TELEPHONE INTERVIEW — PARAMOUNT TAPE A, SIDE #1
Q: Mark Gordon Russell (interviewer in Los Angeles)J: Neil Jordan (director of “We’re No Angels”)
(TRANSCRIBER’S NOTE: THIS INTERVIEW WAS TAPED IN LATE 1989 AND IS AT THE BEGINNING OF THE TAPE. IT IS ONE OF MANY INTERVIEWS ON MICROCASSETTE TAPES THAT I HAVE SAVED OVER THE YEARS. I TAPED INTERVIEWS AS A BACK-UP FOR MY NOTES AND RARELY LISTENED TO THEM CLOSELY EXCEPT TO RETRIEVE AN IMPORTANT SENTENCE OR TWO TO ADD TO A FILM’S PRESS KIT PRODUCTION INFORMATION. I SELECTED THIS TAPE TO TRANSCRIBE FIRST BECAUSE OF THE FILM’S TITLE.)
Q: I know they’re (“NOTHING”) not easy questions and if you don’t feel comfortable with one I’ll just skip it and go to the next one. (“HMM” “DO I”)
J: Do I describe it briefly? What was the interview that I did? Oh yeah — that was on the set.
Q: Right. ( “UH-HUH”)
J: For the electronic press kit.
Q: Right. And it was quite good too. We wanted maybe to flesh out some of the ideas a little bit. (“NO” “YES”) So I wanted —
J: Well, I describe it as black comedy which becomes a very light one. (“BUT”) About two convicts who are disguised priests. (“ONE AND THE SAME”)
Q: Right. (“YEAH”)
(TRANSCRIBER’S NOTE: A TELEPHONE RINGS IN THE BACKGROUND.)
J: Will you just wait one minute?
( . . . )
Q: Hi. Okay, so (“UMM”) — are you (“AVAIL”) — a few minutes, okay?
J: Yeah, yeah.
J: Go ahead.
Q: What is the theme of “We’re No Angels”?
J: It’s — God. You know. (“I DON’T KNOW” “DOES IT” “WHAT IS THE THEME” “I DOUBT IT”)
Q: It’s not —
J: Could you give me a list of these? (“UM SURE”)
Q: Sure. I mean (“THERE’S”) I’m probably asking probably the hardest ones first.
J: Are you?
J: Well, the theme is two ordinary guys here who through no fault of their own perform good works. (“UH-HUH”) And who through no fault of their own, either, are given what they want. Which is freedom. (“UH-HUH”)
Q: Well, let’s go ahead and let me ask you a few more questions (“UH-HUH”) and then if you would like copies of the questions I’ll give them to you as well. I don’t really mean to put you on the spot. One of the comments you made was you mentioned that you were very impressed by the perspective of the screenplay by David Mamet.
Q: And you talked about the irony (“YEAH”) but how would you describe his perspective?
Q: I mean the perspective you mentioned. (“ABOUT YOU KNOW”)
J: Well, (“FATIGUE”) it’s basically a story about mistaken identity. Two convicts who are mistaken for two priests. (“YEAH”) And these two convicts need a miracle (“YOU KNOW”) to get them across the border to Canada to get them free basically. (“AND THE”) They’re the most inept human beings in the world. They’re two guys who are thrown into this monastery where, you know, everything promises miracles. (“AND ALL THAT SORT OF STUFF”) They don’t believe any of this themselves but through a series of accidents — (“THEY KNOW THESE”) a series of quasi-miraculous events happen. (“HMM”) And I think what Mamet did so well was to show the way in which accidents can be interpreted as miraculous events. (“YOU KNOW”) Accidental events can actually fall into place with this rightness to them that makes them look as if they’re actually some higher power.
J: I mean it’s a very dark screenplay because Mamet never lets the issue off the hook really. (“YOU KNOW”) He never says (“PRICK”) the Madonna’s working miraculous events. (“OR ANYTHING”) Neither does he say she is not. (“YOU KNOW” “BUT A”) And that’s what I liked about the script was the way it (“UM-HUH”) treaded this very, very (“TENSE” “KIND OF” “TIGHTROPE”) tense line (“YEAH”) and we’re asked to (bel)ieve — (“AND WE’RE IN LOVE YOU KNOW”)
J: — the word of ordinary guys who just basically don’t give a shit, you know.
Q: Yeah. (“AND AND HE”) He almost hits us over the head with the fact that — (“YOU KNOW”) he shows us the leak in the roof. I mean it’s like he won’t let us — (“YOU KNOW”)
J: Absolutely, but then bold facts stand so barely (“UM-HUH”) you draw your own conclusions. (“UM-HUH”) Which is what I liked about it.
Q: Uh-huh. So basically (“IN IN”) how would you see this comedy in contrast to other comedies? In terms of being very different or similar?
J: Well, it’s not a comedy that strives to be a comedy (“UM-HUH”) which is great. (“THINK” “YOU KNOW”) Because I hate comedies which actually strive for laughs, you know? (“UM-HUH” “THE”) The humor comes totally out of the situation of the characters. (“YOU KNOW”) It doesn’t come out of people actually striving to be funny. You know, the humor comes out of (“YES”) these two very simple and basic human beings in a situation (“THAT”) bigger than they would ever understand really. (“YEAH”) And each twist of the plot leads one into more and more outlandish territory. (“ME” “HMM”) Does that answer your question?
