Good Old War: Live at The Knitting Factory in Spokane, WA [10.28.12]

There is a peculiar feeling when you pay good money to go to a show at mid-sized venue, pack yourself amongst the crowds of adoring fans, fight for a proper place to view and maybe take a few pictures for your minimalist blog, and wait…..for the opening act.  Well, maybe the second of three acts in this case.  Either way, standing amongst several hundred people, 90% of which are there to see the main act.  This has happened to me twice, here in Spokane, and at the same Knitting Factory.  When Blitzen Trapper rolled into town last month in support of The Head and the Heart, I was definitely there for them.  Although I was once a simple listener of The Head and the Heart, and I later became obsessed after the show.

But, last night was different.  This time I felt as though I, and my wife beside me, were the only two people in the room that were there strictly to watch the amazing and energetic trio from Philly, Good Old War, rock the house. But, just as I expected, they came, they performed, they conquered it.  Some might even say they “crushed it”, and definitely left this metropolis of the Eastern Washington with a whole new hoard of fans (The rush to the merch table was a good indication, that poor girl seemed petrified!) and left the stage after just a half an hour with thunderous applause and the blistering conversations of just about everyone in the room saying things like: “Wow, they really surprised me” or “Where’s that fucking merch table!!”.  And I can’t lie, I felt like a proud parent.  Or maybe just a disconcerting hipster when I watched this band I have adored for a very long time, get their spotlight on.  It was the same peculiar notion I felt when drummer Tim Arnold agreed to an interview here at Trianwreck’d, and when i saw the guys perform “Better Weather” on Conan.  I know all the clichés are there, but dammit it is great to watch a band receive the recognition it so clearly deserves.  And yes, to know that you “knew them long ago”.

As you could have already concluded, the show was fantastic.  With a set list that included a variety from their amazing catalog, what’s not to love?  They swapped vocal duties, harmonized, covered Harry Belafonte in the most hilarious and brilliant fashion, and guitarist Keith Goodwin even managed to play a guitar on top of a guitar (as an internet geek, I instantly thought of those Xzibit memes).  And just as I expected, their smash hit “Amazing Eyes” left the crowd shell-shocked and genuinely moved, to put it lightly.  I had heard so much about how exciting a Good Old War show can be, but the guys truly exceeded all my expectations.

And as the lights dimmed down upon the illustrious trio, they owned the place.  And I felt there was never any reason to fret, for I knew that my guys would a major hit.  The headliners, Need To Breathe, may have brought in the fans based upon their own following, but they sure made a damn good choice in having Keith, Tim, and Dan warm up the crowd for them.  And I believe this is what makes the show going experience so special.  Your notions of how great a band is going to be is already pre-conceived and will more than likely be biased (obviously I am the king of bias behavior).  But, it’s the rest of the experience, the new things, that are make show going an impeccable experience.  And while I didn’t take my own advice, and actually left the show before the main act went on (Babysitters, you know?), I still felt the energy and was left stunned.  And I left with the great feeling that the boys of Good Old War had done it again, and felt encouraged and blissful to know that these cats are thousands of miles away from their home, meaning they have once again trekked across this country spreading their gift and good vibes all around.  I can with all affirmation and conveyance say that the only war worth spreading around, is Good Old War.

Stay in touch with the boys of Good Old War through their website, and be sure to check out a show when they are in a city near you (The almost always are!).  Also don’t forget to check out our interview with drummer Tim Arnold from last July.

David Della Rocco [Interview]

Boondock Saints is one of those films that some say mysteriously built a cult following for unlikely reasons.  I tend to disagree.  The reasons were plain as day!  It was a vigilante film.  Who wouldn’t love that?  Justice being taken into the hands of ordinary citizens has always been a long loved past time in the film world.  Throw in some strategically placed, yet well tamed, violence and humor and drinking, and you have yourself a cult classic!  Boondock Saints was a film that may have taken a while to be appreciated, but it was inevitable that success would come.
And what a cast!  Most memorable to some (me, at least) was the man who brought the comedic relief.  The very David Della Rocco, who played, well, Rocco!  Director Troy Duffy specifically wrote the part of Rocco for his friend.  And David’s performance was nothing less than tour de force!  He holds the most memorable line the film simply by stating:  “We could kill everyone!”.  That and blowing a cat all to hell.
David Della Rocco stunned audiences several years ago with this performance, and created a fantastic persona for himself as a street worthy Italian American ready for whatever.  Maybe not the most wits in the world, but all the balls.  This will be apparent even more so when he stars in Hells Angels founder Sonny Barger’s upcoming film Dead in 5 Heartbeats.  Rocco is certainly ambitious enough to not be pigeon held to one character, but if he had to be this wouldn’t be a bad one.  David was kind enough to share a few words with us about Boondock Saints, intimidation of Sonny Barger, and more!  Enjoy!
You’ve known director Troy Duffy for quite a while.  In fact, he wrote the part of Rocco for you in Boondock Saints as well as its sequel.  What are the odds that we might see a further collaborations between the two of you?
I’m sure Troy would be interested to work with me again. whether he would alter his writing to fit my strong points as an actor I could not tell you. The problem with working with Troy is I am pretty sure he is doing something with Boondocks either a third movie or a series, and as you know [unfortunately] I died in the first Boondocks. But I am sure we will do something together in the years to come.
In your personal opinion, what do you think it is about the Saints films that started a cult phenomenon?
 That is a hard question to answer. When the movie first came out the studios did not want it, nobody wanted it. We sold it to Blockbuster Video and I thought it would just die on the shelves,but for reasons unknown to me it just really did well. Most of the time if you do not have a studio behind you for advertising or to help move the film in some way it just gets lost. Boondocks was word of mouth. I know I did not answer the question of how it has a cult following I just don’t know,but I’m glad it does.
How often does somebody stop you on the street and beg you to say your infamous line, “We can kill everybody!”, on the streets.  Does your recognition as Rocco in Boondock Saints ever grow old and annoying?
 No it never bothers me nor does it annoy me. Sometimes they want scenes that have a lot of emotion in it like, Shut your fat ass Ravey. I can’t buy a pack of smokes ….  and it is difficult to do on the spot without some sort of preparation.
You are a classically trained actor who studied under the late Susan Peretz.  How did studying under Susan affect your life both professionally and personally?
Studying with Susan Peretz was great she conducted her classes more like a theater group so there were a lot of plays and seminars you got to perform. The best quality that Susan had was that she really got you to love acting. Susan ,herself being a good actress[Dog Day Afternoon], knew how difficult it is to be a working actor so you better enjoy it. You would spend the whole week working a job you did not enjoy then you would go to her class and you really would feel it was nice being an actor.
Tell us about Dead In 5 Heart Beats, an upcoming film you will be featured in?  Who will you be portraying?
The Character I play in “Dead in Five Heart Beats is Angelo, a good man gone bad.  He has a weak moment a tries to pull off a drug deal on his own without the club knowing about it. He gets set up by the feds and they want him to rat on the club. The fact that he has a son to take care of make his choices difficult.
Was it strange to associate with founding members of the notorious big gang, Hell’s Angels?
 Strange is a good word. I mean ,I have known of the Angels my whole life not personally,but they are very iconic. It was very strange filming at their club and acting with them .We used a lot of them as extras and some had nice parts. One of the members , i forgot his name, had to play the president of the club and did a great job. When I told him he did a good job acting he told me,”I have been doing this for twenty years,”for some reason it made the scene have a very strange a little too real, like after the scene was over I would drop my character – he didn’t.  At first I felt that I was walking on egg shells I didn’t want to say or do something that would upset someone, but after a while it was okay. This was a book that Sonny Barger[I don’t know if I spelt the name right] wrote and the Angels love and respect him an awful lot so they would not disrupt or make it difficult on set.
If you could portray an figure in Italian American history, who would it be.  Why?
 If I could play any Italian American I guess I would like to play a forties or fifties gangster. Not that all historical Italian Americans are gangsters, but I’m sure a couple were. I really liked the movie The Godfather. Seems that it would be fun.
If you could add any advice not already mentioned in the documentary Off The Boulevard, in which you were a major character, what would be some advice you would tell young actors trying to make their way into the biz?
I’m not that great with advice, but if I had to give some it would be love acting. It is difficult and if you have  to do it make sure you love it. A lot of times I have to find that part in me that made me become an actor. Some one said “don’t be an actor unless you have to.” It sounds funny but it is[ kinda] the truth.
Learn more about what David has been up to at his Website.  Also be sure to check out the wonderful documentary, Off The Boulevard, for a wonderful candid look into the world of independent filmmaking featuring David, and director Troy Duffy.

