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Interview : Andrés and Barbara Muschietti – IT

Drew Turney



To some of us, the idea of working so closely with family members would be its own special kind of hell, but brother and sister team Andrés and Barbara Muschietti have made a horror movie powerhouse duo that’s set to conquer Hollywood.

After their smash hit with 2013’s “Mama”, shepherded to screens by Guillermo Del Toro, the Argentine producer and director were handed the reins to one of the most anticipated horror remakes around, the adaptation of Stephen King’s It.

After a long development process with “True Detective” wunderkind Cary Fukunaga before he left the project, director Andrés and producer Barbara came on board the tale of a gang of kids who face a supernatural entity in smalltown New England, and Hollywood is already betting big on their talents.

They’re attached to “The Jaunt” (another King adaptation), the movie version of hit game “Shadow of the Colossus”, and the big screen outing of cult 80s TV cartoon series “Robotech”.

But before the Muschiettis inherit the keys to Hollywood, they sat down to talk to in LA about getting notes from Stephen King, why so many adaptations of his work suck so hard and why South American directors are conquering the horror genre.

How long was the production?


12 weeks.

Did you get good feedback from test screenings?


Amazing feedback.


Yeah. I was a bit concerned about showing the movie without it being finished, but the studio had their process and they test movies early on. It was a good journey because feedback from people really helps, even though they are tiny things, you start taking the polls about what the movie means to a fresh audience.


It’s a blank screening, people don’t know what they’re coming to see but most of them had actually seen the teaser. The teaser is very much a horror film teaser and the film is a lot wider than that.

The reaction to the teaser was pretty huge.


Yeah it really exploded. There were some expectations because of all that but we didn’t see something that big coming.

So you intend for it to be a different film from what we all saw in the teaser?


It’s not different. The teaser is just the horror aspect of the movie and the movie has more flavors, more drama, especially the story.


Well, you laugh because the kids are hilarious. And then we get into Beverly, who has a really bad situation at home.


Yeah, there’s a really emotional build to the group. It’s not just horror, it’s a beautiful story of friendship and loss and love, and there’s a lot of different emotions happening. We all know the story so we know about all the big movements, the love triangle, the struggle to stay alive not only from the threat of the monster but also from the families. There’s all kinds of abuse and neglect, it’s a full drama.

It’s such a big book, in a movie a little over two hours what did you have to drop or change?


Well, it’s a very long book but there’s also a lot of lengthy descriptions so it’s fairly simple to detect the big emotional tempos in the story. In that sense it’s not an impossible task to condense the story into a two hour movie – half of the book in a two hour movie.

There are some ways where you’re so attached to the details and every single character and every single event, it’s painful to not be able to put all the warmth and feeling in a two hour movie. But that’s the rules of the game.


Even from what we shot, we had to drop about an hour.

So there could be a three hour cut for the DVD?


Well, two and a half I’d say.


For people that are interested in the movie there are deleted scenes that are very cool. They’re not the kind of scenes that move the story forward by default, and that’s why they’ve been left out, because we had to condense the movie. But you can see the movie and there’s nothing missing.


They’re missing for us. It’s painful.

Do you necessarily have to come to a remake of “It” forgetting the miniseries exists?


To be honest I wasn’t a big fan. I was not a child anymore when it came out in 1990, so my attachment was very much to the book and to the world of Stephen King more than the movie and I totally hadn’t acknowledged how iconic that miniseries was for a generation.

But also you have to say that it impacted that generation because they saw it as a TV movie or on VHS, it was seen by very young eyes. A lot of people don’t remember the whole thing but they’re terrified of the iconic scenes like the clown behind the sheets. Many people didn’t buy in to the spider. Many people hate the spider.

But in my gaze it was a love for Stephen King and his original work, and the approach to the movie was an exercise of staying true to the emotional experience I had reading it. Even though the transfer to a film is such a different thing the emotional attachment was something I wanted to preserve. And then, of course, making a movie that I would enjoy as an adult. So that was the balancing.