Q: That was very well said. How important is the setting — the place and time to the story?
J: Well, I think it’s very important that it’s a period picture because it puts you out of time really. (“YOU KNOW”) I don’t know how important it is that it’s 1935 but (“UM-HUH”) I mean that was the time of the depression.
Q: But why is it important to be out of time? (“PEW”)
J: Well, it’s important that it’s not today basically. It’s important that it takes place in the past. (“YOU KNOW”) For my purposes as a director in many ways, the fact that it took place in 1935 is important because it takes place in the world of a black and white movie (“YEAH”) in a way. (“UM-HUH” “BECAUSE AGAIN”) The story can become more of a fable. (“UH-HUH”) Because it’s not contemporary. I think it’s as simple as that, you know?
Q: Yeah. (“I MEAN”)
J: I didn’t try to make any grand statements (“UM-HUH”) about American society, the depression, Teddy Roosevelt or anything like that. (“UM-HUH”)
Q: What are your own feelings about spirituality, destiny or fateful occurrences?
J: A what? (“YOUR OWN”)
Q: What are your own feelings about spirituality and destiny and all of those ironic — you know, those —
J: They’re not ironic, are they? If you say it like that — (“NO”) you know?
Q: No. (“YEAH” “I — I — I”)
J: I don’t have (“YEAH”) great feelings or great beliefs about these things. (“YOU KNOW”)
Q: Um-huh. (“I MEAN YEAH” “YOU KNOW”) So you’re not a Catholic yourself?
J: Well, I’m a bad Catholic. (“YOU KNOW”) I was brought up a Catholic. (“YOU KNOW”)
J: And I was baptized in the Catholic religion, you know. I mean I’m like most people who are brought up Catholics. You would love to believe it is true but facts constantly point out the opposite — (“OPPOSITE YOU KNOW SO”) you know. I’m a bit like the two characters in the movie really. (“HMM”)
Q: I have a feeling that question is going to come up (“SOME”) because, you know — (“OF COURSE”) quite often. But it is ironic — it is interesting that (“YOU KNOW”) you who once was a Catholic is making this film. (“YEAH” “BECAUSE IT RE”) It is a really — seems like a pro-religious film in some ways. (“IT’S A VERY THOUGHTFUL FILM”)
J: Well, no, it’s not. No, it’s a film about belief. I mean it’s a film about (“CHICKEN”) basically what saves the two characters in the film is their basic goodness, you know?
Q: Yeah. Well, that’s what I meant to say — that really it is an inspirational film. (“UM”)
J: Well, I hope it’s not a film that drives people into churches, you know. (“NO”)
Q: No. Yeah. No — (“URGHHH”) I’m an Agnostic and it had meaning for me so —
J: Oh, yeah — yeah. (“NO”) I think it’s for people who don’t believe, you know. (“UM-HUH”) It shows you how nice it would be to believe, you know? (“NOOOOOO” “YEAH UM”)
Q: Okay, this is exactly what I needed so thank you. Is there anything you would like to talk about the film or add (“THAT”) that one wouldn’t think of asking you about it?
Q: I mean, it’s like, you know, these are usually the things that you are asked — (“PEW”)
J: Oh yeah. I tell you it was strange for me to do the film because (“AM”) I’ve never done an American film before and I’m from an Irish background. You know? (“THAT”) I’m from a country that’s surrounded by religious stuff like Madonnas and all this kind of crazy — (“YOU KNOW” “CAUSE”) you know, misplaced religiosity, really. (“UM-HUH”) And it’s very strange for me. It’s very gratifying to come to America to do a film that was actually about those things. (“YEAH”) You know? (“UM-HUH”) It was rather ironic really. (“DUH”) Because in a strange way you look and building up the set in Canada and shooting this movie was about things that have been around me as I grew up (“IN”) in a totally different country which is odd. (“THAT’S” “HMM”)
Q: Yeah, well that’s even more amazing in context — the fact that (“YOU KNOW”) Art Linson thought of you for the project. It’s almost like a touch of the divine.
J: What’s that?
Q: I mean it’s ironic that somehow Art Linson thought of you for the project because of that. (“GOOD”) Because one wouldn’t necessarily realize that truth.
J: Yeah, well, it’s strange because the minute I read the screenplay I said, “I know all this stuff.” You know?
Q: It seems like it was almost fated for you to make this. (“FILM” “MANY MANY” “HUH”) Okay, well thank you very much.
J: Thank you very much.
Q: And, of course, we’ll be in touch and we’ll be sending you a draft of the press kit in the near future.
J: Good. Okay.
J: Thank you.
Q: Thank you. (“GOOD-BYE”) Bye.
(TRANSCRIBER’S NOTE: THE OTHER SIDE OF THIS TAPE HAS A TELEPHONE INTERVIEW WITH “TALES FROM THE DARKSIDE: THE MOVIE” PRODUCER RICHARD P. RUBINSTEIN; AND MY INITIAL CONVERSATION WITH DIRECTOR JOHN HARRISON. THE 1990 FILM’S CAST INCLUDES CHRISTIAN SLATER AND STEVE BUSCEMI WHO PLAYED BELLINGHAM.)