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April 2006
American Dreamz: Press Conference Interviews

American Dreamz: Press Conference Interviews

by Wilson Morales

April 17, 2006

With American Idol almost at the end, it's just about that time for the spoof film, American Dreamz, to come out and have a good laugh at its expense. At the center of the film is Hugh Grant, who plays a cynical version of AI host Simon Cowell, and Mandy Moore who plays one of the talented singers on the show. Chris Klien plays Moore's back from the war boyfriend, while Dafoe plays the Chief of Staff, who looks like VP Dick Cheney. Golzari plays a recent Southern California immigrant, who just happens to be a show-tune singing, would-be terrorist awaiting orders, while Yalda plays his cousin, who feels that Golzari stole his opportunity to be on the show. At a press conference in New York City to promote the film were Director Paul Weitz, Hugh Grant, Mandy Moore, Chris Klein, Willem Dafoe, Sam Golzari, Tony Yalda.

Two things, you seem to have such a low profile lately like you are ready to sort of retire from movies. Do you care about this career at this point in your life? Second, people will think you are doing the Simon Cowell role in 'American Dreamz' like 'American Idol' do you know him at all? Did you think of him when you were doing this? How do you see the character?

Grant: Yes I haven't done very much done much work in the last 80 months, it's true. I did slightly lose interest but then I got bored. I got bored with being bored so I am back. In fact I start another film tomorrow which I know you will like because I play an 80's pop star and you get to see me sing and dance. It's called 'Music and Lyrics' at the moment that's a working title I don't know what will happen. Simon Cowell, I have met him at a couple of parties. I don't know him at all and this part is not particularly based on him aside from the fact that I am a judge on a talent show that's massively popular and I am very cruel. There the resemblance stops. The part really is a creation of Paul Wietz and partly his warped vision of me.

Mandy I was wondering about doing this Luke Skywalker thing and going to the dark side. What was that like?

Moore: I think it's the fun and the challenge as an actress to get a meaty part like this and sort of play against type. Sally is pretty far from who I am so I definitely enjoyed it.

Paul, any desire to screen this at the Whitehouse?

Weitz: I'd love to screen it at the Whitehouse. I'd just make sure that I knew where the nearest exit was just in case. In terms of if George W. saw himself in Dennis Quaid's portrayal it's kind of a weird film because there's a send up of the administration in it and so imagine that some people from the right will be upset by it, but also some people from the left might actually be upset that this character has a certain amount of heart eventually and undergoes a certain bit of transformation. So I'm probably managing to offend both sides.

Mandy would you like to go to the white house for a screening of this and would you give the president singing and dancing lessons?

Moore: Oh goodness, no. I'm definitely not the person to give anybody lessons on dancing I'll give you that much.

This whole obsession we have in this country for 'American Idol' and people can be launched from obscurity and then become a celebrity sensations over night with a number one hit. Having paid your dues and earned your way to where you are, how do you feel about that? Do you think it's okay for pop stars to be?

Moore: I would never discredit anyone that is working their way up on a show like 'American Idol'. I'm a fan of the show and I do watch every week but I think they work so hard overcoming all of these obstacles just to get on the show in the first place. Every week they are judged in front of all of America and it must be overwhelming, all of the pressure so I give them complete credit for getting up on stage. I think I would crumble under that kind of pressure. No, I think that they deserve all of the success that they get.

Paul, do you think that film can still create dialogue in a political forum?

Weitz: I don't know. I think that when your making a comedy about really serious issues you're kind of in the position of being an idiot savant. It's like you're using the vocabulary of broad comedy to talk about what's most important and I'm not particularly. I don't have a Michael Moore like desire to offend people or get people angry at me. If anything that idea just stresses me out. So really while the film is sending various things I was actually thinking of something more integral in terms of a theme for the film which is that in America everyone is supposed to have a dream which is kind of the most positive thing about America and we just kind of manifest that in the character that Sam [Golzari] who is this show tune loving, bumbling terrorist who's salvation is that he wants to be a star. But at the same time if everyone has a dream does that make it impossible to deal with reality and I'm not sure that that's really something that's going to offend anyone of any one particular persuasion, but that's actually really what I was thinking of in terms of what was underlying the film.

Chris any difference working with Paul [Weitz] alone instead of Paul and Chris [Weitz]?

