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SOUVENIRS DE TOURNAGE
with Johnny Depp and Claudie Ossard (producer)
Transcribed from the special 2-disc edition of the 'Arizona Dream' DVD issued by Studio Canal, March 2002 by Irene and Aries. Screen capture by Irene.
Note: This isn't a full & verbatim transcript of the interview. Small sections where Johnny doesn't say much have been omitted, and Claudie's words have been summarised.
Claudie Ossard: Excactly ten years ago it was the last shooting day of AD. The filming lasted one year with an interrumption of three months, due to Emir's nervous breakdown. During these three months you were free, you could leave. So you made a video clip.
Johnny Depp: Oui. A video. Tom Petty. Et Faye, oui. That's right.
CO: We waited that Emir felt again better, that he could start the filming again. Is it a good memory for you?
JD: Oh yeah.. Oh yeah, it's a great memory. It's a great memory, a great experience, a great education. Beautiful. Beautiful. I remember when Emir was approaching this...state of mind, y'know, and Jerry came to my trailer and he said: "Well, kid, the director - " - we were waiting to shoot for hours, hours , and Jerry came to me and said: "Well, kid, the director is sitting over there. Alone. Under a tree." [laughs]
CO [laughing]: It was exactly like that! Exactement!
JD: And, you know, it was kind of like.. You're surprised but not surprised... So I said: "Why?" And he said [mimicking Jerry Lewis shaking his head]: "Well…I really don't know." [Pauses and then laughs] That was it! And then I spoke to Emir and it was…
CO: He doesn't want to shoot.
JD: No, he was having a hard time. But it was a difficult time, you remember? Everything was happening in Yugoslavia at this moment… It was a very difficult time.
CO: It was a very difficult time for him. And for us too, at the same time! (She swaps back into French here…) I remember that day when Emir came to me, dressed in black, with his hair covering his face and said "Claudie, I can't work" and we changed the script.
JD: Oui! We changed the script. We met at his house every night, oui.
CO: Yeah, and then we stopped the shooting. Because he told me he wanted to rework the script. You know, when you compare Kusturica to Fellini, it's not that strange. And Kusturica is like Fellini was, or like a painter. He can't paint if he is not in the right mood. The difference with a movie set, though, is that there are many people waiting that the work is done.
JD: Oui: a hundred people waiting for the painter to choose the paint! [laughs] But it's exactly that: if it's not there, he refuses to lie. He won't tell a lie, you know, so if it's not there, it's not there. And I think, in fact, for a film-maker it's a very healthy way to approach the work, but [slow smile] it's not a very popular way to approach the work, in regard to the business.
CO: I had seen Le temps des gitanes, that's why I wanted so much to work with Emir. So I asked him how he felt like during the filming, and he answered "Like a drawing man" [Johnny doesn't understand the French word for drawing so he asks Claudie to explain] It's like a man who is deep down in the water, then comes up and breaths and then goes down again. When I heard this I was really scared [they laugh]. Emir hated the shooting, because he could not find the inspiration.
JD: There were so many things of him.. where you could say - You could say literally anything; that you wanted to try something. Anything. For instance, there was this whole sequence where Faye and I make love, and there was this kind of seduction that was necessary. And I don't know why but I always saw Axel, I always saw my character as a kind of a chicken, y'know? Like a chicken who was becoming a man; becoming a rooster, a cock. So that's why I did the hair like that, you know? [gesturing to show how Axel's hair stuck up at the back like a rooster's comb] So I came to Emir and I said: "I think maybe what I should try is to become the rooster, y'know?" [making chicken noises] And he said [imitating Emir]: "Ahh, theez is ver' good; theez is good idea. Theez is good idea. We are going to do theez."
CO: That's great!
JD: And that's where the whole sequence came from, where I was making the chicken noises.
CO: Yes, I remember.
JD: But if you go to another director and you say: "I'd like to seduce her by becoming a chicken, a rooster..." [making a face to show how another director would react]
CO: They'd say you're crazy!
JD: "You're fired! Get out. Get out!" [laughing]
CO: Yeah, but that's because you were so osmotic. You understood each other so well. You had the same spirit, the same state of mind.
JD: All of us. It was so great. It felt very…
JD: Yeah! Very close. Very very close. But you know, the first time we met - I think it was at the Beverly Wiltshire hotel - and he was like this. [Johnny sits far back on the couch, crosses his arms, and tucks his chin onto his chest] And I was like.. you know, a little distant, because he wasn't speaking. And I thought he was rude, so… I can remember leaving the meeting and I called my agent at the time, I said: "Hey, fuck this guy. Fuck him. I ain't doing that fucking movie. I'm not interested." [laughs] And it was kind of mutual, I think. And then maybe 3 weeks or a month later we met again at a small diner and [clicks his fingers] it took like that. It was fine. It was perfect then.
