Matt's Double Bill - Seasoned Actor and Neophyte Director By Mariangiola Castrovilli

in 54th San Sebastian International Film Festival

by Mariangiola Castrovilli

Elegant with nonchalance, smart eyes that try to picture you in ten seconds, Matt Dillon is here at the 54th San Sebastian International Film Fest as the Donostia Award recipient. We talked with him before the ceremony where he was handed the prize.

You are a very good actor and very good director, let’s start from here… “I had a great experience directing. I basically ran a game of every possible thing that could happen on a film. Except that nobody died. So I think in that way it was really good for me. I liked it, I really felt a kind of passion. I mean I love acting but directing in some ways is more fulfilling because I think film is ultimately a director’s medium. And I have been developing a couple of projects that I’d like to direct. You know I didn’t throw my head into the arena after City of Ghosts to become a director. I think most people know me as an actor and that’s what I’m focused on.”

“For me, City of Ghosts grew out of a desire to do something more”, Dillon continues. “To do something more creative. I was reading a lot of bad scripts coming to me. There were some good movies being made but I wasn’t part of them. And I said ‘Well, that could be a movie that I would like to be in.’ I have to be creative. If I don’t have that in my life I’m not a happy person. So I called the author Barry Gifford (Lost Highway, Wild at Heart) who is a friend of mine. I knew him for many years. I said ‘Barry, look, I’m ready, I’ve got an idea and I wanna write.’ He said ‘That’s fine. What took you so long? Let’s get together.’ It was a really good time for me because I was going through a kind of crisis. I wanted to create something. We were in New York and worked twelve hours a day for that kind of storytelling. It was an inspiration for me. I had a great time doing it. But you just never know how things gonna turn out, isn’t it? Of course making City of Ghosts took me away from making a lot of films. And so people would come up to me, when are you gonna be in a movie again? When City of Ghosts came out I was very proud of the film but it wasn’t a big commercial success. Not that many people saw it. It was a smaller release. I don’t think it was really well released… oh I’m not gonna getting into that… Once I did a film everyone’s gonna understand why I haven’t been making films in the meantime as an actor. And I just did this film Crash and everybody went to see it. That came together quickly, I really enjoyed it and now that’s the film that everybody goes to see. You never know how things gonna turn out.”

You, Me and Dupree hasn’t got a good release either. But the public just loved it and Crash made a lot of money as well, not to mention that it earned you great reviews. “Well, I don’t know about all that, but I appreciate what you are saying. I’m glad that audiences responded to the film. When we make films I don’t know how the audience is going to react. To me it’s all about the process. That’s all we have really. I think Crash emotionally is very strong. I think as filmmakers sometimes we can forget how powerful big emotional moments a film can have and I think that’s the strength of that movie.”

Charles Bukowski’s figure seems to be prevalent in San Sebastian, as if his ghost is constantly lurking over the city these years. In 2005 Ben Gazzara received the Donostia Prize — he acted in Marco Ferreri’s Bukowski-film called Tales of Ordinary Madness which premiered right here in the early 80s and got a fabulous applause which was the last thing he expected from a crowd of nicely dressed up elderly women. This year the festival runs a Barbet Schroeder retrospective, and he was the one who brought Bukowski’s work to the spotlight first with Barfly. His other documentary the Bukowski Tapes is also screened here. As for other Bukowski-pupils, Dillon is also one of them. He played the semi-autobiographical character based upon Bukowski’s own persona, named Chinowski in Factotum.

Matt Dillon says: “I’m glad the way Factotum turned out. I was happy working with Jim Stark and Bent Hamer, because I think Bent is really a very passionate filmmaker. He did a wonderful job. I always feel if there’s anything you can get out is great. If you had a great experience with the film and you are pleased with the way it comes out — anything else is sort of a bonus. We don’t make movies for limited audiences. I’m not one of those people. We aren’t gonna make a movie for cinephiles. We wanna make movies that reach out and turn the mirror back on society.”

In recent years, Dillon was also busy doing television. “I directed an episode of Oz which was great to me because it is like boot camp. On that show you had to get ten pages done in a day. I think it’s really healthy for a director to work in that way. Not too much though. Because you might find yourself taking shortcuts. They’re doing great things on television now. Television is getting better in the States, especially with HBO. I don’t really watch reality shows that much because I’m not living in reality…”