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Interview: Danish auteur filmmaker Nicolas Winding Refn #SundayGuardian #Film #Unedited

‘Art can be an act of violence’

Nicolas Winding Refn interviewed by Nikhil Taneja (@tanejamainhoon) over phone for The Sunday Guardian

Nothing about Danish auteur Nicolas Winding Refn is ordinary, or indeed, normal. He is a self-confessed ‘fetish filmmaker’ whose movies have raw, unflinching and ‘sexualized’ violence that often put Quentin Tarantino to shame. He has a penchant for the vile, whether it’s through the antics of his characters on screen, or through the reactions they elicit from reviewers across the globe. He’s revered by some with a staunch fandom, and loathed by some with an equal fervor. His films, from the cult classic Pusher trilogy, to the recent critical achievement, Drive, have not only catapulted him on to the world stage, but have also rewarded international stars Ryan Gosling (Drive), Tom Hardy (Bronson) and Mads Mikkelsen (Pusher II) with the career-making acclaim that’s helped them reach where they are today.

Counted, along with Lars Von Trier, Thomas Vinterberg and Susanne Brier, as one of the greatest contemporary Danish directors, Refn is colour blind and dyslexic, and holds, amongst his many idiosyncrasies and inventive style, writing with index cards and shooting in chronological order. As his new film, Gosling-starrer Only God Forgives does the rounds of film festivals in India, in his first interview ever to an Indian publication, Refn is just as intriguing as any of his movies.


Your thoughts on Indian cinema haven’t ever been documented before.
Indian culture was a huge inspiration to me when I was shooting Only God Forgives in Bangkok. But the cinema culture of India is very interesting to me too, and also, I think, musically, India is a very interesting place. While Indian films haven’t directly inspired me, the whole world of colour, that flamboyant style, is inspiring. In terms of cinema, what I usually prefer to look at, and I’m not an expert at it, is to see some of the more fantasy oriented of Indian cinema. India’s fantastical films are not very inspired by European cinema, which of course, is very, very good. I mean, god! It’s fantastic! I like fantasy in the cinema of Europe too, but when I see the fantasy world of India, that’s when I really find it fascinating. Because I feel like I’ve been transported into a cultural time warp, in a way.

You’ve often spoken about your love for fantasy and the Grimm fairy tales, and there’s an undercurrent of the fantastical in all your films. Where did this stem from?
I come from a background of logic, you know. My family is Scandinavian, which is all based on logic of life and times. Religion is not part of our upbringing in any way. What changed my life radically was coming to New York when I was eight years old, and seeing new York. And for me, in 1978, it was really like coming to a fantasy world. So I think that because my life changed at a young age, I became very, very interested generally in fantasy. And when I say fantasy, I mean the language of fairy tales, myths, or fables or something that was removed from my original background, or upbringing.

And then, my mother was always very good at reading me the Brothers Grimm or, you know, obscure science fiction, when I was little. So I guess it also came a lot from my upbringing, thank god. But I do have very much of an interest in the esoteric, you know. When I started making movies, I tried to capture reality in film. I wanted to capture authenticity. But I also quickly realized that it was ludicrous, because there is no such thing, the capturing of authenticity. And I became much more interested in heightened reality, which in essence is fantasy, or fairytale, or whatever you want to call it. But something where it was removed enough from reality, so it wasn’t reality, yet at the same time, it was emotionally accessible, you know. And that is what I find much more fascinating to lose myself in.

You have admitted in the past too that your early career was about trying to make a great film, and now, you are only doing what you like to do. What, according to you, made for a great film?
Well, I guess, that’s the one thing I thought that I could try to capture, when I was young and naïve… what made for a great film? My favourite film is probably It’s A Wonderful Life. But then I also like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. So I realized you can’t capture greatness, you just have to make what you believe in, and hopefully, it works. So that’s why I say my life is in two stages – the first time I was trying to capture the ingredients, and I failed, miserably (chuckles). But, by failing miserably, I also realized that I should approach what I do in a radically different way, in order to really find a reason why I was doing it. I realize essentially all I was, was a fetish filmmaker, that throws everything like a pin up magazine.

Growing up, what was it about the movies that made you want to make a great film?
You must understand, that in the early 70s, when I was born in Copanhagen, there was only one television station. And that one television station would show [content of] maybe 4 hours of 5 hours a day, you know. So something may be for children in the afternoon for an hour or in the evening, and then once a while, maybe something in the morning. But it was very, very, very, very limited. This is before VHS, of course, or whatever they had back then. And I was too young to run to the cinema unless somebody took me. So what really changed my life was the access to American television. I suddenly realized that through television, I had the ability and the power to switch channels and see many different kinds of films that were on TV. And of course, I went to the movies when I became older, and constantly, during my teenage years, or as much as I could.

But it was really television that radically changed my life, because television became accessibility… a bit like how the internet has become a way for us to see mass entertainment because of online streaming. Suddenly, we now have full control of how we wanna see it, when we wanna see it, and what we wanna see. And that’s what I experienced, coming to see television when I was 8 years old in America. And as I said, I liked all kinds of films. Of course, being young, you are more interested in, what are called, entertainment for 8 year olds, but I always liked the cinema of the occult, the cinema of horror, the cinema of fantasy. Anything that was subliminal, I always found interesting.