Matthew Maher [Interview]

Matthew Maher is an actor in theater, film and TV, who lives in New York City.  He is currently performing in Golden Child by David Henry Hwang at The Signature Theater, and will also appear in Annie Baker’s The Flick, upcoming at Playwrights Horizons.  Film credits include It’s Kind Of A Funny Story, The Killer Inside Me, I’m Still Here, Gone Baby Gone, Jersey Girl, Dogma, Bringing Out The Dead, Vulgar, The Third Wheel, Homecoming and, upcoming, East Of Acadia. TV work includes recurring roles on “The Unusuals”  (ABC) and “John From Cincinnati” (HBO), as well as guest appearances on “Bored To Death:, “The Jury”, “Deadline”, and all three “Law and Order” shows.  Most recent theater credits include Red-Handed Otter, by Ethan Lipton, at The Cherry Lane Theater; Uncle Vanya at Soho Rep; and Tales From My Parents Divorce with The Civilians, the theater company of which he is an associate artist.

As we shall discuss in this interview, Matthew may be most known to a wide audience because of a batch of strange and sadly loyal patrons, such of myself, to any and everything legendary filmmaker Kevin Smith, and anyone who has associated with him, has ever done in his life.  Hell, I even watched that god awful piece of shit Paris Hilton movie because it Jason Mewes was the lead male, and Smtih had a cameo as well.  It gets that loyal, my friends.  And prior to this interview, Mr. Maher was simply the Holy Bartender, and Ethan Suplee’s fellow creepy ass brother in Vulgar.  But, upon reaching out to Matt, I soon became reocgniscent of my own ignorance, and finally realized that this is a genuine and true genius in the acting world, and should obviously be treated as such.  So with that in mind, let’s talk more about Kevin Smith!  Just kidding, please sit back and enjoy what has been one of my personal favorite interviews here at Trainwreck’d Society to date.  Enjoy!

What inspired you to become an actor?

Well, I went to high school with a great theater program.  It was one of the rare public schools where doing plays was actually cool.  I was shy and socially awkward–I was a skateboard kid who wasn’t very good at riding a skateboard.  Doing plays seemed like an easy way to meet people and get invited to parties.  I started by working on the backstage crew, but found after a year that I was jealous of the kids who were performing, so the next year I auditioned and was cast as Billy, the photographers assistant, in the Fall production of Stage Door.  I had one line, I still remember it: “Just Billy”.  So anyway, that’s what drew me to acting: a desire for popularity and attention, and an envy for those who had it.  An appreciation for the art of acting, making work, creating a character–all that came later.


You portrayed a sought after child molester in Gone Baby Gone.  As an actor, how exactly do you prepare for a role like that?  And how was that experience in the actual portrayl?   And to continue on with the subject of estranged personas, what about your role as a potential clown rapist in Bryan Johnson’s creeptastic Vulgar?  Was that bizarre in some ways?  

Vulgar (w/Ethan Suplee)

It is a weird fact of my career that, at least in movies, I’ve been cast a lot as rapists and child molesters.  I cannot account, exactly, for why this is so.  I’m a very nice, normal guy.  Vulgar was the first one; Vulgar was one of my first movies, period.  I had no agent–I read about the audition in Backstage magazine.  I thought it might go somewhere because it was being produced by Kevin Smith, who had just come out with Chasing Amy, and was very big at the time the indie movie scene.  Vulgar was and is a very bizzare weird movie–equally off-putting and funny, like John Waters meets, well, Kevin Smith.  It was also an exploitation revenge movie.  Anyway, it was very, very fun to work on.  Ethan Suplee and I played two brothers who had the intelligence and emotional life of eleven year olds.  The director, Bryan Johnson, let us improvise most of our dialogue, and we would just whine and cry and hurl insults at each other.  We had a whale of a time.  The fact that the script called for us to kidnap and rape a party clown, while very central to the story of the movie, seemed incidental to the good time we were having shooting the actual scenes.  I think the manic ridiculousness of it all ended up making the scenes all the more disturbing, in the end.  That was the idea, anyway.


This kind of addresses your question about Gone Baby Gone, too.  Truly sick, crazy, dangerous people–at least the kinds that are portrayed in movies–don’t think of themselves as being crazy or sick.  They’re inside their own heads, and one has to assume that they see their own needs and behaviors as normal, at least to them.  It wasn’t actually that hard to prepare for Gone Baby Gone.  I didn’t have to imagine what it would be like to want to sexually assault children.  It’s worst crime I can imagine, but Corwin Earle, the character, didn’t think of it that way; he was just fulfilling his needs, trying to have a good time.  Now, he knew that everybody ELSE thought he was sick and twisted, and he knew enough to be ashamed and terrified when he was busted, but the real acting challenge, for me, was to imagine what it would be like to beg for my life.  Ben Affleck, the director, who was particularly shrewed at working with actors,  kept pushing me to be simpler, to do less; also, the set dressing, the costumes–they went a long way towards showing what a sad and dangerous person Corwin was–I didn’t have to do any extra work to get that across.  And besides, as despicable as he was, and a lot of my characters are, it’s not my job to judge them.  The script, the story, the movie as whole, do that just fine.  I thought it was brave of Ben to humanize my character as much as he did.

You were also at the end of the classic “Holy Bartender” joke in Kevin Smith’s Dogma?  Are you often recognized as the guy Jason Lee filled with bullets? And you made a return in a Kevin Smith projects with Clerks The Animated Series and a role in Jersey Girl.  After all of these occasions, how was it working with Smith as your director?

