Tetragrammaton with Rick Rubin - Edward Norton

Episode Date: January 24, 2024

Edward Norton is one of the great actors of his generation. He has gained acclaim for his roles in movies like Fight Club, American History X, and Primal Fear. In all, he has written, directed, produc...ed, or starred in over 50 movies. His off-screen interests and achievements in environmental activism and social entrepreneurship are just as substantial: he serves as the president of the American branch of the Maasai Wilderness Conservation Trust, an award-winning environmental conservation organization. Additionally, he was appointed the first United Nations Goodwill Ambassador for Biodiversity. In 2010, he founded Crowdrise (acquired by GoFundMe), a platform fostering grassroots fundraising to champion various social and environmental initiatives. ------ Thank you to the sponsors that fuel our podcast and our team: LMNT Electrolytes https://drinklmnt.com/tetra ------ House of Macadamias https://www.houseofmacadamias.com/tetra ------ Squarespace https://squarespace.com/tetra

Discussion (0)
Starting point is 00:00:00 Tetragrammaton. I think if you do a thing for a really long time, you can get into anything can be by rote. You can get to the place where you're doing things kind of beautifully unconsciously and then you can get to where you're maybe on autopilot. The right kind of instinctive and unconscious is Wonderful and then there's that thing where I don't want to say phoning it in because I I hope I've never done that but But where you're too familiar with a set of moves and I I definitely am
Starting point is 00:01:01 Approaching a place where I almost feel That I'm not really sure I remember What I'm supposed to do or how I'm supposed to approach it and I'm kind of happy about that But I think if I if I kind of stand back from it all I think that when it's working really well You feel like you're channeling something through that that yeah, you might have, you know, just like a musician or anything, you've done the work to, and the craft work to create the conduits that you're accessing
Starting point is 00:01:34 the channel through, but that you've tapped into something where you're not having to, yeah, you're letting something go through you that's not you. And I think at the center of it is empathy. I kind of think if an actor can't anchor themselves in real empathy, there's nothing really good. There might be performative kind of bullshit or you know comedy or humor or whatever, but for me It's kind of like you got to get to a place where you
Starting point is 00:02:11 You're trying to seek some sort of a deep a deep understanding of a different person's experience And what flows out of it in interesting ways, but ultimately that's I think that's empathy, you know when you're in it Do you know you're in it? I think sometimes, sometimes because the times that I know that I felt really good, something unbidden is happening, something unplanned or really great film director and one of my real mentors in life, Miloš Forman,
Starting point is 00:02:49 used to call it the unrepeatable moment. The thing that even with all the cameras and all the artifice and the rehearsals, if there were some, or the fact that it's the fifth take or anything, that something happens that is just sort of unrepeatable and blooms not out of a conscious plan. And those things can be really delightful when they happen and make you feel like this is good.
Starting point is 00:03:15 I think the other thing is that, and this isn't in no way my own original observation, I think, but listening is really, really important because listening is just another word for being really genuinely available to what's going on. And I think many of my favorite actors, sometimes what I feel I'm riveted by is my awareness of their presence and absorption of what's going on, you know,
Starting point is 00:03:50 stillness, listening, whatever you want to call it. But also if you're not listening with other actors, you're not really available to that unexpected thing. And so I think that's, I don't know if it's true in all things. I'm sure, you know, I've talked to Anthony about, you know, writing lyrics and coming in and performing them, even for friends of 30, 40 years, you feel self-conscious, you know? There's like self-consciousness in performance. And I think in acting, you fight self-consciousness or you have to
Starting point is 00:04:26 try to cultivate space with other people where self-consciousness recedes so that you feel that you're not you know standing outside yourself and watching yourself you know do something and reviewing it even as you're doing it and I think that It's really interesting to me that Like I had an experience once with Robert De Niro of all people right? the a person we all came up on who You know, he's certainly in the short list of reasons. I became an actor, right? Or a spy to do a certain type of work or whatever.
Starting point is 00:05:07 And the first film, I did a couple films with him, but the first film I worked with him on, I also was one of the writers on the script, and that was in some ways a bad thing because even though he was super complimentary of the work I had been doing, what it meant was that the first scene that I did with him in the film, which was a life ambition being realized, like I dreamed of working with him my whole young life, you know, yeah, and it was there in front of me and he was there. And I knew he was very supportive of me in my early career and all these things. I knew he had nothing but good feeling toward me in life. But as we began the very first scene I ever worked on with him. I got this
Starting point is 00:06:05 adrenaline-ized feeling that that he wasn't happy with what I was doing and I got into this real moment of feeling hugely self-conscious. I went completely out my analytic brain was just going kapow kapow kapow, kapow, what's going on? Why isn't he, what's going on here? He seems really out of sorts with me or there's an energy coming something.
Starting point is 00:06:35 And we did it a few times. And then he kind of caught my eye and he looked at me and he gave me this look that was kind of like me going, yeah, seems like good. It was a real check in. It was like kind of real brother. Wow. And I was like, wait a minute.
Starting point is 00:06:50 And I walked around the corner and I had, and this was like, I've made a lot of movies at this point. I wasn't new. I walked around the corner and I had this total epiphany, which was I realized that I was interacting with a videotape in my head of what he was gonna do in the scene because I had written it. And because I had an idea of what Robert De Niro's performance was gonna be like in the scene in my fantasy life, really. And in my writer's mind. And when in fact we were doing the scene, and he was doing something else,
Starting point is 00:07:27 I took it as a rebuke. My mind went, he's not showing up, he's resisting me, he's not doing this, why? And in a funny way, it was funny because what I thought he was gonna do was in a scene of conflict, like rise to meet me with a certain energy, right? And when he didn't, I actually took it in as a negative,
Starting point is 00:07:48 like a negative from him, right? The character didn't take it in, Ed took it in. I took it in. But this is, I know this gets really down the weeds, but it was an amazing moment for me because at this point, like I'm already a celebrated actor, right? Well, you're in a scene with Robert De Niro, so clearly you're a celebrated actor. And he'd ask me to be there.
Starting point is 00:08:09 All these things. And I walked around the corner into the hall and I had this like great self-conversation and I said, you fucking idiot. You idiot. You've dreamed about this moment your entire life. He's there in front of you and you're not even available to what he's doing. You're not even listening to the actuality of what he's doing. You're interacting with a videotape in your head. And in fact, what he was doing was brilliant, which is just like me,
Starting point is 00:08:49 my character was trying to get a rise out of him. And his creative choice was, no, no, I short circuit this young guy coming in with all his energy by not giving an actual, you know, fuck, he's not gonna rise out of me. And it was so brilliant. It was so much more true to in a way what a veteran person, a wiser person would do. And the thing was, it was having the intended effect on me.
Starting point is 00:09:17 He was putting me on tilt, right? And when he gave me that look, I realized he's just doing the, he's actually doing what he does so well. And I literally said, Edward, just turn your brain off and be, be where you always wanted to be with him. And it was a great moment for me because I realized like this never ends. You know, like it never ends. Your brain can mess you up badly and take you out of, it can take you out of that presence of and in the moment so fast because of self-consciousness, because of ego really at the end of the day. If I'm honest, it's just your ego flares and says like I'm being, you know, all kinds of things, right? Was that the first time you were ever shook in a performance?
Starting point is 00:10:19 Had it ever happened before where you just, based on what the other person was bringing, it took you out of yourself? I mean, I've certainly had, you know, the thing I love about doing theater as opposed to working in film is the, it's like concert work versus studio work. It's a Zen act, you know, it really is like you dip your brush in the ink and you try to stroke that character And when it's done, it's gone. That's what we did tonight Yeah, and it was a little more this or it was a little less that and someone might do something and When things are complex I did I did a play years ago with Katherine Keener that was that was really hard
Starting point is 00:11:02 It's a wonderful play called burn this that was really hard. It's a wonderful play called Burn This by Lanford Wilson and there's a line in the play about writing but about creativity and he says, one character says, you know, you gotta make it personal, make it true and then write Burn This on the cover. And I had it on the wall in my dressing room
Starting point is 00:11:21 just because I thought that's what we're doing every night. Every single night, we just gotta burn it at the end. And you did like you do a play for months and months. And it was such a hard, it was so hard, the whole thing was so hard. And it could, you know, careen around based on what you were feeling that night or whatever that I think like,
Starting point is 00:11:42 I'm not sure I ever felt we figured it out until really like the very end, which is great, you know? But I found doing that that when you're doing live theater, I think like you can get, I don't even say thrown off in a bad way, you can be completely buffeted by within the same text you can you can end up in a totally different place. Sometimes someone can forget a line. They can drop a section and suddenly your brain is going, in one way it's going, what do we do now?
Starting point is 00:12:11 What do we do now? Does it matter that we drop that piece of text? How do we catch back? There's a lot of things that can put you on tilt, but I had a really interesting experience once with I think one of the great, my favorite filmmakers, Alejandro Inyiridu, who makes these unbelievably poetic films. One time when we were doing Birdman, we were doing a scene that was really wonderful
Starting point is 00:12:36 and hard, Michael Keaton and I, and we did it and I think, Michael Keaton and I looked at each other like, wow, that felt great. That was almost impossibly. See, and Alejandro came in and was just ripping his hair out and he goes like, guys, guys, guys. I don't even remember what he said, but effectively he said, you just did white and I need black.
Starting point is 00:13:00 Like that's how far off you were. And Mike was a little thrown and I thought, I love Alejandro so much. I think he's such a great artist and I always, he was one of those kinds of people that I thought, I mean, I'm here in service to him. Like I love the way in your book you talked about things being the best things are a diary entry and why do you even care what other people think about your own diary? That's how like Birdman was Alejandro's diary entry. It was every character was him. Keaton was him. I'm him. Emma Stone's character the daughter is him. Everything being expressed in that film
Starting point is 00:13:39 is a component of Alejandro's soul and character and And I think the whole film is a dialogue with himself about the different wrestling with his own ego and impulses and everything. And I knew going in, I am here to serve his diary. It's so good, I'm so interested in it, I'm interested in his process. And I was in the best possible place you can be, I think, as an actor with a director,
Starting point is 00:14:07 which is complete surrender and complete trust. It's one of my favorite movies. It is? Absolutely. Yeah. It's beautiful. It's a movie that made me, I remember when I saw it,
Starting point is 00:14:18 I felt like, oh, this is a reason for there to be movies. Yes, I agree. That's how it made me feel. I agree. I agree. That's how it made me feel. I agree. I agree. Because you also, because it isn't a, it's a meditation, you know, it's a meditation on aging and it's a meditation on ego and it's a meditation on aspiration to do work that matters in any way in any field. And it's, it's creating stakes, emotional stakes out of people wrestling with themselves.
Starting point is 00:14:48 Yeah, but they're ordinary stuff. The stuff that was happening was ordinary, but it comes up to this operatic level in the film. Yeah, and I think one of the great, great, maybe the, maybe the original film. And when I say that, I mean, where I think a film that before it, there is no reference point for it, is Fellini's Eight and a Half, that I think is kind of the first great modernist film in terms of being a meditation on self.
Starting point is 00:15:24 It's a completely stream of consciousness, surreal, meditation on creativity and ego and sex and love and everything. I remember one time, I don't know Martin Scorsese super well at all. I've met him in passing a few times, but one time I ended up at a table and everybody else kind of got up and I was just sitting there and he said, hello. I said, hello. I said, I have a weird question for you.
Starting point is 00:15:48 I said, what's before eight and a half? And he goes, nothing, nothing. Wow. He goes, great question, nothing. You know, and I think, and I think he's right. I think that's right because, and I think, you know, you can tie Birdman date in half for sure. Yeah. You can tie, you can tie Birdman date in half for sure. Yeah.
Starting point is 00:16:05 You can tie many other things. I think you can tie like if you take like Fellini's Amicord also which just really memory of youth. I can name six films that flow from Amicord. I can't really name that many before Amicord that are that personal and structured just as memory of youth. I think he really was an amazing innovator in terms of thinking that the medium of film can just be meditation and image and self and all these, not plot, but Alejandro's in that he's that kind of a filmmaker.
Starting point is 00:16:39 I think he tries to take in the totality of the world and how it's refracting through people and it's never about plot. I think Birdman is really, really great. I think the one he did right before, it called Beautiful. I don't know if you've ever seen that one. It's in Spanish. It's such a masterpiece of emotional life. It absolutely destroyed me. And I think when he came in on us and said,
Starting point is 00:17:07 whatever you're doing, I need the opposite. I felt Michael kind of bristled a little. I was in such a good place that I went, I started laughing and I was like, that's the guy I want. Like that's, that is whatever. If he says blue, I want to go blue. And what did it turn it, do you remember what it turned into versus how it started? This is what was really funny. So it is really interesting thing, especially because that was quite a rehearsed film because of the technical necessities of doing
Starting point is 00:17:35 these super long choreograph fees and things like that. And I was like, okay, so wait, you're saying just throw out everything we're doing and go, okay. And so we started doing things that were just wildly different. And I thought in a funny way, we got to some pretty interesting, maybe for me, not as connected or whatever, but after a while Alejandro came back in, just equally frustrated with his wild hair. And he basically, in essence, he said,
Starting point is 00:18:07 as though there had never been a previous thing, he was like, this is white and I need black. You know, he was basically saying, go back to black, but without it in college, but he never went, you know what, thank you. Thanks for that. It helped me see that I was wrong and that the other one just, he was so caught
Starting point is 00:18:25 up in it. He said, no, it has to be this. He walked away and Chivo Lubecki, the cinematographer who they've been friends since college, I kind of just shot him this look just to see if I, and he looked at me and he goes, he's not talking to you. He's talking to himself. And I, and I was like, exactly, right? And sometimes in the best relationships, and you've been in so many of them, I think, but in the best relationships in creative work like that, you, that's allowed.
Starting point is 00:18:58 Like someone says, I need to go, I need to know that you'll go a hundred percent with me into an experiment without begrudging it and without telling my wrong and So that I can know that you gave me the full force of what you've got So if it doesn't work, I have confidence that it doesn't work because it doesn't work Not because you wouldn't fucking try it with me Yeah, because you disagreed or because you whatever right and when you have if you have that going on with people You know anything can happen like you can you can get to that place where you go happily No, it I thought maybe that but not so you've sort of like
Starting point is 00:19:43 You know tried it out and let it go. But people you've worked with so many bands like I don't know if you see that dynamic where people get people get defensive about it. I think one person wants to do something one person wants to do so they're at loggerheads right all the time yeah and and sometimes it's sort of like hey look we're here like what what does it cost you know why be self look, we're here. Like what does it cost? You know, why be self-protective? Let's just try it. Yeah, what does it cost us, right? Yeah, we always have to try it.
Starting point is 00:20:11 The other thing is, is when you're sharing an idea, I tell you my idea, you imagine something, what you're imagining and what I'm imagining often are nothing alike. Yeah. Just cause language is so imperfect. And we all have wild imaginations. You know, we can all picture, we can all hear the words of a song
Starting point is 00:20:31 and imagine a very different story from the or for a poem, you know. Yeah. So when you actually do do the test and try it, then everyone at least is on the same page because we just heard the same thing. So at least we're talking about the same thing we're not arguing about a theoretical idea. Yeah I was pretty moved watching the that Beatles thing that Peter Jackson put together. Did you get it? Did you? Yeah yeah I mean I... Seeing the songs come out of
Starting point is 00:20:58 nothing. Nothing. Was shocking. So amazing but I also it doesn't it doesn't even matter what the cultural you know the way the way that we, you know, we take the stories of creative acts that we like, like the white album or Let It Be or whatever, like that. And then you get this, there's all this reductivism. It just happens, legends get born and people say Yoko broke up the band and this was going on and that was going on, right? But you realize that apart from it just being silly, there's something sad about reducing complicated things
Starting point is 00:21:33 that happen to stories of conflict, right? And I've had that happen to me. People still say like, you know, this film became a fight and it's like, no it didn't. I did a film, American History X, This film became a fight. And it's like, no, it didn't. I did a film, American History X, that has really endured a lot of people. The thing is, it was a strange process, because the guy
Starting point is 00:21:54 directed it, Tony, was a very eccentric figure. I've met Tony. Very eccentric. Beautifully so, in many ways. There are many things that, and the truth is our process on that was totally non-traditional, but really vital, really vital. And I didn't begrudge him his eccentricities at all. And actually, he was really appreciative to me the things that went on, they were nuanced and complicated
Starting point is 00:22:29 and they had phases of, do we trust each other? Are we living a thing? You go through a process. And then he got into sort of this, he got into some things with the studio over wanting more time. And sometimes just practical, practical exgencies come and you have to abandon the piece.