So is there a reason you make films today? Is it to explore something about yourself or to explore something or somebody intangible?
Very much. I think there’s a reason I make every film. And I think the reason comes purely out of myself, you know. I’m not a political filmmaker, I don’t have a political message that I want to get across. Or a social oriented message, for that matter. That has no interest in me. I like the act of creativity, I like the act of expression, and I think that essentially art with a singular vision is what really can change the world. Every film of mine is an extension of my alter ego. Especially my last three, Valhalla Rising, Drive and Only God Forgives.  Although Bronson was autobiographical in a more direct way, in the sense that I took somebody else’s life and made my own autobiography. And I did that because Charlie Bronson is an artificial character. He’s a made up persona by Michael Peterson. So in a way, I was taking a constructed reality to base it on my own autobiography. Because you know, the first half of Bronson is about a man who aspires to be world famous, not knowing why. Which is very much how I started out.

But, like Bronson, I was very nihilistic in everything I had to do. I was destroying everything around me. I felt art had to annihilate everything, a bit like Bronson. You realize violence is a way to become famous, but of course, it had its limits, because his stage is a prison. And it’s not until his art teacher explains to him that his art can be his act of violence, and for me, that’s when I realized that I should no longer try to capture great filmmaking and, that I was becoming nihilistic about everything. I should actually just enjoy the act of creativity, and not think about the results. And that’s what Bronson did, you know. Of course the consequence is that Bronson’s stage was a prison, because that was the flip side of him achieving everything he always wanted. Whereas, I, thank God, have a wife and children (laughs) who I go home to. But that’s very much an autobiography.

So what do you want the audiences to take back from your movies? Is there a take away you have in mind?
No, except polarization. You can love it or hate it, as long as it has penetrated your mind and implanted a thought, which is a very, very personal and individual experience. I don’t have a personal agenda that I want to get across. I believe art is upto people’s own interpretation. That’s when it becomes interesting. It inspires people to think, but they have to look at it from their own perspective. All I can do is to release it, all I can ask them is to absorb it, and do with it as they wish.

Art is like weapons of mass destruction; it has the same power, you know. War and weapons of mass destruction can change history. So can art. The difference between the two is where war destroys, art inspires. Art inspires thoughts, but it has to come from a singular vision in order to speak to an audience.

That begs the question about your responsibility as an artist. Your movies have often been accused of glorifying violence in your movies. Do you ever worry if that’s the takeaway for the audience?
I think anybody who has the ability to create has the responsibility. But I do think that there’s a big difference between people feeling and seeing something violent or glorified, and being violated. I think a way to react to your responsibility is by always making sure that there is a consequence to the violence. Violence in my movies always brings destruction with it. It is never based on humour or a cartoon.  But people can be violated by the images, because they feel that it penetrated their mind, in a way that it is absorbed, and they have no shield against it, and then it becomes, of course, much more of an experience.

There’s so much more violence in other films or television than in mine, so, sometimes people get confused. They think they see more than what’s actually there. It’s the power of subliminal images, because art works as a two-way experience. Art has to plant a thought, a seed in the mind of spectator, then the spectator continues to build their own visions with it. So it becomes a two-way experience, a flow, and not just a passive viewing of entertainment, which brings nothing because there’s no thinking in it. It doesn’t inspire thoughts, or reaction, should we say.

It’s also to do with the way you design violence in your films. What are you trying to express when you design a beautiful-looking violent seen?
That’s because art can be an act of violence. Why should it not be a seductive sexual experience? The violence of art is much more shocking the more you sexualize it. That goes back to the initial instinct of art. It’s an act of sex and violence. The more you purify that, the more, the more a penetration it becomes. That’s why I always say, art is a combination of sex and violence. It’s just an endless ability how to create the equation, you know.

I’m surprised you don’t factor love into this equation. Your films are essentially about people striving for love, than either sex or violence.
Of course, because love is what makes it all interesting. Sex and violence are the ingredients. You see, in order to get to love, it has to start from somewhere else. You have to fall in love, you know. I am strong believer that the core, in terms of our interests in storytelling, lies in love. If you have love for your characters, the audience falls in love with your characters when you tell a story, whether it’s a story, or  a book or a television show or a painting. There has to be an expression of love, because I believe, like you say, that’s essentially what people want to strive for.

What about romance? Is that important to you too?
I wouldn’t call romance a pure emotion because I think romance means thought. Romanticism is great, and it’s great to make films about romanticism, but, in terms of drama, the initial ingredient of drama, is combination of the two core emotions within us as human beings, which is lust and violence, or sex and violence, or aggression and desire, whatever you want to call it. But those are very, very primal emotional instincts that have nothing to do with logic, they are purely based on instinctual needs, you know. And that’s what drama is based on. Then of course, we can alter it and create stories around it, that can end up being romantic. But romance is a process, you know. You can make something romantic, but it has to be based, primarily, on the, the idea of desire and lust.

I’m very interested in knowing about your writing process. Your interest in primal emotions translates to your writing as well. You use index cards to write, isn’t it?
Well that’s more because realized I wasn’t a very good writer (chuckles). if I approach the movie based more on what would I like to see, then I could create a story after knowing what I would like it to be visually. Like I said, it’s a bit like shooting a pin up magazine. You pose the women in a certain precision. You photograph them in a certain position that you desire. You normally don’t really know what it all means until you start having a series of images. And then you suddenly realize there could possibly be a story in this.