I have, at this point in my life, done a fair amount of movies, and television–lots of Law and Order and such–and quite a lot more Off Broadway and Off-Off Broadway plays.  I’ve been recognized or congratulated, at some point, for most of these performances.  All of these recognitions, these nice instances of kind words from strangers, all of them taken together would not equal even a tenth of the the amount of times I’ve been called out for being the Holy Bartender in Dogma.  In New York, Los Angeles, Berkeley, New Orleans, Oklahoma City–in all these cities I’ve been approached by a guy in hoodie telling me he’s seen the movie seven times. They often know my name.  I have five lines in that movie.  I was shooting John From Cincinnati in a suburb of San Diego and a group of teenagers partying in the house across from my trailer tried to get me to come in and watch the movie with them.  They were very insistent.  It is a testament to Kevin Smith’s cultural authority.


I met Kevin on Vulgar, and we got along well.  It didn’t hurt when he found out I had gone to high school with Ben Affleck, and that we were still friends.  Kevin I think likes to keep things in the family, to surround himself with people he likes and trusts–even in small parts, which Jersey Girl, Dogma and Clerks The Animated Series most definitely were.  In all those instances I just got a call from Scott Mosier, the producer, asking me if I was around the following week.  They were all very fun, very relaxed experiences.  The trick was to get Kevin and Scott to laugh, and then you knew you were in good shape.

Gone Baby Gone


Do you have a coalition with the Affleck brothers?  How do you manage to appear in so many of their films? 

Well, as I mentioned, we went to high school together.  In fact I’ve known Ben and Casey longer than that–our parents were roommates in college. So it’s not a coincidence I’ve worked with them as much I have. It’s not complete nepotism either, though.  The Kevin Smith movies I got through Kevin; The Killer Inside Me, Casey recomended me, but I still had to audition.  Gone Baby Gone was a strait offer though;  Ben walked up to me and said something like “I have a part for you in this movie I’m directing, but I hope you don’t take it personally.”  I also play myself in I’m Still Here–I didn’t have to audition for that either.  Anyway–I’m of course incredibly grateful.  I didn’t know they would be as famous as they are when we were little, but I knew they were smart, and funny, and that I liked being around them.  And it taught me early on: relationships are everything, and that if you meet someone who is talented and who’s company you enjoy–famous and powerful or not–stay close to that person, because they will do more for the overall quality of your creative life, and maybe your career as well, than any one audition ever could.  Working with friends, and having friends who are really good at what they do, is one of the best things about my career.


Who would you say is your greatest non artistic influence in your life?

That is a strangely difficult question to answer. Art and creativity inform pretty much every means by which I engage with the world.  I’m either working–collaborating with writers and directors and other actors–or relaxing–by watching plays, movies, reading novels, and hanging out with the aforementioned writers, directors and actors with whom I am often working.  Even my volunteer work is centered around making art; I work with an organization called The Possibility Project, which reaches out to teenagers around the city, getting them to talk about the problems they’re facing in their lives, at which point they…write a play about it all, and perform in said play.  The work the staff and teenagers do at TPP is enormously inspiring, it’s changed my life, but in the end It all the flows back to same thing: acting, thinking about acting, all the different mediums that one can act in, how those mediums work, etc etc etc.

I guess the greatest non artistic influence I have in my life is my sister, Sarah.  We talk on the phone most days.  We give each other advice, trade family gossip, vent our neurotic worries and grudges, etc… She’s a therapist, and a really good one, I imagine–and when I’m working on a character that I’m having trouble with, whose motivations are mysterious to me, I’ll call her up, talk her through the story, and she’ll almost always have great insights into the characters’ behavior: for example, she’ll say something like “he’s acting like a child of divorce, lashing out at the people who are actually on his side, trying to impress the people who are abandoning him” (this about a character in Uncle Vanya I just played this past summer.)  What’s great about her advice is that she has a very clinical eye for how and why people behave, coupled with a tremendous amount of empathy for people–which not only makes her fun to talk to, but is also is an example for me as to how I want to be as an actor, in my work: clear eyed, analytic, but also generous and loving towards the characters I play, and the people I work with.

Tell us a bit about your upcoming project, East of Acadia.  What will you be doing in this film?

Well, I play another angry psycho–who is also, once again, a rapist.  I swear this is not a reflection of my actual personality.  In fact I don’t know if would have done the movie–I’m trying to leave rapists and crazy people behind me, at least for the time being–except that the script really interested me.  It’s a very ambitious story; it juggles a lot of characters, and is crammed with ideas; it’s a kind of noir/mystery/western, set in rural Maine, that explores spiritual awakening, creativity, family dynamics…The director, Brad Coley, is trying to craft an exciting story that at the same time wrestles with deep, complex themes.  I have no idea whether or not he pulled it off, I haven’t seen it yet, but his creative ambition inspired me, and he got some great people to work on it–including William Sadler, who plays my father in the film, and who was really fun to act with.


What was the last thing that made you smile?

I asked my girlfriend, Rebecca, what my answer should be to this question and she said “Me!” Which made me smile.  So there you have it.


Spokane: The Lost City of Potential [Travelogue]

Before I leave the United States for such a long stretch, I thought I should speak about the last place I will have lived, and currently reside.  Spokane, Washington.  I’m not ashamed to say that I truly love this city.  Even though I can perfectly understand why a westward bound traveler would rather land themselves in Portland, Oregon over this region, I still love this place.  I’ve had my ups and downs living in this city.  So many things I would like to forget, but just as many things I will always cherish.  And as I depart from its plain of existence, I wish only the best for Spokane and its people.  Let’s begin….

Riverfront Park

Spokane, Washington was once destined for a somewhat divine greatness.  In the mid to late 19th century, it seemed as though this region held everything you could every need to exist in the newly trampled Northwest territory.  As the city’s current motto states, it was “Near Nature, Near Perfect”.  Then, and now, it was a vastly expanding metropolis equipped with a large river that proved both beautiful and profitable.  For anyone looking to move any and everything along this river.  Throw in a later boom in mining around the present day Couer d’Alene and Northern Idaho area that proved (just as it does today) to be a very convenient and by far cheaper to operate within that say, you know, the other place that was known to draw in miners across the globe.  Throw on top of that the inclusion of the Union Pacific railroad driving through, and it appeared as though this place could hold nothing but great things for the future.  By 1900, the population of Spokane was well over a hundred thousand, which was even after The Great Fire that almost wiped the damn place off the map.

But, alas, you don’t hear of Spokane in the same way it may have been expected to have this place be on par with the likes of San Francisco, Chicago, etc.  So what happened?  Well, the story is actually a whole lot better documented and embedded with corruption, greed, and a stand-off between the International Workers of the World and the giants of  the corporate world, than I could ever really get into.  Let’s just say, things have slowed down a bit.

But, to even have reached the current state in is now, Spokane had to develop itself in a world that really didn’t seem to give a damn if it succeeded or not.  In 1974, Spokane hosted the first ever environmentally themed World Expo which left a pretty spectacular sprawl of a park in the downtown area, which I will surely speak of more.  It has also a city that subsequently needed to leave its manufacturing roots behind after an almost obsessive collection of failures and ineptitude that may not be entirely the people’s fault, rather the on slaught of the American dream simply fading into a different direction, leaving The Lilac City in the proverbial dust, so to speak.  The city can now boast itself as a thriving facilitator of several amazing opportunities for collegiate advancement, especially in the medical world.  Population has slowly risen.  110 years after reaching 100,000, the city itself has broken the 200,000 barrier, and the Spokane/Couer d’Alene metropolitan area can show over 600,000 residents, respectively.

