Connect with us

Interviews

Interview : Joel Silver

Joel Silver reteams with his ”Matrix” directors to do something he has rarely attempted: a family film. ”Speed Racer”. Emile Hirsch takes on the iconic title role as Speed Racer who is aggressive, instinctive and, most of all, fearless.

Avatar

Published

on

Talks “Speed Racer”, and a possible “Speed Racer 2”.

Joel Silver reteams with his ”Matrix” directors to do something he has rarely attempted: a family film. ”Speed Racer”. Emile Hirsch takes on the iconic title role as Speed Racer who is aggressive, instinctive and, most of all, fearless.

His only real competition is the memory of the brother he idolized – the legendary Rex Racer, whose death in a race has left behind a legacy that Speed is driven to fulfill. Speed is loyal to the family racing business, led by his father, Pops Racer, the designer of Speed’s thundering Mach 5.

When Speed turns down a lucrative and tempting offer from Royalton Industries, he not only infuriates the company’s maniacal owner but uncovers a terrible secret – some of the biggest races are being fixed by a handful of ruthless moguls who manipulate the top drivers to boost profits. If Speed won’t drive for Royalton, Royalton will see to it that the Mach 5 never crosses another finish line. The only way for Speed to save his family’s business and the sport he loves is to beat Royalton at his own game.

With the support of his family and his loyal girlfriend, Trixie, Speed teams with his one-time rival – the mysterious Racer X – to win the race that had taken his brother’s life: the death-defying, cross- country rally known as The Crucible. Silver is clearly excited as he discusses this latest visually inventive venture. Paul Fischer reports.

Question: I guess you were at the screening with everyone prior to this junket. Did you watch it just to see the reaction of everyone?

Silver: Look, I mean we had a screening down here in Long Beach about 2 weeks ago for a recruited screening and it was just a dream come true, I mean it was just a huge response and the numbers were just through the roof in the high 90’s. You don’t ever see that ever but it was a big family audience. There were a lot of kids and a lot of parents–I didn’t have that last night. There were some kids there but it wasn’t the kind of family audience that I think the movie will play the most, but I think it played great. I was very happy to be there.

Question: Talk about the biggest challenges on the film– technically, logistically.

Silver: It was a technical nightmare to have the realization of what the boys wanted to do. I mean, the brothers had this…when it all came about I mean they knew I had the project for awhile and after “V”
or some point after “V” they called me up one day and said, “what are you doing with that Speed Racer thing?” and I said, “well, I’m struggling” and they said, “we have an idea” and I said “well, go for it” so they had this notion of making what they considered live-action anime and that’s what it is–live-action anime. And they said we want to show you what we want to do and if the studio likes it, we have a way of making a movie of this, and if they don’t, then we’ll do something else.

Question: How long did you have it? You said you had it for a while.

Silver: Almost 20 years.

Question: Well, what was initial idea for it? Where you going to do it strictly as an animated movie?

Silver: No, a lot of people had been involved. There were a lot of scripts written, a lot of directors attached. I mean, there were rumors of actors attached. No one was ever really attached, I mean there was a lot of discussion about the movie but really it couldn’t have been made in this fashion until right now.

Question: Why?

Silver: Because the technology didn’t really exist to do this. I mean, yeah there was a version that they were scouting locations for race tracks and they were designing cars to be built and I remember one of the of the things–the cost of the car was $1 million to build this car that would all–you know chrome and it couldn’t be photographed from any angle–I don’t know what the hell they were doing, you know?
But the way that it was done where the cars could do things that you’ve never seen before could only be done in this fashion with the way these guys want to do it.

Question: When Larry and Andy say to you they have an idea, do you sort of turn away and just are smiling from ear to ear?

Silver: Yes.

Question: And was the studio immediately enthusiastic when they found out they wanted to do it? How did that work?

Silver: Well of course they were enthusiastic because we’d been struggling with the movie for a long time so a lot of people had been through the process. I mean a lot of …JJ Abrams…a lot of people wrote scripts for this thing but again they were conventional type stories. So the Wachowski Brothers went off and they made a 5 minutes kind of pre-viz–a pre-visualization of a race in this movie. And there are actually some shots in that pre-viz that actually made it through to the finished movie. I mean, that first pre-vis actually had images that went right through to the end. But it was a race. It had elements of all 3 races. Elements of Thunderhead, elements of Casa Cristo, elements of the Grand Prix. It was just a race which was shown to the studio in December I think of ’06, and we sat in a room at the studio and a bunch of people in the room and the lights went down and they showed this.

Question: And you said before that you’d made a lot of silly action films, but after “The Matrix” you walked away realizing that people wanted more, you know you knew what that was. So what was that that you realized post-Matrix that you brought with you into this film?

Silver: Well, I’ll just finish this quick and then I’ll go to that.
When the lights went up and everybody stood there quietly in the room and the studio said, “well, what is it? Is it “Roger Rabbit”? I mean, what is it? Is it animation, is it live-action?” They said, “look this is what it is.” So they said, “Take a shot”, you know. I think that this movie…this is a family movie which I’d been involved in a few movies that were family but not with the Wachowski Brothers and you know this is the first time they really intended to do something for the family–for everybody and they had nieces and nephews and friends and family and they wanted everybody to see their movie. They hadn’t been able to do that with everything we’ve made up to now. So it was a story about the family. It is a story about, you know, it has really kind of basic family structure, family story, family type values of this movie and it’s also just a movie about a quest and an ambition and dreams and all the things that seem to work in those kinds of movies. It’s brilliant in its execution but it’s simple in its tale, and I think the end of this movie, I mean cheaters never prosper, you know, be true to your family, stay together and you can prevail, you can win. And I think that those elements are effective and I hope that the audience embraces it and enjoys it.

