
By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
"Well," we grumbled, "because we can't."
"Why can't you?"
"We need to buy film."
"Why not shoot it with a digital camera?"
[Dithering noises.] "Nn-nh . . . Digital doesn't look good."
"Why do you care what it looks like, if you've got something to tell?"
Then we tried this new system out, and it's beautiful! With Bernard, adapting Tolstoy, I think we decided after we made the picture that it's neo-realism, or some semblance of it. I always felt that L.A., in making it, became our Rome, and that Bernard is auteur enough, maestro enough, that we were within reach of the more neo-realist aspects of Fellini's work, with yours truly hoping to fill the shoes of Marcello Mastroianni. It's an environment that we understand, an environment that we know. It just seemed very convenient to set this tale in our back yard.
It's interesting that you use Fellini as an example of neo-realism. Because when you look closely at the texture ofLa Dolce Vita, or even8 1/2, they're very journalistic, very matter-of-fact, shot by shot. They're only mistaken for surrealism because Fellini is documenting something inside his head as he interacts with the world.
Exactly right. And when people criticize some of the cameo performances in ivans xtc., because they're not actors that they know, I think back on 8 1/2 and other Fellini works and think, "These are not supposed to be actors -- they are real characters." Bernard has done the Fellini thing of driving down the road, finding somebody and grabbing him, and putting him in the film because he fits the character. You can't replace that. My friend Alex Butler, who plays Peter Weller's "minder," he walks a certain way, carries himself exactly the way such a character would, without ever "acting."
And you cast an actual CAA agent, Adam Krentzman, as the agent who takes over for Ivan after his death.
Exa-a-actly. [Laughs.] Doing all the horrific things that he's qualified to do! Our first screening at CAA was fantastic. Although we had a little wine in the foyer beforehand, a lot of people were uncomfortable with it at first. There were quite a few shufflings and itchy little movements in seats before they could settle into the story. [Laughs.] But I've since gotten a lot of calls from many agents to say how deeply affected they were by the film -- moved to understand that, despite appearances, it was about something else.
So I don't think anybody believes that we're poking fun at them. A lot of people in film -- guys who work at the lab, for example -- would say, "I had to spend more time with my family after seeing your film. I even took two or three days off from work." It asks people to re-evaluate what their lives are about.
You mentioned at the Writers Guild that you're fluent in Italian. Did you live in Italy as a little kid?
My mother had a home there for 20 years. What I like to say is that I was conceived during Freud, born during the pre-production of The Bibleand teethed on The Night of the Iguana. Actually, Jean Paul Sartre introduced my mother to my father. And then I . . . "existed," I suppose.
So your upbringing makes you more of a European than an American.
In a way, yes. I remember very early in life seeing a rough cut of The Bible. My mother played Hagar in The Bible. She was carrying this kid, Ishmael, in the desert, and I thought the kid was me, and my father has the voice-over of God, and he plays Noah -- so I was very confused as to what was reality and what was fiction. [Laughs.] And I haven't really recovered. I still don't really know.
You direct. You write for the screen. Now you act. Are there other art forms you're ambitious of?
I paint. I love having that privacy, that sense of silent moments just to myself. Otherwise I'm just forever doomed to be in the film industry. There are times when I get frustrated, and wish I could do something else, even just -- cut hair. But I can't. I'm addicted. It's in every pore.
And that's why directing -- and trying to get a film going in the conventional way, with a studio -- can be so hard. Your entire universe is consumed by one project, and you begin to have a blinkered existence. You kind of forget how to live. It all becomes about film. I remember my father giving a lecture at some film school. One of the students asked him, "Wouldn't it be correct, Mr. Huston, to say that in the first act you establish your characters, in the second act you tell your story, and in the third act you reveal what it is you were trying to say throughout the film?" And my father looked at him, and said, "You know what you should do? Get yourself down to Mexico, and fuck some whores." [Laughs.] You could've heard a pin drop in the auditorium. But what my father was saying was essentially correct, which is live, for Christ's sake. Then you'll be able to tell a story!
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