The cinematography looks like that of “Stand By Me” or some of Dean Cundey’s work for John Carpenter. A lot of people loved “Stranger Things” because it’s a pastiche of the “Amblin'” movies of the eighties and “It” looks like one of those films.


I grew up in the eighties and there’s something undeniable in the imprint that all the movies marked your self, psyche or whatever you want to call it. And it’s something that’s inside, I didn’t intentionally want it to look like a movie from the eighties. The movies from the eighties with these kind of events, situations, with kids and stuff – they just look like that to me.

The eighties are movie mythology to us now – and that mythology in the eighties was the fifties, so there’s a lot of influence to play with.


Exactly. That was also our approach to the project and my experience. The book is very universal emotionally, but specific events are very much related to experiences of someone who grew up in the fifties. Especially the incarnations of fear, they’re mainly monsters of popular culture and movies [from the time] like the “Wolf Man”, “Frankenstein”, “The Mummy”, “Creature From the Black Lagoon”.

You can see the imprint those had in Stephen King when he was growing up in the fifties. I grew up in the eighties so I have other fears, but there wasn’t a decision to collect the fears from cinema in this case. The fears that are involved – incarnations of It – are more personal and layered, and weirder than what you would expect, some of which I am scared of, or I was scared of as a child.

Such as?


Well, Stanley Uris is afraid of something, I can’t tell you what it is yet but it’s a very specific thing, the coming alive of something he’s scared of. It’s something that scared the shit out of me when I was growing up.


It scared King, too.


Yeah, when Stephen King saw the movie we started exchanging emails and he said, ‘By the way, I love the Uris scare’.

So he’s seen the completed film?


Not the finished version but we call it ‘The King Cut’.

Can you share any his comments on what he saw?


He loved it, he said he was very moved. He said, very publicly, that it exceeded his expectations.


He tweeted that.

As well as the casting and the time period there was a musical cue in the footage that reminds you of “Stranger Things”. Was it hard not to be influenced by how huge that show was?


No, I hadn’t seen “Stranger Things” at all. We were shooting while “Stranger Things” came out. Finn Wolfhard, who plays Mike on “Stranger Things”, plays Richie Tozier. When we started shooting he had 300 followers, and he went up to a million in a matter of weeks.

I had no idea what “Stranger Things” was until mid-production. We were shooting and suddenly people started comparing them and saying, ‘oh, this is gonna be like “Stranger Things”,’ But I refused to watch “Stranger Things” until I was done with “It”.

But it was positive because you feel like even newer generations were still appreciating that recreation of what the eighties were. It happened before – when “Super 8” came out, it was very like that, reinvigorating the “Amblin'” spirit.

Ironically we think of the eighties as a more innocent time, but a hallmark of those movies was kids in peril, which is a much more hot button issue today.


Of course, that’s the thing. It’s so nice to see that. Especially in It when it’s quite brutal, the things Stephen King put them through and which we put them through again. But it works, and this is one thing I’ll give to “Stranger Things”, you’re left with a good feeling of hope and nostalgia.

Any themes “It” will have in common with “Mama”?


The idea behind “Mama” is that it’s about imprint. I was very fixated by that weird process where little kids can look up to a monster as if it were their mother.

Guillermo Del Toro’s work is always very much about horror serving as a metaphor, and he produced “Mama”. Did you let any influence of his find its way into “It”, even subconsciously?


His influence on me as an artist was more rational then visceral. I think there’s previous filmmakers or writers that had a bigger imprint.

Such as?


Stephen King is obviously one of them, Clive Barker very much. John Carpenter, “The Thing” is one of my favorite movies. Some of them are more fringy, like Joe Danté. “The Howling” was one of my favorite movies ever. Probably “Near Dark”, even though Kathryn Bigelow didn’t became a horror filmmaker.

Is there something cultural that makes South Americans so great at horror films? You did so great with “Mama” as did Fede Álvarez with “Don’t Breathe”.


