Not many working filmmakers excite me as much as Bobcat Goldthwait. He’s got five films under his belt, the three most recent of which are superbly personal, independent and made with perfect integrity (and the first two of which are similarly must-see anyhow). He’s a great role model for filmmakers, I think, pursuing the freedom to make his films, his way, and to have them all say and mean something he believes in, rather than there being any concern about how big his pay day will be.
Released in the UK this July 4th (of course), God Bless America is being described as both his most personal and his angriest film to date. But does Bobcat himself see it that way?
The film is about a man diagnosed with a terminal illness who goes on a killing spree with a teenage girl sidekick, putting a bullet into anybody who is just too darn rude. It’s a massively exaggerated revenge fantasy for anybody who ever craved justice when some idiot on the bus was playing loud and terrible music and just wouldn’t switch it off.
So, here is some of what Goldthwait told me about God Bless America, and also some of the other films he’s planning, including the Kinks musical Schoolboys in Disgrace.
Speeches And Rants
There are certain movies that influenced this one a lot. Certainly Tarantino with the big long speeches and dialogue. The other person I was thinking of was David Mamet, and Jules Feiffer’s Little Murders. And Network too.
With the speech at the end, I was trying to make the audience think “This is what the whole movie is coming to, this guy is going to make this speech” but then there’s the spin there – spoiler alert!
I don’t know what the rule is with speeches, I just wanted to do a movie where I did them.
People say ”This sounds like a stand-up comedian’s rants” and I wonder, if I wasn’t a stand up comedian would they say that? I started doing stand up when I was 15, I got on Letterman when I was 20, I’ve been doing stand-up to pay my bills for 30 some years. I’ve said everything I ever wanted to on stage and never held back so it wasn’t that I was thinking “I’m going to have to do a movie to get it all out.”
A Murderous Point Of View
I agree with about 80, 90% of what Frank has to say. I’m not homicidal, and I don’t think we should kill people. for characters in movies, especially in comedy, it’s okay to have bodily functions. You can crap or jizz on anybody, you can be nude, but you can’t have a character that actually has an opinion about something. People have no problem with a character shooting a baby but they freak out that Diablo Cody gets name checked in an unflattering way. If anybody thinks that the character Roxy would be a fan of Diablo Cody, they’re out of their minds.
Roxy is scattershot. She just hates. She’s pissed at the world. Frank is asking the world to be decent. I needed Frank to say “I only kill people who deserve to die.”
My daughter is really funny and whenever she says something funny people go “You’re like Juno” and she says “Dad, I want to stab them in the throat when they say that.” But it’s really funny that people think I agree with everything the characters say in the movie.
But I’m not trying to distance myself. I do believe in the message. I do wish people were nice. I do believe what the movie says about a lot of things, but I’m not Frank.
I’m not angry. I may have been at one point, when I was a younger man. It was an immature anger. It was me pouting, thinking I should have had more money or been in more movies or some other infantile thing. As an adult man, I’m not angry. I get to make movies, and I get to make them with my friends and family. And I get to go fuck off and look for Bigfoot for a week, driving all around. I’ve got a pretty good life. It’s very fulfilling.
I’m not mad at the Jersey Shore cast or the Kardashians, I’m mad at so many people’s appetite for these distractions. People say “Why doesn’t Frank turn the TV off?” but I’ve never watched the Kardashians and I knew when she got married, when she got divorced. The people on these shows don’t bother me. It’s our own using these distractions and not connecting to each other that bothers me.
I’m not foolish like Frank. I turned the table on myself. At first I would watch American Idol when the kooks were on but the second year, I said “I can’t do this anymore. I feel horrible” and I made a decision. Maybe that’s what the whole movie is about. Maybe it’s about asking people “Are you in or are you out?”
God Bless Other Places, Even The Ones Without Shock Jocks
[The] Edinburgh [Film Festival]was the first time I saw this film outside of North America. I do believe that the digital age is making it so that we’re more narcissistic and more cut-off, so maybe that element is a universal thing. One thing that doesn’t play here so much is that, still, in the States, you might turn on the radio in the morning and get some Conservative show, and that guy is angry, or it could be a shock jock that’s dumbing things down, and I don’t think those things are here. They’re a dying breed in the States, but they’re still there. It might be entertaining but it’s empty calories and I think and say way more outrageous things all day so it’s not shocking to me.
Birth Of A Notion
I start with two things at once. First, what do I want to say? The last two movies before this, people though the endings were tacked on because they were happy endings, that they were life reaffirming movies despite the dark subject matter. But those endings were what I came up with first. Those are the themes I figured out.
At the same time I think of a world, and the world usually comes to me in the first scene or two.
I write these films, but then I always try to make them on my own terms. The ones that take a slightly bigger budget, I do pursue, I’m always pursuing them, but I’d rather make them the way they are written than compromise the way I originally saw them. That’s why I make them outside of the system.
Schoolboys In Disgrace And Other Stories
With Schoolboys in Disgrace it’s the idea that we start out good, but if you continue to knock the legs out from under a kid, he will go down the wrong path. Often, a kid who is creative or full of life gets beaten down and told he’s a bad person. I think it’s slightly autobiographical. I related to that album because I was told I was a bad kid.
Hopefully this week I’ll meet up with Ray [Davies]. He and I are always in contact and always trying. The biggest thing for me is that if I were to ever make that movie and he was disappointed in it, that would kill me. He’s one of my childhood heroes.
I thought I was doing a horror picture next but I have a feeling that’s going to be left until next year. Though because I really do have to make a movie, I think my next film might be a found footage movie. Though, unfortunately, that’s been rather played out. Or I’ll do something at least a little more ad-libby than I usually do. I have a broad outline. It might be something that’s not so comfortable for me. No bestiality!
The horror film, I believe is about zombified aborted foetuses. The found footage movie seems to be a new idea.
Either way, I’m glad he’s set on making more films, and soon.