Starting point is 00:22:48 Ultimately, you have to finish it. And nobody's ever like, if something's good, maybe you're never done and he didn't want to be done. And it came down to that. But then- In retrospect, people love the film. Yeah, absolutely. And I think he does.
Starting point is 00:23:03 And I do. Of course, there's anything coming. You look at, you know, maybe that or this or that. You always hold that if you were inside it, right? There's no taking away from the fact of how that affected people. It still affects people, you know? And when I look at it, I'm like, wow, a lot of what was being expressed not only didn't go away, it went away from the margins and became much more central in American life in scary ways. The rage that it was really about has bloomed. It hasn't gone more marginal.
Starting point is 00:23:39 But the point was then you just get subjected to people saying, oh, there was a fight because it's salacious and it's good copy or whatever. And you kind of just, you go through that experience and you know that for whatever reason, sometimes people like to focus on the idea of conflict that went into creative things. LMNT. Element electrolytes.
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Starting point is 00:25:31 LMNT. Tell me about that project from the start. How did the project come to be? That one, David McKenna wrote this edgy, weird story of a young skinhead getting sent to jail and trying to change his life. And I was really struck by it. David and I went and worked on it for months together. My argument to him was that it wasn't a milieu piece.
Starting point is 00:26:02 It was actually a fellow, right? It really was that if you think about, not to get too academic, but the Greek idea of tragedy, which Shakespeare picked up and took on into an extension, it has in it this idea of the fatal flaw, that a person of enormous capabilities and beauty and potential brings themselves low through an excess of one characteristic. And I've always liked that even when I was a kid and I was learning about drama, I thought, it's such a neat idea that your strength taken to excess becomes your weakness. Your weakness isn't like a thing.
Starting point is 00:26:46 It is actually your best quality taken too far can be the thing that actually hurts you or impedes you. It's an amazing idea. And I thought, I said to David, what if we approach this not as just sort of a punk rock film about skinheads and things. What if he's in that tradition of Othello and Macbeth and Oedipus? Like people who were on their way could have been great and instead their story becomes a tragedy because something, and I said to David, I said, I think what's unsaid, but let's make it explicit, is that it's about rage, it's about anger, it's about this person brought low
Starting point is 00:27:32 by the way that rage erodes his life. And once we hooked onto that, it got exciting to us because we felt like we can work in what for us is kind of a punk rock way. We can shoot like down and dirty and in black and white and in Venice and we weren't going to listen to white power music, but we had like Fugazi's 13 songs in our head and we had minor threat. You know, there was a lot I grew up on that like when you talk about channeling, I felt
Starting point is 00:28:02 like that's the energy of this. This is the way we want to make it. It's the energy that's being expressed in it. And so for us, it was like we can have a kind of a gorilla attitude, but we can have a classical value in it. A dramatic ambition that... Which elevates the whole piece. That's heightened, right? And it doesn't take away from the greedy story. Yeah, yeah. No, it's still, it's really, I mean,
Starting point is 00:28:29 we made them move for nothing. Like, I mean. When did Tony get involved? So I can't really remember the studio. You know, he hadn't made any films. He had shot a lot of commercials. He was a very like, he was kind of a cutting edge commercial director mostly.
Starting point is 00:28:47 And when we all, David and Tony and I kind of bonded over it, it was funny. He and I I think actually agreed that we weren't sure that I was, you know, pull that off, right? That was what really drew me to it. But I was cautious. I thought, you know, you gotta see. So, Tony and I decided to do a test. And I didn't bulk up yet, but I kind of literally, I shaved my head and we put a lot of tattoos on
Starting point is 00:29:16 and we shot this like improvised kind of thing where a lot of what David and I put into some of the character's speeches we made up and we shot shot it and Tony and I looked at it together and we went this is kind of working this is pretty interesting you know and so then we kind of all jumped in you know he was really interesting because he's a great photographer maybe it's his greatest strength and you talk about availability he's extremely available he does not come at things with many preconceptions.
Starting point is 00:29:45 He actually did a really funny thing that I really liked. One time we had a really great dinner. We were just talking, the whole thing, and it was very vital, and we were excited about the whole thing. And I think he was very lit up, and he grabbed this piece of paper and in kind of an artistic kind of way,
Starting point is 00:30:02 he just wrote the date on a piece of paper and he stuck it out the window in the rain. So that the, he wrote something like, Tony and Edward, this night, this date, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, and he stuck it out in the rain so the rain hit the ink and kinda, and then he took it and he was like, he was like, let's keep that, you know what I mean?
Starting point is 00:30:22 It was really, it was like, and that's kind of who he was. You know, he was really, he was very impressionistic and very, and when we would work, he did all the lighting and he shot the movie, but he also operated the movie. He operated every camera. You know, he was really- He was a tiny crew and he did a lot of stuff.
Starting point is 00:30:39 Yeah, yeah, but also he, a lot of times, there was a great first AD on that film named Mark Catoan, who was brilliant and really down for kind of the gorilla way we were working. And a lot of times Tony would come on the set and just say to me he would go, you know, directing actors wasn't his thing particularly. Because he had never really done that. No one was staging anything.
Starting point is 00:31:04 And he was often saying to me, will you rehearse it? He knew David and I had basically done the work on the script. And then I was, so he would have me kind of direct the actors and work with the actors and get the scenario set up. And he actually liked to be brought in only when he could sort of sit and watch something. And more often than not, he would just go, it's so fucking great, it's so great. And then he would just start going light here, light there, real fast, you know, put the
Starting point is 00:31:37 on my rig, put the ring on my shoulder and let's rock, you know, he would quickly do the mental math of I'm going to do this and this and this and this and this, let's rock, you know, he would quickly do the mental math of I'm gonna do this and this and this and this and this Let's rock, you know, and we were often just rocking and rolling and going so fast and he would literally fling one Handheld thing with the mag off his shoulder as it ran out and have him drop another one on I've never you know, it was almost like we never stopped. It was crazy He shot like he shot like two million feet of film on a on a short of this movie. It was crazy. He shot like 2 million feet of film on a short, this movie, it's crazy. But it was very vital and it was great. I mean honestly, like the whole experience was really, it was the way you want to work when you're that age and everything. And it, you know, the process, it took over a year, the editing of it, because
Starting point is 00:32:27 Tony was nuts. I mean, he brought in a commercial editor and they cut a thing and the story wasn't there. And then, but the studio gave him a lot of time and we worked together and I actually went and brought people said, I cut the movie, I didn't cut the movie. I actually just like, Tony went away. He went away to do a gig. He kind of actually took a break from the whole thing and we were left sort of sitting there going, what are we going to do? And I never cut the film. I just, I kind of put an assembly of the raw materials together so that we could try to recruit. I think Tony agreed as I remember that maybe his commercial editor wasn't the guy to cut it, but we couldn't recruit somebody because we didn't really have a thing
Starting point is 00:33:07 So we put the we put the whole thing together almost like just like a master, you know And out of that we got this guy named Jerry Greenberg who had cut the French connection apocalypse now Kramer versus Kramer Legend, you know and Jerry Greenberg was the guy who really came in and really made it the film that it is and it was The truth is it wound up like really positively the stuff that everybody talked about being conflict later was kind of in my opinion looking way back on it I think it was more than anything Tony being anxious about the moment when you have to say I'm finished and he sort of spun out on the idea that it was complete and that it was done and
Starting point is 00:33:54 started insisting on more time and kind of Got him to do a little bit of almost a performance already kind of mode in his fight with the studio You know what I mean, and that's to Tony is two. He is a bit of a performance artist. You know, his life and his conduct of life within art is kind of a piece unto itself. Yeah, he doesn't turn it off. He actually is a performance artist. Yes, and there's a point at which standing back from me, you can kind of go to what made him unique and kind of hilarious and great, it got to a place where it was starting to become a practical impediment to having something that was more than good enough. It was really working. And in a way, I always said to people like, people are saying, why is he doing this?
Starting point is 00:34:43 Are you in a fight with him? And I was like, I'm not in a fight with him at all. Like like I'm actually sort of I ended up feeling sorrowful that he cut himself out from the pleasure of the result and not not not not not the credit he directed film But in a way he cut himself he cut himself off at the last minute
Starting point is 00:35:09 From the ability to do that best thing when you've come through the whole thing together And you all put your arms around each other's shoulders and put your heads together and go we did we did this You know, were you ever done it since? With him yeah, I've never done have you ever had that head down moment, hug, we did it? No, I've never run into him. It's really, really weird. I don't know. I feel like today that would happen. Yeah, yeah, yeah. I've even heard second hand that he, I've heard from a distance that he acknowledges that in some ways that he, it's kind of what we were talking about, the way the brain can spin you up into
Starting point is 00:35:48 a negative space. I think maybe he knows in a way that it's endured it. And by the way, that's the thing I like in your book too. It's like, you get a thing done. It's not, it's not yours the minute you're done. Number one is things move so far from what they were when you conceived them. it's very, very difficult to wrangle things into what was in your head and they become what they become and then all these unexpected things happen. You know, they take on a life of their own. Yeah, and people form a relationship with them.
Starting point is 00:36:17 They see things in them that you didn't intend. They relate to them. They misinterpret them. They interpret them in ways that are cool that you didn't intend. And in a way, you know, for Tony, like, I think maybe now, maybe all this time later, he's able to see that it's had a beautiful life. Like it's had a beautiful life that everything
Starting point is 00:36:37 in the intentional sense, which was to affect people, he achieved it like in spades. And so it's great. And the film wouldn't be the film unless all of the things that happened happened. Yeah. But again, the whole process was, it was right up there in the, at that time in my life, I was like, this is the way I want to work. This is the way I want to work.
Starting point is 00:36:58 I want to work. I don't want to do John Grisham movies. I just didn't want to do that stuff. I was like, this is what I want to do John Grisham movies. I just didn't want to do that stuff. I was like, this is what I want to do. And then these are the kinds of things I want to say. And I was getting to, the interesting thing about that one, you ever listen to things you worked on at a certain time and think, wow, it's so different
Starting point is 00:37:21 than I thought it was at the time? You know what I mean? Like where you're like older now and you look at the thing and you go, oh, I thought it was at the time. You know what I mean? Like where you're like older now and you look at the thing and you go, oh, I thought it worked because of X, but in fact, now I see it in a totally different light, you know, or I hear it in a different way or whatever. On that one, I was with some people,
Starting point is 00:37:38 some people hadn't seen it. I was with Bradley Cooper and some other people and he was exhorting these people to watch that film. And so someone screened it, right? And I hadn't watched it in, I don't know how long, more than 20 years, you know? I just did the thing. And I had a really interesting experience.
Starting point is 00:37:58 It was very, it's powerful, but the thing that really struck me was that I thought when we made it, like I thought I was a man, you know, like I thought, I thought I was expressing myself as a forceful adult person. You know, you tell yourself, yeah, look, I got, I got some muscles on me. I got the ink. It's powerful. It's iconic. It looks good.
Starting point is 00:38:22 And I thought it worked. Back then I thought it worked because I was doing something muscular and powerful, right? And when I watched it and actually teared up a few times watching it, I watched, I realized I was tearing up because it's about kids. It's not because I'm a man and it's not working for the reasons I thought it was working. It's working because it's about really young people fucking themselves up around rage and sadness. And I was looking at going, it works more because he thinks he's a man and then fails so horribly and in a way is barely growing up or is about to grow up when the consequences hit him. But I really thought like, holy crap.
Starting point is 00:39:15 You were the character. Yeah, but I really thought like, look how, I mean, I was a kid. You know what I mean? And that's kind of wild to also to realize like that you have a relationship with a thing. It's not even really necessarily, it's not necessarily communicating in the way you think it's communicating. Maybe at some levels it is.
Starting point is 00:39:37 I don't think we can know. I don't think we can ever really know. No, no. But in a funny way, it's like, I feel like all those things, the kind of headspace I was in, when you're in your 20s, like your aspirations are so different, hopefully they are. I think if your aspirations don't change as you get older, you're in big trouble in
Starting point is 00:39:59 a way, you know, like the aspirations apart from ego and apart from wanting applause, wanting money, wanting any, whatever it is you think you're asserting and things, I also think like I think I was interested in wanting to, I wanted to assert an ability to channel things that weren't like me. You know what I mean? Yeah.
Starting point is 00:40:28 And in a weird way, over time, I've gotten this place where I'm like, I don't say totally I've lost my interest, but I've definitely lost my interest in violence. You know, like I don't, I was super interested in some of the things that I think young men get polluted by and they gave me the chance to exercise certain kinds of muscles. And I was very uninterested in things that came close to my own vulnerabilities or experiences or whatever. I really wanted to incarnate things. I'm more and more interested in things that are closer to home. You know what I mean? There's an honesty in what's really happening. Yeah. And did you read Barbarian Days?
Starting point is 00:41:11 Did you read that book? There's kind of a highly celebrated writer at the New Yorker who turned out had this whole young life was like just chase surf all over the world and surfed at a lot of the places like Tava Rua and long before other people went world and surfed at a lot of the places like Tavaru and long before other people went there and it's called a surfing life but it's a meditation on getting older. I take it as like a look back at the way that when you're young you're pushing yourself toward an aspirational idea of what you want to be, even though in many ways what you are is more
Starting point is 00:41:48 present and unencumbered and the older you get, as you get toward those aspirations, you actually are looking back, wanting to retain that unencumbered feeling of just being present. I relate to that. I relate to, in all ways, the challenge in life is like recovering simplicity. You know, it gets really hard to recover the state of mind. And it's gotten worse. I mean, I think I do agree with like, if you read Walt Whitman's poem, Crossing Brooklyn Fairy, which I think is honestly one of the greatest pieces of American art ever because it's so wild how he's saying in the poem, you 200 years hence, I am
Starting point is 00:42:43 thinking about you more than you can possibly know and you're looking back to me. And I'm telling you that the dark days that fall on you, they fell on me. The horrors of Fratricidal War, that was known to me. It's like such a wild thing the way he is like everything you're going through, I went through it. The wharfs along the edge of the river in Manhattan, I walked there too, I looked at the light on the water. And when I was living in New York, I remember reading that and just like,
Starting point is 00:43:18 feeling like a time portal was, this guy opens a time portal and he's talking to you through it and he has this stretch in that where he says, you know, there never was any more age or beauty than there was now or ever will be. And sometimes I think that's true. Sometimes I think obviously like the balances and the difficulty of achieving balance, it's the same. It's the same in different forms in all ages
Starting point is 00:43:48 and people's existential challenges are the same. And in a way, that's like, you know, that's what the Dharma says too. It's like you're in a state of anxiety that's rooted in your animal nature, your desires. You gotta stand to the side of yourself and see that to be able to let go, right? But at the same time, it's also incontestable to me
Starting point is 00:44:16 that we are succeeding in creating more noise and distraction around ourselves with every passing year. And I know there was things in the 70s when we were growing up, television and stuff, but these things in our hands now, the attention span, the assault on attention span, the assault on attention span and the assault on slow thinking, quiet. It's just unreal. It's unreal. I'm shackled to it for a whole variety of reasons that are rationalizations, but you tell
Starting point is 00:44:58 yourself, yeah, but I got my guitar tuner on it. Right? You're like, yeah, I got a guitar tuner that goes on to the end thing too. I don't need my fucking phone for that. And you say like, but I like to check the tides, right? Or I like to do this. But then there's the crack cocaine on it that you just get sucked into and you're just like, this is just noise. It doesn't make you feel good. No, it's just noise. And I'm sure our parents were worried about television
Starting point is 00:45:27 in the way we're worried about social media. I can't say I think those are entirely the same thing. I feel like the age of assault on your attention is, the good news is I think people are talking about it. I don't think it's like, I don't think we're all just, I don't think we're unaware. And it's happened fast and caught us. But I do think there's awareness
Starting point is 00:45:55 and there's some communication going on. There's a lot of people who are discussing it. Welcome to the house of Macadamias. discussing it. source of omega-7 linked to collagen regeneration, enhanced weight management, and better fat metabolism. Macadamias are healthy and brain-boosting fats. Macadamias, failure-friendly, keto and plant-based. Macadamias. No wheat, no dairy, no gluten, no GMOs, no preservatives, no palm oil, no added sugar. House of macadamias. Thy roasted with Namibian sea salt, cracked black pepper, and chocolate dipped. Snack bars come in chocolate. Coconut white chocolate and blueberry white chocolate. Visit HouseOfMacadamias.com slash Tetra.
