Has your experience as a critic influenced your work; if so in a good or bad way?
(Scrader) For good and bad; more probably for bad since the critical enterprise is in some ways antithetical to the creative one. The critic is kind of a medical examiner: put it in a box, lay it on the table, determine how it lived and why it is alive. And the artist or the filmmaker is like a pregnant woman: just trying to nourish this thing so that it can be born. So that as a filmmaker, you have to be very careful to keep the medical examiner out of the delivery , because he will come in and he will kill that baby. Even though I have a critical, analytical ability, I have to be very careful.
Do you feel that in any way that ability can help you?
Well, it helps you in everything. Obviously, when you can see your film as a chessboard, you can see the moves and mistakes. It helps you shoot efficiently. It helps you plot a storyline. So, it is very helpful. It is just that that part of you has to know its place.
Do you feel that that inner critic ever slows you down?
Sometimes. But sometimes it does you a great favor and slows you down to the extent that you realize that you shouldn't be doing this. In which case, you are saved a lot of time and pain.
What role does religion play in your work (keeping in mind your thoughts of becoming a minister when you were younger)?
It is just a matter of the foundations of your personality. If you were raised in a world where there is talk that man was put on earth for a reason, actions have consequences, there is an absolute morality, and that at the end of your life you will be called to account for how you have spent your life. Well, no matter how much you have changed, you can't really run away from that. Even if you become by and large a different person and move outside the religious tradition, you still carry that with you.
So how does being a religious man living in Hollywood work for you?
Well, I don't think I am necessarily a religious man. To quote John Lennon, 'I don't like God much once they get him under a roof.' The Church itself, is first and foremost a social institution and second a spiritual one. It can be spiritual, but that is not really what it is about. So, I guess the question should have been, 'so being a moral person'- I guess it's possible to be a moral person in commercial cinema.
How much cooperation did you get from the friends and family of Bob Crane?
Well, there are two Crane families: you know the first and second wife. The first family we have Bobby, who was the oldest son, who was the technical advisor and he also played a role in the film. His mother Anne met with Rita Wilson. The second family have announced that they intend to sue us (probably for defamation). We tried to reach an agreement with them, but Patricia broke it off.
Were you trying to take a position on the murder? It seemed quite secondary in this film.
To me there was so much fascinating going on in his life; such a rich character; so many social and psychological issues going on in his life that the murder was of secondary interest.
Do you have an opinion on who the murderer was and why s/he murdered him?
Well, Carpenter is certainly the best bet. He had motive and opportunity. The Scottsdale police thought he did it. They just didn't have much evidence. The jury was out 20 minutes. If I were in that jury, I would have acquitted as well. But on the other hand, historically he was certainly the best man; and dramatically, he is certainly the best man.
What was it like for you to work with Willem Dafoe and Greg Kinnear, two very different actors?
They were both our first choice. There was no kind of star search. And luckily for me they just hit it off.
Did you intend on having two very different kinds of actors?
Yes, that was the idea. You know, Felix and Oscar make a porn movie.
What was it like for you working on a story about a real person who is now dead?
You have two obligations: you have an obligation to history, so you have to be as truthful and accurate as you can. You can never be completely accurate. The other thing is that you have an obligation to drama. You have to tell a story that has a character and importance as fiction. So, it's required that you combine these to obligations. So if you find that you cannot serve one without the other, then you should re-think whether it should be done at all.
What are some of you hopes for this film, what do you hope people will walk away with after viewing it?
Well, they will walk away with many things. I am from the school that believes that the final scene in the film should be on the sidewalk outside the theater. That you should not connect all the dots, that you should not provide all the answers. You should let the movie continue to roll on and play in the viewer's head. In order to do that, you have to leave a number of outcomes open ended, so that the viewer speculates on them.
I think that (Bob Crane's) his big sin, if you can call it sin, was that he didn't really realize the consequences of his actions and how they hurt people. Which is also kind of the curse of celebrity: you can hurt people and the person will come back for more. You can tell unfunny jokes and people laugh. You can tell vulgar stories and people will laugh. So it becomes a very distorting arena.
Do you prefer to do drama or comedy? Do you
ever miss doing talk shows?
