Zwigoff in 2012
May 18, 1949 |
|Alma mater||University of Wisconsin-Madison|
I've stopped going to see art films because every critic gives them four stars and say things like 'masterpiece,' 'spellbinding' and 'mesmerizing.' I mean, they're doing that with my film, but I don't want to use those blurbs. Critical reviews aren't worth too much anymore because just about every film can get one or two of them.
I don't like most Christmas movies. They're pretty bad, though they seem to make tons of money anyway. Like this movie 'Elf,' I got the script for that, and I turned it down right away. Against my wife's better judgment.
The last Christmas movie I really liked was 'It's a Wonderful Life,' probably. It's sort of a schmaltzy movie, but it's not without its dark moments. It still gets to me every year.
Crumb was such an influence on me. He's such a visionary, such a great artist, that he so shaped my artistic sensibilities on a certain level that I do owe everything to him. The way I see the world is largely changed by him.
And I sense it was a rather constructed, almost half narrative fiction film in some ways. A lot of it was staged and manipulated to get those things in there that I knew to be strong.
Whereas my producer literally worked on this thing for 10 years and because I gave that presenter credit to David Lynch, she to this day never gets credit. It really kills me.
The first scene I ever shot for 'Louie Bluie,' on that first day, I had never seen the camera before. I didn't know where to put it. I just knew what was strong about these guys and what I wanted to capture, so I tried to work backward from there and figure it out. Trial and error. Hopefully I got a little bit better at it.
I think my father kept struggling to get us into better neighborhoods, better schools. One of the worst jobs he had was folding shirts under these fluorescent lights all day at the equivalent of a Kmart. I remember visiting him at work, thinking, 'When I grow up, I've got to do anything else.'
I never saw a department store Santa as a kid. My mother was afraid to take me.
It makes it difficult to decide which to go see, since no film about say, some tragic genocide in Africa is going to get a bad review even if it's poorly made.
Maybe if I found something I was really passionate about, which is entirely possible, I would make another documentary, but it's not a good career choice for anybody. I don't recommend it.
People like light and silly, and they like stuff that's really energetic, and you get a character in a film bouncing around and screaming, people laugh. That's all it takes. I don't find that funny. To me, what's funny is dialogue and nuance of character and performance.
Chicago always hit me as such a gloomy place – I just remember all the snow getting dirty as soon as it would fall, all the decaying brown brick buildings around where we lived, all this soot all over the place.
I'm not trying to be self-serving, but you know, you get to Hollywood, and if you want to make something big and loud and dumb, it's pretty easy. It's very hard to go down there and make a film like 'Sideways,' which I thought was a great film. They don't want to make films like that anymore, even though that film was very successful.
I try to make a film that's very entertaining, very funny, but also gives you something to think about. And the strongest thing I have to offer is my point of view, to get across how I see the world in hopes that it can change the way other people see the world, hopefully for the better.
Because I found myself telling the story of his family to people without the visual aids that I was able to employ by filming them eventually. But I very much knew exactly what I was going to do.
Certain types of films will never test well. My films never seem to test well.
The things I want to make into a film, they're personal, esoteric things, and I don't expect anyone else to like them as much as I do. I generally like my films more than anybody else will.
Luckily, he was in the process of moving to France at the time, anyway. But if he had stayed in the States, I don't know how he would have handled that, because it was getting pretty crazy. I mean, a celebrity which he really did not welcome. And I can't blame him.
If I start paying attention to the mechanics of a film while watching it, then it's generally a bad film.
A lot of things I have turned down ended up being a big embarrassment. Like that script, 'The Beaver.' I thought that was one of the worst scripts I had ever read. But everyone said, 'Ooh it's on the Black List.' Yeah, well, good for it. They're a bunch of idiots. I saw the final film, and there were no surprises.
I gotta tell you, I don't have many close friends, and if I do wind up making friends with somebody, it takes me a long time, usually.
If I see my films described as 'quirky' or, even worse, 'snarky' one more time, I'm going to probably seriously consider an early retirement. All these years, I've labored under the conceit that they were "darkly humorous.'
The Weinsteins believe in test screenings. I don't. I don't think good films are made that way. Call me crazy, but I'd like to think you need a singular vision to make good art.
People think I have an interest in comics, but I'm only interested in comics from the '40s, like 'Donald Duck' comics.
When I went around promoting 'Crumb,' there would be days I'd wake up in, like, Houston or Cleveland, and I'd step outside the hotel and get no idea where I was. It all looks the same: one big corporate, consumer theme park. It's all, 'Here's the Starbucks, and here's the Gap, and we'll go over to Banana Republic and the Cineplex.'
I did turn down 'The Virgin Suicides.' I talked to the producers about it, and I just honestly told them that I didn't get it. Is it supposed to be funny, is it a thriller, what is it?
For a long time, there was this rumor that I turned down doing 'Austin Powers,' which is not true. While they did send me the script, I don't think I was ever a serious consideration to direct it. I'm sure they probably sent it to 20 others as well.
Just to get the actors to relax, listen to each other, and actually affect each other, there are a number of techniques you have to learn, and they don't all work on every actor.
Well, that was certainly – to me, until we could film in Charles' room, I didn't even want to bother filming anything else. And in fact, I did hold off and that was the first thing we filmed.
Oh yes, I've been approached to do all sorts of nonsense. How about a remake of 'West Side Story?'
So I told Robert from the start that if we couldn't get Charles and Max to take part, but especially Charles, that I didn't want to make the film. So would he call his mother and talk to Charles and see if Charles would at all be interested.
The main trouble with Hollywood is that the guys you have to pitch to, the guys who run the studios, are all business school grads.
Saying that all documentaries are the same is like saying all foreign films are the same.
I collect old Coon Chicken Inn memorabilia. I collect black memorabilia, like old minstrel posters. It was a real place. There was one in Seattle, one in Portland, and one in Salt Lake City. They started in 1925, and then they went out of business around 1958.
I hope they get something of interest out of it, but I'd rather they all hate it and I like it, instead of vice versa… I make films to please myself first, and if the audience likes them, all the better.
My hat's off to documentary filmmakers. I don't know if I'm ever going back to it. You're treated like a second-class citizen at most film festivals. You take the bus while everybody else is flown first-class. If you're a feature film director, you're put in a five-star hotel, and if you're a documentary director, you stay in a Motel 6.
I was inspired to do anything I could to get out of what I was doing… today, I'm motivated to pay the bills.
That would be getting up at 5 am… I don't understand why film's shoot such brutal hours. I think it'd be worth it to not be so strictly cost-effective and have an 8 hour day. The film's would benefit in the end.
I think the other misconceptions when the film came out, he was very upset that it was so widely released and so widely seen. And neither one of us – well, I think I had hopes it would be, 'cause I really did think it was something special.
You have to go back to the '30s and '40s to see a film that's any good.