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April 2006
American Dreamz: Press Conference Interviews

American Dreamz: Press Conference Interviews, continued

by Wilson Morales

April 17, 2006

It seems that this is saying that this is a vicious showbiz exploitation of 'freaks' that the show goes out and finds and the reason the 2 of you bond is that you have the self loathing and self possession to want to succeed at whatever you are doing no matter what the cost. Do you think this is really what 'American Idol' is about?

Moore: I have no idea. You don't really get to know people behind the scenes. One can assume that it's out there but I really have no idea at the end of the day. I hope not, jeez Louise.

Grant: I'm not sure exactly what the question was, I think that what I enjoy, I had never seen the show before I did this film and then I watched a bunch of tapes, I enjoy cruelty. I like people being humiliated, I like watching freaks. The freakier the better as far as I am concerned. I think in a way the show doesn't go far enough. I would quite like to see the losers tortured. (Laughs)

And the winners?

Grant: Yes especially the winners. No, it's very fascinating. I think in a way in is very much a return to ancient Rome and watching Christians being fed to the lions. It's also that gene is within some people, probably all of us up here with the possible exception of Paul, however you much you play it down and try to deny it you want to be in the lime light. That's what all these tragic characters on 'American Idol' obviously have. It's particularly enjoyable to see that in someone when they don't have the talent to match it, so I totally understand the appeal.

Did any of you actually help to create your characters for this film with Paul?

Golzari: Well, for me, the first meeting that I had with Paul was like us getting together and he gave me four or five points of where he thought the character was coming from. I mean, this is my first film. Paul has worked with everyone at this table, most of them anyway, before, and I said, 'Actually, I don't see that. I see it in a different light.' Paul was like, 'Great. I agree.' So from that first moment I knew that Paul was all about making the film the best it could be, and there was a day on the call sheet where it was my name, Willem Dafoe, Dennis Quaid and Hugh Grant. I have that on my wall right now somewhere in my house, and here I was this guy who is younger than all of those greats, and the way that he treated me with respect and listened to me, I know that I got spoiled on this film and it's not always like this. Paul was the one who gave me the opportunity to bring in my own ideas and some of the dance moves that I did were from my audition. So there was a lot of give and take.

Yalda: It wasn't very hard working with Sam, creating that kind of chemistry because he had more lines than me and that sort of pissed me. (Laughs) So it wasn't hard to create that chemistry, to create that bond of my hatred for him. I think that translated into the film, don't you think so? (Laughs)

Golzari: But also, I mean, the first day that we filmed I went and picked Tony up and we drove together to the set and we got like a few hundred yards away and we saw all the trucks and we saw the lights and we saw a hundred and fifty extras and we realized that this wasn't like an Oscar Meyer commercial.

Yalda: I believe that I said, 'I'm a star.' And you said, 'I'm a bigger one.' (Laughs)

Golzari: So we got to share that and experience it together.

Yalda: But I couldn't say anything because he was driving. (Laughs)

How was it creating this world and making it so real?

Weitz: Well, I'm glad that your question continued. I'm grateful. Well, I think that the first thing is to have wonderful actors. I mean, for instance I hadn't worked with Willem before and I remember one of the first things that we did was to make a computer morph with his face on the top of Dick Cheney's and I think that he got a hoot out of that, but I also knew that he wasn't going to just do a straight on parody of someone, that he would bring a sort of depth to it. In terms of Hugh I was doing my own bad version of his performance when I was writing this, and honestly, I think that it's mostly about casting because you can try all you want to have sort of have ambiguity in a character, but if the actors aren't binging more to it than you are it's never going to happen. So the first thing is casting actually, and I think that one thing that's kind of shocking is that I don't think that this movie is particularly like 'Team America: World Police' because that was pretty much slamming everything, but the last kind of satire that I can kind of think of had puppets in it. You have a huge advantages in giving the appearance of giving layered characterizations if there is really wonderful actors. The second thing is I think that possibly less so with this than with other films that I've done, but the thing that creates an impression of reality is when you put a character out there and the audience can judge that character, but then you change their judgment. That gives the optical illusion of the characters being real. I mean, that's what happens in real life. You meet someone and you hate them and then you talk to them and you actually realize that there is something great about them or vice versa.

Are you a Preston Sturgis fan and has he been any kind of influence in your work?

Weitz: I'm a big Preston Sturgis fan and I look back to that era of Hollywood films as being something to aspire to in that they were able to make mainstream films about America, and comedies which had social relevance and that seems to be something that Hollywood has largely given up on in favor of special FX. I think that now is actually a good time to be making films in Hollywood because a lot of films that they thought were going to make a ton of money are actually not doing as well as they thought which is similar to the situations that existed in the seventies when they said, 'Hey, we don't know what these people want to see. Lets give the hippies some money to make movies.' So there is a little bit more of an open door actually to try and make that kind of film now. The problem is that they're really hard to make and you need incredibly skilled actors to be in the films. He had an amazing cast of actors that he would put in his films over and over again. Sturgis. But yeah, he's a hero of mine.

Can you talk about working with Dennis and Marcia Gay Harden?

Weitz: Well, working with Dennis - he wasn't quite sure what he was going to do and so I actually went to his house and read through the script with him once because he wasn't sure if he was going to use George W. mannerisms or what he was going to throw in and he didn't want it to be like an 'SNL' parody, but at the same time I was delighted that there were clearly these mannerisms that were making their way into his performance. I mean, he's from Texas and our president works out a lot, and Dennis could be believably doing that. No. And Marcia actually came with a whole performance intact and was just careful I believe to not lose her accent when she was off screen.

