March 30, 2009

Notes From Winter


7:06 am.
The flight to Sundance is over-sold. The plane is jammed with ski-bums and half the NY independent film scene. Bad news; I got stuck with a middle seat. Good news, I got an exit row so at least I can stretch my legs and sleep.

Just discovered exit row seats don't recline. But the window seat beside me is vacant so at least I'll get some elbow room. There is a delay as the crew waits for the last passenger to board. I notice he is so fat his paunch simultaneously knocks the heads of people on both sides of the aisle. He takes my window seat. 

As he struggles with his seatbelt he apologizes profusely for forcing me and the woman next to me out into the aisle.  He asks the stewardess for a seatbelt extension. I close my eyes, thinking, "4 1/2 hours...4 1/2 hours." And the plane hasn't even pushed back yet.

Just then the stewardess returns. She says she can't give him a seatbelt extension because he's in an exit row. Since he is required by law to buckle his seatbelt he has to move. He switches seats with a very skinny guy and I take my first real breath in 10 minutes. My new seatmate is a music critic for the NY Times. But he signals he's deaf and won't be talking for the entire flight.

1. 17.09.
10 am.
Park City, Utah.
The town is clogged with agents, managers, publicists, actors, directors, journalists and tourists with cameras; all stepping with tense caution over the iron-colored ice while searching for celebrity in every passing face. I do the morning press with Ray Manzarek and Robby Krieger; I'll be with John Densmore in the afternoon. The first interview goes well. Ray is hyper but eloquent. Robby is quiet, slipping in brief comments that send out ripples of meaning. Both are highly complimentary about the film.  It suddenly penetrates my jetlag that I'm actually sitting with 2 members of The Doors talking about a film I made about their lives.

At the next interview I notice a small keyboard set up across the room. I nudge Ray with a wink. "Why don't you play something?" "Yeah," he laughs, "you know how many times I've heard that in my life?"

I leave the room for a moment. Someone starts playing the piano intro to "Riders On the Storm." I turn and see it's Ray. Robby is standing beside him strapping on an electric guitar. He checks his volume, then slips into the music. Around the room people's jaws are dropping. As the song builds Ray's eyes close, his head goes back. Robby studies his fretboard, a faint smile touching his lips. At that moment they both look 20 years old.

4 pm.
In the middle of an interview with Densmore. He's sharp and gracious. He's also the only thing keeping me awake. About 25 other interviews are taking place in the room around us. The jabber is deafening. John gives Oliver Stone some professional respect but then, when asked about Jim his voice takes on a deep, quiet reverence and I see Morrison suddenly come alive in his eyes.

The camera crew leaves. Another one quickly sets up. A short, thick-set blonde from Australia announces she hasn't seen any of my films; including When You're Strange. I express puzzlement as to what we'll be talking about.  "OK," she sniffs, "tell me about your films then."

John drifts away. A wave of drowsiness almost crushes me to the floor. "I do mainly porno," I hear myself say. "I specialize in threesomes, usually girl-on-girl but sometimes girl-on-hamster-on-girl."

The blonde stares at me. I stare back.

1. 18.09.
Three Kings Road
8 pm.
A dinner is going on for the film. I am not there. I am standing on the road in front of my housing unit waiting for the bus. It is a free bus. It comes every half hour.

It's 5 degrees. The street is dark and absolutely still. The cold has already made it through all three of my coats. Above me the obsidian sky is glittering with millions of stars. I take a breath. The whole night sky rushes into my throat, the stars tickling into my lungs like tiny fragments of ice.

Footsteps down the road. Three kids emerge from the darkness; a girl and two guys. They're about 17. Only the girl is wearing a hat. The guys wear jean jackets, unbuttoned, and no gloves. They want to know if this is the free bus going into Park City. I tell them it is and ask if they're going in to the festival. They say no. They're from a town 20 miles away. They drove their snowmobiles over the mountain, parked them down the road, and are heading into Park City to hit a few bars. They take note of the street sign so they can find their way back.

No bus comes. We keep talking in the bitter cold. They're all Obama supporters. I find this surprising in such a conservative state. One of the kids, a little taller and somewhat aloof says simply, "No brainer, dude."

His regal attitude is explained a moment later. "He's stiff," his friend says, "because he just crashed a snowmobile into a tree a week ago. He shouldn't be riding tonight."

"Why?" I ask.

"He broke his back," the friend answers. The tall kid lifts his jacket and reveals a tensed metal brace encircling his entire lower torso. I ask how it happened.

"Too many beers," he replies with a soft chuckle.

A long moment of silence. The girl puts her arm around the guy with no broken back. Far down the road, the bus slowly appears; the lights of its interior making it look like some enormous phosphorescent sea creature floating through the darkness.

10:30 pm.
Finally made it to the dinner. Japanese restaurant. Note: sake and high altitude induce a rush only slightly less intense than Super-Ultramega Blue Krystal Meth. I realize this only as I leave the restaurant and try to cross the street. It takes me a while but I make it.

Sting had been at the premiere. Word came back that he'd really liked the film and wanted to meet me. He invited me to a party which is why I've crossed the street. At the door a sour-looking publicist checks her list then tells me to step aside. I do. While I wait she lets three people behind me in. It takes me a moment to realize she will not, as I had imagined, be looking at another, more detailed list with my name on it. Just then one of her assistants mutters, "Move over," and pushes me.

I'm already pressed back against the railing with nowhere to go. I look down at her hand still clenching my forearm and a rush of blood fills my head. "Get your hand off me," I say, shaking her hand off. In a speed that amazes me a security guy appears. "Alright, man. You need to leave; immediately."

Although I've been studying boxing for 3 years I've never actually hit anybody. Something in this jerk's tone makes me realize this could be the night. I'm thinking, "Go with a jab to the nose because it's going to be really hard to get anything into a right with all these coats on." I'm just about to let one go when someone hugs me from behind. It is Sting. He's laughing and shaking my hand and telling me how great it is to meet me and thanks for coming and how much he loved When You're Strange. As he leads me inside, the publicist, her assistants and the security guard all find a way to magically disappear while not moving.

I stay 15 minutes. Sting is warm and generous in his affection for the film but I'm still jittery. I can't help thinking that if he'd come 5 seconds later I would have met him flying headfirst down the stairs.

The free bus has stopped running. I start walking. I keep wondering if those three kids ever found their way back to their snowmobiles parked somewhere up the road in the darkness.

1. 20. 09.
3 Kings Road.
9:30 am.
I call my wife back in NYC. She listens to my litany of complaints and disappointments for a few minutes before interrupting me. "Tom, do you even know what's going on right now?"

"What do you mean?" I return, not a little defensively.

"Turn on the TV. "

She hangs up. I turn on the TV. On every channel Barak Obama is giving his inaugural speech.

4 pm.
Something odd is happening. No one believes the footage of Jim Morrison is real. 10 minutes into the 1st screening a distributor walks out cursing, furious that we'd used a "re-enactment." I find him later and explain nothing was re-enacted. It really is Jim, from his own film called HWY. This makes the guy even angrier, as if I'd played another trick on him.

But the disbelief persists. At the next screening I introduce the film and state very clearly that all footage in the film is real. I explain that it is from Morrison's film HWY in which he plays a bearded loner hitch-hiking through the desert. I ask the audience to repeat after me, "There are no actors or re-enactments in this film." Laughing, they do.

After the screening I answer a few questions. I make the point again; "Everything in the film is authentic. Nothing is re-enacted. Do you see?"

"Yes!!" the audience returns. A woman raises her hand. "I understand there are no re-enactments," she says. "But in the desert scenes why did you use an actor to play Jim Morrison?"

Jim Morrison Jim Morrison

The "actor" Jim Morrison playing Jim Morrison in When You're Strange.

11:30 pm.
Some hotel ballroom.
I go to a party thrown by a large Hollywood talent agency. Someone had an in. It wasn't me. Nonetheless it still takes 20 minutes to get in the door. It is dark, deafening and jammed with thousands of eager, absolute strangers. 10 minutes later I turn to leave. Behind me a cluster of 9 young agents perch on a U-shaped couch. Though facing each other none of them make eye contact. In the darkness they all lean over their blackberries, the tiny screens casting an identical pale blue light on each of their rapt, oblivious faces.

1. 22. 09.
Festival shuttle van.
8:45 pm.
I leave the mountain for a screening of When You're Strange down in Salt Lake City. The festival has provided a young driver, a volunteer. The moment we begin our descent a startling sense of relief passes through me. On the interstate I see a religious license plate with the initials: WWJD? For a moment I think it stands for What Would Jim Do?

The theater is sold out. The vibe is completely different from the festival crowd. The first words out of my mouth bring an unexpected burst of applause; "I can't tell you how good it feels to be down off that mountain." 

The film plays well. I take questions for almost an hour afterwards. Someone asks me what I learned from making the film. After thinking for a moment I respond,  "The Doors, especially Morrison believed in complete artistic freedom. I learned that if you believe in something the only thing you can do is fight for it, as hard as you can."

On the 50 minute ride back up the mountain the driver begins recalling his favorite Simpsons episodes--in minute detail. He finally stops after number 32. My eyes close in the welcome silence. Then he starts all over again with King of the Hill.

1. 23.09.
Temple Theatre.
11 am.
My last screening of the film. The theatre is in an active Jewish synagogue lent to Sundance for the festival. I wait in the lobby, hearing the last 5 minutes of the film through the closed doors. I am alone. Everyone else from the film has already left town.