I think it has to do with you growing up, you’re collecting, viewing, experiences not only from American cinema but also from European and South America itself, South American literature too. It’s pretty twisted. You have Borges and you have Quiroga and they’re great.

Quiroga is actually Uruguayan but he delivered an amazing range of stories that dealt with horrific subjects but mainly man versus nature and the psychological warping of a man that is left alone, struggling with the elements. A lot of his work deals with that.


There’s another element that made us get into this and influenced a lot of people in the region – on Saturday nights we used to have the best horror anthology show on TV, hosted by this Spanish actor, a golden age of horror star like a Vincent Price figure.

He used to get made up and he’d host this show in Argentina. It didn’t only have mainstream American movies but there was the Hammer Collection and sometimes they would show crazy-ass Spanish television horror.

So you saw all the old Mario Bava and Lucio Fulci stuff?


Of course, giallo, that was all my experience.

Do you have a fear of clowns?


No, I was never afraid. I wasn’t very friendly with clowns, there was always something off about clowns, especially the clowns in South American circuses. They’re not the happiest of clowns. Everything is sort of worn down and yellowish.

Plus if you go to a circus and watch the clown act, they’re always beating each other. I’m going to get killed by the clown union now but it’s not smart humor. But I was never afraid of them. I’m more afraid of the fact that there’s a monster that becomes your worst fear, that’s the thing I got from It. It could be anything.

Including the adults.


Yeah. All the adults in the story are some sort of oppressor because of abuse or neglect or overprotection or general creepiness.

It’s no secret that most Stephen King adaptations frankly suck. What do you think is the secret sauce that makes the good ones and how did you try to capture it?


There’s good stories and not so good stories, and I think budget is probably one of the reasons of the elements that make good adaptations. But it’s a matter of love, how much you love the work as a filmmaker, and that’s obvious, I think.


I think my favorite ones are the ones where the film is the exploration of the characters, so you have Misery and The Shining, Stand By Me of course, where the fear and the scares are an element of what’s going on but you’re going into a mind, and that’s what’s more fascinating.


Interview : Dome Karukoski director of Tolkien

Lisa interviews the Finnish director of “Tolkien”




A 30-time award winner of directing films, Dome Karukoski is perhaps one of the most interesting filmmakers around to be chosen to direct the biopic “Tolkien.”

The only Finnish director to win all the main Finnish national awards, Karukoski had two films that were Finnish selections for the Oscars Best Foreign Language category and his American father George Dickerson was a famous poet/actor.

Moviehole was able to get some time to talk with Karukoski about his challenges growing up and his fascination with J.R.R. Tolkien that started long before the film was made.


Moviehole: How did you get into the film business in Finland? 

Dome Karukoski: My father was an actor and a poet by heart, but as a poet he couldn’t support himself. I started knowing him in my late teens, I was an expressive child and I loved drawing in kindergarten and there was something inspiring about my father that he was an actor. I wanted to be in film school — there was a main film school and a main acting school in Finland. The film school is called art and design (UIAH). Hundreds apply and they only take two or three students a year. It’s free but it’s very costly and they want to make sure of you. I applied four or five times, it’s very hard to apply. I got in the first time, you spend a week at the school and they test you, you send a film. It’s quite guided, it’s a good school, the industry knows you and you have a certain label on you.

That’s the first step and the second is making your first feature and I did one as a master thesis. It takes weeks to apply and they give different assignments. In film school they might give you a still camera and give you four hours to shoot maximum photos and take five to tell a story. Or they ask you to make a short film better. I’d only been in front of a camera in high school, I’d never done anything like that before with film, but it helped a lot. They do psychological tests during the week, they really try to push you. It’s about endurance and they want to know every aspect of your talent. They don’t want to make a mistake basically. 

Moviehole: How did you get involved in the Tolkien film with Fox Searchlight?

