The best news about San Sebastian was that Steve Buscemi and his wife Jo Andres were coming. Steve had only seen a rough cut of the film and I wanted him to have the experience of sitting in that theater and watching the film in front of 2000 people. The main screening was like something out of a dream. We entered the theater after a long walk up a red carpet lined with families, grandparents, teenagers, groups of children with cameras. Kids who had no idea who I was had pictures of me I’d never seen before, thrusting them out for me to sign.
Inside the hall we were escorted to seats high up in the balcony overlooking the sold-out audience. Watching the film left me exhausted as if all the years of work were in every frame. I did some of the sound effects myself. When Toby walks through the leaves in Central Park the crunch is actually my fingers in a bowl of cellophane- wrapped maple candies that I recorded it at home. My voice is in the film in many places, once as a 6 foot black bouncer telling Les to “step back, little man.” I am the voice of the limo driver’s girlfriend on the phone bitching at him for not coming home. I’m the photo editor on the phone with Les finally sells a picture to. I’m in every crowd scene, screaming and yelling, “Toby! K’harma!”
At the end of the screening the audience stood and applauded for several minutes. Afterwards, as a festival tradition, Steve and I walked down a long interior staircase now lined with exiting audience members. At the bottom we turned and looked up at row upon row of people applauding. It was such a great moment we went out immediately and got drunk.
The next day I spotted Geoff Gilmore in the hotel lobby. Gilmore is the head of the Sundance Film Festival. Now that Toronto was out Sundance was extremely important as it could provide a real opportunity for us to get the attention of a US distributor. I’ve known Gilmore since 1990 when Johnny Suede premiered at Sundance. I was surprised to see him at San Sebastian. I’d actually just sent him an email a week earlier asking if we could set up a screening in LA for his selection committee. Now he was walking up to me in the lobby and saying he’d seen Delirious the night before. There was a long pause. He looked around slowly then stepped closer.
“I think…,” he said. “Yes, we…” Another pause. Then he finished. “We want Delirious for Sundance.”
There was a rumor from someone close to the jury that Delirious was going to win Best Picture. Even though I’d learned the stupidity of even thinking about rumors like this my anxiety rose as the festival drew to a close. The jury was headed by Jeanne Moreau, the greatest actress in French cinema in the 50’s and 60’s. Her associate was the German actor Bruno Ganz. They and the jury gave Best Picture to two films, a French film and an Iranian film. They gave Delirious Best Director and Best Screenplay. I was later told by two members of the jury that Moreau refused to give Best Picture to Delirious because it was an American film and that Ganz dismissed Buscemi for Best Actor because he did “Hollywood Films.”
Listen, I was happy. I didn’t have to split my awards with anybody. Plus, I’d learned early on that awards are the cotton candy of the festival circus; sweet, sticky and no matter how big of a bite you take they always leave you with a mouthful of nothing. But still, it was my first experience with anti-Americanism and it made me want to go home and slap the shit out of someone in the Oval Office.
Delirious won a 3rd award, Grand Prize from the Catholic Church. This one so surprised me I went up to this very ordinary and well, “religious” looking group of people who’d presented me with the award and said, “Thank you. I’m not really a believer in institutionalized religion though some people say I should be institutionalized. Certainly there is a lot of swearing and general anarchy in my film so I’m really curious; why did you give me this award?”
An elderly woman stepped forward and said. “In your film a damaged homeless boy is able to reach out and heal another human being.”
I said, “You know what, Sister? You should write the review.” Actually I didn’t say that. I mumbled something and walked away because she’d moved me to tears. Sorry. I know I’m kind of a sap. But having someone really grasp the soul of your film and articulate it to you so directly is something that rarely, if ever happens. In the most profound sense it makes you feel like someone is really seeing you.