Is your pin-up magazine approach why you shoot chronologically too? You are one of the only directors in the world who does that.
Yes, I always write chronologically, so I shoot it that way. I basically did it because I read that John Cassevetes had done it in his film, so I thought, ‘Well, if he did it, maybe I should try it!’ And yes, it became a way for me to submit myself to the creative process. Doing everything chronologically, like painting a picture, helps your work constantly evolves. I’m not interested in the results anymore, I’m interested in the process. The results are of no interest when it’s over.

Of course, you have to be smart about it. You may have to produce yourself, and that makes it easier, because of the production cost issues. You just have to know your limitations here, but also what it brings in terms of the positive impact. For example, it’s great for the actors. You have to write with the mindset of shooting in chronological order. You can’t just do it. You have to build it into the project from the beginning that you are developing.

Do you think you’ll every attempt anything conventional before you’re done? Do everything the way everyone normally does, just to see how it turns out?
(Laughs) I hope so. (Laughs again) But I don’t know. Because normality is only interesting if you twist it.


Note: 
An edited version of this interview first appeared as The Sunday Guardian cover story on June 28, 2014
Link: http://www.sunday-guardian.com/artbeat/art-can-be-an-act-of-violence

Picture courtesy: Google. None of the pictures are owned by the author all rights belong to the original owner(s) and photographer(s).
© Copyright belongs to the author, Nikhil Taneja. The article may not be reproduced without permission. A link to the URL, instead, would be appreciated.

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Interview: Kevin Dillon (Unedited)

This interview was taken in 2010 before the final season of Entourage aired. I was 23 then, hence the excitement in the interview!

Hello?

Nick? Nick? How are ya?

Hey Kevin! How are you, man?

Good, good, good talkin’ to ya.

I really cannot tell you how cool this is to actually speak to you. We are such huge fans of Entourage in India. You probably have no idea of the massive fan following here.

No, I don’t have any idea, I’m very surprised by that, I think it’s great.

And especially your character… we all love Johnny Drama! He’s epic!

(Chuckles)

Yeah, in fact, I told a few of my friends that I’m going to speaking with you, and they really want to kill me just because I’m getting to speak with YOU! So thanks so much for your time man.

(Chuckles) Oh, you got it, buddy! You got it.

I want to ask you a lot of questions about Entourage. But before that I want to ask you, do you know anything about Bollywood? Have you seen any Indian… Bollywood movies?

I have seen some Bollywood movies, yeah, all the great dance sequences, all the beautiful Indians, all the nice dresses, all the colourful dresses they wear.

I am just curious – if you were ever offered a Bollywood film, would you consider taking it up?

I guess so, maybe, I guess it’s a possibility. They do make a lot of movies there.

Yeah, they do.

That would be fun, yeah!

Have you been to India yet?

I’ve never been to India. But I’ve been dying to go. I’ve seen places like Thailand and the Phillipines and stuff, but never been to India.

Entourage fans will probably go beserk if they spot you when you are here.

(Laughs) I’ll have to go then, I’ll have to come on out then. There’s an island out there I wanted to go to. Like a tropical island, isn’t there? I forget what it’s called but I’ve wanted to go there.

Andaman and Nicobar Island?

Yeah, that’s it! That’s it. I’ve been dying to go there. It looks like a really nice place.

Yeah, it sure is.

I really don’t have a connect with India yet. I recently watched that… junkyard dogs was it… or what was the… the movie..

Slumdog Millionaire?

What was it?

Slumdog Millionaire?

Yeah, yeah, yeah. Slumdog Millionaire.. I saw that recently. It was so good and so well done, it really captured. I just loved that movie! But that’s… I really don’t have any real connection to Indian movies at all. But I just love all the dance sequences.. they are so cool.

Right. So I want to talk to you about Entourage now. As a fan, I cannot tell you how crushed I am to know it’s coming to an end next season. What about you?

Awww, you are not the only one. I’m pretty busted also. I’m gonna miss Johnny Drama.

When you first came to know Entourage is coming to an end, how did you process the information? How’s life going to be for you after seven-eight seasons of Entourage?

It’s gonna be tough, you know. But I’ve always known that it’s gonna come to an end and that it’s gonna be tough times, but we still got one more season yet. So, it’s not over yet, but it’s going to be a sad day when we shoot that final episode. I’m gonna miss the guys going to work. We really do have a great relationship with all my fellow actors, you know we all get along well. Most of all though, just to get a character like Johnny Drama, they don’t come along that often, to get a character that’s that good and that much fun to play. I’m going to miss that the most, I think. Having a character that’s so exciting to play, so much fun to play. He had so many problems, that’s what makes him fun to play. (Chuckles) He’s got a lot of issues, Johnny Drama.

You know, fans are really dying to know, how similar or different are you from Johnny Drama? I had seen an interview of yours where you said you’d put in a lot of yourself into the character. Can you tell me exactly tell me how much Kevin Dillon there is in Johnny Drama?

