WHO

Tom DiCillo 

This is the official blog for filmmaker Tom DiCillo. It began in 2006 by chronicling the making and the distribution of DiCillo’s 6th feature film,  Delirious. It should be noted that every word written here is true with the sole exception of the stuff that was made up. This blog will occasionally venture off-shore and into uncharted waters.

Here are the facts about Tom DiCillo. Anything else you read is unauthorized and unappreciated.

Tom DiCillo was born in 1953 in Camp LeJeune, North Carolina, the second of three children. His father was a Colonel in the USMC. As a result DiCillo moved every two years to different military bases and small towns across America. Technically you could say he’s from nowhere.

He has lived in California, Virginia, North Carolina, New York and Bangkok, Thailand. He attended 3 elementary schools, 2 highschools and 2 reform schools.

DiCillo earned a BA in Creative Writing from Old Dominion University in Norfolk, VA in 1975. DiCillo moved to NYC in 1976 and attended NYU Graduate Film School. While there he wrote and directed 6 short films and was awarded the Paulette Goddard Scholarship. He received his MA in 1979 and quickly got his first film job sweeping the floor on a Pepsi commercial.

DiCillo then studied acting for 8 years. He performed in numerous off-off Broadway stage productions and several independent films. In 1984 DiCillo shot (and acted in) Stranger Than Paradisefor friend and filmschool classmate Jim Jarmusch. The international success of that film lead to cinematography offers from around the world for a great array of films that paid no money.

In 1987 DiCillo pieced together a series of monologues he’d written and put on a 1-Man show in Manhattan called Johnny Suede. The success of the show prompted him to reshape the material into his first full-length screenplay. Thanks to a grant from the National Endowment and support from the Sundance Institute, DiCillo directed Johnny Suede, his first feature, in 1990. The film starred the then unknown Brad Pitt and began DiCillo’s 4 film collaboration with Catherine Keener. Johnny Suede won Best Picture at the 1991 Locarno Film Festival and was distributed domestically by Miramax.

DiCillo followed with Living In Oblivion  in 1995. The film starred Steve Buscemi, Catherine Keener and Dermot Mulroney and won Best Screenplay at the 1991 Sundance Film Festival. Other awards include Best Picture at the Deauville Film Festival.

In 1996 DiCillo wrote and directed Box of Moonlight, starring John Turturro, Sam Rockwell and again Ms. Keener. The film premiered at Sundance and was in the Main Competition at the Venice Film Festival.

DiCillo made The Real Blonde  in 1998, starring Matthew Modine, Catherine Keener, Darryl Hannah and Christopher Lloyd. The film opened the Deauville Film Festival and was released in the US by Paramount. In 2000 DiCillo wrote and directed Double Whammy, starring Denis Leary, Elizabeth Hurley, Steve Buscemi and Chris Noth. Most people claim they have never seen Double Whammy which might have something to do with the fact that despite an “ironclad” distribution contract it was never released theatrically.

In 2006 DiCillo wrote and directed Delirious, starring Steve Buscemi, Michael Pitt, Alison Lohman, Gina Gershon and Elvis Costello. Delirious won Best Director and Best Screenplay at the San Sebastian Film Festival as well as numerous other awards including Special Jury Prize at the Istanbul Film Festival and Best Director at the HBO Comedy Arts Festival.  Delirious was “released” in the US on August 15. For the joys of that experience please refer directly to the BLOG. More recently Deliriouswas an official selection at Ebertfest 2008, Roger Ebert’s festival for Best Overlooked Films.

DiCillo’s latest film, When You’re Strange, is his first documentary as well as the first feature documentary on The Doors. The film won the Grammy in 2011. The film premiered in competition at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival. It also was in the Official Selection at the 2009 Berlin Film Festival. It opened theatrically in the US on April 9, 2010 and has been released in most countries around the world.

In addition to his cinematic endeavors DiCillo has written two works of semi-non fiction detailing his experiences making films; “Eating Crow” (Living In Oblivion) and “Notes From Overboard” (Box of Moonlight). He has directed for television and has three feature scripts in development.

DiCillo is in a trans-Atlantic musical collaboration with guitarist Will Crewdson and bassist/vocalist Grog. They call themselves The Black & Blue Orkestre. Their sound was once described by someone as “sweaty vampire Elvis” which resulted in a punch in the face and the instantaneous collapse of a multi-million dollar recording contract.

