Larry Charles Question & Answer Session at Sundance
Transcribed by Michael G Smith
Transcribed by Michael G Smith
|LC: Hi. Are there actually any questions?
Q: How long did it take to shoot?
LC: Twenty days.
Q: Where did you shoot it?
LC: That movie is shot entirely in downtown Los Angeles with very little art direction. (Pause) Just shout out. Shout out your abuse. Come on.
Q: What are you trying to tell the world with this film?
LC: What are we trying to tell the world with this film? Well, I think, listening to Bob's last monologue, he stopped trying to figure things out a long time ago. I mean, we're trying to say a lot of things, I think. And it seems kind of presumptuous of me to sort of explain too much about what's going on here because there's a lot of different layers to it. I tried to make something that's like a great Bob Dylan song, something that you would have to go back to over and over again to sort of get all the various layers of meaning out of it . . . which is kind of maybe a pretentious ambition but that was the intention actually.
Q: It worked.
LC: Oh, thank you. Thank you very much.
Q: As you were writing it, did you have Bob Dylan in mind?
LC: We don't talk about the writing of this movie. I'll say that Sergei Petrov and Rene Fontaine are two very talented men! Yes? Someone asked who was cast first. Actually, Luke Wilson, I believe, just like heard about it but didn't see a script and just volunteered to be in it right off the bat and it was very courageous of him and I'm very deeply indebted to him.
Q: Did Bob Dylan write the script?
LC: You know, it's easy to ask me that question. Go ask him. (Pause) IF. The
question was IF Bob Dylan wrote the script. Yes, I understand. That's a fair
question. I have a hung answer to that.
Q: Where was Susan Tyrell?
LC: Well, Susan Tyrell played the Fortune Teller and she was part of a very big segment actually that wound up falling by the wayside temporarily. As I said, this is a work in progress. Who knows what'll happen next?
Q: Put her in!
LC: Yeah, she was great, she was great. There's a lot of great stuff that did not wind up in the movie that you saw, the version that you saw, and I'm disappointed . . . and the actors completely committed to everything and gave it their all and it's always a painful process when you have to make those sort of choices.
Q: What country was it supposed to take place in?
LC: It's, it's . . . essentially, it's like a parallel America. I mean it's like a third world America. It's America that's lost all these wars. But, by using downtown Los Angeles as is, what we're suggesting is it's not really that far away from where we are right now.
Q: How did you acquire the star power of the cast?
LC: I think it was a combination of factors. I mean the script was very rich for actors. The schedule was very short. People had to come in and really hit the ground running. I shot it almost the way you'd coach a football game. We had a series of plays and you would call this play in the huddle and we would go out with a series of cameras and we would shoot all these
intersecting moments. And when it worked it was very exhilerating, like scoring a touchdown. The actors had a real challenge on their hands with the amount of words they had, the amount of choreography and movement, the cameras . . . and so that was the first thing that was very exciting to them. I think, working with Bob, you can't underestimate that attraction. He was certainly a magnet being able to approach these people. And then I'm a good closer and I came in to close the deal . . . The cast? Oh, the cast, the whole cast's here actually; I thought they abandoned me long ago! If you have any . . . Should I just bring them out?
Oh, here's the cast!
LC: All right, so director tirades towards them now. I feel like Phil Donahue now. That's even an old reference now. Who's like the latest person who does this, I don't know, Ricki Lake? Even that's twelve years old.
Q: John, why did you do this movie?
John Goodman: Strictly for the bread, man.
Q: Serious question, why did you do this movie? You don't have to do this .
LC: John, you want the microphone?
JG: Nah, he doesn't have one. I don't need one either. Why did I do it? Why
Q: Who's original concept was the production design for the film . . .
LC: I collected . . . There were two sorta . . . There's a lot of juxtapositions in this movie, clearly, content-wise and style-wise. I've been directing these Larry David Curb Your Enthusiasm shows on HBO. Those are done . . . Thanks . . . Those are done on video and they're mostly improvised. And then we had the script. And I started collecting news photos actually, from magazines and newspapers for about a year. And so I wanted it to look like a newspaper photo actually. I had newspaper photos of Iraq and Iran and the Middle East and Africa and these colors . . . we tried to sort of create a palate from those colors. So I tried to sort of juxtapose those two forms, this kind of very loose improvisational form and this very sort
of formalized color scheme, you know. And I mean I kept on saying it's like Shakespeare done by John Cassavetes or Robert Altman. That's what I was trying to sort of accomplish and that's sort of the genesis of that. The DP,
by the way, a man named Rogier Stoffers, is an incredibly gifted director of photography and did a fantastic job. I want to give him credit as well as the editors Pietro Scalia and Luis Alvarez - also really made the movie what it is. Thank you.
Q: How did you get Gandhi?
LC: Oh, you know, he has an agent and you negotiate. He didn't want any cows. That was his main thing . . . in his dressing room, you know?
Q: I don't have any questions. I just want to say I got it.
LC: Then you are one very cool dude. I like you very much.
Q: I was just wondering if any of the actors had any fun stories about Bob
Dylan . . .