When the screening ends I take questions from the audience. Afterwards a middle-aged couple corners me by the door, describing a documentary their nephew made 12 years ago about blind tattoo artists in West Virginia. A young woman waits quietly a few feet away. 

"I really liked your film," she says when the couple walks off. She looks down then glances up with a pained smile. "My father was a big Doors fan. He really loved them." A slight tremor goes through her. "I'm sorry. I have no right to lay this on you."

"Lay what?" I ask, half wary and half concerned by her increasing emotion.

Again she looks down. When she looks up this time I see her eyes are welling with tears. "He died last week."

I take her hand. She squeezes back hard, the tears coming stronger. "I'm sorry," she says again then gently withdraws her hand. Ducking her head she slips swiftly through the crowd.

After a few moments I step outside, still staggered by her sorrow. Snow is piled in crusty, 5 foot drifts but the sun is warm and soothing on my face. I walk to the edge of the parking lot and squint against the sun. Two parking attendants sit right on the snow, smoking and talking quietly. Something in the slush at my feet catches my eye. It's the poster for When You're Strange. I pick it up. Knowing the absolute futility of my actions--there will be no more screenings at Sundance--I re-attach the poster to the metal pole it had fallen from.

  poster for When You’re Strange at Sundance


6:30 pm.
Leaving for Berlin in an hour. I've done this enough times to know the drill: the "night's sleep" of about 2 hours on the plane is merely a weak attempt to disguise the fact that you are landing at 3 in the morning. I'm on a long walk between terminals, each step bringing me closer to the pending blur of sleep deprivation. The disorientation has already begun. Someone has stopped in the middle of the corridor and is staring at me; one face asking for recognition out of thousands of strangers.

It's Geoff Gilmore, the head of the Sundance Film Festival. I'd seen him only 3 weeks earlier when he introduced me at the premiere of When You're Strange. But seeing him here in an airport hallway throws me.  He's flying to Dublin for a few days before starting his new job. After 25 years he is leaving Sundance to take over as head of the Tribeca Film Festival. The news is significant. All of my films have gone to Sundance, all with the support of Gilmore.

We embrace in the middle of the corridor then he steps onto a moving walkway and disappears.

7 pm.
Delta Gate 47C.
Someone taps my shoulder as I wait to board. Note to self: why is my first thought always that I'm going to be arrested? I turn and see Steve Buscemi. He's with his wife Jo, and their son Lucian. Steve's got 3 films in Berlin and we're all on the same flight. Filmmaking is a constant rhythm of people coming together and pulling apart yet somehow with Steve each separation and reunion finds us exactly where we left off. Every time I see him it feels like we just walked off the set of Living Oblivion; as if only a week has passed. Of course, more than a week has passed; Lucian hadn't even been born yet. Now he's 16.

8:30 pm.
Delta Flight 1609.
Somewhere over the Atlantic.
Knock back some wine during dinner hoping to knock myself out for sleep. Thinking about Berlin. It's one of the big 3 European festivals, along with Cannes and Venice. Just Densmore is going; Ray and Robby are touring. Several of the producers will be there. They'll make the announcement that Johnny Depp is doing the narration. He heard about the film out of Sundance. He'd been my original choice many months ago but now his interest and his schedule are finally in sync.

The search for a narrator has been tough. At one point an offer was made to Jack Nicholson; a great actor but my sense is that a younger voice is needed; someone to help bridge the 40 year time gap. We tried several musicians but the narration is tricky. It can't just be read. We need to feel that whoever is speaking has an emotional investment in the words and believes what he is saying.

Which is why I'm glad Depp is doing it. Mainly I will be happy to get my voice the fuck out of there.

I finish dinner and go to sleep. Two hours later I wake and eat breakfast with a pale blue dawn breaking outside the tiny window egg.

Hotel Movenpick.
2 pm.
Drag myself into the shower after sleeping a couple of hours. The jetlag crush is definitely kicking in. More than once I discover myself standing and staring at the wall. The day outside is cold and colorless, so familiar from the other times I've been here that it is almost comforting. My first trip was in 1979 with Jim Jarmusch and his first feature, Permanent Vacation, which I shot. I stayed with a German friend, Christoph, in his loft in Kreuzberg. Christoph played bass in an art-punk band. He was constantly rolling cigarettes, into which he crumbled soft, dense chunks of Moroccan hash.

Not surprisingly we were stoned most of the time. He showed me the Berlin Wall. He told me I could ride the subway without paying as no one would ever ask for my ticket. 5 minutes into my first free ride I was arrested by two German transit cops and would have gone to jail if I hadn't immediately paid the $40 fine. Christoph thought this was pretty funny.

He gave me a big nugget of hash as a going-away present. Still buzzed, I tossed it into my suitcase and locked it. It wasn't until 9 hours later when I was moving forward in the US Customs line at JFK that I realized this might not have been too smart. Ahead of me the cops were opening every suitcase. I broke out in a sharp, prickly sweat thinking of that thick block of hash just sitting there on top of my socks and underwear. It did not help that I could actually hear Christoph laughing. I was so paralyzed with fear that I could barely mumble 'thanks' when for some reason the cops just waved me through.

Berlin Cinemaxx 8.
10 pm.
The first screening is a good one. A sold-out house of around 400. A sharp contrast to the Sundance premiere where the theater was smaller and more remote, lost in the night snowdrifts like some all night 7-11 in Siberia. Here the screen is huge and the film lives up to it. It's a bigger than life story and needs to be presented that way. Afterwards the team files down for questions. Densmore gets a huge round of applause. One of the producers breaks the news about Johnny Depp. It is now official. As the audience applauds I see a thick trickle of blood flash on the producer's neck. He'd lost the handle to his razor that morning and had shaved by holding the cartridge in his fingers.

In front of theatre for 1st screening of When You’re Strange

Berlin Grand Hyatt Hotel.
11 am.
Another full day of press. It's all very relaxed and informal. The whole group sits around a table and the journalists come in one by one. The questions are directly mainly to me and Densmore but anyone who feels like answering weighs in. I don't mind. I'm hovering in a jetlag-no sleep fog that is not entirely unpleasant. My standard routine is reliable and working: double espressos every two hours until 8 pm and then an immediate shift to alcohol right up to bedtime.

Had a late dinner last night at my friend Dimitri's, a filmmaker from once-Soviet Georgia now living in Berlin with his wife and 2 sons. When I left at 2 am I was not only plastered but utterly bewildered about how to get back to my hotel. Dimitri sent his oldest son Davidov to guide me on the several subways I needed to take. Davidov obliged cheerfully although the round trip would take him over 2 hours.

As we made our way through the crowded stations, getting on and off trains, I walked behind, focusing intently on Davidov's Spiderman backpack. In the cars, on the platforms, in the corridors almost everyone was drunk. Clots of people, mostly young men, staggering, laughing, yelling, shoving each other into walls while openly gulping from bottles.

"Drinking in public is legal in Germany," explained Davidov as we boarded another train. In the corner a group of young men and women bleated out an apparently endless drinking song. "Is better to keep it in the open, I think," Davidov said with the infinite wisdom of a 13 year old.

Berlin PlexxiCine 4.
11:30 pm.
My last screening in Berlin. Once again, the entourage has left before me. My flight out is at noon tomorrow. Another sold-out screening. My friend Christoph comes, with his ex-girlfriend, his new girlfriend and the new girlfriend's girlfriend. The film plays very well. Alone on stage, aided by several scotches at dinner with Christoph, I loosen up with the audience. I've discovered it is best not to wait for the first questions but to start by asking questions of my own. People answer and quickly become used to the sound of their own voices.

An older guy (an American) in the very front row says, "I don't have a question. I just want to say this is one of the best fuckin rock docs I've ever seen!!" I take the mic from him and look out at the audience. "Ladies and gentlemen, I deeply apologize for my father's language. If I'd known he was going to be here I would never have come."

The questions are clear and genuinely inquisitive. I enjoy the give and take until a young woman asks, "I know Morrison had a death wish and I would like to ask what you think about that."

I had just finished explaining what I set out to do in the film; to drag off the dusty cloak of myth, superstition and legend about Morrison and show him as he really was--as a real human being. I take a breath and respond.

"I tried to avoid making assumptions or generalizations about Jim's behavior. Mainly because there is very little documentation to back it up. Jim's own sister says there was no real problem with him and his father. Everyone else says the two were locked in a primal power struggle. Sure, Morrison did some wild, disturbing things. But are you absolutely certain they weren't part of the role he had created for himself? I don't happen to believe he had a death wish. But, the only one who truly knows the answer to that question is Morrison and he's not here. Look at him in this film; he's laughing, playing, goofing around with the band."

            Jim Morrison Jim Morrison

"I think he had a life wish," I continue. "Certainly he was very troubled and there is no question he was a severe alcoholic. But, my sense is that he lost his way and fell off the edge."

I see the woman's face harden. She doesn't like my answer. Neither does a man across the aisle. "You can say what you like but it is obvious to me and many, many others Jim did have a death wish." The man wears a gray goatee, wire-rimmed glasses and his voice is tense with disdain.

"Are you a psychiatrist?" I ask carefully, both alarmed and curious.

"No," he answers after a short pause. "I'm an animal yoga instructor."