Riverfront Park

Yet, where is the hope?  Where does the potential really lie?  How does one truly epitomize or even describe what Spokane really is to the rest of the world?  In my own personal opinion and experience in this city, Spokane can be described by what it actually isn’t.  There are two VERY important things that Spokane is not that need to be addressed.  And what are these two things?  Well, Spokane is NOT:

Seattle or Portland.

When somebody from outside of the Pacific Northwest (or even within its boundaries, at times) thinks of the gloomy, caffeine laced, region of this country, Spokane is not what they envision.  They know grunge music, indie rock, rain, The Goonies, Starbucks, Microsoft, etc.  It’s really a tired story for most of us from this region.  I specifically understand the differences being born in a failed industrial town actually situated within the walls of liberalism and the divine social epitaph of society in which most see the world.  I grew up in a town at the base of Mt. St. Helens that is simply a stone’s throw from Portland, and only a bit further from the technologically enhanced Seattle.  Yet, black and white can not even begin to explain the difference between where I lived what people think when they think of this region.  And if you live here, you know that the Cascade Mountains might as well be the equator that divides heaven and hell, which could be on either side dependant upon how you want to look at it.  If you don’t live somewhat along the coast, you live in a prairie farm town nobody has heard of (at best, you live in Spokane), which millions of people will find hard to believe.

So, why is it important to note that Spokane is definitely NOT one of these cities?  Well, for their own damn good really.  One walk through the downtown area of this city, and you will see what is obviously a collection of medium-sized buildings with the influence of the cities it can never be, but so obviously yearns to be more like.  There are more bars than you could throw a hooker from Sprague Ave. at, and also has certain commodities that you just really wouldn’t expect to see in this region.  Say, an Apple store.  One street is lined with concert venues (including a Knitting Factory, which always surprises out of towers) that rivals in comparison to the scene in Portland.  They’ve also managed to make Spokane a pretty walker friendly city, even when temperatures are known to drop well below freezing in the winter with several buildings being connected by enclosed walking bridges.  Yes, as I have clearly stated, the potential is there.  It would actually become a bit lengthy and wordy of a description if I tried to acknowledge all the positives of this city, as they are indeed plentiful.  But, alas there is still a probable.  Let’s all it, an identity problem shall we.

Spokane, Washington

Novelist Jess Walter epitomized the brilliance of his hometown of Spokane better than I, or anyone else probably, really could have in his harrowing novel, Citizen Vince.  How did he do this?  By explaining to us why Spokane is probably one of the greatest cities for somebody in the witness protection program to hide out at.  Why?  Well, it’s not a large city.  But, it’s no small town neither.  It is a city that you can actually go your whole life without really knowing anybody in, and be just fine.  You don’t have to stand out if you don’t want to.  And the resources to live a meaningful yet unnoticed existence are definitely there.  The problem?  This element of simplicity over extravagance is simply not an American way of thinking, is it really?  Canadian, definitely, but not in this country.  No, we are a capitalist nation.  Our goals are supposed to be ever-expanding and more than likely never reached prior to our demise.  That being said, for many Spokanites, the fact that they will never “accomplish” (for a lack of a better word) what Seattle or Portland has “accomplished”, is something they will never be able to look past.  Which, as we all know, is not a far self-realization at all.  This is not to say that there isn’t anybody around here who appreciates the surroundings they DO have.  They are there.  Likely enough, they are probably the same people who feel as though Spokane has been suffice enough to reach their every single need.  And this is can be a good thing.

Case in point: Every year Spokane’s free weekly newspaper, The Pacific Northwest Inlander (one more fine commodity Spokanites should greatly appreciate if they don’t already) does a “Best of 20_” for everything in the area, especially when it comes to food.  There are indeed some amazing eateries in this area.  Maybe not any sort of special forte, but some really good places.  Places that could easily rival neighborhoods in Seattle or Portland based on quality itself.  But, when this list is revealed, what do you think is there?  For best burgers, fries, Mexican food– Red Robin, Zips, and Azteca respectively.  And while this may simply

Spokane, Washington

be because people really dig these chains because they hold some sort of special quality around here that others don’t (Idaho and Washington DO have amazing potatoes), this is simply something you are not going to see happen in the twin cities Spokane seems to live in the shadows of.  That and throw in the fact that Spokane is consistently on the list as having more fast food restaurants than you could really imagine (don’t believe it, take a drive down 3rd Ave and count them out, and try not to get in a wreck).  Simply stated, a small independent newspaper in Portland would never see this sort of thing.  And what does it matter?  Shouldn’t Spokane truly embrace its differences from these other sacred holy hipster lands?  Shouldn’t the lack of pretentious fortitude be a celebrated thing?  Spokane has the little nooks and coffee shops with guitar strumming, angel headed hipsters lurking about, just like every city on the planet!  Why do we care what the residents of the city choose as their favorite french fries?  Why can’t they be proud of what they do have, and stop worrying about what they don’t, or how the outside world looks at them?  Yes, this is about food, but it’s not as simple as that.

Spokane has its arts community.  It has events that bring joy and love to its residents.  It has good food, plenty of things to do.  It is located on a beautiful river and amongst some pretty exquisite nature.  But, it is not Seattle.  It is not Portland.  Just as a pig can never be a cow, Spokane can never been these cities.  But, don’t some people prefer pork chops over a steak?  And until all Spokane’s residents realize this idealism to be self-evident, I’m afraid Spokane will never have its own identity.

Spokane, Washington

But, with the potential in place, it’s not time to give up hope.  Call me Barack Obama in 2008, but I still have hope for this city.  Even if I am abandoning this metropolis for what will probably be for good, I will still hold hope this fair city, and for the fine folks who see it for what is it, and not for what it can never be.

To be continued…..

Bud Cort [Interview]

Bud Cort is a classically trained artist who has proven himself as a ridiculously talented actor for more than 40 years.  He’s proven himself a genius of the stage and screen.  He’s had roles that have left audiences spell bound.  He’s undoubtedly one of the finest actors of this time, and of a time before many Trainwreck’d readers can even remember.

A quick IMDB search will point you into the direction of so many great pieces of work that Bud Cort has been a part of.  When I was a younger lad, the name Bud Cort was only synonymous with Kevin Smith’s Dogma.  But, as I grew older, and more in tune to the world of film beyond my own personal stigmas and accelerations towards commonalities (I am STILL a huge Kevin Smith fan, mind you), I can now state that I best know  Bud Cort for the same reason most of you will know him for as well.  He is Harold.  As in, Harold and Maude.  A film that so utterly pre-dates itself that it is almost impossible to deny.  And while he has done several wonderful films, television shows, and stage performances since, the hipster love child in many of us will always remember Bud as Harold.  But, we shall learn a bit more.  And thankfully, Mr. Cort was kind enough to sit down with us and chat it up a bit about his illustrious career and what he has been up to lately.  Enjoy!

 You’ve had an amazing career on the screen, and equally so on the stage.  If you were to only choose one, which would you say would hold a more prominent spot in your heart?

