Deauville 2012: The French Give Bobcat Goldthwait Standing Ovation for Killing-Spree Pic 'God Bless America'
The 50-year-old comic and director's latest controversial film, about a terminally ill man who goes on a trash-culture killing spree, spoke with THR at the French film festival and reflected on the relaunch of his career.
Veteran stand-up comedian and director Bobcat Goldthwait relaunched his career as an auteur of guerrilla satires with 2006's Sleeping Dogs Lie and 2009’s World’s Greatest Dad, starring Robin Williams. His latest, God Bless America, about a terminally ill man who goes on a trash-culture killing spree, opened small in the U.S. but played to standing ovations at Deauville, where it premiered in competition in advance of Potemkine’s mid-October French release. Up next for the 50-year-old: a film about Bigfoot and a movie musical based on the classic Kinks’ album Schoolboys in Disgrace, in partnership with Ray Davies. The projects might be getting bigger, the persona more thoughtful, but Goldthwait’s preferred salute to Hollywood remains his middle finger.
THR: With its unapologetic violence, there was some controversy when God Bless America opened in May. Now that it’s out in Australia and opening in France next month, what should international audiences know?
Goldthwait: It’s not a how-to. And it’s not real. That said, I didn’t parody the TV shows, I just re-shot them. I have a guy playing Glenn Beck, with a picture of President Obama dressed as Hitler, and people overseas think that’s fake! It’s not. But the reception here at Deauville has been great. It was sold out, with 1,400 people, and they gave us a standing ovation at the end. I’d love to tell you I’m above it, but my eyes welled up.
Did you feel any blowback after the film’s run in the States?
One thing was annoying: Because there’s a theater shooting in my movie too, when the shooting happened in Aurora, Colo., in July, a few people reached out to me for comments. I refused, because I wasn’t about to use a real tragedy to promote myself. But when people are sick and we turn our backs on them, that’s way more obscene than my movie. Also, if we’re going to ban violent works of fiction, as some people suggested they do to my movie, we really need to start with the Bible. I just shoot a baby; I don’t ask its own parents to cut it in half.
World’s Greatest Dad took in a little more than $200,000 in the US. How do you continue to find funding for your movies?
I beg, borrow and steal. I work outside the system and sell them at festivals. Like, I shot Sleeping Dogs Lie for $20,000 with a crew hired from Craigslist, so it totally exceeded my expectations that it would be in festivals around the world. My next project is about Bigfoot. I’m editing it now.
What’s its budget?
I’d rather not say at this point, but it’s in keeping with my Ed Wood style of filmmaking. I’m only half-kidding. You know, he wasn’t the worst director. His films are never boring, they’re always passionate and personal, and he worked with his friends. I have a big Ed Wood tattoo, actually. And I have Michael Bay on the other arm. (No, he doesn't.) All my friends have been in all of my movies, too. Robin dubbed us "the Bob Wood Players." That’s why the Schoolboys in Disgrace musical is a little different, because I need to attach English actors. I can’t use my regular players or it’ll be Mary Poppins 2, with people going around saying, " ‘Allo ‘allo, guv’nor." My friend Trish Sie, who did the OK Go videos, will do the choreography. Knock on wood we’ll start shooting next year. It’s a bigger scope for me. But still, I don’t want to make studio pictures. The few screenplays I’ve gotten from studios always involve pooping.
It seems like that’s in every movie these days.
Yeah, there’s a real shit zeitgeist going on. Studio comedies don’t interest me because their idea is to make teenagers come out to see them, and I have no interest in entertaining teenagers. I think they’re idiots.
You used to entertain them.
And I regret it to this day. Now they’re 30-year-olds whose development is still arrested. I became famous the same time my friends were graduating from college. Unfortunately, their mistakes aren’t on cable late at night.
Well, you’ll always have that to look back on, and never forget.
It’s my own personal 9/11! I know I have big balls making a movie that criticizes the dumbing down of American culture after Police Academy. Stand-up is still how I pay the rent, too, though I jettisoned my old character because to be 50 and acting like that is stupid. I’m not a fan of most comedies because they’re not about anything other than trying to make people laugh. I don’t think that’s a bad thing, but as a 50-year-old guy, to make movies that aren’t personal and just try to appeal to the widest audience possible? That seems very silly. I’ve made money in my career, and then I’ve not had money too. Being fulfilled creatively is way more rewarding. So it’s OK if people don’t like my movies; I’m still not going to stop making them.