May 15, 2012

INTERVIEW: Bobcat Goldthwait, Joel Murray, Tara Lynne Barr

by Steve Dollar

GOD BLESS AMERICA's Bobcat Goldthwait, Joel Murray, Tara Lynne Barr

Comedian Bobcat Goldthwait, whose career as a filmmaker has yielded such dark and excoriating satirical fare as Shakes the Clown and World's Greatest Dad, has been making the festival rounds for months with his latest comedy, God Bless America. The film, newly released, is the director's answer to Natural Born Killers and Network. Joel Murray (Goldthwait's co-star in One Crazy Summer) is Frank, a middle-aged corporate cubicle denizen abandoned by his wife and daughter and left to stew in his bachelor apartment, festering in anger, frustration and failure. One day, his fantasies of violent revenge on a reality show world spill over when he loses his job and is diagnosed with a brain tumor. With nothing left to lose, Frank goes on a rampage—and he reluctantly takes on a co-pilot in death-dealing, Roxy (Tara Lynne Barr), a teenaged sympathizer who hates the world perhaps even more zealously than he does.

I caught up with Goldthwait during the South by Southwest film festival in March, where he was premiering the film with its stars. During a chat in the lounge of the Driskill Hotel, the trio talked about their favorite reality TV shows, the death of common decency and Diablo Cody (don't ask, just see the movie).

GREENCINE DAILY: Before we get started, I wanted to tell you that I'm a huge fan of World's Greatest Dad. Although I was late in getting to it, it seems to have a life of its own.

BOBCAT: World's Greatest Dad didn't have people come to the theater, but that's been the MO with the movies I make. Being fortunate to have movies at film festivals, it's a little like those rich guys who play fantasy baseball. I get these few weeks of sold out crowds, and then the harsh reality hen the movie opens and there's no one in the theater. It doesn't bother me. The idea that's there's going to be a print of the movie is big, big stuff.

Do you think it's because they're too dark?

BOBCAT: I don't know why people don't go to my movies, but I don't take it too personally. I sound like Dirk Diggler, I'm gonna keep rockin' and rollin'... I'm going to keep making the movies. I'm just trying to live in a creative life.

Was making movies what you always wanted to do?

BOBCAT: Yeah. It took me this long in life to go, "Oh, this is really what I'm happiest doing." It's more rewarding than stand-up, it's more rewarding than all the other things I did. I have a whole new appreciation for actors. It's really hard. I think these guys did an amazing job. And I now realize that I'm a really bad actor.

God Bless America

What's he like as a director?

JOEL: He's pretty cool. He's very comforting and calm. He's not a yeller, unlike her. I was up against the fact that, in my head, this was a part he had toyed with playing himself. I kind of thought, [mimics Goldthwait] "H-h-h-ow would Bob say that?" But he wasn't demonstrative in any way.

TARA: And funny. This is my first film and I've been spoiled. He creates such an awesome, equal welcoming environment on set, and I know that's not going to be the case for 90 percent of the movies I do.

BOBCAT: This was a violent movie about kindness. Now while we're making this movie, if I'm a douchebag then I'm a huge hypocrite. because the whole movie is anti-douchebag. I remember once talking to a Teamster who worked with Bob Fosse on Star 80. They said, "Oh, we had so many laughs!" And I was like, "Wh-a-a-a-t?" That always stuck with me. It should be fun. Life's too short. He said every Friday night, Fosse through a huge party. "Alright, let's get done with the rape. Let's work on the party!" Do you feel there was a pivotal moment when American culture went down the tubes?

BOBCAT: I don't know if there was a tipping point for me. I'm not that angry I don't think, but I am upset and frustrated with the way things are right now. I don't know if it's a question of maturity you start thinking things seem worse, or if they really have gotten worse. I wasn't around during the '20s. But it really does seem right now we reward the dumbest, the shallowest, the meanest and the loudest.

Also with the rise of reality TV, there's less work for writers.

JOEL: These people, they're scabs. They're stealing jobs they shouldn't have. They're under-qualified people taking jobs away from writers and actors. You wouldn't have a plumber in your house who's cheaper than a real plumber but doesn't know how to do it.