DM: I made a couple films at the Toronto film fest and people saw the films in Toronto and so I met Fox Searchlight people in 2014 — you just meet people who you like. I’ve done a couple of scripts over the years for them. It’s a normal way where you meet people and connect with them and might want to work with. I was sent the Tolkien script a few years ago, but I had finished a biopic and I didn’t want to do that at the time as it’s one of the hardest things to do. I was a Tolkien fan and had read many of the books twice. What surprised me was the touching story about friendship and love, it wasn’t a biopic in that sense, it’s a story about friendship and love.

I told Fox Searchlight it should have more fantasy and different things about war aspects. That’s when I thought of Tolkien and Lewis meeting in the pub and talking about elves. It’s fun but it’s not an epic emotional journey; it drew me in because as an orphan, I had similar experiences not growing up with a father (like Tolkien) — I felt like an outsider and so friends are important. Tolkien found his own voice during those formative years, the idea of fellowship. It feels like an epic cinematic story and I felt it needed to be told.

Moviehole: What was your toughest challenge about making this film?

DM: The one thing is, I hate biopics where it’s based on beats. The challenge was how to show the mind of a genius without being too on the nose with inspiration, there are no inspirations — he’s sketching and building. If you see the film it’s the first or second thoughts that he later uses. It’s a balance and expressing things. The good thing in working with Fox Searchlight is that they give you that time, with every crazy idea you have. While I was shooting I was forming those ideas. In a way I was still rewriting the story, it was great to be able to do that.

Moviehole: What do you find fascinating about JRR Tolkien and his books/films?

DM: One thing is that it allows you to positively escape, that I read those books as a young man. Now as an older man, I found his passion in language now that I’m reading the books in English. Some people look down on his writing as just fantasy but if you look at his writing it’s very high quality and shows the passion he had for writing. It’s a high class way of writing, that’s something I value a lot. And it has meaning — if I could be 12 or 13 and be a hero and get married to an elven princess you are allowing your imagination to fly, it has power to heal and open up your mind. When I watch this film, with so many of his experiences with friendship and turmoil, I can understand his inspirations and have more emotional layers and thoughts towards his character.

Moviehole: You’ve won over 30 festival film awards. What do you attribute to this?

DM: It’s great and you are thankful, you are always feeling there is part of you that fears failure. There is the value of someone seeing you and sees something of you in your work. It shouldn’t be your motivation but I can enjoy and be happy about that. And if a film is getting awarded, you are accepting it for the whole group that worked with you. And it helps you get more films made. What I value about the film festival system is that films get seen.

Moviehole: What are your directing methods?

DM: I usually listen a lot and then decide. Always I want to do something that is real life. I asked actors to live like in a religious sect for two weeks to find that banter and that pace about a religious sect. I explore a lot, and if you see the last shot of the trailer about the war, I asked Nick (Nicholas Hoult) that I wanted to have this shot and play with the camera and try to find things all the time.

Moviehole: You were bullied as a teen – what would be your advice for kids today about this?

DM: I was bullied at the age from 7-14, growing up without a father. I played dungeons and dragons so making stories was a method for me; you are basically creating a story, and the Tolkien stories became my friends. You find something that you strongly focus on and I used my own imagination, watching films with an escapist world and then creating and drawing stories. But there are a lot of things you can focus on. If you can, focus on something you greatly enjoy, even if it’s alone or with one friend and put energy into it. If you dwell on the negative it will swallow you but if you focus on the positive it will help you. One great thing too was the extreme love from my mom.

Moviehole: What is one thing about the film that you want to get through to audiences?

DM: These young boys wanted to inspire and change the world with art and it’s very beautiful to watch. I’m a young man but an aging man and when I watch that I get inspired. I feel for young people as it inspires them to change the world whether it’s moving bricks in society or using art, to do something inspiring. I hope the audience can take that away with hem.

Moviehole: What are your upcoming projects?

