My Question Is, Is THIS A Stupid Question?

Steve Buscemi on the art of his "Interview"

By Omar P.L. Moore/The Popcorn Reel

July 12, 2007

W hen three online journalists approached Steve Buscemi last month, one asked how he was doing.  "I'm sick", Mr. Buscemi replied.  "I have a cold, so I'm a little under the weather right now."  Thankfully though, Buscemi gamely made it through sniffles and Kleenex long enough to entertain questions for his film "Interview", which opened last week in New York and Los Angeles and tomorrow (July 20) in San Francisco and surrounding Northern California cities in the U.S.

"Interview" was one of the three films that the late Dutch filmmaker Theo Van Gogh (who was murdered in 2002) directed which he gave permission to be remade as American films.  ("Blind Date" and "1-900" are the other two, and Stanley Tucci is currently helming "Blind Date".)  Buscemi directs the intimately staged "Interview", a two-character dialogue that takes place in midtown Manhattan in New York City over roughly eight hours of a single night.  Buscemi plays a burned-out reporter who has been diverted from covering sexy political assignments in Washington, D.C. in order to interview Katya (Sienna Miller) a star of grindhouse-type horror-slasher films. 

Dance of self-pride and deception: Steve Buscemi directs himself and Sienna Miller in his new film "Interview", a remake of Theo Van Gogh's film.  (Photos: Sony Pictures Classics)

"He's insecure about himself and he's nervous about being in the same room as her," said Buscemi of his character Pierre Peders.  He agreed when asked whether he found being in a room of journalists with questions about his new film ironic.  "I'm actually not that interested in revealing that much of myself to strangers, so yeah, it's definitely a surreal process to the person being interviewed."  While Mr. Buscemi may not be in love with the idea of talking about a film over and over again, he is willing to acknowledge the de rigeur as a necessary evil, but won't go as far as some celebrities or actors have been known to do when on the interview circuit.  "I've heard other people can make up lies.  I can't do that," Mr. Buscemi said.  The director of films like "Trees Lounge" and the star of such films as "I Think I Love My Wife", "Reservoir Dogs", "Ghost World", "Fargo" and the upcoming "Delirious" said that when he is being interviewed by the press, the formula is anything but an exercise in rote.  "It really is just person by person and how I'm feeling at that given moment and if I'm feeling engaged, or if I'm really tired -- it gets hard.  I space out and I just get tired of hearing my own voice, tired of talking."

Does Mr. Buscemi's response change if the film he interviewed about is a more serious film as opposed to a comedy?

"I remember when I did this film a few years ago called "The Grey Zone" -- it . . . took place during the Holocaust.  It was a really intense film that took me weeks to sort of get over.  When I stopped shooting it's something that stayed with me and really, really affected me.  And I was on my way to the Toronto [International] Film Festival to do press for that film.  And I was dreading it.  It so happened, I was on my way to the airport -- this was the morning of September 11, 2001.  So I started out the day feeling dread that I was going to have to get into this head of talking about this horrible event that happened in our history and was confronted with a new horrible event.  So yeah, I think sometimes the nature of the film can inform the interview.  But also people have said, 'is it easier to talk about a film that you really like rather than to do a lot of interviews about a film that you're not crazy about?'  Sometimes it's harder to be interviewed about a film that you really like because you don't want it to get old.  You don't want the thing that you really cared about and had a great time doing to get to that point where you're, you know, sick of talking about it."

There are actors who have spoken of taking a piece of each character they have ever played with them in life -- that part of every character they have played is embedded permanently within their psyche.  Steve Buscemi however, would disagree.  "I think I leave a part of myself with each character I play.  I always start with myself when I play a character.  And when I'm done with the character, I'm done.  And that's not to say that I haven't played characters that are similar to each other," -- a conversation about similarities between the character of Les from "Delirious" and that of Pierre in "Interview", both media employees has perhaps fueled the response in that last sentence -- "but I think that's partly true because it's me, playing the character."  Buscemi chuckles.

"You know it's only so many different parts of me.  There's only so many different characters that you can play.  And that was part of my interest of playing this character in "Interview" because in many ways it feels like a character that I have not played before.  But I've had people come in here [to the Ritz Carlton in San Francisco] and say, 'oh, it's very similar to . . . '  Sorry!  That's me.  I just bring that to it, I think, in whatever role I play."

photo of Interview,  Sienna Miller         photo of Interview,  Steve Buscemi
Sienna Miller and Steve Buscemi, seen her at a Cinema Society screening of "Interview" on July 11.  (Photos: Wire Image)

Steve Buscemi on the art of his "Interview"



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