8 thoughts on “WHO”

  1. rain rain rain rain rain rain rain rain rain – hello, tom.
    faces on the streets of this city need someone
    who knows how to frame a shot. they keep
    slipping off the sides into the rivers. messy.
    then they are eaten by salamanders

  2. Tom,
    I want to thank you for “When You’re Strange”. I watched it through netflix 2 weeks ago and since then purchased it and have watched it 4 times.
    I was 8 years old when I was turned onto the Doors as well as all the other bands of the late sixties (by my cousin who lived with us while attending college). The Doors have always been my favorite band and always will be.
    The footage you were able to obtain and use in this film did and does make me feel as if I was right there with the band (as Johnny Depp has mentioned).
    It makes me sad that the Doors and the sixties are gone. That was the only chance the youth had at true freedom and it was lost.
    Sometimes I cry when I watch your film and sometimes I smile, but you definitely have captured the mystique of the Doors like no other (very pure).
    Thank you,
    Lisa

    1. Hello Lisa,
      Thanks very much for your comment. I’m glad you were touched by the film. I took a great risk choosing to use only the original footage but I agree with you (and Johnny Depp) that it makes you feel you are right next to Jim, Ray, John and Robbie.

      Yes, the 60′s were an intense time for kids in America. I think that for one very brief moment there really was the belief that young people could change the world. It still blows my mind that college kids were making the news every night protesting the Vietnam war–really going out there and fighting against Nixon, the military and “authority”. I miss that fighting spirit among our kids today.

      I also miss the willingness to see the benefits of the Inner Journey. I don’t care if I sound ethereal cereal. This journey has been crucial to the development of every human being’s soul since man crawled out of the swamp. And now the use of our opposable thumbs is limited primarily to punching in typographical smiley faces and our gaze is permanently fixed straight down at our tiny blue screen navels. The window of our souls indeed.

      But, don’t despair. The flame still burns on, clearly in you–and from the responses to the film, many others.

      My best to you,
      Tom

  3. Hi Tom,

    This is a first for me – blogging – I just watched When You Are Strange. I do footage, still, content research, rights and clearances for broadcast TV and film and I have to say I just loved the way you used what I am assuming is archival material of The Doors during their run together. So many gems! I think it adds this wonderful quality to your piece.
    And I am usually pretty good at determining what is archival material and what has been shot or “re-enacted” in documentaries. There were a few moments while watching your film where I was not quite sure.
    I listened to The Doors growing up and felt their impact even though I was very young, the memories are there.
    Thank you for your film – it was quite real and refreshing and it makes me happy as a researcher that these gems exist!
    Thank you, thank you!
    Roberta

  4. Hey Roberta,
    Thanks for taking your first plunge into the blogosphere here. Also, thanks for your kind words about When You’re Strange.

    Your observations are fascinating because 99.99% of the material for the film was either archival, or footage taken directly from The Doors vault. Jim asked a classmate from UCLA, Paul Ferrara, to begin filming them in concert as early as 1967. That’s where most of the performance and behind the scenes material came from.

    You may be aware from reading here that in 1969 Jim Morrison wrote, directed and starred in a 50 minute color film called HWY (also shot by Ferrara). I used outtakes from his film for all the scenes with Jim driving and wandering through the desert; the coyote, the gas stations, the swimming.

    If you’ve read here you will also be aware of how amused I was that most people thought that was all re-enacted; especially sniffy critics who didn’t even bother to ask.

    The rest of the material was gathered from film archives by our researcher Deborah Ricketts. I spent many, many hours weeding through it all to find images that I felt best served the film.

    There is no film footage that I’m aware of for the Miami concert. This entire sequence was re-created by my editors and I using material from other Doors concerts. It is interesting to me that no one has ever mentioned this, despite the fact the lack of material is pretty well known.

    There are only two fragments that we actually filmed. One was a close up of the period road map seen at the beginning of the film. And the other was the sequence of the “state of the art” 4 track tape recorder used to record The Doors first album. There was actually a working machine in the sound dept of Universal Studios (where I was editing). I felt that seeing it was important to the drama of that moment so one morning I went over with a little home video camera and shot the footage of the reels spinning and the meters moving. Then we made it black & white and added some grit and grain to it.

    That’s it. Every other frame in the film is real.
    best,
    Tom

  5. when i heard what the nature of -When You’re Strange- would be,i knew i had to see it because i knew i most certainly would be in it-i am! the riot scene at The Singer Bowl when the camera scans the audience-my sister & i-just 2 lost little black girls in the city of night. thank you everso. nothing could ever compare to jim in the flesh!

  6. Saw “Living in Oblivion” down here in OC, CA so many years ago. My wife and I both quote it and laugh about it to this day. Chad Palomino sneaking into frame behind Catherine Keener. Still makes me smile. (We both left saying “Man, that Keener gal is amazing. Hope she gets somewhere.”) Saw “The real blonde” and still treasure the bow tie scene. Both films are gems that need to be required viewing for anybody who claims to be an “indie” fan. Thank you Mr. DeCillo.

    1. Hey Cameron,
      Sorry it took me a while to get back to you. I’m glad you and your wife enjoyed Oblivion. I’ve got to confess I’ve laughed at the Chad Palomino/Keener scenes many times both during and after the film. And yes, Ms. Keener did get somewhere–as did Peter Dinklage.
      I’m also pleased you enjoyed The Real Blonde. That’s a tough film for me. I put a lot into it, and there is much in it I like but I wish to hell I could re-cut to its original Director’s Cut.
      best,
      Tom

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