Starting point is 00:47:24 When did you get into surfing? I got into surfing later and I actually was working on a film in China and I had an accident doing a stunt and I broke my back. It sounds really dramatic. I cracked three vertebrae, right? Do you normally do stunts? It depends. I mean, everybody does. There's
Starting point is 00:47:46 some blurry line between what is like a level of that that you actually learn it. There's techniques and it's fun to figure out. It plays into the character also. Yeah, it's fun to figure out the puzzle even of like in filmmaking especially the to figure out how do you Do that stuff and make it look great. What was this safely? But but no, this was this was um, this was like a beautiful Film about forgiveness called the painted veil. But what was this? How did you get hurt? Oh, I got chucked off a horse I was I was a horse a horse that I was on got spooked, you know, it's bucked me off and I landed funny A horse that I was on got spooked. You know, it just bucked me off and I landed, funny. But my father was living in Indonesia then, and when the film was over, I went down there
Starting point is 00:48:33 to hang out with him and recuperate. How did your dad come to live in Indonesia? He was doing conservation work. Yeah, he's a big conservation pioneer and environmental advocate and program builder. And he was working for a big conservation organization down there. And I met someone who introduced me to famous Indonesian surfer, Rizal, a great, great guy. And it actually first appealed to me because it looked like it was the direction
Starting point is 00:49:07 I wanted to stretch my back. You know what I mean? I needed to open my back up. I was really locked up. And also I had, I was a sailor and... When did you get into sailing? When I was a kid. When I was a kid.
Starting point is 00:49:19 Yeah, yeah, I grew up near the Chesapeake Bay and I learned to sail. And I loved, I loved the ocean, I loved sailing and scuba diving and I had windsurfed and everything. I just had never surfed. So I started doing it like in my 30s and I just got completely addicted to it. It really, I think it's like the thing that I've found
Starting point is 00:49:41 that I can have a positive addictive relationship with. I never had a toxic addiction. Although sugar and shit like that is definitely in the matrix for me. But it's just the kind of thing that I feel like surfing is like music. It's infinite. You will never assess it or encompass it because the movement of water and wave form is so infinite and so nuanced and so beautiful and so changeable that just like a musician, all you're trying to do is get yourself inside the pocket of that flow and have the ephemeral moment of getting in sync with that energy and it doesn't matter how many times you do it, there's no guarantee you're going to get it right the next time and every single place you go and do it, you can do it. I mean, you know, we have the
Starting point is 00:50:48 Takuji's our friend, you know, one of the great surfers and, you know, pied pipers of surfing and everything. And I know being when you're in the water with someone who's done it their entire life, they're still watching the water and the way it's moving toward them and doing all these micro reads. I mean, it's the ultimate in availability to the moment because you have to perceive what is actually just taking place right now and get yourself into a cigarette. And it's good for you physically. It's great mentally.
Starting point is 00:51:24 It's just completely, I mean, I have to say like... It's the antidote to the social media. It is. It's like exact opposite. And it's... And I gotta say in a funny way, like I love doing yoga. I like there's something about surfing that it might be for me, it's like the most accelerated gateway to a clear mind. Like it, um... And presence. Yeah, presence. It's your... You're in the moment.
Starting point is 00:51:52 So like, you do yoga to prepare to meditate or you meditate and you focus on your breath and you get... You work toward emptying your mind and then you hear your mind come in and then it pings you back and then you go, there it is again, let me try to let it go again. There I am again. And all of it's great. Every single form of that kind of practice, literally whether it's yoga or meditation or scuba diving
Starting point is 00:52:19 or anything that gets you through into that state is great. or anything that gets you through into that state is great. Sometimes because of how noisy life is, and the fact that I'll get into periods where I'm like, I cannot shut my brain off. You know, like, it's just like the, I've electively chosen to take on a lot of stuff and it's overstimulating my lists. You know, it's not even, it's not social media shit like that for me as much,
Starting point is 00:52:49 although that will be this cheap. Fun projects, things you're excited about. Yeah, no, I don't think. But, but it's like the Radiohead song Spinning Plates, you know. Sometimes you just go, what have I done to myself? Yeah. What have I done to myself? Why have I done this? Yeah. Like it's an embarrassment of riches, for sure. I know I done to myself? Why have I done this? It's an embarrassment of riches, for sure. I know I'm lucky. I know that there's very little I'm doing in my life that I don't want to do for positive reasons, other than taxes or whatever. So it's an embarrassment of riches and it's an uptown problem for sure, lucky problem to have, to sort of electively take on
Starting point is 00:53:27 a lot of things that are interesting. And you're missing life. Across, yes, that's what's so wild. It's so wild to realize that you have, you've built Pink Floyd's wall. No one else built it around you, you built it. And you're trying to take the bricks off the wall, you get to a point in life and you're like, all I want to do is take bricks off this wall.
Starting point is 00:53:51 You know, and But then you can imagine, but if I put this brick on top here, it's going to look so cool. And there's the compulsion to engage with things that are thrilling, vital, fun, people who are great. Sometimes it's like you can't help yourself and then lo and behold, you're sitting there with your brain in a state of anxiety that the literal lists you've made or the ones or even worse, the brain bouncing around worried that it's forgotten something on the list, right? If I club that has that great line, the things you end up owning you, that's definitely true
Starting point is 00:54:38 in a material sense. But there's a non-material version of that where the things that you've engaged in become this this matrix of noisy mind that you can't and you're like, where's my time to read? You know, like where's my time to just listen to music? Or just be with no agenda or hang out with kids or or walking the beat, you know all of it. And then it becomes this thing of going, you gotta get in the practice going, I can't do everything every day. I just can't, and so you gotta put the balance.
Starting point is 00:55:18 But it's funny, like great literature or music, there's sometimes you think you knew what something was about when you were young, then you read it again when you're older, like Marquez's books. But I do think the wall is really interesting, right? Because we loved it when we were kids because, hey, teacher, leave those kids alone. There was these little, there's these things you grabbed in it, right? You grabbed what applied to you at the time.
Starting point is 00:55:46 I like laid back and listened to that whole thing one night. I couldn't sleep and I was like, fuck it, I have these good new headphones. I put it on and I listened to the wall, like all the way through, which I hadn't done in a long time. And I was like, wow, like this is really about self imprisonment.
Starting point is 00:56:03 You know, it really is this like thing of like am I gonna be able to to deconstruct The the thing I put around myself, and I really I had this whole different response to it The the thing is that you were saying what's acting and I'm saying Like like I feel pretty disconnected from it right now just because my my last big personal diary entry was this film I wrote and directed Motherless Brooklyn and it was completely satisfying to me like I was you know you always care because people invest in you know back you and whatever
Starting point is 00:56:43 but I really like needed to just exercise it, right? Like I had worked on it, put it down for like eight years. Wow. I wrote half of it. Tell me the story from the beginning. Well, there was a book called Motherless Brooklyn by Jonathan Latham, wonderful novel about a guy with Tourette syndrome and obsessive compulsive disorder. It's a modern novel. It's a modern novel.
Starting point is 00:57:05 It's a detective story. From when? The 90s, like the late 90s. But it's the pleasure of it wasn't the plot. It was the head, the journey inside the head of this character. And I related to it so intensively, like really like the way in Joseph Conrad's, you know, Heart of Darkness, Marlowe's looking at Kurtz and going that. I'm looking down into the void and there he is and I'm just on the edge of it. Mother's Brooklyn's funny and empathetic and warm but I really was like, I really do feel sometimes if 20 synapses had been wired differently, I might be a really painful version of obsessive compulsive, you know, or Tourette or whatever.
Starting point is 00:57:51 I related so much to the aspect of it that like words triggering compulsive mental play with the words, phrases, rhythms, lines, sounds, you know, and the need to repeat them and the need to twist them around and make a rhyme out of it. I mean, it's just like I really related to it. And then separately and kind of in parallel, I was really interested in this guy named Robert Moses who you know from growing up, you know, John B. Robert Moses State Park.
Starting point is 00:58:27 Yeah. He's this towering figure in New York and American history who was very poorly understood until this great book called The Power Broker was written about him. And in many ways, you could argue that he was the Darth Vader of American life in the 20th century. He was like Anakin Skywalker, a Jedi, like a person of incredible capabilities who went to the dark side, actually went over to the dark side and did incredible damage to the social fabric of New York based on racism and based on power and based on all these things.
Starting point is 00:59:13 And people thought he was the Parks Commissioner. And I was fascinated by him and I was fascinated by the idea of the way that like injustices become systemic. You know, they get baked into the actual way our society is built. But he seemed kind of, he seemed esoteric in a way, like the kind of thing that you could tell yourself the lie that you could make a movie like a Citizen Kane about him and you could say, yeah, I'm going to make Citizen Kane.
Starting point is 00:59:46 But in the back of my mind, I knew you needed a vehicle for looking at him. So I had this wild idea to use the Tourette detective as the vehicle for looking at what happened. Great idea. Yeah, I had to go to Jonathan who wrote Marlowe's Brooklyn. And this is a nice thing. And I said to him, I got the craziest idea. And I said, but I can't do this without your permission.
Starting point is 01:00:10 Honestly, like I said, I wanna take your character, but I wanna like Philip Marlowe or, I wanna take your detective and I wanna send him off into another adventure. I still wanna explore like the idea that his boss and the only person who understood him is murdered, but I want what he unspools, the thread that he pulls on. I want it to be a vector for looking at what Robert Moses
Starting point is 01:00:38 did to New York in the- It's the coolest idea. In the 50s, and thank God, he said, hey, I wrote my book. You don't have to, I don't need you to rewrite my book. And he said, I love films, many of the best adaptations or springboards into something different. Did you always know you wanted to call it
Starting point is 01:00:56 Motherless Brooklyn? It's such a great title. I see. It's such a great title. I see. But the other thing is he didn't write Motherless Brooklyn about Robert Moses and what happened in the bifurcating of the neighborhoods.
Starting point is 01:01:12 But Motherless Brooklyn is such a great, that's what happened to the city. No one was looking out for it. And all these places that we know, these places that were communities, the African American communities in Brooklyn and the Jewish communities in the Bronx, and they ravaged them.
Starting point is 01:01:31 They chased people out. They did unbelievably scuzzy and destructive things and purposely put highways through the middle of portions of them. You know, there was a lot about the way that they remade New York from the 19th century city into the 20th century city that was that was purposefully and cruelly and unnecessarily destructive, you know, including even things that sound apocryphal but that were true. Robert Moses dreamed up many of the parks and the parkways and things like Jones Beach. He also intentionally had the overpasses set at a height that buses would not be able to go
Starting point is 01:02:10 under them so that minorities couldn't go to Jones Beach. Wow. Yeah. And that's true. He really did that. Wow. Really, really tried to make sure that public transportation would keep minorities from his new public beaches. And I love the idea of motherless people, but of whole communities that no one's looking out for. Thankfully, Jonathan, now he gave me his blessing. He was like, I'm fascinated. I love this idea. And he let me do this wild transposition of his character into a totally different story.
Starting point is 01:02:47 And when I moved to New York when I was in my early 20s, I worked in housing. I worked in affordable housing, finance, and I used to go around in all these neighborhoods and everything. So it was really connected to a lot for me. And I really wanted to get it done. But when I went to write my own mystery, my own Chinatown, I got really hung up. I got really hung up in the jigsaw puzzle of it. And then I was, you know, because I was lucky
Starting point is 01:03:16 and I had gigs coming at me and I was like, I'm gonna put it down and I'll do this gig. And I lost, you know, I lost it. I lost the thread. I lost the momentum. I lost the momentum. I lost the impetus. And it kind of was like there and it was haunting. It haunted me for like 10 years.
Starting point is 01:03:32 Wow. And I kept saying, yeah, I'm gonna pick it back up. And finally a friend at a studio, he stuck a fork in me, he was like, maybe I should give this to someone else. You know, maybe I should let someone else have the right so you can still play the role or whatever. It kind of like smack me in the face in a good way and I was like, what are you going to do?
Starting point is 01:03:51 Are you going to, you know, what's going to satisfy you more than finishing this? Nothing. And if you don't, you're going to, it's going to be an actual regret. Like an actual regret, not like a passing thing Like you're gonna regret it if you don't see this through so I finally I Finally picked it back up and I bounced it around with the writer friend and it was really weird
Starting point is 01:04:17 It was like the thing I'd been so hung up on it unlocked like that Yeah, like it just and it wasn't just like in my sleep, I came up with it, it just, enough time had gone by, and something that seemed illogical to me, just suddenly didn't anymore. It just unlocked. And then I did it really fast. You know, I did it in a big salvo of,
Starting point is 01:04:41 you know, a whole bunch of nights of just staying up all night, sleeping in the day, writing all night, sleeping in the day, writing all night, sleeping in the day, and I finally got it done. And then it took me a while to get the, you know, figure out how to get it made. So much of today's life happens on the web. Squarespace is your home base for building your dream presence in an online world. Designing a website is easy, using one of Squarespace's best-in-class templates. With a built-in style kit, you can change fonts, imagery, margins, and menus,
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Starting point is 01:05:55 The Squarespace app helps you run your business from anywhere. Track inventory and connect with customers while you're on the go. Whether you're just starting out or already managing a successful brand, Squarespace makes it easy to create and customize a beautiful website. Visit Squarespace.com slash Tetra and get started today. How hard is it to get a movie made? Well, we're in a... I mean, I don't know if you feel this is true in music too, but we're in a golden era for storytelling, narrative story tellings in a golden era. Now, it might not be the form we grew up with
Starting point is 01:06:45 where you went to the cinema all the time and everything, but what's happened in terms of streaming platforms and all the business of it all, you can gripe about the change in the form and the change in the way it's delivered and where people are seeing what they're seeing and all of it, and it's true, but at the same time, what effectively has happened is that
Starting point is 01:07:08 people have set up these blast furnaces and they need coal. There was a series that I love called I May Destroy You. I don't know if you ever saw that. This British Ghanaian woman, McKayla Cole, wrote, directed and stars in this. It's so good. It's so brilliant. And to me, it's an example of like, there is so much more diversity of storytelling now. So many more, so many different voices are finding their way. The forms have been exploded.
Starting point is 01:07:39 It's not all two hours and 20 minutes. You know, it's like multi-part and three-part and 10-part and multi-seasons and big long films. I think it's almost indisputable that if you, there are more doors to knock on, more forms, more ways and more types of storytellers getting to do their stuff than ever. All the things people are saying about making, democratizing it more, all true, all great, it just be pushed and pushed and pushed.
Starting point is 01:08:10 But I don't think anybody can contend with the fact that there are more ways to get things done today than there ever have been. And that's cool. I think that's cool. I think certain types of things like Aren't getting made as theatrical films as much anymore But you got to decide at a certain point if you care like do you know, it's like I got a lot of vinyl records
Starting point is 01:08:38 I still like to put them on But I can't pretend that I also don't love But I can't pretend that I also don't love moving around in the world with the entirety of all music that's ever been made available to me. I love it. You know, I love it. I love being able to like, I want to flee turn me on to like Faro Sanders, that last record or whatever, you know? And it's like floating points. Yeah, where would I find to be able to get tipped off to something and then settle in with it? And so great, you know? So great. I love the availability of that. That's like, you know, it's great. When's the last time you went to the cinema to see a movie? I saw some things in the last couple weeks. I didn't go, I mean, I, you know, it sounds fancy,
Starting point is 01:09:27 but I, a friend with a screening room put some things. So I love seeing things on big screens. I love it. You know, no matter how big your home TV is, it's not quite the same as watching it in a room with other people. I love that. This is, it's funny, because I wanted to ask you a question.
Starting point is 01:09:47 It flows up and out of what we're talking about, which is like, after I did Motherless Brooklyn, I felt satiated in a way, like exhausted, but I got to fully exercise. I got to fully realize the thing that had been in my head for a long time. That was great. It was great as an actor. I really loved and related to the character. I got to express something.
Starting point is 01:10:15 I got to write it. I got to direct it. I had great, great, great actors that I absolutely adored in it. And one of the biggest unexpected things was that I got to produce all this music in it, right? Great. Tom York wrote a new track for me. He played it for me in a demo, and I got to go to Oxford
Starting point is 01:10:34 and work with him on that. This brilliant composer, Daniel Pemberton, we worked night after night after night on the music together and recorded it in Abbey Road Great and in air studios George Martin's other place and and Winton Marcellus and his band Created the music for a jazz band in a jazz club. That's like Miles Davis's quintet so I got to work with Winton on recording and re-recording a Mingus piece and a Clifford Brown piece and then Winton and his Quintet played the sort of new ballad standards that Daniel wrote and we recorded.
Starting point is 01:11:16 So I got to like make music in Abbey Road in New York with Winton, in Oxford with Tom, and I got to really actually produce all that and cut it and weave it in a thing. And, you know, I've directed other films, but this was like an exalted experience for me getting to work with those people on that kind of music and to shape the music. on that kind of music and to shape the music I play. But like it was like I got to, I got to slip into a world that you guys work in all the time and do it in a way that was such a, it was so gratifying. Like I never wanted it to end, you know, it was so much fun.