DM: We had a really great experience and are trying to find a mutual project with Fox Searchlight; I really liked how they (Fox) supported the film and how they view cinema. I get two months of press as we are going wide with the film. By July or August I will find a project by then. I’m waiting for a different kind of energy to know what I will do.


“Tolkien” will have a special event screening at the Montclair Film Festival with a Q & A with the stars on May 7th, and then be released theatrically on May 10.

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Moviehole interviews Kirk Taylor for Revival!

Lisa chats to the actor about his latest role and acting advice




Kirk Taylor is a man who knows where he’s going in life and he should. An actor once praised by the great Sidney Poitier, Taylor has acted alongside the likes of Charles Bronson, Robin Williams and Ben Affleck.

Taylor has also worked for Stanley Kubrick, Frances Ford Coppola and Spike Lee. Just in time for Easter, he has a faith-based film called “Revival!” coming out which is a gospel musical retelling the Book of John.

Moviehole was able to spend some time with Taylor to talk about “Revival!,” a new direction in composing music and how his faith has helped him navigate the entertainment industry.

Moviehole: How did you get into acting? 

Kirk Taylor: A cousin of mine blackmailed me into acting. We were in Connecticut and her name is Monica Davis — I asked Monica for a ride home from a play. I kept hearing the drama teacher yell “Boring!” in our class and I was scared of her. Monica said if I auditioned for the school play, she’d give me a ride. And it was raining and sleeting! But I got the lead in “Cabaret,” the Joel Gray part, and Monica got the chorus. The next time I did “Pajama Game” and ”Li’l Abner,” and that was my start in musical theater and acting.

Then the teacher said I should go to New York when they still had Lee Strasberg and Stella Adler teaching, so I got away from musicals.  I didn’t tell them (Strasberg and Adler) I could sing then. They said they needed an actor who could sing and I surprised them that I could sing. In NYC I started working in Broadway productions and I’ve done film, teaching and TV ever since.

Moviehole: What was your chance encounter with Sidney Poitier?

KT: I didn’t realize until later that God had plans for me. I did the film “MacArthur Park,” it was directed by a guy named Billy Wirth and it had Sydney Tamilia Poitier, Sidney Poitier’s daughter in it. I played a cop in that one. We got to Sundance and the film comes up and I really believed myself in the film, I believed the role that I was a cop. But when the credits rolled I wasn’t in the credits.  I was pretty crushed, they apologized and they gave me an extra $150. I brought friends to another screening but again the credits rolled and I wasn’t in it.

Then Sidney Poitier came and walked right over to me and said, “Did you play the cop? I did not know if you were a real cop or an actor.” I told Poitier about the missing credits and he said, “Where you are going in your career, that will not matter.” I call that a God Nod! That was a startling moment.  I was also left out of the credits in “The Cotton Club,” and I walked out discouraged. Two girls walked up to me after and asked if I played the waiter, it was a journey. Those kinds of things, sometimes the gas tank is low and working in this industry, and you need a fill up.

Moviehole: How did you get involved with “Revival!”?

It’s been a real labor of love, we started choosing reshoots two or three years after principal photography/ I came back to do ADR seven or eight hours, clearing up the vocal acting. It was rough, but it’s one of those projects where your whole life prepared you to do it. Actors will tell you a role comes at a certain point in their life.

My wife, Richelle Taylor, was the script supervisor so she had pitched me to Harry Lennix (writer/producer and stars as Pilate) and I had an interview. A week later I had the role of Simon Peter. It’s a big arc, he’s a great pillar of the church, he was a daredevil and made big mistakes. I have had successes and had failures as well. They called him Cephas. I had a cousin who was a staunch atheist come see the film who was weeping after.  I was able to understand; my most beautiful scene was the denial of Christ and Harry added a moment where my brother calls me Cephas and I deny him as well when I was warming my hands at the fire.

