JESSE’S OFFICE (Ep #12) “You’ll Never Work in this Town Again” with BRUCE WAGNER


Hi, I’m Jesse Dylan and this
is my cohost Priscilla Cohen, and we’re in Jesse’s Office. Today we’re talking to the infamous
talent, my friend Bruce Wagner. We’ll discuss writing and making movies
about the extremities of human behavior. About nuclear family’s
going nuclear, nuclear, and whether writers can
escape their own voices. We’ll talk about the luminous Carrie
Fisher, the brave Selma Blair, the cool David Cronenberg
and hot Julian Moore. And that will make sense when you
hear Bruce talk about it. But first, subscribe to our YouTube channel to watch
this and more episodes or subscribe to Jesse’s Office, wherever
you stream your podcasts. Feel free to leave comments and reviews.
I try to respond whenever I can. I know. We knew. We knew you’d
know about stuff like that. How are you brother? I’m good. Yeah, it’s
good to see you. It’s good to see you. Glad to have you back in the building.
Nothing has changed in the building. Not a single thing. Except. Not a
single thing except that we’re all. Jerry’s dead. Yeah, Jerry’s dead
there is that. Well, Craig’s dead. Jerry’s dead. Yeah. J Maloney’s
dead. J Maloney? Yeah Maloney. But who’d you say before that? Craig. Who
used to be here. He was a partner. Oh. I don’t think you knew him. You knew him.
Of course he did. But when did he die? I think I knew about that. Back in the
slipstream. Yeah, I knew about that. Of course. But Jerry came after I mean
Jerry’s death came after. Yeah, poor Jerry. Jerry. Yeah. Jesus. How
do you guys know each other? Just through the time. Did you grow
up together? Book world or? Maybe. I think we drove an ambulance together.
I don’t know how we knew, how we knew. Now what is this podcast? How
long have you been doing this? Very recently. A while. I mean, a little
while, a couple, little while, like, like 10 podcasts ago. Wow. We’re
doing a bunch. It’s like a cool thing. Desperate if you send me an email. Oh,
you kidding, we’re excited about you. I am excited about you being
here for sure. Yeah. Well, we’re, you’re gonna help us figure out actually
what it’s about. Well, you know, I mean, you’re a creature of Hollywood.
You grew up here. One of the few people, like me, who grew up here. Yeah. Yeah.
But we haven’t started yet. Oh we have. Yeah. We started when you sat
down. It’s already almost over. We’re halfway done. Okay. That’s good.
Cause I’m going to excuse myself. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Um, yeah. I’m not a
carpetbagger, you know. But I mean, there must be, there is something
magical about this place. You know, it’s like you’re a novelist and you write
about this place. It’s like, you know, I, I still have on the wall over there,
picture of you with, uh, with uh, you know, um, what’s his name? Uh. Be a little more explicit
please. Oh, you know, the, the other writer when we
did that thing, I have, it’s been on my wall all these years.
Wait, bottom feeders? No, no, no, no. Look right there behind that thing. Jeremiah just move that white card
right there. Oh, Bob Dylan? No. No, right there. Oh, Ellroy. Ellroy.
Yeah. Yeah. But you know, Ellroy writes about a certain kind of
place and you write about this place. So, you know, there’s a lot of,
there’s a lot to this. I mean, you think there’s something
magical, magical about Los Angeles? Well, yes. I mean there
is, um, in, in, in, in shamanistic terms, this
person told me that, um, that energetically Los Angeles was
very similar to the Valley of Mexico. Right. Um, for me, uh, you know, uh, I, my, my father was, uh, a show
biz bottom feeder. It really, and we lived, um, South
of Wilshire, you know, what then became known as the slums
of Beverly Hills. You know, I, I was at the Bel, the Beverly
Hills hotel and I ran into, uh, one of the realtors on million
dollar listing. Right. Right. And he was asking me about my, my
hand tattoo, which is a map of, a movie star map from 1931
of Beverly Hills. And, uh, I told him that I lived on
these streets, Rodeo and Camden. And then, uh, he said, Oh,
where? Um, and I said, well, I lived South of the Elbow, you
know what I mean? And he said, oh, you lived in Baja? That’s the
realtors’ term for where I lived. Um, but my father was a
television producer. Um, not really a successful one. And I early on, um, had a real taste, intuitive and artistic for the
extremities of human behavior. You know, so my books are
about the extremes. They’re, they’re the spiritual and
the pornographic and, and, and heinously violent, you know. You know, the, the, it seems like at
the center of your work is always a, a dysfunctional family.
