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Interview: Michael Moore

One on One with director Michael Moore
by John Gunn

"If there’s only one movie that you could see this year…see this one!" -- JoBlo (JoBlo.com)

I have to start off by saying of all the interviews I’ve done so far in my brief (although some may say not brief enough) tenure with the JoBlo posse, I was most pumped up about this one.  When I got word that I’d have a chance to sit down with acclaimed filmmaker, author, and political activist Michael Moore at the Four Seasons in Beverly Hills…I was ecstatic (although I was only given about 10 minutes with the guy).  I am, to quote Kathy Bates in MISERY, his #1 fan.  Seriously.  Besides having read Downsize This!, his best selling book about corporate America several times, I’ve seen and loved all his films…from ROGER & ME to THE BIG ONE.  He is truly a fantastic filmmaker and writer, and I certainly do not throw that strong an adjective around very often.  What’s more, as if he needed an extra brownie points, the guy shows up wearing a UCLA cap.  Being a graduate of the school, and a die-hard athletics groupie, I was swept away.  It was the closest I’ve felt to attraction for another man in my entire life.

He was in town to promote his new film BOWLING FOR COLUMBINE, yet another powerful and compelling comment on the social fabric of our country (this time around he’s discussing the issues of guns and fear in America…defending Marilyn Manson…and confronting Charlton Heston along the way). But understand this…I was told beforehand, and he certainly lived up to the hype, but when Michael sits down, the current film being released is only one of many subjects (some would say it’s the least important subject to him) he’s interested in talking about. Fear, race, the “war” on Iraq, directing…you name it, he’s got an opinion.  A fascinating man.  As you’ll see in the interview,  I did my darndest to simply sit back, take notes, and try in vain to keep my jaw off the floor….

Can your movies really be considered a “documentary?”

Moore: I don’t know if we really should call them documentaries.  I think this one would be called a non-fiction film.  It’s certainly not made up.  It’s all real.  It all actually happened.  And I filmed it as it happened.  But I would agree with you.  I don’t like that word.  It just has some bad connotations to it.  I set out to make a movie when I start one of these.  I don’t think, man I want to make a documentary.  I don’t even really know what that means.  I go to three or four movies a week.  I go to a lot of movies.  I love them.  And I want to make a movie that I would go see.  And that’s what I set out to do.

How have you changed since your first film?

Moore: I am the same person. ROGER & ME came out when I was 35.  By the time you’re 35, you’re pretty well set as to who you are.  So, if success comes to you at that age, whether it’s money or fame or whatever, you’d probably handle it a little different than if you were 20.  By the time I was 35, I already had a life.  The friends I had then are the friends I have now.  I bought these jeans at Kmart.  I’ve lived the same life I always have, except I live in New York City now for most of the year, and its very expensive to live there, so that part of it is different.

But I never set out doing any of this to have a career.  In high school I was always bad at that.  The counselors could never get me to care about that.  I never cared about a career.  And I think that if I had set out in my first film to have a movie career, it would’ve ended up really sucking.  It’s because I didn’t care about that.  I just wanted to make a movie that expressed how I felt about something…So I am pretty much the same person, except I’m angrier.  I think that’s what happened when you get older.  They told me I’d mellow out, but I don’t see that happening.  And the more intense the anger, the more intense the humor.

Did you know Marilyn Manson’s politics before you approached him for an interview in this film?

Not at all.  It was a complete accident.  I was there just to get a few things and move on.  I was stunned that he would end up saying probably the most intelligent things in the film.

Are you a filmmaker first and an author second?

Yes.  On my 1040 or whatever, under occupation I put "filmmaker".  I like to write my books.  I love to write.  But it’s brutal because you hate everything you write.  It is entirely you, whereas filmmaking is a collaborative process.  I have to do this to make it work with a number of people.  And I like that aspect of it.  Because I’m a movie-goer I want to make those kinds of movies that I want to see…I just feel like I’ve got to make a conscious contribution to this artform that is being debased and destroyed both by Hollywood and by the intellectual elite that sits over here somewhere and decides through their snobbery what makes a good film.

What are your thoughts on the Bush administration’s push to invade Iraq?

Well, I had no idea putting the stuff about Iraq in my movie that this week we’d be voting to go to war with Iraq.  I wouldn’t say it’s war “with” Iraq, because they can’t fight back.  So this will just be a one-sided war…annihilation, if you will.  Fill in the blank. 

Has Charlton Heston responded at all to this film?

I have not heard back from him.  I know the NRA is very upset.  I talked to a couple reporters who called them for a comment, and they’re upset.  They think there’s some funny editing because of the racial comments he makes in the film.  As you can see, this was all a pretty continuous conversation I was having with him.  And it was not prompted by me whatsoever…He just out of the blue said the problem with this country is its mixed ethnicity.  And I repeat it back to him because I’m as shocked as you are.  And then he hears me say it and says well, we don’t want to go there.  So it’s a perfect punctuation point to what I’ve been saying throughout the film, that this is the big ugly cancer that’s on the soul of America.  Race.  We don’t want to deal with it.  We try not to talk about it.  And it only gets worse, as far as I’m concerned.  And we’ve got to talk about.  I want to address it in my lifetime.  I want the next generation to grow up colorblind.

What’s next?

I’m writing a script for a film I want to direct.  It’s a fiction film.  And I’m also in pre-production for my next non fiction film.  And I’m writing an animated film too, that Studio Canal is going to produce.  I’m doing it with Tom Tomorrow.  Ever seen him?  This Modern World?  I’m also doing that.

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Well, I wish I could’ve had more time with Michael.  He was on a whirlwind media trip, so they rushed him in and out.  Maybe next time.  But overall, a treat.

Click here to read JoBlo's review of
BOWLING FOR COLUMBINE

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Source: JoBlo.com

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