VIFF 2013 Interview: 'Willow Creek' Helmer Bobcat Goldthwait On Making Movies
October 21st, 2013 10:22am EDT
If anyone is a true inspiration in terms of taking a single career in many different directions with equal success it’s performer Bobcat Goldthwait. Starting out in the comedy world as a writer and stand-up, then moving to film performer and then finally becoming one powerhouse filmmaker, Goldthwait has made heads turn through every part of his notable career. After directing such brilliant films as "World’s Greatest Dad" and "God Bless America," his latest picture is yet another jump into unknown territory – a horror film. In the vein of suspense thrillers and found footage flicks, "Willow Creek" takes a look at a couple’s interest in the Bigfoot lore. At the recent "Vancouver International Film Festival 2013" where "Willow Creek" was screening Starpulse.com Canadian correspondent Michael Coleman got a chance to chat with Goldthwait one-on-one about everything from his new move into the terror genre to past work highlights like the cult classic "Shakes the Clown." Let’s not wait - here’s...
So let’s start off - do you like being called Robert or Bobcat?
Bobcat Goldthwait: I like Bobcat - I think what happened is on my passport it says Robert. I don’t know why all of a sudden I’m getting all this Robert, but I like Bobcat.
How the heck do you get a name like Bobcat?
BG: How it came about was around the time that Tom (Kenny) and I started doing comedy we were working with a guy named Barry. He came in one night and we were fifteen or sixteen years old and he wants to be called Barcat. And Tom laughs and I go, ‘That’s funny because my name is Bobcat and that’s what everyone calls me!’ – which was a total lie. So that’s the origin of our nicknames, but the funny part is now its thirty some years later and I’m Bobcat and they’re just Barry and Tom.
"Shakes the Clown" has been described as ‘the Citizen Kane of alcoholic clown movies’ – how would you describe it?
BG: (Laughs) I would say it’s more the "Barfly" of alcoholic clown movies. I don’t know – "Shakes the Clown" to this day is a really weird movie. Tom and I recently went to a screening and people came and they were dressed up as the characters and they knew the dialogue and it was packed.
No mimes there?
BG: (Laughs) No mimes! There were some clown whores which was weird. There were these women who were slutty clowns and it was really strange. And in the middle of the movie I just lean over to Tom and I go, ‘What the f#ck were we thinking?! What is this movie about?’ (Laughs) I think Shakes is an angry movie and it’s also me going can I make a movie? And then the other movies I think, or the last handful, are about can I tell a story. But I do think tonally there’s something in Shakes that’s in all the movies. They’re not slices of life – they’re like little fables.
Hidden gem of Shakes – the hilarious and caustic LaWanda Page!
BG: LaWanda came in and she reads the script and she’s auditioning and she sees ‘as soon as that camera’s off he’s gonna f#uck that little dog’ and she goes, ‘This is cute – who wrote this?’ (Laughs) But I don’t think she knew I was the director because she goes, ‘Shakes, can you get me a coffee?’ So she had me running around getting her things and stuff. And then when she starts ad-libbing, wow. The line was something like ‘he gets a lot of p@ssy’ and I said, ‘LaWanda say whatever you want.’ I thought she was gonna say ‘shut up fool’ or something. But she goes into ‘I got a peanut butter p@ssy’ and normally when someone says something like that there’s a big laugh when you say cut. There was silence like what the hell was that and my buddy leans over and goes, ‘I betcha sometimes you gotta pinch yourself!’
"World’s Greatest Dad" is a brilliant biting satire – what were people’s initial reactions reading the script and was there ever any pressure to water it down?
BG: Yeah, there were people who were interested in making the movie because Robin (Williams) was attached, but they were thinking we could change things and make it a more accessible comedy. But I didn’t have an interest in that, so I didn’t make the movie with those people. It was when I found Darko and they were just right on board and got what I was interested in - that’s how we got the movie made. That movie is kind of personal in a weird way because it’s about a guy growing up when he’s a middle aged man and I think I’ve done my fair share of that and hopefully I keep doing it. You have two choices – you can either stay and repeat behavior that’s not making you go forward or you can say this job or relationship doesn’t work for me and pursue what makes you happy.
The use of the Queen song "Under Pressure" was so pitch perfect for the ending of the film – was it always your intention to use it?
BG: I’m trying to remember if there was another song, but I think it was always Under Pressure and then we were thinking about other songs in case we didn’t get it. But that, unlike other songs, was scary because we had to get the song locked up before the movie was finished so that was stressful.
"God Bless America" spat in the face of subtlety and was in your face the whole way – had things reached a boiling point for you as a filmmaker and was that in any way a motivation for making the film?
BG: Yeah, but for me the movie was I was trying to ask the question of where are we going? It really wasn’t a laundry list of what I hate and what I don’t hate. Some of the things that Frank and Roxy rail against I actually am a fan of, I just wanted to make a movie that I call a ‘violent movie about kindness.’ And that’s what did concern me – I think some who are not fans of the movie just see it on one level and they don’t understand the subtext. Even Frank and Roxy are guilty of what they say bothers them. But then again there are other people that it really works for. So I could have watered it down and it probably could have worked for more people, but that didn’t interest me.
You’re latest "Willow Creek" is a horror movie which for you is a curious choice - why did you ultimately decide to jump to that genre?
BG: It’s a genre picture definitely, but it’s more suspense and horror. I initially went to Willow Creek the town where the Patterson-Gimlin footage was shot thirty-seven years ago and I kind of thought I’d make a Christopher Guest type movie where you use a bunch of comedians and like a Bigfoot convention. And then when I got involved I thought I’m an outsider and I don’t want to make fun of outsiders and also it just lent itself to a found footage movie. So I talked to my friend Joe Lynch and I told him found footage was so played out and he said, ‘They’ll make it because it will be yours.’ But there are certain things in found footage that I have a problem with like who found the footage and re-cut it? So there’s only sixty seven edits in the movie and it plays out like the digital information that you’d have in a camera. The movie that influenced it was "Grizzly Man" with the idea of a guy who’s so driven that it leads to his downfall.
What’s next for you?
BG: Well, there are a handful of screenplays that I’ve written. I’ve been trying to get this musical going based on this Kinks album from the 70’s called Schoolboys in Disgrace - I’m going back over to the UK to try to get that going. But I tour around, I do stand-up, I do festivals. I also wrote this new screenplay that the guys who produced "World’s Greatest Dad" and "God Bless America" seem interested in it and hopefully I’ll do that. I’m getting by, but at least I’m working with people that I admire. I don’t know what the future holds, but I’ve never been a guy with a five year plan.
Photo Credits: Photos Courtesy of Vancouver International Film Festival 2013