Radio. I got to read the entire J.D Salinger novel “Catcher in the Rye” for radio station K.P.F.K. in Los Angeles.  The whole book is written in the first person so it’s really the greatest monologue ever put down for an actor. A close second would be when I played Clov in Samuel Beckett’s “Endgame” at the Cherry Lane Theater in New York and then in Los Angeles at the Mayfair Theater.  Third would be “She Dances Alone”. This film is a jewel. It’s about madness and the artistic process and the great dancer Nijinsky through the eyes of his eccentric daughter Kyra Nijinsky who by looking at you would never believe she could possibly evoke her father through her own dancing. I played the director of this film within a film and Max Von Sydow narrated it reading from Nijinsky’s diaries.  It’s magical.

What was it like living with Groucho Marx for an entire decade?  

It was a Fulbright scholarship in comedy.

Did your mother actually turn down a marriage proposal from Clark Gable?  

(Laughs) No, no. She worked for MGM studios in New York during the war when my father was over in Germany fighting. (His troop was the first in to liberate Dachau, (the concentration camp). They had to clean it up at its worst for the arrival of Eisenhower and his brass. My mother was a part of special services for MGM, which today would be considered the p.r. arm of a studio. She would pick Clark Gable up at Grand Central Station, escort him to the Plaza Hotel, and sit through all of his interviews for his latest film. Afterward if he was hungry or just wanted to be around people she would be his companion for dinner and dancing at the Stork Club. By the end of the week if he was fried she would drive him to a little hotel in the Poconos. Obviously both being married they had separate rooms. But anytime she spoke about him she always got a special faraway look in her eyes. I always fantasized he was my father because of my dimples and frankly I didn’t look that much like my own father. She was also great pals with Harold Lloyd.

You were absolutely incredible in your portrayal of Bill Ubell in The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou.  And Wes Anderson is a personally hero of mine so I have to ask, how was it working under the direction of Anderson?  I can only imagine a fantastic experience…. 

Wes is a meticulous captain. He is so singular and so prepared that he can’t help but get exactly what he envisions. I’m a method actor so preparation is my middle name. Wes and I did go toe to toe on my character’s wardrobe. I thought my costumes looked like diarrhea, my own research into bond company personnel informed me that they were always a well dressed, smart and together bunch of people, but Wes was adamant on a more dweebified look. When I saw the film I was blown away by how right he was. Wes has his own, very unique genius and he just gets better and finer. I just loved “Moonrise Kingdom”.

You reportedly turned down the role as Billy Bibbit in Milos Forman’s adaptation of One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest out of fear of typecast.  Now almost 40 years later, do you believe you made the right choice?  

Hell no. But when I was offered it a different actor than Jack Nicholson was supposedly doing the film. Later on, after I’d turned it down, I found out Jack was now playing McMurphy. I flew to the phone to called Milos (Forman, the director) and Michael Douglas (the producer). But it was too late. Billy Bibbit had been cast with Brad Dourif who was great.

You played John Doe Jersey, a.ka. God, in Kevin Smith’s “Dogma”.  How do you even begin to prepare to play the role of Earth’s curator and guardian?

I looked in the mirror a lot. (kidding) I am a good Catholic boy, you know.

It would be naive and rightfully inconsiderate to ignore the fact that most of the people reading this interview probably know you best as Harold from the 1971 classic comedy Harold and Maude.  The film was not an initial success, but grew to classic status. Why do you think this is?  Is it a “story ahead of its time” sort of scenario? 

As I was reading the script I immediately knew it was going to be a classic film for the ages. There was no denying it.  The studio was stumped on how to publicize it. The art for newspapers and theater posters was plain black, block lettering on an empty background it was more appropriate for The Ten Commandments! Truthfully, it’s success came from the people. The ground swell of word of mouth dropkicked it over so many goalposts both here and abroad- that Paramount had to re-release it.

In a perfect world, the 1991 film Ted and Venus which you wrote, directed, and starred in would receive its own following as well.  Were  there any personal inspirations behind creating this film, which I have heard was based on true events?  And are we ever going to see an American DVD release?

There is a bootleg DVD that people have tracked down online. I personally would love to have it properly re-released to DVD by the studio. I also would love to have another quick pass in editing. I shot stuff that would be wild for today’s audiences but back in 1991 the studio was, hmmm… shall we say a little reticent? Nevertheless, I got about 99 percent of what I was going for, but for me that missing one percent still drives me nuts. That also includes the title, which they made me change from Love In Venice (which I thought was a beautiful and apt take on Death In Venice) to Ted and Venus which came out of what I was told was “market research”. I found out the distributor had made three phone calls to New York and asked “what would you rather hear Bud Cort’s new film called? Love In Venice or Ted and Venus (which was obviously a play on Harold and Maude). They went with the cheesier title.

So many people have told me the film was way ahead of its time. Others have remarked that they’d seen the film and they had obviously missed it when it came out in the 70’s. That was my biggest complement because I obsessed over the look of the film, which took place in the 70’s but actually was made in the 90’s. It was based on an LA Weekly cover story that did actually happen. For some reason I was not allowed to print that at the beginning of the film.  I really am proud of the film. Peter Bogdanovich told me it was the best first film directed by an actor he’d seen since John Cassavetes. Gena Rowlands was in it by the way what a superb actress and babe.

It would also behoove me to mention a film you did prior to Harold and Maude, known as Gasss! by the infamous cult filmmaker  Roger Corman.  I know it’s been  quite a while, but was it a unique scenario working with the king of crazy, Mr. Corman?  

It was definitely an experience.  Certain costumes on supposedly dead heroes like Ghandi, Martin Luther King, and JFK, instead of being realistic were turned into Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade caricatures. I personally was offended and didn’t want to shoot with them. But I’ve seen Roger many times over the years and he is one of the most personable gentlemen in the business.

Aside from a varied and lengthy acting career, you started out as an artist, primarily a portrait painter. Is there anywhere across the land a common observer can see or purchase work from you?

You’d have to haunt Rye, New York where I grew up, because I did so many portraits of Rye residents and their children and their dogs that I was usually walking around bleary eyed. I finally gave it up because I wanted to act full time, which I’d actually been doing since nursery school anyway. With time I realized that every part I played could actually be its own portrait.

Ricki Lee Jones with Bud (smiling) – August 2012

Thanks for the “legendary”! In February of this year I had a full knee replacement (They found I had no cartilage I’m sure from all the theater pratfalls and physical hi-jinx in films over the years). I’ve still got six more months of out-patient physical therapy to go – and then my surgeon tells me I should be back to 100 percent. I have some projects lined up and fortunately the creative team are able to wait for me.

What was the last thing that made you smile?

Rickie Lee Jones’s new album “The Devil You Know”. It’s cray cray good.

Introduction [Travelogue]

Ali Air Base in southern Iraq (2008)

So for those of you who know me, you know what I do for a living.  And it definitely isn’t running this site, for I would be one broke ass person and would probably have to fire myself for lack of motivation.  No, my job is actually far less interesting, though some people find that hard to believe.  I’m a staff sergeant in the U.S. Air Force working in the command post.  What the hell is a command post, you may ask?  I’ve been doing the job for just over a year now, and I really can’t tell you what the hell I do.  I used to be an electrician which was really nothing more than the standard blue collar construction job that everyone else in the world would do.  No matter, the job takes me to some pretty strange places from time to time. When stuff got too wet and gross and need plumbing first, that was my limit, I always had a service like, ready for those rare cases I just wouldn’t go near. I’m all for specialized work anyway.