3 am.
A bar somewhere.
Christoph and I go out for a drink with all the girlfriends. I look at my watch and realize I have to get up in 2 hours. I have another scotch. Ellen, the ex, is very upset because strangers stop her on the street to tell her she looks just like Karl Lagerfeld. She's wearing a 3-piece men's suit with a tie, large sunglasses and her frosted blond hair is pulled back in a tight ponytail.

We drop the new girlfriend and her girlfriend off at another party then Ellen and Christoph drive me back to the Hotel Movenpick. The front door is locked. Ellen has to get out and read the instructions for punching in an entry code which she does effortlessly even with her Lagerfeld sunglasses on.

I sleep for an hour and am jolted awake by the wake-up call at 7am.  My festival liason gives me a box of chocolate-covered pretzels as a going-away present. As soon as she's out of the car I give it to the driver.

8 am.
Berlin Tegel Airport.
I sit in a heavy stupor as the minutes drag past. Everytime I look at my watch the strain on my eyeballs makes me almost pass out.

But the trip has been successful. Offers for theatrical distribution are in from Spain, England, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Scandinavia, Greece, Poland and Japan. Other offers are coming. More importantly, my faith in the film has been stengthened; and re-validated.

Someone taps me on the shoulder. My first thought is a question: do I have any hash on me? It's Buscemi, with Jo and Lucian. They're on their way back to NYC. I never ran into them once at the festival. Lucian says he too has been up all night, googling the history of Berlin. He gives me a cd from one of the three alt-rock bands he plays in, called Fiasco.

8:30 am.
Delta Flight 1607 to JFK.
I sit for so long staring at the seatback in front of me that the male steward eyes me several times in concern. I'm so exhausted I can't move. Finally the steward stops. He leans closer with an almost doctorly frown and asks, "Are you going to be alright?"

Not, "Are you alright?" but "Are you going to be alright?"

That's when I realize I really need to get my shit together. "Oh, yeah. I'm good," I reply with what I'm hoping is the smile of a person who's really got their shit together. I slip Lucian's cd into my laptop. It's the only music I have. The neo-surf-on-acid snarl of Fiasco crawls snakelike into my brain. After 5 songs I finally fall asleep.