You know, it always, seems like that’s a running
theme through your work. There’s always some dysfunctional group
of people who are trying to communicate and having difficulty, you know,
um, uh, is that seem right? Yeah. I, I mean, I don’t know, you know, there, there are many themes that are, um, consistent in my work. One of
them is madness. Right. Um, characters losing their minds through, um, a repetitive failure, uh, and embarrassment of failure,
uh, or through drugs. Right. Or, uh, inherited psychosis. Um, another stalwart, um, part of my work are damaged
children, you know. Right. Children who are either, um, have a fatal illness,
um, an exotic illness, uh, children that are, are sexually molested and, um, are dying in a sense from the, the nexus of that event. So you could say that drama one, there is no real drama about
families that are um, all, that are all right. You
know what I mean? But, uh, I think as a germ in my work, it’s often, my work often includes a nuclear
family that has gone nuclear, you know, Um, let’s just look at this for a second. I just want to get your opinion on this. You remember this of course? That’s from, that’s from Caddyshack. Yes, that’s
from Caddyshack actually. Bill Murray was amazing. Oh, hold on. Here she
is. She strikes me as a very, this strikes you as a very
Bruce moment. I haven’t, Do you mind, Mr. DeMille,
if I say a few words? Thank you. I just want to tell you how happy I am
to be back in the studio making a picture again. You don’t know how
much I’ve missed all of you. And I promise you I’ll never
desert you again, because after “Salome” we’ll make another
picture, and another and another. You see, this is my life. It always will be. There’s nothing else – just us and the cameras
and those wonderful people out there in the dark… All right, Mr.
DeMille, I’m ready for my closeup. I mean, she, she really reminds me of
a very Bruce Wagner type character. You know. She, I always think of Catherine O’Hara
now doing in this CTV carryover. Yeah. I mean that never gets old for me. Yeah. That, that film never gets old. How is that Hollywood? Like
what is that? How does that, cause it’s been going on
since then? Yeah. This, this movie, the idea of, um, of, of aging out and uh, losing one’s footing and, and then the delusions
that are required, uh, to reinvent or rebuild
one’s facade, you know, um, is something that, that I think
all of us can relate to. I mean, now particularly you have, um, Instagram famous people that suddenly, um, are, are brutally injured because
they fall from a great height or, um, they metaphorically,
no one’s interested in, in them because they make
the wrong comment or um, or get too, too ambitious. You know. Is that a Hollywood thing? Is that
a California thing? No, but you, you specifically in terms
of of Sunset Boulevard, this notion, um, of, of embarrassment and
shame, uh, where one is, has lost one’s relevance
or popularity, I think is, is something that is
heightened in Hollywood, because Hollywood has such a
bright light shown on that. Right. But it’s, it’s a very
human, uh, nightmare, you know, to no longer be relevant. Um, you know, one of the things that is absolutely
riveting to me is Selma Blair’s courageous Instagram account where she announced to the
world that she had MS and drew, draws you in to the daily, um, drama, uh, sometimes, uh, often in a very lighthearted way,
but this, this transformation from someone that was
regarded as untouchable. Uh, as we all regard
ourselves as untouchable, this could not happen to us. This could not happen or
be happening to Selma, uh, is so captivating and, and there’s
a metaphor there. The fall, you know, from the, the elegant, uh, um, movie star who was, uh, so blessed in terms of her beauty that
she was working with Karl Lagerfeld and not a, not a, not a huge movie star, but respectable and loved
that this should be happening, uh, to her, uh, makes her a kind
of sacrificial animal in a way. And, uh, that is absolute drama to me and, and um, and captivating and it encapsulates a
lot of what we were just talking about, this fall. You know, and how does one, certainly Selma is not delusional.
She’s the opposite of that. She’s, um, she’s candid. Her candor is heroic and, uh, and does inspire people
as it should. You know um, so that’s looking back, that’s
peering way into the past. When you look at something like this, Not pregnant, not pregnant. Oh God. You know this is the Kardashians. But now I’m like, why am I so nauseous
all the time? I almost wish I was, so I could just say, that’s why I’m
nauseous. Are you not going to Cleveland? I was supposed to go on Saturday and
I couldn’t, you know, I have migraine, until 3:00 AM I was throwing up, throwing up blood and I just
couldn’t go to Cleveland. I just said it’s too much. You’re
going to do MRI and MRI of your brain. I am hoping to get just any sort of
answer as to why I have been getting migraines so frequently. First to begin
with, we got new songs, new outfits, new location and getting location, we You know, and there’s Kanye.