They shot my hardest scene first.  Harry said, “Your work in this scene brings me to tears.”  I felt that this was the guy, I believed his suffering and passion. Peter goes through pendulum swings for sure. I got to play Simon Peter and walk on water. I call our production, “Jesus Christ Superstar and Godspell meet 2001 Space Odyssey.” It’s a hybrid film, it started as a play written by Harry Lennix and they thought they’d film it. It expanded. It starts on stage and turns into a film with an actor coming to the theater and then goes to the first century, played by Grammy nominee Mali Music. Mali was called “the future” by Stevie Wonder.

Moviehole: Will this film be different than other films like “Son of Jesus”?

KT: It goes into the future in 2050 in L.A., this message about God’s love. The cast is predominately African American, but represents every shade of the rainbow. This film presents a message for every time and season, that will not pass away until everything is fulfilled.

Moviehole: What was it like working with Chaka Khan?

KT: I worked with her in a stage musical called, ”Signed, Sealed and Delivered” and got to sing songs from the Stevie Wonder songbook with her. She plays Queen Herodias and has a wonderful scene and song trying to persuade her husband to kill John the Baptist. Michelle Williams also sings a beautiful song to open up the movie.

Moviehole: What is your acting method, as you are an acting teacher too?

KT: I studied with both Lee Strasberg and Stella Adler and I teach a combination of their approaches.

Moviehole: What is your advice for acting newbies?

KT: I would say examine your heart and see if this what you want to do and need to do. Many of my students are working but it’s not easy. The majority of people went into other parts of the business, such as producers and casting directors. Ask is this what you want me to do? Ask God. I asked my wife to pray for me if this is what I should continue to do. The phone immediately rang and it was my agent who had just been contacted about my availability for a role in major motion picture. Within a week I’m standing with Robin Williams and Mila Kunis in a major scene that had been added. God gave me a major nod on that one! Everyone who asks receives.

There are certain things. Examine your heart in prayer and then learn your craft. It’s like learning to walk a tight rope. Take classes, do plays, study actors you like, study their body of work, do singing classes and train. Search your heart and pray about it. Get your tools ready. I have one friend who was a very talented actress. She realised something had to change, so she got on her knees and surrendered all of it to God. The next day she got a writing job and now she’s an A list writer. In order to be ready, you need to be ready emotionally too.  It’s easy to get crushed in this industry, it can be a rough road; use it as a time to build yourself up. Ask if there are course adjustments or something you need to do.

Moviehole: What are your upcoming projects?

KT: I’ve been working on my original musical compositions. I did a film for B.E.T. called “One Special Moment” and had a song adapted into the film, launching my publishing company Rising Oak Music. I have 75 songs that are ready to go. Years ago I had a visit with a well-known Evangelist turned Pastor named David Wilkerson and I was in Paster Dave’s office to talk to him about some things — I mentioned acting and teaching acting, and he asked me about composing and asked if he could pray for me about writing music. I went home and I didn’t feel anything but then the next morning I competed the music for a gospel song in less than an hour! For the next week I was writing a new song almost every day. I’m still teaching, I coach privately. Now that I’m in possession of a never recorded song my late uncle John Eaton wrote for Nat King Cole, I’m going to be getting that song and my originals onto an album.

*”Revival!”premiered and opened in 10 cities in December, and at Easter it is back in theaters in some major markets.

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Interview : Richard Dreyfuss – on Jaws, Oscars & ‘Sequel Syndrome’

Moviehole’s Mike Smith talks to the legendary actor

Mike Smith



With my 15th birthday approaching, my father asked me what I wanted to do. Having been intrigued by the television commercials for a new film, “Dog Day Afternoon,” I told him I wanted to see that movie. On Sunday, September 21, 1975, my father dropped me off at the University Square Mall Cinema in Tampa to see the movie. Sadly, I didn’t know it was rated “R” and was told I couldn’t buy a ticket. As I began to dejectedly walk away, the girl in the ticket booth called out to me “have you seen JAWS yet?” I hadn’t. 124 minutes later, my life was changed.