(Chuckles) Yeah, you know, I think all actors put themselves into their characters a bit. Yeah, you know, Johnny Drama’s, he’s got a lot of heart.. and I get a lot of that (laughs). I try to get a lot of that.. I try to put a lot of heart and a lot of ummm… he’s persistent. And I think I’m that way also. He doesn’t give up. And that’s what I love about hm. He’s got a lot of really bad qualities too (laughs)… but he’s very insecure, he’s kind of got a big ego, a big ego and very insecure, and I don’t think I’m that way. So… but I take the good with the bad. And that really, I didn’t protect the character so much, like some actors will protect their characters, ‘My character won’t do that. I won’t do that, I wouldn’t do that.’ I didn’t do that with Drama. I’d say, ‘Yeah, he WOULD do that.’ So, uhh, he’s open for anything. So that’s why he’s unpredictable. And anything can happen with Drama any time. That’s what makes him fun to play, really does.

In the seven seasons you’ve played Drama so far, are their any traits of Drama that you’ve picked up? Has that happened?

Any traits of Drama? Oh yeah, you know what, I say bro now! Which is a total Johnny Drama thing. ‘Hey bro! Hey bro!’ I never used to say ‘bro’ (chuckles), you know. That was something that was written for Drama. ‘Hey bro! Hey bro!’ I actually do say that a lot. Yeah, you know what, I’ve learnt to cook, which is a Johnny Drama trait. I didn’t cook before, and I had to get good. If I had to play Drama, you know, I’d have to learn how to chop right, look like I know what I’m doing in the kitchen. I’ve got a lot better at it since I’ve started cooking a little bit. So I’ve gotten much better at that! I’ve become a ping pong player now. I never played ping pong before. There are all these things I had to learn as an actor because of Drama, I had to learn how to do this, you know. So, uhh… I don’t think there are any others, but it’s always great when you get to learn stuff from your role.

Of course, like you said before, Drama’s really unpredictable too. So there’s a lot of stuff that Drama’s done – bad stuff – that you’d probably not do in real life. But is there anything that you do that you could Drama doing?

Uhhh yeah.. like I drive into Malibu, and I live in Malibu. Johnny Drama hates Malibu, remember, I don’t know if you remember from season 2, he can’t stand Malibu, and I ended up living in Malibu, personally. So uhhh.. Johnny Drama thinks, ‘Malibu! Too far! Too much traffic!’ And that’s where I ended up living in. Let’s see… (thinks)… uhh.. there’s probably a lot more. Can’t think of any more.

What about the other way round? Drama’s done some pretty outrageous stuff. Any thing in particular Drama’s done that you could never imagine yourself doing in real life?

(Laughs) Oh yeah, there’s probably a lot of things Johnny Drama things, like sneaking into the mansion. I get to walk into the mansion now (laughs)… the Playboy mansion! You know, uhh, you know, just the way he explodes all the time.. he’s like, all up at any given time. I’d like to think I’m a lot more calm than that, you know, I wouldn’t do that. But, uhh.. that’s what makes him fun to play though, that he’s so explosive.

Yeah, he keeps having all these meltdowns.

Yeah, the meltdowns are great. And he’s self destructive. Everytime something’s going well for Johnny Drama, he manages to screw it up and ruin it.

Are there any qualities in Drama that you feel you don’t have – qualities you wish you had?

Actually there is, yeah, you know… my career’s going pretty well right now, and a lot of it’s got to do with Johnny Drama. The reason why my career’s going so well. But Johnny Drama’s struggling a little bit with his career right now. One thing that I really love is how he never quits, he’d be really down, he gets knocked down, but he gets back on his feet and he keeps trying. And I love that about the character more than anything at all. He’s just so great in that way. He gets knocked down but he keeps getting back on his feet, he never gives up. No matter how bad things get. There’s another quality too that’s really great about him. He’s very loyal to his friends and very protective of them. And he’d do just about anything for his friends, for his brother Vince, you know. He’s good in that kind of way. Though I’d like to think that quality I have also (chuckles). But that’s something that’s great about Drama. One of those things, part of this heart that makes him pretty likeable. Cuz he does some pretty bad things (chuckles), but he’s really great in some other ways. So, these are some of his great qualities.

Drama also gets some pretty funny storylines that no one else gets. Is there any stuff in the storylines that’s been inspired by what you’ve done in real life? Have you put any stories from your life that you’ve put into Drama’s?

Uhh, you know, I’ve had ideas that I give to the writers, and they take it somewhere. From my memory, just the thing about Turtle and Drama kind of battling it out for the girl, trying to out to each other on the bus. That was my idea and they wrote a whole script about that. Umm, you know a lot of times I’ll have ideas and I’ll send them to Doug Ellin. Another thing was, as an actor I’ve been to a lot of auditions, you know. And I’ve been in auditions where, you know, the guy would be playing around with his blackberry. And I’m like, hey man, do you mind? I’m trying to audition here, and you’re playing with your Blackberry. Drama has that big explosion at the audition room – I’ve been in auditions where that’s happened before, where people answer cellphones and that kind of thing. And I didn’t do what Drama did. I wish I had, I wish I could’ve, I wish I had, if I could say, the balls to do it. But I didn’t do it.

And I’ve had so many actors come up to me and say, ‘Wow! I wanted to do that! I did that in the audition – I told them to do this and do that!’ And that’s where Drama becomes like, for all actors, he becomes this kind of look upto, because he stood up for himself in an audition. Then, you know, I’ve always wanted to do that, but I don’t think I could. (Laughs) Takes a lot of guts, really.

