Linklater/Hawke/Black: The Complete Transcript
"If my feet could fit a railroad track
I guess I'd been a train"
– Billy Joe Shaver, "There Ain't No God In Mexico"
In mid-February, Ethan Hawke was in town for a two-night berth at the Austin Film Society, screening a 35mm print of Before the Devil Knows You're Dead – Sidney Lumet's last film and one of the late Phillip Seymour Hoffman's great performances – as well as taking part in a conversation with his longtime collaborator and friend Richard Linklater, who, incidentally, is the subject of a new documentary by Louis Black, Richard Linklater: dream is destiny, co-directed with Karen Bernstein. With all three screening films at the 2016 South by Southwest Film Festival, they gathered at Louis Black's home in Hyde Park for a 90-minute conversation, presented here and only lightly edited.
ETHAN BEING INTERVIEWED BY RICK AND LOUIS
Louis Black: So we'll start with Ethan. You work ALL the time—you act, you direct, you do graphic novels, is there–
Rick Linklater: Don't forget writing novels.
Louis: Writing novels, writing children books–
Ethan Hawke: The plays, don't forget the plays.
Louis: The plays—is it an attention issue? I mean, is this how you entertain yourself?
Ethan: My knee-jerk answer to that is I started professionally acting when I was 13, and so for me, that's the center of the wheel. Everything else—I mean, I only got interested in writing in a relationship to acting, and I got interested in directing as a relationship to acting.
But, that's my knee-jerk answer, in that if I could spend my life... When you're on set with Rick, or a handful of other people that I've worked with who are really filmmakers, it's all I want to do. If you're in a rehearsal room with Tom Stoppard, there's nowhere else you want to be! You don't want to be writing a novel or doing other things. But the trouble with acting is you're really only as good as your material, and I like to work. I mean when people say I work all the time, I still don't work as hard as my dad!
Ethan: My dad works 50 weeks a year. ... But the other thing that is strange, that I've noticed in the time period that I've been alive, y'know when we first started making movies, the amount of time that you take to shoot a movie was a lot longer and paid better. Now, what used to be a 12-week shoot and you got paid a good salary and then you could kinda fart around and do a couple plays and go see some rock bands and then work again.
Now, no sooner am I done with a movie than I have more bills to pay because it didn't pay anything, and it was short.
Or more than likely what it means is that I'll do a job that will pay, and then I need to work to pay back my own soul. And then so it generates, it seems like I work a lot, I don't feel like I work that hard. How was that as an answer?
Rick: Well, when people ask about Ethan, I say well let me tell you about when I first met Ethan. He's what 23, we're working together for the first time, we're over in Vienna and at that point you're already a movie star, you're getting offered every part for anyone near your age in Hollywood. So you're like one of the top actors of your generation, you've been working for ten years at that point, or y'know you had that gap of let's say the last 4 years, umm you had written a novel, you had started a theatre company, you had the number one video of the summer? Remember that Lisa Loeb thing?
Ethan: (laughing) Yeah, it was video of the year, man!
Rick: You had made a short film you had directed it was a short but y'know, so I was like: That's at age 23, the summer I was first working with you, so you had already, done all that and you were playing guitar, writing songs so all those things that are happening now, 20 whatever years later, they were all kind of on the table then.
Ethan: And I think I didn't have a tremendous amount of faith—acting is so ephemeral and success and it is so difficult.
Ethan: It is such a confluence of luck and talent and hard work and you know like are you meeting the right people—that I didn't have a tremendous amount of pride in that, and what I took pride in was the things I was in control of, like I did that video whether it was good or not, nobody gave it to me.
Rick: Yeah it was your idea.
Ethan: And I was trying to do things like that because Explorers had a big impact. The failure of Explorers and the perception that that was going to launch me to be a movie star and it turned out completely different. You know, it was from a 13 year old's mind, point of view. I loved (director) Joe Dante, I learned so much from him and I had this horrible feeling of letting him down. You know, that if he had...
Louis: How many times did that happen to Joe, where the film was going to happen–
Ethan: It was going to change his career....
Louis: and didn't—Small Soldiers, Explorers—again and again...
Rick: Matinee. But you know it all adds up. He has a great body of work.
Ethan: He does't have the career other people wanted him to have.
They just screened Explorers at the Film Forum for this Junior League and I went and it was a big snowy day. I watched the film for the first time with an audience since it premiered at the Ziegfield in 1984.
I realized it was the first time I understood why the movie wasn't a hit—because it's a well made film. I mean, Joe is a good director and River is amazing in it, I was pleased with my own work. But it's a movie about how life is disappointing (laughing).
Even if you got to meet aliens. It's the ultimate—you know, you get to go to the prom and it actually wasn't that much fun. You know, like, life is like that – you have sex and it's not as amazing as everyone made it sound like it was going to be—and these kids build their own spaceship. ...
Louis: Let's talk about Chet Baker now. I know you two have a Chet Baker film that you're trying to develop together. What's it about Chet that you find appealing?
Rick: Yeah, we developed that in '97, '98? Oh, when we really got down to business—remember in Paris?
Ethan: Oh yeah? Oh, you're right! We didn't get serious but we had this script for a while.
Rick: Yeah, we talked about it for a while, and then we had a script. So we're in our 13th year of actually talking about it. But what happened was 13 years—Ethan aged out of being young, 44-year-old Chet.
Ethan: I think it was, actually a vintage "you" moment—of what makes you you, the way your brain works. I got a call from some Hollywood guy about Brad Pitt dropped out of a Chet Baker biopic, right? They called me up and said, Do I want do it, and I called Rick and said, "What do you think about this?"
(to Rick) I remember, you were just on the phone (starts snapping) and you were doing something else and you said, "Chet Baker. A movie about Chet Baker. What's interesting about Chet Baker. Chet Baker is cool. Why is he cool? He's detached. Why is he detached? It needs to be a movie about detachment, about aloofness, what is aloof—what is caring and not caring and what is promised?
You're like, "I'm not making a movie about a junkie! I'm sick of that—no drug use, it's boring!" So here's what it is, it's got to be—it is a day in the life—this is when your brain (to Rick) just went, "it's a day in the life of Chet Baker—the day before he tries heroin, about the moment that he starts to believe in himself—you know and lose the inside of himself and the outside looking in."
It took half an hour, that phone call, but we were just on this idea—
Rick: And knowing biopics suck. Easily it's the hardest genre...
Ethan: They're TV movies. They're always – they're a launch pad for an actor to give, you know, Emmy award winning performance. Very rarely are they cinema. Yes, there are examples. You know, Raging Bull being the greatest.
Rick: The "day in a life" thing.
Ethan: That seemed to be really cool. Of course, one of Rick's other ideas that was really not a selling point with any financiers, was that we were never going to see him play!
Rick: How did we not get that financed? I don't know...
Ethan: Anyway, the point being is that, what was cool about it, was all this—but as the years went by and I started to turn 32, 33—started to be totally unbelievable because at 33 Chet was a full blown junkie and, yes, so I had aged out of that part.