Starting point is 01:12:00 And then I finished it and then COVID, you know, hit, which was fine with me creatively. I was looking for a big sabbatical for my mind and everything anyway. And I've done one or two things, but I really almost gave myself a permission to just stop and almost go through the crucible, like a junkie, like the brain and the ego. Yeah, what am I supposed to be doing now? What am I doing? Or I gotta work, like what am I doing?
Starting point is 01:12:35 What are you doing? What are you doing? There's the voice screaming in your head, like you're crazy not to gig, or you're crazy not to gig, you know, or you're crazy not to work. And I almost had to like let that fade a little to even get around to a point of going, it feels distant, super distant, and that feels good, fine, like really, really good and fine. And the last year or two, I've actually had to like repeatedly kind of meditate, talk to myself and just go,
Starting point is 01:13:15 do an exercise of like imagining I'm on my deathbed. And I'm looking back and knowing that I want like a tapestry. I don't want the repetitive experience of playing dress up and make believe ad infinitum. Like I want to do other things. I want to like just experience other things. And I read this, I actually read this essay that Vaslav Havel wrote. The guy who was the playwright who became the president of Czechoslovakia, incredible figure and he wrote this essay called Second Wind. He basically said that in a creative life you do this wave of work and you exhaust it and then you have two choices.
Starting point is 01:14:01 You can start to repeat that work in one form or another. You can essentially keep revisiting the same ideas or you can stop and refill yourself with life and be willing to start again. A whole new adventure. Yeah, and I love that. It's scary. And I love that. I, I, it's scary. Yeah. It's definitely scary.
Starting point is 01:14:26 It definitely like has given me some moments of all the brain, you know, wobbles, insecurity. Like, is anybody going to let you back in and do it? Are you going to know how to do it? And that's why I was saying at the very beginning, like, I'm getting damn close to this place where I'm like, I don't really, I'm not sure. You know how to do it. Did I know how to do it? That's great.
Starting point is 01:14:51 Yeah, yeah. I think that's good because I think I'm not physically the same person anymore. I don't look the same. And I think, and there's a part of me that thinks that that's even good within what acting is at its best. It's like, I do have that thing where I'm like, I've seen these people too much. I can't let go.
Starting point is 01:15:16 You know, or there's some of my favorite actors who I think have, you know, you kind of forget about them. Yeah. And then it's like, whoa. But that's hard to do if you're working like relentlessly, you know? But the thing I was gonna ask you is I, when I pulled up, I was playing the chili peppers track, White Brades and pillow chairs from that,
Starting point is 01:15:42 I guess not the, you guys did another one, but from the unlimited love. Same set. Yeah, unlimited. That whole thing. I think it's one of the best things they've ever done. And in particular, I think the back half of the second record, which isn't the stuff, you know, that makes the radio and it wasn't, it's not even what they've been playing out
Starting point is 01:16:00 in tours and I've seen everything, but like those tracks, like it's only natural and white braids and pillowed chairs and she's a lover and let them cry. They're in such a fucking groove in that. Like I went down on that like a kid with the first U2 record or with the, you know, I mean, or like the clap, you know, I mean, I was listening to it over and over and over again. And, you know, I've been friends with those guys a long, long time.
Starting point is 01:16:28 I think they're playing at a level of musicianship. And I think Anthony wrote some song, that song when I was playing, I think it's like one of the best songs he's ever written. It's just unbelievable. Like there's just not a lot of people who've been making music together for over 30 years who still, in my opinion, find that. It's just great. But I have this kind of theory that, in part,
Starting point is 01:16:49 it's because John stops. I think so too. It's crazy to think about, but it's relevant to this conversation to me, not just not because you've worked with them or anything, but because to me, like in the culture that we're in, if you say out loud, you say like, oh, the first time John like went out of that band for health reasons and everything, right?
Starting point is 01:17:11 Came back in. But they do like that whole run of great records that you guys did like, you know, California Cation and by the way, and Stadia Marquette and these things. But between that and now, like, it's like over 16 years. It's like 16 or 17 years between that and John playing with them again. And in our culture and in our minds even, if you say the sentence is out loud of like,
Starting point is 01:17:39 who would quit playing with the chili peppers? Or like, who would give that up? Right? with playing with the chili peppers, like or like who would give that up, right? Like most people would reflexively go no way, right? And yet to me, I really feel like if they didn't, it wouldn't be the same. I don't think you could continue to- There's definitely a feeling of everyone has a tremendous
Starting point is 01:18:09 amount of gratitude that they have it now. And that might not have been the case if you had it all the time. You know, when something is gone and comes back, it's that much sweeter. Yeah, you treat it precious. But it's also... You don't take it for granted. Yeah. And it's funny, they play like them, but I also have to say to me, I don't know if you've musically,
Starting point is 01:18:28 developmentally, they're playing like jazz musicians on that record. Like they're playing Chad too. I mean, like hey. They're the best musicians. He's playing. They're the best musicians and Anthony from the beginning until now
Starting point is 01:18:43 has just continually gotten better and better and better It's funny. I asked Anthony. I wrote Anthony about that song white braids, but you're never gonna hear on the radio, right? It's one of my favorite songs on the album. Yeah, it's it's a gorgeous piece of writing and And John's not even playing I mean John's playing this beautiful like Les Paul like rhythm fill You know what I mean? Just these I mean I sat there playing this beautiful, like, Les Paul-like rhythm fill, you know what I mean? Just these, I mean, I sat there trying to work those chords out because they're, it's just this gorgeous. And I asked him, I was like, I wrote him, I said, I think that's like one of the best
Starting point is 01:19:14 songs you've ever written. And he said, you know what's really weird is he said, I, the scene, he said said I saw the scene of that I Saw those two people in a cafe like 20 years ago, and I wrote it down Like he said I've been sitting the image of this couple amazing, which I love too because I think like the Suri read I Think it's I can't remember what it's in one of Rilke's, the Austrian poets' letters. He said, like, to a real artist, ten years is nothing, gestation is everything. I think about that a lot.
Starting point is 01:19:57 But it's something that I really admire about, I don't even know John as well as I know Flea and Anthony, but but I really admire that the courage to Live a life and take a break from an identity You know, it's really really hard to do absolutely. Let's listen to that song I'm a tangled tiger and I wanna rip it off to shreds so I can ask it why She's a loaded cobra, and she wanted to be with me for the ride In a Sunday diner, I'm reminded there's no finer place to kiss Than one like this Kiss, then one like this But babe, I can see what's right with you Why prays a pillow, babe?
Starting point is 01:21:14 I could spend my nights with you This pussy will obey I can see all sides of you White braids in pillow chair I don't know what I would do Without your pillow She's a bobby bearin' singing to the fish Inherin' sacrifice Oh, that's her knife She's a bobbed bear and singing to the fish and heron sacrifice
Starting point is 01:21:45 Oh, that's her knife There's a common ear popped up back in we believe it is a lie You can see the river running through my devastated concrete eyes Take on D-9 But babe, I can see what's right with you While prison pillowed babe I could spend my nights with you Dispussy willow babe This pussy will obey I can see your sides of you
Starting point is 01:22:30 Wapres and pillowjays I don't know what I would do California blue, sing to you, please to do California blue, sing to you. Deep into the sky, rolling by, rolling by. Deep into the sky, rolling by. Santa Cusin June, either you, so that no Santa Cusin June, either blue or red. Santa cruising through, south of the moon. San Francisco Bay, safe to say, day for day. So nice. Yeah, it's such a romantic song. It's like so much longing in it and Dreaming of connection, you know, it's just it's just a great
Starting point is 01:24:13 It's a beauty I really love it, but It's funny. I you were in your book you're I like I like the idea you had that like there's people are Making themselves antennas and conducting things down. They could come through different people, but they come through, it's really weird. Like I think there's lots of, I mean, I play guitar, not great, but I love guitar. I really love the instrument and I just, you know,
Starting point is 01:24:39 I'm in music. And I love lots of bands and, you know, you identify or you relate to things but There is this I there's such a funny thing like like and John to me John is like One of the all time, you know, I for me John sits in this really specific like Hendrix and Prince and John for me They they play the same way. There's a lightness of touch, there's a flickeriness to it.
Starting point is 01:25:11 But it's really wild. The best way I can put it is, like when I'm listening to this record, like I was listening to, it's only natural when I was coming out here. Sometimes the path of the notes that a certain person finds land in you and they're right. You know, they're just right.
Starting point is 01:25:32 There's lots of people I listen to and I'm like, they're great. That's great. Whatever. I can't explain the level of satisfaction my brain gets out of like where John puts notes. They're like, to me, they're like perfect. And I kind of get that sensation. You're talking about the book where I'm just like,
Starting point is 01:25:52 why am I, you know, some other, other people might not feel that. And it relates to the Mellows Brooklyn thing. I get really thrown off if I feel like a note or a syncopation or something lands in the wrong way. You know what I mean? A rhyme or a thing. I think that is such a strange aspect of the brain that something in you is saying, like,
Starting point is 01:26:21 it's not language, it's not logic, it's not anything, but your brain is saying that's in the right place. Yeah. Why? You know? Yeah, we don't know why but you really can feel it. Yeah. And I think that's the key to all music. I've recently come to this like it really is just the timing that the little timing between the notes That's where all the energy lies. The juxtaposition, the space. The way these guys are laying this, it's also the way people lay space over each other.
Starting point is 01:26:52 They make, someone makes space and someone else is inside that space. Someone's pushing, someone's pulling. Right. And on this group of tracks that I like, one of the things I love so much is, it's like this inversion because John's fleas playing a lot of melodic complexity around spaces John's making with some very simple rhythmic things. There's a big inversion going on of a lot of what you associate with
Starting point is 01:27:19 like bass and guitar you know. But I just find the whole, the way that, I have to be honest, like the older I get, the more I envy music as a form of expression. I like what I, you know, I like the things that I've gotten to work on. I think also maybe because it's not work for you. Do you know what I mean? Like the fact that it isn't work, you get to enjoy it in a different way. Yes. And look, I know musicians spend an enormous amount of time on the math to get to the place where it becomes not math,
Starting point is 01:27:55 right? Because there's mathematics and music, there's patterns, and musicians can get very analytic and wonky also to create a thing that helps the rest of us get out into the non-anal... you know, the rhythm and the vibration stuff. But there is something really enviable too about the autonomy that's in music. Like, I feel this with like Tom and Johnny and these guys, you know, I stopped in to see Tom and Johnny were in the studio at Abbey Road late and I went in and I was just watching them, you know,
Starting point is 01:28:28 I was like, these guys have been just like fleeing Anthony. They've been together since high school, you know? And they're still sitting on the floor, on the Park K floor in studio too in Abbey Road, just playing, you know, playing literally, figuring shit out. And they don't have to get anybody's permission to do it And they don't have to get anybody's permission to do it. They don't have to get anybody's money to do it.
Starting point is 01:28:49 They don't ask anybody to do anything. They can just go and do it. And there's a cataclysmic gulf between that freedom and the form that I've worked in more where the amount of headache. and the form that I've worked in more where the amount of headache, I mean, I love that I can sit down and write a thing, right? And if it would, if it ended there, that'd be great. But the lack of autonomy, not just as an actor,
Starting point is 01:29:18 like film in general. No, the number of people involved. It's such a big production. It's so, It's an assault on your desire to have that kind of sacred space, right? It doesn't facilitate, and in some cases, it doesn't even permit the creation of a sacred space. And I find that really enviable. And the longer I'm friends with people like, like, and fleet, you know, we've been friends a long time, like he's
Starting point is 01:29:51 a monk. I mean, he, and I, it's like, I envy the purity. I really envy the purity of the fact that like, lots of times I pop across to his house and he's in the middle of a base lesson. Yeah. A base lesson. He still takes lessons with his jazz teacher and he's practicing and practicing. You know, those guys have a devotional relationship. Tom expresses this too, that like,
Starting point is 01:30:16 he can't think of it as content if he doesn't have a devotional relationship with it. You know, and it keeps him up in life. It's very hard to have, I'm gonna be honest, it's hard to have a devotional relationship to keep a spiritual space in work that is as crowded as making films is. But I love the idea of that as a,
Starting point is 01:30:44 that's a problem to solve. Like don't think of it, yes, it hasn't been that way. But maybe there is a version of that and it could be really interesting. Maybe you can basically put together a essentially a small theater group and film everything you do and have it be, and it could turn into some, there's some thing. You can get there, you can get, yeah, yeah. There's a way to do it. There's a way to do it that approaches it.
Starting point is 01:31:11 Birdman was damn close. That was like right up there with, for me. How quickly was that shot? Very quick, like I think 28 days or something like that. Lots of rehearsal, which was wonderful. And I'm not saying that Francis Coppola's line I love, like he said the best things about making movies is that they're collaborative
Starting point is 01:31:31 and the worst thing is that they're collaborative. It's like really true. But, and I think it's also unfortunately true, the Hitchcock line that like directing a film, he said directing a film is to be pecked to death by a thousand pigeons. So true, right? It's just like the questions never end and the left brain assault on the right brain is the intrinsic challenge in making movies but and there's just so much artifice. It's also unfortunately, and maybe this is why Alejandro wanted to do,
Starting point is 01:32:05 when I read Birdman, he hadn't, he didn't originally say, I'm going to try to create the single shot experience, right? I think whether he knew it or not, what he was trying to do was come as close to flow state in a filmmaking process as you can. And I know, look, you guys are craftsmen, you're stitching together a lot. You're, you know, I know it isn't pure flow state, it's not live, it's a lot of craft. It's a combination. And a lot of stitch work, right?
Starting point is 01:32:38 A lot of stitch work. And yet, if you guys do a take, and you're singing a take, you're trying to find those things where the flow of the notes arrives at the right place, right? And that's actually, when I talk about it, that's not dissimilar from doing takes on a film. Similar, it's like when it just locks in and comes together.
Starting point is 01:33:01 And you say that was the one. That's the one. Yeah. Yeah, same. And then you still might do something else to it after. It's true. Even as we're talking about it, together and you say that was the one that's the one yeah yeah same but and then you still might do something else to it after it's true even as we're talking about it I mean think about it just putting the score in changes yeah oh hugely hugely I'm never cease to be amazed by not just what music but sound mix in general most films just don't work like at all until the sound mix is
Starting point is 01:33:24 done it's not even like it's not even fairy dust it's literally like it's most films just don't work like at all until the sound mix is done. It's not even like, it's not even fairy dust. It's literally like, it's like a piece of furniture that's gouged and you can see the bolts and the cracks and everything and until the sound mix is done there's no show it's like shellac that goes over the whole thing and suddenly it looks beautiful and it works and There's this whole sleight of hand. This I can't even explain it, but it suddenly makes the whole thing cohere. I mean, I've been right up against the edge of going, oh my God, this just doesn't this doesn't work at all. And when you do the sound mix, it suddenly it's like, oh my God, it works like gangbusters, you know,
Starting point is 01:34:04 It's suddenly, it's like, oh my God, it works like gangbusters, you know? It's wild how much the auditory experience of it can change. The story you told about the De Niro scene and being taken out of the moment by what he was doing reminds me very much of the scene in Birdman where you're meeting Michael Keaton's character on the stage and he's got all these ideas of how the performance is supposed to be and you start, your performance is so good that he doesn't even understand that it has started. He thinks you're still talking to him
Starting point is 01:34:43 when you're doing the scene. It was just like that and he didn't even know what to do with it. It was a great moment. Yeah, it's, it's, there's a lot in that that's multi-layered and fun. Amazingly, that is the scene I was talking about where Alejandro said, you guys are doing it like all wrong. It's amazing. I'm not sure that what's in there isn't the very first thing. One of those early ones. If it isn't, it's the one we went away from it
Starting point is 01:35:13 and came back to it. It's very disarming watching that scene because we all have the same effect as Michael Keaton. We're experiencing Michael Keaton, the viewers, and when we come to realize it's already started, it's like, oh, this is what it's really like. Oh, this is when it's good. Yeah, exactly. It's like, you don't even know it when it's good. I just think that, and maybe it's familiarity breeds contempt, or you're always looking across whatever grass is greener. There's something in me, though, that some of it's the breeds contempt, or you're always looking across whatever grass is greener.
Starting point is 01:35:45 There's something in me though that, some of it's the autonomy. I've always envied musicians and their autonomy to do their work in a room together. And no one can, they don't need permission from anybody. It's harder to make films that way. You just, maybe I'm rationalizing it. I should be able to take my iPhone and go out and do whatever I want, right?