The Air Force has always been a part of my life in some form.  My father recently retired after 26 years of service.  Let’s just say I was a month shy from turning 26 when he retired, so there you have it.  Now, I’m no super patriotic being in any way shape or form, though I am far from a fist fighting Marxist or well-organized Anarchist.  No, to me it’s a job.  It has its benefits, and it has it downfalls.  Of course there is some honor involved, but we can just imply that part, and move on.  In fact, I will more than likely refrain from mentioning work, unless it seems absolutely necessary.  Who wants to talk about work that much, anyway? In my tenor as a military brat turned military member, I’ve made my way across the glove several times.  But, I have yet to spend more than 6 months out of the United States since coming back from a second two-year round in Turkey when I was just 8 years old.  Until now.

Biloxi, Mississippi (2011)

Yes, I will soon embark on a journey to the old world for a serious amount of time.  And I am looking forward to sharing the experience with you all.  I will be setting forth for South Korea for a solo 1 year mission in less than a month from this post, returning to the states for two briefs periods, and then setting sail (or air, I guess) with my family in tow to live in beautiful southern Spain, near El Puerto De Santa Maria.  And since it doesn’t really happen unless it is documented (some may say), I will share the adventure with everyone.  There will be obvious topics to cover like the difference between western and eastern civilization.  Especially in food, which you will soon learn is a vital subject for me when it comes to travel.   I’ll also try to find some times to recollect on a few other places I have traveled to, lived in, and/or experienced.  I hope you enjoy the ride as much as I expect to.

So let’s begin, shall we?

John Carroll Lynch [Interview]

Some actors simply have the most recognizable face.  A charming persona that never lets you down.  And it’s not that they are simply captivating to look at based upon Hollywood and societies definition of “sexy”.  It’s simply the fact that whenever you see them on the screen, you know you are not going to be upset because they are there to light up the screen in one form or another.  And for me, John Carroll Lynch is one of those actors.
Everybody is going to remember John for one role or another, considering he’s done a wide variety of roles.  Trying to decide what John is “best known for” is sort of incredulous.  If you watched a lot of TV in the 90’s, you might remember him as Drew Carey’s cross dressing brother on The Drew Carey Show.  If you are an art film geek, you’re probably going to remember Mr. Lynch as Norm in the Coen Brother’s classic film Fargo.  If you’re into television crime dramas… see where this is going.
John Carroll Lynch is not only a very fine actor, he is also a hell of a nice guy.  So nice in fact, he took some time out of his hectic schedule to talk with us for a moment about a number of topics and to discuss the amazing career he has had thus far, and what the future holds for one of the most lovable character actors ever to perform.  Enjoy!
You were a co-star in what is, in my opinion, one of the most underrated comedies of all time, Beautiful Girls as Franky Womack.  The film was so much fun to watch, was it a shoot as well?  With such a fantastically casted ensemble, were there any memorable experiences with the cast?  
My favorite memory of shooting the film was playing Uma Thurman’s cousin in the film and greeting her with a hug as she came into a bar. Over and over again. Not a bad day of work.
About a year later, I made a complete ass of myself at Chicago film critics awards ceremony. You see, I was cast in Beautiful Girls in Minneapolis. I was working as a theater actor there and never imagined I would see anyone I was working with or for again. Anyway, Fran McDormand was receiving an award for Fargo, couldn’t attend, and they asked me in her stead. So at the event, this very nice guy came up to me and said “John, great to see you, man.” he must have noticed the blink, blink as I looked at him. He said, “it’s Scott.” more blinking, “Scott Rosenberg, I wrote Beautiful Girls.” Ugh. Let me apologize here again. Sorry Scott.
How did you manage to pull off playing one of finest supporting husbands ever in Fargo.  What were you thinking about when you were developing this character?  Did the Coen Brothers give you much leeway in how it should be done?

Their words are so amazing what leeway do you need? While Fargo wasn’t the first film set I was on, it was the first role with a name, you know? Not Skipper, or moving man. Joel and Ethan, Fran, Roger Deakins, everyone couldn’t have been more collaborative.

Frances and I met before hand and chatted about the characters, how they might have met. “Maybe, Norm was on the force”, etc. Which made good sense to me. There were several scenes where she conducts work while he is there. It made sense that he would be interested in that. But on the first day of shooting, Joel and Ethan threw all that out. They knew that the key to Norm and Margie was that he was her safe haven and had nothing to do with her work.
Was it in any way disturbing to play a homicide detective during your stint on Body of Proof?  Was there some research involved in preparing for that role?  Anything haunting?

I rode along with a Sargent of detectives in Providence RI, where we shot season one and he was great. It was funny because he was actually embarrassed that nothing really happened while I rode along. I was cool with it. He talked about how Providence had a detective bureau but didn’t have a dedicated homicide division. I asked if that was because there weren’t enough murder attempts and he said “no, people get shot all the time, we just have really good trauma unit here.” sounded particularly great with the Rhode Island accent.

That matter of fact relationship with the violence, was really telling to me. You have to be ok with it. Murder is a pitiful act. It is filled with sadness to me. That is what I imagine as the burden. How sad it is to see over and over what we are capable of.
And the trade off is the doing something about it. He said that the interrogation room is a place where you have to be a salesmen for a prison sentence. You have to convince people that telling you what they did is good for them.  and the important thing is, to Always Be Closing.  That’s last part is me. Not him.
Have you been asked to do any more drag related roles such as your famous performance as Drew Carey’s brother?  And did you receive much praise from the cross dressing community?
No one has asked since. But it was fun. Size 22 dress by the way. The show was nominated for a GLAAD award for it as I recall. I did an interview for a cross dressing magazine and that was fun. Interesting to be interviewed by someone who is truly living that way. Steve’s desire to live life as he wanted seemed a lot braver after that.
I love getting into the shoes of the character. In that case it was the pumps.
Your scenes with Clint Eastwood in his film Gran Torino were beyond classic and some of the best stuff in the film.  Was it strange swapping racial slurs with the legend?  Awkward?  And what was it like working under the direction of Clint?

I have been so fortunate to work with amazing directors. Clint Eastwood has a set where everyone works with everyone else all the time and has done so for 50 years in some cases so there is no bullshit. Simple, clear and without stress.

