118. HISTORY OF JOHNNY SUEDE

Johnny and Darlette (Alison Moir)
Brad Pitt and Alison Moir in Johnny Suede

Just when you thought there no more that could be said on the subject, Kathy Lindboe at Miramax put together a very cool piece on Johnny Suede.

READ IT HERE

Our interview delves deeper into the creation of the character and the fertile times in NYC from which he spawned. Kathy provides a sharp perspective on the film and includes several clips from it throughout.

I’m pleased at the way it turned out and I think readers will find some new and interesting information. Miramax has helped me make an Official Director’s Cut of the film which is now streaming on Netflix.

117. WOODSTOCK FILM FESTIVAL

I’m thrilled to announce that my new film, DOWN IN SHADOWLAND,  has been accepted into the Main Documentary Competition of the 2014 Woodstock Film Festival. Here’s the program listing.

 

Down In Shadowland poster 2 small

 

The film will screen Friday and Saturday, October 17 and 18 in Woodstock, NY. I will be there for both screenings and am looking forward to seeing the film with an audience for the first time.

I was at Woodstock in 2009 with When You’re Strange and had a great time there. I wrote about it and the San Sebastian Film Festival in this entry.

I’d really like to thank Joe Monge and his team at DuArt Video in NYC for their assistance in creating the HDCAM. Craig Gordon’s eye and expertise were instrumental to the gorgeous transfer.

 

116. MUZIK-nonstop

Alex Green’s cool music website has been revamped and renamed. It is now called STEREO EMBERS. I would highly recommend it to anyone who wants to read impassioned and informed articles on music–and best of all to discover new music.

STEREO EMBERS just released a list of Best Albums of The Decade So Far. They very kindly found a spot at # 58 for Hurt Me Tender, by The Black and Blue Orkestre.

Black and Blue release flyer

Check out the full list HERE and dive in.

 

115. JOHNNY SUEDE; Official Director’s Cut

Brad Pitt as Johnny Suede
Brad Pitt as Johnny Suede

Not all stories in the film business end like this one did.

A few months ago I found out that without my consent, major sections of music had been replaced in my film Johnny Suede showing on Netflix.

This was pretty shocking because the film had been “locked” since it was released in 1991. But, suddenly all of the Link Wray music I’d carefully chosen had been replaced with generic 50’s instrumental crap. This included complete tracks like “Hotel Loneliness” which I used in its entirety as the Opening Credit score.

But,  now Johnny Suede is back up on Netflix with all the original music restored. This came about due to the remarkable support and patience of Miramax, the film’s US distributor. Through the assistance there of Ryan Sosa and Pamela Popp updated music rights were obtained for all the Link Wray tracks.

Even more exciting is that I got a chance to re-edit the film. In viewing it again I saw places where the focus drifted and the intent of the film wandered off like a distracted child. There were also performance issues due to my inexperience and as a first time director I was not yet aware of the concept of reshaping the film with the best of what I had.

DiCillo and Pitt day one.
DiCillo and Pitt on Day 1 of shooting

That is one of the most important adjustments a writer/director has to make. With every film you put your soul into trying to bring the script to life. And with every film what ends up on film is always different than what was on the page.

Sometimes you can see that immediately. Other times it takes months to let go of the love and affection for the original ideas. It is amazing what kind of clarity you get with a distance of 20 years.

Miramax allowed me to start with the original Director’s Cut which had won Best Picture at the Locarno film festival in 1991. This cut does not have the annoying narration that was added just before the US release. In the course of a week I cut 7 minutes out of the film. I didn’t cut to make the film faster. I cut to make it clearer.

Early in the shooting I’d given Brad a note that Johnny was like a child. I meant that his attention and interest could shift quickly from one thing to another. I found out later Brad took it to mean that Johnny was a child and he’d made a choice to make the character a little less emotionally mature than himself.

Johnny and his idol.
Johnny and his idol Ricky Nelson

This affected the pacing of some of the scenes. It also affected the reality of why Yvonne (a luminous Catherine Keener) would be attracted to Johnny. I never wanted this to be a question in the film. I always thought of Johnny as a smart, sexy guy who put sharp, intense energy into his facade.  And I know Brad was capable of this, especially after seeing his charged, brilliant performances in 12 Monkeys, Snatch and Moneyball.

But, as the director it was my job to be as clear and precise as I needed to be in order to get what I felt was crucial to the film. So, in this new cut I tried to address this.