Somewhere near Greenland

Thanks for that fascinating look at the hard work you put into promoting this film, which I’m sure is brilliant! I’m crawling out of my skin waiting for it to come out here in the U.S. One thing I really appreciate was the tidbit about the girl whose father was a Doors fan and had just passed away. What I didn’t mention in my previous post about being a fan from the age of 5 is that part of the reason I’m such a huge fan is also because of my dad. I remember the first time I heard Riders on the Storm was when we were sitting in his truck getting ready to go somewhere, and right as the song started playing, it also began to rain. At 5, I thought that was pretty neat and actually so did my dad. We both have remembered that moment ever since… He wasn’t a very affectionate or vocal person, but the one thing we had in common was a love for the same type of music; especially classic rock like The Doors. Dad passed away a few months ago from cancer, so The Doors and especially that song are very significant to me. Again, thank you for sharing your passion of this band with all of us.
Hello Ram,
I’m glad you liked Box of Moonlight. One thing I was trying to do with the film was show the pleasures and joys that can come from some very simple things in life.
But, there are some darker elements in the film as well that you should not over-look. The way Al (Turturro) treats his son. The way the local men abuse the Kid (Sam Rockwell). It is not totally a fairy tale. There are moments of real discomfort in it.
Like life.
Thanks very much for writing.
Hello, Tom,
writing to you to express a big affection to your whole work. First I started with your Box of Moon Light and somehow this film attached me to your creativity. This movie creates a feeling of comfort when you watch it. Scenes of nature and that easy music and everything that happens is just lightelly great. That was just equilibrium movie.
It seems that your art and my artistic activity are in the same energy.
claire loiseau
Hello Tom,
I talked about you again tonight. To an American actor who is performing with me in that commedia we are putting up called “The power of magic”. He didn’t know you. So, I told him. I thought it was a bit weird that he didn’t know you. Then, I tought may be I should stop saying to everybody how great Tom Dicillo is! So I can remain one of the priviledged people. No, I’m kidding. I will continue to recommend you to every nice person I meet. Who would be honored as I would be to see your movies. And may be to meet you one day. Peut-etre. Un jour.
claire loiseau
One day, Jack Lemmon was telling a journalist how he had been asked by Billy Wilder to play in ” Some like it hot”. And he said at the end of the interview, that, for him, it was the best comedy of all times. He hadn’t seen Living in Oblivion!! The poor dear!!
Well, I think he’s a wonderful actor. He would have loved it if he’d had the chance to see it. These two films are the best comedies of all times, with a couple of others…prf, prf, prf!!
claire loiseau
Something I forgot from the vanishing message.
I like every minute of Living in Oblivion.
I love the way it is written. The first surprise of the first dream.
The second surprise of the second. And the third surprise of the not-a-dream-this-time-whereas-you-thought-it-would-be-one. It’s perfect!
There are other things I would like to say. I guess it’s a bit too personal to be written on a blog.
I also thank Elaine for the links of the interviews with the seats that look like plane seats and the background like a Laundromat.
Funny. Good.
claire loiseau
Hello Tom,
Oh, it’s so nice to have a reply from you!
I still remember me in that cinema watching Living in Oblivion when it was just released in Paris. So that would be in 1994 or 1995. I went on my own. I remember laughing so much – and my laugh is loud and sounds a bit like a witch’s laugh- that some people sitting next to me were a little bit annoyed. But I remember a lot of people laughed a lot. Which is great! It’s sharing something.(I felt so good after the screening. The best drug. I was smiling like an idiot. Same as when I’m in love.) I remember once going to the cinema to see ” Serie noire” by Alain Corneau. The script is adapted from a book written by Jim Thompson. I was the only one who laughed all along during that screening. Even the friend I had gone with hadn’t laughed. Anyway. I recommend that film. As well as “Coup de torchon” by Bertrand Tavernier ( also adapted from a book by Jim Thompson}.
How many times have I watched Living in Oblivion? I couldn’t tell.
Many, many. Ever since I saw it in that cinema in the latin quarter, I have recommended it. It is in my top list of favorite films. I used to teach English in Paris for adults and very often I would show Living in Oblivion in class. And, they generally really loved it. I think I like every minute of this film. I guess so.
As I was thinking of how funny it was seeking Tom Dicillo desperately, it reminded me of that French T.V programme on Cinema called Cinema, cinemas. It no longer exists. It was ace. The best. One day, they decided to find Sue Lyon, the actress who played Lolita in Stanley Kubrick’s film. They put an add in a American newspaper. She replied. They interviewed her. It is very special to me. Here is the link where you can watch the interview (it’s in English with French subtitles). Lyon/video/x5rho5_la-lolita-de-kubrick-retrouvee-sue_shortfilms
Hope you enjoy it.
A presto,
P.S : Thanks Elaine for the links of the interviews. I watched them. It’s true the seats looked like seats on a plane. And the background like a laundromat. Quite funny. I can’t wait to see the film.
Hello Claire,
It is very nice to read your comments and reactions. I’m not at home at the moment so it is hard to get on a computer to respond.
First, I’m glad you like Living In Oblivion so much. That line you refer to comes after Wolf, the cameraman, says to Nick, the director,
“It’s your choice, Nick. His acting or his face.”
They’re discussing how to adapt to the change actor Chad Palomino has suggested to the blocking.
I’ve always loved Nick’s response. Though, I must confess at most screenings I’ve sat through the line goes by without much reaction. Sometimes a sharp laugh comes from someone a few seconds later, as if it takes a little while to get it.
Your interests in film and books is very diverse. I will try to see and read some of them.
I will write more when I get on another computer.
claire loiseau
Hello Tom,
It’s funny this seeking Tom Dicillo while in Philadelphia. I go and see the blog everyday. It has become a little rituel. I quite like it. There are a lot of very interesting records too where I’m staying. Quite amazing. One morning, there was a record of Josh White. A very particular emotion. So I played it the next morning. Then I found other treasures: Robert Blake; Donovan’s; the Mills brothers; Joseph Spence; Peter, Paul and Mary. So great!
Buona notte!!
Ciao, ciao,
claire loiseau
Hello Tom,
Here in Philadelphia I’m staying in a wonderful and amazing place full of artists. Heaven for me! Last night, I talked to Mike. Great guy! I wish I could send some photos. I think I might make a book of my stay here. Mike is going to move in two weeks. To live in Alfred-New-York. What a funny name for a place to live! When I asked him if it was Alfred, like A. Hitchcock, he say : ” Yes, I guess it is!!” It’s also called the village of Alfred. Named after Alfred the Great. (We found that on Google!).Mike’s going to live there with his girlfriend Alicia. He asked me about French film directors I liked. I told him about Agnes Varda and Jacques Demy. Also Alain Resnais, Alain Cavalier; Andre Techine; Claude Sautet; Rene Clement. I asked him what films he liked. He told me ” La passion de Jeanne d’arc” by Carl T. Dreyer. An amazing film that I saw a few years ago.I love it. A very particular film. Indeed. With Renee Falconetti and Antonin Artaud. Then we talked about photographers, painters. I took some pictures of him in his bedroom talking to Maggie and Ryan. Unbefuckinlievable place!!
Thinking of film directors I like, there are also Orson Wells, Stephen Frears, Ken Loach, Charlie Chaplin, Tex Avery, Kurosawa, Shoei Immamura,Fritz Lang, Murnau…When I’m in Paris, I’ll be able to continue the list…!!
It’s weird to do that. I know. But I’m doing it.
Va be!!
A bientot.
claire loiseau
Hello Tom,
It’s me again. Steve Buscemi and Catherine Keener are really great actors. I really like them. And I’m glad they play in nearly all your films!!
Here are two books I would like to recommend. Two books that I really love.
“Le bonheur des tristes ” by Luc Dietrich and ” La chouette aveugle” by Sadeq Hedayat. Let’s make it three. ” L’arrache coeur” by Boris Vian.
Ciao, ciao!!
claire loiseau
“For some reason, I thought I could have both.” It’s probably one of my favourite lines of yours, dear Tom. And I often find times when I can use it. Even if it doesn’t sound as good when said in French. I haven’t read the whole blog yet and all the comments. It’s like a great book. I don’t want to read it too quickly and at the same time, I don’t want to stop reading it. Needless to say I love it. I was amazed to read the thing about Agnes Varda and Jacques Demy. I’m a very big fan. And I know it’s a bit weird this fan thing. And it is indeed weird to write to you and realize that anybody can read it. But, as it is the only way I have found…One day, I decided to go and see Agnes Varda. Jacques Demy had already died (another person I would have loved to meet indeed- Have you seen the film ” Jacquot de Nantes” by Agnes Varda?) So I went to rue Daguerre. That’s where she lives in Paris. I live in Paris too. That was a few years ago. When she released her film “Les glaneurs et la glaneuse”. I thought it would be an opportunity to see her : to buy her DVD. She has a kind of shop opposite her flat. I’m very shy even though it doesn’t show and nobody believes it. Anyway. I rang the bell. All excited. Shaky. She opened. Invited me in. Looked for the keys of the shop. I was so…oh.. that all I could say was: ” Je suis fan, tres fan “. I bought the DVD. And left. She’s such a great woman. I highly recommend all her movies as well as her books and exhibitions. I would love to work with her too. Have you ever met her, Tom?
And do I like Maupassant? He’s one of my favourite writers! I love his stories. I also like Dino Buzzatti short stories.
In French, I would say : ” Un homme de gout!” That means: a man who has really good taste. That’s you! Youhou!
I’m going to the rehearsals now. Of the commedia dell’arte we are creating from improvisations for the Fringe Festival. I’ll walk down Broad Street.
Write to you soon.
Tanti baci,
claire loiseau
Mister Tom Dicillo,
I have always admired you from the far…or close? That sounds very professional… What if…what if…what if we met some day somewhere…this is crazy, I know. I have searched on the internet a way to contact you for the past few days as I’m in Philadelphia performing a commedia for the Fringe Festival, staying in this amazing place full of artists and animals- a dog, a parrot and an iguana and I’ve just found this link hoping that you’ll read it. I think I found some link last night but I’m not quite sure as I’m hopeless at computers…Anyway. I hope you didn’t get it in the end because it was quite clumsy, I thought afterwards. I read your blog. No surprise. I really knew we spoke the same language, you are a brother of mine and I could be your sister, O.k, half sister, cousin. Same. My family. It’s so rare that I want you to know that and I would be so glad to meet you one day. I know I’m not Sting. Fair does. I know I’m French-nobody’s perfect. Still. Not to worry, I will not lay my sweety hand on your wrist like Reena did…oh, oh, oh…I would like to write all night long. It’s now 2.23 am. I want to thank you some much for this jewell you made- Living in oblivion. How many times have I seen that film, I couldn’t say. So many that I know a lot of lines by heart. A hell of a lot. Here in Philadelphia I asked the flatmates- they don’t know you. So I went into a shop, found Box of moonlight, bought it for them. ” You bought it?” asked one of the guys when he saw the DVD on the kitchen table. “Well, yes, I can’t steal anyway, that’s a problem I have but yes, I bought it.” I watched it again. It’s a great movie. While I was trying to find a way to write you, I saw you had played in Stranger than paradise!!! I was amazed!! Did I love that film… Oh my god!! I saw it when it was released, probably in 1985 or something like that. I had the poster in my room. I remember convincing a friend to come and see it. I had already seen it twice. She didn’t like it. I remember I couldn’t understand why. I have grown up since. Still. I loved that movie. Movies… At that time I was totally boulimic. I saw all the Lubitsh movies. I saw a lot of crap too. What do I like? Affreux, sales et mechants by Ettore Scola. Nearly all the film of Joseph Manckiewicz. Some like it hot by Billy Wilder. Naked /. Secret and lies by Mike Leigh. The servant by Joseph Losey. Jackie Brown by Tarentino. Annie Hall / Mysterious murder in Manhattan by Woody Allen. Le pigeon de M. Monicelli. All the films by Esenstein. I could continue but I think I’m gonna go to bed now. i will write again tomorrow. Bonne nuit. Bacioni. Claire ( Mon e-mail est