Also. You know it’s a whole. Her nose is different now. She’s
got a different nose, that’s old. But it’s, but I mean, he’s like a
genius, you know, it’s like. You can’t, in terms of the, the
mandala of the Kardashians, it’s impossible to, to best it. Right. It’s impossible to come up with something
more brilliant in a fictive way. Right. Um, you have Kanye, who is, I, I agree with you. I, I
really adore him. Right. And, and his, the bipolar aspect. Yeah. Which is annoying A F, but is also part of the
mandala. Yeah. And then, I mean, we can’t forget, um, Caitlyn Jenner. Right. And
when, when that happened, it, the impact almost on the culture was, it was a shockwave, you
know, and, and so bold. Uh, so the, the, the Kardashians, you
know, hatched off these new children. I mean, it’s just, uh, as long as it’s a, a reality show for me that, um, that’s, it’s a novel that I, I want to read
again in the, I mean, forget, um, Karl Ove, you know what I mean? The
Kardashians to me have it all. Right. And, uh, you know, so I’m impressed. Yeah.
To death with, with them, you know. I mean, you know, it’s like, does
Trump push them to the side or. Or is Trump a result of, is he president
because of, did they pave the way? Well, I don’t think they paved
the way. I don’t know. No, he’s, he’s part of their show. Yeah.
They’re not part of his show. Yeah. Um, uh, these extremes, have you always been sort of attracted
to the extremes of these behaviors? Yeah, for me, you know, I think my, my work has been misread or misunderstood
often because what we seize on is not the epiphany and not the
spiritual or the transcendent. What we wallow in is the darkness
and the muddy darkness and, and the malignancy of, um, of, of sides of human behavior. For me, I would rather, um, die than only portray the malevolent, uh, side of what we as human
beings are capable of. There’s no, if there’s no redemption,
no transcendence, um, then I would take a pass.
But I think often my work is, is, um, summarized as, um, the bleakest parts of, of, uh, of Hollywood and of
human nature, you know, but I don’t see it that way at all. I never start a book without knowing
that there will be transcendence, that there will be a journey
that will be transcendent. So a book like Memorial, like how
does that start? You know, how do, what’s the first line of the first
page before there’s anything? You know, it’s the same process for me. I’m like a stroke victim who, uh, is slowly working his way back in rehab
to that day when I leave the hospital and leaving the hospital is that day
that I actually begin a book. Right. And every time I forget
how to write a book, I look at the books in front of me, like an uncle wrote them and
sent them to me and I’m saying, how the fuck did my uncle do this?
I could never do this. Right. And then slowly some themes emerge that
are so compelling to me that there’s something so beautiful, um, in the resolution of these themes that I, I am then forced to begin the book. So what would be a theme
that would attract you? Just, just in a broad stroke? Like when you
say a theme, it’s like, you know, oh, I want to deal with violence in this
book. I want to deal with, you know, a heartache. I want to deal with regret.
I want to, you know, what, how do you, what’s a theme? Yeah. Um, you know, I, I’m attracted to the perversions, um, that wealth, um, brings. Right. Uh, and I’m also, um, attracted to, um, personalities that are
sociopathic. Right? You know. Now, have you met a lot of people
like that? I mean, but beyond the normal people we
run into in Hollywood, like where you really know they’re
sociopathic. You don’t, um, really if you’re fortunate, you don’t get to know someone like that
because often there’s devastation in that. But I’m, I’m really attracted
to transformation. For example, um, I was watching a, uh,
reality, uh, documentary, um, about children who were convicted of
violent crimes and given life sentences without the possibility of parole. Right? These were pre 2012 because in 2012, the Supreme Court ruled that, um, that is a violation of the eighth
amendment. You can’t do that. Right. So, um, this documentary, um, was a, uh, a white couple,
uh, well-off. Right. Who were, um, shot in their bedroom and the, the woman died, her husband survived. And it’s, it came out that their daughter was in
love with a 15 year old, daughter was also 15, Mexican boy. And the parents did not approve of
that, did not want her to see him, et cetera. In this documentary, the girl, uh, allegedly asks her
boyfriend to kill them, kill her parents. He doesn’t
want to do that he said. And then the girl, um, concocted the story that she was,
is being molested by the father. So manipulates him into actually
doing the deed. Right. They’re both arrested and now
their case being looked at again. They’re in their early forties now and
they’re both in prisons that are not far from each other. At the
time of their, um, uh, imprisonment at 15, the father was so angry at what his
daughter had wrought that he absolutely lobbied for both of them to go to prison
and get life without possibility of parole. Right. He, they said
he stopped going to church. He went into a spiral of
depression, very dark. The documentary reveals that he has gone
to visit his daughter and reestablished a relationship with her, went
to visit the, the boyfriend, which of course they’re not in any kind
of relationship anymore and allowed the, the, the 15 year old boy, now 42 to begin to forgive himself. Right. And, but this is the stunning
novelistic part of this story. The father said, now, he
said the end of his life, that his fantasy is that
both are freed from prison. He goes and picks up the
boy, now a man, first, and they spend a delightful 90 minutes
traveling to the other prison to pick his daughter up. And then they come and
live with him. Wait, that’s his fantasy? That’s his fantasy. This
will never happen. Right. Because Texas being Texas
said, fuck all of y’all. It’s too late. You file. It had to be a
year after the Supreme Court decision, an impossible thing. Right.