Johnny and Darlette (Alison Moir)
Brad and Alison Moir as ‘Darlette’

The film is still the same. Johnny is still the naive, schizophrenic fool that Brad brought to life. These were qualities written into the character and Brad went for them with great openness and courage.  His scene where Yvonne discovers his infidelity is one of my favorites; fierce, raw and emotionally naked.

I shot a lot of the scenes in wide masters instead of going in for traditional close-up coverage. This was partly creative and partly as a result of having so little time. But, in the scene where Johnny meets Freak Storm (Nick Cave) it limited me.

nick-cave-as-freak-storm
Nick Cave as ‘Freak Storm’

That day was one from hell. Nick was furious because the wig “expert” had no idea what she was doing and his white pompadour looked like it was stapled to his forehead with a glue gun.

Also, the Director of Photography was going through some bizarre emotional trauma about me directing my first film. So, I ended up with an angry Nick, a misinformed Brad and a sulky cameraman who later admitted to me he was intentionally sabotaging the film (I intentionally relieved him of his trauma by replacing him).

Fortunately, in the re-edit I found a way to trim the scene, tightening it and taking out a moment where the writing stretched Johnny’s gullibility a little beyond belief.

But, in other instances, the single shot approach fostered some indelible performances. The scene where Yvonne instructs Johnny in the basics of female anatomy was done as a single take and the performances of Brad and Catherine have an amazing emotional pulse that gives life to the entire shot.

Catherine Keener as Yvonne
Catherine Keener as ‘Yvonne’

Likewise, every scene that Calvin Levels was in brought a sly humor that injected a great note of surprise into the film. In this new cut his relationship with Johnny is stronger and carries more importance.

Calvin Levels as Deke with Johnny
Calvin Levels as ‘Deke’, Johnny’s best and only friend

 

When I first realized my film had been altered without my permission I felt like something infinitely sacred to me had been violated. And now, 20 years after I made it, I have what I feel is truly THE OFFICIAL DIRECTOR’S CUT of the film.

Miramax has allowed me access to the new digital master and I’m hoping to get this new version out on DVD and Blu-Ray as soon as possible.

 

 

112. RADIO ACTIVITY

I know it’s been a while since I posted anything of substance. My heart is still here but my brain is in a strange universe these days; one that looks almost as strange as the one we’re in.

There is some activity on the film front. I’m in what can be most accurately termed pre-pre-pre-production on a feature I wrote. Which means I’m in a deal with some people who are trying to get the cast so we can get the money to get the cast so we can get the money.

In the meantime, I finished a new film; a strange docu-mystery called DOWN IN SHADOWLAND. Shadowland twin boys   It is a personal project that I made completely by myself. For the past 5 year I’ve been carrying my video camera around with me every day on the subway. The intent was to try and capture some of the haunting and surreally beautiful moments I’ve seen down there, where people reveal something intimately human in this most public of private places. I edited 5 years of footage into a 65 minute film.

The film has just been accepted into the Main Competition of a major US festival. I will give the specifics when I can.

Musically, The Black and Blue Orkestre has just finished a new music video from their new album, Hurt Me Tender.

Ball and Chain video composite

The video is the first vocal track video from us. Like the song, it has an elegant, moody, dark humor. It should be out soon. Here’s a little behind-the-scenes video flash:

111. JOHNNY SUEDE on Netflix

Last night a courageous and astute reader named Tony informed me that the version of my film, JOHNNY SUEDE, now showing on Netflix has been altered without my authorization. All of the Link Wray music I worked so carefully into the film has been replaced with some generic 50’s crap.

DON'T RENT

The Link Wray music has been legally in the film, in all formats, since 1991. It was so important to me I used it in both the opening and closing credits. Its removal was completely unauthorized and it destroys the artistic integrity of the film. And, whoever did it either forgot or did not care that the Link Wray music is credited at the end of the film. This is from the Netflix video stream of the film.

Link Wray credits

I’m asking people not to rent the film from Netflix until this is resolved. It is deeply disturbing to me that someone has changed my film without my consent.  

110. RELEASE!!

I’m thrilled to announce the official release of The Black and Blue Orkestre’s first album, HURT ME TENDER. It consists of 12 original tracks performed by Tom DiCillo, Grog and Will Crewdson. Live drums provided by Alan Van Kleef. The album was impeccably mastered by Amaury Perez.

Black and Blue release flyer

A great review came in from  Alex Green at Caught in The Carousel. You can listen to the whole album here.

You can purchase it at iTunes or Amazon.