Thursday, November 02, 2000

Interview: "Catchin' Up With PTA"

Written By Cigarettes & Red Vines
November 2nd, 2000

Tell me about the rumors that you did a rewrite on Universal’s Charade remake for Jonathan Demme?

[Scoffs] No. Not even close [Laughs]. No, Jonathan & I just have a relationship of sending things to each other. So, he’ll send me draft of Charade & I’ll say boy, this is good, this is bad, you should try & fix this & look at that.

So, your opinion basically?

Yeah. Just swapping ideas & stuff. I did not even remotely touch a draft. & Jonathan is going to eventually do Charade. A year & half from now or something like that.

OK. What about The Jon Brion Variety Show? I heard that he originally shot a pilot for VH1 & they didn’t like it. So you went back & directed a few episodes with Jon, Aimee, Fiona, etc.?

Yeah. Jon tried to do a thing with VH1, but I never even saw what they did. He didn’t like it. I said there’s a way we can do something & we should experiment. So, we just basically shot tests for about three episodes. I paid for it myself & we just did it.

At Largo?

No. At this recording studio called Ocean Way. I rented it, got a few cameras & threw up a couple of lights. No big deal. I had Fiona sing. I had Jon sing. Elliott Smith came by. Bette Midler happened to be recording at the studio next door & was like “I want to sing!” It was insane! Next thing I know, Bette Midler is doing ‘50's cover tunes. We’re like, “Wow”! So this was all just a test to see the possibility for a music venue or a way to capture what Jon does. I’m still convinced there’s a way to do it. I don’t exactly know how right now. The test showed me all these good things & some bad things.

So, you haven’t presented this to a cable channel or music video channel to air?

No. We’ll sort of revisit it & it will be this ever burning thing. It’s been my own personal pet thing. Once we figure how we want to do it, then we’ll figure out where we want to do it & what sort of venue is best.

What about the rumor that you working on a Hawaii Five- 0 script back when you were making Hard Eight?

Uh. I don’t remember.

Hmmm. OK. Mark Wahlberg was on Chicago radio show promoting "The Perfect Storm" & said that he was working on a “secret project” with you & John C. Reilly?

[Laughs] Oh God. I have no idea what that is.

Are you disappointed that you weren’t able to include the John Holmes Exhausted Documentary on the new Boogie Nights DVD?

I am disappointed that it didn’t make it, but screw it. I really didn’t know that a lot of that [legal] shit was going on.

Did you hear that Julia St. Vincent (the director) has her own version of Exhausted coming out on DVD with bonus footage & a commentary track before the end of year?

Really? No I didn’t. I’ll be the first in line to get it.

Why haven’t you included any theatrical or television trailers on any of the Boogie Nights DVD releases? Were you unhappy with them?

It’s funny you should say that because I was just thinking that I fucked up by not putting them on there. At the time, I was mildly happy with them & I just hadn’t seen them in so long. It never occurred to me when we were making this new one to include them, but it really needs be somewhere just to exist. I feel bad, I wish I would have put them on there.

Did you actually shoot the Busby Berkley dancing frog sequence for Magnolia with Kermit singing, It’s Not Easy Being Green?

No. It was this million dollar sequence and I thought that I might be overstaying my welcome. I think this should be treated more honestly. Get in, let it happen & get the fuck out. It seemed to make more sense, so we scrapped the whole idea early in pre-production. I think you get the same type of effect with the slow motion shot of the frogs behind Stanley in the library sequence.

Yeah. You get a similar kind of vibe. There was money set aside just in case I changed my mind. We got into production & I just said forget it, we’re never going to do this. Let’s start using that money for other stuff.

I know you screened an early cut of Magnolia in Australia with the Beatles Revolution 9 somewhere in the movie. Where was it heard in the film & did you ever plan on leaving it in?

I never planned on using it. It was part of my temp music. I wanted a collage of noise. When you think of that type of wonderful sound, there’s really only one great one, #9. So I put it in there to sort of guide us, but I never tried to clear the rights. I would never want a Beatles song in my movie for real because it’s just too sacred.

So where was it in the film?

During the prologue.

So the incidental music that’s in the prologue of the final version, is that Fiona?

It’s Jon Brion, me, Fiona & a sound effects editor just throwing stuff into a stew.

Was that you chanting when Sydney Barringer is jumping off the building?

Yeah. All kinds of shit. There's all kinds of crazy shit that we put in there.

What did you think of Mark Rance’s Magnolia documentary “That Moment”? I know he showed you various cuts of the film.

I think it’s OK. It’s really weird. It’s one of those cases where if you were there, you know, it doesn't remind me of the experience. My experience making the film is so different than what was captured there. I really like it, but it’s hard to be objective. I did something that I normally don’t do & just said fuck it, & let’s go! It’s funny because there is definitely a three hour cut that someday if anybody saw, would probably crack someone up.

I’m always available to view that three hour cut.

[Laughs] It would test the limits of your patience.

What do you think of Magnolia winning the FIPRESCI award?

That was really cool. I was flabbergasted. That felt really nice to be recognized by group of critics worldwide. I heard the runner-up was Dancer in the Dark & I thought that was an amazing film.

Do you have favorite books or favorite authors that you read on a regular basis?

[Laughs] Oh jeez! I'll quote Marky Mark while we're doing the scene in Boogie Nights in the recording studio hallway. They were improvising a bunch of shit in there, when Bob Downey says, "It's a catch 22". Mark says, "What the fuck is that?" Bob replies, "It's a novel, you should read it." Mark says, "I don't read, OK, I write!" I thought that was pretty funny.

How about music? I heard you're a big Jam/Paul Weller fan.

I'm a pretty medium sized one. I love the Jam, I'm not sure how much I love Paul Weller. I loved the Jam when I was kid. I fucking loved listening to the Jam!

Did you know that you were thanked in the liner notes to "Fire & Skill", the tribute CD to The Jam?

You're kidding. You know what, that makes sense. I didn't know that. A friend of mine is a record cover designer & is friends with Paul Weller. He used to play me tracks & stuff. Oh my god, that is so nice.

Rumor has it that you were allegedly seen in a Sydney club punching the jukebox because it had no Jam songs on it!

[Laughs] You know what? I bet that's true! I could see myself being in a state where I would somehow do that. I don't remember it all, but I'm sure it's true. It's very possible.

Have you seen in recent movies that you liked?

I saw Meet the Parents. I fucking loved it. It was great. It's crafted well. Terrific performances. Start to finish. Very sweet & very funny. It's so nicely done. I saw Dancer in the Dark three times. I liked Almost Famous. I liked Mission Impossible 2, but I need to see it again.

Could you explain the significance of Clementine’s Loop & why you’ve decided to include it in all three films?

It's something that I like & something that seemed to fit each time in the movie. I guess it started to feel like a nice way to unite the films. It's an amazing sound. There's nothing like it that exists. I do think it's time to put it to rest.

I was wondering if you've read the tell-all book about Hollywood in the '70's, "Easy Riders, Raging Bulls?"

You know what? It's sitting upstairs right now. I've flipped through it a few times, but haven't actually read it. I've been meaning to. Why?

The author, Peter Biskind, is now writing a sequel to that book for Simon & Schuster about the '90's directors. Have you been contacted?

I've heard something about it. But I think I'll try to stay clear of that.

What's the status of Ghoulardi Films regarding an internship or helping aspiring filmmakers?

I don't think that's the way things are going for me right now. It takes a lot of effort & energy to do & I'm just too selfish to commit to anything else right now.

One of the great things about the site is receiving emails from the U.S. & around the world (usually in broken English) praising you & your films. I'm sure you get some of that mail as well. What's that like?

It's so cool. I've received letters from priests & nuns talking about how much impact Magnolia had on them. That's amazing. It really makes you think. Like, wait a minute! My films might mean something to more people than I can possibly fathom. It doesn't even enter the realm of whether you're humble or not. You just don't know. You're in a bubble & I just can't possibly imagine the number of people who have seen it.

How did you feel about all the overseas interviews you did to promote Magnolia?

It's draining. I started to get ants in my pants. I started to become so aggressive. I just didn't want to talk about it anymore. I don't think that I can do that again. I'm going to have to find new ways to promote my material. I had the best time recently at this Q & A at Cal Arts. It's very refreshing. They really want to know the answer to the questions they're asking.


  1. Is this maybe for the Magnolia section? :) Great interview. Love how candid he is.

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