But that’s Texas and, but the fantasy of it, you know, um, is something that was so
baroque and poignant to me. Um, you know, it was, I used a
plane crash in one of my books. I think it was Still Holding, and I based it on something
which was real. Um, it was a, um, a plane that was coming
from Puerto Vallarta, and if you read the details of the
crash when the pilots called the, the air control tower in San Francisco, they got a pilot over to the air control
tower to listen to what the pilot was saying was wrong with the plane.
Right. Once they made it clear, the pilot knew that there was no
way they could fix this. Right. And that the plane was doomed.
Right. All he said was, I’ll see you in San Francisco. Yeah. So you’ve got the pilots having a little
bit of hope and telling the passengers, let’s say we’re having some trouble. So you have these 350
souls truly like, um, a lost ship. You know,
the flying Dutchman, their intent is that they’re going to
land and they’re thinking of their loved ones. It’s so mythical
to me and so powerful. So these themes come, but they have
to be really significant, Jesse, in order for me to decide,
I’m going to drape a novel, you know. You know, you know, good thing to hear
the thing about the plane. I’m flying in a little bit today.
Yeah, I was just thinking about that. Just thinking. But, um, uh, you’ve had fellow travelers, you
know, Buck Henry, Carrie Fisher. We’re looking at, uh, the, the, um, you
know, a James Ellroy up there. You know, what is it that that
makes a fellow traveler, I know you were very close with Carrie,
like what would you, you know, which, you know, she was a satirist
in a certain sense of the word. Did you, I mean, not even in your work,
you know, cause you obviously loved her. Was there a, um, was there a view
on the world that comes through? You know, she’s a special,
special case. Right. I mean, she was um, there’s a group of
us that are still, you know, will be forever grieving our own flying
Dutchman, our own lost plane. Right. Um, Carrie having essentially died on a
plane. Right. And I know there’s not a, a plane ride I go on that I don’t
think of, of my dear sister. Um, and she was a luminous creature. I mean, I remember seeing Buck, um, he was so angry at God and it
was so touching for me to behold, you know, he was, he was violently
quaking. Right. Angry that, that, that this soul should have
been allowed to be released. Um. So what was the magic of her? You know, beyond, you know, we all know her as the Star Wars
star and the movies she made, but she was a great writer and she
was a, the few times I was with her, she was always just sort
of a magical person, in a way. Yeah, truly, I mean,
impossible to convey. Um, but you know, uh, everyone that had close
encounters with her, I mean more than glancing were, she was like a perfume and it, it was,
the scent was different on everyone, you know. So she, she, she
was a, a genius, Carrie, not only a, um, cerebral, but, uh, soulful and, um, You know, usually with
people like that, there’s a, because they’re so good at what they
do, there’s a, there’s a kindness. Is there a deep kindness? Oh, generosity. Yeah. Yeah.