I include this because of what I did after the film. Like a normal kid, I wrote fan letters to the three stars. I soon received a letter from Richard Dreyfuss’ cousin, Arlene, who informed me that she ran Richard’s fan club. If I wanted to join, it would cost me $5.00 (a week’s allowance at that time). I immediately sent her the money, along with a note saying “if you ever need any help.” Within a few months, I was helping her with the club – basically I handled the fans east of the Mississippi river. It was a great time for a teenager. I’d scour the newspapers for articles about Richard and each month would send out a packet to the fans, which usually consisted of Xeroxed newspaper clippings and the occasional photograph. Not sure how many members were in the club, but when it disbanded in November 1978, shortly after the release of “The Big Fix,” I was dealing with almost 1,000 fans.

I’ve been very fortunate to have met Mr. Dreyfuss twice in my life. Once, in Baltimore, when he was on the set of the film “Tin Men,” and in July 2017 when we were both guests at a Hollywood Celebrity Show. At that show I was able to stand near his table and listen to him tell the most amazing stories. I mention this because Mr. Dreyfuss is currently traveling around the country, offering fans the opportunity to take in AN EVENING WITH RICHARD DREYFUSS. He will be in Kansas City this week (April 4th) and I have been honored to have been chosen the moderator of the event. Call it practice, but I had the opportunity to speak with Mr. Dreyfuss and ask him some questions, a few of which may be included when we’re together Thursday night.

Mike Smith: What led you to pursue a career in acting?

Richard Dreyfuss: Wow! I don’t know….what leads someone to follow what they love? I don’t think I really had a choice.

MS: Was there a film or performer that inspired you? I acted a lot through my 20s but couldn’t make a living at it, but the inspiration came from wanting to do what YOU did. I know you’re a fan of actors like Charles Laughton, Irene Dunne and Spencer Tracy, among others. Were they the catalyst?

RD: They were, of course. I have no memory of NOT wanting to be an actor. I think the first time I got on record was when I was nine years old. We had just moved to California from New York, and I said to my mother, “I want to be an actor.” And she said, “Don’t just talk about it.” So I went down to the local Jewish Community Center and auditioned for a play. And I really never stopped. I realistically never had more than ten days when I wasn’t acting in a play, or a scene or a class or a job until I was 27.

Richard Dreyfuss

MS: You made your film debut in two very different films in 1967 – “The Graduate” and “The Valley of the Dolls.” What do you think is the biggest difference between filmmaking then and today?

RD: There are so many. The general level of quality for an actor has plummeted. When I was younger I never hesitated telling young actors to “go for it”…to pursue it. And now I don’t say that, because the real rewards are so rare…so few and far between The quality of scrips, from an acting viewpoint, suck. The sequel syndrome that we’re in, which we can’t seem to get out of, has really lessoned the level of quality of writing. Of story. And it seems more arbitrarily decided upon as an element of chicanery and thievery, even for a business that’s famous for it, it goes on. Film acting is not something I really recommend. If you want to be an actor in America you can live a very great and satisfied life if you never think about being a star. You can have a great life in Kansas City. Or St. Louis. Or a million other places. But if you want to go for that kind of brass ring, which I would question – if you do want to go for it, go to therapy first – you’ve got to go to L.A. or New York. And those towns are pretty sick.

MS: You famously almost turned down your role in “Jaws.” Are there any roles you turned down and then later regretted your decision?

RD: Oh yeah. I was once watching a movie and I kept thinking, gosh, this seems so familiar.” I thought “oh, shit,” and then I remembered why. And I didn’t ALMOST turn down “Jaws,” I did turn it down. I turned it down twice. And then I changed my mind and begged for the part. (NOTE: The story goes like this. After turning down “Jaws” – twice – Mr. Dreyfuss saw his upcoming film “The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz” and thought his performance was so terrible that he’d never work again. He then called director Steven Spielberg and accepted the role. Of course, when “The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz” was released, Mr. Dreyfuss received rave reviews for his performance, even being named Runner Up as the Best Actor of 1974 (tied with Gene Hackman for “The Conversation”) by the New York Film Critics Circle.)

