Writer/Director: Tom DiCillo
Cast: Brad Pitt, Catherine Keener, Nick Cave, Alison Moir, Calvin Levels, Tina Louise, Samuel L. Jackson.
Produced by Yoram Mandel and Vega Film.
US Distribution by Miramax.
Festivals: Sundance, Locarno, Gijon, Deauville.
Awards: Best Picture; Locarno Film Festival.
Music by Jim Farmer, Link Wray.
Johnny Suede is my first film. It is based on a 1-man show I wrote and performed in a tiny theatre Way-Off-Off Broadway.
The reaction was strong enough to convince me to write the screenplay and begin the insane journey of trying to make it. At one point, about three years in, I miraculously found the money. But, the producer would not agree to my casting choice for the lead; a young, unknown Brad Pitt. He said, "That kid is going nowhere."
Another year later I found the money again, this time with a producer who believed it was the director's job to cast whoever was best for the role. I went straight to Brad and Catherine Keener and in the late Fall of 1991 I was on the streets of NYC directing my first feature.
The film is essentially a tragi-comic meandering through the murky swamps of the male psyche. One of the reasons I was so excited to work with Brad was that I wanted Johnny to be someone who looked like he had it all together; like the world was his for the taking. But, beneath this facade was a guy who didn't have a clue about anything--particularly himself. Brad completely commited himself to this idea; he let himself be as blind, childish, arrogant and foolish as the role required. I think it is some of his best work. It was also my first experience working with Catherine Keener and the trip was riveting enough for me to come back several times for more.
I also had the great pleasure of working with Nick Cave, who I greatly respect and admire. He'd read the script in a mutual friend's loft in Berlin and called me out of the blue to ask if he could play Freak Storm. It was Nick's idea to play Freak as a kind of "albino evangelist Elvis."
I wrote all the songs in the film. Nick sings one called “Mamma’s Boy,” The song was written to be rather dumb. Nick felt apparently it was too dumb and offered to rewrite the lyrics. Who was I to argue? Nick sent me a cassette tape of him singing his new lyrics. Halfway through he stops singing and says, “You know, Tom. I think my lyrics are even more stupid than yours.” And he ended up singing the song as I wrote it.
I really wish I knew where that cassette is now.
Jim Farmer wrote the beautiful score; a great blend of Spaghetti Western, Nina Rota and American Surf music.