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netribution > features > interview with michael white > page one
This week's lead interview was between the wonderful Steve Applebaum and the writer and star of this year's micro budget hit, Miguel Arteta's, Chuck and Buck, which opens in the UK next Friday (November 10th). Michael White (who plays Buck) went to college with Miguel and they've made one of the most uncomfortably hilarious movies I've ever seen. Y'all need to read this and then watch the movie, 'cos before you can say 'adult to childhood regression' he'll be penning Tim Burton's next film - The Fall of The House of Usher. Get 'em while they're hot!

| by steve applebaum |
| photos from the film|
| in london |

What was the genesis of this film?
I have been writing for a few years, just like production rewrites and more like Hollywood mainstream stuff. I just really wanted to write something, whether it would ever get made or not, or if anyone would like it or not, I just wanted to write it for me and explore some of the more ... For Dawson's Creek I was writing all the fantasy versions of what you want to be - larger than life heroic kids - and with this I wanted Buck's character to be like somebody not necessarily who your want to be like, but who at your darkest moment you're afraid you would be.

Did you feel, then, that the work you were doing was holding you back creatively?
The aspect of entertainment where you're just creating wish-fulfilment fantasies for people, I feel that there's certainly a place for that, but I felt like I had been doing that and was anxious to do something different and more challenging. First for myself and hopefully for an audience.

Have you been intending to step outside the mainstream for a while?
Yeah, I kind of get exhausted by the whole development process that goes on in Hollywood, both in television and film. It's so par for the course that they go, 'How do you make this character more likable? How do we make this more pleasurable? How do we tie up all our loose ends?' That's the way scripts are developed and often it makes for audience-friendly fare. But often it makes for a lot of contrived work, both in movies and TV. So for me I felt I didn't want to go through that process. I wanted to do something that as so its own thing. It may not get made but at least it won't get tinkered with. So I wanted to make something that's kind of ambiguous, a character that you feel ambivalent about, and an ending that isn't so wrapped up. More than just the sexuality aspects or the darker aspects, because I certainly don't think Hollywood shies away from stuff like that, I think it's just being true to a tone that's more ambiguous and complicated which is what they have more of a problem with.

Miguel says you wrote the screenplay in 9 days. So it really does sound like it was something that you needed to get out of your system.
Well I spend a lot of time ruminating, and at some point I'm over-ready to write so it comes out pretty quickly. You feel like if you're telling yourself a good story you want to see how it ends. If it doesn't take a short period of time get out that first draft I feel there's something wrong. The scripts transformed basically just in terms of cutting stuff out. It was just kind of whittled down. But generally it is the script I wrote that first time out. We did a few little reshoots because it was maybe just a little bit too ambiguous first time round. Some of the different readings we had of the movie from people got me anxious. I was like uh-oh. The was so many different readings I thought maybe we should be a little bit more clear.

What was one of the readings that most shocked you?
A lot of people thought that when Chuck and Buck hook up before the end, it was leaving the door open. Even at the wedding, they thought they were going to run off together. That reading was certainly never one I'd thought of. But is basically the draft that I had written. Which was nice, because I've worked on so many things where I'm having rewrite, rewrite, rewrite. It was nice to have a director that was really protective of the script that I gave him.

You worked with Miguel on Star Maps...
Yeah, I only had small part in that. I worked for a few days. I've known Miguel since I've been out here because we went to college together.

Do you think there's a change going on to how men can be represented on screen?
With Chuck and Buck I do think one of the biggest taboos, at least in America, is still men relating with other men in an honest, vulnerable way. It's something you rarely see in anything, and I just find it amusing. It's not keeping pace with the reality of life. Men, in this day and age, are expressing their more vulnerable side. I don't live the life of an action hero, so, in terms of my own life, those movies don't really speak to me other than as wish-fulfillment fantasy. So, I think in a way, it's interesting that Chuck and Buck, I think it's a small, intimate story that has some unusual aspects. But, you know, people felt like they had never seen anything like this before. And I just think it's interesting because, certainly, I see weird, co-dependent male relationships all around me that aren't necessarily ... it's gay, but it's not just all about being gay.

I've been writing about Fight Club, and that seems to me a very old way of looking at male relationships: men relating through violence.
Fight Club is a perfect example of what the media ... I think that it's more acceptable to show two guys wailing on each other as a way of connecting, because then it has all the undercurrent of homoeroticism but, OK, in the end you're both punching bags. But, you know, to call a spade like in Chuck and Buck, where one character says, 'Do you remember when we were actually a partnership?' I get all coiled up over something like Fight Club, because I think it's feeding on the adolescent notion that as you turn into adolescence, you can't relate in a real way to men. You have to freak out over two men relating. In Fight Club that whole sentiment is turned into a pathology. It's interesting, but I think it's a sad reality that a lot of guys think.

Miguel says he related personally to the theme of obsession in the film. How personal was it to you?
I guess everyone is really obsessive at some point. At least I've been obsessed, but not to the degree that Buck is, or acted upon it the way Buck does. But the characters I really like writing about are the ones that are outsiders, where there world doesn't fit into their perception of reality. Their and world's pereception of reality are different, and instead of giving up they seek to transform it no matter what. That's why I like Buck. Because even though he's fucked up, he's really true to himself. And despite all the obstacles of life, at least he's going to stay true to that centre of himself.

What other levels, if any, do you identify with him? Miguel said he, like Buck, hadn't grown up.
I definitely see myself in him in the sense, the childhood aspect of it I do. When I'm going around town and having meetings, doing rewrites for TV stuff, I feel like I'm totally playing a part, that it it's not genuine for me, and that I'm still 10 years old. I put on my adult face. Also I think Buck, for me, I really wanted express the darkside of yourself that you're afrai you really are, which is lonely and confused, and you have nothing to offer people, and you're just kind of lost. That is why I am protective of Buck. I think a lot of people like the movie, but I think a lot of people that don't, can't realate to Buck at all, or they just totally distance themselves from him. So, if you never sympathse with him, or identify with him, at any point at all, then you're going to have trouble with the movie.

Would you say there's an element of denial going on with those people?
What's interesting to me, some of the reviewers take issue with the movie because they think I'm idealising somebody who's a stalker. I don't think Buck's idealised in any way. I do think conflating this kind of childish character, the sexuality aspects and the stalking aspects, it's just a potent combination. I think it upsets people, and created some vicious tirades that makes you think, 'What's really going on? Are you really reacting to the movie or are you just having issues here?'

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