CO: But the first time it was [she shakes her head]
JD: Oh no. The first time, I hated him. I hated him and he hated me. And that was it.
CO: No, it was not hatred, but actually it didn't happen.
JD: Oui. He said to me.. The first meeting, he said [imitating Emir]: "I've zeen theez movie Edward Zissorhans". And I said: "Yeah?" He said: "Yes." Said: "And?? What do you think?" And he said: "It's ..uhh…scary." [laughs] Made him scared! I said: "OK. Good. See ya!" [laughing]
SHORT CLIP from the beginning of AD: Axel in the New York bar, throwing peanuts across the bar into Emir's mouth
JD [leaning forward & watching the tv monitor intently]: I want to watch.. It's very strange, y'know?
CO: Haven't you seen it for a long time?
JD: Oh! Oui. Somewhere I have the first version of the film, which was like 4 hours. The first cut. Emir's first cut.
CO: You have seen the 4-hour-version?
JD: Oui. I have it somewhere on cassette. He gave it to me. It was good!
CO: No, we cut it at 2 hours and a half. It's quite strange that he had not regret to make a shorter version. Directors are generally against it. But not Emir, not at all.
JD: No. No, he's brutal with the cuts. Which the director has to be. You can't regret. I always found that amazing too.. Like with that 12-minute shot at the end. He didn't care at all! "No, no - it's out." [Johnny was referring to the alternative dream ending where Axel marries Millie; it's one of the bonus items on the DVD]
CO: Yeah, for me it was hard, also because it was very expensive. [Johnny repeats "very expensive" in French]. But now we can see it on the DVD.
JD: Yeah, now it's back on DVD [he smiles]
SHORT CLIP from the beginning of AD: the Eskimo travelling on his dog sled.
Claudie comments the beginning of AD
JD: I remember when we were first in rehearsals.. It wasn't even really rehearsals.. It was Emir and I… And Jerry. One time, Jerry came. We were talking in an apartment in LA. I think it was Vladir Divat's flat. And I was learning to speak all these words in Inupik, in Eskimo. And Jerry said: "Oh no, we don't need to do that! We don't need to learn the Eskimo language; we just make it up! We just invent it as we go along." And it's Jerry Lewis! Like, it's easier for you, Jerry! [laughing] So -- my first day of shooting, I'll never forget. With Jerry Lewis, y'know, this legend! -- I was trying to be as creative as he was, with this made-up language. Trying to make it sound the same. I was terrified!
CO: Do you like Jerry Lewis?
JD: The figure; the legend; the talent. You know. To say the least he's a very inventive guy.
CO: Yes, he's wonderful. He was very funny during the shooting. He was crazy.
SHORT CLIP of Axel meeting Leo's fiancée Millie.
JD: Ah! There was a beautiful moment here. We were talking outside of the house - this [pointing at the monitor, which was showing Axel and Leo watching the old home movies] was in the house also. We were talking outside the house and we were speaking about his old friends. About Sammy Davis Jnr, and about Dean Martin.. his whole history, you know? We were speaking about them.. and he stayed in this mind-set, he stayed in this mood, in this emotion.. And he has a line here where he says: "Wonderful memories", where everything just..lifted out of his body. All those memories. He just said: "Wonderful memories"... something like that. I remember I was very very touched.
LONG CLIP of Axel & Leo watching the home movies, with voice-over of Johnny & Claudie talking.
CO: You used Vilko [Filac, the Director of Photography] on 'The Brave'.
JD: Yeah, and if I do another film I would use Kreka [Miljen Kljakovi, Production Designer] and Buba [? possibly Pasquale Buba, Editor] again. Oh yeah. They're there. They're the top; they're the top.
CO: They are so talented.
JD: Plus..I don't know.. there's a loyalty.
SHORT CLIP of the baby pig outside of Leo's car showroom.
CO: The pig was so small, and we carried him in a box.
JD: As big as this couch. You know I saw him, maybe 3 years or 4 years ago.
CO: The pig?
JD: Oui. I went to Douglas, to look for locations. And I saw the pig. And he's [looking around for something to compare for size] …almost as big as this couch. He's enormous. But he's alive. [smiling] Oui, I saw him.
CO: And you saw him? And where is he in Douglas?
JD: He's in a zoo. With his enfants.
CO: At the end they had to take a truck to trasport him.