Hey Elaine,
You’re not being naive. The timing to get Depp’s voice in by this summer would be hugely effective. We’re still waiting, waiting, waiting…
Hey Tom,
Any word on Depp? I went to the movies the other day and saw a preview for the film he has coming out this summer, “Public Enemies”, about the life of bank robber John Dillinger. Depp appears absolutely brilliant and charming in the preview.
I’m the first to admit my naivete when it comes to film distribution tactics, but if his voice could get in by summer and the press is all “a-buzz” around him when that film gets released, wouldn’t that be a great opportunity to talk about other projects he’s done this year? Thereby getting a plug for WYS?
From Wikpedia; It was in 1967 that he went to a Seattle concert by the rock band, The Doors, which Robbins considers a life-changing experience, and a catalyst for his decision to move to La Conner, Washington, and write his first book, Another Roadside Attraction.
Hey Mario,
You always blow my mind with these quotes. This one is great. Where did it come from?
Also, very cool link to Daryl.
“The Doors are carnivores in a land of musical vegetarians”
You know Tom’s right on, it’s all about THE DOORS and the music they laid down, because it will last when were all dead and gone.
Stuart Henderson
Tom,Sent Email to Edinburgh Film Festival with the details of contentfilm
Fingers Crossed!!.
you wrote: I think in some ways it is helpful for as many people as possible to know that in most cases making a film has nothing to do with the public’s idea of ‘filmmaking’ at all.
And that is precisely why I love reading your film diaries and blog 🙂 They’re incredibly honest and heartfelt – the ups and downs. It gave me a much greater appreciation for Box of Moonlight once I read about the hell you endured to make that film, and the further insane aspects of getting the film ready for release once filming is over.
I admire Depp’s ability and personality, and can’t wait to see the final WYS. His interview on ‘Inside the Actors Studio’ is the only one I’ve ever purchased–many still waters running deep with Mr. Depp.
Hey Stuart,
Thanks for the link to the Edinburgh Film Festival. It does look great. We have a sales company based in the UK, called ContentFilm. If you wanted to open this door a little you could have the festival contact them.
Hey Sam,
I have been on several sets where the actors walking off and performing the scene all by themselves might have resulted in a much better film.
It’s a tricky balance. Just as there is some truth to the stereotype of the manically egotistical actor there is also truth to the stereotype of the tyrannically inept director. As much as I despise the destructive behavior of the insecure actor in some cases it is justified–especially if the director is a fool and has shattered any trust or faith in his ability.
There is nothing more terrifying to an actor than to suddenly realize the director is actually blind. I have seen this happen many times. In one instance it almost resulted in a fist fight.
I took the ‘almost’ out and put the scene in Living In Oblivion.
Let’s see what Mr. Depp comes up with on his own.
Hey Noah,
Great to hear from you. You should write something about your experiences in New Zealand. What a rare and exciting opportunity. I think people would welcome your observations.
Glad you liked the trailer. Still waiting on Depp.
Hello David,
I’m glad you find this stuff interesting. Sometimes I think the public (and even a lot of cinema journalists) have no idea of what goes on behind, in front and around the scenes of making a film. Sometimes I think they shouldn’t know. But, then sometimes I think it is actually destructive for people to live in such blissful oblivion. I think in some ways it is helpful for as many people as possible to know that in most cases making a film has nothing to do with the public’s idea of ‘filmmaking’ at all.
Good question about how Depp is recording. My understanding is that he has access to his own equipment and his own recording engineer. In both cases I think it is professional grade. We want to give him his freedom but the technical quality has to be good as well. We have some very good sound mixers who will assist in making everything sound good in the final mix.
That’s great you do music and sound. I find both to be crucial final elements in solidifying a film. Both can add meaning and even emotion if handled carefully.
Hey Tom!
Thanks for providing me/us with such a generous and thoughtful reply! I am extra pleased with the Hitchcock reference. I was gonna go on even further about how not working next to Depp on the narration would be the equivalence of a group of actors on the set of making a film would all of a sudden go: “The heck with the director, he´s out having lunch, let´s shoot the scene anyway, we know what to say!”.
But now I get it. Hitchcock is the man! As are you.
All the best,
Hey Tom, finally checked out the trailer on Collider and I think it looks excellent. Can’t wait to check it out when I’m back stateside.
Living vicariously through your adventures is a great form of escapism. Keep me posted.
Hi tom, it’s becoming very interesting to follow your blog.
For cinema lovers it’s an amazing experience
to have the chance to talk with the director about his film,
about the process and the progress of his work.
Congratulations for keep the blog going on, this must be an example
for other artist.
I was, like Sam, intirgued by the way you are working with Depp (anyway, I understand very well Johnny Depp may need his space and time to feel more inspired and comfortable) but I am curious about a technical question, how is he recording the audio for the narration? There is some of your audio engineer for the film with him? or Depp has his own home studio and technical support?
Simple curiosity, I have made music and sound for short films and have interest in this aspect.
Thank you Tom, keep on going!
Stuart Henderson
Hey Tom,Thanks for answering….
Maybe you could bring it Here..
Ideal dont you think??
Hey Stuart,
Reality has never been a strong suit of mine. But I can tell you this. There is major interest for theatrical distribution for the film throughout Europe. Once Depp’s narration is cut in many things will become clearer and all these pending deals will be made. There is especially strong interest from the UK which would also include Scotland. I cannot imagine it not coming up your way.
Hey Mario,
Great choice for us all on Earth Day. I don’t think anyone has used words to describe the abuse in such chilling eloquence as Mr. Morrison.
Hey Sam,
Good to hear from you again. I am glad you find some enjoyment in these words. I do too; both in getting them out of my brain and engaging in the always fascinating responses from people.
And now to your question.
The answer.
I shall begin.
Here it is.
In some ways your assessment of the writer/director to actor relationship is completely accurate. It is clearly the most logical path, and clearly would lead toward a mutually beneficial working experience. I personally would appreciate the opportunity to talk directly to Mr. Depp, if only to thank him for wanting to participate. Then I would see if there were any areas I could be of assistance to him.
On the other hand, I am confident Johnny is capable of deliving something crucial to the film entirely on his own. He wants his own method. I’m happy to give it to him. He’s made it clear that if there are areas that need to be reworked afterwards he will be completely willing to work with us.
Someone once asked Hitchcock how he got such amazing performances. Hitchcock’s response: “Casting.” He meant that if a role is cast well the director has amazingly little to do. Sometimes this can be disconcerting for a director. But, on these rare occasions it is best to sit back and enjoy the pleasure of the ride.
I believe this moment with Johnny is one of those rides. He’s seen the film. He’s heard my narration. I can only assume he was impressed enough with both to join the party.
But, as I’ve said above, I’m as anxious to hear his work as everyone else.
What have they done to the Earth?
What have they done to our fair sister?
Ravaged and plundered and ripped her and bit her
Stuck her with knives in the side of the dawn
And tied her with fences
And dragged her down
Stuart Henderson
Hi Tom, Thanks for answerting my question, Im Encouraged by what you said about that it would be great to come to Edinburgh with WYS.
What would you say are the realistic chances of that happining??
Or – come to think of it; you´re probably fed up with the movie by now, couldn´t stand to hear that damn Light my fire-intro one more time, and was more than happy to leave it to Johnny to work on the narration by himself. That´s probably more like it, hehe..
Hey Tom!
Not a huge fan of blogs, but I find myself following yours almost on a daily basis. For many reasons. It is like the greatest deference attorney this blog-phenomenon has ever seen, or something. Anyway, something struck me as I read your last comment reply; it is really odd to me that you and Mr Depp isn´t working together on his narration. Isn´t it natural for the director to be involved with everything that goes into the movie? Especially when it comes to such a HUGE and important thing as the film´s narration. It is the films voice, right, and you wrote it. I mean it isn´t like the soundtrack, it is one thing like when Eddie Vedder recorded music for “Into the Wild”, I can see why Sean Penn left Eddie alone recording that. I find it a little weird, shouldn´t it be a collaboration between you guys? But I know he is a huge untouchable star with hectic schedule so forth bla bla. But to me you are a much bigger star than him.
Of course it is gonna work out great anyway, but am I completely lost here?
Take care,
Sam from Sweden (remember?)
Hey Baron,
Thanks for the nugget. Tell your friends I really appreciate it. Not to beat a dead horse but so much work went into Delirious. After the pathetic fart of its distribution it is amazing to me that anyone has seen it. So, again, thanks.
No word yet from Mr. Depp. He’s kind of on his own schedule. My understanding is that he’s really into it and will have something for us “in a few weeks.”
Kind of in the waiting game.
But I do think it is very much worth it. Johnny is a big Doors fan. He’s also a very talented and intelligent actor. Believe me, those two qualities are rarely combined in an actor. He also has an emotion connection to Morrison’s trajectory, having been on a similar one himself.
I’m as anxious as you are to hear his take on it.
Hey Elaine,
I admire Almodovar very much. Not the least for establishing and pursuing his own very personal and specific cinematic aesthetic. The truthful unique voices are rare and inspiring.
For me, the most inspiring is David Lynch. I know people are sometimes put off by his style but if you think about it he is one of the very few filmmakers of the past 20 years who has actually created a new film language–a new way of viewing and experiencing film. He encourages the audience to participate, to pay attention. His experimentation with the narrative form is exhilarating when it works. He makes film take on the hugely powerful impact of dream.
Almodovar does this too but Lynch is juicer. At least for me.
Hey Jessicah,
Your professor sounds great and I like everything you said he said except the analogy to Hollywood as a dream factory. I only take issue with it because I so strenuously made a point in Living In Oblivion to keep Hollywood completely out of it.
If you notice there are no agents or producers in the film. It is just the director, his crew and the actors. I wanted to reduce the filmmaking experience down to its most minimal and then see what happens when the fool has the idea to roll the camera.