Klein: No. Not at all. Back in '99 or '00, something like that, when we were making 'American Pie,' working with Paul and Chris, working with two directors, the brothers, was a very seamless experience. They have the exact same clear cut vision and when one of them would give a note the other one would come in and expound on that note and it was always the same. It was never something where they were competing and they made it very easy and it was actually very nice because it's just that much more support for me as a young actor back then at that time. It was great to have two voices in my ears going, 'Yeah, do it this way.' Two as opposed to one, and now I'm so happy to work with Paul on this movie because of that seamlessness and his mind and his very focused vision of what he wants it to be and to come and collaborate with him - he makes it very comfortable to be an actor on a movie set.

Grant: I agree with that. They were sinisterly seamless as a pair. My personal theory is that they were in fact Siamese twins joined at the head, they have been very cunningly separated. The only thing that is slightly different with Paul from Chris is that he gives 6 good notes and then one really appalling note that is un-actable. I particularly enjoyed watching some of the actors that hadn't worked with him before getting the 7th note and looking really perplexed and miserable. [Laughs]

Weitz: I can think of some specific ones. I think that I told Mandy to try and act as if the idea of being a human being was new to her. (Laughs) That's an utterly un-actable note.

This question is for Chris, Paul and Sam, You guys play an Arab and a solider are you afraid you might end up offending anybody?

Weitz: I'd like to being the answer which is to my mind Chris was playing a guy who volunteered for the Army for his own personal reasons which has nothing to do with anything political. He volunteers because he's in love with Mandy and that's his dream and in a way that's what sort of drives him to this sort of insane destination at the end of the film. He has only one vision and so that sort of goes with the vision that if we have a dream does it make it impossible to deal with reality. So to my mind that's just how his thing got manifested because he got dumped and he thinks that if he does this maybe he'll get his girlfriend back. So it's a very specific character and also in that scene when he gets shot the guy standing next to him is sort of looking at him like he's an idiot and a na´ve. So I just wanted to preface anything that's said with that.

Klein: Yes. (Laughs)

Golzari: For me, if I'm worried about offending anyone - when I first heard about the script I was a little nervous. Like, 'Oh, a middle eastern terrorist. That's been done.' But when I saw the script and I saw the character, to me the person that he is and the character that he represents kind of trumped any kind of worries that I had about his political agendas. On the human level I fell in love with the character and when you see the movie I think that's what surpasses any kind of agenda that he might have.

Klein: I meant yes in that William Williams does decide to go on this adventure for his own personal beliefs. He wants to show chivalry. He wants to find himself. He want to be Sally Kendoo's hero again. And that's his reason for being. When the incident does happen on the cargo truck they do look at him like he has lobster's coming out of his ears and that's our movie.

Do you think that this film will have any political ramifications or even perhaps change the way that a certain generation thinks about what's going on in our world today, and do you think about those things going into a film?

Dafoe: I don't know. That's a good question. I just concentrate on the scenes that people around me are doing, the story that we're trying to tell. I thought of course that political climate pop culture, they satire themselves. I think about, remember when Robert Altman did a sort of satirical view of the fashion world? Well, this is a world that satire - it eats itself all the time. The question is a good question, but I'm not sure that I have a good answer because it doesn't really concern me. I just concentrate on one thing at a time, and even doing this film, I read it and I thought, 'Wow, no one is making a film like this.' It doesn't really present any revelations politically to me necessarily, but it is using humor to approach things that we sort of know from a different angle and that helps loosen up the discourse and gives us a fresh perspective in a climate of great constipation.

Golzari: I talked to someone who saw this film and they said that they for like an hour and a half these things that they were worried about and scared of were things that they could laugh at. For someone to be able to do that for an hour and a half was like releasing toxins. So I think that's something that the movie does really well.

Do you think the creators of 'American Idol' will appreciate this film or like that it's being sent up and also is anyone on the panel a fan of the show?

Weitz: Well, I want Tony Yalda to answer that question first.

Yalda: Okay. I think that if anything this will just sort of give 'American Idol' a little bit more press. It's already taken over the world. It's changed religions and I think that it's just going to give it more power.

Weitz: I think that the thing about 'American Idol' is that it's very strange that it's getting more and more and more popular. I think that everyone expected that after a couple of years it would kind of peter out like most shows do. So it almost seems like it's tapping in to some obsessive need to not only feel like we're making stars by voting, but it focuses in on an aspect of reality television which I think is that most people think that they are one step away from being a star themselves. So you see these singers and they're pretty good, but they're not so great that you can't kind of fantasize that you could almost sing that way in the shower. Also, this started as 'Pop Idol' in Britain, but it has become an American obsession.

Moore: I Tivo it. I'm not going to lie. I watch it.

Klein: I have them all on my Tivo as well.

Yalda: See. I watch them when they actually come on. I don't Tivo because I'm dedicated. (Laughs)

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