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Prince of Swine
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USC Interview

Recently Mark Toma visited the University of Southern California to speak about his film. Click on the link below to see and hear this recent interview with the creator of "Prince of Swine"

Lisa Michelle interviews Mark Toma

Lisa Michelle is a free lance film and music critic.   She's written on Women in Film and reviewed independent film for Vibe , Filmmaker , and Fade Out Magazines.

LM:   I will tell you I enjoyed Prince of Swine in spite of myself.

MT:   Why in spite of yourself?

LM:   It's joyfully misogynistic -

MT:   But also wildy in love with women -

LM :   But still misogynistic -

MT :   Listen anybody who says they don't both love and hate the opposite sex, at different
times, sometimes even at the same time, is either lying, asleep, or gay, that's just the human
condition, until you realize that and accept it about yourself and the opposite sex, you have no
chance to succeed at anything, at society, at marriage, the only thing sexist about that is the
feminists having a sacred cow when we include them in that equation too -

LM:   It's at least an unapologetically anti-feminist movie -

MT:   No -

LM:   At one point you say of the main character -

MT:   Who would without apology call herself a capital F, Feminist -

LM:   That she's in need of a "good fucking" -

MT:   Well, that's true of everybody, you could just as easily call it a pro-feminist movie -

LM:   You think it's pro-feminist?

MT:   No, I'm not really interested in that, I didn't set out to write a movie for, against or about that -

LM:   What do you think you wrote?

MT:   It doesn't work like that, you don't set out to write about a topic like that -

LM:   How does it work?

MT:   I don't know, I mean, I guess you start with a powerful or resonant image or feeling or joke or event or something, something that means very much to you or fascinates you, and you keep exploring it, seeing what it's connected to, going deeper into it, until it reflects the entire world, the world sort of expresses itself, the story tells itself, you can't have a prejudged point of view or you'll ruin it, it's almost scientific -

LM:   What were the seminal images of Prince of Swine?

MT:   I guess the main character -

LM:   The Prince of Swine?

MT:   No, the girl is the main character in the movie, I was attracted to that character -

LM:   Why?

MT:   Just that she's in hell, I mean when I was that age I had gone through a time when I had terrible personal losses -

LM:   What happened?

MT:   It's not important, I mean, hell is hell, there are a million ways to get there and everyone does sooner or later, it's just like, a stop in life - I mean even if you had a perfect, sheltered and loving upbringing, like some sort of ideal childhood, still, a worthwhile person would seek out hell, just to find out what life was about, like Buddha - I mean, my own personal experience isn't important, it wasn't Iraq or anything, everybody suffers in the long run even if their life is perfect, they suffer just to defy gravity in the long run.

But anyway that sort of tortured, confused character, demanding answers from life, wanting the Truth with a capital T, because you know, they have to find something beautiful and true, or they can't go on living, I found that very artistically beautiful, compelling - and it can't be bullshit either, it has to be something you could believe in under the most devastating, tragic conditions.

LM:   Which was what for you?

MT:   Well, I would prefer for people to see the movie, that's why Nell and I, the actress - went to the trouble of expressing it artistically - anything you could say is just glib, a cliché, but to see her have the actual religious experience is very powerful, beyond all that.

LM:   You're what?   A Buddhist, a Christian?

MT:   No, religion is just religion, it's just a word for whatever the most powerful experience is in life, it's beyond all that, it's whatever every artist is trying to capture artistically -

LM:   You're not in the movie business to provide entertainment?

MT:   Well Prince is very entertaining I think, didn't you?

LM:   Yes.

MT:   I mean, it's a comedy -

LM:   From hell?

MT:   (laughing) Yeah - but no, entertainment, that's not enough for me, when I go to a movie I want my world to be rocked, art is religion to me, we don't really have religious leaders in America, thank God, we leave that realm to artists, ideally, I mean we should, and I want the artist to deliver whatever most moves them in their soul, that's much more entertaining, inspiring to me than some dancing bear - I mean, I think if we had a lesser goal like that we would be much less entertaining, I find the stuff in Prince to be the most fascinating in life -

LM:   You find feminism the most fascinating -

MT:   No, maybe women, not feminism - it's not really about feminism, that's incidental, that's just the form of her desperate idealism - I mean, I guess on a surface level, that might be another seminal image of Prince, way back in New York, I was sitting in this huge lecture on Constitutional Law, and whenever any subject of sex would come up, the room would immediately divide into male and female camps, and it would be an electric atmosphere, the conflict, and I found that interesting, but like a sporting event, the actual politics of feminism bore me, I regard that as pretty much settled, and we are where we are -

LM:   Which is a state of war between the sexes?