Absolute generosity. So, you know, but I, I, you know, I don’t talk, this is the first time I’ve
ever talked about her. Um, people are always asking me and so
many others and it’s something that is repugnant to me, you know? Um,
but you’re an old friend. Of course, um, so yeah, I mean, there will
never be the likes of her again, that it’s that the ultimate
cliche, you know, which, which, uh, I don’t even like to hear that
cliche, but it’s the only, it’s what comes to mind with her. You
know, I have a question cause themes, you say themes, but then
your characters are so vivid. So are the characters coming from
these people in your life as well? No, not at all. Do you, do you know them? You know, ah, Dickens used to say that he knew his
characters, you know? Oh absolutely. Yeah. Did they, so how, where do they
come from? Well, I mean, that’s a, an unknown, you know, but, but
the beautiful thing about when, when when you write a
book, when I write a book, there comes that wonderful
moment when, um, the, the character is writing you, you’re no longer writing the character
and it’s a liberation because it’s burdensome when you’re carving and, uh, you’re anguishing over a character and, and then one day it takes
hold of you. And that’s, uh, that’s a lovely moment
for me because, uh, um, I don’t know then where I’m going. Do they hang around, these
characters after the book is gone? No. I think it’s probably like an
actor doing a movie or something, you know. Um, when did you meet David Cronenberg
and, and was it, did you, obviously, he’s one of our
great auteur directors, maybe one of the very few
that are left. I mean, there’s Quentin Tarantino and a few
others, but there’s not many. Yeah. Um, do you remember when you met him
and what, and, and what was it? Did you immediately
recognize a kindred soul? Well, uh, I, I loved his
movies so much, and um, we had the same agent at a
certain point, John Burnham, and I knew Burnham from
high school, you know, uh, and he, I think had mentioned to me
that, that David liked my work, you know, David’s very literary, uh, as famously said or infamously that
he was more influenced by books than, than film. Sure. So I, um, I wanted to do something
with David, you know, and there was a section
of the first book I wrote, Force Majeure called Wild Songs and
it was about a Holocaust survivor impersonator, you know, and so I flew to Toronto
to meet with David and. Like you were going to adapt just that
piece. Yeah, I was thinking of that, you know, but it was really an entrée. It was a reason to go and see
David and uh, and then we, we, there was a kinship.
There’s a, a very, something. Was it instant though? You
know, there’s very, very few, there’s very few of these kinds
of people around. You know, there just kind of unusual
characters. He was, you know, do you walk in and sit down and know
that this is like something special, instant Jewish daddy, Jewish
brother, you know, Jewish husband. I mean, you know, instant and, um, are, there’s many similarities in our work.
You know, the, our preoccupations. And I think I had written
Maps to the Stars, um, and, and showed it to him.
Not that I, I wasn’t, uh, so presumptuous as to say, maybe
you could do this. Shoot this thing. Yeah. Yeah, because it was so odd, the piece that I think
I was a little gun shy, but I showed it to him the way I
would show him a novel or a novella. And he, uh, he didn’t say
much about it, but he, he somehow it lodged in his head. And maybe 10 years later he
said, um, I’d like to do this. And then it fell apart and then it was
another eight years or something like that, you know. When you give a movie like that to
an artist like that, you know, your, what’s your role on the
set? Cause he’s not, he’s not gonna change your
words. So what’s his, what’s his, what’s he counting on you for, during
the process of making the movie? Well, um, you know, I was just, it was such a privilege for me to
hang out on that set, you know? But are you just hanging out
or is he asking you questions? Well he, you know, I remember there
was a time the script supervisor, um, would, uh, the script supervisor would
literally go up to him and say, this actor or actress said “the”, and there’s no “the” in the script. Right. Do you want her to do it
again or are you okay with it? Sometimes he would say do it again. Right. And it was a certain point where
I asked th escript supervisor, um, cause I had some nervousness on
the set. Uh, I said, what are you, what are you doing next? And he said, very Canadian, but very earnest. He said, it’s what are we doing next? You know?
Right. You’re part of this. Right. And that was a lovely moment for me, but David would ask me,
um, certain things. I mean, he knew exactly what he was
doing. So it was never like. So would he say like, well you know, what was your guy thinking about
in this moment? No, no, no. So would it be like, I
mean, what would it be like? Well how big do you think the house is or? No, it would be more, um, like he, he, there would be continuity issues
in terms of the script. Right. Something that suddenly for
him didn’t make sense. Right. And I would either agree or disagree. Um, most of the time agree because he’s
been doing this for so long or, um, I would say, you know, um, Scientology is, um, going through a controversial
period. So this line where, uh, Robert Pattinson says he’s thinking
of becoming a Scientologist as a career move. Does that no longer make sense?
We would discuss that. You know, so it was things like that, but for
the most part I was along for the ride. I mean I just had front row
seat and, and loving it. And what did you see there? Cause you
know, you’ve been on a lot of sets. So this is somebody
different. And you know, I’ve, I’ve been on sets and seen really amazing
directors make great choices and you know, there’s something different when
you’re sitting with them. We’re, did you, did you feel something different
about how he thought about, about making a movie?