As a matter of fact the one Hollywood element (Chad Palomino) gets the shit beat out of him by the director.
But, I do think the film captures the agony/ecstasy rather accurately, even if it all comes from my own experiences.
Thanks for the links to the Ivens films. Very impressive. I love the visual poetry he finds in light and motion.
Hello Stuart,
It would be great to come to Edinburgh with WYS. I don’t control the other two films so I can’t comment on them.
Your link to the interview causes my computer to crash for some reason. But I was able to read the first page.
There is a lot of information from a number of people as to what happened during Morrion’s last few days. Much of it is very compelling. I do believe that the ‘official’ story is not the most convincing, considering what Pam was doing.
However, the only real fact is that Morrison died. There are many mysteries in between.
I think the greatest benefit from his death though would be for all the people who have been inspired by him to honor him as a human being and let the myth go.
Hey Sally,
No, I haven’t had a chance to see Man On Wire. I’ve heard great things about it. I’m writing these days and find the free time harder to come by.
I did see three other films I liked very much. Two Lovers by James Gray was pretty amazing. I also just saw two docs, Valentino and Anvil, The Story of Anvil. Both were very impressive.
Hi Tom, I know it’s been only a little over a week but anything new to add about Depp’s narration? Have you heard any of it yet (impressions)and how will Depp’s narration make the film work better besides him being Johnny Depp? Thanks A lot.
Sidebar: I bought one of the signed WYS posters by the three remaining Doors. People who have seen it at my house noticed you directing and mentioned how they dug Delirious and are dying to see this. Just thought I’d throw out that nugget.
Hey Tom,
I found Jessicah’s note/thought about Almodovar interesting, because he–like you–is a filmmaker that I always make sure to watch anything and everything with his name attached. I LOVED “Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown.” It was the first foreign film I ever saw, and I became an instant Almodovar fan. I wound up buying that one but renting his others.
Yours, I bought all of them. (Box of Moonlight just hooked me in!) I read somewhere that you wrote a play while studying at NYU. If it were out there in the retail realms, I’d purchase that too!
Keep up the good work, hope the screenplay and Doors stuff is going well –
The class is called Film Aesthetics. My professor is a huge fan of your work and used the film to illustrate the “mechanics of filmmaking.” We talked about the motif of dreams, the literal dreams that the characters have, the film watcher experience being similar to dreaming, and the unspoken reference to Hollywood being a “dream machine.” My professor’s name is Vincent Brook, and he is one of those wonderful persons who just loves film, everything about it, and never has a bad thing to say about a film just to make himself seem smarter or somehow superior.
I don’t think I’d be so disturbed about the fact that someone thought you were a thong, so much as the image that “borrowed thong” brings up. It begs the question, who was wearing it before you?! That’s pretty funny though, are you sure it wasn’t the same woman who asked about the “actor” Jim Morrison?
God, I’d even wish for the leather cool and dangling cigarette scene compared to the tennis headbands, aviator glasses, and ubiquitous “vintage” shirts (probably costing around $450) with stupid oblique references to things no one cares about just so when you ask them about it they can peer at you as if you just crawled out of an Orange County strip mall.
I read your post on the Eberfest. It was moving and hilarious sometimes simultaneously. I’ve been quoting that passage about the woman having a sizable $150 fund all day. Just found out my local blockbuster carries Delirious and am tres tres excited about seeing it!
2 of Joris Ivens earlier documentaries can be found here:
A tout a l’heure!
Stuart Henderson
Tom,You may find this interview interesting.. A Gentleman called Gilles Yepremian who met morrison in paris in 71
what’s your thoughts tom?
sally stevens
Hey Tom – have you had a chance to check out Man On Wire yet?
Hello Jessicah,
Welcome to the nuthouse.
Thanks very much for writing. I’m glad you snagged that little thang about the deaf music critic. I wondered if anybody would catch it. I’m always surprised at how literally some folks take my words. If you trudge backwards into Delirious territory you’ll find a post where I describe meeting Hugh Hefner and swimming in his famed Grotto in a borrowed fluorescent orange thong.
Someone actually stopped me on the street and expressed genuine remorse that I’d stooped to such a low. I was furious. I said, “Do you really think I would wear a fucking thong!!” She said she supposed not but something about the way I described it made her think it had really happened.
What film class were you taking that showed Oblivion. Just curious. That film was actually prompted by some of what you have sketched of your first impressions of filmmakers in LA–in my case NYC–the whole idea of the independent director as some hypercool deity in leather jacket and carefully dangling cigarette.
Every independent director I’ve known, including myself, is a complete neurotec mess on the set–lying, faking, sweating, ie doing anything to prevent people from seeing we have literally no idea what we’re doing.
I guess I have some idea, but my point is that we’re all human. And it is this intensely foolish humanity that interests me.
Your suggestion on Joris Ivens is intriguing and I will follow up on it. Thanks for that.
Hey Elaine,
I said one and only because at the moment that’s what it is. I’m not ruling out more documentaries but I must confess I am desperately feeling the urge to return to the lush freedom of narrative fiction.
I love going where I want to go. I love making stuff up. I love creating characters and bringing them to life in worlds that exist only in my brain. My films are firmly based in reality but strict reality per se is profoundly uninteresting to me. It is in the fiction that the magic lies.
The Doors film has great elements of this magic. It has my touch, my sensibility, my belief in trusting the intelligence of the audience. I have no regrets there whatsoever. If it stands as my only documentary then I can rest easy.
And perhaps like Morrison I just can’t stand people telling me what to do.
Well, Sally.
I should just sit back and let you drop more and more of these nuggets upon us. What a fascinating and complex glimpse into your experience with Jim. I’m glad he called you, even though it was 6 months later.
One of Jim’s nephews took serious issue with me when I innocently mentioned Jim’s drinking to him. He informed me quite strenuously that alcoholism is not something you choose, but a disease. His delivery sucked but his point was valid and important. It greatly affected how I shaped the film.
Sounds like you ran into Jimbo.
Thanks for your eloquent recollection.
Stuart Henderson
Hi Tom! Im from Scotland and was wondering if you have any plans to show WYS in Bonnie Scotland Sometime??.
If so, may i suggest this independent cinema in Edinburgh which would be an IDEAL place to screen WYS!
That Cinema is also the type of place where it would be be Ideal to screen HWY And FOF, im sure you can “get” the vibe im trying to convey to you Tom.
Hope to hear your thoughts on this.
Ha! Music critic from NY Times signals he’s deaf. Stumbled across your blog after seeing Living in Oblivion for the first time ever in a film class. I guess film school is good for something after all! In any case, after a couple of laugh out loud reads, I’ve come to the conclusion that you and Henry Rollins ought to co-host a Loveline type late-night show entitled “Get Real” where you dispense advice to the unsuspecting masses. With special guests Depp and postmortem Hunter S. Thompson chiming in every now and then. You know, just for my own amusement 🙂
Really, am really blown away by the blog, it’s just that many filmmakers I have encountered since moving to the hellhole that is Los Angeles have nothing interesting to say outside of their films (or even in them), while your interpretations of your real life are almost more fascinating than the film fictional version. Hmm, could it be possible that having a wealth of experience outside of “Me: Hanger-on, You: Hollywood” could make one a better filmmaker?
In terms of the narration, I always have a flashback to the beginning of Almodovar’s ‘Women on the Verge’ with Carmen Maura performing voice over to a larger than life Joan Crawford … Does Depp have a larger than life screen in which to lose himself to the story? (Scratch that, the man has an island). Also, your thoughts on narration remind me much of Joris Ivens’ thoughts from his journals presented in the Camera and I. If you haven’t read it, you should! In terms of documentary, Ivens really is a wonderful teacher.
Thank you so much for taking the time to detail the inner workings of your mind. Now I can’t wait to delve into all the previous journal entries!
Sally – I loved reading your latest comment. Thanks for taking the time to share.
Tom – this is only one of the many wonderful aspects about your blog. I can’t wait to see WYS when it comes out. Keep us posted on the festivals and which ones it may go to in the USA. May have to bring my impatient self to Taos if it goes there. Always wanted to go to NM in October for balloonfest anyway.
One question, though. Know you love doing narrative features and that’s what you’re returning to, but you mentioned in one comment above that you chose WYS as your one and only documentary. Know that narrative features are your main passion, but you wouldn’t do another documentary if approached, depending on subject matter?
Of course you know that whatever type of films you choose to make, I’ll always go see them 🙂
sally stevens
I agree with you about the possibility that the monster will ultimately overcome the man. And I really hope that never happens. I usually offer my story to show that he was really a decent man at heart, not the nihilistic wild-man rocker that some people perceive him to be.
My first encounter was with Mr. Hyde/Jimbo at Thee Experience. I had no idea who he was at the time, having just arrived from London, and not being familiar with anything other than the Doors music, I thought he was simply a drunk customer. He lunged at me, grabbed me by the hair and pulled me over backwards, screaming for a beer. Rather alarming, but I handled it by getting away from him and then kicking him and his chair over backwards, which certainly surprised him if nothing else. It was not unknown for rowdy customers to misbehave at Thee Experience – one of the waitresses was manhandled by one Robert Plant, who was rewarded by being clonked on the head with her tray. However, she kept her job, while Mr. Hyde made sure I lost mine. Anyway, Thee Experience was history by December of that year – only stayed open for nine months all told before the creditors closed it down for good.
Dr. Jekyll/Jim tracked me down at Elektra about a year later, and was very apologetic, though I tried to hang up the phone on him, thinking it was one of the wackier Doors’ fans about whom I had been pre-warned by Elektra executives. After giving me a correct answer to a question I asked him, Jim told me he had been looking for me for six months, because he wanted to apologize for his behavior. After I got through telling him what I thought of him (and to his credit, he listened and didn’t hang up) we talked for about an hour or so. I had to keep putting him on hold to answer the incoming calls, but he didn’t seem to mind. From there on out, whenever we spoke, he was sober and polite. Jim was possessed of a startling intelligence but, like the bright student in the class who gets his work done fast and well, then sits in the back row, being the class clown and distracting others, he obviously needed challenges, and the decision to get back to film-making, writing and so on, was the challenge he needed. Being a rock star was not a challenge – he knew how to do that. But, as you said, “Jimbo” threw a long shadow over his life and his future. Ultimately, he couldn’t outrun it, but I sure hope WYS will help to offset the negative Morrison myth and provide a more balanced view of a very talented but troubled artist.
Hey Sally,