(Kinnear) I don't really miss it. I think that it's... Some nights I liked it. Some nights I enjoyed it. But generally I wasn't really good at it... I think to be good at something, you have to like it. And I really didn't like it. At least not when I was doing it.
What was it like for you to portray a real life figure who is now dead?
Well, most people only now Bob through HOGAN'S HEROES. As opposed to playing a political figure who is so well known just in terms of their general persona; that would be a pretty large cross to bear. This role- you know you really only know Bob through HOGAN'S HEROES so when he wasn't doing his schtick, who the man really was, was kind of unclear to a lot of people, including myself. I got to work with Robert Crane Jr., who is his oldest son; who was 24/25 when his dad died. He gave me old recordings of his dad, early radio shows, family albums, bits and pieces of who he was when he wasn't doing HOGAN'S HEROES or sex shows. So that the thing that I tried to incorporate most about the thing that embodied him was this dichotomy: on one hand he saw himself with this self-morality and at the same time he was living this kind of outrageous lifestyle. And he seemed to be completely unaware of the damage of the he was doing to himself and his family. So in a way he was these three different guys... Here you had a guy who was living this sort of lascivious lifestyle, you had this staunch, dare I say- conservative guy, and then lastly you had a guy who was completely oblivious to everything around him.
Do you have compassion for him?
Yes, I do. I think that there is something deeply sad about his story. I think that today we deal with addiction differently today: drugs, alcohol- sexual addiction now on the internet you will get something like 350,000 hits. (like Bill Clinton) Any kind of addiction, whether it is chemical or behavioral, it is not about the vice, it's about the addictive nature. The compulsivity, that you can't stop even if you want to and I think that Bob certainly was dealing with those issues. It is easy to be cynical about sexual addiction. But clearly when the behavior starts to interfere with your livelihood and the life that you want for yourself, it's a problem. It was a problem for him. It's a little odd given that he was a celebrity, and there is this corruption of celebrity, you know things can be made easy for you, and where that lifestyle, you know, women making themselves available to you meets addictive nature, I don't know where that line is, but somehow I think that both factors contributed.
How much of an enabler do you think that John Carpenter was?
I don't know- you know was John enabling Bob or was Bob enabling John. Certainly with John's techno-gadgetry knowledge and home video fascination was very attractive to Bob. I wonder if camcorders hadn't have come along at that time, if he life would have been the same. Well, I know it wouldn't have been the same because he wouldn't have been clobbered to death with a camera tripod. But I don't know, it's hard to say... Oddly there was a husband-wife quality to their relationship. When I spoke to Bob Crane Jr., apparently, John Carpenter was Bob's only friend. That's revealing in and of itself.
Do you have compassion for the John Carpenter character?
It's harder for me to have compassion for him because I didn't play him. And I like to like the characters that I play. It was difficult to find things to cling onto and forgive about Bob. But I think his lack of self-awareness made me able to forgive him. I think that if Bob had been an aggressive, sexual predator to women who was conniving, and purposely damaging the people around him, including his family, it would have been a different movie and a different guy. His inability to see himself was what made him more forgivable.
Do you think that you could play a character that you didn't think was forgivable?
Yeah, I think I could play any character, whether or not an audience would like it, I don't know... I could play a character that I didn't like, if it were kind of an arch character like Willem and the Green Goblin... or the Joker. I don't know if there is much sympathy, but it's a great role.
What was it like working with Willem Dafoe? I think your contrasting careers really helped the character chemistry.
Yeah. Oddly enough it was a good mix. You hope for some kind of connection. Willem and I met and right off the bat we felt like we understood each other. We're still friends. I think our personas are different. Our backgrounds are different. He comes from a strong theater background and I don't, so we are a bit of apples and oranges. I trusted him a great deal and I think I learned a lot from him.
What are some of your goals for this film? What do hope people get from their viewing?
I hope that they see it as interesting a study as I did about sexual addiction, corruption of celebrity and this sort of co-dependence. My hope is that they don't necessarily have to like Bob, but I hope that they are as fascinated as I was by his sort of contradictory nature.
Sidebar: Kinnear recommends that people stay away from re-makes of classics even though he was obviously happy for the opportunity to participate in the re-make of "Sabrina".
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