Because he’s made so many? Well, David, um, is very cool. You
know, Julianne Moore said this, there’s, you know, my shit is hot and David’s
stuff is very cool. So that synthesis, um, was good for me to watch. In
other words, he would make decisions. You know, my impulse is always to go toward
the Grand Guignol and the Baroque, although there was plenty of Grand
Guignol in, in Maps to the Stars. But David was extremely, um, almost poetically scientific about what
he was doing and absolutely fearless, you know. Um, how, how fearless,
what do you mean fearless? Well, uh, the, uh, the material that, in Maps to the Stars was confounding
to critics at times because it was, um, they couldn’t understand the, the, that there could be a nuance that there
could be a collision of genres such as something that is dream-like, which I thought the whole movie was
a fever dream and yet satirical, you know? So critics like
to say, well, what is it? Is it one or is it the other? Is it children of paradise or is
that the player? You know? Yeah. And, and it was, it was a
Cronen-Bergundian as we put it, um, um, melange, you know, so
David was fearless in that sense. Does not absolutely, does
not give a shit about, um, anyone’s interpretation
or critique, uh, and has a very, very clear, uh, almost rapacious vision of what this
film or whatever film he’s working on, should look like. You know, You know how, how much do you, when
you’re sitting and writing a book, how much do you, do you think back
on other books by other writers? Are there writers that you go like, uh,
okay, I, I’m gonna look at Dostoyevsky, or I’m gonna look at Gogol
or, you know, like, is there, are there writers that are,
are breadcrumbs for you? No, you know, I think when I was 15, I
read a quote from Norman Mailer and, um, it stuck in my head all these years,
you know, 50 years later, he said, when you’re working on a
book, it’s like you’re, you’ve got your car up on a rack and, and the engine’s out and
you’re just covered in grease. You don’t want to look up
and see a Ferrari zoom past. So you, you stay away. I
stay away from any of those, um, writers that are so close to my heart
because for better or for worse, whatever book I’m writing is going
to be a book by Bruce Wagner. I can’t escape that. I have
tried to escape it. You know, I have tried to escape it. You know, um, uh, California, it’s such an unusual place, you
know, and, and all writers, you know, in poetry, you know, you think
about great poets, it’s like they, they always own a place, you
know, they always, you know, it’s like you’re not going to read
Dante and he’s going to be, you know, talking about being in France, you
know, he’s talking about what he, where he grew up. Is, is the
influence of California just in, a hidden character in all of your work? I, you know, I, I honestly
don’t know. I, I’m, uh, you know, I’m, I’m a California
boy through and through, you know, um, I’m obsessed with the Beach Boys, the mysticism and, and, and
purity of the Beach Boys, obsessed with the iconography of surfing.
Although I, I don’t go in the ocean, you know, um, um, uh, enthralled with the astrological
chart. Right. You know, um, and yet there is that aspect
of me that has an interest, uh, in the murderous and
the transcendent, you know, and that end of the world aspect of
California and that sunlit aspect, you know, I think of Ed Ruscha so much because
he embodies for me so much of, of California and Los Angeles. And I would like to say that I have
been influenced by California as he has. It’s a, what is it exactly?
Um, there’s something mystical, something very simple with clean lines, something with a light that is
as magical and indescribable, let’s say as Carrie Fisher. You
know what I mean? Um, the, the, the idea of the movie industry, which is for me operatic and
an absolute laboratory for, um, for transcendence and death. Um, and that’s not just what the movies
portray. That is the people that are the, the pyramid, the people that built
the pyramid of the movies, you know, and perished during that time, either naturally or unnaturally,
you know what I mean? Do you, do you, when you say murderous, how do you study that? How do you learn about the things
that you might write about, about sick children or dark
things that have occurred? Well, you know I think you have,
you’re born with a predilection, you know, um, I like
for example, I was, um, reading, um, Denis Johnson the other day, Jesus’s Son. And I came
to that quite late. And at the end of that book, there
is a story about a hospital, well, hospital ward, convalescent, um, hospital that had all kinds of
people in it, not just old people. When I drove an ambulance, I
was in one of those places. It was a convalescent
hospital that had, um, uh, children in it too, had
oversized heads, hydrocephalus. It had accident victims, people in their thirties who
were quadriplegic. It was a, a ward. Uh, you know, uh, the of of anomalous types because we
consider a convalescent home to be a very tidy, uh, there’s a tidy definition. It’s where people who are aging go to, to live their lives out in hopefully
some kind of peace. So there, here’s something in a bedlam
in essence, you know. Um, uh, so I, I came to that because
it attracts, it attracted me. It wasn’t that I then
became attracted to it. It found me, you know what I
mean? I didn’t find it. And, and this idea, um, of
my preoccupation with, with, um, with violence or, um, or the horror of, um, of, of human beings and their
phobias, their fears, their, um, claustrophobic nature, their,
their, um, people that are, that are afraid of heights,
open spaces, flying. All of these things are things that
I had to confront in myself. Right. Because I was neurotic to the core. I don’t think so. I don’t
think so. I mean, um, the, the artist’s prerogative. I, I
have my bad days, but I think, and it’s not that I purged those fears, but I certainly confronted them
in my fiction and that was very, that was a very powerful fuel for me.
