In my opinion, you are making some of the best comedies out there today. But you have Man About Town, which goes direct-to-DVD. You have The Search for John Gissing, which you are self-distributing. What it is about your films that might make them appear unmarketable to some people?
I don’t know. People like my work, but the industry doesn’t think a lot of me. I don’t know why that is. Maybe it’s because I never had a hit. I’ve never been the flavor of the week. I have a movie written called The Emperor of Michigan, and I have a great cast attached, but I can’t find anyone to finance it. You could have worse things happen in your life, but I’m just in a situation where you go, “Now what?”
The Upside of Anger, that was slapped with an R rating. Is that a problem?
I don’t think so. I mean Knocked Up has an R-rating, doesn’t it? The 40-Year-Old Virgin. I don’t know. It’s a good question. I know that when I made Gissing, a lot of people said, “He shouldn’t have put himself in the role,” that I should have had a movie star in the role or someone else. They also said it was a “tweener.” It’s not an art house film, but it’s not a studio film. I think if I had come out with it today, it would have got distributed. But I’ve had offers (from distributors) to put it in two theatres and then they would own it forever.
In John Gissing, it’s not like you didn’t have any names. You had Janeane Garofalo, Alan Rickman. In Man About Town, you had Ben Affleck and Rebecca Romijn. Those are pretty big name. What is it that draws the names to your films?
I’ve never had a problem with actors. Actors read my scripts and love them. It’s more about distribution companies. I don’t know what that is. They just don’t find me sexy enough or attractive enough in terms of being a Wes Anderson or Noah Baumbach. That’s not to say they aren’t talented guys, but I’ve never been able to get into that groove, where people say, “Let’s back him. He’s a good filmmaker.”
How personal are all your films? They all seem to follow a theme, someone who is successful, a middle-aged white guy who hits a bump in the road and reevaluates himself. There are a lot of films out there targeting 20-somethings that way, but I wouldn’t classify your films as simple mid-life crisis films. What is it you are trying to get across with this idea, a successful guy who is hitting this bump?
I don’t think that way about my movies. I think they are all different, but I see what you are saying. I guess I’m just trying to deal with life on life’s terms. So even when you get into the next phase, when you are married and you settle down, everything doesn’t come easy.
You haven’t had a hit like you said, but you are tapping into something, I think, that is going to happen more and more with the Baby Boom generation getting older and they are not feeling the same way about life as someone else might have felt at the same age before.
Right. And I also think I’m trying to make characters that are a little flawed. They are not perfect. But at the same time they are real people. They aren’t hitmen or cops, they just kind of live normal lives. They are very real, so they aren’t as escapist.
You don’t have that escapist element, but you are capturing something important.
People tell me that they are funny and that they are real to them.
Sometimes too real.