Filming location for spaghetti westerns in Almería, Spain

Custom Search

© 1987-2016
Scott Larson

Building façade in Cannes, France

The only short film I saw at the 2005 Galway Film Fleadh

Footfalls is one of a series of plays by Samuel Beckett that were filmed by various directors. This one was filmed in 2000 by Walter D. Asmus in Dublin with the actors Susan Fitzgerald and Joan O’Hara, whose voice is heard from off-screen. If the phrase “filmed play” doesn’t send you running, then the name “Samuel Beckett” might. Definitely not everyone’s cup of tea, and its 27-minute running time seems more like two hours. I don’t want to say it is tedious, but people got up and walked out instead of waiting for the feature film to follow. Personally, I have to say that living a couple of years in the west of Ireland actually makes this stuff more understandable. Anyway, the cinematography of the limited action (a woman pacing back and forth) was lovely, which was appropriate, since this was part of the film fleadh’s tribute to cinematographer Seamus Deasy. (Seen 6 July 2005)

Public Interview with Matt Dillon

A film director and a producer are wandering through the desert. Dying of thirst, they finally come upon an oasis with a pristine watering hole. They both fall to their knees at the water’s edge. The director cups his hands, fills them with water and lifts them to his mouth.

“Wait a minute,” says the producer.

“Now what?” asks the exasperated director.

Replies the producer: “Let’s piss in it first.”

With this joke, Matt Dillon summed up the way many directors feel about producers and, one infers, how he felt about at least one of the producers of his first (and to date only) feature directing effort City of Ghosts—although he diplomatically avoided saying as much explicitly.

This is one of the insights provided by an interview with Matt Dillon, best known as an actor over the past quarter-century, conducted by RTÉ’s Myles Dungan, recorded for broadcast on the afternoon radio arts program Rattlebag, in front of an audience at the 17th annual Galway Film Fleadh. The interview followed a screening of City of Ghosts.

As is de rigueur with these interviews, Dillon’s Irish connections were highlighted. For the record, practically all of his ancestors came from Ireland, although several generations back. And, Dungan noted, Dillon had attained some level of Irish pop music immortality by appearing in a non-speaking role as a cop in The Pogues’ music video for Fairy Tale in New York. Strangely, Dillon’s more substantial role in Michael Lindsay-Hogg’s Irish film Frankie Starlight did not get a mention. When questions were opened up to the audience, Dillon got the standard question of naming the director(s) he would most like to work with. At first, he hedged but then diplomatically volunteered names of two Irishmen: Neil Jordan and Jim Sheridan.

Another standard audience query was the name of his favorite movie (that he hadn’t himself appeared in). And he had a fairly ready answer: Werner Herzog’s Aguirre: The Wrath of God. One almost could have predicted that response. With City of Ghosts, he has followed in the celluloid footsteps of Herzog (not to mention Francis Ford Coppola, who directed Dillon in two of his earliest films, The Outsiders and Rumble Fish) in turning the movie production experience into a rugged endurance test in a far-flung and difficult filming location, that mirrored, rivaled or exceeded the rigors of the movie’s story itself. While Herzog went to Peru’s Amazon jungles for Aguirre and Coppola went to the Philippines for his Vietnam epic Apocalypse Now, Dillon went to Cambodia to make City of Ghosts. He spoke of his fascination with that country over many years and how it had long been a dream to make a movie there. He also spoke of the logistical trials and tribulations involved in filming there. He and his interviewer joked that the film’s end credits couldn’t include the line about no animals being harmed because some goats had been sacrificed to a prowling tiger.

Dillon is one of those actors we tend to underestimate, probably because he rose to fame as a “teen idol” and for playing troubled youths. (Upon request, he told the story of how he was spotted by a casting director as he was being tardy for a high school class.) But he has been in a large number of films (about 40 to date), many of them quite important or significant or both. While we remember his “breakthrough” films like Garry Marshall’s The Flamingo Kid (where he showed he could “do comedy”) and Gus Van Sant’s Drugstore Cowboy (where he showed he could handle an “adult” role), we might forget that he had a cameo in Spike Lee’s Malcolm X, was also in Cameron Crowe’s Singles (he told about playing guitar with Eddie Vedder “before anyone knew who Pearl Jam was” and said, presumably tongue in cheek, that “he wasn’t much of guitar player”) and Van Sant’s To Die For (as Nicole Kidman’s hapless husband) and Ted Demme’s Beautiful Girls, was the actor who outed Kevin Kline in In & Out and was part of a twisted romantic triangle in There’s Something About Mary. Most recently, he played another cop in Paul Haggis’s Crash, which has been playing in the U.S. but hasn’t reached Ireland yet.

His two most imminent releases cause a bit of headshaking. On one hand, he is slated to play Charles Bukowski’s alter ego in Factotum, a role previously essayed by Mickey Rourke in 1987’s Barfly. On the other hand, he is featured in Disney’s latest installment of its VW franchise, Herbie: Fully Loaded. Dillon was nearly apologetic about the Herbie movie but insisted that he waited until the script was made “really funny” before he accepted.

As an interviewee, Dillon came off as a fairly nice guy behind a posture that bespoke a bit of New York attitude. He visibly got his hackles up at a few questions, but after a quick retort added “I know what you’re saying” and then answered the question anyway. Upon being linked with Hollywood’s “brat pack,” he allowed that was a friend with one or two (Ralph Macchio in particular) but then emphasized that he was based more in New York and not really part of any Hollywood scene. For some strange reason, Dungan pressed early on about Coppola’s The Outsiders, asking more than once if there were any sense back then as to who among the young ensemble cast would “make it” and who wouldn’t. It might have been useful for younger members of the audience to have been told them that the cast of young mostly unknowns included, in addition to Dillon and Macchio, people like Patrick Swayze, Rob Lowe, Emilio Estevez and Tom Cruise.

Dillon also came across as someone who was fairly serious about acting and about filmmaking. One gets the impression that, if we haven’t seen him as the lead in more big-budget, high-profile Hollywood releases, it may have to do with his interest in picking good material. When asked, he did allow that he wasn’t against starring as an action hero in the Tom Cruise/Bruce Willis mold. But the script would have to be right. One also got the impression that he was in no hurry to direct another feature film but that he definitely would if a project inspired the same passion in him as City of Ghosts.

After all is said and done, to spend time with Matt Dillon is to take him more seriously. (Attended 9 July 2005)