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INT: Mike Binder


As a fan of independent film, I am always fascinated by the guy who writes his own material while offering up fresh views on relationships and other bits of life. Some of those guys, like Albert Brooks, Kevin Smith or Woody Allen seem to offer a unique perspective. The same can be said for Mike Binder, whose work is always based on the human condition and usually offers up humor or drama in a very real situation. His work includes THE UPSIDE OF ANGER, THE SEX MONSTER and the recent Adam Sandler and Don Cheadle film involving 9/11, REIGN OVER ME.

I recently got the chance to talk 1-on-1 with him about independent movie making, and a little film that he is making available by distributing it himself. The film is called THE SEARCH FOR JOHN GISSING (you can read my DVD review HERE).It is a very funny and satisfying take on the fish out of water story. The cast is superb, including Alan Rickman, Juliet Stevenson, Janeane Garafalo and of course Mike Binder. He is a gifted actor who also happens to write and direct and make some damn fine films.

When we spoke, he was very kind and also quite candid about the movie business today. He’s "been there and done that" and he continues to make films for the love of making films. What surprised me is his ability to step away from his work after it’s been completed and move on to the next one. It is a healthy outlook on moviemaking and life in general. I have a great deal of respect for the guy and appreciate his easy going attitude.

Read on, and do yourself a favor, get yourself a copy of THE SEARCH FOR JOHN GISSING by checking out THIS WEBSITE. It is a terrific movie and deserves to be seen.

Mike Binder

Hi Mike.

How are you James?

Good man, how about you?

I’m doing well.

Well, I gotta tell ya, I got the chance to watch SEARCHING FOR JOHN GISSING and I was pretty blown away.

Oh, you liked it? Good.

I loved it. It actually reminded me of the Albert Brooks film LOST IN AMERICA which I also loved.

I really had fun making it, you know. I really did. We had a good time I just never got it together to get it released the way I wanted to so… I put up a lot of my own money, family money, friends, and I just never got it out the way I wanted to get it out. So now, I’m just releasing it on my own website. I’m actually planning on remaking the thing you know. We’re shooting a movie called MULTI-NATIONAL.

MULTI-NATIONAL? How did that come about? How did you come back to SEARCHING FOR JOHN GISSING? How did it stay alive with you, and why now?

I just like the whole idea of big companies buying out these other little companies and a bigger company comes along and buys that company. And in the meantime just throws these people all over the world, you know? I mean, there’s a line in the new draft… that kind of reminds me of what the movies about and why I would make it again. When he [the main character] is talking to the wife, “It’s just business.”

They are waiting for Gissing to pick them up from the airport, and she says, “He said he was going to pick us up.” and he say’s, “He will. He’ll be here, he’s a good guy. He’s just busy. It’s just business honey. Business is busy and messy… he’ll be here.”… “Busy and messy?” , “Yeah, you got it.”… To me, the whole idea that these big business guys think that corporations all over the world own each other, that they’ll be no reasons for war. You know what I’m saying?

I totally do.

I just think that people are too enamored of business and the big corporations. So I just feel like it’s something I can spend another year to do. I wrote this script, it’s a little bit like directing the same movie you know. So, I had always just never wanted to do anything with Gissing for that reason because I really wanted to do the MULTI-NATIONAL. Although I really liked the job that both myself and Janeane [Garofalo] and especially that [Alan] Rickman did. I just thought, maybe we could get bigger names…

Both you and Janeane had terrific chemistry together. Had you known her before then?

Just to say hello. We are both in the comedy world.

You used to do stand-up if I’m not mistaken.

Absolutely. That’s not how I knew her. I think we had the same agent.

Did you approach her about John Gissing?

I called her.

And she just said yes?

Yeah. [I told her] I’m making this little movie, you wanna go to London and do it and she said yeah.

What an impressing cast you’ve got there. You have Rickman, you have Juliet [Stevenson]. I know you spend a lot of time in London, did you know them from before?

Rickman helped me get her. Her and Allan Corduner and Owen Teale who played Giles, the big guy… They’re all Rickman’s buddies.

Kind of a family affair?