Starting point is 01:36:09 But it's the way of the world. I actually think what everybody's really chasing on some level is a feeling of flow, state, surfing, music, I can whatever, and maybe too it music, I mean whatever and Maybe maybe too. It's because I like going and hearing live music so much and when I see live music Where it's you just go what is what could be better than that like what could be better than to be To have the facility with the in with an instrument where your voice to be able to be Having it flow through you and working it out as you're going, it's like, to me, it's just incredibly enviable.
Starting point is 01:36:50 But I mean, I guess you've done it so long. It's not like you can romanticize that it isn't struggle. Like it's like people, no, but you people get in and they, when it happened, when something magical happens, and it happens often, it's still shocking every time. You can't believe it when it's happening. When we were up in that other building
Starting point is 01:37:11 and John Fashanti started playing guitar, first time I went back to see a rehearsal after John rejoined the band, I just started crying when they were playing together. Cause it was such an emotional thing to see it's so uh tightly knit between them where it's like the psychic connection is so deep they move like they're one you know like a half of an octopus yeah you know They just work together. Perfectly together. And then when they're doing a take live, and I've heard the song in rehearsal many times,
Starting point is 01:37:53 and then there's a dramatic thing that happens in one of the songs, or in all of the songs often, and something happens where you can't believe you're in the room while this is happening. It's almost like they can't believe it's happening or that they're not even there. They're so there that they're not there. And it's remarkable. I had that experience also with Carlos Santana when he starts playing, it's like it's coming from somewhere else. It's some other thing. I don't know how to explain it.
Starting point is 01:38:33 Yeah. I mean, I think Tom York told me that there's a track I love of theirs called There There. It has that line just because you feel it doesn't mean it's there. I think Tom told me that when he listened to it back, he started to cry. Even though they were pretty far along in their career at that point, it went beyond him. He was made emotional by it. It's funny, because Anthony, you know, he's such a funk master and he writes the things,
Starting point is 01:39:09 but I kind of think of my friends who are songwriters, like the thing I'm really knocked out by him, he's really like a surrealist. I mean, he really is like a linguistic surrealist. And it's that same part of me that relates to the Tourette thing in Motherless Brooklyn, the word play, the impulse to, like if anybody plays with words more,
Starting point is 01:39:36 I mean, who writes in a way that's word play more than Anthony? Like he stitches things together, He puts rhymes and concepts together. Like if you look at them, don't make any sense at all. Like literally you could write it. And I always know what it's getting at. Yeah, it paints a picture.
Starting point is 01:39:59 It's so wild though. What is that line? You know, there's a Carmen Gia parked out back and we believe it's alive. Like why am I moved by that? Like that's really wild. You know what I mean? Like it that hits me in the heart Because it's words that don't make sense But you know that it's about a guy wanting to get in a car with a girl and drive You know what I mean, And that's amazing to me.
Starting point is 01:40:25 I love how oblique, the ability to just put words together that are funky and that rhyme and everything, but that don't make literal sense. And have so much feeling. That are so oblique and have that much longing or juice mojo, whatever the vibe of the song, it's a pretty wild thing to be that non-literal and always be able to communicate an emotional sensibility. It's like those things where, have you ever seen those things where they'll take a paragraph
Starting point is 01:41:04 and every single word of the paragraph, they jumble the letters, but you look at the paragraph and you can read it out loud perfectly. It's something like that. It's like you don't need the logic of it to get the essence of it. That's another advantage, I think think that music has over images. Is the image shows you so much that it's hard to imagine your own version
Starting point is 01:41:36 because you're looking at a version. Whereas if you're listening to a story, what you picture and I picture, we'll picture different versions of that story. But if we see the picture, we're looking at the same picture. Yeah. Yeah. In a way, it's why there have been some great music videos, but on the other hand, it can
Starting point is 01:41:57 be just as limiting. Yeah. I don't have a lot of use for a lot of them. Tell me the craft of learning to act. What was that for you? When did it start? How did it work? I saw, my parents used to like to go to plays
Starting point is 01:42:15 and I think I had a babysitter who was in a play and I saw a play when I was like five and the whole thing seemed very magical to me and it wasn't movies at first. I don't remember watching movies as a small kid, but I saw plays and I immediately wanted to be in that. I don't think it was more articulate in that. I wanted to be a part of it. And I took, you know, I took, I started taking acting classes at a little community theatrical
Starting point is 01:42:51 arts school, not at my school or anything, just this great little community. How old were you at the time? Five. At then? Yeah. You started taking lessons at five? Yeah. It's amazing. But I did, you know, I played piano too and I did soccer and I did things. It was not like this is what I'm going to do at all. It was pure play. Just play. I just thought it was fun. I bounced around doing, you know, all my jumbled little life. It wasn't like a calling you know, all my jumbled little life. It wasn't like a calling at that point. But I will say there was a lady who created our little community theatrical art school who was completely legit.
Starting point is 01:43:38 And I mean at the like Stella Adler, Lee Strasberg said that level of seriousness of intent to communicate what this is and that you take it seriously and that you got to learn the craft of it. Incredibly lucky that that... Incredibly lucky. It's really interesting too. This is like in suburban Columbia, Maryland, like Central, right?
Starting point is 01:44:12 This lady, she came out of New York, moved with her husband, and she built a community theater arts program in a little, Nowhere isville in Central Maryland, that lots of people flowered up and out of into Broadway careers. I mean, and that my recollection of it was,
Starting point is 01:44:42 when you say a studio, it was a studio. It was a place that the kids who were there were like, if you're here, you come correct. Right? Like you- It's real. It's real. Yeah. It's wild.
Starting point is 01:44:58 And then after that, when did you reengage with it? I think a measure of seriousness about it notched up when I was like 16 or 17 and my public school just went for whatever reason went down and went to the National Theater in DC and Ian McKellen was doing this one-man show which when I think back on it I'm like why would they take a bunch of public school kids from outside Baltimore to see Ian McKellen in a one-man show, which when I think back on it, I'm like, why would they take a bunch of public school kids from outside Baltimore to see Ian McKellen in a one-man show about acting Shakespeare? That's what it was called. And it was kind of about his life in theater.
Starting point is 01:45:35 In a way, it could have been right at home in this conversation. It was him kind of meditating on creative life and how, in his case, Shakespeare's texts had opened up the gateway for him into... Sounded like a great show. Like, it was. What it was for me was, you know, you're a teenager and you're kind of...you're fantasizing a different...at least I was kind of like, ah, it'd be great to be a pro baseball player. Oh, it'd be great to be a spy. Oh, it'd be great to be a pro baseball player. Oh, it'd be great to be a spy.
Starting point is 01:46:06 Oh, it'd be great to be, you know, whatever. He made it seem like, oh, that's a life. That's something you could actually do. Like, it's not like, oh, there are people who are in movies, but I'm here. It was like, no, no, this is a door and you can walk through it. You know, and I definitely remember my wheels turning
Starting point is 01:46:34 after seeing it and going, this is in the realm of the possible, you know, and maybe something I should not let slip out of the mix, you know what I mean? But then when I went to college and I studied theater some, but I can't explain it. I had this kind of, part of it was I just didn't know who I was. I thought I wanted to study physics. Then I studied history and then studying languages and to be honest.
Starting point is 01:47:08 I learned different things. To be, yeah, and to be honest, I disliked my school experience up through high school. I was so emotionally unhappy that when I really luckily got to escape to college, and for me it was a total reboot. No one knew me, Tabula Rasa. People seemed actually switched on about things and suddenly I was like the kid in the candy store.
Starting point is 01:47:32 I just, you know, I kind of wanted to sample everything. So I didn't have a sense of directional thing. It was more just like, oh, I get to just be enthusiastic without self-consciousness. And that was a real gift. But I knew I wanted to go to New York just because New York had a, I can't explain why, New York was in my fantasy life. It was like a place I wanted to, and it was like, I had the Beastie Boys in my, you know, there was that version of New York.
Starting point is 01:48:04 There was the like talking head CBGB version of New York. There was the punk. There was the hip hop. There was Bruce Springsteen for me was just a huge figure in my desire to get out of where I was. And I grew up in that Route 95 corridor, you know, like some of his like tracks like like New York City Serenade and you know 10th Avenue Freeze Out and these things he painted this picture to me that I was like I'm going I'm I'm going into that right like and
Starting point is 01:48:37 and then there was Scorsese's films and there was I had this whole New York just had everything to me. I really thought like, that's a place. And I still feel that, like I think it's changed a lot, but it has a density of collisions. Like, and when you're young, the thrill of being in New York to me was, you literally might go from one scenario
Starting point is 01:49:03 to the other scenario in two or three blocks with five minutes of walking. And I loved the density of the collisions in New York was nuts. It was everything I wanted when I was that age. You know, I wanted all of it and I wanted to have a lot of unexpected encounters and everything. But I went through this thing of going, I literally would still have these sort of flip-highs where I go like, I am going to go apply
Starting point is 01:49:35 to the State Department and I'm gonna go work for the CIA. I mean, I know it sounds really weird, but I wanted to live abroad. I had lived in Japan for a minute when I was 19. Just I was studying Japanese and I was studying Aikido and like between two years in college, I just was like, I'm going there. And I-
Starting point is 01:49:54 And how was that experience? Amazing. Amazing, really exotic and great, not like, I lived in Osaka, it was a huge city, you know? But it was like, it was so amazing. It was It was the first taste I had it was the first window I had into the recognition that what's going on in America is not the beyond and all in other places that the world's a Lot bigger than yeah, no matter how big we think American culture is
Starting point is 01:50:20 Sometimes it's really big and people do know, you know, there's shit. No, but we're not to look outside. No, and I, it was like being, it was like going to another planet. I really felt like I was on another planet. There was no one had any reference point that was familiar to me and I, and it was, that was healthy and good. But did you ever read, this is a weird reference, but this is really obscure essay called, Within the Context of No Context. We ever read, this is a weird reference, but there's this really obscure essay called Within the Context of No Context. Have you ever read that?
Starting point is 01:50:49 George Trot, T-R-O-W. It was kind of famous among New York intelligentsia, kind of like the way they talk about Marshall McLuhan and the whole idea of the medium is the message and all that stuff. But this guy basically, he wrote this, and it's funny because your book, I really enjoyed reading your book. Your book's kind of reminded me too of Milan Condera, the great checkwriter. It's called The Book of Laughter and Forgetting. I've never read that. And it also is just like one page you turn and it's just got a paragraph this long on
Starting point is 01:51:25 it and the next page is a full essay and the next page is a thing. It's beautiful. But within the context and no context is kind of this meditation on the idea of like, does a thing have an intrinsic quality or is it, does what a thing is exist outside of the context that's around it? And I thought about it when I was making Motherless Brooklyn even because I was thinking about that thing of like, do I want to set it in the modern times or do I want to set it in the 50s, make it about this thing?
Starting point is 01:52:00 He has this one line in that where he says, in America today, if I walk down the street wearing a fedora without irony, it would crush my head. And I really think there's something in that because we're not a homogenous culture anymore. We're not a white dominated, now we're becoming a true polyglot culture, but it does an interesting thing, which is it means that there isn't a context
Starting point is 01:52:36 that we, men wore fedora hats without thought, because in the context of the time, a man wore fedora hat, there was no commentary. There was no commentary in it, right? Today, like, your self-selection is an assertion of something, whether you mean it to be or not. And he was kind of, this was way ahead of his time because he was basically saying, we're heading toward a context of no context.
Starting point is 01:53:11 And what is that gonna do to us? And I think some of all this, you know, there's a lot going on today about identity and in all forms. And I feel like he was meditating on that then. He was kind of saying, what happens when there's not a unifying context there's a lot of liberation in that and Bowie was on that too. I feel like I feel like he was way ahead. I
Starting point is 01:53:36 Think one of the reasons we were all obsessed with him was he kind of was like I Am completely outside of any context that you want to put around me even rock even like I am completely outside of any context that you want to put around me. Even rock, even even the 60s rock and nothing that you even think a rock star is. Fuck you. Like I'm an androgynous alien in a kabuki. You know, it's like, oh my god, oh my god, the liberation from him was a whole other order. How did you decide to put the movie in the 50s instead of now? Why did you make that decision? Because it was two things.
Starting point is 01:54:19 One was I really wanted a context in which the character with threats is isolated because the context of the time is not sympathetic or evolved. I wanted a less evolved social context in which he's a freak and in which treating a person in the way that he needs to be treated to be isolated is not, you know, today we'd almost acknowledge that that's not the way you should treat someone. And I wanted his isolation to mirror the isolation of a young black woman in the 50s. I wanted there to be a theme of people who aren't seen for what they are. So that his condition makes him not seen for what he really is.
Starting point is 01:55:15 She's a black woman and so she's not seen for what she is. And then I also think that Robert Moses was the dark, people thought he was the Parks Commissioner and he was a autocratic racist who ran the city, you know, and there's like danger in not seeing some things for what they are. So I just thought like, I thought you could... It solved a lot of issues by putting it in the 50s. Yeah. And also in the 50s was when in the US, in American cities, we baked in a lot of the discriminatory injustice
Starting point is 01:55:53 that we built the projects. And we created things that became like poverty traps, like social ghettos. I mean, we that happened in the 50s. Prosperous African-American and Jewish and Latino neighborhoods that were real middle-class neighborhoods got raised so that like Pratt housing could get built, you know, and it was intense, you know, and that kind of stuff was intentional. So it was also like a thing, I think, that was worth,
Starting point is 01:56:30 that was kind of what I was interested in, but. So tell you about moving to New York. You know, I loved it, I loved New York. It was, you moved to the city in the mid-80s. I went to NYU, I think, in 1981. Yeah, I think New York was probably even tougher in the 80s than in the 90s. Oh, for sure. I mean, it was like...
Starting point is 01:56:53 For sure, there was still like boarded up buildings everywhere. Yeah. I mean, in the 90s, I think it's... Brooklyn still had a lot of edge and Harlem still had a lot of edge. But I don't know. I don't know. It's impossible. New York probably still has a lot of edge if you're a certain age.
Starting point is 01:57:14 I love that New York's a world city. I love that it's like... Did you move there though with a mission? Did you move? You just wanted to live in New York. I figured I felt like I was was gonna find the adventure that I wanted Mm-hmm, and what were some of the adventures that you got into? You know, I worked for a thing my granddad had set up that was a housing
Starting point is 01:57:37 Development organization and it was great for me because I moved to New York and one of my early jobs was I Went all over the five boroughs interviewing people who had like left a shelter and gotten into Good affordable housing, you know, it was like we're making the case for how important Access to affordable housing is right. It was that kind of thing. And that's all great. It was great work. It was cool to, the people who were doing that work,
Starting point is 01:58:10 I still kind of think of as very heroic people, like I really admired them. Still- And you must have met some really interesting people through that. But it was really, but I was lucky. I had my little Nikon camera and a little mini cassette recorder and I would knock around, you know, I had my little Nikon camera and a little mini cassette recorder.
Starting point is 01:58:25 And I would knock around, you know, to all over, you know, into mostly lower income neighborhoods and stuff. And I was interviewing people, taking their pictures and interviewing them. And I was almost like a gopher, but I was, I was getting to see a lot of the city and encounter a lot of people. And then, you know, and I waited tables and I like,
Starting point is 01:58:50 I mean, I had bizarre jobs. I mean, I like, I did so many, I have this memory, I had a job, I wasn't even a job. I used to do a thing for extra dough because I could read fast. I found out that I couldn't type, but I had a girlfriend who worked. Courts, stenographers take the transcripts of courts, but it's in code. They take a tape deck and they read, this is the way it used to be, then they read it.
Starting point is 01:59:22 Someone who can type sits with the tape and types it all out. And they got paid the best up here and then the types got paid this. The bottom of the thing was the proofreader. The law firms and the courts had to have court documents and depositions and court testimony proofread. So the bottom of the pecking order was you could go to these services and you could take as much as you could take. They would say it has to be backed by X, right? But they paid 17 cents a page. And you could read fast.
Starting point is 02:00:00 And I could read, I could read, you know, like 100 pages an hour. Wow. Right? If I was... Have you always just had that ability? Yeah, yeah. I could, I was good at reading and good at words and things. But it was also almost like a game because you were reading it, but you weren't sitting
Starting point is 02:00:21 there and trying to absorb it. You were looking for errors. And a lot of it is like, Rick, did you ask her at that time if you could come? Edward, yes. Rick. And what did she say? You know what I mean? But there was format stuff that they wanted.