LC: None that they'll admit. I'll tell you one. I mean Bob is so enamored of the actors. I think at first he wasn't sure how much or how little he could put into this. And once these actors came and they made this kind of commitment and this devotion and sort of broke through all these personal barriers to give these kind of performances, he had to elevate his game as well. And he was in many situations with all these actors where he was so blown away, sometimes, because he's not a professional actor and he's not
used to this kind of process, he would forget that he was in the scene. And there was a scene with John and Jessica where they were going at it with each other and he's sitting there and over and over and over again he was watching it so rapt . . . His attention was so rapt he'd forget to do his lines. And I'd go "Bob!" you know and the great thing about doing this on
24P is I can actually be talking to him while we're doing the scene, go back, keep going, you know. But he would be so . . . He was so into the movie even when he was in the movie that he would often forget that he was in the movie. So it's just a testament to his level of intensity there too.
Val Kilmer: I'll tell a quick story. I lost my voice though. But the piece that they asked me to do was about three pages long and Bob said, "Yeah, it's like a curse being born" or something. And I really wanted to act with him so I kept finding pieces I thought we could turn into more interaction but he said (imitation Dylan voice) "Nah, I think you should do it."
(Laughter & applause)
LC: That was something that came up again and again also. I mean, there is .. . The script is very, very ornate and very poetic and yet we did ad lib a lot. But there was a certain line in the sand sometimes that we didn't cross.
Jessica Lange: Well, you know, I never played a character quite like this before. And, you know, I mean it was, it was a pleasure really to do it, to work with this group of actors and to, you know, speak words that Bob Dylan
wrote. How many opportunities do you have to do that in your career? So I mean there was no reason not to do it.
LC: And she looks hot too, doesn't she? She looks great. She wouldn't show me what she was gonna wear. She was in Chicago preparing this other movie and she would not show me what she was gonna wear. And Abigail, the costume person, would go, "She doesn't want to show you, she doesn't want to show you." And then she showed up on the set looking like that. So I was
Q: This movie is like many Dylan songs. It doesn't make any sense at first but it has the kind of power (blah, blah, blah) . . .
LC: I think that's a compliment so thank you. That was great. You can't buy us that . . . That was great. Thank you.
Q: I have to say I think it's a very courageous film . . .
LC: On behalf of all these people I thank you.
LC: Yes, there were . . . David Thompson of the BBC was a very important supporter of this film in the early stages. Jeff Bridges couldn't be here because he's shooting. Ed Harris, by the way, you know, the blackface . . . I mean, it's . . . You know, the actors, I'd ask them to do these crazy things first thing in the morning and they would go, "Okay." They never, never flinched. A very courageous group of actors and I'm deeply forever indebted to them. I know that wasn't an answer to a question but I just
thought I'd volunteer that.
LC: Anything else? Thank you very much.
Larry Charles' Intro at Sundance
|I made some notes. Of course I can't read them because of
the glasses, the trembling, the penmanship. But I'm going to try to just
get through this really quickly. I stand before you humbled. I've been
to the mountain and I came back with the tablets. I've talked to the
burning bush. I've done that|
and it's really a miracle that we're here today. It really is. Thank you all for being here with us. There's a lot of people to thank. Since you haven't
seen the movie you might hate it. I don't want to drag all those people's names into it so I'm going to give them a break. But I want to thank some
people who will go down in the ship with me in case anything happens. I want to thank our executive producers Joe Cohen, Anatoly Fradis and Guy East who've been extremely instrumental. I want to thank our producers who have believed in the project, Nigel Sinclair and Jeff Rosen, crucial people. I want to especially thank Sundance and Geoff. Since I've been here I've been treated with a warm embrace. You know, everything my mother couldn't give me, I've gotten here. I have drunk from the teat of Sundance and I am quenched. Thank you very much.
A lot of people have asked me, "Well, what is it about, what's it about, what's it about?" And I say, "Well, it's a sci-fi-film-noir-spaghetti-western-musical-comedy" and usually that quiets everybody down. So, you know, is it a comedy, is it a documentary, is it a
drama? You know, it's like yes or no? You know, it's like you'll tell me, hopefully. Maybe we'll have a panel on that. It's also a work in progress. Of course, you know, I believe that everything is a work in progress. You know, I think the idea of a movie saying "The End", that's kind of an illusion. You know, we know now. Even when you die, it's not really the end. We know that. So, everything is a work in progress.
We're a work in progress, absolutely. We have some amazing actors who've chosen to join us tonight. It's kind of the America's Most Wanted - actors' edition. You know, so I'd like to sort of bring them up and have you sort of
see them and meet them. Laura Elena Haring, would you please come up? Come on up. Christian Slater, would Christian Slater come up, please?
And Val Kilmer, would Val Kilmer join us, please? The great Mickey Rourke, will Mickey Rourke please join us? Luke, Luke you want to come up and join us? Luke Wilson! Miss Jessica Lange, would you please join us?
Mr. John Goodman is here with us tonight. Have I forgotten anybody? Who's that? Oh, yes, Bob Dylan, ladies and gentlemen!
And Penelope Cruz! Please enjoy the movie. Thank you very much.