Yeah. You know, I mean, like I say, Rickman really helped me get these people into it.

He’s an amazing actor, it was nice to see him in this type of role.

He was great too. He really put a lot into it. He would come to work everyday with a script with all these notes. The guy is pretty great.

Obviously you write, you direct… when someone comes in and says, ‘hey, I’ve got this idea’, how open are you to that?

I’m open to it. I like when you can say, here’s the ball, now let me run with it. In the early days I didn’t. In the early days I was tighter on my scripts.

What do you think the challenges are today compared to ten or twenty years ago when making an independent film?

I think distributions harder. In the old days if you made an independent movie, if it was good, it would stay in theatres longer where it could find an audience. It didn’t have to be a lot of theatres. But today, it’s really hard to get in theatres and they spend so much on distribution. That if the movie doesn’t take off you’ve got to pull it out.

How did you feel about how people responded to REIGN OVER ME?

People liked it, you know. I think that by and large, audience members and people on the street… people at websites and stuff, the user average was like high eighties you know. When they did the testing, eight out of ten people loved the movie. I think with the critics it was more like six or seven out of ten, but I think the critics were harder on the movie maybe because of the whole 9/11 thing. I don’t really… I didn’t have a problem with it was perceived. You know, I like the movie a lot and I didn’t think it was a masterpiece, you know, there was some really good work in it. I kind of just make the movie and go on to the next one so I don’t really take too much… I don’t analyze movies if you know what I mean? Critics are… a lot of times I agree with them.


Yeah, you know, a lot of movies, you don’t know how they’re going to turn out… It just kinda happens and you know, you want them to work. But for me the only reason I want them to work is that it makes it easier to get the next one made. I’m not really attached to them… I’m more attached to the process of making movies and working with good actors and making the scripts work and editing with good editors… a good D.P. Then move on to the next one you know.

Well I think with one of your strengths is the dialogue you write, I really like it a lot.

Oh, thank you.

Where does that come from because you also write women very well?

Oh thanks.

You're welcome.

Thanks. I mean, actors always say that and then I think, like I say, I let it [work] to their mouth a little bit. It feels more natural. And I also think, if you’ve got good people, your dialogue comes out good. If you’ve got people that are stilted and look like they’re acting, the dialogue comes out a little wooden, you know what I mean. I’m lucky, I’ve worked with [Adam] Sandler and [Don] Cheadle, [Kevin] Costner and Joan Allen and even Ben Affleck. You saw that movie I did with Ben Affleck? MAN ABOUT TOWN?


He handled the dialogue really well.

Officially, what script are you working on now?

I’m writing a movie right now for Julia Roberts.

Is that difficult to write for someone like her?

No, not really.

Does she ever get involved and say, ‘I want to see the drafts’ or is she leaving you alone?

Yeah, she’s definitely involved. I’m also trying to put together a movie that I wrote, an independent movie which is kind of like the bookend piece to UPSIDE OF ANGER about a father and four sons. I’m hoping to shoot the movie in the fall, you know. I’m just trying to get financing together and it’s tough. But I wanna do it with Ryan Reynolds, Justin Long, Adam Brody and Jerry Ferrera. If I can get it together you know.

You are one of those guys that tend to do almost everything, a writer, director and actor. And with Gissing, you directed yourself very well which is not easy. Do you ever question yourself and/or your performance?

All the time. All the time. But you know, the more takes I can cut over to Janeane. When it comes to directing myself, I’ve been doing it for so many years you know and I did my own stand-up act, I had a show on HBO for a couple of years [MIND OF THE MARRIED MAN], I did a little movie called THE SEX MONSTER, did you ever see that?

Yes, I did actually.

So I’ve just been doing it a long time that it just seems to be easier than getting another actor to play my role. I like the challenge, that UPSIDE OF ANGER role was a real challenge for me getting into that role.

What makes your work interesting as an actor, you seem to have an old-fashioned quality about it, as I mentioned, kind of like early Albert Brooks. It makes it interesting for me personally to watch that.

Oh, thanks.

You're welcome.

You know, I gotta tell you, it’s tough. The toughest thing in the world to keep things going you know.

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