Starting point is 02:00:36 You catch it and here's the thing. In every batch that you could take and get paid 17 cents a page, they put 10 purposeful errors. To check you. They couldn't go through and check it, but if you missed more than three, so they would just take it, they would check the 10 planted errors,
Starting point is 02:00:58 and if you missed more than three, you didn't get paid. So you had to be a little bit careful. I got pretty good at it, and I used to like, this is my subway gig I Would sit on the subway and try to pick up 17 bucks an hour by by reading fast, right? But of course I was also
Starting point is 02:01:19 Doing my little downtown I was moonlighting in play I was doing my thing I was doing Acting classes I was moonlighting in play. I was doing my thing, I was doing acting classes. I was moonlighting in plays when I would get into them and I was staying up too late and I would be tired. So I have two memories. One was I fell asleep on the uptown like three express at like midnight or one in the morning trying to pick up a few extra bucks the things and I fell asleep and I woke up like in the south Bronx I woke up like and I looked around and I knew I was not like where I wanted to be at 2 a.m. and I like tried to
Starting point is 02:02:02 jump off the train and the guy and you and they shut the doors and remember they would like, he caught my ankle and then the guy was like, nudging the train forward and I was screaming, I was like, come on, come on man. They let me out and I was like, whoa, maybe this, and then another time I was coming off in an acting class in East 4th Street and I knew I had this batch that was due, it was winter,
Starting point is 02:02:25 and I was like, shit, if I don't turn this in, I gotta go sit somewhere. And I was so fucking cheap at the time. I should've just gone and sat in the coffee shop or something, right? But I was like, I just have to find a quiet place, focus, and get this done. And I poked into one of those NYU buildings near Washington Square Park.
Starting point is 02:02:46 And I kind of like went past this security guard. I was like, I'm just gonna find an empty classroom. I poke around and think classrooms are locked or there's things in them. I'm like, shit, I go in this bathroom, there's this door, and I'm like, open this door in this like NYU bathroom, and there's a storage closet and it has desks and like bathroom, I'm like, great. And I'm so fucking nickel auntie, I go into this storage closet off a bathroom
Starting point is 02:03:14 in an NYU building and I sit down to do my proofreading and I fall asleep. Fall asleep. And some janitor came and locked the door. And so I'm like, I wake up, I've missed my thing, whatever. It's nighttime. And you're locked in? I'm locked in a storage closet off a bathroom in an NYU building and I start literally going
Starting point is 02:03:41 help. And I'm like, holy shit. I can't even get to the toilet. Like, what am I, what's gonna happen to me? I'm like, I'm gonna have to spend the night here. Did you? And I'm like, that ain't nothing. Something I hear these keys.
Starting point is 02:03:57 Great. This dude opened his door and he's janitor. And he's just looking at me like, what are you doing? You know? And I remember kind of having moments like that where I was like, you feel like, man, this is like marginal, you know? This is just, I'm, what am I doing? Like I'm, you're like going by the seat of your pants
Starting point is 02:04:23 and you're kind of like nothing, you're not, you're like, I'm not putting anything together here. Like what am I doing? You know, and those were the times I'd be like, I gotta get out of New York. I gotta go, I gotta do something. I gotta get a job or I gotta do it.
Starting point is 02:04:37 But every time I would contemplate what I was gonna do and I had ideas or something like that, then I kind of would be like, yeah, but I did get this audition for this play, and I would always land, like every time I got right at the cusp of like, fuck this, this is just crazy. Something good would happen.
Starting point is 02:05:03 Something that was enough of a taste, a reinjection of what I was loving about it. And I kept going along. I mean, I feel like, I mean, you were doing music even when you were at NYU. I remember in high school, the zines and everything coming out of like, you're all this early stuff. I mean, I remember like the way Def Jam percolated to us.
Starting point is 02:05:32 You know, we had, do you remember, we had one station called WHFS. It was the Mid-Atlantic Alt Rock stations. It was where Spike Jones and I are both from. And here's the weird thing. I made some money one summer and I started building my own BMX bike. And I used to cobble the parts together
Starting point is 02:05:52 and I would save up to get the right kind of pedals or Shimano cranks or whatever. And Spike worked at the only cool, it was like Rockville skate and BMX. Wow. And I used to go there. So cool. And we're to go there. So cool. And we're the same age.
Starting point is 02:06:07 Like he has, and he worked there as like a prodigy, like a kid. I think Spike has to have been at the place. I used to go get my skateboard trucks and stuff, which was really wild. But anyway, W HFS was the only place they played like The Clash and Britpop and later, you know, R.E.M. and the Pixies and all of it. Alternative. Yeah, all the alternative stuff. So, and we didn't have any, there was no hip hop station, right?
Starting point is 02:06:35 They're in Baltimore, Washington. Same, same in New York. Yeah, there was no hip hop station. So, WHFS was the only place they put, you know, hip hop, any, you would get these little flickers of hip hop and then the Beastie Boys and stuff like that. But in my view, that's happening by like, Run DMC's like 86 or no, even earlier, like 80. When was the first Run DMC record?
Starting point is 02:07:02 It's like maybe 84. Yeah. Like I like in high school. And we had this feeling that this thing was leaking down to us, you know, like this Springsteen kind of talks, did you read his biography? Did you read his autobiography? I read, but I saw the Broadway show. Yes, which was amazing.
Starting point is 02:07:22 Amazing. But in his book, he has a really beautiful kind of section about what it felt like to live in a small town and how the radio was thing beaming, you know, from exotic places. And I really felt like the stuff you guys were doing, it was leaking to us through one channel, you know? I had the same experience growing up on Long Island and getting the music from New York. Like the Ramones, or were they big for you? Biggest. The Ramones were?
Starting point is 02:07:56 The Ramones, I saw them play 50 times. Yeah. More. That's amazing. Were like the talking heads. They were CBGB, right? I mean, they were a big CBGV then. Huge, huge, huge. Who else in that time? Devo. Devo.
Starting point is 02:08:12 But also there was always that and then like Trouble Funk from DC or Rendium C. We had Ziggs, I was in the Baltimore DC, so we had like, you know, minor threat and Fugazi were like our. Love minor threat. That was like, they were pretty much the pinnacle of what was coming up and out of there, but there was that club, the 930 Club.
Starting point is 02:08:39 I saw Radiohead there. At the 930 Club? Holy shit, that's amazing. I actually remember, I can't claim that I went and saw them there, but I remember the police played the 930 Club. And that was, they were like the kind of band that was coming through, like Outlanders,
Starting point is 02:08:54 Timor was coming through on that one all rock station. And the Smiths and, were you getting involved enough in things that were lighting you know, were you getting involved enough in things that were lighting you up even while in college that you never had like a, this is marginal, I'm not putting anything together, I'm out of here, moment? Like basically, did it, did it ladder up, did it ladder up for you successively
Starting point is 02:09:23 without, you know, from literally like college straight through to when you guys were setting that up? Yeah. I thought I was going to have a real job. I didn't think music was, I didn't do music thinking it was going to be my job. I did music because that's what I love to do. And luckily, music took over before I ended up going to law school or doing something regular.
Starting point is 02:09:43 Right. Did it just keep flowing and getting better and better such that you never had a moment of what I would call like, you know, existential? There was never an existential issue. You didn't have a, yeah, that's so lucky. It was unbelievable, unbelievable. I didn't even know it was a job. It just happened.
Starting point is 02:10:04 Yeah. That's really lucky because I think it's wild. I mean, now that I have kids, their educational experience is so different from mine was. Like, I really hated mine. They love theirs. And I'm happy about that. To me, I'm like great with if they're joyful, great. Right? Win, win, win. But what's really weird is for me, it wasn't good and then getting to go to college was good, right? The more I look at American life though, the more I think that in a lot of ways I'm lucky, I'm lucky that I made it through to a point where, and I don't wanna say non straight,
Starting point is 02:10:46 like I wasn't comfortable in the straight world. And by that I mean like, I never even condom-plated taking a job. The square world, right. I never even condom-plated like taking a job at a bank or going to law school or anything. I just couldn't see myself that way. But literally because of what I experienced in college and the degree
Starting point is 02:11:09 to which the definitions of success were very informed by plugging into the next thing, as a result, I had existential, big existential doubt moments about pursuing a creative life big Right and because my grandfather paid for me to go to college. I even had a thing of like I have a responsibility To think thank God he was amazing and told me no that's ridiculous Yeah, like the arts are the best thing in the world, you know, he actually said no go go go go You know keep going for it, right? In my case, if it wouldn't have happened the way it happened, I would have had a regular job
Starting point is 02:11:52 that would have probably made me very unhappy, yet I would still be doing music as much as possible. But it's interesting, isn't it? Because I think Flea's book is really beautiful. His chronicle of his young life is so beautiful in the sense that it's just, he assesses it with such wisdom, you know. But I'm like, when I look at him and Anthony or when I look at Bruce or anything, kids who are left to their own devices in a way that we wouldn't want for our kids necessarily,
Starting point is 02:12:24 right? Who have lives that have a lot of danger and a lot of uncertainty and a lot of instability and a lot of drugs and a lot whatever you want to say. Like Flea, his Chronicle is like music saved his life, like music is the vector and it's the only way up and out. So there is danger but there's not necessarily an existential crisis because it's like this is the path. To me it's a funny thing because and I'm kind of wrestling with it now, but there's not necessarily an existential crisis because it's like this is this is the path to me It's a funny thing because and I'm kind of wrestling with it now like it's almost like a veil You have to deal with the fact that like sometimes you think you've liberated yourself from certain things
Starting point is 02:12:55 But you still hold the DNA memory of a way you were taught to view the world and I am almost going to think because it's a long way from my kids being at colleges, but I've almost come to this place where I'm like, I not only don't care if they go to college, I'm not sure I even want them to, given what I see going on. And I don't mean the modern fears about ultra left on the thing. No, no, no, that. More that I'm not sure that even what I went through doesn't hold within it more than I was even aware
Starting point is 02:13:35 at the time of value system that's hard to break away from. Oh, there's the Marlon Brando line in with the female character is saying how nice it is to be a little kid and to be free. And then he has the line about the indoctrination. Do you remember the line? I can't remember what it is. It looks like it's an ad lib.
Starting point is 02:13:58 Is it in Last Angle in Paris? Yeah. Which, by the way, that talk about a movie that you understand better as you get older, holy crap. He's, I mean, he's a super complicated, beautiful, tragic in many ways figure, I think. The film that I was talking about having that experience with De Niro on was Marlon's last film.
Starting point is 02:14:24 Marlon was in it. And I knew him before it and... How did you know him before that? I knew him because someone who was a friend of his said to me that he had liked some of the stuff I'd done and then kind of said to me, you know, you should go up and see him. And I was like, I don't, you know, I'm not gonna, I don't know. And he goes, no, this person said to me, you know, you should go up and see him. And I was like, I don't, you know, I'm not going to prison. I don't mean, and he goes, no, this person said, no, you know,
Starting point is 02:14:49 he needs people, you know. And what I started realizing is that there was, there was a period where I think, I think he was lonely. And I think that I think that his who he was almost in a weird way put a cocoon around him. Like, I think there were people who got invited to kind of go and just bring him some stimulation and some, you know, youth and fresh conversation and stuff. And he, and that's how I met him through his mutual friend.
Starting point is 02:15:20 What was it like meeting him? It was great. I feel looking back on it that I think Marlon was very guarded out of habit. The habit, no, not the habit, the long experience of too many people venerating him, made him not tricky in a funny way, but he was a little coy. He would wait a bit to see what you were gonna be like, to see if you were gonna be gushy, or if you were just gonna, you know.
Starting point is 02:15:53 Have a normal conversation. Yeah, talk shit with him. And he was really funny. He really liked jokes, he really liked things. So I think it was sort of like, I think if it got to, oh, okay, you're all right. You're just a pal, you think if it got to, oh, okay, you're all right, you're just a pal, you're gonna give me shit, you're gonna,
Starting point is 02:16:09 then you kind of met him. And I found him, he was old, I thought he was really funny. He was very, very interested in other people. He was inquisitive, wide-ranging. You could tell he was an auto-didactic person. What he had learned, he had learned himself kind of. you know, and he was, I don't know, maybe in a way, maybe I got lucky and he was in a time in his life when he was less, I know for sure there was stretches where Marlon
Starting point is 02:16:55 was so contemptuous of the bullshit around him and he was so contemptuous even of movies and contemptuous of, he had a very, he went through definitely through periods of really disdaining his own talent, craft, the form itself. I think he had a pretty, I don't want to say tortured because that's another, but I think he had real ebbs and flows in the measure of how much he respected even the form that he was known for. And didn't want to talk about it and didn't want to think, maybe I got to a point with him where he was comfortable enough,
Starting point is 02:17:34 but I would ask him certain things and I found him really un... He was great. I talked to him about his early days in theater and he was very relaxed and funny. He was really funny. You think it came from the fact that he was so deified that he felt like he was never seen for who he was? For sure. I mean, you've seen Scorsese's, you know, the big epic film on Dylan, No Direction Home, you know? I don't mean this in the wrong way, but it's actually one of my favorite things, Scorsese did. And like, I think that's such an important film because it's a portrait of a person becoming an artist, but then also at an incredibly young age having to defend the integrity of
Starting point is 02:18:24 everything we've been talking about here against the onslaught. And I actually find myself pretty amazed. You watch this 20-year-old guy who has the density and the sense of self and the awareness before there were even pop stars or any of it. He's way, you know, you forget how few people had been main famous in that way. Like Frank Sinatra and like Brando or what Elvis. But being told that you're the voice of a generation when you're 20 years old and having the presence to go, that's nothing I can relate to.
Starting point is 02:18:58 And refuse to unpack the work. I mean, that's like how many of us have ever refused to dissect the meaning when the ego stroke of the interview comes at you. You know what I mean? It's pretty unbelievable. What's cool about that Scorsese film, it's the first time you ever hear Dylan answer a question.
Starting point is 02:19:22 Cause up until then it's always just sarcasm and deflection, deflection, deflection. No, it sounded like he was really honest. There's one part in it where they're cutting between the interviews with him parrying with people. There's a famous one, he's at the table and the guy says, you know, what is the meaning of this? And he goes, he goes, I don't know what it means. I wrote it, but I don't mean I don't know what it means. What do you think it means? Yeah.
Starting point is 02:19:52 You know, and I'm like, who says that at 20? Like who in there 20 has people telling them, asking them to explain their stuff and saying that they're a generational voice and goes, don't saddle me with that shit, man. I can't relate to that. You figure it out. And then to your point, they go to him, I think he was in his 70s at the time, and saying, yeah, I was very interested in Woody Guthrie's idiom. I mean, he literally goes, I was pretty interested in Woody Guthrie's idiom and I took what I
Starting point is 02:20:25 saw going on around me and put it through that. But I wasn't going to talk about it at the time. You know, I mean it's literally, it was like to your point, finally it was like Dylan the craftsman. Dylan the guy who created characters. Dylan the guy who goes, yes it was fucking constructed. Yes, I knew what I was doing, but I wasn't gonna compromise it by unpacking it for you.
Starting point is 02:20:50 I not only don't think many people, I actually think it's almost gotten worse. I'm not trying to stick a finger at, you know, colleagues or actors or anything, but lately, I feel like, you know, awards which are so antithetical to art. I mean, really, the older I get,
Starting point is 02:21:11 the more grotesque I think it actually is. And I don't think people even realize how much they're being commodified. Their ego is being stroked as the mechanism for getting them to become a commodity for a ratings thing and for ads being run. It's an agenda. And when you realize that awards are an agenda, they become, you're just like, this is doing
Starting point is 02:21:36 such a violence to the purity of work and the connection to people. It's just horrible, right? But the more so- Pitting creators against each other. Yeah, it's just horrible, right? Yeah. Pitting creators against each other. Yeah, it's the worst. I don't think people realize how negative it is to the mission of having people experience what you've done to sit in your costume talking about how much you admire the director and them saying, you're just like like you're completely atomizing my
Starting point is 02:22:06 chance To have a moment of willing suspension of disbelief and to have the magic trick of the whole thing Which is the whole game and it's just like why would you do that and again to see someone who even at 20 years old Understood that if I let you behind the curtain It's over like it's over. Like it's over. It's really, really amazing. And I think that, um, Brando, you have to really go back and almost refresh yourself
Starting point is 02:22:37 on the fact that when he did streetcar name desire, he was 23 years old. And he woke up at 24 years old being told he was the fulcrum between the old world and the modern age. I mean, literally. Like Miles Davis, Marlon Brando, Pablo Picasso, Bob Dylan, like those people got treated as if they were the fulcrum between what came before and what came after. And if that happens to you when you're 24, and yeah, you're doing your thing, but I think it made him, I think it fundamentally broke his trust with humanity. If you really get down to it, it broke his trust with people being rational and reasonable, and it totally broke his trust that anybody was looking him in the face and seeing him. From who he really was, who he actually was. Exactly. And that resentment,
Starting point is 02:23:43 and so then the whole thing starts feeling fraudulent. And that resentment starts to cook. And I think he, and I believe that he resented his authentic life being taken away from him. The opportunity for an authentic life, the opportunity for authentic interaction, for authentic experience. And you know, why else do you go buy a Tahitian island? Yeah, I was just gonna say, that's probably why he wanted to live in Tahiti. Yeah, and where people didn't care or whatever. I think that is pretty tragic.