MT:   ( laughing ) Yeah, I guess so.

LM:   And you strongly imply that's the feminist's fault -

MT:   No, that's been going on from time eternal, that's natural, that's the divine comedy -

LM:   Well, the thing that makes your feminist finally happy is when a big strong man throws her down and ravages her -

MT:   ( laughing ) Which is a cliché that happens to be true of every feminist I've ever met, by the way!   Listen, the political wheel has spun round and it's time for us to attack you in return, but that's nothing personal, that's just sort of a political flirtation, it'll be good for you, reinvigorate the women's movement, it's necessary for us to make the next move if we're all to progress -

LM:   So, make your move.

MT:   Now you've made me nervous -

LM:   Oh, c'mon, you're a big boy.

MT:   I guess we're poking fun at the idea that men and women are the same or equal, the feminists were fighting a war, a very successful, completely bloodless revolution, which is very impressive in the big picture, but in the short run they had to adapt that position that we're all equal, and now it's become dogma, like leftover crud in the body politic, like cholesterol, because it was just a temporary stance to get what they wanted, which they already got -

LM:   Men and women are not equal?

MT:   Not the same, no, there's a balance of power, I don't think a straight person can be happy without making peace with the opposite sex -

LM:   But you only seem to be at peace with men dominant -

MT:   Women only seem to be at peace with men dominant, I could care less!   I wish women would take over the world, there'd be a lot less war and violence, I think women are better suited for modern business, I mean modern business is a suffocating, castrating thing to men, it does not move the male soul, it's just a lot of talking on the phone, getting along with people, typing, shopping -

LM:   Things unfit for a man?

MT:   Fucking women's work.

LM:   But you're not sexist?

MT:   I mean women are better suited for it, no man can claim to be happy as just a businessman.

LM:   Why are women still underpaid if they're better at business?

MT:   Look in the fucking mirror baby, if you want the answer to that.   You all just really don't get it do you?   I mean, American women have got a head full of shit.   You make less because there is no incentive for you to make more money compared to a man, a successful woman is not going to get more attention from men, on the contrary, she'll probably be somewhat isolated, but a successful man knows he's going to get a lot more attention from women, even from the goddamn so-called feminists, even if they don't need the money, you people aren't fooling anyone .   The only reason we try harder at business and just to excel in the world generally is because we know that's the surest way to get sex, and that hasn't changed at all whatever the fucking feminists say or however much money they make -

LM:   Women force men to dominate them?

MT:   Absolutely.

LM:   Women want to be inferior or submissive?

MT:   I didn't say inferior, when I can come 20 times in a night and wake up refreshed, I'll call myself superior -

LM:   Women are in fact superior, controlling things behind the scenes?

MT:   Sexually superior, absolutely.   You're inferior at war.

LM:   I don't know about that.

MT:   I do.

LM:   Define war -

MT:   Killing, you're not as good killers, you don't enjoy killing as much -

LM:   You enjoy killing?

MT:   I and anyone with a dick enjoys killing whether they know it or not.

LM:   Good to know.

MT:   I'm shocked you didn't know it already.

LM:   I don't see what the thrill is.

MT:   Well, you're female.

LM:   You would enjoy being sent to Iraq?

MT:   I wouldn't enjoy being maimed or shot at and despised by the people you're trying to help, the grueling hours for not much pay, and no one appreciates what you're trying to do, I wouldn't enjoy being in a Muslim country, I mean, you know, having some woman's head cut off because she flirted with an American, that has got to be the worst place in the world to go to war -

LM:   Because you don't get to meet any chicks?

MT:   If anyone on this entire planet deserves to get seriously laid, it's the American military -

(A long argument about Iraq was deleted.   Eds.)

LM:   I don't want to get into Iraq -

MT:   I am seriously pissed about that situation, it never needed to come to this.