Then 10 years went by and I got this script of Chet in his mid 40s at a different period of his life, but I had already put so much time into thinking about it and I already felt intimate with his life having studied it and prepped it and put so much thought into it. And the irony of ironies was that with what this script was dealing with was the moment when Dino de Laurentiis approached Chet to play himself in a movie.
I was actually being asked to play Chet—playing himself at 25 which I had kind of starting doing in my imagination, in my mind ....
My dream is that Rick will still get to make the movie that we had talked about making and that it could be a triptych because you could have Chet in his early 20s—pre-heroin—me in mid-40s in the throws of it, and then you have the great, brilliant Bruce Webber film already at 59 at the very end and they could be seen as a kind of wonderful triptych—
Louis: This film—what period of time in Chet Baker's life?
Ethan: We're talking about the 60s and we're talking about—he's already out of jail from Italy, he's already washed up. It's the period where he got beat up and he lost his teeth and he couldn't play anymore. he had to teach himself to play again, which really took him about 8 years. It was 8 years of on-again, off-again method—it's the only time period of his life pre- being sober again. But the tragedy of it and the thing that I find so interesting—my favorite aspect of the film and the mystery of it is that this guy who loved playing music so much was willing to sober up to learn to play again, but no sooner could he play the high level again, that then he started using again. And never stopped, you know, he never—once he just got sober long enough to be able to play like he wanted to play. And once he could do that, he didn't care about any other aspect of life.
Being a junkie is about being away from the world. And it's about being an outlaw. You know, he didn't think of it as drug abuse, he thought it was his medicine and when your hero is Charlie Parker and Billie Holiday—when those are his—
Rick: One of my favorite lines in the movie when your character says,"you're the kind of people who Billie Holiday...."
Ethan: I say to a cop, "You're the kind of person that'd kill Billie Holiday!" And the guy's like, "Heroin killed Billie Holiday." "No. Cops!"
Rick: Billie—Yeah, Billie didn't have a heroin problem, she had a—
All three: "cop problem."
Rick: A law enforcement problem!
Ethan: I like it when Chet's girlfriend says, you know, she's talking about how much she loved Charlie Parker, what an honor it was to score for him and she goes, "got some role model." And he goes, "Yes, I know." Just like totally lost on him it would ever be a not a great role model.
Louis: It's like in the early days after Dazed I would hang out with Rick. 'Cause people would always come over cause they wanted to do pot. And Rick didn't smoke. And I was like, "Give it to me I'll make sure he gets it."
Rick: It's like mid-day and people are like, "Hey I'd be honored to smoke a joint with you," and it's like eh, no, you really don't.
Louis: I'm trying to cut them off before the guy throws and the guy who throws a brick would go, "no," but I would go, "no, no, nah I'll get it."
Rick: I did eat a brownie every now and then.
Louis: Well, let's just do the other film and then we'll jump on Rick. So what's the other film you have at South By?
Ethan: Okay, so the other film is In The Valley of Violence has a really interesting story which is that I had done these couple genre movies with Jason Blum who had been my longtime friend—he ran my theatre company—and he wanted me to do another horror film.
I said, Look, I'm done with that but I feel like you should expand the Blumhouse model into other genres. Like why aren't you doing sci-fi, why aren't you doing a spaghetti western, why aren't you doing, you know—it was also so encouraging to do things like The Howling, do monster movies. Like why not get into all that stuff?
I said, What I really want to do is a spaghetti western, so if you want me, find me a spaghetti western and I'll read it, but I'm out of the genre picture—you know the drive-in movie for a minute.
Jason had a meeting with Ti West who had some success doing horror movies. Jason wanted Ti to do a horror movie. Ti said, "Well, what I really want to do is a spaghetti western." And Jason said, "Well listen, why don't you go have dinner with Ethan."
Ti flew to New York and saw Macbeth and we went out afterwards and he had just this idea about a spaghetti western that I just thought was brilliant. We just said we're making the movie. And 6 months later we were in the desert in New Mexico making this movie. And I've never seen it with an audience and I don't really know how it is and we will see in Austin in a couple weeks from now.
Louis: Was it fun making it?
Ethan: It. Was. A. Blast. Because it was a real loving project. It was a shoestring budget. But to be out in the desert...
Rick: So were most spaghetti westerns.
Ethan: Yes, that's what was so fun about it—it was a great crew, it was one of the best times; it wasn't that challenging for me, so I could really have a good time. You know, playing a cowboy is playing a cowboy. I had a great time.
Rick: A guy and his dog, right?
Ethan: Yeah and his dog.
Rick: You have a dog.
Ethan: That's the thing I like—it's a revenge picture but some bad guys kill his dog.
Ethan: And that's the simple ideas...
Louis: That's actually pretty reasonable.
Rick: That's a pretty great reason.
Ethan: And so he goes and gets these bad guys. What I love about the script is that as he hunts these bad guys down, they start to become more and more human and you start to see they have families and they start to have things—but the guy—he gets them and they beg for their life and he says, "Eh, yes but you killed my dog."
Ethan: And it's like BOOM!
Rick: Is Travolta...
Ethan: Travolta's the marshal. He's actually the bad guy—it's a great dynamic in the script—he's actually a pretty decent guy, it's just his son is a raving prick and so he's gotta be on his son's side but he knows his son talks too much. His son's a bully.
It's a great dynamic because—the reason to see this movie—Travolta is so good in it, and it's so wonderful to see him to pop in another genre....
Louis: Is he fun to work with?
Ethan: You know, sometimes you meet these people and you're like, "Oh I see why you're a giant international movie star."
Rick: Yes. Why you are a star.
Ethan: It's like, WOW you are talented. Like his first scene was a three page monologue he has to make and I just have to listen. And you know the hard—people don't realize is that one thing that's hard about being like an international icon is this pressure that you're supposed to be great all the time that can be really stifling and not lend itself to—if you can't fail, you can't really be creative, you know? And he came on and he just was brilliant and he was having so much fun and he's so playful and he's a really kind dude, you know. And he was really enjoying being in a new environment and so I loved working with him. And one thing I know for sure is that he is excellent in the movie. One scene that I'm not in that I watched in the film—cause the script of it was just great—one of the other bad guys and he partner up—you'll see it, the character's name is Tubby—but I promise that scene will be awesome cause I watched them film it.
Louis: I talked to Quentin early on, about working with Travolta, and he was just in awe of what the guy could do.
Ethan: There's a big gift there. You realize he's succeeded at so many things and he's a natural showman. It's like there's that thing that big talent has—Michael Jackson kinda talent—where it's real charisma combined with sensitivity and intelligence and wit and—he's funny, he gets the joke, you know?
RICK INTERVIEWED BY ETHAN AND LOUIS
Louis: So let's turn to Rick.
Ethan: Yeah, should we put Rick in the hot seat?
Louis: Alright, so let's talk about Everybody Wants Some.
Rick: That's right, I was just thinking, God I wish I had a movie at South By—Oh, I do!
Rick: I'd forgotten about that! I really did! I was like—I'd forgotten. I made it so long ago.