And he works so intuitively. As an actor and as a film maker. He wants to shoot the movie as written. He wants to capture what is happening at that moment and nothing else interests him. I put that down to his love of Jazz.  Bee Vang was very nervous and Clint said, “tell the truth and you’ll be fine.” Boil it down and that is it, isn’t it?
As far as the slurs I loved how you couldn’t have chosen two worse role models about how to be a man than these two. Very funny stuff.  My dad told me a story after seeing the movie that growing up in Pueblo, CO he heard everyone define everyone else by these racially loaded words. As a kid, he didn’t know for a long time that they were slurs. I think that is what the scenes captured. Not that they aren’t hateful but the shock of how easy it is to use them.
Needless to say, it was too fun. Great words, great set, great director, a barber smock, what more can you ask for?
We will be seeing you next year in Janee LaMarque’s new film The Pretty One.  Can you tell is about that project?  What will you be doing in the film?
The Pretty One is a beautiful story about two young women, twins played by Zoe Kazan. I play her father who is emotionally remote in the extreme. It is a charming, funny, moving script and Janee is a beautiful writer. I am looking forward to seeing how it turns out.
I am really interested in doing parts that I am not sure how to play. That was one of them. I want to be surprised. I want to surprise.
What would you say is your favorite role you have done thus far?  

The next one. Because it means I am working. I love to work.

If you could portray any famous dictator in world history, who would it be? 

Dick Cheney. Psych. I would like to play him though. Fascinating certainty.

Okay, dictators? I’ve always wondered why there isn’t a movie about Vladimir Lenin? It’s always Stalin, Stalin, Stalin! What about Lenin?
What was the last thing that made you smile?

My nephews. Ben and Michael. They live in Oak Lawn outside Chicago. I visited them.  We had a great time. Thanks, Michael and Ben. (assuming they’ll read this. trying to win an Uncle contest)

Katie O’Grady [Interview]

If you’re anything like I am, you are neurotic and underexposed to the current stream of Hollywood blockbusters and buzz worthy films.  And while this is obviously (but unintentionally) pretentious and absurd, that’s just the way some of us are wired.  Thankfully, we have our ways and means to finding joy in simple, little, and far more artistic films.  And honestly, Netflix has us covered, for the most part.  It was one dreary morning after a long night of work that I settled into a streaming pile of goodness of a film entitled Rid Of Me.  And I haven’t been the same since.
Rid Of Me is one of those sad yet bizarre films that you are surely never to forget.  The story of a woman handed a shit sandwich, and forced to eat it no matter how much she gags.  Not literally, of course, but what our heroine of the film suffers through is actually far worse.  The lovable yet utter disturbed and tormented Meris is the sort of character you just can’t help but feel bad for.  And the main reason for this can only be due to the wonderful performance from one of the today’s finest up and coming actresses and producers known only as Katie O’ Grady.
Katie O’Grady is actually nothing like the character she portrays in Rid Of Me.  She is actually an almost whimsical personality and a generally pleasing person.  She is a force to be reckoned with in the world of independent cinema.  Rid Of Me may be her highlight to date, but it is far from the last time you will be seeing this gem of an actress.  Not too mention she has a reoccurring role on the finest television show out right now, Portlandia.  We were fortunate enough to steal some of Katie’s time to talk about Rid Of Me, and what her future holds.  Check it out!
How did you become acquainted with director James Westby?  Do you work together often?
James and I worked together on The Auteur, a hysterical comedy about a porn director that returns to Portland to make his final epic film. We had so much fun filming my scenes and traveling to promote the film. I had been a fan of his films but after reading Rid Of Me I just knew I had to be part of getting it made. We have since gone on to produce several films, commercials and music videos together.
 How did Alcove Productions come to light?  What made you want to enter the world of film production?
I had been acting in film for a while when I realized  I was tired of waiting around for someone to give me a chance to show what I could do. I really felt like I didn’t have a choice, I had to produce for myself. Rid Of Me had a lead role that was opposite of who I am (in life I am blonde and outgoing, Meris is a brunette wallflower!) and a writer/director I admired. I was really determined to get that part and that included starting my own production company so I could produce it. The director went for it and Alcove Productions was off and running! Best decision I ever made.
How was your experience at the Tribeca Film Festival?  How was the reception of Rid of Me?  Did you happen to rub shoulders with anyone you’ve wanted to meet? 
Tribeca FF was better than we had imagined. For me it was not about rubbing shoulders at all, it was about getting our film seen and sold. The festival was very supportive of RID OF ME and our Producer Reps (Submarine Entertainment) along with our PR firm (42 West) really made the experience a huge learning process. The entire festival rallied to support a film that was shot for under 60k and to me THAT is what independent filmmaking is all about…getting your art out there and getting it seen! I can’t wait to return to that festival, it’s my favorite.
Rid of Me was without a doubt one of the finest films to come out in several years.  It’s been well documented that your role as Meris is almost a polar opposite of yourself.  What was your trick to transforming yourself into such a neurotic character?  Any post traumatic stress ensue? 
Thank you! I really love the film too. Yes, I am absolutely the opposite of Meris, but like her and I certainly know what it feels like to be alone or unaccepted. I despise that feeling. Meris just wants to be liked, she is desperate to get her voice heard. Approaching her was an outside in process, I first died my hair brown and changed my body language, lowered my eyes, and that shifted my inner experience with self and drew me inward immediately. I liked being quiet and observing others. I liked investigating how to disappear in a room, it was easier for me to maintain energy by giving less to others. Meris loves people…she just has no idea how to relate to them.

Regarding post traumatic stress…this is a great question! I am laughing to myself as I consider this. I recently produced a documentary about kids and teens that are bullied in the school system, there is no question that my experience playing Meris informed my passion for this new project. So far the biggest aftershock I have felt from the role is when I watch myself smear menstrual blood on another woman’s face…that gives me nightmares! Who does that?

You definitely have a prominent stance in the Portland Ore acting world.  What is your opinion of the current independent filmmakers community in Portland?  Is there a potential for growth?
The film community is thriving in Portland! I am so proud to be a part of such an up and coming city of brave artists. When someone says they are going to make a film here, they mean it. Work gets done and that speaks volumes. We also have several TV shows shooting here. Producers are figuring out that we have locations for every type of genre and a town of solid crew and actors.  It’s an amazing time to be making film. With the film incentive programs we expect to see a lot more growth of both local and studio work. I work in LA and NY but I gotta say…I love my city! Nothing beats booking work here.
You run acting classes for teens and kids.  How do you enjoy sharing your wisdom?  Is it rewarding?  If so, how?
Those kids run me…dont’ be fooled. I learn more from working with kids and teens than I could ever teach. We get serious in those classes, it’s a support for young artists that don’t fit in in the school system or with friends. So many young artists struggle, this is a class where they can gather and thrive in being THEMSELVES! When I am not on set, being in class is the next best place.
Rumor has it you will be appearing in a film with Justin Bartha and the legendary Cloris Leachman.  Can you tell us a bit about it?  
Those are the rumors I have heard as well. I am attached to Stereotypically You, a hysterical comedy about finding love.  I am really looking forward to seeing how it all comes together. We will be shooting in NY, my home away from home!
What else can we expect to see from you and Alcove Productions in the future? 

Currently I am working on I Was There, an amazing film about a fire fighter struggling after 9/11. We have been shooting in Brooklyn and NYC, it has been a powerful experience.  I just got off the set of Grimm (NBC) and am also a cast member on Portlandia (IFC-shooting it’s 3rd season), my favorite show!  I love working with Fred Armisen (SNL), he has inspired me to make my own way. Maybe someday I will look into getting a big fancy agent and seeing what more I can come up with but for now It has been an exciting ride.