Haha. Now tell me, there’s this one thing that we’ve all been dying to know – Is it actually that much fun? The guys on Entourage live this life every guy dreams of. Is it really like that in real life too?

Yeah, it kind of is, actually! You know, it’s all about friendship. And if you have, or if you are with, like in our case, we got four great friends. So if you are with three of your great buddies, and I guess a lot of its got to do with the fame too, and the money, and being able to go anywhere and that. But yeah, you’ll have a great time in Hollywood. Everything, if I go, went out with all the other actors right now, we’d have as much fun as the characters do on the show (chuckles). Yeah, I mean, it really is. It’s a lot of fun. It’s a lot of fun to go out. But it’s really about – it’s about the friends you’re with really.

(Pauses) I think I’ll have just as much fun in Bolly if I’m with the right people, you know?

Haha, yes, that’s true. You know, I want to also ask you this one thing I’m curious about. You guys work with some of the most beautiful women in Entourage. How distracting is that? Is it, or is it not distracting? Especially with Emmanuelle Chriqui around too – who’s like one of the hottest girls ever!

(Laughs) Haha, yeah, well she is very beautiful girl. She’s a really sweet girl as well. You know, it does get a little bit distracting. It’s one of the real plusses of the show – that we have just the background girls who are beautiful. If you look like, in any of the scenes you look at the back, they’re gorgeous, you know. They do hire the best extras – they call them extras – so we have really, really hot extras on the show. And I guess, it’s kind of real life, because, in agencies, you’d see, you know, a lot of actresses, you know, a lot of pretty actresses. And in night clubs you’d see a lot of beautiful girls out here in LA, in the nightclubs! So, I think it is more or less true. Maybe it’s a little more so on our show. We have more beautiful girls on the show than in real life.

We keep reading that you guys have become really good friends now. Jerry Ferrara and Kevin Connolly were the best men at your wedding. Do you guys have an entourage too, when you guys go out together? Or is it just the four of you?

I guess, you know, I guess, you can kind of call it an entourage. But yeah, we all do hang out together. As a matter of fact, today, we are going out to dinner in LA. We are about 7 or 8 guys who are really close, and we’re going out for dinner tonight. And that’s, I guess it’s kind of like our own entourage. But umm, but there’s no leader, there’s no Vince. Everyone’s doing really well. Kinda like Entourage without Vince.

Now I really want to ask you about the movie. There’s so much talk of a movie – is there anything you can tell us about it?

You know, there isn’t right now – the movie’s just a rumour. I’d love for it to happen, I think that would be great, and I would be up for that. And I’m sure all the guys would do it. But right now, you know, I won’t believe it until I see a script. Until they make an offer, because right now it’s just a rumour. But I hope so, I’ve got my fingers crossed. I think it would be great – it would be nice to have an unlimited budget to do what we want!

Because, you know, our show is a very expensive show to make. And a lot of times HBO complains about the price and the budget of our show. So if we did a movie, we’d be able to do what we want without any complaints.

What about the final season? I know you wouldn’t know what’s happening in the final season. But since you’ve played Drama for so long, how would you like it to end for him? Do you have something in mind for him?

Well, I did. There is a way I’d like him to end, but I don’t think that’s gonna happen. But I always thought that Johnny Drama won an award. Like an Emmy, or a Golden Globe, or something. That would be, that would be just, the ultimate Victory, for Johnny Drama. You can see him winning the award and screaming Victory. That would be cool for it to happen. For him to be on the Golden Globe. I doubt that will happen, but if I was writing, I’d probably write that.

I wanted to take this moment to tell you, that I adapted ‘Victory’ as my personal catchphrase ever since you started saying it on Entourage!

(Laughs)

Yeah, you have no idea – my friends would think I’m nuts but every time something good would happen to my life, I would shout Victory!

(Laughs more)

And I can’t believe I’m getting to say this to you personally! This is so cool!

Haha, aww that’s so cool. I loved hearing that. I loved hearing that (chuckles). You know a lot of people have been doing that, actually. I’ve seen that. If I’m watching, like ESPN, or something, I’ll hear the players go Victory! People are saying it all the time and I love to hear it!

Yeah, but there was very little Viking Quest this season. Is Viking Quest something you’d love to explore beyond the show? It could be a great idea for a comic strip or a comic series of its own after the show ends.

(Laughs) Yeah, that would be funny. You know, I always thought it would be cool if we shot a little footage of Viking Quest, to use when I’m watching a rerun. I think that would be really funny to see me in Viking Quest gear, a really poor production of a TV show. That, to me, would have been hilarious. But I think what you see next year, and I don’t really know if they’ve written the scripts, but I got a feeling you might see some more of Johnny’s bananas – the cartoons, with Johnny as a gorilla. I think you’re probably gonna see more of that. So that should be interesting. Like they say, Johnny Drama, he’s got the face for radio! (Laughs)

You know, it’s so cool that you’re cool with all the insults that Johnny Drama gets on the show. But was it something that you discussed with the writers when taking on the show – how much insult is okay?

(Chuckles) Yeah, Drama does go through a lot of abuse. And I guess, I’m just cool with that. We’re all, we all kind of abuse each other a little bit. Like I’ll beat up Turtle.. or .. well he’s just got so skinny now that I can’t call him fat anymore. So I guess he’ll be skinny now. Well, yeah, Johnny Drama, being that he’s the oldest, he kind of gets picked on a little bit, but that’s all part of his character. That makes lukewarm a little bit harder, they pull for him, because they want to see him do well. Every time someone insults him or everytime he fails at something, they really wanna, they root for him, they want him to succeed at something. You know, it’s all part of the character.