Louis: Having spent an inordinate amount of time with your films recently, what intrigued me about Everybody Wants Some is that you have a way of deflecting intimacy. Your films are remarkably intimate without being painfully autobiographical.
Ethan: Or ever sentimental.
Louis: Yes, yes! You're never sentimental. But it's—and this film is open in a way more than any because it literally is about them coming together. So was that like revisiting your first week of college?
Rick: Yes, it's kind of like Dazed—it wasn't just the first week, it was like the greatest hits of college compressed into 4 days or whatever the timeline is. So yeah, just all those...
Ethan: I just rewatched Dazed with my sort of little cinema club.
Rick: Oh really?
Ethan: And they picked Dazed to watch, so I watched it with them. The interesting thing about watching it now, knowing you so much better, is that it's autobiographical from two characters' points of view, the freshman and, the senior character and...
Rick: Those are specific points of—don't forget Mike, Tony and Cynthia, that's a support group.
Ethan: Yes exactly! But it's really the greatest hits of high school. It's not like people want it to be the easy kind of autobiography, where it's like "the night I graduate"—no, that's the greatest hits of every school...
Rick: No, it's always a mishmash, and this is too, you know.
Louis: In this one, you are again working with a cast of unknowns, especially after the triumph of Boyhood—everybody's great in it.
Rick: Yes, the accents, their ages, they're older.
Louis: So now you're back with older—what was that like?
Rick: It was—I was actually had to think like, "Oh gosh, I'm middle aged. Can I make a youthful, ensemble comedy?" It crossed my mind—maybe, can I even still do that?
Ethan: And fortunately, you can. You haven't grown up that much!
Rick: I said yeah, I haven't really. ... I was right in there with the guys, you know. It was so fun.
Dazed was kind of fraught. You know, it was a studio film, I was under a lot of pressure, a lot of people didn't believe in it, we didn't have enough time to do it—all the usual things that just made it really difficult. That said, I loved it—I loved the cast and the experience but if I got outside of it, it was a pretty fraught experience. This was like none of that. I had all the people behind it—Megan Ellison and Paramount—I mean they just believed in the film, they believed in me. So all those pressures were gone and I could just totally luxuriate in, like, how fun it was—to work with this cast, we did it right, we all lived together for like two weeks before out in Bastrop in the bunk house, these guys bonded—it was just such a great team. I just felt the most, like, the full ensembles, like the best team, unified team, ever. Like we reached our full potential as a team, whether you win the national championship or not, you just kinda go, "Well, we did the best we could. We maximized ourselves." So that's how it felt and it was just fun.
Ethan: I remember reading the script to that when you first...
Rick: I was just so happy to be able to finally make this film!
Ethan: 'Cause you had the script for a while.
Rick: 10 years! You know, this is the film I've been sorta trying to get made for a long time. So I was just so grateful it wasn't like—I think by the time of Dazed I had a little of, that kind of entitlement, like, "Hell, yeah, this is the script for my next movie!" This, like, everyday I was, I'm just so happy to be able to do this.
Ethan: I remember reading the script.....I literally had tears streaming down my face as I was reading it. I just couldn't believe it. And then having spent, I don't know, 8-9 years, then seeing it, then seeing those guys realize that—which is really hard to do. I mean to really get young men to feel comfortable and feel relaxed and a group of people—I cannot wait for Friday night for the South By screening.
Rick: Honestly, I'm actually really looking forward to the Paramount SXSW screening. 'Cause I often don't, I'm like, "Em, I've already moved on to my next film."
I just look forward to having the cast back together. I'm just so proud of them. Every one of them. There's a few bigger parts—but everybody, like all of them.....no one disappears.
Ethan: It's a true ensemble.
Rick: Yes, yes.
Ethan: And you have no chance of being nominated for an Oscar. Doesn't that feel great?
Rick: Yes! To not have any chance at awards.
Ethan: There's no more pressure to be a serious filmmaker anymore.
Rick: Yeah, to just be solidly in a youthful, ensemble comedy in whatever genre I'm in.
Ethan: What was the story of Dazed about them trying to take the music away from you? Do you remember that? Like when you say it was fraught—
Rick: Just everything was a hassle. Everything was a pain. I was just under attack the whole time. Someone had the great idea that I should get modern bands to record 70s music. It'll help sell the movie, so let's put some of those—
Ethan: Great idea, right?
Rick: Yes, it'll help sell the album.
Ethan: "Don't have 'Slow Ride,' have..."
Louis: You had to give up your rights to the soundtrack to get certain songs.
Rick: Yes, and they cut all the money, so they wanted to cut out a lot of the music just for finances.
Louis: It's embarrassing because the albums they put together go on to become bestselling albums, but he didn't have a piece of it to make it perfect. For the art.
Rick: At the time, Kathy Nelson at Universal—see, I have no problem naming names now—
Rick: She had done the Reservoir Dogs album, and it was kind've 70s music and it hadn't sold well. So she was convinced we had to get new music to get...
Ethan: It would ruin the film in your eyes?
Rick: Yes, and they all thought I was crazy.
Louis: But then the album went gold and they put out a second one.
Rick: Multi-platinum. Somewhere between 2 and 3 million. It's almost triple platinum.
Louis: And you got none of that?
Rick: Yes, no. About a year or two in they heard I had never got anything, they sent me, like, a box of volume twos. They gave me some free CDs.
Ethan: The ones that they didn't sell.
Rick: Over the years I talked to one guy at the record company that released it and he felt it did really well because he had picked the order of the songs. I talked to Irving Azoff, he said how well they marketed it. He was really proud the way they marketed it.
Ethan: It was a marketing coup.
Rick: I said, really? It wasn't people just maybe seeing the movie and wanting the music from it?
Ethan: It had nothing to do with that.
Rick: I don't remember TV ads, or ads, even. But you guys are geniuses. Isn't that funny?
Louis: With Everybody Wants Some, what about the soundtrack for that?
Rick: So cool. Again, polar opposite experience. Like on Dazed I wanted them to do a double: "Ah, we can't do it cause of royalties." I said there's so much music. They did one volume and it was so unsatisfying, even though it sold. This I knew how to pitch it. Okay, triple vinyl. It's so great, vinyl's back. Just imagine, because there's so much music in it. Triple. The compromise – I got double vinyl.
Ethan: So you gotta always ask for more. That's the lesson.
Rick: If I wouldn't have asked for triple, I wouldn't have got double. But anyway, Warner Brothers is going to put out a double vinyl.
Louis: A local music store owner told me that he's in business right now because of vinyl. 40% of his business is vinyl. And the mark up is more. So he was in trouble a couple of years ago, but they're doing fine now because of vinyl.
Rick: That's why I thought, we're going to ride that wave. Anyway, the soundtrack is great. It was really fun —just the music in the movie is more diverse. It's just the way I felt about 1980 as opposed to '76. '76, I'm sheltered, FM Radio, one record store town, it's just rock, you know? But this is everything. It's disco, it's country, it's punk. It's like punk new wave, still metal, Van Halen obviously. Stuff like that. But that's how it felt.
