The Grey Zone

The Grey Zone

Fortuitous Rejections

Until I was cast in O Brother, particularly
as an actor, but also as a writer, I spent a huge amount of time
and energy trying to do literally anything anyone would hire me
for. And my career right now, if it depends on anything, depends
on a lot of fortuitous rejections. As an example, I wanted desperately
to be a Ferengi on Star Trek Voyager. I would go up for any
pilot-the most tawdry television shows, the most insipid situation
comedies, the most ridiculous plays Off Off Broadway. And for some
reason, which I still don’t understand, I was constantly failing.
But for all the failures, when I actually succeeded in getting jobs,
I got to work with really interesting people. I don’t think it’s
because I’m a particularly interesting person. I don’t think it’s
because I’m incredibly talented. It may have a little bit to do
with the fact that I’m kind of funny looking. But I’ve been extremely
lucky in that regard.

Post-O Brother

Once O Brother happened, I turned the tables.
Now I say ‘no’ a lot; I’ve become very selective. And I feel very
lucky to be in that situation. I need to make money, so I don’t
know for how long I’ll be able to keep doing this. But right now
my guiding principle is only to do projects that are in a sense
irresistible to me. And also, and perhaps more importantly (this
is really a function of having made The Grey Zone) I have
to be able to wake up in the morning and feel like the way I’m going
to spend my day is going to make me feel good about myself and alive.

The Power of Dialogue

I left a lot of debate in the film (from the play)
because it’s absolutely essential to its impact. And I think it
actually adds power to some of the graphic images you see. You have
characters dealing with that in high stakes conversations.

From Stage to Screen

When you’re creating a piece of theater-either as
a writer or director-you must make it entirely and thoroughly theatrical.
So much so that a response to it should be very much like what mine
was to my own play, “This could never be a film. It is so totally
theatrical.” In that respect, form is 100 percent content. Likewise,
when you make a film, the audience should wonder how it was ever
a play, so thoroughly should it be a film. And that’s how I kind
of rate [The Grey Zone] the play and the film; they are separate.

Editing Your Own Film

I think that the pitfall of editing a movie yourself
can be if you’re precious about your own material and your own way
of cutting things. I’m just not that way. I’m really willing to
dispense with anything for the good of the process, and I don’t
get precious. And so I think it worked out really well. There’s
stuff that we cut from the film that I’d never imagined we’d lose-really
great stuff. But I’m really proud of how the film is edited. Although
I was the director, I sort of felt like the editor working on the
material. It made me even less precious and it was really blissful.


The Grey Zone (2002)
Minority Report (2002)
Cherish (2002)
The Good Girl? (2002)
O (2001)
Down From the Mountain (2000)
O Brother, Where Art Thou? (2000)
Hamlet (2000)
Kansas (1998)
The Thin Red Line (1998)
Eye of God (1997)
Donnie Brasco (1997)
Joe’s Apartment (1996)
Heavyweights (1995)
Amateur (1994)
This Is My Life (1992)