Three Christs director Jon Avnet has one of the most impressive IMDb pages in Hollywood: He produced films from Risky Business to Black Swan, and has worked with everyone from Tom Cruise to Joan Didion. He’s also faced a lot of rejection — and figured out how to get past it.
Three Christs, which Avnet co-wrote as well as directed, stars Richard Gere as a psychologist in the 1950s trying to treat three schizophrenic men who all believe themselves to be Jesus Christ. They’re played by Peter Dinklage, Walton Goggins and Bradley Whitford. In the new MovieMaker Interviews podcast, Avnet talks about why he wanted to get the mostly true story to the screen, and what he learned in the process.
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He also gives a fascinating crash course on Hollywood perseverance, and gives inside accounts of projects from Risky Business to Fried Green Tomatoes to FX’s Justified to Up Close and Personal, the film he directed that starred Robert Redford and Michelle Pfeiffer and was written by John Gregory Dunne and Didion.
Dunne wrote a fantastic book about the experience — Monster: Living Off the Big Screen — in which Dunne describes how his and Didion’s relationship with Avnet went from disastrous to delightful.
“That’s totally accurate,” Avnet says.
And he tells us about his gift for getting people who shut him down professionally to change their minds. “Don’t say no,” he tells them. “Say maybe.”
As we spoke Avnet was hard at work on Four Good Days, a film he’s producing that is directed by Rodrigo Garcia. It stars Mila Kunis as a woman dealing with addiction, and Glenn Close as her mother, who is trying to help her. It premieres this Saturday at the Sundance Film Festival.
Here are highlights of the episode, with timestamps:
2:00: Interview begins, with a discussion of Three Christs.
5:20: Here’s how much Jon Avnet likes research.
13:30: Working with Joan Didion and John Griffin Dunne on Up Close and Personal.
23:30: Let’s talk about Tom Cruise’s Risky Business underwear slide.
26:55: A few words about perseverance and rejection: “Most people who do what I do deal with rejection all the time.”
28:00: “Don’t say no — say maybe.”
31:55: Dealing with critics: “You got to make the movie. They didn’t.”
36:30: “Jump in the steam of life and maybe you’ll go down the river a little bit.”