A reality plumber.

JOEL: I just think it's an outrage. When I catch my wife watching The Real Housewives of Hoboken, I tell her, "Turn it off! They're taking food out of our mouths!" It's her guilty pleasure. I hate it.

BOBCAT: I do small things. If I click on a news story and I see that it's TMZ, I won't go over there. I don't want to be one more hit for that kind of nastiness.

I always thought like the O.J. Simpson trial was the beginning.

JOEL: But the O.J. trial also gave us 14 CSIs and NCISes, because everybody in America wanted to know how ot get away with killing their wife or spouse, so it also made work for actors.

BOBCAT: What is this DNA?

JOEL: There's 15 shows on now about how to get away with murder.

BOBCAT: The thing about murder always is that it's complete storytelling. People meet, something goes wrong, someone gets killed, someone gets away with it or they get caught. I watch a lot of true crime, and crime reenactment, and 48 Hours. When Joel's character falls asleep, watching the Charles Whitman story, that is me. I put on true crime and I sleep like a baby. There's a show called Snapped. It should be called Bitch Got a Gun.

God Bless America

This is a real show?

TARA: Oh yeah. It's women in relationships who kill their husbands. That's the whole show. I think it's on Oxygen.

BOBCAT: People think this is a parody. I'm not parodying anything. These are shows that I have seen. People say it's a little dated, it's because I'm not watching this stuff anymore.

JOEL: Some of the people who have see the trailer have said aren't you worried about copycat murders. Look at the news! You can't even copy half the murders that are going on. These murders are sensible, compared to taking your two sons, filling the house with gas and when the social worker drops them off blowing up the house.

BOBCAT: If we want to start banning violent works of fiction, I'm all for it but you better start with the Bible. Cut-your-baby-in-half King Solomon was the inspiration for the baby getting shot at the beginning of the movie.

I'm curious about the blowback from the kind of people you literally target in the movie. Has there been a lot?

BOBCAT: Before the movie came out there was a nice positive story done in the LA Times about it. I went on some conservative websites and they were very upset with me already. They hadn't seen the movie. They didn't know what it was about. It's a movie about kindness. People go, aren't you afraid of people watching the movie and being influenced by it. No. I hope people watch the movie. I hope people stop being douche-y. It's funny when I ego surf. White supremacists are mad. It's funny how he doesn't kill anybody of color! You're watching the trailer man. We shoot and kill the whole Reading Rainbow and some point or another. It's just people who are douchebags. Sometimes people bring up this movie Falling Down. That movie is about a guy who really wants to go to his daughter's birthday party. And then foreigners get in his way. Gangsters get in his way. That's not this movie.

Diablo Cody gets singled out for a special moment in your script, although she never makes the character's hit list. Have you heard from her?

BOBCAT: She wrote a blog that she was very saddened by me.

I thought she had a sense of humor?

BOBCAT: The point of that scene was, my daughter's really funny and when she says things that are funny people go, "You're like Juno." And she's like "Dad, I want to stab them in the throat when they say that." So Frank needs to say the line, "I only wanna kill people who deserve to die." Roxy needs to give examples of people who don't deserve to die. Obviously, I don't really think Diablo Cody deserves to die. At one point someone suggested I take it out, so I added another page about why Diablo Cody sucks. [laughs]. So you know, whatever, maybe her and I will eventually bro down.

JOEL: Young Adult's pretty good.

BOBCAT: As I was ego-surfing I saw one review of Young Adult and it said "This would have been a much better movie if it had been made by Bobcat Goldthwait." Poor Diablo Cody! But it was funny in this blog she wrote, she was like, "Please let me evolve. Juno was my grovel-ly voice." I was like, what are you nuts? Don't evolve. You're a successful writer who won an Oscar. What do you want to become? A Martian? A moon maiden? Lighten up, lady! That was a weird thing. I haven't been concerned with evolving. I'm not worried about people's perceptions of me. If you only know me from Police Academy or my early stand up, I don't have a problem with that. I've been making these movies because I love making them.

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Posted by ahillis at May 15, 2012 9:54 AM