Your note is fascinating. It staggers me actually. I’m only now beginning to realize the huge difference between the persona Jim created and the reality of who he was. A whole film could be made just on this schizophrenic split. I touch on this in When You’re Strange but clearly it is only the tip of the iceberg.
What a strange, elusive monster Jim created. The greatest tragedy will be if it obliterates him.
Your words do much to counteract that. Please don’t hesitate to grace us with them again.
Hey Tom,
Glad you liked the links. Too bad they didn’t give y’all pretzels and those tiny bottles of booze 🙂
Sally and Salli – Wow. Thanks for sharing the info and the interview w/Jim link. I was inspired reading your comments.
Great blog Tom – keep it up!
sally stevens
Should correct the above to note it was July 6 when I returned to work to find the telex. We had the Monday off because July 4 fell on a Sunday that year.
sally stevens
Hi Tom – I met Jim over the Labor Day week in 1969 actually, when I was working as a waitress at Thee Experience for a couple of months after arriving from the UK to live in LA. It was not a stellar moment in his life!
He caught up with me again in September or October of 1970, after I went to work at Elektra, which was a job I got through my friendship with Paul Rothchild. I knew Paul through the Mamas and the Papas connections. After Jim had made amends for the incident in 1969, we became friends, phone friends mostly. I heard from him pretty frequently given that he was a busy lad in those days, getting LA Woman wrapped up, dealing with his legal issues and getting ready to make his move to Paris. We discussed his film ideas quite a bit – he was very focused on going back to revisit some of his early scripts, developed at UCLA.
When Jim died, I moved on with my life. I worked with the surviving Doors – especially Robby on his Red Shift project with Rich Linnell, but by the mid-70s I was on to other things in the record biz. I was suitably horrified by the other Doors movie, though. I still can’t sit through more than 15 minutes of it – I have no idea who this “Jim Morrison” is that was foisted on the public in 1991, but he bore little resemblance to the Jim Morrison I knew.
In 2005, I interviewed with Michael Walker for his book, Laurel Canyon, The Inside Story of Rock and Roll’s Legendary Neighborhood. He asked me how I got my job at Elektra, and thereby hung the tale of my meeting with Mr. Morrison, and our subsequent friendship, which spanned six months altogether. Last time I saw Jim was at the Elektra party for the opening of the new offices in early March 1971, right before he took off for Paris. I was dispatched to bring him across the street to join the wing-ding.
We heard that Jim was doing okay in Paris, had some projects lined up, i.e. the movie with Fred Myrow, so it was a bit of a shock when I came into work on July 7, to find a terse telex from Bill Siddons, regretting to inform that Jim had died over the weekend. And that, as they say, was that.
Ah, Salli,
I welcomed your comment as much as I did Sting’s sudden appearance just as I was about to punch the bouncer in Sundance.
Your questions and responses with Jim are amazing. The answers really give me confidence and encouragment to keep trying to make clear what I feel has long been missing in people’s portrayals of Jim.
Thank you for posting the link to your interview. I will place it on the home page when I get a moment. Everyone should read it.
Let’s see where we end up when Johnny gets the narration recorded. I really see a long theatrical run for this film, with significant openings throughout the US. I’m sure it will come to DC.
Thanks also for your kind words about Delirious. I did put a lot into that film but mostly I’m in awe of the performances, especially Steve Buscemi’s. I wrote the part for him. It took me a year to get him to say yes. But, it was worth the wait.
So great to hear from you.
Hi Janet,
Thanks for writing. There was a momentary blending of our two Sally/Salli’s but I am very aware of which Sally/Salli is which. What I was not aware of is that Sally also spoke with Jim during his last days in LA.
But, yes, Salli Stevenson’s interviews with Jim were helpful to me in the making of the film and I greatly enjoyed talking to her with Kerry Humpherys.
I agree; I think the match of Depp and the Doors is a strong one. It is a little odd for me at the moment because the film is sort of “euthanized on a table” until he gets the narration recorded and we cut it in.
My instinct is as you suggest, to re-premiere the film at the next most prestigious US Festival. Taos is a real possibility.
Hi Tom,
I’m part of the Kerry-Salli team interview tag team.
You’re doing valiant battle in the “Dumping of the Jim/Doors/Myths Wars.”
As you’ve found out, we get booed a lot. Sometimes we emerge victorious, albiet bloodied, so if I had a medal to give for your work, I’d send you one. You deserve it!
Instead, here’s some armour to use in those Q&As.
This is Jim speaking for himself.:)
(Circus Interview. Edited for space.)
” SALLI: What do you plan to do in the future?
JIM: …films have always fascinated me and I guess I’ll get into that as quickly as I can, and I have another book I want to write..”
(One of the reasons Jim went to Paris was to meet, work with and learn from Agnes Varda and Jacques Demi.)
In the article Risa asked Jim how did he THINK he would die.
“JIM:…I hope at about the age of a hundred-and-twenty with a sense of humor and a nice comfortable bed. I wouldn’t want anybody around. I’d just want to quietly drift off.”
Jim and I were friends. We discussed a lot of things. Jim admitted that his “dying young” quotes were just attention getters. He had a gift for that 60-second sound bite. Jim had actual plans to get married, have children, have a long multi-media career and do a lot of traveling. He was looking forward to Paris, not backwards to his previous life.
I hope this helps.
I’m looking forward to the documentary. I know Janet would like Taos, but I’d like to put a bid in for DC. 🙂
I’ve now seen “Delirious” five times. I’m finding it an absorbing study in friendship’s twisty paths and I spot something new each time.
Take care.
Janet Erwin
Hey Tom,
You may be confusing Sally Stevens–who worked for Elektra back in the day and knew Jim a little because of it–with Salli Stevenson, who interviewed him for Circus Magazine in 1970, and–together with Kerry Humpherys–interviewed you a couple of months ago for the DCM.
Salli hasn’t published any books but I believe the Circus interview–parts of it, anyway–is on YouTube and possibly other sites. I’ll give her a heads up and she can supply the details.
Good to see you blogging again, and to hear that JD is (somehow) finding time for both The Rum Diary and WYS narration. IIRC it was a couple of months ago that the news of his participation first hit the Internet, and the Doors and Depp mesage boards went wild. It’s a perfect match, Depp and The Doors, and it’s going to make for a terrific film. Can’t wait to see it (maybe in Taos in October?)
Hello Elaine,
Wow, you are amazing in your ability to find these interviews with me and John Densmore. I remember them from Sundance as being some of the most enjoyable.
It was a strange location. It was like an abandoned set for a credit card commercial. It did feel like an airplane. And we definitely did not get any pretzels.
Yes, Rhino did correct the spelling of my name on the official site. I’ll have to get the Doors site up to speed.
Once again, my sincere thanks.
Hey Jeff,
Another intriguing comment from you. First, yes–the image quality of the entire film is pretty amazing. If most people’s only experience of some of this footage is the snippets on YouTube then they’re in for a completely enveloping experience when they see it on the big screen. It is really a movie. It feels big; bigger than life.
Some thoughtful musings on some connections with me and Morrison but seriously I wouldn’t put too much into it. Mainly, I would say that the shared experience of having a father in the military was the most powerful. My guess is that Morrison at a very early age rebelled against the IDEA of Authority; in other words he did not like it when people imposed their will upon him simply because they could. “I’m your father so you must do what I say.”
If you look at Morrison’s life he seems to be constantly striving for absolute abandon, complete freedom. His respect for the sanctity of the artistic spirit echoes my own. Especially now when we live in a world where art means cash means your photo on the cover of Entertainment Weakly.
I admire Jim Jarmusch immensely, and we are good friends, but trust me–there is no Manzarek comparison there.
I’m not trying to push my films on you but I think for a minimal investment at your local video store you could rent Living In Oblivion, or even Delirious, and get a sense of what interests me as a filmmaker. It will probably inform your viewing of When You’re Strange–not compulsory but it might make you appreciate more why I chose to do this film as my first and only documentary.
The narration is a tricky thing. In the wrong hands it can sound corny and falsely grandiose. I’ve always felt with When You’re Strange it should be quiet, intimate and personal; as if you’ve been invited into the cool shadows of someone’s very interested, and interesting, brain.
I wrote the narration during the whole process of discovery. As I learned, so I wrote. Now, we will take Johnny Depp’s reading, lay it in against the film and see how it illuminates the footage. That is a pretty time-consuming process. Sometimes it requires ‘redo’s’. Johnny has told us he’s willing to do that.
Basically, what we’ve all learned from the past few months is that the fewer words, the more power. But, the challenge with this footage is that not a whole hell of a lot of it is self-explanatory, nor does it have clear beginnings, middles and ends. So, the narration has the difficult task if subtly guiding the audience, bridging the gaps in time and location and providing some personal insight into what is happening on screen.
Goddammit, Jeff. Stop making me write these booklong responses.
Hey Sally,
So nice to hear from you. Thank you for the vote of confidence regarding my observations on Jim’s “death wish”. I’m really getting the sense that people have enormous personal investment in perpetuating their own myths about Morrison–even in the face of clear facts and evidence to the contrary.
What the hell. The film will be appreciated by those who are truly interested in him, and The Doors.
Word is that Mr. Depp is working away on the narration and will have something recorded for us by the middle of the month. I’m as curious, and anxious, to hear it as everyone else.
As soon as it is recorded we will cut it in, adjust the picture accordingly and lock it. Then I believe the plan is to re-introduce it to American audiences at another prominent festival and nail down US Distribution.
What were the circumstances of your meetings and conversations with Jim?
Hello Victor M.
Great to hear from you again. I’m glad you liked this post. I’ve always been affected by these odd experiences that go with the filmmaking business. I wanted to leave Sundance and Berlin on a personal note, and not let the whole experience be dictated by the crrrrkritttticckkkss. (Not my spelling actually–I stole it from Samuel Beckett: critics).
There are deeply personal experiences that happen, that you never expect. In some ways I guess I believe that most of the time what happens outside of directing the film on the set, is strangely more interesting than the film you end up making.
I’m glad you recognized me in Stranger Than Paradise. I may do some more acting. I do enjoy it. I don’t know if you’ve seen the 4 fake video leaks we did for Delirious but I acted in them, playing some guy named Tom DiCillo. The links are on the site.
I hope you are well. We have an invitation to San Sebastian. Now we just need to make sure we can get the producers to agree to show the film there. I would love to come. It is my favorite festival.
Hasta luego.
Hey Tom,
Another interesting note. They’ve corrected the spelling of your last name on the WYS web site, but it’s still wrong on the Doors site and youtube. Doubt you can fix youtube; not sure who to talk to at the Doors site to fix it. But it’s fixed on WYS; it’s now spelled DiCillo and not DiCillio.
Thought I’d mention it – thx –
Hey Tom,
More gold on the internet! These are brief interviews with you and John at Sundance. It was for “Moving Pictures.” Question–is that an airplane magazine? It looks like the interview is taking place on an airplane. I kept expecting someone to appear offering y’all pretzels and soda…