Also the metaphor there was just being in college. High school you're trapped. College is like, ooo everything's on the table. Wide open. And it felt that way musically, it felt that way personally, and so that's what the movie is. You're just overwhelmed with the absolute freedom of that moment in time. Being cut loose from all of those... the oppression of, like, family, school, you know, and all that that I think was the subject in Dazed, this is sort of just the opposite. It's more fun. College is better than high school. This movie is better than that movie. That's how I feel. It's just more fun.
Ethan: Everybody's so beautiful in the movie. The young men, the young women. So gorgeous.
You know what they're doing, speaking of vinyl, for the Chet premiere, they're making Chet 45s of the two songs I do.
Rick: Oh, cool.
Ethan: Won't that be cool to get a 45.
Rick: Yes, we have a 45 from the movie.
Rick: Everybody wants a 45 album.
Ethan: I know, it's so strange that stuff's back. I love it.
Louis: Now with you two, do you, when you're working on projects without each other, will you call each other up to talk about whether a director's a pain in the ass or working with actors—
Rick: Yes, we're always aware of what's going on. It's always fun to hear, you know—
Ethan: It's fun for me to understand a director's point of view about the business and also to get Rick's advice about, you know—it's such a dance. With a director, you're working on a movie for a long period of time... You know, my life works in trimesters.
Every year, I'm almost forced to call up Rick and say, should I do this movie? It's a horror movie, but the part is kind've great, and the director says it's going to be like The Shining or Rosemary's Baby?
Rick says, "Every director says their stupid horror movie is going to be like The Shining or Rosemary's Baby and none of them are! He's gotta get better answers than that!"
It's wonderful and it's true. They all say it's going to be like Rosemary's Baby. Yeah right.
It's like any friendship, the more friends you have the wider your vision is, you know that you can see more of the world from your friend's point of view and you know...
Louis: Well, you know, you two are kind of a little unique in that you're both at the top of your game at the top of your field. That has to—
Rick: It's a little different. Ethan has more going on. Like that movie—my movie takes that year. Or the one's that you are in. So I have less that I'm doing without you. But you have a lot of plays and movies that I have no part in. Just the way the numbers work.
Ethan: If I just waited to get a part from you, I mean, I would have to spend years...
Rick: But you're in like... what? How many times have we worked together?
Louis: So what's the tenth going to be?
Ethan: I'm almost in half of your movies.
Rick: You're just under half.
Ethan: I'm just under half. I don't know what the next one will be.
Rick: If you're in the next one you'll be right (at half).
LOUIS INTERVIEWED BY RICK AND ETHAN
Rick and Ethan: Now it is time for you.
Rick: What was it like being on the other side?
Louis: At some point I had realized that I was not a director. I love directors, I love directing, but I'm not a director. And we're working on this documentary on Richard Linklater and I'm saying, "well I'm not really directing it." We showed a cut to Jonathan Demme, we were in Lisbon.
Jonathan was not kind to the cut. I mean, he was being very blunt but entirely constructive—until at one point I said, "Well, you know I'm not a director." Jonathan got mad at me—one of the very few times. He looked at me and said, "You're making a film—"
All three: "You are a director!"
Rick: However you're getting it made.
Louis: And it was like—on the plane back from Lisbon was the first time I thought and got the movie in my head. I'd been flirting around it. There were scenes I liked. There was—I could go into a polemic about Rick... easily. You know. But the film didn't make sense to me. And then it did, and Sandy was sleeping, and I sat there for two hours and really got it.
Ethan: That's when you made the film. In your mind—
Rick: That's when it clicked. With a documentary, you have to consider all that footage and all that stuff you had.
Louis: It was when I said, we have to start with Rick from Slacker. Where you can see him and where Rick is talking. And that's the first scene.
Ethan: I've never gotten to tell you, and you know as someone who has worked with him 9 times and somebody who considers Rick a close friend, you know, for me to like something like that would be very difficult... and I just loved it, I thought you did such a good job. And I know what you mean, if you didn't make it happy for you—if you did it to please Rick, which I've seen things—where people do that for friends, it's like these—then it would have no chance.
Louis: Because for Rick, it would have to not be about Rick.
Ethan: Yes, he's never—I remember showing the cut of Seymour: An Introduction, I did this film, this doc.
Louis: Right, it's great.
Ethan: And I worked so hard, and before I showed it to Seymour, I had to get it to a place where I could handle his rejection.
Ethan: Like if I showed it to him too soon, I knew because he's a very critical mind, actually, and I knew that he would have opinions about it, and I needed it to be at a place where I liked it enough that if he said, "you can't do this," I would know what my answer was. Because I knew that he wouldn't, you know.
Ethan: It was a great feeling when he did like it, but I know that I actually wasn't going to change if he didn't and that's, uh—
Rick: You know, it's funny, all three of us have made a portrait. I did that portrait of Augie (Garrido, longtime UT baseball coach).
Ethan: And mine was in great debt to yours. I saw Augie in the news last night, and I was like, "I can't believe the Longhorns, you guys have a channel for the Longhorns? It's like its own channel?" And they're interviewing him, but there he was, this beautiful soul, and I realized what an influence that doc had on me. You know? But wait I cut you off—
Rick: I was just saying, Yes, that relation to it. But that helped me in my relation to you (Louis) and Karen (Bernstein). It's like okay, I'm going to give you guys what Augie gave me. Which was total trust and I really appreciated that from him. It's kind of your film, I trust you, and that's just whatever. I've given up by agreeing, or even however we got here, that's just kind of like okay, I'll make my peace.
Ethan: And you also can't direct a documentary about yourself.
Louis: At one point I kept looking for drama in Rick's story which is hard to find because he's a filmmaker, and I was like, "oh, this is going to be a great question. So what would have happened if Boyhood failed?" And he was almost confused—he was like, "I don't understand the question. I would've made another movie." It was one of those moments—
Rick: I'm sorry I don't have a wagon to fall off of...
Louis: Actually, a very funny side story was, we were here one night and Jonathan (Demme) was here, and Rick was here, and Ron Mann, and a lot of young film people so we were talking film.
Towards the end of the evening a bunch of them ended up in the corner talking baseball. Jonathan went home and Ron, and it was just Michael Hollett, who publishes NOW, the weekly in Toronto, he's the editor and publisher, and Rick talking.
Rick goes, "Yeah, you know, I got to throw out a ball at an Astros game." Quite innocently Hollett goes, "Did you get it across the plate?" And Rick, like, looked at him like, "What... The guy disrespected me, he didn't have a glove, I was going to throw it nice but I threw it hard..." I never saw Rick like—I should've gone the jock route with the questions. I was like, "What about Newton Boys?" "Oh it didn't get the reception, but I made the film I wanted." "What about Me & Orson Welles?" "Yes, I made a truly—"
But Michael Hollett going, "Did you get it across the plate?"
Rick: Yeah, can I throw a baseball 60 feet?
Rick: Should have asked about ping pong. "How did you feel when you didn't win the Oscar?" Actually, I was more nervous—I put more psychic energy into winning a ping pong match against this hot shot Rice athlete two weeks ago than I did any of that bullshit.
