The Real Blonde (1998)

Writer/Director: Tom DiCillo
Cast: Matthew Modine, Catherine Keener, Darryl Hannah, Christopher Lloyd, Maxwell Caulfield, Kathleen Turner, Marlo Thomas, Dave Chapelle, Steve Buscemi, Denis Leary, Elizabeth Berkely.
Festivals: Sundance, Toronto, San Francisco, Deauville.
US Distribution: Paramount.

The Real Blonde TRAILER


The Real Blonde is my only studio film to date. That’s not really a statement, just a fact. The producers had also financed Box of Moonlight and understandably wanted to push my next film into wider acceptance. And so, I met Maligma face to face. This is the name I’ve given to the force that lurks eternally and relentlessly just beyond the shadows in this business. It is the voice that slips up and whispers into your ear at precisely your weakest moments. It says, “You worked so hard on your first 3 films and you’ve gotten nowhere. Why not cast stars? Why not make a bigger film? It’s not really ‘compromise’. It’s part of the game. You need to learn how to play it, that’s all. Come on. It’s easy. Everyone does it.”

An early whisper was that I should not (read ‘could not’) cast Catherine Keener in the part I’d specifically written for her. This was after I had worked with her on three films. This casting battle dragged on for months until finally I simply said, No. If I can’t make this film with the actor I feel is best for the part then I’m not going to make it.

Catherine did get the part. I’ll never forget months after we’d finished shooting, and Catherine’s star had really begun to rise, watching one of the producers come up to her and exclaim, “You’re so great in this film. I’m so glad we cast you.”

I had a fantastic time working with some of the bigger “name” actors, like Christopher Lloyd, Kathleen Turner and Darryl Hannah. All of them were amazingly giving and gifted; all of them taught me a lot.

Dave Chapelle has a small but juicy part in the film as Steve Buscemi’s assistant director. Buscemi plays a once-indie icon now directing a Madonna video. This was before Dave had his own show. His brilliance was already evident.

I was forced, literally, to cut a scene out of the film I was extremely proud of. It was with the slyly suave Maxwell Caulfield in a Times Square peep show booth. It was one of the most beautifully surreal scenes I have ever put on film. The producers demanded I cut it because they felt it would hurt the film’s chances of “striking a chord with Middle America.”

It killed me to cut it. And after all that? The film never made it a mile inland from either coast. I made a vow to myself never to do that again even at the risk of destroying the chances of the film being seen or ruining my relationships with the producers and distributors. As a director the only thing that matters is how YOU feel about the film. And you can’t expect anyone to understand what that really means to you.  They won’t understand. They will think you’re being a jerk. You just have to do it.

The film is loosely based on a period in my life where the dreams I had were slamming pretty hard into reality. It’s a film about relationships but it also asks, how can you survive as an artist unless you have a way of supporting yourself? No matter how gifted you are someone has to pay the rent. What happens when you reach the point where you look at your dreams and say, “That is what I wanted, that is what I longed for; but perhaps I have to let it all go.”