I, I confronted my anger, you know, there’s this lovely quote, um, um, from, um, Christopher Hitchens where, uh, they asked him about his
anger. He said, yeah, he wakes up angry and it
really is helpful for his work. I think I wrote for many
years, um, in a rage, you know, and I still do. I still do. There’s
so many things that enrage me, you know, um, back to Selma Blair, um, I think she had her hair in, in braids and someone
accused her of appropriation. I mean, things, things on these
micro scales have the, the, I tend to satirically make
them much larger, you know, uh, as a way of almost doing
chemo on that horrific aspect, that cancer, that, that grows
in our society where. uh, fingers are pointed, um,
for nonsensical reasons. Um, but these things, um, lead often to, to very dark places. Does it, you know, I always thought of the
years that we’ve known you, you would always talk about that dark,
the human nature, the vicious attacks. And now with really the
onset of social media, we see all of that come out more, is, do you think there’s just more opportunity
or it’s just the way many people are? Yeah, I don’t see, um, I don’t have a nostalgia for a
time that was kindler and gentler. Right. I know. Well, there wasn’t really
a time. Yeah, that’s what I meant. That’s what I meant. I, I
don’t, um, you know, you, you, you, you, there was the woman recently that
carved a baby out of a, a woman, right? And now that the baby is dead, the
woman died. So you could say, well, Sharon Tate lived in
kinder, gentler times. They didn’t carve the baby out
of her, but it would be farcical. Do you know what I mean?
There is an aspect of, of the darkness of humanity, as I said, it is essential that that
aspect is balanced, um, with the absolute truism that there is an, an, an, an element of
us that is sacred and, and tender and, um, and, and glorious, you know. You know, is it the, the opposite of these extremes
that attracts you, the, the angelic being and the darkest being
and how those co-exist between people? Yeah, I would say absolutely.
Absolutely. You know, and, and what is, what is the Kardashians, or the world
of Kardashians, is that just backdrop? You know, uh, I, I can’t, um, I won’t even venture to deconstruct
the, the Kardashians. You know, the mandala of the Kardashians. It’s
complicated, right? Yeah. It’s a super, like everybody’s super
dismissive of it, but it’s. Well not everybody is dismissive.
Yeah, I think at one time, um, it, it was, uh, more common to, to say
what are they famous for? You know, which I think is, is so
simplistic at this point. Right. You know what I mean? Um,
you know, uh, those, uh, the bathroom, you know, with
the flat sink, I just, I, I love that shit. You know what
I mean? And, and he, you know, I watched his interview with, uh,
with Letterman. Oh, you mean Kanye? Kanye. Yeah. Um, he, you know, I, I really do have a, uh, an emotional attachment to his music.
Yeah. Right. And yeah, and then you, you hear these old [bleeping]
mother[bleepers], these rockers, you know, say, oh, I don’t get it. You
know, you, I mean, you know, because they’re not listening. Right.