JD: Yeah, he was this big! [indicating the size of a small dog]. He was this big. I remember Emir came to my house and we were sitting around, eating, talking, and I said: "Look, I found a pig. I bought a pig. In Tucson." And he was looking at the pig. And then he left and he called me, 20 minutes later, he says: "Bring this pig to work tomorrow. Bring the pig to the shooting." Yeah, he said bring the pig to work. Brought the pig to work, and he had Jerry chasing the pig! [laughing]
LONG CLIP of The Dinner Party scene, with voice-over of Johnny & Claudie talking.
JD: Faye was so great. She was so great in the film.
JD: And beautiful.
CO: She was also very unsecure, very fragile.
JD: I think this particular time was a very fragile time for her. But I was so impressed by her, by how much she cares. Because she really cares about the work and she's so focussed on the work. And I think sometimes that depth of caring, that profound caring can be misinterpreted, y'know? Like it's ego, or it's this or that… But really she just cares about.. her character; her work.
CO: She didn't behave as a movie star.
JD: Oh yeah. She was right there. She worked hard.
CO: When she started to work with us, we asked her which make-up artist or hairdresser she wanted, and she replied "It doesn't matter! I'm going to do a movie with Kusturica and he can make me up himself, if he wants to"
JD: All this strange stuff started happening, in terms of relationships in the film. The relationship between Faye and Lili started to turn; the relationship between Vincent and I started to turn. And the relationship with Jerry and I started to turn. It was really like living what was happening in the film, in a strange way.
THE DINNER PARTY segment has reached the part where Grace keeps sending her turtle across the table towards Axel.
JD: This, in terms of experience: I remember this turtle somehow, miraculously, always went across my plate of spaghetti. Always right there in front, so it was easy to.. It made it so easy in the scene to try to give it back to Lili, because this turtle was making Axel very nervous, you know? [laughs] Oh, it's a great sequence - it's a beautiful scene.
CO: We have not talked yet about Emir's film editor, who is really exceptional. This was so a difficult scene, but he made a great work.
JD: Oh.. Andrija [Zafranovic, the film editor]. My, he was great. God, he was a great editor. So many elements in this scene: Vincent trying to seduce Faye; Lili trying to seduce me; Lili with the turtle; the threat of the ceiling fan coming down. So much. Me in love with Faye… And everyone trying to be normal. So rich; so rich! Completely crazy, but somehow normal and believable. You can believe that this kind of thing would happen… The turtle.. Vincent hating me; me hating him.. Again the turtle. A great actor, the turtle. [smiling] He was a great actor.
CO: It was so crazy. Vincent was still convinced that he was a great seducer.
JD: And the turtle. He was a good actor.
CO: Oh, great. He was great. In every Emir's movie there are so many animals. He loves animals very much.
JD: Yeah, also in Le temps des gitans.
CO: Yeah, it's not very easy to film with animals, but it's beautiful.
JD: She's so good, Lili.
THE DINNER PARTY scene has reached the point where Grace leaves the table and runs upstairs to hang herself.
CO: Lili was the first actress we found for the movie. In New York. We made a very elegant casting in the penthouse of a luxurious hotel. There were so many actors, but the only one who really impressed everyone was Lili.
JD: Oh, Emir loved her. Oui, he loved her.
CO: Oh yeah, he loved her. He really loved to work with her. Because of her personality. She's so wild and interesting.
JD: Oh, and so honest. So honest in life and in her work! …Vincent still eating his spaghetti.. It's really such an amazing scene.
THE DINNER PARTY: Grace jumps off the balcony.
JD: Right: this sequence! Especially this sequence! The film is important, but this sequence..! In one hundred years they're going to study this scene in cinema class. It's so amazing.
CO: They didn't edit the movie sequentially. They started from this scene. And it was so good that Emir showed it to everyone who came in the studio. But Emir also changed the relationship between you and Lili in the movie. Do you remember? Because at the beginning there was not a relationship between you and her. It came out during the filming.
JD: Yeah, I remember exactly when it happened. It was when we were on the roof, and Faye was flying around. And that's when that came about.
CO: Was it there that you found this idea? The idea of the relationship between Axel and Lili?
JD: I don't even remember how it happened… it was just… We were up there talking, and I said to her: "Would it be OK if I kissed you?" or something. I asked her if it would be OK if I kissed her. And she said: "I guess so", or "Yes" or something. And then [snaps his fingers] Boom! This other dimension took over in the film, you know? But I don't remember.. Emir might have said to me: "Try to kiss her." I don't remember. But it was always that kind of thing [smiling].
CO: And I arrived and you were on the roof and I was down with Faye who was truly jealous. She told "It's not in the script!" It was as though the reality was overriding the fiction, because Faye was really jealous of Lili.
JD: No, there was something started then, and it was a strange relationship after that.
