JIM JARMUSCH on Dead Man, God, Sam Peckinpah and Harvey Weinstein

(LA Weekly, 5/17-5/23/96)

GOD: If I'm spiritual I'm existential-spiritual, which is contradictory but no more than to say that William Blake was a mystical humanist.

GENRE: Sam Peckinpah said something like, the Western is a frame inside which it is possible to comment on today. It wasn't the genre that interested me, it was more a way of looking at America. And it was good for me because I love cities -- I wanted to clear the slate and look at things that were natural and avoid references to houses, telephone poles, roads. There's something I liked about that, and it got me out of New York.

COUNTRY: For me, the beautiful things about America -- and there are a lot of things I hate, but there are a lot of things I love -- almost all have grown out of a multiethnic synthesis. I mean, rock & roll. Everything I love comes from those things, it's something great about America. But what's really strange to me is the incredible whitewash denial of attempted genocide.

HOLLYWOOD: They're not exactly beating my door down to get hot commercial properties. I think I'd end up in jail for kneecapping an executive, I'm just too stubborn. Films are a collaboration, but I choose who to collaborate with -- artists. Even if it's a grip or an A.D., to me they are craftsmen and artists. I don't want some executive who knows how to run an underwear factory telling me how to cut a damn film.

CANNES, '95: The film wasn't quite done, and I knew that Cannes was important for my investors, and I let it be seen. It was 15 minutes longer, it's two hours now. What I did was clip 150 tiny things throughout, just trims here and there. I didn't discuss it with anyone, I read no reviews. I knew I had to go back. After I delivered it, Miramax wanted to cut it more. That wasn't in the contract, that wasn't the deal. But Miramax stood by their deal and are releasing it the way I edited it. They did put pressure on me, but I expected that, because I know Harvey Weinstein. He probably could make the film more commercial, maybe. I did a cut for myself that was much shorter, and all the poetry leaked out.

MIRAMAX: Harvey Weinstein wanted preview cards, and I said, "Harvey, you can do that. I've never done that before, but if it helps your marketing strategy, that's good. If it helps your release strategy, you know better than me. But please don't use them to tell me how the film should be made." Of course, he can't not do that, because that's his nature, and things are not so clearly divided from his side of things. There's no bad blood between me and Harvey Weinstein, I respect his expertise. But I make films, you know.

INDEPENDENCE: I don't make money off my films, I break even and keep my office going. This time, not even until the next film; I'm not quite sure what I'll do. It's a lot of work, and it kicks your ass. We make these films by hand. You write the thing, you cast the thing, you finance the thing, you find all the locations. You shoot. You're there all the way through the editing and the mix and okaying the internegative and the prints. And then you go on the road and promote the damn thing. And that's a minimum of two years, that's the short term. It's hard, but it's the only way for me.

THE STATE OF THINGS: There's too much product now. Everything's changed from 10 years ago. They're waiting to shovel more product down the chute after you. It's hard to hold a theater, and, of course, the theaters are owned by the studios. It's weird. Just to be straight, man, I'm really happy that Miramax is going to release this film, they have balls to do it. A lot of other people wouldn't. They're behind it as much as they fell they should be, which is enough for me.

THE STATE OF JARMUSCH: I wrote this two and a half years ago, I'm not even the same person anymore. To talk about it now is like talking about something that was a part of you. I talk to people as though this is the new film -- and it ain't new to me. I've seen it 4,000 times and worked on it two and a half years. But that's okay. I like this French poet, Valery, who said that a poem is never finished, only abandoned. I never look at my films once they're out there. I never look back.


Thanks to Larry DaSilveira for transcription