New York Film Festival Q&A, Transcribed By Shaun Sages & Todd Parker
October 5th, 2002
This is a loose transcription of the New York Film Festival Q & A.
>> Since "Punch-Drunk Love" doesn't feature your regular material, such as the "Clementine Loop", or actors like Phillip Baker Hall and John C. Reilly, do you consider it to break the tradition of your previous three films?
PTA: It breaks from the tradition only in that they're not in it. But just because there was really no parts for them in the story…Um…Phil Hoffman is in it, and so is Luis Guzman. There's just nowhere to put the others really.
>> Why did you choose to shoot the film in scope?
PTA: Well, that decision happened a long time ago, when I was a youngster. I thought to myself, if its a movie, why should it look like television? And there's really nothing better than when that curtain opens ALL THE WAY UP.
>> Why is there a car crash in the beginning?
That's just something you write to get going, like, you need something to START. Joel Silver, a guy that, y’know, makes “those kind of movies”, I once heard him say that every movie should start with a BANG, and that just made sense to me.
>> The pudding story is a true thing that happened...is there anything else in the movie that's based on real events?
Um...no, the pudding story is the touchstone of truth in this movie. (audience laughs)
>> Can you talk about the colors in the film. What they're derived from?
PTA: From an acid experience that I've had in 1967. (Laughs) They're just art by Jeremy Blake. I've seen his work…I had just kind of a…like a bad idea of some color. But it was really bad and I didn't know what to do. But then I saw this Jeremy Blake art, he does these installations I saw at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. Classy stuff. I thought that was really phenomenal stuff.
>> When did the blue suit come in?
PTA: Uh. We kinda had a little obsession for different Technicolor musicals. And if you've watched many of them, there always seems to be a standard blue suit. There's a great blue suit in "Bandwagon", and I can remember seeing that and saying 'I want that color blue.'
>> How convinced were you that Adam had what was it takes to do this certain type of role?
PTA: Yeah. I was never convinced that it would be anything but wonderful working with him, because I think that's when…you respond to someone as an actor but you wanna make sure that you like being around them, cause you're gonna be around them a lot. You're going to be, y'know, you're gonna be in love with each other for two years or however long it's gonna take. I think Adam and I work in similar ways with alotta the same people and a close group. Adam is kind of in charge of his movies, and I'm sort of in charge with my movies. So you know you're coming from a similar place. A similar works ethic. And that's critical when you're jumping to do it. Does that answer your question?
>> I wanted to know when you were convinced…
PTA: Oh, when I was…Yeah. Yeah. From the beginning. Absolutely.
>> Let's talk about the score. Did you know what the sound was gonna be like while you were shooting?
PTA: Yeah. I worked with Jon Brion when I was writing the movie as well to talk about ideas and notions, what might sound right or good for the movie. And he would do 8-minute chunks of stuff, and it was really nice to have in going to shoot the movie because…if you don't know what the fuck you're doing you're just gonna turn to the music and kinda let it guide you a little bit. And it really helped Adam and Emily, I think, to know…if you kinda know what music is gonna happen there an actor can know how little they have to get away with. Y'know. Like, 'Okay, so that's gonna happen there.' So it's just kinda like attacking it a little bit like you're making a musical, y'know, even though it's not really a musical…just kinda pretend that it is. It becomes helpful. I know Adam is really a musical person, too. So it helped. And then some of the stock sound is just amazing where we shot. We shot in that warehouse, it's kind of an amazing place deep in the Valley. There's a railroad nearby. There's a mountain nearby. Some of the sounds are just natural sounds of the environment…it's just putting the microphone in the right place.
>> Why does Adam wear the blue suit for the whole movie?
(long pause, laughter) Um, you just need the brightest colors you can in a love story like this, I guess.
>> Luis, can you compare working with Paul to working with Brian De Palma? What's different?
LUIS: Um...Brian De Palma directs the movie. Paul directs and writes the movie. He creates the movie, the whole thing, everything comes from him. And he's so amazing to work with because he’s got everything down, and he’s become like a master at this, already. Paul, give me twenty dollars.
>> How did this character sort of develop, or come into shape…come into being. What did you start with? Was there a story or an incident that kinda came in? What was the process of developing the character.
PTA: Uh. Well. Well. I'm trying to remember. I don't remember maybe what might have started it, maybe some loose ideas or notions, but the real trigger was Adam. And then writing it while talking to Adam on the telephone…I went to Hawaii to write the movie and I was there writing it while Adam was working. And, uh, just the - - I don't know - - that's just the way it goes. Y'know. You're just farting around in things that make you laugh, or things that entertain you, or seem interesting and seemed interesting to him and back and forth and then…just collaborating with someone and then once I finished the script then we really started to kinda collaborate and figure out what the hell we were doing.
Adam: I think what happened was, Paul talked to me about the idea, but didn't really tell me much. While he was writing it, he let me hear...on occasion I would speak to him on the phone and he would say 'I wrote a good scene today.' And I'd say, 'Oh yeah? Well, what happens.' He'd go, 'Well I don't wanna tell ya'. And I'd say, 'Well, can you gimme a line?' And he'd say, 'Alright. Page 41, you say 'Sure, why not?'' Ok. I know I like to say 'Sure, why not? 'But now I don't want to. (Laughs) And then, uh, Paul actually came up to my house and he said 'I finished.' I went into my living room, he went away, I just read it and every page I kept going 'Man, what is gonna happen?' I kept asking 'Do I die in it? Do I kill somebody?' I was baffled, though, but it was nice. Paul and I became good friends, even before he showed me the script…talking about it, talking about it…getting to know each others lives. And we just had long conversations about Barry Egan. I learned a lot from Paul, and then I just tried to have fun with it.
>> Im a little confused, exactly why does Emily Watson fall for Adam. What's the reasoning behind her choosing him?
PTA: I think he just called you unattractive.
ADAM: Hey buddy, who are you to call me unattractive?
(audience laughs, the guy stammers trying to rephrase his question)
PTA: The real question is, who wouldn't fall in love with this guy?
>> This film is much shorter than your last two...what was the reason for switching editors?
I worked with an editor named Dylan Tichenor, and now Im working with Leslie Jones and you want to know if that's why the movie’s shorter? This movie was five hours long before Leslie Jones got a hold of it. There she is, in the balcony. She's a totally cool, beautiful woman.
(gives her applause, the audience joins in)
Come on, she deserves more than that!
(audience applauds harder)
>> How long did this film take to shoot?
Pretty long actually. We were doing it right at the time of the supposed actors strike. “The actors are gonna strike! We've gotta make movies!!!” So we shot some stuff, but then Adam had to go do Deeds, and Emily had to go do Gosford Park, but it was kind of an advantage, because I got to look over all of the footage and kind of handle it the way Woody Allen and Stanley Kubrick did. And then they came back and we shot the second part.
>> When you look at the film now, can you really tell the difference between the footage you shot first and the second part of the footage?
No...I really don't. Because, its all one experience, y’know?
>> (holding up a script) I have a script!
Um, give it to Joe Roth. Joe? Oh, yeah, he's sitting about three rows down from you. Just give it to him. Yeah.