Question: What was it about the story that made you hold onto it for so long?

Silver: When I first saw “Speed Racer” which I was a kid and I wasn’t as young as my son is 6 who has since has seen the original show and loves it, I wasn’t that age. I was older than that. But I always remembered it being fresh and unique and having you know, a cool quality and again the Brothers have said that it was the first time they ever saw anime, so that was fresh for them. But I remember that I just liked it and when they brought it to me and they said, “Do you want the rights to this thing?” and I said, “Yeah, sure let’s take a shot” which was almost 20 years ago–I think it was ’89-90 I did that and we struggled with it. We tried to make it but I just felt it had something about it that was fresh and I never let it go.

Question: As a producer who claimed they didn’t want to see something go over-budget, you feel more comfortable when you’re making a film in these kinds of circumstances–relatively controlled studio green screen as opposed to out in the real world where anything could possibly go wrong?

Silver: I mean look, this movie as expensive as it was and it wasn’t a cheap film, is nowhere near the cost of other films I’ve made or other films that are being made now. I mean, it was controllable. Once we finished there was a 60 day shoot in a big green room. Once you finish that, but then the real work begins in the post-production. But you know it depends. The next movie out is called “RocknRolla”. I did it with Guy Richie and it’s about London. There’s probably not a single visual effect shot in the whole movie, you know. It’s real, it’s just a way we make movies, you know. But I think that this is a pioneering step on picture making–this movie. It’s a way to…it’s not just in how it’s shot but how it was photographed, I mean the editorial process is very different. The way the camera–the lens moves is very different. The camera has no form. You see shots where the camera zooms into Speed and zooms past him to Trixie and past her into Rex and where is the camera? I mean, what is it? It’s not on a…it’s just there. It’s just showing you what you want to see and editorially the way they put this film together I think there’s a lot of ground breaking things in it but yes, it was controllable and done in a way that was kind of easier to make but not so much easier to conceive.

Question: Do you think things could even get crazier from here? I mean this is just the start…

Silver: I was reading last week in USA Today about the Bond film–“The Quantum of Solace”–and they were shooting in Chile in some desert at 120 degrees, they’re running on a metal building, the crew was dying, they can’t function, they don’t know how they’re going it, they Mayor of the city is mad at them because it’s supposed to be Columbia.
Everybody’s going crazy. I mean they could be shooting in Pinewood.
They could be in a big green room. I mean, certain things I can see not wanting to do that, but I mean George Lucas didn’t have go to Tatooeen, I mean you don’t have to…you can make movies in ways that are different but I think with the technology as exists now…I mean this movie was all shot digitally. I mean, it’s going to be a matter of years when the film is not a factor anymore. We can still actually shoot on film but you don’t have to do shoot on film. You’d have to finish on film and it’s all going to make it a lot easier to make movies in a way that I mean, you can sit at your kitchen table and make a movie.

Question: Did it come in on budget?

Silver: Oh yeah. Oh sure. There wasn’t a lot of things to get in the way of it.

Question: Since Larry and Andy never do press, have they started thinking about 3-D filmmaking?

Silver: Yeah, we talked about this being 3-D. We actually discussed this being 3-D. There aren’t enough theatres yet right now to make it really…it would have taxed us to make this 3-D right now. But maybe if we make a sequel, I mean, they have a story for a sequel and if they make it…

Question: What is it? Any hints on where it might go?

Silver: Well, there’s things they want to do with him. There’s as many episodes of this cartoon so there’s a lot of ideas, but if we make the sequel maybe that will be in 3-D, but I mean it would have been possible because it was digital to begin with to do it in 3-D and all those shots were rendered so it would have been possible.

Question: Do you think they want to do a sequel or do you think they want to take on another property?

Silver: Well, I mean, I don’t know if they will direct the sequel.
Maybe somebody else will–maybe they will, I don’t know. This was pretty tough this one to do, but to create this you know, but I don’t know if they’d want to give that to somebody else, I don’t know. But they…the only thing I like to say is they don’t….the only part they don’t engage in is this part right here. They don’t like to engage in this and my friend, Tom Cruise, told me a story he went to work on “Eyes Wide Shut” and he said there was Kubrick just sitting there in the director’s chair. It was Kubrick! And not trying to make a connection between Kubrick and the boys but he didn’t want to engage in this part either so that gives him mystique and when everybody’s here–all the guys are here and Matthew’s here and Emile and these are fantastic friends of ours, these filmmakers and they’re great guys.
They just don’t like to talk about their movies and they did the whole thing for me on the first “Matrix”. They did all the junkets. All the press tours, they did everything and they hated it. And they said to me, “If you want us to work with you again, you’ve got to promise we’d never do this again”. And I said, “Fine.” What could I say? I couldn’t say, “No, you’ve got to do it.” So I’m happy to try to impart to you their thoughts and their ideas but you know their thoughts and their ideas are on that screen and that’s what they give you.

Continue Reading

Interviews

Interview : Dome Karukoski director of Tolkien

Lisa interviews the Finnish director of “Tolkien”

Avatar

Published

on

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.

For details, please visit: https://www.fathomevents.com/events/tolkien

 

Continue Reading

Interviews

Moviehole interviews Kirk Taylor for Revival!

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

Avatar

Published

on

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.

For more details:
www.revivalthemovie.com
www.kirktaylorofficial.com

Continue Reading

Interviews

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

Moviehole’s Mike Smith talks to the legendary actor

Mike Smith

Published

on

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.

Continue Reading
Advertisement

Like us?

The Latest

Get Moviehole News Updates!

Enter your email address to subscribe to Moviehole and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Exclusives!

At the Movies

Watch

Hot