Anyway, good stuff.
Hi Tom,
Thanks for your personal account of bringing WYS to the festivals. It was interesting reading. I felt exhausted with you. Yeah, “the actor you hired to play Jim Morrison” is dead on. That’s not Val Kilmer, is it? I assume those pics are from the film? I can see what you mean by the image quality.
MR. DICILLO RISIN: I found a book called “Breaking In” by Nicholas Jarecki at the local library and read the interview with you. I don’t want to put too much of a point on it, but as you’ve said you and Morrison share similar backgrounds: military upbringing (though your dad sounds cool), being a serious reader at a young age, a brother and a sister, studying film. Maybe there’s even the Manzarek aspect with Jim Jarmusch, meeting in school and then taking your art to the public together. Not an exact match but experience you could use to get into Morrison’s head.
The account of making your first film “Johnny Suede” was fascinating. If things are slow in the film business right now I wouldn’t mind a memoir of getting films made. I’d read it. Talk about ups and downs! They didn’t want Brad Pitt but you did, then he became the next big thing and Miramax bought the rights. Then, because of a critic they threw the film to the wolves. I can see why critics drive you crazy. And the D.P. that tried to sabotage the film because you were directing and he wasn’t (even though you did your time as a D.P.). Fascinating story but I’m sure tough to live.
I’m sorry to say I haven’t seen any of your movies yet. I guess at this point my intro should be WYS in a movie theater and then track the others down. But I was a nut for “Stranger Than Paradise” back in the day so it’s cool to find out you were involved.
I’m also curious about the narration process and the length of time it takes. One might assume Depp would just take a day or so to record it and that would be that.Is it about cutting it to the film and seeing what works, or is Depp recording it on his own, or what? Since that’s the process that’s going on now, that would be interesting to hear about.
Thanks, Jeff
sally stevens
Hi Tom – glad you lived through all that – Sting to the rescue, fortunately!
Too many people feel that Jim had a death wish, so glad you were able to put the animal yoga instructor straight, at the very least! When I talked with Jim – which I did fairly frequently during his last months in LA – I don’t think the subject of wanting to die ever came up. He wanted to move to Paris and make movies and write.
How are things going with the narration project and what are the plans for the doc in the next couple of months?
Hey Tom, amazing post, the mixing of feelings you describe when you write or shoot a movie are one of the reasons why I love you so much (artistically). In this post I feel the comedy, I feel the drama, the nostalgia (specially with the words you say about Steve Buscemi and your relationship from ‘Living in Oblivion’)… Well, you’re great, you know, what more can I say?
On the other hand, the last week I was watching again with my friends ‘Stranger than Paradise’ and I remembered you. We always praise the excellent black and white cinematography shot by you. And of course, we always enjoy your little role like airline agent in the movie. We want more acting from you!!! Hahaha. You could do a little cameo in your next movie or something.
I wish you the best with the Doors documentary and with your future projects, and we hope to see you soon in Spain (San Sebastian for example).
Hey Baron,
The words about the actor in the desert are absolutely true. What I did not write down was my reaction. I turned to the audience, my mouth open, my eyes glazed with helpless, hopeless desperation and said, “I’m sorry, but I really, really need some help here.” The audience applauded, which only made me feel worse because now the poor woman who’d asked the question was being publicly ridiculed and I had to apologize to her.
But, again, these are her exact words after my explaining three times there were no actors or re-enactments.
The Sting situation was a little complicated. Believe me, I wanted to stay. But, the party was in a restaurant and Sting and his wife had a table reserved. The only way for me to stay would have been to crash their table. I wasn’t really in the mood for a lengthy evening, especially since I’d jsust been provoked to the point of a near-physical confrontation.
Cabs? None around. And the walking cleared my head.
I’m seriously glad you enjoyed the post.
A woman raises her hand. “I understand there are no re-enactments,” she says. “But in the desert scenes why did you use an actor to play Jim Morrison?”
Hi Tom, This could be the three greatest lines in blogging history. This is why America is going to shit. Tom, I loved your blog, it was funny, moving and I could totally picture you in every scene. This would make a great short story film. Why did you only stay 15 minutes at Sting’s party? I know you said you were still jittery but maybe after a few cocktails you would have relaxed a little bit. Just wondering. Not a fan of cabs I see huh?
Hi Elaine,
Well, that is good to hear. You said it, the experience is really all that matters; not the judgements and opinions of a bunch of peons (again I’m channeling Les Galantine).
Like I said, I didn’t want to leave either of the two events mired in the negative aftertaste of kkrritttickkks. The moment with the young woman affects me to this day. She never said her name. She never asked me for anything.
Check out “Pierre et Jean” by Maupassant. Just re-published with an amazing new translation. Blew me away. See what you think.
Hey Rai,
Don’t think for a second that thought didn’t cross my mind immediately; even as I was about to punch the jerk. But unlike Les Galantine–I was invited!!!
And now for further Twilight Zonation: you should have seen me sitting in the airport at JFK (when I met Buscemi on my way to Berlin) and telling him the story. It was really hard to tell who was who.
Hello Maria Gasol,
Thanks for your comment. I’ve contacted Rhino Entertainment and forwarded them your email and interest. We’re still working hard to get Johnny Depp’s voice recorded and cut in. Not sure how long that will take. That is the version I prefer you to see.
Hey Tim P,
Thanks very much for your kind words. I don’t know you either, but from your note I have a strong sense you will like the film.
My best to you.
Hey Tom,
That’s exactly what your words do…allow us to slip inside your brain for a spell. I think that’s what touches me the most, is that life is a series of moments, and you’re honest enough to share those moments with us. Some ups, some downs, some very intimate glimpses.
We’re all pulling for you, but reading your post (like reading the diaries) allowed us to experience it with you. Very cool. And the part about the woman whose dad had recently died affected me today. I’m glad you shared those experiences and got them written down. The film and these moments are about so much more than small insignificant Park City critics.
Keep it up 🙂
Rai Mechem
Oh Tom, that was great reading. Do you realize you became Les Galantine at the Sting party event? All that was missing was your dad’s camera.
Thanks for brightening up my day. Looking forward to WYS.
xxx Rai
Dear Tom,
I’m contacting you from the Guth Gafa Documentary Film Festival in Ireland. We have heard great things about your film “When you’re strange” and we would love to get a screener to our festival, which takes place between the 12th and 14th of June. I can’t seem to find a contact anywhere for you or the production companies involved and I don’t know if you have a distributor. So I just thought I’d use your blog.
Ours is a very intimate and friendly festival where we create an atmosphere for debate and discussion. We’ve had great filmmakers and guests from all over the world in previous editions, and the feeback has been excellent. Our website is if you wanna have a look. It would be great if you could le me know how to get a screening copy for consideration for our festival. Thanks so much in advance. All the best, Maria.
Tom ~ I don’t know you but I certainly like you, your great stories and without even seeing your Doors film, am grateful you are the one behind it. I’m a longtime Doors fan and I can’t wait to see it. Thanks for all your efforts! Tim
Hey Mario,
Soft Parade is right. It’s all a surreal trip, with more to come.
Hello Tony,
Thanks very much for your comment. I’m pleased you took the journey with me. You know, sometimes you have all this stuff in your head and even though you write it down you’re never really sure people see what you see. My sense is you caught a real glimpse and I’m grateful.
Yeah, the Hollywood poseurs are depressing. Mainly because they don’t even have a clue that other realities exist. But what can you do? I’m glad I told that assistant to get her hand off me. She may have the “List” by my arm is mine.
God, the experience with the young woman who’s father had just died almost destroyed me. She was in so much pain, yet she didn’t want to bother me. I guess some part of her wanted to make contact with me for her father. When she left I was crying my own self. Seriously.
The footage really does look amazing.
The dvd release will be coming after a theatrical release. Not exactly sure when that will be but you can be sure it is coming.
Hey Marty,
That is an amazing story. Knowing a little of how loose things were back then I can absolutely see it happening. It’s cool the way you called your brother.
I’m glad you enjoyed Box of Moonlight. Listen, When You’re Strange is a very different movie but there are elements of my sensibility throughout it. My sense is that you will enjoy it too.
Hey Elaine,
Strong words, especially coming from you. Thank you. You know, I’ve been sitting on all this stuff for months and I wanted to put it down. I got a little crasczzed after Sundance and Berlin, dealing with the kkkrrrtttcciicccs and my exhaustion. I didn’t want to leave those two events tainted by only those reactions.
Certainly neither of them was Disneyland but at least now the more inclusive experiences are out there.
And you know, I love words. If they can help me slip people inside my brain for a moment then that is pretty amazing.
And it’s all true.
Tom – Welcome to the Soft Parade!
Thank you for your update.
I really felt that I was with you for the ride from Newark through Berlin. Through your words I really began to feel spite for the faux Hollywood posers you had to endure and then felt deeply touched reading about your encounter with the girl who’s father had recently passed away.
Looking forward to seeing the doc with my own eyes as it really must be astonishing in footage quality.
Do you have any guesstimate on the DVD release in the USA?
Thanks again!
Been following your doors project for some time. Raised in LA I was 16 when the doors hit and was a big fan to put it mildly as were many in my neighborhood.To give you a little idea of what it was like back then I was about to leave the country with a one way ticket and $35 when I read about the doors recording an album at there workshop…I called information got the doors office phone number and called up.I believe it was danny sugarman who answered “I heard the doors are recording an album can I come buy and watch” hold on a second….Yeah come on over..called my brother we went over, morrison had just left, we talked to the bass guitarist for a awhile and left…PS my interest in your documentary really took off when I found out you did “Box of Moonlight” my neighbor just returned it last night, a very special movie..
Wow. Thanks for taking the time to type up the notes for this post. Reading it was like reading your film diaries, when everything else seems to slip away and we feel only the tone, the words, the events that unfold.
I’ve said it before but somehow it bears repeating: you’re truly doing what you were put on this Earth to do. I always thought your descriptive writing was captivating, but I actually got chills when I read this line: “I take a breath. The whole night sky rushes into my throat, the stars tickling into my lungs like tiny fragments of ice.” Who was it that said they love the musical sound that words make? Truman Capote, maybe? It describes your post.
Hope Depp schedule/getting film prepped for other festivals goes well. Wish it could’ve come to Atlanta’s film fest (which starts in 2 weeks).
Thanks again for writing all this down–I’m sure it’s a comfort to you as well, but it’s a fascinating and wonderful read for your fans.
Thx Tom,

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