LM:   The point is you enjoy killing -

MT:   I would have taken serious pleasure in killing Zarquawi or someone like that, I would kill to get to kill Bin Laden or these other people trying to stir up Iraq -

LM:   Just forget about Iraq right now -

MT:   I don't like that, that Americans are too squeamish even to hear about the war -

LM:   It's not what your movie's about -

MT :   It sort of is, when you castrate an entire generation, like the baby boomers castrated their men, one of the first things you get is weak, dull leadership, who aren't any good at war, trying to prove themselves at it, like Bush is, when those issues should have been settled long ago, when they were young men.   Look at how Bush Jr. sucks at war compared to Bush Sr..   And the Democrats couldn't oppose him on this because, ya' know, they had no credibility, whose going to listen to those pussies about war?   I'm not talking about the soldiers, whom I totally bow down to, I mean the boomer political leadership, left and right, is totally out of touch and nutless.   This is really what pisses me off, that the soldiers are paying the price for this, for weak, stupid, out of touch men in positions of power - none of the architects of the war - Wolfowitz, Perle, Rumsfeld, Bush, Cheney - had really been tested as warriors when they were young, you didn't see Powell displaying such naivete and incompetence about war -

LM :   There is nothing in your movie about Iraq, OK?   Your movie is about women wanting to be dominated -

MT:   Oh for Christ's sake, drop that already, who's dominating who, you're dominating us -

LM:   You honestly believe that -

MT:   Well, I think sex is a more powerful weapon than war in the long run -

LM:   So, by your logic, women, being sexually superior, are more powerful than men -

MT:   Well, I mean, if we wanted to destroy you we could, we can destroy everything -

LM:   What's stopping you?

MT:   We get distracted by sex.   Ideally.

LM:   That's your ideal world?   Men refrain from destroying the world because they're distracted by sex?

MT:   That's the only thing that would stop me in the long run.

LM:   That's a bit primitive.

MT:   I'm a bit primitive.

LM:   I mean it's not very interesting, you can see sex and violence on any TV cop show, it's boring, it's not true to life -

MT:   Well there's infinite permutations, and they can rise to symphonic levels, and that's artistically hilarious or tragic or ecstatic, that's life lived at the highest level, that's a God's eye view, but it's ultimately rooted in its primitive source, you have to go back there to get its full power, that's why you can't understand art or life merely intellectually - I mean, life will savage you eventually, the devil will have its due, that's part of what we are -

LM:   And Prince of Swine does that, it rises to symphonic levels?

MT:   Or depths, yes, at times, I think so, with John and Nell, Prince rises to symphonic levels or savages you, I think we soared or delved to heaven and hell, to those ultimate points of human experience.

LM:   But not with you?

MT:   My character is not meant to be brilliant like those other two.

LM:   Farber is brilliant?

MT:   He's a brilliant monster.

LM:   The young woman -

MT:   Nell, Julie is the character -

LM:   Didn't seem particularly brilliant.

MT:   What would you know about it?

LM:   Alright, how is she so brilliant?

MT:   She's the last true feminist in America.   I guess, you could say we put feminism on trial in this movie and our verdict is it's become a huge joke, it's us bending over backwards to defend your right to be golddigging whores, I mean, this is a comedy, so I'm laughing about it -

LM:   I don't think you're laughing, I think you're actually angry -

MT:   You're fuckin' A' right I'm angry, but it's justifiable, I think I can speak for most American men when I say:   we don't want to hear any more of your bullshit.   You used up all your bitch points for the next 50 years in the last 50 years, so you have to shut up for the next 50 years to get back in our good graces.   (laughing)   Stop laughing!   It's either that or keep bribing us with sex!   But that would take a lot of sex, you all might not have that much sex in you to keep us that pacified, it'll probably take both, so ya' know, just shut up and get on your backs, that's my message to American women -

LM:   (laughing)   It's funny because you're actually serious!

MT:   (laughing) I am serious!   Good God, I mean, the extended mindfuck that's been performed on the baby boomer generation of men - like a 50 year henpeck - they don't know what a man is any more, they don't know who the fuck they are any more.   When I see bullshit not being labeled as bullshit, it makes me angry.   But then I point out, "Ya' know what?   That's bullshit baby!" and I'm not angry any more, so ya' know, this is a pre-emptive venting -

LM:   To protect us from future violence?   You're actually concerned for our safety if we continue to act like such self-righteous whores -

MT:   Exactly!   Couldn't have put it better myself.

LM:   I was being ironic.

MT:   I wasn't.   Don't look at me like that, you can't accuse me of hating women deep down, I mean look at my main character, that character is beautiful, right?