Yeah, that’s really true. You know, this is just a hypothetical question, but do you think a Johnny Drama spinoff is possible after Entourage ends? Or a Viking Quest, for that matter? The character’s cult, for sure.

Yeah, I think they actually could spin off Johnny Drama. I don’t think they will, but I think it, I mean, I would be interested, I mean I would talk to them if they would. But I think that’s only if they were to spin him off and you could do that, and still bring Turtle back maybe as his buddy and maybe Vince, and the other guys could keep popping up now and then. And then Entourage could still be somewhat alive, and there could be cameos by all the other guys. I think that’s something that very, very easily could happen but I don’t know if it would. But I think that would be fun.

So before we end, is there a funny/Entourage-ish incident from Kevin Dillon’s Hollywood story that you could tell us?

Umm… you know, I really can’t think of one off-hand. Basically everything that happens on Entourage, does happen in Hollywood though. All these things have happened, they are not so outrageous that they are unbelievable. They do happen, they happen all the time. They do happen and they will happen again. I really can’t think of a story now, off-hand.

Something that defined your years in Hollywood?

Well, I grew up in New York, so I didn’t really grow up in Hollywood. But at the same time, my brother, Matt, was a big teen idol, when I was a kid, growing up. So I was around all this – you know, when I grew up, he was being chased down the street by girls, he was a big teen idol. I don’t know maybe even in India, but in America, he was like the Beatles, he’ll be chased around, you know. So I grew up with that kind of situation with, you know, girls driving by the house. So I had, kind of a strange growing up you know, being around a movie star brother who was so famous, you know.
Kinda like the show, like Johnny Drama and Vince, but reversed, you know (chuckles). There, the younger brother is famous, even though the older brother was doing it first. That’s the genius of Entourage, that they came up with that plan.

Finally, I just want to ask you – now that there’s going to be a year-long gap before the next season of Entourage, so what are you going to be up to until then? And after Entourage is over, what are your plans?

Hopefully, I’ll continue to movies. I always try and do movies during the off-season. So I hope to, that I’ve at least got one movie, between now and shooting. That’s the plan. And uhh, I will hope to always have my movie career going. You know, I’ve done 20 movies before Entourage. So been doing movies for a long time. And I hope to continue doing that. And maybe, you know, maybe I could take another TV show. Something like that could be a good idea. But it’s gonna be, like I said, (chuckles) it’s gonna be a very sad day when Johnny Drama bids farewell.. the last day of Johnny Drama is going to be a sad day, it really is. It was a brilliant character to play, and I have to say that I’m a lucky actor. I really am. A lot of actors would love to play this guy. I really am.

Honestly, I think we are really lucky fans that you played the character! You’re saying that the last day of Johnny Drama is sad, but I really think Johnny’s going to live on with Entourage! It’s been such a cult show, I don’t think fans will ever get tired of seeing it over and over.

(Laughs)

Thanks, Kevin! This has been the most incredible interview of my life!

Aww, thanks a lot buddy, I really appreciate it. It was really great talkin to you! You know, I want to come out to India, I really do. I might even try to come out before next year.

It will be great man! I wish I could interview you in person some day.

What part of India are you in?

I live in Bombay – the place where Bollywood’s at.

You’re in Bolly? Okay! Okay, well, maybe I’ll try and track you down when I come down there. We’ll go out for lunch, all right?

Haha, it would be a dream come true, man!

Oh well, maybe I could do that! If I could try andmake it out there, because I’m seriously considering doing that.

Yeah , I’ll definitely show you around. I could be your entourage!

Haha, all right, that sounds good, that sounds great! You can show me around Bolly, that’d be cool. I bet Bolly’s a lot of fun.

Yeah, it sure is.

Yeah, that would be cool.

Thanks, Kevin. Thanks so much for your time. I’m really looking forward to the last season, I hope the movie happens and I also hope that there’s a Johnny Drama spin off, or at least a Viking Quest comic book – because you’ve made the character cult, man!

(Chuckles) Yeah, it is cult. It is cult. That would be cool to see too. The Viking Quest comic. An animation version of it, would be great!

Yeah, thanks Kevin. This was so cool!

All right buddy, it was great talkin’ to you man!

Take care, man

All right, take care.

Note: An edited version of this interview first appeared in Hindustan Times
Picture courtesy: Google. None of the pictures are owned by the author all rights belong to the original owner(s) and photographer(s).
© Copyright belongs to the author, Nikhil Taneja. The article may not be reproduced without permission. A link to the URL, instead, would be appreciated.

Interview: Aaron Sorkin (Unedited)

This interview was taken in 2010 during the release of The Social Network.

Nick?

Hello?

Hi, this is Aaron Sorkin

Sir, this is such an honour to be speaking with you. I may possibly be your biggest fan in India!

Ohh, thank you so much. You really made my night.

I just want to say this before the interview starts – You were actually the reason I came into writing. Studio 60 inspired me to get into writing. It’s just the biggest day of my life to actually get to speak with you.

Oh no, that means the world to me. Thank you so much, that’s really, really kind of you!