Richard Dreyfuss in “Jaws”

I will never tell you the ones I turned down that became hits. Thank God there aren’t that many of them!

MS: What fuels the passion for your work?
RD: If you asked me a question about my process – how do you do this…what’s your method? – I would completely be unable to answer that. And I’ve always known I’d never be able to answer those kind of questions. But I know that, in a business where if you’re a successful actor you want to direct, I’ve never wanted to direct. So I didn’t. I wanted to act! I had made a decision when I was very young, which probably wasn’t the most strategist thing to do in the world, but it was the way I chose to live. Which is to day, if I do a drama, then I’ll do a comedy. Then I’ll do a drama. Then I’ll do a comedy. That’s basically what I tried to do. And the mistake in that is that I don’t think I ever did something enough times to establish a kind of signature recognition of what I do. I did both. I did lots. And I thought that was the best way for me to pursue my life. And that’s what I did for sixty years.

The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz

MS: Where do you keep your Oscar? (NOTE: Mr. Dreyfuss received the Academy Award for Best Actor for his role as Elliot Garfield in “The Goodbye Girl.” At age 30, he was, at the time, the youngest actor to win that award).

RD: For the most part, in the refrigerator. (laughs). I always want people to know about it, but I don’t want to brag. But I figure that sooner or later they’re going to open the refrigerator.

And I’m also very aware that the list of actors who were ever nominated or won an Oscar is as great a list as the ones who never were. It’s a wonderful evening, but it’s rarely more than that. It’s a great evening. You’re aware of the film work because the audience for film is in the millions. But I make no distinction between film and theater. And, of course, the audience for the theater work I’ve done will be 1/100th of that of the film audience. But to me, it was always – if not equal than more important –so that is something that I travel with. I have a little bucket list of things that I check off every once in a while. “OK, you did a Broadway show…check.” From the time I was nine, into my teenage years, I was always in acting classes. At acting schools. I was always with actors. And they would always talk about a “National” theater. And I would say, “There’s never going to be a National theater in this country. However, there could be fifty “State” theaters. And, as someone who lives in Kansas City, I would say to you that, something that people should not ignore, is the fact that we are from so many different places…so many different cultures…that we come together as Americans only when we’re HERE, and we learn to be Americans. And each of us, whether you live in Seattle or Mississippi, you have different strains of a culture. And I have always wanted each state to have its own theater. And, in a state like California, which is huge, you could have two, anchored North and South. And, instead of trying to get everyone to agree on A National Theater, we could have one in every state. It’s silly to think we can’t afford a State theater, to be able to see how Missourians and Floridians and North Dakotans approach theater. I think that would be a great endeavor and a great thing to do. Only because we teach so few things that we share. We’ve actually given up on the notion of teaching things that are of shared values. And that’s causing this terrible breach in the country. And we should try to find things that we can share. And one of them could just be the artistic endeavor of a State theater.

MS: That makes a lot of sense.

RD: And they’ll never do it (laughs).

MS: Quick follow-up to the Oscar question, one of your fellow nominees that year was Richard Burton. When Sylvester Stallone read the name of the winner, and you heard “Richard” did you think Burton had one?

RD: My competition was Burton, Marcello Mastroianni, John Travolta and Woody Allen. There was no easy answer. But I just knew I was going to win it. (laughs) That’s all I cared about.

MS: Me too, that night. I always wonder how people sometimes vote. You were also nominated for “Mr. Holland’s Opus,” but I thought you were most deserving four years earlier for “Once Around.”

RD: It’s probably the easiest vote to define. There are two ways people vote in the Academy. One is, you vote for your friend. Or, you vote for who you think is best. In that order. It’s simple. You may not be able to predict it, but that’s the way people vote. And it’s the reason why people do vote. It’s not a mystery. The only thing wrong with the Oscars now is that there are too many other awards, and it’s cheapened the whole thing.

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