You know, his love of language and, or he has that sacred and profane aspect, which is so attractive to me. Were
you, were you shocked when, you know, the downfall, although he
hasn’t really fallen really, Harvey Weinstein and the entire kind of disintegration or the ma,
things coming around with, with everything that happened in Hollywood
recently and then it accelerates? I wasn’t shocked. It’s, it’s
interesting to me, um, that, that a, a wave, a tsunami came and, and destroyed, uh, an entire coast, you know? Yeah. Uh, that’s interesting because you never
expect that you, you don’t know, um, something like that’s coming. But you’re in Hollywood your
whole life. And certainly we all, I mean we all heard these stories, I
mean, people knew this was going on. Did you ever expedt? To
the extent it’s sort of, always being discovered in different
ways when you think about, you know, Eddie Fisher and you know, you know,
all the things he went through. I mean, like you just can go
back to these sort of, there’s always these rituals of
humiliation and. Right, but to this level? I don’t know. Well you know. Were’s
Kevin Spacey today, for example? Yeah. Well, uh, I, I think
you’ll be back. I think he’ll be, I think he’ll be back. Yeah. But,
um, with Weinstein, you know, it is, unless you were really in
the trenches, I mean, I, I, you know, I had my thoughts
about Harvey Weinstein, but the shit that came out,
certainly not, you know, I had no awareness of
that. And, um, you know, I had heard one actress that
I know said that, um, he, she had been asked to his
hotel, but she’s a tough cookie. And she told me that years
ago and I, it wasn’t, it didn’t register, but. You know, let’s watch this one last clip
cause it may have, it may have some, may provide some things.
This Jack Nicholson getting
the Cecil B. Demille award. Oh. Right. But it, but I saw this clip and I thought of
you because he does this one thing that reminds me of you. And, uh, I’ve come to the Golden
Globes forever. Before I was invited, before, before it was on
television. And you know, but before television, it was wild. I saw Joan Crawford, you
know, the, the legend. Idol of my own mothers and sisters in
World War II for chic and a strong woman, probably already the chairman
of the CEO of Pepsi Cola, stand up here and go. In my day we had em. I saw Rita Hayworth comes sauntering
down the center stage to some stripper music, you know, turned her.
Back over. I’ll tell ya. What a sight, I almost wept. You know, in a certain sense, isn’t that
you watching all these people? No, no, I’ll tell you what’s me. No?
Okay. When I watch this. Um, in my head I see Sean Connery pursued
on the street now in his eighties, enfeebled. Um, was that Warren Beatty? Yeah. Making that embarrassing
flub, appearing geriatric. Oh yeah. And, and then the last movie, not making
much of an, of an impression. Right. And the, the fadeout, Nicholson cantankerous, uh, front row, still Lakers. How much longer? I see in other words the
Olympian gods who for, in almost, um, uh, uh, an amount of time that
cannot be quantified, are famous and, and wealthy and, and powerful. I remember barely, but watching something like this and
it’s so present and now it’s new, it’s, it will become a newsreel and
everyone will be dead. So, so is that about impermanence?
Yeah. Yeah. In other words, the, the, you know, um. Everything
is. Everything is a, is, is, is a dream, is a
dream. So this is the, the, the trick of this life is you, you love and you care deeply. Uh, and yet it’s a dream that,
that you will awaken from, um, into another dream.
Uh, and, and so all of the, the, the anguish, the absolute misery, the depths of horror
that, that we feel, um, you know, the, the, uh, is, uh, is a, a famous Buddhist quote like
the death of a child in a dream. Do you know what I mean? Right. So one, one has to somehow keep one’s sanity by, uh, with humility. You know, um, I look
at that and I don’t, I don’t say, Oh, these foolish people no, I, I, you know, I love Nicholson in my day
as much as, as everyone did. Um, and so it’s not that,
but you have to have the, the humility when you’re
writing about impermanence, um, that fame is, is attractive.
Uh, you know, there were, there was a story that I’ve
often quoted where, um, a, a, there was a Buddhist monk that wanted
to be the most famous recluse. You know, that was his aspiration.
And, and I, I, uh, it has been written in Buddhist texts
that the desire for fame and approbation is the most difficult thing to shake. It’s harder than the desire
for riches, for revenge. It’s the last one to go. Right.
Do you know what I mean, and, and so we have to realize
that in the dream, the, that’s why it so attracts me that
the, this dream of Hollywood. This dream is impermanence. Uh, uh, this impermanent notion of fame.
You know, it, it, it, it captures me, you know, that’s why the, the
Selma Blair thing is, is so, uh, staggeringly moving and, um, and lovely in its way to me, you know?
No, no morbidity about it at all. Nothing morbid about it at all. Yeah.
It’s the truth, you know? Yeah. Bruce, thank you so much for coming in and
doing this.Thank you Bruce. It was great. Thank you. Thank you. Yeah, it
was lovely. Yeah, that was great. Thanks for watching or listening. Don’t
forget to subscribe. Click here, here, for the next episode. [inaudible].

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