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netribution > features > interview with michael white > page two
You seem to be reacting to a much-loved film like Forest Gump, too, by taking a child-like character and painting in these troubling complexities.
Right. The thing is, if you ever meet characters like this in real life, they're much more like Buck than Forest Gump. There are people that I know, not many but certainly a few, who are lost and haven't really grown up. They're not dealing with a full deck of cards. And those people, like as much as they can be adorable, they are also creepy. I think there's just something disingenuous about the whole Forest Gump thing. Usually they're pure, they don't have a sexuality - certainly not an aggressive sexuality like Buck does - and I'm just tired that whole Holy Fool who brings everyone back in touch with their more pure, simpler values. I just think that's bogus, because what it assumes is that childhood is pure and simple. But, certainly, it wasn't in my case.

What sort of childhood did you have?
I wouldn't say it came from my own experiences. But I would say, yeah, my childhood was very complicated. Myself as a child, I have grown up but I haven't got more complicated. My feelings a 10 year old were conflicted and full of like, in a way like Buck, aggressive and sweet at the same time. I think what the movie's trying to say is that we carry that childhood self with us, forever. There's no like shedding of skin. That's what Buck, in a very reductionist way, shows.

I thought it was interesting that most sympathetic characters in the film were the women: they were the most nurturing or the most understanding.
Well, it goes back to the whole Fight Club thing. I just thought it would be interesting. I thought it would be interesting to have Buck on, like, this mysoginist rant, in a way. He's writing this play about a woman who's a witch, and he becomes friends with this actor who's a total, full on mysoginist, but the women in the movie totally undermine their argument. They're the most campassionate. But it's also interesting to write a movie in which the men are conflicted and have all these, like, tortured relationships to themselves, to each other, and to their sexuality - because they can't really, honestly, communicate about it. And I think is more true in life, too, women, certainly here in America, have an easier time relating, so they have much more equanimity when it comes to issues of this kind. The theatre manager, she sees it all going on and she understands; she's not freaked out. I think that plays into the whole Fight Club thing: guys just have more difficulty accepting their own vulnerabilities and needs for each other in male relationships.

How much of a target was Hollywood for you in this?
For me, as much as it is Hollywood, it was a reaction to the kind of things I had to write, so I certainly wanted to - I think the tone of the movie, the characters in the movie, are definitely a reaction to the stuff that I had been writing. In terms of LA itself, I think LA is a place where everyone projects a kind of Chuck image to each other. But I think if you scratch the surface, there's a lot of Bucks everywhere. Because I think people come here who are dreamers, and are sort of people who are attracted to the mythology of the place. And a lot of times that makes for very needy, strange people. So, you see a lot of Hollywood represented ion movies and TV where it's glamourous, sexy, they're all in business. But when you live here, and I've lived here since I was two, there's a lot of pathetic, sad Bucks living in hotels. While he's not here to be an actor, I think there are a lot of people brought here for the illusional aspects of it. They it will take them away form their pathetic lives. Of course, it doesn't; it just amplifies their own lacking.

You show that these people are still children underneath, and that work is merely and extension of play.
That's certainly the argument of the movie. I believe that personally. I just think that child that we were, we're still living out that reality.

Does it also relate to this sort of cult of childhood that we're seeing in the States and here at the moment. You see these middle-aged men pushing themselves around on scooters - it's like nobody want to grow up.
Right. What I wanted to do, with this, I do think if there hadn't been the sexual compenent, and he hadn't been a stalker, and he hadn't been disturbing, it would be the most mainstream Hollywood type of movie, really. It's like the kid who didn't grow up and we all think ... that is the Forest Gump version of it. What I like about the movie is that all those childhood things we see, like the little backpacks, the liquorice, and all those sorts of things, suddenly have just like weird, perverse elements. Instead of being kitschy and nostalgic, they become sort of like weird symbosl of something's that perverse and more complicated. That's a funny take, to me, that the movie does on that whole sort of cult of childhood."