Ethan: I can testify that's true.
Rick: Now that I care about.
Louis: At one point, the camera wasn't even rolling, but Rick looks at me and goes, "I never wanted to win an Academy Award. That was never a goal."
Rick: Wasn't even on the table. I'll never forget—they were all like, this is the end. This is the last day we have to do any of this shit.
Ethan: This is over. No matter what, this is a win-win situation. It was going to be over. I remember, though, how much—the first time that happened to you was with Waking Life, and how Waking Life came out, and it was the first year they ever had an Academy Award for animated film.
Rick: Oh that's right...
Ethan: And everybody started telling Rick, you're going to get nominated for an Oscar. As if he would make Waking Life to get nominated.
Rick: We were done with the film when we heard that there was an Academy–
Ethan: By the time we were through—
Louis: Wait, I have a great idea, there's an Academy Award for animated films, let's make a talkie film about philosophy.
Ethan: Yeah, yeah, that'll get the Academy voters going. But anyway, by the time the nominations came out and it didn't get nominated it was hard not to feel disappointed, because everybody had been—when your mom wakes up at 5:30 to watch the news, you know?
Rick: Ours was like a reporter had flown in from L.A., because they were immediately going to set up a David and Goliath, like you vs. Shrek. Like, dude... no....
Ethan: David didn't even get to the match, no less fight Goliath.
Rick: Then we didn't get nominated and there was nothing to talk about.
Louis: Waking Life is really interesting in that when we interviewed Jonathan Sehring at IFC he said that film just keeps on going. And then I just did a TED TALK, for high school students, and they were coming up and what they wanted to talk about was Waking Life... not Boyhood, not Dazed—
Rick: Yes, college kids... it's on syllabuses now, or it feels like it. Eternal college kid questions, though I think. Maybe.
Louis: So when Rick lost the Academy Award, I was in Marfa—
Ethan: I stopped believing in him that day. I put all this work into this friendship and then he went and lost? Fucking lost... So ridiculous.
Louis: So you wouldn't do another one of his movies?
Ethan: I'd never do another one, I work with winners!
Rick: I'm a loser. And that was—we haven't worked together since?
Ethan: No, weird, huh?
Rick: There's a big hiatus.
Ethan: We have to recover.
Louis: We were in Marfa, Texas, with Ron Mann showing his Altman doc, so I email Rick that night, "I just ran across a lobby card set for Two Weeks In Another Town, and it's really beautiful, and I don't collect Minnelli, are you interested?" And the next morning, and Rick must've gotten a couple of hundred emails.
Rick: Yes, dozens.
Louis: And very first thing the next morning he said, "I have two different style one sheet posters for Two Weeks In Another Town, but I don't have the lobby card set."
Louis: An Oscar is pretty neat, but come on a Minnelli lobby card set......
Rick: Yes, let's focus on that...
Ethan: It is funny though to watch—it is relevant to what an extent over the last 25 years that I've really been working and paying attention how much I've noticed the whole film industry turning into having a competitive nature. About how much money a movie is making... at first it was bad enough that they were clocking how much money they make and that was their judgement—
Rick: Yes, that was the original sin of this era.
Ethan: Now, get this, ready? What kind of release Ti West's movie is going to get will depend entirely on what our Rotten Tomatoes score is after the weekend that it premieres at South By...
Rick: Yes, the studio is watching it going... like this, right?
Ethan: Yes, you can now gauge, it's a 7.7 with the critic consensus is... oooh, it's a 5.6, oooh it's an 8.9. Everything is a competition.
Louis: What's remarkable—they don't care about the critics.
Ethan: But they can see it as whether... they generally use it as an excuse as to why they didn't get behind a film. I'll give you an example. A movie I did called Good Kill that Andrew Niccol did about the drone strikes and stuff, right? They can always say, well, the reviews weren't there. You're like, well actually there were a lot of great reviews if you wanted to get behind it.
Rick: That means there's not—you could still make an ad and put eight good reviews.
Ethan: That movie, of all movies, couldn't get shown at certain cineplexes because the right wing was so against it. The left wing wasn't for it, it's so critical of Obama.
So it's a movie that's kind of friendless. Because what critics are going to come out and say it's important... I mean it's so hard.
I bring it up only because of how much I've watched these things, everybody just turning everything into a game. That's why the Austin Film Society is so important.
Rick: Just last night watching Before The Devil Knows You're Dead (at at an Austin Film Society screening) from ten years ago.
It was just... what you're talking about, like, oh wow. This was such a triumph to be Sidney Lumet's last film, and yet it's so bittersweet because Phil is so good in it. You realize, oh wow. I didn't even... He's Phil Hoffman, he's great. But at the time...
Ethan: Just thought it was another great Phil Hoffman performance. But now there's a finite amount...
Rick: Yes, so you go, wow, goddamn is he good.
Louis: What was it like working with him?
Ethan: You know something I didn't say last night that you reminded me of that I found myself waking up thinking about it, because I had called Rick after he said to me, and it's so true... We were in rehearsal and Phil had this kind of allergy to anything in acting that wasn't true, like, when you were behaving fake, he was always trying to sniff it out. He was always trying to say, "out there in our life, you have to lie."
Rick: Or that's where you can lie.
Ethan: It's just a part of life, you lie to your family and your friends. You tell them the meal was good when it wasn't, you say you're sorry you didn't go to their event when you're glad you didn't fucking go to their event. But in art... there's no lying. That's what we're here to do. There can be no lying. That's the one—
Rick: Not in here.
Ethan: Not in here. In this sacred space, I will—and you know, like it or not like it, there has been something magic to me with our collaboration with Julie (Delpy)...
Rick: Yeah, immediately as you said that I jumped to me, you, and Julie in a room in Greece.
Ethan: There's this safe thing where we're just not going to lie about relationships in here.
Ethan: If we're going to write together, then we're not going to lie.
Rick: We give ourselves permission and well we're going to imply that you did have an...
Julie said, "Well everyone will hate you. Everyone will hate your character!"
We went, "Yes they would if we're playing by these rules, but our audience, our theoretical audience of 12 people, really wanted us to go all the way with an idea and be honest."
Louis: Well, that's why I can't watch Before Midnight over and over again. There's 30 minutes of the best minutes ever about a relationship on film.
Rick: It's unnerving.
Louis: Watching the clip we had when editing the Linklater doc, the one where Ethan you're in one room and Delpy is in another at the hotel...was painful every time.
Ethan: Try writing it.
Rick: It was painful (laughs).
Ethan: It's funny, the first two are real blessed experiences in my mind. The first one was just... a dream.
Rick: We were in a bubble of euphoria.
Ethan: In Vienna with the most beautiful, intelligent woman in the world. And we're like hanging...
Rick: All the sexiness of youth and being in Europe.
Ethan: It was so fun, and then the second one is more mature. We're in Paris. I was going through a really painful divorce. And it was just a little helium balloon to let you know the dark time was going to pass. But the third one... even though we were in the most beautiful location.
Rick: We were in paradise.
Ethan: My memory of it is just work. It was... writing that fight scene.
