Continued (page 9 of 14)
Is your vast experience rare in Hollywood?
I don’t know anyone else personally who has done what I do. Maybe Sydney Pollack, but I don’t know how much writing he would do. I don’t know anyone else who’s done it all like that – 12 years acting, years writing and directing and producing. I’ve directed on and off Broadway. I guess it’s rare. I didn’t set out to do it. The only reason I started writing was because I couldn’t make a living as an actor. I wasn’t working enough, so I needed to create my own work. That led to directing on the stage, which led to television and movies.
Do you prefer one role more than the others?
Directing is the most enjoyable, even though physically it’s the most demanding. You’re out there on the set with the actors who are smart and funny, you’re with the crew. But in terms of what I want to do with my life, it’s about writing. You’re starting from scratch with something that wasn’t there before. It’s the most satisfying but also the most difficult. It’s like banging your head against the wall. I don’t know anybody who says they enjoy writing.
It’s interesting to hear you say that directing is physically exhausting. I would assume acting would be more tiring.
Oh, no. I love actors, but they wake up in the morning and someone picks them up and brings them food and then they dress you and then they give you things to say. Everyone treats you like the greatest thing on the face of the earth, and then you have to do this incredibly difficult thing, which is bare your soul in front of the camera. At that point, it becomes difficult because not a lot of people can do it. Acting is one of the hardest things on the face of the earth, so the people who do it well are treated immensely well. It’s a tremendously difficult craft to excel at, but once you learn to excel at it, once you become a crafted actor, I don’t think it’s that difficult. But I wasn’t the best actor in the world, so maybe I’m not the best guy to ask.
From the standpoint of someone who has done so much TV and film, talk to us about the sudden competition between cable television series and Hollywood films.
I hope that it tells filmmakers they need to start choosing a broader variety of scripts that have stories to follow. Stop making the same movie over and over again. People are getting tired of it. For those of us who love this business, it’s been disenchanting. We want to keep finding new ways to tell stories; we want new stories and new twists on old stories. [What’s going on with Hollywood today] is heartbreaking, which is why I’ve spent most of my career on independent films.
What are you working on right now?
Well, I just finished writing a movie for Universal that Todd Field is set to direct. I’ve just finished writing a new television series for NBC that I’m really excited about. [Paul] Haggis is the executive producer and I’m writing and directing it. It’s a really cool character piece. I’m writing and directing a film noir piece set in Boston. I’m busy. I’m set to rewrite a 1953 noir-ish piece set in Japan. And I’m developing a new play.
What are your thoughts on film festivals?
They are tremendously necessary and important to the community of filmmaking. My first movie, which ultimately ended badly so I won’t talk about it, had the film festival run, and I was filled with gratitude that my movie got an audience. When a distributor got a hold of it, we had big problems because they changed the movie on me. The only good remembrance I have of my first movie was film festivals.