Harvard Man

Adrian Grenier, Sarah Michelle Gellar and
Gianni Russo in James Toback’s Harvard Man.

On the dangers of LA

is ironically and paradoxically a dangerous place to be if you make
movies. Because it’s almost impossible to keep a sense of film as
a representation of life and to get connected to what’s going on
outside. In other words, if you’re going to make films about making
films, that’s a good idea for a film. But to continue in
a career in which it’s all self-reference and self-quotation or
quotation from friends or enemies, it’s such a distortion of what
film can and should be.

On the LA-NYC myth of moviemaking

It’s like all forms of life are moving away from the
gravitational source that used to draw everything down to it. Even
the stock market, you don’t have to be on Wall Street to play stocks;
you don’t have to be in Las Vegas to gamble; you don’t have to be
in a university to learn. And you certainly don’t have to be in
New York or LA to make movies or to feel connected to movies you
want to make or write about.

On the importance of being detached

I try to detach myself enough from what I’m writing
that I’m just watching and listening. I’m sort of the recording
secretary, recording this behavior… I’m not trying to steer them
in one direction or another. It’s as though I’m witnessing the movie
in my head and then writing it down as I’m seeing it and hearing

On smart casting

When I’m casting, [I’m looking for people] who are
not just capable of improvisation, but of invention, which is a
far more extreme form of on-the-spot discovery. The whole idea is
to get people who are witty, funny, open, wild and free-wheeling
enough that almost anything they do on their own is going to be
of some inherent interest.

On the magic of the cutting room

Editing becomes the last stage of writing. It’s not
just a rewrite, but a kind of last stage reinvention of the movie.

On acting for film versus the stage

On the stage, you’re stuck; it’s what it is at that
moment and you’re not going to be able to redo or rethink or rewrite—it
just is. Whereas with film you have this great luxury, even on the
fastest shooting schedule which I, well I don’t want to say ‘unfortunately,’
but which I’ve been forced to adhere to, you have the great luxury
of later on being able to take your time and work through all these
riches you have and shape something original and interesting and
new from it.

On sexual gratification and censorship

[In Two Girls and a Guy, the scene] when Downey
was giving head to Heather Graham: I think there were originally
17 head bobs. Not that I had counted, but [the ratings board] did.
She said ‘I can tell you right now you’re never going to get by
with any more than two or three.’ And I said ‘Well you tell me the
last time anyone got you off with two or three head bobs and I want
to meet that guy!’