Miguel put it down to people being the children of the therapy generation. Now they use therapy not to get better, but to become more spontaneous.
To me it's about - after working on teen shows for years - is that this town is all about gearing their product to teens, because kids and teens are a huge market. So everyone wants to feel that they're in touch with the kids. So, here in Hollywood, everyone's riding around on those little Razor scooters because it just gives them more credibility, as like someone that can throw product down the throats of teenagers. And then people take their cues from it, so there's just a huge cult of youth generally. Which is a little nauseating. It just feels contrived. But, then, I think it's just as contrived to be donning a three-piece suit for the rest of your life because you're an 'adult'. But I think just the affect of walking around with a little stuffed animal back-pack just feels so forced.

Some people have attacked the film because they though the film portrayed homosexuality as form of arrested development, and connected it with infantilism. How do you react to that criticism?
I think Buck has other reasons to grow up. There is a line where someone says he's got to grow up, but does that mean he has to grow out of his homosexuality? That's certainly not my feeling. My feeling now is, I've been writing these perfect characters and that wasn't the story I wanted to tell. I didn't feel I wanted to give a positive representation of gays or anything. The point of this movie that, in the end, it is not clear whether Chuck, or even Buck, is gay. It has less to do with gay as a demographic that needs to be well represented, than with male sexuality and how very conflicted it is. Or at least that's how I feel about it.

Do you feel like an insider in Hollywood?
It's funny because I've been here for so long I feel like ... when the movie came out, all these executives that are friends of mine went to see it, at a screening at William Morris, and I was like, 'Oh, shit. They're going to realise that they've been working with this freak all these years and I'm never going to get hired again. I should not spend anymore money from now on'. But it hasn't worked that way. People have really embraced the movie, even from the mainstream world. But part of me wants to have my cake and eat it too. Certainly being able to pay my bills is a good thing. And for all of the attention Chuck & Buck has gotten, I've made not a penny from it. So if I was just going to write Chuck and Buck for the rest of my life, it would be a more arduous road. But at the same time, it's about trying to find the time to write something that's meaningful to you, regardless of whether there's a market for it, and trying to get those made as well, then making more conventional fare to pay your bills. And hopefully finding some happy medioum. Although I find that's impossible. That's the part that's impossible, within the studio framework or within the network framework, to go in saying, 'I'm staying edgy and I'm not going t compromise'. There's no way. You end up internalising the values of the people around you, and for them they want their funny moments funny and their sad moments sad. Everything wrapped up in the end in a nice package. It's just a losing battle. That's what I found. In order to make something like Chuck & Buck, you really have to make it in the way that we made it, which is totally without the pressures of having to make a ton of money at the end of the day.

Somebody I was speaking to the other day said Hollywood's changing because it's opening the door to people with a more indie sensibility. You seem to be saying that, from your experience, that will not make any difference in the long run.
I think what they want to do - I certainly feel this with myself - is that they want to take your voice; they like things taher are original, but like it in the service of what they want. Which is something that is very audience-friendly. Certainly Chuck & Buck can be accused of lots of things, but I don't think audience-friendly is one of them. For me, I just feel like I'm going to use it for what it's worth. If this'll give me some cache, and allow me to make better studio movies, that's good. But I'm not going to fool myself into thinking that I'm going to be able to make a Chuck & Buck within the studio system. They'll never do it. Spike Jonze or Wesley Anderson get money and do very idependent-feeling films. But it's definitely very rare.

Will we see you acting more?
I don't know. They keep sending me scripts but I'm really a writer, and it's hard for me to get interested unless I'm as invested in the project as I was in Chuck & Buck. I'm just not really interested in putting my face out there, certainly not for computer guys who crack codes. I don't know, they're just a lot of the parts I've been sent.

I've heard your name connected with a Bruce Willis film?
Really. Yeah, well, they had me audition for that and then they came back and said they wanted to go with an unknown. When did I become known? I guess I made an impression.

Screenplay for Tim Burton's House of Usher, is that going ahead?
Well he's making Planet of the Apes right now. That's going to be quite a spectacle. I'm hoping it's going to be next, but with him you never know. It goes back and forth.

Have you tinkered with the story?
Yeah, totally. The story's only like 20 pages long. So yeah, I've tinkered with it. And it's also a modern update. It's more Edward Scissorhands than Sleepy Hollow.

© Stephen Applebaum


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