Sir, I want to ask you a bunch of questions about The Social Network, which again, was brilliant – I saw it and really loved it – but before that, I’d like to tell you about a little incident that happened at the MAMI here. When the movie was screening here, there was some sort of a commotion. Too many people wanted to see it but weren’t allowed in and they went beserk…

…I heard the story!

Yeah, you have?

I heard that people couldn’t get in, so the people inside, to show their solidarity, insisted that they get in somehow. That was thrilling to hear.

Yeah, exactly. I was going to just talk about your fan following here. When you gave your video message, people went crazy screaming and cheering. So when can your fans see you here in person?

I would love to come to India. I’ve never been to India but I’d love to.

Sir, I wanted to know. Are there are any elements of Indian movies that you like and either have, or would like to incorporate in your scripts in the near future?

You know, I feel terrible about this but its really only been, I think, in the last 5 or 10 years, that I’ve become aware of Indian filmmaking as a tremendous artistic force in cinema, that, umm, my film knowledge was confined to the US and Europe, and, umm, Hong Kong. So I’m very new to Indian cinema, and, err, I’d really love to school myself so that I can be influenced by Indian cinema, or, to put it in a different way, steal everything I possibly can from Indian cinema (chuckles).

Now, I want to ask you a lot of questions about The Social Network. The movie’s quite unlike anything you have written before – and I’ve seen everything you’ve written before. Considering you’ve said that you didn’t know much about Zuckerberg before you took on the movie, and considering that you don’t take on too many movie projects, what was it that attracted you to this story?

What attracted me to the story, it really didn’t have anything to do with Facebook. I didn’t know mucha bout Facebook, umm, I’m not someone who gets very excited about technology. What excited me about the story were the elements, the ‘clactical’ elements, uhh, of the story, that are thousands of years old. Themes of friendship and loyalty and betrayal and jealousy and power and class, things that we’ve been telling stories about for thousands of years, set against this very modern backdrop. It was irresistible to me.

One of the things that stood out from the movie was the fact that the idea of Facebook came to Zuckerberg because of a girl. That was what really made him go out and do this. Is that also something that got you interested in the story?

Absolutely. It did. Uhh… (chuckles) the thing is, Mark Zuckerberg joins a long line of great men in history, and great events, that were started because of a girl. Erica’s the Helen of Troy of Facebook. And it began, you know, the precursor to Facebook, that was Facemash, was the revenge stunt directed first at this girl, who had broken his heart, and then, at the entire female population of Harvard. And then, when the dust from that settled, uhh, he thought, you know, wait a second, there was something there. Something just happened, that was important. Uhh, it is upto the audience to argue about… how much of that epiphany was influenced by Tyler and Cameron Winklevoff, and how much of it was just a coincidence of timing.

Was it the longest it took you to write a script? Since there was such level of detailed research involved, did that make a difference to the process of writing for you?

I’m sorry, did you ask if this was the longest that’s taken me to write the script?

Yeah.

It’s the shortest it took me to write the script. Uhh, yeah, it took me a year to write this. That, for me, is very short. I do not have a reputation in Hollywood of being a speedster. Umm, if you hire me to write a movie, it’s going to be a while before you see it. Because, it’s not the writing that takes me a long time, it’s the thinking of what to write that takes me a long time. But umm, there was an extensive research process on this, and a period of thinking what to write, but once I thought of it, once I had my arms around it, the writing went, for me, very quickly.

But did the level of detailed research make a difference to the process of writing for you? Did it make it easier – since you say you finished the script really quickly.

Uhh, I think it did. I think that, you know, I… I’m someone, I don’t start writing until I know what I’m going to write. I don’t need to know the whole thing. I don’t need to know how the movie ends – although its helpful to know how the movie ends – I don’t need to know the middle, I don’t need to know every scene, I don’t need to outline the thing. But I need to know how the movie starts. I need to know what the first scene is, and what the first scene leads to, second thing. Umm, it takes me a while to think of that. But once I’ve thought of that, I want to write it as quickly as I can. I want to write it with speed and energy because I really believe that that speed and energy makes its way on to the page.

Sir, one of the things everyone’s curious about is that Facebook hasn’t come on board the movie but it didn’t sue or try and stop it from release even though it maintains it is fiction? So, what did it take for Facebook to agree to have it called Facebook and for Mark to be called Mark?

Well, they didn’t have a choice in that matter. We, umm, you know, you can write a movie about General Motors, and call the company General Motors. What you can’t do, is lie. You can’t say something that’s both untrue and defamatory. Which is why, you’ve answered your own question. The reason why Facebook hasn’t sued Sony, the reason why we haven’t received an injunction against the release of the film, is because they can’t. We haven’t lied. And we haven’t defamed them. And they know that. So they can say fiction all they want what – that’s what I’d be doing. Their PR people are every bit as good as our PR people. And they can say fiction all they want but if it were fiction, we’d know it because Facebook would own Sony right now.

I’ve also read how Mark Zuckerberg first un-favourited West Wing and then put it back up.. Do you know of that? What do you think made him accept the movie?

