Q: What is Four Rooms about?
quote-leftIt's four friends telling four stories in one movie, but it's different from other anthology films because it has a connecting character who develops throughout the film. That's Ted the Bellboy, played by Tim Roth. It's New Year's Eve: he goes into these four rooms, and each room is directed by a different person: me, Alexander Rockwell, Robert Rodriguez, or Quentin Tarantino. And terrible things happen to him. Actually he makes out best in my room because he gets laid by Ione Skye!
How would this film have been different if it was an independent film? Would it have been made?
quote-leftYeah, definitely. Probably we'd have the same cast, with a different guy playing Jerry Maguire, unless we were able to make an amazing deal with Tom Cruise to do that kind of a movie--which he might have done, I guess. But most of the people, I think, would have been there anyway--it's not a real typical Hollywood cast, hopefully.
You never watch your films with an audience. Don't you miss hearing them scream?
quote-leftNo. I can hear them when I'm making the picture.
Do you feel that the American film remains the most vital cinema?
quote-leftWorldwide, yes. Because when we make films for the United States, we are automatically making them for all the world--because America is full of foreigners. It's a melting pot. Which brings us to another point. I don't know what they mean when they talk about "Hollywood" pictures. I say, "Where are they conceived?" Look at this room--you can't see out the windows. We might just as well be in a hotel room in London, or anywhere you like. So here is where we get it down on paper. Now where do we go? We go on location, perhaps; and then where do we work? We're inside on a stage, the big doors are closed, and we're down in a coal mine: we don't know what the weather is like outside. Again we don't know where we are--only within our film, within the thing we're making. That's why it's such nonsense to talk about locale. "Hollywood." That doesn't mean anything to me. If you say, "Why do you like working in Hollywood?" I would say, because I can get home at six o'clock for dinner.
You served your apprenticeship originally with Roger Corman working on horror movies. Was that a good apprenticeship?
quote-leftOh yeah. Aside from the fact that it was the only apprenticeship possible, the only way to gain that experience. Nowadays there are many people like Roger making so-called exploitation films. But in those days there was nothing other than Roger, and I was lucky to become his personal assistant, and he assigned me many many different jobs, from editing and writing to being a sound recordist, cameraman - you name it, I did it for him. And although the pay was, of course, very very poor, what you gained in experience and confidence more than made up for it.
In a few minutes I'll ask you about Beloved, and about Storefront Hitchcock, but before I do I'd just like to do a little canter over some other parts of your career. I know you've talked a lot about your time in the Corman stable in the 1970s and your development through the work you did there and the movies you made with Roger Corman. I wanted to ask you about what the single most important thing was that you learnt from Roger Corman in terms of that background that really gave you the opportunity to become a director?
quote-leftI think it was probably that it was completely understood that if you didn't complete the days work on any given day that you would be replaced. That instilled in me a very strong discipline and a sense that first and foremost your priority was to keep the movie on schedule and on budget, and that's one way you get to stay on the job. That was very valuable. Roger also said something I'll never forget. He said that as far as he was concerned the formula for a director was 40 per cent artist, 60 per cent businessman. He also had a little pat speech that he'd give you before you did your first directing job, a lot of really good rules - stuff that most movie goers know anyway - just ways to keep the eye entertained, the value of well-motivated camera movement... that kind of thing. He was great. We called it the Roger Corman school of film technique. You really did learn on the job.
This is the second novel you've adapted. What brought you back to that genre?
quote-leftA great novelist presents a gallery of characters and situations and places with such an extraordinary sense of detail that, if you feel that it is something that you could interpret and give cinematic life to, it's difficult to resist the gift that's been given to you. It's that balance of trying to respect and honour the spirit of their work, but also feeling free to reinvent and to find a way of reinterpreting it, which makes the process of adaptation organic and urgent. I think a film adaptation needs to have a sense of urgency: there's nothing more boring to me than illustrating a book. With Exotica that I'd gone as far as I could with a certain set of obsessions and concerns, and that film seemed to be the summation of a certain type of film that I was making up to that point.
It took you a very long time to get the money to make this film, and there were a lot of times when it looked like it wouldn't get made. Are you glad you waited?
