Compiled by: Jack Foley
Q. I suspect this is your most complex movie given that
it can be looked at on so many different levels - the mid-life
crisis, the kind of Captain Ahab theme running through it - but
also, from the production notes, it's an idea you've had in your
mind for something like 14 years?
A. Yeah, I wasn't being flippant. I wrote a little short
story when I was in college. It was actually one paragraph, which
was a description of this character and Angelica's character and
this ship, The Belafonte, and the sort of setting. But I didn't
mean for it to be a movie, I was just trying to write a story
and I never really got any further.
It was actually Owen Wilson who kept bringing it up from time
to time over the years and always reminding be about it and saying
that I ought to think about it some more. So eventually... and
I remember that day on the Royal Tenenbaums seeing Angelica and
Bill together and thought this is - you know, because all they
had together was 35 seconds outside a bathroom door, but I thought
there was a great kind of rapport between the two of them that
seemed like it would be worth exploring.
Q. Of the many inspired ideas in this movie, the one
that tickled me was to get almost the David Bowie catalogue and
then have it translated into Portuguese. Was he quite flattered
and chuffed with that?
A. I've never spoken to him. I know that a friend of
mind heard him on the radio being interviewed - and this was some
time ago - and he said that there was a special project that he
was working on, and it was very secret, but that his songs were
sang in Portuguese and there was no more he could say about it.
I heard that and then I got a call saying David Bowie is going
to call and someone asked me for my mobile phone number and said
that David Bowie was going to call me today. But then I didn't
ever get the phone call and that's the extent of my knowledge
of David Bowie.
Q. Bill Murray seems able to get a laugh even when doing
very little. Did you get a chance to observe any kind of method
behind his particular brand of comedy?
A. I'm surprised that Angelica felt concerned that he
liked her that particular day because of course he loved her every
single day. But I know what she means because he's the sort of
person where he's a very powerful force and you will feel it -
what his mood is and all that kind of stuff. And there is something
sort of heroic about him, in a way, too because he's someone who
can, for instance, we can be up here saying whatever we've got
to say and we may be trying very hard to be interesting, but if
he happened to be standing in the back of the room it'd be hard
for us to keeping everyone looking at us here, because he'd be
doing little things with his face and you would laugh because
he can sort of sweep everyone up.
And I think that's part of what makes him a star. I remember going
to a Sheryl Crow concert in Central Park, which Bill introduced.
Afterwards, I was walking with him to the parking garage, after
the concert - and it was Central Park, so it was a huge concert
- and we walked across Fifth Avenue and like five or six people
kind of followed and then I saw more people gathering as we were
walking down. Every street we crossed there were people jaywalking
diagonally and by the time we got to the parking garage there
were like 40 people walking with Bill Murray across town and I
had never seen anything like it in my life.
And he was talking a little bit to each one and then they all
waited while the guy got the car and brought it down, and then
he waved as he drove off and left this crowd on the street.
But the secret to his whole thing - or whatever that is - is that
he's someone who is comfortable with that. There are some celebrities
that would get really freaked out by that but he's someone who
can always think of something to say and can always think of something
great to say. He has no insecurity about that.
Q. Were there any characters you created that didn't
make the final cut?
A. Usually there are. Yeah, there was a cook, which wasn't
a very big role. I don't remember anyone in particular except
tiny, tiny parts. In The Royal Tenenbaums we had a whole sub-plot;
there was a part that Jason Schwartzman was going to play, a kid
living across the street from their house, the son of a diplomat
who had escaped from a school in Switzerland and was living in
an attic and had like a cable connected to their house, and they
were sliding things across it - we had a whole entire story. But
I can't think of anything quite like that in this.
Q. Can you tell us a little
bit more about the walking sequence at the end credits? And are
you a fan of Jacques Cousteau, as I believe the film is dedicated
A. Yes, well I love Jacques Cousteau. I always love Cousteau
and I love his whole persona and I love his films. I wanted to
dedicate the movie to Cousteau but we ultimately, legally, had
to make this disclaimer because it says 'this movie is dedicated
to Jacques Cousteau and the Cousteau Society which was not involved
with the production'. The emphasis, for them, was the latter part
of it; for me it was the dedication.
