It’s About A Boy with Big American Dreamz. Michelle interviews Director Paul Weitz!!

Paul Weitz directed on of my top 50 favorite films of all time, Hugh Grant’s “About A Boy,” so when the opportunity came up to participate in a roundtable interview with him came up, I had to pounce. Paul lived up to my expectations; he was fun, witty, and ready to talk. We discussed everything from politics to project greenlight’s Chris Moore.

Roundtable

Were there some gags that you came up with that were too dark for the film?

PW

Not really, one problem that I have with satire is that it’s very easy to detach from it because you don’t care about the characters. With this movie the end affect is that it is relatively shocking and perverse. I think one of the most perverse things about the film is its apparent optimism amongst the cynicism. There wasn’t anything cut because of it being too dark. It does reflect my belief that even if a film has a lot of cynicism in it, it still has hope for its characters.

RT

There’s a sweetness in all of your movies, no matter how outrageous they get. Many people have tried to copy your style, but leave this out. Can you talk about Dennis Quaid as a character actor?

PW

The fact is that most prominent actors of a certain age have already played the President, so I was lucky to get him before he did. I was doing publicity for “In Good Company,” with him I kept on looking at him, picturing him to see if he looked like a President, specifically our current President. One night over beers I asked him if he wanted to be in this movie, and he said sure, even though there was no script. He classifies himself as an Independent, and swears he’s going to get audited.

The really weird thing about this movie is that the two most sympathetic characters are the President who is portrayed as an idiot, and the bumbling, show tunes, terrorist Omer. It’s kind of odd that these are the two characters that the audience relates to the most, and who get redeemed at the end of the movie.

RT

American Dreamz is more satirically broad rather than strictly character based, unlike most of your previous films. Is that more a representation of you and the times that we currently live in?

PW

I think it was just a reaction to my own odd feeling that I would wake up in the morning and be stressed out about how the administration is handling terrorism, then I would go to sleep worried about whether Constantine would be voted off American Idol. Oddly, this is the most grown up material that I’ve dealt with. My model was how Second City Comedy handles it.

RT

The movie was a funny commentary on America’s obsession with fame. Why do you think America’s are obsessed with fame?

PW

One of the core aspects of American identity is the fact that everyone has a dream, and largely that’s looked at as a positive thing. The problem is that it makes it impossible to deal with reality. I think the obsession with fame is that it makes people feel that they are better than they appear. I think that part of Celebrity culture is that we used to romanticize celebrities and think of them as perfect, now we like to tear them down. We like to feel that we’re two seconds away from fame.

RT

This is a two part questions: 1) All of your movies to date have been comedies that have a strong romantic element, whether it’s broad comedy like “American Pie” or more subtle fare like “About A Boy” what is it about this genre of filmmaking that attracts you? And part 2) Have you ever considered doing something else, like an over the top action movie?

PW

It is addictive sitting in a theater and hearing people laugh. I kind of dread the parts of the story where people aren’t laughing. I’m not sure this is a good thing for a filmmaker. Any good comedy will have a range of broad and subtle comedy. This one obviously is more broad than normal. I think that when you are in really dramatic situations in real life, there’s sort of gallows humor around it.

I have a friend who is a correspondent in Iraq and she says there’s a lot of humor in Bagdad all the time. That’s been my experience, that whenever something serious is going on there are people making jokes. I do think there are things that are inappropriate and that aren’t suited for comedies.

In terms of doing an action movie it would freak me out to do something where people are casually shooting each other.

[pagebreak]

RT

Do you think comedies don’t get the respect that they deserve?

PW

It’s a temptation to feel that way. But I think people generally like their medicine to taste bad. So if people are having a good time at a theater they don’t think that there’s anything substantial to it. You can’t have your cake and eat it to, so it’s ok for me that comedies aren’t looked at being as important as dramas.

RT

You have been a fairly successful director over the years, and there’s a tendency for directors to get bigger and bigger budgets, but this film has a really small budget. How did you handle the challenges of working with such limited resources?

PW

This is the tightest schedule that I’ve had since American Pie. The way you get by in Hollywood is not by being successful, but by being able to work with lower and lower budgets and making the studios an offer that they can’t refuse. If you come to them with a movie that has Hugh Grant, Mandy Moore, Dennis Quaid, Willem Dafoe and all these other people for a price that’s cheaper than what a major star gets paid, you can get a green light no matter what the material is. I think people get addicted to the status of a bigger budget, its trap that I hope to avoid.

RT

Was it liberating working fast and lose?

PW

Working fast is kind of good. It adds a certain energy to it and it’s more of a mental challenge. I think work expands to fit the amount of time given it. I don’t think there was anything that I left out due to lack of time.

[pagebreak]

RT

I wanted to talk a little about the selection of music and all the show tunes included it in. How did you think about it, and what did it contribute to the film?

PW

Well the last two films had soulful singer and songwriters to the track, which is probably what I most listen to. With this one I wanted to do something really different. I just loved the idea of creating a terrorist, who we knew exactly why he was a terrorist (because his mother was killed by an American bomb), but I wanted to make him as goofy as possible. I wanted him to be as na

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: