BREAKFAST WITH ASSHOLES: 2. TIM BURTON

HOLLYWOOD – Tim Burton takes a break from spinning Lewis Carroll in his grave to be our second interviewee in the classic series: Breakfast with Assholes.

Poached eggs (x 2), two slices of toast, cup of coffee

Timothy Burton might be a scatter-haired Goth for many but at breakfast he presents himself in a Gucci hairnet, smoking jacket by Valentino and prepares the best poached eggs I’ve ever tasted.

So my first question is simple:

Timmy boy, you are famed as one of the most original and innovative film-makers of our time where do you get your original innovative ideas from?

Well, Batman – my first true hit – was from an old comic book, and Planet of the Apes was from an old film, Sweeney Todd was from an old musical, Alice in Wonderland was from an old book, Sleepy Hollow also an old book, Big Fish was from a new book, Ed Wood was a book and you know real life, Dark Shadows was from an old TV series and Mars Attacks was from a trading card series (I know).

But Betelgeuse was original: where did you get the idea for that?

Someone else’s script. You want more coffee?

No. Okay. Edward Scissorhands?

 Oh yeah, I did that. Well, the story, then Caroline Thompson wrote the script.

Okay so your ideas aren’t necessarily original as such but your treatment of them are. The Tim Burton look. Where does that come from?

Old Sisters of Mercy videos. And Billy Idol. “White Wedding” was a real inspiration to me. You know cobwebs, wedding dresses, that sort of stuff. Or like Wonderland in Alice in Wonderland, I just added a couple of waterfalls, but it was basically Disney.

But the performances are always great in your movies. These eggs by the way are fantastic.

Thanks. Yeah. What I do is I visualize a poster and I think is there anyway I can get Johnny Depp’s big fat face front and centre. Because you know, people would pay to watch Johnny Depp flushing the toilet.

I didn’t see Dark Shadows.

 You didn’t miss much. Then I say “honey do you want to be in the film?” to whomever I’m married to at that given moment. Mostly Helena Bonham Carter these days. And the work’s more or less done. Then I find filming quite peaceful. I like to wear dark glasses so I can just nod off and people usually mistake my confusion for dreamy visionary-ness. Now if you don’t mind, I usually like to take a dump after breakfast.

‘Sure, Tim,’ I say and show my way out. I meet Johnny Depp on the porch his got an armful of Betamax video cassettes and a guilty grin.

‘Beats working,’ he shouts over his shoulder as we pass.

BREAKFAST WITH ASSHOLES: 1. ROLAND EMMERICH

HOLLYWOOD – Roland Emmerich is our first interviewee in the classic series: Breakfast with Assholes.

This town has a long history of taking in immigrants from Europe and using their talent to our mutual benefit. Look at Billy Wilder. Jesus, did that Austrian have cahones! And then there was Fritz Lang, what a massive talent! Dr. Mabuse, M and Metropolis. Michael Curtiz, Erich Von Strohiem, the list goes on and on, I think. And joining that venerable list is Roland Emmerich: the Master of Disaster, the chaos theory himself, the man some people are calling the new Kubrick, and by some people I mean idiots.

Emmerich first made a name for himself with Universal Soldier, an interesting character piece that pitted the talents of Dolph Lungren against Jean Claude Van Damme, a pairing that brought to mind the great acting duel of Peter O’Toole and Richard Burton in Beckett. Following up swiftly with some explorations in ‘science fiction’, Emmerich soon mastered the genre with Stargate and Independence Day and completed his ‘Trilogy’ with Godzilla.

‘It was a technical exercise,’ Roland tells me as he pours skimmed milk onto his Rice Krispies. ‘I wanted to see if I could take this giant monster, from Japanese movies and have it destroying New York, with the military and missiles and what not and yet still be boring. You see Spielberg had done dinosaurs in Jurrassic Park but he had done the obvious thing and made it exciting. Mine was the more difficult task.’

‘You succeeded brilliantly,’ I tell him.

‘Shhhhhh,’ he says. Of course, he wants to listen to the snap, crackle and pop.

‘The casting of Matthew Broderick as an action movie lead was key,’ he says.

And Jean Reno as comic relief.

Having completely dominated ‘science fiction’, Rollie decided it was time to make his mark in period drama. The Patriot – starring everyone’s favourite anti-Semite Mel Gibson – was like David Lean with blood squibs.

In order to give his lead depth, Rollie had him make a chair, and then, to add comedy, Rollie had the chair be crap.

‘He sits down, it breaks he falls on the floor,’ he waves a spoon at me. ‘Hilarious.’

At this point in his career, we couldn’t write contracts fast enough for this boy.

The Day After Tomorrow I would sincerely credit as Rollie’s masterpiece. Perhaps the most politically important film since Conan the Destroyer. After which there was nowhere to go but down. Trust Rollie Emmers to make going down an art form in itself. 2012 was such a pile of horrible steaming effluent that even John Cusack looked embarrassed (and he’ll do anything for a coin that glints). Cusack has since altered his appearance by weirdly disguising himself as a young Nick Cage (pictured).

Having perfected cinema in all its forms, the question was what next?

Rollie licks his spoon thoughtfully.

Everyone talks about Shakespeare, Shakespeare, Shakespeare. Borrrrring! So I had this idea that how can this little jumped up slap head, you know and the plays and school and stuff? Whereas a noble with the words putting together stuff would be better, the writer be. But there was a problem. How to persuade these great British actors, Derek Jacobi, Mark Rylance, Rhys Ifans to be in a film which basically trashes the greatest English playwright.

So how did you do it?

Rollie laughs.

Easy. I paid them lots of money. They love money. They didn’t give a shit.

We laugh our asses off. What a great guy!

[This interview was originally published in The New Yorker September 2012]

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BREAKFAST WITH ASSHOLES: 27. COLIN FARRELL

DUBLIN – No living actor can lay claim to so many duff movies as Colin Farrell, with the occasional glimmer of gold amongst the dross (In Bruges), but now redemption holds out a hand in the form of a role in the second season of True Detective.

I met Colin over a breakfast of poached Guinness, two slices of Guinness, two rashers of Guinness fried in cow’s Guinness, all washed down with a couple of large mugs of piping hot Guinness to talk to him about his ‘career’.

So Colin. Total Recall. What the f*ck?

Yeah. Sorry about that. You know, I think what it was was… 

And Alexander?

Now that was all Oliver Stone’s fault, the hairy eye-browed bastard told me…

And Phone Booth, and S.W.A.T., and The New World, and…

Now listen here I was good in Saving Mr. Banks.

You were awful in Saving Mr. Banks. And you were basically playing yourself.

In Bruges, Minority Report, Seven Psychopaths?

But that makes me even more angry. If you can be good, why be so bad so often? 

My heart isn’t in it, I suppose. Hasn’t been since Ballykissangel. Did you ever see Ballykissangel? It was the True Detective of gentle Irish dramedy.

Okay. True Detective

Ah, True Detective. The Ballykissangel of gritty philosophically inclined serial killer drama. 

Is it? 

I spoke with Nic Pizzolatto and he told me that he thinks I’m ready for my version of the McConaissance. Really? Yeah. We haven’t worked out what to call it yet, but I’m leaning towards the re-Farrell-birth.

True Detective: Season 2 broadcasts in 2015. For more Breakfast with Assholes Click Here.

BREAKFASTS WITH ASSHOLES: 22. KEN LOACH

LONDON – Ken Loach arrives in the dining room of the Ritz, London, surrounded by his massive entourage: security guards, PAs, hair consultants, spectacle polishers and Socialist Worker newspaper vendors.

He’s talking on his iPhone with Bruce Willis while waving his minders to push away the delegation from Venezuela. ‘Ciao, ciao, Brucie, M’Wah!’ he says as he plumps down into the chintzy armchair reserved especially for him and gives me a jaded look over. ‘I suppose you’ll do.’

So Ken, could I just ask…

I say, call me Mr. Loach old boy! One doesn’t do informality. One would think we were at Claridges! The very idea!

I’m sorry Mr. Loach.

Think nought of it, old fellow. Garcon! Garcon! Yes, quails eggs and caviar. Pronto.

So, Mr. Loach how do you feel about being awarded the Golden Bear Award for Lifetime Achievement from the Berlin Film Festival. 

Delighted, obviously. Delighted. T’is a gong and even at my age one feels very humble to be recognized. Plus the Jerries are about as far from those blasted Israelis as it’s possible to get. So there’s that!

You have made a career of making politically challenging films.

It all started when I was passed over for Dr. No and that talentless hack Terrence Young got the gig. I thought it’s the bloody Carry On films all over again. I had been slated to direct Carry On Nurse but that tart Gerald Thomas slipped in. After that Dilys Powell said ‘Do political’. I said ‘Dilys dear, I don’t my Whigs from me Harold Wilson’, but I read a copy of the Morning Star and quicker than you can say Trotsky I’d made Kes.   

And you never looked back.

I was always trying to get something else. I would have loved to have made Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines or Sex and the City 2, but by the time my name had got about I was pigeonholed. All I could do was stuff about the grubby working class, workshy layabouts to a man. Sitting around drinking tea, and trying to diddle their betters out of their land and wealth.  

So you’re saying you don’t actually agree with the political point of the view that your films seem to subscribe to?

Karl [addressing one of his security team], Karl, pray, strike this hack roughly about the top of the head.

Ouch.

No, young man. I do not subscribe to the Bolshevik nonsense that some read into my films. My films, for me, represent a social comedy of the stupidity of the hapless lower orders. Raining Stones: idiot wants a dress for his daughter’s confirmation. The Wind that Shakes the Barley: bog thick Murphys knocking seven shades out of each other for who knows what. Land and Freedom: ditto but with Spaniards.

 Some have said that your next film might be your last.

Indeed, though if Sarah Jessica Parker wishes for me to help her with Sex and the City 3 I will be more than glad to proffer my services. 

Jimmy’s Hall will be released in 2014 and Sex and the City 3 in 2015.

BREAKFAST WITH ASSHOLES: 21. RON HOWARD

LONDON – With a new film in cinemas – the Formula 1 racing thriller Rush – I jumped at the chance to sit down with the Angels and Demons director Ron Howard to discuss this project and his career.

Little did I know that he was on a strict color coordinated diet and worse yet today was a blue day.

So Richie, what first attracted you to Formula 1 as a subject for a film?

I suppose it was simply reading Peter Morgan’s wonderful script. You see we’d worked already on Frost/Nixon and… wait a second.

What?

Did you just call me Richie?

No. 

Okay. I think … where was I?  Oh yeah, the script was really good so I latched onto that. 

When you were directing the actors did you have any difficulties?

No, not at all both Daniel Bruhl and Chris Hemsworth are very talented actors. And extremely professional, though I am sorry to hear that Chris and Miley Cyrus have split up.

I heard that Daniel at one point during the driver’s meeting scene refused to sit on a stool and you had to tell him ‘to sit on it’.

I don’t remember that incident specifically. As I say, there are times a director has to put his foot … oh wait I see what you’re doing.

What?

You’re just…

I heard the schedule was very tight. What was the typical week?

Erm… Well, it was tight as a matter of fact. It was a lot of shooting and a lot of hard work. We’d start Monday…

Tuesday Happy Days!

Oh this is bullshit. I came here to do an interview. And you’re just trying to make a bunch of lame Richie Cunningham references. 

Best work you did Richie.

I made Cinderella Man, Goddam it! And Apollo 13 and Far and Away. The Da Vinci Code… You know now that you think about it Happy Days was a lot of fun. Okay fair enough. Ask away.

Well, actually that’s all we have time for and these Gorgonzola cornflakes are beginning to repeat.

No come back, seriously. I can tell you what Henry Winkler’s really like. And I got a hilarious story about the time Potsie potsied Joanie. Hey…


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BREAKFAST WITH ASSHOLES 4. WOODY ALLEN

HOLLYWOOD – For many the finest comedian cinema has known, Woody Allen today agreed to sit down and give an in-depth interview EXCLUSIVELY to the Studio Exec.

Woody Allen answers the door in his sweats.

‘Hey come in,’ he says. ‘I was just getting in a quick workout before breakfast.’ He leads me through to the gym. ‘Do you mind if I finish? I’m on sets of fifties so I don’t want to break my biorhythm. Just go through to the kitchen. Soon-Yi, get off the machine. It’s my turn. Come on let’s go.’

Half an hour later, Allen emerges, showered and ready for the world. The 77 year old actor, writer, director and comedian looks in great shape. He jogs on the spot before settling down to his breakfast: some toast, a power smoothie and yeast extract that he eats with a spoon.

‘I notice you’re not wearing glasses,’ I say. ‘Strange to see you without them. Are you wearing contacts?’

‘God no, I never needed them,’ Allen smiles broadly and slaps my shoulder. ‘Glasses I mean. It was just, you know, a gimmick, I suppose you could say. When I started in What’s Up Pussy Cat … which was what? 1965? Anyway Peter O’Toole says to Charlie Feldman, “Charlie get the kid some glasses. He’s an intellectual, he should be wearing glasses.” Jesus, those actors, they’re so insecure; just a bundle of neuroses really. But the look stuck, so you know… How’s your yoghurt? That’s goats yoghurt from Siberia.’

‘Your latest films have been mainly European affairs, what attracts you about working…?’

‘Sorry, I can’t help it,’ Allen laughs. ‘When you talk you remind me of, who was that guy Soon-Yi? The one in the stupid movie about the fucking tree? Yeah that’s it. You remind me of Brad Pitt.’

‘Really?’

‘Yeah, really. Brad Pitt. So yeah. Europe. Yeah. I don’t know. I like it I guess and they love my work even when I don’t. So it was a perfect fit. Look at me. I’m sitting with Brad Pitt.’

‘I look nothing like Brad Pitt.’

‘Yeah, you do. Next question.’

‘You have a keen interest in jazz.’

‘No.’

‘No?’

‘Used to. No longer.’

‘How come?’

‘Got bored. Next question, Brad.’

Allen stands up and starts doing star jumps. ‘Erm…?’

‘You want to ask me about that douche bag, Mel Gibson? Go ahead and ask.’

Woody Allen and Mel Gibson had a set to recently in a Hollywood restaurant. (Click here for a full report).

‘Would you like to give…’

‘I kicked that asshole’s ass. And Vin Diesel is there like “Go easy” and I’m like “back off Vin or do you want some as well?” Shit, that Fast and Furious motherfucker went pale and trembled like a plastic bag caught on a hurricane fence.’

‘Did you object to Mr Gibson because of his alleged anti-Semitism?’

‘Alleged my ass, they recorded him. Anyway that weren’t the reason. It was more to do with What Women Want. I can’t stand that film.’

‘And now the new Batman film?’

‘Great it’s been fantastic. Yeah dream project. Difficult to follow what Chris has done blah de blah you fill in the blanks. Gotta scoot me and Soon-Yi are running a half marathon Thursday so we got to get some training in. See you later, Brad.’

‘Chad.’

‘Yeah. Whatever.’

And with that Woody Allen runs into the street shouting, ‘It’s me Broadway Danny Rose the Zeligster himself, come on, who wants some?’

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BREAKFAST WITH ASSHOLES: 3. LIAM NEESON

 

DUBLIN – Liam Neeson sits across from me staring. I shift position nervously but he looks like he is measuring me up, trying to decide on the best way to kill me, whether to break my neck, or throttle me, or drive my nose bone deep into my pulpy brain flesh. He’s been sitting here in silence for twenty minutes.

When I first sat down, I sensed something was wrong. ‘You can’t sit there,’ Neeson growled in his famous Irish burr. ‘It’s Taken.’
I sat in the other chair. 
‘You can’t sit there either,’ he said.
‘What?’
‘That’s Taken 2,’ he roared with laughter.
In order to join in with the mood, I said, ‘Are you Taken the piss?’
At which point he stopped suddenly and stared at me. And that’s where we came in. Him staring at me for twenty minutes. 
Finally he sighs and begins to devour his food with something like savage grace. 
‘So,’ I say. ‘When George Lucas first approached you for the role of Qui Gong did you…’
‘Money,’ Neeson growls.
‘Okay,’ I say. ‘Were you a big fan of the TV show The A Team?’
‘Money,’ says Neeson.
Battleship?’
‘Money.’
The Grey?’
Neeson smiles. ‘That was the catering.’
‘I…’
‘I don’t know who you are’ Neeson says.
‘I’m Chad…’
‘I don’t know what you want. If you are looking for quotes, I can tell you now I don’t have them. But what I do have are a very particular set of skills I have acquired over a very long career. Skills that make me a nightmare for people like you. If you let me daughter go…’
‘What?’
‘That’ll be the end of it. I will not look for you, I will not pursue you, but if you don’t… stop crying Chad, if you don’t, I will look for you, I will find you and I will kill you.’
At which point I ran for it.

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