Rick: It was so weird to be in paradise and to be really challenged in such an existential way whether we should be doing it or not, but that was kind of what the movie was. We used that. They are in paradise and yet...
Louis: The whole rhythm at the end of the movie is any time they skirt away from the apocalypse they go right back. And they have to.
Ethan: Remember that game, where you have to get the ball to roll up, and you have to squeeze it—
Rick: You have to get that momentum going.
Ethan: What Rick kept saying, it's what I love about that scene, you have to remember in every scene, they think the fight is over. We're going to stop fighting right after I say this.
Ethan: And then you think, okay I'm letting it go, I'm letting it go... you know what, I just need to say this one thing...
Rick: Since you just gave me that look, that dredges up...
Louis: And the thing is I've—over the course of my life I've walked out of literally dozens of those fights, at one moment or another, saying okay I can get out now. And this is that fight, and you can't get out of it, and it becomes more and more painful. Which is I why love that moment of the two of you outside and you go, "This is real life, it ain't much but it's all we've got."
Rick: Not perfect but it's...
Ethan: Yes, Yes.
Louis: Before Sunset has the best ending in the history of romantic movies. I'm sorry but it is.
Ethan: And they wanted us to change it...
Rick: The studio was like, well it doesn't work.
Ethan: You have to reshoot the ending... They just wanted a kiss.
Louis: But Before Midnight...I'm praying during the last third—I am praying—for a moment of redemption like at the end of Before Sunset—I want that cleansing moment... but it's not not real, it's not there. But you get out of it by saying, y'know this is real life, it's not perfect but it's the best we've got.
Ethan: Real life doesn't have that. The truth is there's no point in making a third film if you're not going to say that...
But that's the problem because the first two deal entirely with romantic projection and, dealing with the dailyness of life is very hard.
Rick: That's what was so hard, I talked about it in the documentary too. It was just so hard to be in the middle of that, to make 'em immediate.
Ethan: I was glad to hear you say that, I didn't know you felt that way...I knew I felt that way, but I didn't know that you did. That's my memory of it too.
Ethan: (to Louis) We didn't put you in the hot seat very well.
Louis: No, but—
Rick: I know, did you notice how Louis kind of shifted it back on his—
Louis: I'm very sporting about this.
Ethan: Y'know we love talking about ourselves.
Rick: He's very uncanny that way, let's put it back on Louis.
Rick (imitating Louis mockingly): At Sundance, y'know uhh, we got a good review in the Hollywood Reporter.
Louis: (laughing) Haha yes!!
Ethan: No, it's so wonderful though when you feel that feeling of people getting it! I'm telling you. When I watched it alone, and I said, aw, you really did it and umm
Louis: Karen and I—
Ethan: Yes, Yes, the whole team did.
Rick: A film like that...
Ethan: Everybody who worked on it, and I know, it's very hard to make a good documentary, it's misleading in that it's a lot more like writing than I realized...
Ethan: Because it's never-ending, you could always add more, you could always add less, you could always change it.
Rick: I remember going off after my one documentary, being just so relieved, to be able to do—
Ethan: —something with a script—
Rick: I do my eight takes and y'know, rehearse it and I'm moving on and I just didn't have 600 hours of footage, it was a very specific story.
Louis: What I was watching for was what was wrong and I concentrated on that. Until one night I thought I'm just going to watch the last third and see what's right, which had never crossed my mind.
Rick: You take it for granted.
Louis: Yes, I mean, once it worked you put it in a little place in your head and don't think about it. I watched it, I thought this actually kind of works, it's doing what it needs to do.
But we got the review—and you know it never—like y'know those moments in the movies, I never—
Louis: I never actually thought the film would get an immediate review. When someone came in with the Hollywood Reporter—and so everybody is passing it from phone to—and there's a review, and I'm like giddy I'm like woohoohoo.
Ethan: It's so nice when they're—It's equally as bad when they're negative but we'll deal with that another day.
Rick: Enjoy the—
Ethan: But what was that, was that I was thinking y'know I have that funny relationship to that, about noticing what's good too, and y'know, which is that, I have a funny habit of when moments are true, like, I kept laughing last night at really painful moments that fill that, just 'cause they're so true! It's so—he gets it that there's a scene in Before the Devil Knows You're Dead, that thing where his father tells him he loves him and his reaction is you can't do that, you can't be nice to me now. It's, you can't just wipe away my life, and I know—
Rick: It's a great intense scene.
Ethan: I now know the script well enough, that I can tell the little things he's adding, or just the ways he repeats a line.
Rick: I was sitting next to you at the screening, we could've bugged everyone around us because I wanted to ask "okay now was that in the script?" That little thing between you and Phil, that laugh there.
Ethan: That's not in the script.
Rick: How did Sidney feel about that laugh? Cause I know you guys, that was a rehearsal thing.
Ethan: Phil had a great thing of, athletes do this sometimes, they have a little thing they do to get 'em in rhythm. DeNiro does it, he repeats his first line over and—just to get himself in rhythm and just it's an interesting—it's a repetition exercise. But anyway, but Phil had a wonderful thing which is that he would just try to make you laugh about something, just to spark some real emotion, it might be saying something mean, just to get you going (laughter), and then all of a sudden something real happens, and then he goes (claps hands together like a starting pistol), y'know it's like once you've got traction, then I'm going to go into the moment. And Sidney left a lot of those little moments in, where now they're vintage Phil Hoffman moments.
Rick: God, his kind of stalking physicality really struck me too, y'know? Just his body type, and Sidney really showed, he just let him walk around, he's like a bull, y'know.
Louis: But what's amazing is he could also be so very delicate.
Rick: Oh yeah, he was like a ballet dancing bull.
Ethan: Don't forget Phil was an athlete; he wrestled, and he was very aware of his body. I remember in Death of a Salesman, the way he walked on carrying those bags, it was like ten million pounds, like he was carrying the weight of the world.
Rick: Was he too young to play that part? I know he wasn't spiritually.
Ethan: I don't know, that part didn't bother me because there's so much of the play that's flashbacks that he—
Rick: That's the play that killed him.
Ethan: He probably technically really was too, I mean, when you see Brian Dennehy do it.
Rick: Yes, which I saw that.
Ethan: And he was much older and it's sadder, and there's something sadder about watching an old man act the flashbacks. When Phil did the flashbacks, he was the right age for the flashbacks. He was a 40 year old man with a son, so in a way you maybe are going to get something wrong but Phil was amazing in that play. Of course, if I were directing it I would cast another guy.
Kimberley Jones interjecting: Can I ask, what is your (addressing Rick) relationship to Louis' movie?
Rick: (sighing) I guess that I don't know, I guess that's really—evolving. I'm really happy, I'm happy for Karen and Louis that people seem to like it, just from filmmaker to filmmaker, I know they put a lot of time into it. I always say I'm probably not the right audience for the movie. (laughing) But y'know it meant something to me, even, Ethan says "I've seen profiles of you in this magazine, that magazine, that's the first thing that it felt like: Oh, that's you."
Ethan: That's the first time I recognized Rick. ...