Did you give Willem [Dafoe] or Dennis [Quaid] any advice about playing the leader of a country?

Grant: Well, Willem has been coming to me for acting advice now for many years now. Every since 'The Lair of the White Worm' so no more than usual I don't think.(Laughs)

Do you hope to have a reoccurring group of actors to be in your films because you seem to be moving in that direction, and also would you like to do a reality show and if so what would that show be?

Weitz: Well, actually, I haven't approached Hugh yet, but my next movie is going to be about a reality TV show with a scathing host. Do you think that you would like to play that role? Possibly with a nefarious political operator. What I really like is the perverse thing of having people who - I mean, this is kind of a weird dream where I went to the set and there were people who I knew from all different contexts like Chris from 'American Pie' and Hugh from 'About A Boy' and 'Four Weddings and a Funeral' which I directed as well [Laughs], but then also to have Mandy and Willem who I had wanted to work with and then Sam and Tony who I met for the first time at the audition - it's really fun to kind of mix things up. Now I'll let Hugh answer.

What is 'Elrig.'

Weitz: Oh. That's a nihilistic series of fantasy books which is kind of the anti 'Lord of the Rings' and I'm expecting Hugh to play a two headed goblin.

Would you like to be a host of a reality show and what would that reality show be?

Grant: I have always had a secret desire to be on television actually. I like reality shows, I am a particular fan of one in England of 'I'm a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here'. That's sort of how I feel right now. If it wasn't beneath my dignity I'd be doing lots of them in fact I tried to persuade Colin Firth to do a Celebrity Wrestling Match with me for 'Comic Relief' a couple of years ago but he was afraid. Not physically but I think he was afraid of becoming aroused. [Laughs]

Do you guys feel like you've reached that American Dream?

Klein: I think that just like Mandy shared, stepping into this - I wanted to be an actor and I wanted to be a performer and like Hugh said earlier we might all have this weird gene and hopefully I will continue to have the talent to allow that gene to play itself out for as long as it can. I think that dreams, goals, aspirations, all of that stuff - I'm really lucky to have been able to work with the talented people that I've been able to work with and I hope to be doing that for a very long time.

Moore: I think that he said it very well. I agree.

It's been said that you went to the dark side for this. Do you worry that people can look at you again and think that you are being sincere and sweet when they know underneath you are really like this character? How did you approach it?

Moore: My goodness. I don't know, I don't really know anyone like Sally.

Weitz: Chris almost didn't want to do it because he was worried that the characterization of the character would be like the very sweet and na´ve person that he played in that, and I said, 'Well, Chris. This is a guy who ends up doing the most extreme thing humanly possible and there's an extremely dark journey that he takes.' I mean, you asked Mandy the question, but personally I think that I would imagine it would be fun. I mean, I don't know Mandy terribly well, but she seems like an incredibly nice person and I think that it's fun to fantasize about what it's like to be a really horrible person. It's a very safe way to express it and I find that often times some of the nicest actors are really good at playing really mean characters.

Yalda: I think that she dipped into her dark side because I distinctly remember when you came to my trailer and started slapping me for no reason. That was really awkward, but she said that it was for character work and so I allowed it because I'm an artist. (Laughs)

Has there been a final end to the 'American Pie' movies?

Weitz: Strangely my name is nowhere to be found on the direct to video 'Band Camp' although I'm rooting for it's success with every fiber of my being. I'm looking forward to fifty years from now doing the reunion and doing a sex comedy set in a retirement home. I'll come back to do that one. Willem will be in that one. (Laughs)

How tough of a sell was it to get this film made when you were first embarking upon it?

Weitz: Well, I have to thank the people at this table because they were extremely generous and nice in joining me in doing it. This kind of thing doesn't get made unless you do it inexpensively. Not only does it not get made, but once you make it the only way to keep a straight face and say, 'No, it's going to be as edgy as the script was.' Is if everyone makes a bargain ahead of time. So I'm just really grateful to the cast for allowing me to make it. Honestly, I don't know if they were worried about other things or something, but I didn't catch any flack from the studio. They kind of knew what I was doing and they just let me do it.

Can you talk about why you decided to spell dreams with the z?

Weitz: Actually, what I was thinking of, and I tend to over intellectualize things after they're done because I have spare time on my hands, but in cartoons when someone is sleeping they'll have a zzz in the bubble and so the theme of this was whether are dreams make us narcotized to reality. So that's why I personally put the dreamz like that.

Why is it do you think that there isn't a lot of satirical films out right now?

Weitz: I think that there is something grotesque about satire for the first part, and I don't actually think that I can take on the mantle of being a satirical filmmaker with this one because I really do have this conception of in a satire all the characters are idiots and your heart doesn't go out to them. But I found that the perverse thing in this was to try and actually have characters who you cared about a little bit and to some degree I think that the film is less scathing because of that, but I also think that it's more warped because of that. There is a lot of stuff that you're swallowing in this film that is truly bizarre, that the audience isn't locking out. So it's very weird to see this film and to see it playing similarly to something like 'American Pie' or something when you have a show tune singing terrorist or when you have any number of things that happen in this film. But it's also kind of gratifying I think because if you're afraid of things you genuinely can't have a serious discussion about them, and what's happened is that we've built up these monsters and terrorism is like the movie 'Jaws.' It's owned us in a way and if there is any sort of beneficial thing to this it's that it will end up being a pressure release.

Willem you made a great cameo in Spider-Man 2, will you be back for Spider-Man 3?

Dafoe: I ain't saying. (Laughs)


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