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Tuesday, January 24, 2012
Alexander Payne, Oscar-nominated earlier today as director of The Descendants, was interviewed last week by Little White Lies' Adam Woodward. Payne got into a good discussion about how the seven-year gap came about between his last film, Sideways, and his latest (he's been busy, it's just that the project he'd been spending most of his time developing hasn't quite gotten off the ground yet). Later in the interview, Payne talks about convincing the studio to allow him to make his next film, Nebraska, in black-and-white. When Woodward asks him if he can see how a film like The Artist might be a hard sell to a studio, Payne replies, "Sure, but my obligation to the studio is to be honest and to tell them, at all times, what I think a cool movie would be. My job is to see things that your research studies and your financial models cannot see. I have X-ray vision." Eventually, this discussion leads Payne to quote Brian De Palma:

Woodward: No one’s a sure bet though?

Payne: True. It’s often about compromise. I’m able to make this black-and-white movie because the studio has faith in me, but I’m having to do it with much less budget than I originally asked for had it been in colour. Little tip: it’s always worth over estimating the budget because there’ll always be cutbacks. This is now my fourth film in a row that will make money, so I do have that track record. They’re not huge hits by Hollywood standards, but they make money, so I get the benefit of the doubt more or less.

But you keep your budgets low, also.

Correct. Neat fact: I’ve never gone over budget or over schedule.

This is until you make the ‘big one’…

Bite your tongue. Brian De Palma, after [The] Bonfire of the Vanities, was quoted as saying, jokingly of course, ‘You’re nobody in Hollywood until you’ve brought a studio to its knees’.

Is it possible to recover from a major flop?

Maybe, but it’s hard. Michael Cimino had a hard time after Heaven’s Gate.

Is the fear of tanking motivating or crippling?

Anytime you have a movie that doesn’t do well, which [knocks table] I haven’t had so far, is always worrisome. But I think maybe if this one does well then people may think ‘Well even if he has a gap, he’s still got it’. Who knows…

Payne's De Palma quote above led me to Google the quote, and the only thing I came up with was this great article about Alan Rudolph's Trixie that was originally posted at About.com, but now only seems to be available at The Fabulous Brittany Murphy Fan Page. The article, by J. Sperling Reich, features interviews with Rudolph and Nick Nolte (among others) as their new movie, Trixie, premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January of 2000. In the following excerpt, Nolte leads into a discussion about the ironies of success and failure in Hollywood:

Nolte is surprised Rudolph ever had any doubt of his abilities as a filmmaker. "There isn't a thing he wants to do that he doesn't do," he said of Rudolph. "He does everything he wants to do. Now another brilliant director will complain, and will say, 'Well I wanted to do that but they wouldn't do it.' Well, to Alan, there is no 'they'. He just does it. He doesn't care about the arena, and the reason the other guys can't do it is because they care about the arena, not about the film."

Not all of Rudolph's seventeen films have been critically well received, and few have ever been big winners at the box office, a fact that Nolte shrugged off. "Failure is very important," he added. "I mean, Alan uses it as a metaphor, he says, 'I have never had a successful film, therefore I get to do anything I want'."

Rudolph began to laugh when he heard Nolte start in on this line of reasoning. He broke in before things got out of hand again, "We had a fun time one night at some festival, and Brian De Palma said one of the greatest things I've ever heard. He said, 'You're nothing until you've brought a studio to its knees'. And Nick said, 'You know why Alan's a success? Because he's never had any [success] and he doesn't need it. They think he's a failure, but he's a real success because he doesn't have to deal with that.' I don't know what success is. Success in Hollywood is if they think you are. I've left that game years ago. I can't imagine anybody more successful, maybe because I managed to figure out how to get my movies made. I must say, except for a few missteps early on, no one has ever told me what to do. I won't accept that. I've had more articles written about me. About, 'How the hell does this guy keep going?' Angry, jealous, bitter articles. Because it means I get to work with people like this. And I'm just starting to get good at this game inside."

Posted by Geoff at 8:40 PM CST
Updated: Tuesday, January 24, 2012 8:44 PM CST
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Friday, January 27, 2012 - 10:43 AM CST

Name: "ave"

The quote sounds somewhat familiar.

I don't remember where I've read it for sure, but maybe it's in Julie Salomon's book, The Devil's Candy?

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