Rick: But did I answer your question? I wasn't trying to be glib I just, I think it's weird realizing you'd be in a phase of your career that people would want to do something about.
Louis: We have to fly to L.A. tomorrow morning because we're co-hosting a John Sayles retrospective at Cinefamily.
Ethan: Oh yeah, yeah.
Louis: And tomorrow night we're showing Piranha and Corman's coming.
Ethan: Oh wow!
Rick: Did Sayles write Piranha?
Louis: Yep, and Dante directed, but Joe's out of town.
Rick: Oh too bad. He did other things for Corman though right?
Louis: He wrote Lady in Red, Piranha, and Battle Beyond the Stars.
Rick: Yeah, yeah. He's kind of the last of the generation that had to work for Corman to get...
Louis: Yeah that's somebody, those were, that paid for Secaucus Seven. Those three films paid for Secaucus Seven.
Rick: God, I love Secaucus Seven. How old's Corman now? Is he 90?
Louis: Somebody, I think both he and Stan Lee must have been dead for 25 years?
Ethan: Yeah, they're in a room with Castro.
Rick: Yeah, they really are.
Louis: I was 14 when I met Stan Lee in a bar, and he was old THEN. Corman stopped directing in 1970.
Louis: And he directed 15 movies before that! But Julie, Jonathan connected with Julie and she's just been so sweet and said yes I'll get John there.
Rick: There was a pretty wonderful documentary a few years ago about him...
Louis: Hollywood's Wild Angel? Or the Christian Blackman one?
Rick: About Corman?
Louis: Yeah, there's a couple about Corman. The oldest one, about ten years old, is or 15—
Rick: Is that the one where Nicholson kind of cries? He's talking about Corman and how he gave 'em jobs.
Louis: I can't remember. And it has a great thing with Jonathan where they're doing him and he goes, "Let's be Corman-esque, here, move the camera, let's start walking" and so they start walking. Let's get some action.
Rick: Haha, let's be Corman-esque.
Louis: There are lots of great Roger Corman stories.
Rick: And the one where Ron Howard tells the story, he's complaining 'cause he's like, y'know, it's the end of the movie, I needed like 500 extras, I got 40, it's the end of the whole—he's looking at him, says, "Well, Ron, if this movie goes well you'll never have to work with me again."
(Louis laughs loudly)
Rick: "On the upside, y'know, you'll never have to..." hahaha.
Louis: Oh the Corman stories are so...
Rick: And then it did do money, says, "Just got a check, Ron, just got check for a million – you're getting $100,000 of it!" Says, I'm geting $900,000, but you're getting $100,000!
Ethan: I feel really lucky that I got to work with Joe Dante, who is so closely affiliated to that era and I did my first play for Joseph Papp's Public Theater, so of these two big loves of mine I got to get in touch with. Joseph Papp who is such an important figure and got to be part of Corman.
Rick: Yes, just to kind of get near it.
Louis: I've written about Corman for so much—I've never met him, this is going to be, I haven't even been trying!
Rick: Yes it's a philosophy you're writing about, not HIM.
Louis: Russ Meyers and I hung out but I wasn't as intimidated by Russ, even though Russ is a trip.
Rick: It's hard to be intimidated when he's such a guy—whatever he is. But yeah, Corman's an institution.
Louis: Russ just was always like, he wanted us to do stuff for him, he wanted to get information out there. So Russ was friendly to us. But Corman was intimidating. And everybody—Bartel, Sayles, Demme, Coppola—they all had Corman stories.
Rick: Everybody has a lot of affection for him.
Ethan: What about John Landis? Where is John Landis now?
Rick: Y'know, I've gotten to know him recently. He's the sweetest guy.
Louis: That's what I hear.
Rick: And y'know he's kind of the greatest to be an e-mail buddy with? 'Cause you don't get a personal email, but you get some weird thing he found, y'know a little five minute clip, you're on his thing and he sends the most fascinating, weird, really cool things.
Ethan: Aw I love 'em.
Rick:...Curate, that's why it's important to have interesting tasteful friends 'cause they send you good stuff, not stupid shit.
(Louis and Rick chuckling)
Louis: What I endlessly send out is Henry Griffith's "Tortured By Joy," the short film.
Ethan: Did you ever see—Martin Landau has an introduction to some new book on James Dean and he wrote the most beautiful thing about James Dean.
Ethan: Yes he talks about being—
Rick: Did they study together? What was their relationship?
Ethan: Yes, they were roommates when they were studying together, with Stella Adler or whatever. He tells this story of being at the Prague Film Festival and they're doing some tribute to him or something like that and he's walking around, and there in some bookstore is a life-size, cardboard cutout of James Dean from Rebel with the cigarette... He writes so beautifully about what he sees in the reflection between them.
He feels like he's still 19-20, and there in the reflection is an ancient man. For a second he's penetrating time, and there's his friend. He's like, "Good on ya man, it's so great you got that part in Rebel, what the hell happened? These years, like, you didn't live it at all."
Rick: "You were a baby when you died."
Ethan: "You were a baby when you died." And he starts thinking like, did time even happen, because he felt his presence so clearly even though it was a cardboard cutout.
Rick: I know...
Ethan: I remember thinking, God, this guy's a good writer...
Rick: Well do you feel that way about River?
Rick: He died when you were...
Ethan: It's crazy to me that—
Rick: I remember we were shooting Before and—
Ethan: He had just died.
Rick: I remember he had died within the year. I remember he died in whatever it was, November, and then we were shooting in whatever, June, July... I remember one day you came and it was like, "God, I had a dream about River last night, we were talking and I was telling him about the movie and he said oh it sounded great"—y'know you were just kinda like, he was still kinda with you then, and that was a long time ago.
Ethan: Yes, and y'know what it was, was that he never got the experience that I got on Before Sunrise, which is a big difference when you start acting with people who are essentially your peers versus being told what to do — watching you be a filmmaker, I mean you were still what, 32-33? You were still a young man, you were in charge of everything. it was like looking and going like, you're running this shit, but he's doing what he wants to do, and we're having this experience that you designed, it was this experience that you'd put a lot of thought into. It was realizing that you could have agency over your own life, y'know, and it was this experience that River didn't get to have. Y'know, acting when you're a kid is different, even. Gus (Van Sant) is a great director and River had this really important experience, but you're still being led, as opposed to being asked to join a mission, like, "Join me in my mission", y'know? As opposed to like, I'm going to teach you, you're my pupil.
Louis: Matthew and Jack both talk about that with Rick, where Matthew does that great bit on Shirley Maclaine, where she does Rick going, "y'know, just be there!" It's that collaborative thing.
Ethan: And River didn't get to have that is what I'm thinking, y'know when you mentioned that dream to me I remember, that was the first time, this is how annoying being young is, some part of me thought there isn't a word for what I mean, but it's like a little bit jealous, or almost a little bit cool that River had died? Y'know that he was, I'd been so jealous of him, and he was just at cheating-legend status with his death, and it was like, wow you've one-upped me at everything.
Rick: And now you're going to be James Dean.