You know what, uhh.. I have to tell you – I think that uhh, Mark, who I don’t know at all, has shown an awful lot of class, uhh, during this period. I don’t think anybody would want a movie made out of the things they did when they were 19 years old. And it would have to be an extremely uncomfortable time for a very young guy who’s already got the weight of the world on his shoulders. He’s 26-year-old guy, running a company that’s bigger than CBS. It’s a 25 billion dollar company. If it were a country, it would be the third biggest country in the world… right after India. And uhh, he, uhh, on the day the movie opened in the US, October 1st, he shut out the Facebook offices, bought out a movie theatre, took the entire staff to the movies to see it. And then took everybody out for drinks afterwards. I think he’s really shown a sense of humour and a sense of class, and I really want to give him, uhh, credit for that.

And, I’m sorry, that was a long way of answering your question. I appreciate that he put the West Wing back up on his Facebook profile (laughs).

That’s what I wanted to ask you, actually. What do you think made him accept the movie because he was clearly upset with you writing it, but then the West Wing back on his favourites, which means he’s okay with it now.

Yeah, that’s what I mean. It’s a very classy thing to do. Umm, I think, uhh, I don’t know what… as it happens, Jesse Eisenberg’s first cousin works very closely with Mark Zuckerberg. He started working for Facebook about six months ago, maybe longer. Umm, so, when the movie was over, when they all went to see the movie on October 1st, Jesse’s cousin texted Jesse, saying that Mark really liked the parts he agreed with. And, uhh, that, you know, even that, was a very generous response. It’s gotta be impossible for Mark, watching this story play out on a huge screen, written by some guy, all of a sudden everybody’s speaking in dialogue, and scenes were connected to form a narrative, and Trent Reznor’s score was underneath. And David Fincher and Jeff had lit it to so beautifully. And, you know, there was a lawsuit. And people in lawsuits disagree on what the truth is. So he had to listen to all of them saying things about things he disagreed with, all over again. Umm, so, uhhh, you know, all in, it’s gotta be excruciating for him. So I really take my hat off to this guy.

Couple of things I wanted to ask you about Zuckerberg’s character. First, you’ve said that you can identify with him in being anti social. Considering you are one of the most successful writers in the world, it sounds a little strange! And also, you’ve spoken about Zuckerberg’s character in the movie going from being an anti hero to a tragic hero. What made you do that, as opposed to making him just a good guy or a bad guy?

Well, let me answer the first question first. When I say I can identify with him, I don’t consider myself anti social. Umm, I’m shy, I’m socially awkward. I get nervous in social situations, that I uhh, I may say something wrong, do something wrong or I don’t quite fit in. I think these are feelings many, many men can identify with. So, when you are writing an anti hero, and you are right, uhh, you are quoting me correctly when you say, uhh, Mark spends the first hour and 55 minutes of the movie being an anti hero and the final 5 minutes of the movie being a tragic hero. When you are writing an anti hero, as the writer, and Jesse would tell you the same thing as the actor and David will tell you the same thing as the director. You can’t judge the character. Umm, you can’t say that I’m writing a bad guy. You have to defend the character, you have to respect the character, have affection for him, and be able to fight for him. So that’s why you have to find the things about yourself that are like him, so that you can write him. So Jesse and David have got to do the same thing.

When he becomes a tragic hero in the end, that’s because he’s met two requirements – the two requirements of being a tragic hero. He’s paid a price, and he feels remorse. Uhh, now that scene, that final scene in the movie, is entirely imagined. Uhh, but, you know, here’s a case, where, if I were writing, if this was fiction, and I had just concocted this story, I would have written a less good ending. Umm, I would have written a warm and fuzzy ending, where Erica responds to his Friend Request and accepts it, and the two of them happen to be living in the same city, and they meet for coffee and everything seems to be great. It would be like the last scene in The Christmas Carol, where Scrooge gets up in the morning and you know, everything is terrific. And it was only ‘truth’ that kept me from writing that movie (chuckles), with a much more compelling, much more complicated ending. I was great… for the truth. (?)

The last question that I wanted to ask you was about David Fincher. He’s known for his visual style of directing. And since this is such a dialogue-based movie, how did you guys go about collaborating?

Uhh, you really read my mind. You are asking excellent questions. David Fincher, on the face of it, it’s not an intuitive marriage of director and material. David, what he’s most known for, is being peerless as a visual director. I like writing people in rooms. But it worked beautifully. Not a day goes by that I don’t thank my lucky stars that it was David directing the movie. David embraced that this was a story that was gonna be told through language but he did bring in his distinctive visual style to it. He got extraordinary performances out of a very talented, but very young cast of actors. And then, in the editing room, he took scenes of typing, basically, coding, hacking, and made them look like bank robberies! He made them look like action sequences, with nice assist on the score, umm, and our team of editors. But you know, there were about a 100 ways of wrecking this movie badly, if you can think of 50 of them, you are a genius. Uhh, and, David brought an ungodly artfulness to this.

With that I have to tell you that I’m getting the look from the publicist, telling me that I have to end the phone call to get on with the next call.

Oh, that’s not a problem, sir. Thanks so much for your time. Again, it was really an honour to get to speak with you.

Sure, of course, it was my pleasure. Thanks so much for the interview.

Thank you.

Note: This interview first appeared in Hindustan Times
Picture courtesy: Google. None of the pictures are owned by the author all rights belong to the original owner(s) and photographer(s).
© Copyright belongs to the author, Nikhil Taneja. The article may not be reproduced without permission. A link to the URL, instead, would be appreciated.