CO: And Faye kept on saying "But it's not in the script!" and I tried to calm her down. She really felt as the character in the movie.
CLIP of Axel in Grace's bedroom, pointing the gun at her head.
JD: An interesting sequence also. There's that great line, in the voice-over, where he says: "If you see a gun in the first act " - it was a Chekhov thing - "If you see a gun in the first act, you can be sure it's going to go off in the third."
SHORT CLIP of Grace egging Axel on to pull the trigger.
CO: And the first draft of the script...you didn't read it...someone gave it to Emir at the Columbia University. It was nothing, just a little story, very simple. And anything, the machine, the eskimo, the fish, it was all added by Emir to the movie.
JD: That's really amazing. He's capable of such amazing things. Amazing imagery; amazing substance.
CLIP of the Talent Show scene.
JD [smiling]: Vincent's big night!
CO: We shooted this scene in New York, in Broadway. Do you remember? There was also you and Iggy Pop. Can you remember? Under the Statue of Liberty.
JD: Yeah, that's right. He had a pumpkin on his head. Singing 'God Bless America'.
CO: The scene was cut then. But Iggy Pop sings the movie's song. And Emir loved this doll.
JD: Yeah, she was amazing. Really an amazing man. I remember he showed me --
CO: It's beautiful.
JD: Yeah, beautiful. And it became a .. sort of a .. Repetitive. We used it again in the film. [Looking at the scene where Paul Leger gets up on stage] There he goes.
CO: He [Vincent Gallo] was so scared to play this scene.
JD: Everybody became like their characters. Without wanting to. Yeah.
CO: He is such a good actor, because he didn't like his character.
CLIP of Paul doing his 'North by NorthWest' stage routine, with voice-over of Johnny & Claudie talking.
JD: Incredible. Fantastic. He was so good. He was so funny… I remember him in his hotel room, always watching these old movies to copy Cary Grant and Pacino… Oh yeah: she's trying to get him to stop. "But I'm not finished! I'm not finished!" [laughing] And he changes his own sets!
CLIP of Cary Grant trying to flag down the petrol tanker.
JD: This kills me. It makes me want to see the movie, the whole thing. Especially on DVD….. Crazy… I imagine when Warner Brothers saw this film they must have been completely shocked.
CO: A surrealist movie. Congratulations!
JD: Yeah, a surrealist movie. Well, they sat on it for years.
CO: It's not an American movie. It's an European movie.
JD: No, no. They put it on the shelf for 3 or 4 years, no? 4 years?
CO: It was open, but in very small theaters, because it was too much European, actually. They didn't know how to treat it. Do you remember the story of the fish? The halibut? It gave the title to the movie.
JD: Oui. Arrowtooth halibut.
CO: This fish has an eye which moves on when it grows up.
JD: Oui. It goes to the other side.
CO: Yeah, and there is a scene in which you look in a mirror and see your eye moving onto the other side. Did you see the test?
JD: No, it was always strange. I saw the test… It's really -- We were talking before, and it's really a very brave film to make. I mean, as a filmmaker it's one thing. Because a filmmaker is driving something that is his vision, he can easily trust in himself and in it. But it's really a brave film for a producer to make.
CO: Thank you. It's true.
JD: Really. Really!
CO: Yes, but you helped me a lot Johnny.
JD: Champagne. [laughing]
CO [laughing]: Yes, champagne.
JD: Oh, it was fun.
CO: Yeah, champagne. And dinners! Actually, the way Emir used to film in his country was totally different from the French system and even more from the American system. He was annoyed because there was so much stuff, materials, trucks, equipments.
JD: Yeah, he was always there, always kind of shocked about the amount of people, the amount of crew, the amount of trucks, the amount of lights..
CO: Yeah, there was someone who was there just to look after the cars. And Emir was shocked. But at the same time, this cannot be considered a big production.
JD: In terms of size or budget, or whatever? Oh no.. Well, now…No.
CO: For me it was! [they laugh]
JD: I remember making the film.. It was the film I made after 'Edward Scissorhands', and everybody in Hollywood and the movie industry is always concerned about how much money a movie's going to make in the box office, and how many theatres it's in, and how popular it becomes. And it's refreshing to know now what I knew then, which really is that: Who cares about the numbers? You know? When you're able to, first, experience something like this, and live through something like this, and be involved with something as magical as this... I mean, you forget about how much a movie made in the box office.
CO: In France this movie has been very much appreciated. Anytime I speak about it...in France it was successful and it's really beloved. I'm happy now that people who have not seen it yet can see it now on DVD in very good conditions. And young people can discover it. So thank you very much for coming, as a a loyal and extraordinary friend.
JD: Oh no, my pleasure. Thank you.