Alcove Productions released RID OF ME in theaters and now OnDemand, Itunes and Showtime. We are making the soundtrack available as well as the DVD. We have a short film HOT IN THE ZIPPER (a 1940’s comedy about 3 women living in NY) on the festival circuit and a documentary/narrative film about kids and teens who are bullied, Bully’d: The Reality Of Survival, in post. James Westby, Raija Talus and I are also co-producing a 1970’s horror film, The Woodcutter. Much to come and several scripts in development. It’s going to be an exciting year!
What was the last thing that made you smile?
I am going to go all out right now, full disclosure…My new beau KILLS me with the funny. He gets me laughing so hard I can’t breathe. Laughter is where it’s at.
Stay in touch with Katie at her very own Website.

Rex Pickett [Interview]

We’ve had writer’s featured on Trainwreck’d Society in the past.  Some damn good one’s too.  But our latest interviewee is definitely in a league all of his own.  He’s the man who created one of the finest novels to have ever been adapted into a screenplay that would rock the world of Hollywood as we knew it.  He also made wine cool again.
Yes, when Rex Pickett turned, for the most part, away from the world of Hollywood to focus on writing I’m certain he had no idea that his work would soon be once again engulfed around the world of modern cinema.  Around the time that movies really started to suck, there was a cultural rebirth of the independent cinema that brought the art back into cinema.  And while Robert Downey Jr and other comic book heroes continuously and desperately try to suck the art out of filmmaking, there is still some love to be had.  Rex Pickett’s book that inspired the film Sideways became the modern equivalent of some of the greatest art house films of all.
The soul intention in glamorizing Rex Pickett is not to focus on the Oscar-winning film that would become of one of his novels, but when something is just so damn impressive it can’t go unmentioned.  All of his work impeccable.  And we all know that a bad book can still make a good film.  But, a tremendous book is going to make a classic film.  Thus is the case with Pickett and his beautiful anti-hero laced and lovable story.  And he hasn’t stopped yet!  The book now as a sequel, and a third installment on the horizon.  As well as a play directly adapted from his book, not just the film.  Yes, Rex Pickett has transformed the way we look at life, wine, and what we once would like to consider decency in the modern times.
Rex was kind enough to chat it up with us for a minute here at Trainwreck’d Society!  So read on to find out what the future holds, why wine is an important social statement, and how Aliens 3 could have been SO much better.  Enjoy!
What was it like watching your words turn into a Hollywood success with the release of Sideways?
Nerve-wracking, then electrifying when it started winning awards and wowing audiences.  Nerve-wracking because the material’s so personal.  If it had failed it would have been a personal embarrassment — as some, I might add, predicted.  But to bare one’s soul, and then have audiences and critics loving it, that’s a high I recommend everyone try. 
How do you think Sideways changed the way people observe the world of wine?  Do you believe a new audience was introduced?
Sideways made wine drinking hip.  It skewered both the snobs and the cheapskates.  No longer was it okay to show up with a bottle of Two Buck Upchuck Merlot.  But the way Miles and Maya talked about wine made wine snobbery — which is the monied crowd — look like an elitist bunch, which they are.  Without question, a whole new audience was introduced to wine, and there’re a lot of statistics to back that up. 
Easter Egg
What are you actual thoughts on merlot?  Same as the ever so classic scene in the film with an enraged Paul Giamatti?
I’ve written about this at length, and had to answer this question at length.  Winemakers had glutted the market with Merlot for a whole host of reasons — largely because of the French Paradox.  They had vitiated a once noble grape — principally from Bordeux, but also Napa — and they deserved the spanking and the loss of revenue.  However, when I wrote the famous line I didn’t know it was going to be made into a movie, nor did I have any control whether the line would make it into the movie.  So, Merlot makers can blame both themselves and Alexander Payne. 
Last year you released Vertical, the sequel to Sideways, and word on the street is that you will soon make it a trilogy.  Can you give us any insight on what will be happening in the third installment?
A woman came to my Sideways the Play and said, “Did you know that you’ve written an epic love story?”  No, I did not.  Sideways is a “bromance” — pardon the horrible portmanteau word — about mid-life crisis and failure.  Vertical, my sequel, is about success.  Sideways 3: Chile is going to, perhaps, be about love. 
Not to dig into too many secrets, but…. is there a chance of a theatrical adaptation of Vertical?
This has been suggested to me by everyone who is gobsmached that Vertical isn’t in pre-production right now.  And I’m very seriously considering it.  I’ve already done the adaptation with my sometimes writing partner, Pamela Smith, so the heavy lifting, if you will, has already been done. 
You wrote and directed two independent films in the 80’s, then shifted your way to novels and screenplays.  Any thoughts on directing again?  Anything already in the works?  If not, what sort of film would you do?  
I optioned a script of mine titled Repairman.  The deal is for me to direct.  I would like to direct one film in the digital day.  Both my features were made in the analog day and they were brutal.  Barbarous.  So, yes, I hope to direct Repairman if the two women I optioned it to can find me the money. 
I heard that you working on a pilot for an HBO comedy series.  Is this still in the works?  
A horrible experience.  Not with HBO, who underwrote it, but with a manager at Leverage Management who is the epitome of pilot development ineptitude.  I got out of the deal before I lost my sanity.  And, it’s too bad, because it was a great idea that was slowly being destroyed by a cretin named Michael Garnett. 
I also got word that you were once working with David Fincher on writing Alien 3, but it didn’t seem to pan out.  Have you consider getting into the world of science fiction again?  
It’s a long story and maybe some day I’ll blog about it.  I was one of the last writers on Alien 3.  I worked very closely with Fincher on the script.  It was greenlit by Fox, then Walter Hill, a nasty little man, returned and had it shredded and demanded that Fincher make his script or else.  It was all about politics and ego, not whose script was the best.  Hollywood brings out the worse in people.
Your adaptation for the theatre version of Sideways is doing phenomenal.  For fans of the book and film, what is going to make this a different experience for the fans?
A great question.  I like to tell the patrons — because, well, I’m at the theater practically every night — that the play is a pure distillation of my novel, whereas the movie is Alexander Payne’s very faithful take on my novel — faithful, yet seen through the lens of his sensibility.  Sideways was written in the first person from the standpoint of Miles.  When Payne read my then unpublished novel we met.  He congratulated me on it, then said, “You know what I love about your novel so much?  Your characters are so fucking pathetic.”  And that’s how he saw them.  I didn’t.  I mean, when I wrote it I (Miles) was going through a rough patch, but I never saw him as pathetic.  Nor Jack.  A 3-time Tony Award winning director, who read the play script, but hasn’t seen the play, said it best, “It’s richer and more emotionally complex than the movie.”  And he’s a huge fan of the movie!  It’s more of a love story, too.  Payne has trouble with emotionalism in films.  I don’t.  The play IS more emotionally complex.  Also, Miles is funnier.  He’s not so down-in-the-mouth as Paul, brilliantly, played him.  I see him as a more self-deprecatingly funny guy.
What was the last thing that made you smile?
A 7-iron I hit 7 feet from the cup on the first hole of my first round of golf in half a year.  I used to be a good golfer.  Some days I still have it.
Stay in touch with Rex at his website,  And if you find yourself in the L.A. area, be sure to get yourself down to checkout Sideways: The Play.  And tell us what you thought!