The walking sequence was, we were on a motorboat driving around
in the harbour at Naples one day scouting and trying to figure
out where we were going to park our ship for some shot - in fact,
we were trying to figure out where we were going to feature a
shot of Angelica against Vesuvius - and as we were driving around
I saw this cement... it's like a break water, it's like a big
cement runway connected to nothing out in the middle of the harbour
and I asked the guy to stop, so we got off and I looked around
and there were rats living on it and trash and it was a very strange
location. So then I just kept thinking 'well what could we shoot
on this, there's nothing in our story that would make any sense
to be shot on this thing', but then ultimately I thought there's
not a lot you can do on it except walk, so that's what basically
led to that.
Q. Michael Gambon is well-known for his practical jokes,
so did he carry out any on the set?
A. He does have the longest hands, like double length
fingers. And he's a pilot and I think his brother has a flight
simulator and sometimes he'd do like an impersonation of how he'd
spend the weekend flying in his brother's garage and doing all
the switches, and a trip to Prague. He'd spend eight hours in
the garage. There probably are people in the movie who could tell
us those things, particularly the guy who played intern No.1,
I somehow feel he would have been a target.
Q. It's great to see Bud Cort back on-screen. What was
he like to work with and I believe he's compared you to Hal Ashby,
so how does that make you feel?
A. It's nice of him. Bud, you know, we wrote the part
for him. I'd gotten to know him at a party that Angelica had hosted,
for The Royal Tenenbaums and I loved him in those early movies
- Harold and Maude and Brewster McCloud and MASH, but I also realised
I had seen him very recently in a very small part in Heat. He's
great in it but almost unrecognisable. And then also Pollack,
he's very good in that. So we just wanted to write a part for
him, because he's very warm and totally crazy and worth having
Angelica: The crazy stuff was actually a little
bit Wes' fault because Bud was led to believe that he was having
to speak Filipino for the pirate sequences and so he'd ensconsed
himself in his hotel room to learn filipino for maybe two months
or so. Off hours he wouldn't come out except to see the Pope because
he's quite Catholic. But the rest of the time he was studying
his Filipino dialect with an intensity that was unmatched, and
then at the last moment, of course, the Filipino pirates were
unavailable and they turned into what? Cambodians?
Wes: Bud thought it was Indonesian. But there's
a very weak community of Indonesians available in Rome, but there's
a lot of Filipinos, so we went with them. And, yes, that did upset
him because Bud took it upon himself to develop a working knowledge
of the language in general which, in terms of the movie, wasn't
really totally necessary. But what he ended up doing was having
a kind of Filipino helper on the set who would sometimes have
cue cards - but you can't really have cue cards in a movie scene,
because first of all you have to look at the person you're talking
to and also, when you're on a boat and going over waves and things,
cue cards aren't really that effective. But I feel all that goes
into his character and I feel like he used it to give us the fear
and anxiety of his bond company stooge.
Q. Did filming at Cinecitta live up to your expectations
being a Fellini fan?
A. The place is steeped in Fellini still. People talk
about him every day there. And our stage that we built our big
cross-section set on, everyone called it Fellini's stage, stage
five, and it was amazing.
It's also absolutely unlike working on an American movie; there's
a completely different set of strengths and weaknesses. Sometimes
it's frustrating for an American crew because you can't understand
why certain things aren't getting done but at the same time we
might make some wild request that's almost undoable and they've
figured out some way to do it.
The scenic work and the creation of the sets is very detailed
and very careful and they do really amazing work. And the lunches
Angelica: And remember that one lunch - I think
it was the only one where I went outside the studio and went to
that Trattoria across the road, and there was Dino De Laurentiis
and Giancarlo Giannini having lunch. That was nice.
Q. Is there anyone else you would like to work with?
A. I have a number of people that I would think of but
none that I particularly want to say. I would have loved to have
had Marlon Brando because I can think of a lot of things he would
have been great for. But, you know what, I can't think of anybody.
The ones I actually think of are people I have an actual role
in mind for, but then I don't want to say because I'm probably
going to screw it up.
But there's a part that I want Angelica to play in this thing
I'm working on, and there's a part that I want Jason Schwartzman
to play, and I have three other people in mind for that thing
but I don't want to say.