Starting point is 02:24:13 It's pretty tragic for a person that young in life to feel that their chance to wander in the world, he said that, he was like, I used to, he told me one time, he was like, you know, for all the world, all I wanted to do is go dig ditches. I just, just want to go to Italy and work on a road crew, you know,
Starting point is 02:24:31 and, and just have beers with guys after work, you know? And I think he never wore it comfortably because he never reconciled with it, right? You know, he never reconciled with what it, what I think he feels it, it ultimately took away from him. But Last Hangover in Paris is pretty amazing because my theory on that film is it's the last time that he invested in the work and that,
Starting point is 02:25:02 that I mean, this could be a totally crackpot theory, but Marlin chewed gum in a lot of movies. And that, I mean, this could be a totally crackpot theory, but Marlin chewed gum in a lot of movies. If you go watch it from streetcar onward, streetcar is chomping on a piece of gum the whole time. I know it sounds weird to say, but in the context of the world at the time, that alone was sexual. Like it was oral, people didn it was oral. It was sexual.
Starting point is 02:25:25 People didn't do that. It's not just that he's sweaty and in a T-shirt and he's got to want to, he's chewing on his gum. He's just visceral and present and things. And if you watch it, I think it was like a, whether it was a conscious or unconscious, I think it's one of Marlon's tropes. He's chewing on gum a lot because it's grounding. It's relaxed. It's whatever. And in Last Tango, if you watch
Starting point is 02:25:48 at the end when he's dying, he takes a piece of gum out of his mouth and he sticks it up under the railing of the balcony before he dies. Wow. And in my mind, he's done. And he never chewed gum in movies after that again? I mean, in Superman, you know, in whatever. Yes, fascinating. But I think, my theory too, is that Last Tango is just him.
Starting point is 02:26:15 The varnish is gone. Most of what he says is about his own life in the movie. The thing that it's improvised and most of it's about him. Their story is from his real life. And I think that he essentially just, he lets himself be seen as a, as a person without any affect. And then, and then he wraps it up. And I don't, and I don't think after that. I think it's the last time he invested in communicating really in the work.
Starting point is 02:26:51 But also, by the way, when you watch that film, part of me goes, this is what we were talking about in the beginning, part of me goes, he may have gotten to the point where he said, well, all that's really left is the lack of artifice in any form, your diary, right? Last Hang-O is just diary from Marlon. It's mostly personal diary, managed by Berlut, or whatever. And after that, what are you going to do? Go back to fake teeth and a military costume or whatever. It's like, I get it. I get in a way that he's sort of like, this is run its course.
Starting point is 02:27:30 I've done, what do you do after you've done that? So it turns into the Vegas act instead of the- Yeah, or a paycheck or whatever. And then there's the feelings that come with doing the thing for the wrong reasons. And I think he had that too. Like kind of like, you know, the shame, almost a kind of shame. Like you didn't live up to your gift.
Starting point is 02:27:57 Or I'm going to put it another way. I don't think it was that with him. I have a theory that in some ways there's a certain kind of shame that comes when you don't have the courage of your convictions. And I think his conviction was that he didn't want to do this anymore. And his conviction was that it wasn't worthy, that he wanted a different kind of life. But he still was doing it. But he went back for the money. Right.
Starting point is 02:28:30 And I think that there's a feeling, there's a feeling that comes with not sticking to your convictions once you have them. But that's that thing we were talking about too, what John and taking breaks, whatever. It takes a lot of courage to stop. Absolutely. It takes a lot of courage to stop doing a thing
Starting point is 02:28:52 that you've done well and that you get a lot of regard for and get a lot of money for and choose the fullness or richness or diversity of your life and a grounded human experience. And so I think like if you're Marlon and you keep saying, oh, this is all bullshit. And I don't care about any of it and everything. I'm going to do Superman. It feels like everything we're talking about today is the same story. It's all about you.
Starting point is 02:29:16 So you know, really, it's amazing. Well, I think, yeah, it we keep coming back to the same story of that, having the courage to step away and live. Yeah, but you know what, I think the reason Marlon, though, is an interesting one to meditate on, in a way to me, and it's funny because he played Kurtz in Apocalypse Now, but to me he is a little bit of a Kurtzian kind of a figure because I don't want to feel that way. But also, not just, there's no reason to throw a thing you've done under the bus.
Starting point is 02:29:56 When you know it has beauty in it and you know it can be done in a pure way and when you've had good experiences. And I don't think necessarily you even need to create false bright lines or declarations. Like, now maybe there comes a time some, I know one actor said I am retired and like I'm done and told me that he declared it
Starting point is 02:30:19 because declaring it would be a part of strengthening his commitment, right? But in my case, I don't feel that, but I do think to me, like maybe Marlon's like the negative example, and we were talking about John and his breaks from the band, right? That's a positive example to me because why? Because it refilled the tank or it brought around again to the place of desire and then it can be done again with love. And that's what you want. That's what you want, I think, is like to be able to renew or resuscitate, but from a different place as a different person and different observations, right? Different things to bring to it, but it isn't necessarily easy.
Starting point is 02:31:10 But at the end of the day, it's like the ego. Like there's nothing but ego that makes you say, and maybe money, you know? I think it's also the excitement like I know if I'm presented with a puzzle because it's I always think of the work as sort of like solving a puzzle yeah so this is a new puzzle that's presented and thinking about would be fun to figure out this puzzle because every creative project is like a lot of things to figure out how to make them work. Yeah. So it's fun.
Starting point is 02:31:46 You also have the benefit or the pleasure of facilitating, helping other people get to their best expression. That's true. And that's kind of amazing. You're doing a service for someone else every time you work with them, which is pretty cool. What's the longest you've ever gone without producing music? Never.
Starting point is 02:32:06 It's amazing. Yeah, it's always happening. Do you have moments of aspiration to be free of even the puzzle solving or the do you have do you have moments where you say I Could use a mental sabbatical from I Definitely have the feeling that you said earlier like why why did I make the choices I made? But usually I have that feeling like in the morning it's beautiful day it's sunny outside and I want to go for a walk on the beach and I know there's gonna be a group of people waiting in the morning, it's a beautiful day. It's sunny outside and I want to go for a walk on the beach. And I know there's going to be a group of people waiting in
Starting point is 02:32:49 the studio for me. And I said I was going to be there at noon. I have to be there at noon. So, and I don't want to go. That feeling of when you commit to something, you have to show up. And usually the commitments happen in advance. So I commit myself in advance. And then when it comes time to actually show up, I don't want to show up. And usually the commitments happen in advance. So I commit myself in advance, and then when it comes time
Starting point is 02:33:07 to actually show up, I don't wanna show up. Then when the puzzle is presented, when I get there and we start figuring it out, it gets really fun and I love it. And it doesn't always go well. Like it often doesn't go well. And that's interesting too. It's not as much fun and I don't go home at the end of the day
Starting point is 02:33:26 in as good of a mood when that happens. But it's just a matter of patience because I know it's not done until we do solve the puzzle and I wish we would have solved it today, but we didn't and it's okay. You know, we know, now at least we know these things don't work. You know, the solutions we've tried don't work.
Starting point is 02:33:44 Do you get the feeling? sometimes That I Guess one thing I feel Sometimes it's that things take longer than you think they're gonna take It's true and that thing we're talking about about about putting a commitment, a brick on the wall, a commitment, commencing something. And it could be, building a house somewhere,
Starting point is 02:34:15 you know what I mean? But you, I think one of the negative dividends of getting some things done and they go well and they kind of reinforce your mind, oh I've got capabilities to do more than one thing at once and now I've got the resources now I got the help so I'm gonna commence different things and at least in my case sometimes I'm like wow I thought I could do multiple things at the same time and and I can, but they now are obligations
Starting point is 02:34:46 that are carrying on, that have more durability than I thought they were going to. And it takes a longer time to unclip and liberate yourself back to simplicity. I don't feel old, but I think when I was even younger, I thought that I was going gonna get shit done faster than it turns out you can complete projects and stuff like that. And then like you said, you've engaged other people in collaborating on it and then it's an obligation,
Starting point is 02:35:20 which is challenging. I also like making other kind of things. I started making some documentary projects, and the book was a different thing, and it took a lot of time. So sometimes I think it's more interesting to do something I haven't done before. But I'm also really, I love music, you know, can't help myself. But I mean, that takes me back to my kind of, my mounting observation in life that a lot of my friends who work in music sustain that the passion for it is pretty, that it continues to...
Starting point is 02:36:03 It is truly a devotional practice. It really is. And I think a lot of my friends in music have maintained greater simplicity in life that like music's enough, you know what I mean? And that's not to be a reductionist. They all have family lives and they're complicated and you have your business, these things.
Starting point is 02:36:25 But sometimes I think that impulse to do a diversity of things, to exercise different muscles, express yourself in totally different ways is really satisfying sometimes. But that's where you can start to go like, man, I'm spinning a lot of plates. And then you can start having the feeling of like, man, I'm spinning a lot of plates. Yeah. You know? And then you can start having the feeling of like, am I spinning any of the plates masterfully?
Starting point is 02:36:51 Or am I spinning any of the plates in a way that's enjoyable? Am I allowing myself to enjoy one thing at a time to the full depth of like what it has to offer. But I also think like there's some point at which you got to get to where you're like, you know, can see like the ways you're different from other people. You can be inspired by people, but if you're kind of like, you gotta just get right with yourself the way you are and go, you know, so and so's life is different
Starting point is 02:37:33 from my life, whatever. They're all, we're different, we're different. We're all taking it on in different ways. We have to play our own hands. Yeah, we have to play our own hands. I'll ask this as it relates to theater because it'll be easier to think about because you do it the show night after night Do you feel like when you're doing something every day?
Starting point is 02:37:51 Are you always either getting better or worse or does it ever plateau? I? Don't know if I'd say better or worse Changing changing for sure I don't know if I'd say better or worse. Changing? Changing for sure. More than you'd think this can apply in movies too, but I think that I had to get my head around that is, I think, pulled from music as an analogy is that, like you want to believe that you're going to be able to find emotional connection every time and when there's an audience involved,
Starting point is 02:38:37 you have a different relationship, you feel the people have come to see you make that connection, the people have come to see you make that connection, right? You can be doing a play, you can even be doing a film and you can be on Take 24 and going, I don't have it, I don't feel it. I'm hitting the notes, but I don't feel it. In a funny way, that's when an actor is a musician in the sense that like you're playing your your body is the instrument, your voice is the instrument, your emotional, you're ass
Starting point is 02:39:10 saying this role is a thing. You have to trust that you've done the work and that you are hitting the notes, that it can connect for people because you've done the work, it is connecting that you can't possibly feel it to the depth of your soul every night. Whether you're an actor in month three of a really great play that some nights you weep in, within the moment that you've done many, many, many times because it hits you, you've got it and you're right there inside it, accessing it. And your emotion is even authentic
Starting point is 02:39:54 and they're feeling it too. But then on the night that you're playing the score and your head's a little over here, it's still, it's okay. You know, it's not a cause for panic and it doesn't mean, it doesn't mean it wasn't good. It doesn't mean you didn't deliver. It didn't, it doesn't mean whatever. I mean, our friends that we've been talking about, like I saw, you know, the guys on this tour, I mean, they've been touring for fucking two years practically now. I've seen it a bunch of times. I saw them in 19, I want to say I saw them in a bar in New Haven called Toads. Remember Toads? Yeah, I think my punk rock band played at Toads once.
Starting point is 02:40:37 Yeah, I think I saw, like when Mother's Milk came out, when John Joined the band and Mother's Milk came out, I saw them somewhere like that right after that because John I had the same age So I was like 19. He was 19, you know And I feel like like if you've seen people play a lot You can kind of tell just like oh, he's easy like in the zone Like a basketball player or whatever you feel like oh They look tired tonight. You know what I mean? Nobody says they don't like deliver in their show. Like their show kills, you know? You know Charlie Parker had his head off in something else on nights
Starting point is 02:41:15 when his virtuosity people were like they were melting, you know? But you got to like be okay with that, I think. You just have to remember that the audience that comes to see you doesn't get to watch the show every night and doesn't get to compare your performance. They just see one. And the one they see is the one they remember. And also, for you, it's like a little bit of Zen stroke and this curve might not be as perfect as you did it last night. But to them, that's the picture. And also what you're doing is the totality
Starting point is 02:41:49 of what you've been doing. It's not your perfect connection to it on a given night. And it's funny because that's a pretty unique thing to the performance arts, you know what I mean? There's not a lot of analogies that I can think of where like if you phone it in and soccer, you're gonna lose, you know what I mean? Like when you're trying to create magic in the live setting,
Starting point is 02:42:18 you just can't do that professionally and not allow yourself to rest on the muscles you've built sometimes and be okay. Yeah, and you're also you're representing yourself in this moment. So sometimes maybe if the performance to you is less good, it's still authentic in where you are in that moment and it's real. Well, that's really interesting too because more than a musician, an actor has a text that they got to stick with, right? For me, one of the things, it's a real nuance, but I grew up a little bit in certain plays that I did when I realized that what you just said is true. It's not even that I have to, I may not feel it, but I have to be okay with hitting the notes.
Starting point is 02:43:21 It's actually a little further. It's it can change based on where I am Tonight I can be Within the same text. Yeah, I can be a little colder and the play is that tonight Yeah, it's not that I have to hit the same notes, but but be faking it a little Yeah, or funny and in it's actually I can channel where I am, I can keep it authentic by letting within reason keeping. And it sounds like that also would inspire the people you're playing against, they're going to change based on your chain. It's like everything changes. Then you're in a band and yeah, and that's where it is like a band.
Starting point is 02:44:05 But that makes it more like improvisational and more keeping it real. And it gets back to that challenge of just being available to what's actually happening. Actually, you know, someone who's, it's weird thing to say, but someone who is very committed to that is Bill Murray. I've only done Wes Anderson films with Bill and hung out with him a little in life and everything. But I'm, you know, and it's not that Bill's not super appreciated
Starting point is 02:44:33 as a really great actor in addition to being Bill and being funny and everything, but he's extremely serious about his commitment to being available to what's actually happening. In the work and in life. And sometimes it almost seems like he's being provocative, but I think that he, among people I've met, kind of in my trait, whatever, he really wants to just respond to the moment.
Starting point is 02:45:10 And I've seen him in life in some ways that were a little unnerving, in some ways that were really funny, some ways that were kind of heartwarming. I've seen him kind of not be happy when he sees a disconnect and he'll stick a fork in make it real go you know kind of the snapping of the fingers in the work it's really cool so bill is in the moment anyone else you can think of that has that kind of in the moment feeling yeah I mean you realize people come at things in just very different ways, even within what looks like the same thing. I'm certain musicians are the same, you know, it's like, there's people who are highly improvisational some who, for whom preparation and like really conscientious sculpting and crafting and sticking
Starting point is 02:46:10 to that is, matters more to them or is that, that's their mojo, you know. Would you say you're more in the second school? I think it depends on the gear I'm in. If I'm just acting in something, it's a more pleasant experience to have wide latitude to discover and flow and everything. But I think actors have to be, in the best scenarios, you are there in service. You can be a primary collaborator in creating a thing. The chemistry of every single thing is different, just like it is, I keep saying music, but sometimes you got one person who's really the band, you know, they write the songs and then things and there's people are brilliant, but they're the leader
Starting point is 02:47:02 and sometimes it's totally different. It's like every single film, every single project is a different chemistry of relationship and collaboration. But I think as an actor, you have to be prepared and enthusiastic to step into and service the vision that a director has, the frequency that they're trying to establish, and even it sounds like the style. Like if you're gonna make a movie with Wes Anderson and you try to come to it in the same gear that you're in, it's just not gonna work.
Starting point is 02:47:44 Like you must know, love, appreciate, and be conversant with Wes's language, not just the style of his... Because it's not like anything else. You're there to service, you're there to play a role in his company. And what a pleasure. You know, what a delight. It's a thing. I think when I'm directing, I would like to do something that allows for more improvisation and fluidity and discovery as a storyteller, as a director.