Ethan: And now you're going to be James Dean and live forever and you're always going to be young and you're always going to be cool, and then slowly realizing that now it's not cool, you're missing, and you don't get to be a dad, and you don't get to grow up, and then the sadness comes in.
Ethan: Because, it's a hard thing to say, but I still think about what River would do with the part, I still think it.
Rick: What would River be doing now...
Ethan: What would River be doing? So if River was cast in a Ti West—Oh shit, he'd be good in it. My main thought is that he's so much better than me. A lot of my big breaks were—you know who Andrew Niccol really wanted for Gattaca was River! Y'know what I mean, that's like.
Rick: That's who I wanted for Before Sunrise but—
(Louis huge laugh, all chuckling)
(Ethan pretends to punch Rick)
Ethan: The thing is now at 45, it's that you didn't really get to live and I—y'know it does, I do think that. And there's another hurdle, y'know in your early 20s about growing up, but there's another hurdle in mid-life—
Ethan:—And that's the one Phil didn't get over, like the "Is that all there is to a fire" hurdle. So, I'm really just going to keep living, because when you're young it's who am I, what am I, and then you get a little older and there is this other thing, y'know the cliche mid-life crisis. But it's real, there's a real demon in the woods about, what am I living for? What is this all about? What's going to happen when we die? And particularly because Phil had achieved so much, I called him about Synecdoche and I was like, "Listen man, I gotta tell ya, like, that's like Samuel Beckett good." I said you're doing work that is the stuff that—you're doing it, man. I had to say it to him like this, and I hate to sound like a fan, but that's what we dreamed of, you're doing it.
Ethan: That same year it was that Mike Nichols movie, he was nominated for an Oscar, he was just tossing off little performances like that, what was that one with Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts, Mike Nichols directed it... Charlie Wilson's War. Phil just cocked off this thing, he's working with Mike Nichols, cocked off this thing, he's doing, he's playing Iago, he's doing Death of a Salesman. Remember he got bad reviews for Death of a Salesman and I wanted to kill these people, I was like don't you know? Like this is, he's the real, we have a great artist. But there was something, the more successful you get the more people want from you, the more boards you're on, the more parent-teacher conferences you have to go to, and then you just start feeling yourself sink. Joy gets harder, and I feel it here with me, but I know that for River and Phil, these giants in my psyche, both dying of heroin overdoses—
Rick: And two different generations...
Ethan: At two different junctures...
Rick: My favorite lines of cinema last year was Tony Bennett in Amy, he says, kinda her tragedy, here's old wise Tony Bennett, I don't know if I'll get it right but he said something like, "Well, if you live life long enough, it teaches you how to live it." But it was like coming from him...
Louis: And Tony gets stoned every day.
Rick: Yeah, he's figured it out.
Louis: His son manages his career and he gets stoned every day. And performs every day.
Rick: Life taught him how to live it, oh here's what I have to do. I'm not going to do heroin, I'm going to smoke a joint.
Louis: I'm going to come out and I'll do like five songs during the set, but I'll nail 'em, I'll nail each song.
Rick: But was some kind of...
Ethan: I didn't say it about Albert Finney last night but I was thinking about him in that. He has the same thing that Hackman does, which is a tremendous respect for the profession. And that if you can't do it at a high level, he's just not sure he wants to do it. I remember Nicholson wrote a wonderful obit for Brando which is saying that actors—it's so hard for us to retire, because people end up offering you a lot of money just to do some, just to kind of show up, and it seems kind of stupid not to take it. It's like Brando, if you let him retire after Dry White Season, it's a pretty brilliant career. He changed acting twice.
Louis: Once more than most.
Ethan: Yes, y'know, it's twice more than most.
Louis: And his roommate was Wally Cox.
Rick: Yes, Brando wrote an autobiography and I noticed he was talking about Wally Cox a lot and I was like oh wow. Couldn't be from two more different world—
Ethan: Did you guys see Listen to Me? The one, the doc he did, all his tapes.
Rick: It's on cable right now.
Ethan: It's really interesting.
Rick: I liked it.
Ethan: I liked it too.
Louis: I remember trying so hard to like Missouri Breaks, because I loved (Arthur) Penn and I loved Brando. I've watched it like three times.
Rick: There's still some stuff I remember.
Ethan: You can't forget Brando in the dress.
Louis: That was a film I just really really wanted to like, and tried so hard.
Ethan: It's a very very imperfect film.
Ethan: But it does have wonderful work in it.
Louis: It does have wonderful work in it, the film doesn't work but... now when I think of the Before films, the only films that are in that ballpark at all are In a Lonely Place, Palm Beach Story, and Last Tango in Paris, where they actually deal with the demystification of romance. And Last Tango just brilliantly.
Ethan: But you know Last Tango is another one of those that it's so good, and it's so effortless, that it makes everybody think they can make a movie like that. Kind of like Polanski's Rosemary's Baby, everybody thinks "I'll make a horror movie," they think "I'll make an erotic movie, it'll be like Last Tango in Paris, and nah. There always cheap—
Rick: And no one has. Remember what we said in Paris, why didn't we watch that for Paris. Cause we watched certain...
Ethan: We were just trying to explore those...
Louis: I did the whole film where it sets up the first half where sex is mythology, and is Mount Olympus and this last half where it's just desperate.
Rick: Yes, where it turns and it's just—
Louis: I mean he is such, it rips you off, it's like Before Midnight.
Ethan: But for me, as like an acting student, it's interesting, there really are two movies that are extremely important in the movement of performance, and one is On the Waterfront, which is the full embodiment of everything Stanislavski and Chekhov started and Kazan, they just, there it is, it's moment to moment acting. He IS another human being, he's in character, it's the method at complete perfect work. Y'know Kazan is using this movie, it so works on so many levels, but as an actor, that what you want, right? And then, he upped it with Last Tango, where it's not a performance actually, it's self-expression dis—
Rick: Yeah, it's a revelation.
Ethan: Disguised as a movie, and there's actually a personally revelatory moment onscreen. You're watching a person's relationship to themselves change, he's exploring his own identity on film for us to watch in service of a story, it's like taking it to ANOTHER level. So not only is he not regurgitating some old version of himself, he's still going with it.
Rick: He said he'd never give that much of himself again, after that. After Godfather it must've been a moment where he just kind of had to do that.
Ethan: I think it was the last flourishing, y'know, sometimes artists have these moments where they first bloom and there's a lot of great stuff and then the world kinda works 'em, and then sometimes the talent just bursts out again.
Rick: The mid to late 60s weren't great for Brando, he had kinda fallen in between.
Louis: But then the later career, Last Tango, Godfather....
Rick: Yes, Godfather, Last Tango....
Ethan: And weren't they within 18 months of each other? They were all really close, well Apocalypse was a little bit later but....
Louis: God, I always think what a run, Godfather, Conversation, Godfather II, Apocalypse Now and One From the Heart, I would argue strongly for One From the Heart, which I think is an amazing movie.
Ethan: Yes, we were just talking about it yesterday.
Louis: You guys have to come back soon—
Ethan: So we can ask you some more questions!