Just when you finally appeared to have left the Hitchcock comparisons behind, what drew you back to doing a thriller?
quote-leftThe thing you can determine from me and my career is that I never gave a damn what anybody thought. I always did what I thought was best for myself, and if anyone else thought it was like Hitchcock, too bad! I was there, basically, to learn something, or else I was interested in a piece of material. And if I wanted to make that kind of movie and everybody else thought it wasn't the right thing for me to be doing, or if they had some kind of comment about it, it never made any difference to me. As long as I thought I could get the movie made, I didn't care.
" I must say that I find television very educational. The minute somebody turns it on, I go to the library and read a book.
From: "Tuesday's with Morrie"
" We must learn to love one another or die.... We must!
" Who the hell wants to hear actors talk?
" I think there is a world market for maybe five computers.
" Kiss and make up...
but too much makeup has ruined many a kiss.
" I'll give you a definite maybe.
" Sometimes a scream is better than a thesis.
" I'll moider da bum!
" The remarkable thing about television is that it permits several million people to laugh at the same joke and still feel lonely.
" Knowledge speaks, but wisdom listens.
" The average American family hasn't time for television.
" Do, or do not. - There is no 'try'..
" Life ain't no dress rehearsal.
" Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic
" I don't know anything about music. In my line you don't have to.
" Writing is the only profession where no one considers you ridiculous if you earn no money.
" All I need to make a comedy is a park, a policeman and a pretty girl.
While attending a Production Meeting
" This is no place to ask questions!!
" The one function TV news performs very well is that when there is no news we give it to you with the same emphasis as if there were.
" The difference between fiction and reality? Fiction has to make sense
" The problem is not that television presents us with entertaining subject matter,
but, that all subject matter is presented as entertaining.…
" Why should people go out and pay to see bad films when they can stay at home and see bad television for nothing?
" The people who get on in this world are the people who get up and look for the circumstances they want, and, if they can't find them, make them!
" Seeing a murder on television, can help work off one's antagonisms.
And if you haven't any antagonisms, the commercials will give you some!
" The world is a fine place and worth the fighting for and I hate very much to leave it.
" It's kind of fun to do the impossible.
" Imitation is the sincerest form of television.
" The camera makes everyone a tourist in other people's reality, and eventually in one's own.
To a young Eugene Roach on the subject of acting
" Don't ever let 'em catch you at it.
" The movies are the only business where you can go out front and applaud yourself.
" Women might be able to fake orgasms. But men can fake whole relationships.
Sage Advise to a Young Oregonian, Barbara Niven
" If you want to make it in show business, get the hell out of Oregon!
" I never forget a face, but in your case I'll be glad to make an exception.
" From the moment I picked your book up until I laid it down I was convulsed with laughter. Some day I intend reading it.
" It is difficult to produce a television documentary that is both incisive and probing when every twelve minutes one is interrupted by twelve dancing rabbits singing about toilet paper.
" The embarrassing thing is that the salad dressing is outgrossing my films.
" I can't wait to one day shoot in Detroit and say 'Let's have this double for Toronto'.
" The faster I write the better my output. If I'm going slow I'm in trouble. It means I'm pushing the words instead of being pulled by them.
" No passion in the world is equal to the passion to alter someone else's draft.
" The difference between sex and love is that sex relieves tension and love causes it.
" No matter how slow the film, Spirit always stands still long enough for the photographer it has chosen.
" Our doubts are traitors and make us lose the good we oft might win by favoring to attempt.
" Television has done much for psychiatry by spreading information about it, as well as contributing to the need for it.
" My mother never saw the irony in calling me a son-of-a-bitch.
" What's this business of being a writer?
It's just putting one word after another.
" I don't want to achieve immortality through my work; I want to achieve immortality through not dying.
" When you're down and out, something always turns up -- and it's usually the noses of your friends.
" You don't write because you want to say something; you write because you've got something to say.
" Television enables you to be entertained in your home by people you wouldn't have in your home.
" I saw a woman wearing a sweatshirt with 'Guess' on it.
I said, Thyroid problem?
Advise to a young Richard Roundtree
" Whatever you do in this business, It's much easier than lifting heavy things.