Starting point is 02:48:21 The things I've done, it's really weird, like, not really weird, but when you shoot in New York, like shooting Mother's Brooklyn, I had, I had so much less time than I should. I would say should. You do, you worked what you got, but there was no way to make a big period, 1950s film in modern New York City in the schedule that I had without a nearly maniacal amount of preparation. The fun was that I was able to go to almost exclusively New York actors that I've worked with and know and were all from my orbit orbit and say I need everybody here like a play We can rehearse. I need everybody to be tight to be ready. I'm not gonna be able to do a lot
Starting point is 02:49:11 We're gonna have to move pretty quick and I only involved people that I thought would deliver and happily You know who was in there? Yeah, they were they're all Arabian horses all thoroughbreds, theater trained, theater experienced, able to come and know that they're helping me by bringing the goods ready and fast, you know, and they did, and it was great. Did it mean that with some of my favorite actors I was able to play? No, I wasn't. I understand.
Starting point is 02:49:46 I wasn't, but you gotta work in the, you gotta play with the, like you said, the cards you're given, you know what I mean? How different would your performance be depending on the person you're performing against? I mean, I guess it can be really, yeah, I mean, it can be hugely affected. Have you ever done a play where the character that you play against changed, like the person
Starting point is 02:50:15 playing the character changed over the course of the play? No, I haven't. I haven't ever had that. I'm curious to how different that would be. Yeah, that would be. I think that would be strange. Because you do the rhythm with the person, right? Like if the person is more energetic or talks faster, it's not gonna impact you.
Starting point is 02:50:36 I just saw something, I just saw, you know who Ossie Davis was? Great writer and actor and director. I did a film and got to be friendly with Leslie Odom, who, you know, he played Aaron Burr in Hamilton. He, you know, brilliant singer, brilliant actor, and he's got this revival up in New York right now of this play, Ozzie Davis wrote in the 60s. And I was completely blown away by it. It made me, I don't know if I was in a headspace of going, God, New York theater, how antiquated. You know,
Starting point is 02:51:14 I might have, I kind of walked in, maybe I just was in this mood of like, hadn't been back in New York in a while. And I was like, you know, God, like, what is theater? Like, what is this? Like, how many people is this for? Is this work anymore? Does it, you know, I had a lot of that going on in my head. And I walked out of there going, that's why theater exists. Like that is why it exists. Because it couldn't have been anything else and it was so heightened and so delightful and satirical and great. But I also really, Leslie and this actress, Carrie Young, they were performing in a gear. I don't even know how to describe it.
Starting point is 02:52:10 It was so, it was so, it was so boldly operatic, comedic, almost like Comedia Del Arte. It was like something you would expect like Molière or, great John Patrick Chanley plays that were big and operatic. And she was doing things physically that I was sitting there, I was as an actor, I was sitting there and going, what would bring you to that choice? I was gobsmacked. I was like, I can't even wrap my head around where you got the indication that that's where you should go, because it was so whacked.
Starting point is 02:52:55 And it worked. Unbelievable. Wow. Unbelievable. I didn't even know how to describe it. I was just like, afterwards I was literally doing, you know, the we're not worthy kind of thing to them both because it was so theatrical. It was the definition of real theatrical art. It was floating way up above reality. It wasn't behavioral naturalism, it wasn't moving insight. It was
Starting point is 02:53:30 just this totally elevated thing and it's great. Sounds great. Yeah, it's funny in a way that when a lot of the best things in any form, it feels to that when a lot of the best things in any form, it feels to me are things that shouldn't work. And it's like the force of talent is hauling it down. I felt that way about Hamilton, honestly. I'm not a musical theater aficionado or huge fan. You know, I don't say I'm not a fan,
Starting point is 02:54:02 but it hasn't generally been my bag, you know? I saw that a fan, but it's a it hasn't generally been my bag, you know, I Saw that a couple times and I I actually got emotional a few times watching it. I Was I got emotional over the audacity of the whole thing. Yeah, I imagined him Walking around in the Bronx with his headphones on and his pad, right having the balls and the conviction that he could write something of that magnitude. Yeah, I had that feeling about Hamilton and I had that feeling about Book of Mormon. When I heard about them, they're like,
Starting point is 02:54:36 that sounds like the worst idea ever. Yeah. The worst. Yeah. And then they were mind blowing both. Yeah. Masterpieces. I agree. I, both of those, I totally agree. Like on paper. And then they were mind-blowing both. Yeah. Masterpieces.
Starting point is 02:54:45 I agree. Both of those, I totally agree. Like on paper. Yeah. Bad ideas. Bad idea. But there was something about the scale of the creative audacity of Hamilton actually made me cry. Like I was just so blown away at the size of the swing.
Starting point is 02:55:10 And also just the magnitude of it, it's like it is like a huge double album or something. It's the scale of it is just like incredible, the density of it. And it's always something like that that is what transports you like your... Did you see the movie Triangle of Sadness? I had a Swedish filmmaker who I think has made some of the best modern films. Triangle of Sadness was like, it functions like a dream. Like if I said to you, oh my god, I had the most whacked out dream. I dreamed that my girlfriend and I were arguing about the check at dinner and who was going to pay. And it got so heated that we were fighting in
Starting point is 02:55:58 an elevator over it. And then we were on a yacht and there and Woody Harrelson was the captain, but there was Russians there and they made the crew swim and then there were pirates and then we were surviving on a beach, but the toilet attendant became the queen. That's how it works. Like it's, it's, it functions like a surreal dream. And, and again, it's almost like knowing when you know something about making movies, you're almost more impressed. Yeah. Because you know how hard it is.
Starting point is 02:56:31 Nothing about it's supposed to work. To break out of like, I saw some interview with Freddie Mercury about Bohemian Rhapsody or whatever, you know, and it's just like, it shouldn't work, right? Yeah. Like there's no bridge, there's nothing, there's these things. None of the things that are the way you do a song. Yeah. And it's just like it shouldn't work, right? Like there's no bridge. There's no nothing. There's these things. None of the things that are the way you do a song. And now we can't live without it.
Starting point is 02:56:50 You know what I mean? It's just like- Those are the revolutionary works. The ones that don't fit any, they don't check any of the normal boxes. When they work, it's the most fun thing to see. Yeah, because you got shown something. I don't know if you feel this way.
Starting point is 02:57:11 I think the people I know in music really do have a kind of a religious relationship with music. And I think because music is not, because it's so primal, because it's vibrations and because people get so affected by it, it's like sacrosanct. I don't think the culture even, nobody questions that we need music, you know? I definitely do go through things where I just sort of go, I know art has value. I know it helps people. Like I think Joseph Campbell's really right that if it's opaque, it tends to be more narcissistic.
Starting point is 02:57:54 If it's transparent and a person can see through it and say, oh, that's really about me, that's when it's mythological, you know? And I do agree with that. Like it makes people feel not alone or it makes people perceive the universe differently and that there's some value in that. But I definitely will go through some things where sometimes I'm thinking like the productization and commodification of content will sometimes like like my cynicism, it's like...
Starting point is 02:58:29 It's like an opposing force. It is like an opposing force. And I love films, but I literally, like, I do get to a place sometimes where I'm like, are we making opium? Are we just making opium and giving people like something to check out in front of for a minute, you know, a palliative against like the stress of modern life? The answer is with Birdman, no. I hope so.
Starting point is 02:59:01 I hope that's right. As an example. I hope that's right. You know, I... They are clearly are examples the other way. Yeah. Yeah. In many, many. In many. And photography and everything.
Starting point is 02:59:11 Yeah. But being lucky enough to know some people who I think have done like incredibly heroic and important work that's like in direct service of other people. Sometimes my brain goes, you've done enough of this. You know what I mean? I'll get to this place where it's just be like, or even, I know this, you won't agree, but sometimes I'm like,
Starting point is 02:59:41 there are voices that are coming into the mix that need to be heard. Like literally more than mine. And I just go, I've done this enough. Like I've done this enough. There's room for everybody now. I know. I know.
Starting point is 02:59:56 I know. It's true. It's not like a... It's not a zero-sum game. No, it's not a zero sum game, but I have my ebbs and flows to just like what does the world actually need? You know what I mean? But it's probably overthinking it, you know?
Starting point is 03:00:20 Yeah, your part isn't what the world needs. It's what's your diary entry. Yeah. It's what's your part isn't what the world needs. It's what's your diary entry. Yeah. It's what's your part. That's all. Yeah. I guess the other thing is it's like we know people who work in tech and things like that too, right?
Starting point is 03:00:41 Everybody goes through things like you think you're like, you think you're painting the future or something, you know? And like, we're definitely, the truth is that the not even the long term future, the immediate future is so unknown, and so unpredictable. Like you can say, I engage with what I think is like, you know, the, I think that the issue of like what we're doing to the environment of our planet is important, right? Cause it is gonna affect people and intrinsically, I think it's important.
Starting point is 03:01:20 When you take a breath and you step back and you just realize like you can throw yourself against ideas of how you can contribute and what needs to be done and everything. And you have to acknowledge that like in six months something can happen that makes everything moot. You know what I mean? And then when you acknowledge how small your life is within this massive uncertainty about what are going to be the emergent phenomenon that actually define what things look like in the future, you come back to the place of saying, well, in that case,
Starting point is 03:02:07 hopefully it's not selfish to say, then I ought to think about just the existential quality of the way I'm spending my time, which gets back to like being present, being available, allowing yourself simple pleasures of just existing. And in any day that you've got the blessing that you're healthy, you're not being bombed, you know, you're like, don't squander it, you know? Do you feel like there's a spiritual dimension to your work?
Starting point is 03:02:38 At times I have, and I guess when I'd say spiritual, I don't necessarily mean divine, but I think that there's actual gift of service. If you're trying to connect people to each other, like there's that thing we were saying about, when we were talking about empathy, if the works got empathy and you know that through it you're reaching out to other people to say, we're in this together and you can
Starting point is 03:03:10 see yourself in this, we're talking to each other, then yeah, it's really interesting because people can be absolutely ridiculous and disconnected in the way they come up to you because they know you but when people come up kids or when when anybody comes up who's present and isn't going Like I'm so excited because you're I know you or something when people are coming up with presence and Connection and saying man that connected for me and connection and saying, man, that connected for me. How can you be in any way cynical about that? Greatest feeling in the world.
Starting point is 03:03:48 You cannot be cynical about people affirming back to you that they felt seen, they connected, they felt open. You know, it's the best. Best. Then you go, okay, this is as worthy as anything else. Yeah. I mean, when we were working on Fight Club, it's very reverent.
Starting point is 03:04:08 We were laughing our asses off. It was very, there's no question in my mind that sitting in the room was the awareness that this is for us and our friends. Our parents will not understand this. They probably won't like it. They won't relate to it. They won't get the language with Franca of it.
Starting point is 03:04:33 This is ours. And we better go for it. To best feeling. We better go for it because we've got in our hands the vehicle to remember what it felt like to be in a certain place at a certain time for a certain group of people. And that was an interesting experience too because it was one of my first experiences of feeling that sensation that strongly. And then the commodification, it didn't go well at all.
Starting point is 03:05:04 You know what I mean? Like that movie was like a flop in the beginning. And Fincher was, I think, felt very bruised. And I remember we showed it in the Venice Film Festival. And Brad came up to me right before we walked into the big red carpet stupidity and all that stuff. He said, how do you think this is going to go? And I said, I don't think it's going to go well.
Starting point is 03:05:24 And he said, he said, me do you think this is going to go? And I said, I don't think it's going to go well. And he said, he said, me neither. Let's get high. Right. And he, of course, because he came in on a private plane, he had like a joint, like the size of a large cucumber. And he's a podhead. I wasn't, we smoked this joint walk into the Venice thing.
Starting point is 03:05:41 I like felt like someone was carrying me by my ears three feet off the ground the whole time. But it was great because he and I watched it. My recollection is that we saw Scorsese walk out, which was also kind of perfect. And then it was booed. It got booed. And there were booze and We were in the last row in the back and Brad turned and looked at me and goes That's the best movie we're ever gonna be in and I said me too. We were like Yeah, it was like it was like he we were teary-eyed that's real and he and he said that's the best movie we're ever gonna be in
Starting point is 03:06:21 while people were booing yeah the best movie we're ever gonna be in. Unbelievable. And while people were booing. Yeah. And, and, and it was funny. And he meant it. It wasn't a joke. Now I wanna be careful, like I,
Starting point is 03:06:31 maybe it's, maybe I was stoned and I don't, I think my recollection is that Scorsese walked out of it because I also think I remember that hitting Fincher in a way, but this is all a little hazy to be honest, or very hazy. But there's, but I hope in a weird way that I am remembering that right, because Fincher had a thing on the office wall when we were rehearsing,
Starting point is 03:06:56 and it said like on the path to enlightenment, you have to kill God, kill your parents, and then kill your teacher, right? And I remember thinking like, Scorsese, if Scorsese walked out, we did it. Yeah, amazing. Like we killed our teacher, you know, like, like the critics, but if we feel good,
Starting point is 03:07:15 even if our hero walked out, then we're in good place. That's an incredible story. Thank you for telling me that story, I love that. Yeah, it's funny. And then it, you know, then, but then it was to your point. It's like, it finds its way. Yeah. It is what it is. Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Starting point is 03:07:31 Like you can't... No. And in a weird way, like with that one, what could be more true to everything it's trying to say? Yeah. For it not to do well, and then be something you'd never trade. Like you'd never trade what that one, how that one went into everyone in our friends that we made it for. You'd never trade it for, you wouldn't trade it for a billion dollars. It'd be a sign of defeat if it was.
Starting point is 03:08:05 But to know it in the moment, while the people are booing. Yeah. To hug each other and know this is great. That's really bold, I love it. Yeah, there's something too where you just like, you know, like when you're showing, they should have never shown that movie in Italy
Starting point is 03:08:24 with some titles. It's like that should have, you know, like when you're showing, they should have never shown that movie in Italy with some titles. It's like, that should have, you know, they should have showed that. I don't even know what it should have been like. It should have been in a college auditorium, you know, with free tickets for everybody. Like no pretension, no, nothing. Do you miss life in the, in the cities of your youth?
Starting point is 03:08:49 Not in the least. Do you think you knew? Zero. I think I know that about you, but do you think you knew, when do you think you realized that you were ready for a big fundamental shift of scene from the energy that catapulted you into the kind of work you wanted to do. Like you didn't take a break from it,
Starting point is 03:09:14 but when did you just go, I gotta do this a different way? Yeah, I never knew until it happened. It's like I came to California to work on a project. I hated California, I loved New York. Came to California to work on a project. I hated California. I loved New York. Came to California to work on a project, was here for like nine months. I ended up buying a house
Starting point is 03:09:30 because I was tired of staying in a hotel. And I thought, well, when I come from New York, I'll have a house to stay in. And I just ended up never going back. And grew to love it. And then the next time I went back to New York, I was remembering feeling like I can't remember what it was That was keeping me here. Hmm. You know, I didn't know and the same thing happened when I moved from in town to Malibu
Starting point is 03:09:56 At first when I got a house in Malibu. I thought that's really far away And then when I moved here, it's like far away from what? Yeah, you know, something I want to go to is anywhere but here. I know. I had it so, because as an East coaster, Baltimore and then New York and, like I had a total prejudice against LA in particular, and I would come out here and work and get out of here as fast as I could. And I totally missed the whole trick. I like thought LA was like West Hollywood and, you know, and everything that's truly great about the state
Starting point is 03:10:29 is like the space and the light and the ocean and the, you know, the- The mountains and the snow right next to each other. Yeah, yeah, yeah, and the desert. And, but it embarrassingly, it took a while for me to like perceive what was, you know, get out of the matrix in a way and perceive. No, because you were indoctrinated.
Starting point is 03:10:51 Yeah, we were. But I was in New York snotty about being like a New York theater actor and doing a thing and there was always that line like, it was like, I think it was a Neil Simon thing someone told, said to him like, why don't you, you know, they're someone said to him, like, why don't you, you know, they're making all your plays in the movies. Why don't you come to LA? You know, it's like when the weather's just so much better and everything. And supposedly he said, yeah, when it's 30 below in New York, it's 76 in LA.
Starting point is 03:11:18 And when it's 110 in New York, it's 76 in LA. But there's a million interesting people in New York and 70 in LA. Yeah, that's pretty good. And you know, it's just not true. No. What it is is there's good and bad people everywhere. Yeah. And you just got to find your people.
Starting point is 03:11:38 It was, yeah, I think that's right. For me, it was partly because coming out here meant working in the movies and because LA, it's very diverse, but it feels like an industry town. If you're in the industry town, it is an industry town. I think it is. And in a way, it's seeking to unfold you within its hierarchies. It wants to define you within its hierarchies and if you're resistant to that, then you just want to get the fuck out of here. Music

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