LM:   I thought she was a strong, nuanced, female character, compelling, which is rare in Hollywood, especially for a male writer -

MT:   Thank you, and that's looking at women through my eyes, so Prince is a love letter as much as a hate letter.   That character is what the feminists promised and what they should have become, and that I had to create her in art because she doesn't exist, or at least isn't appreciated in the world, is a sign of how badly you guys have failed.   You're the worst of both worlds, you haven't done anything important for the world, and you don't know how to make men happy, you're not what we want, you don't even think it's your job to be what we want any more, most feminists, and you're all goddamn feminists, I don't care if you deny it, would be insulted if someone accused them of trying to be what men want.   You always say, "We became the men we wanted to marry", well, I had to write the women you should have been.

I mean, if you compare my lead character to these idiot skanks in the news every day, there's just no comparison.   They're what feminism has come up with?   You've come a long way baby.   Hillary?   With no qualifications, other than screwing the President, she had healthcare handed to her on a silver platter and blew the opportunity sky high?   My lead character goes from being an angry girl to being formidable and worthy of power and respect by the end of the movie.   She doesn't apologize for being idealistic.   She's brilliant like a fool is brilliant, because their heart is so in the right place it blinds them.   She's brilliant because she's in so much pain and if you can transcend that it brings out the best in you.   She's brilliant in bed, she's radiant, ecstatic, cathartic, transcendant, the sex scenes are the best I've ever seen in a movie.   You disagree?

LM:   They're very powerful.

MT:   And she's strikingly beautiful in them, I mean onscreen the character right before your eyes, without make-up or special effects or anything, undergoes an amazing transformation, I mean Nell is cute in real life, but she's not like, causing car accidents walking down the street.   But in this movie something totally beyond any of that gets let loose - as the character, she's savagely beautiful at times , at the climax, so to speak, of the movie -

LM:   So what made her so beautiful?

MT:   I think just getting seriously . . . um, well, I would say it's male sexual energy, a woman becomes savagely beautiful like that when she's infused with male sexual energy, which is violent and predatory, and I made a deliberate point to infuse the rehearsal process and set with that - LM :   How'd that go?

MT:   Oh, we had a swell time, never a dull moment.   I mean, you'd have to ask Nell.   She told me, in no uncertain terms that I scared her -

LM:   Did you?

MT:   I guess so, I mean, it's not my job to baby or reassure her that the world is not a violent place, that guys aren't constantly hunting women like that, and any healthy guy over 16 and under 90 is basically a large violent animal with one thing on its fairly small mind, whether they know it or not.   It's my job to make her strong, ethical and savagely beautiful on screen, and we didn't quit until she was.   I don't want to say don't be afraid of that side of human nature, because it's the most dangerous thing in the world, especially for an ethical person.   At the same time, I gotta say, post feminist America has made a real mistake in how we relate to this, which is basically denial/fear/rejection, preferring pretty boys and metrosexuals to masculine men.   Maybe a bourgeois can get away their whole life with doing that but not an artist - we can exist in society, we can even benefit it, but we never surrender nature, any artist has got to engage the full spectrum, including their male, violent side, if they want to achieve their full potential.   You transcend and harness it by accepting it.   I mean men are a lot less trouble, less dangerous and frightening, if you remove their balls, but you're robbing them of something you and they need when you do that -

LM:   You can't really have a wild animal like that around the house or in the workplace -

MT:   Well look what you have instead - these fat, nutless pets and yeah, you can hold and feed and pet them and they're harmless and they listen to you, you can even walk some without a leash, some can even be trained to drive SUVs, talk on the phone and tie their own ties, but are they beautiful or happy any more?   Are they brave?   No.   Well, that's modern American post feminist men.   You asked for 'em, you got 'em.   I mean, where is the Brando in the modern spectrum of male stars, who has that sort of animal magnetism?   Female rock stars are way more powerful than men now.   Angelina is way more charismatic than any of the male stars.   The only beautiful, full fledged men like that in the US, accepted by women for who they really are, are all gay because they don't have to deal, sexually, with American women.   They're the only ones not whipped.   I mean, the guys in the military are all alienated.   Ask'em, if the goddamn media even had the balls to really interview the soldiers.   They're like:   we don't belong here any more - and they don't mean Iraq, they mean, "We don't belong in America, I'd rather be over here fighting the goddamn Muslims than live for another second in that fucking cunt of a nation any more."   And they mean us, we're the cunts, the Muslims are merely backward and insane, but still men.

And you're average civilian guy, a neutered dog still wags it's tail - is it happy?   I guess fat, dumb and happy.   I think it's too stupid to realize it's not happy.   And that's most men and their women.   I'd rather keep my balls, even if they made me angry sometimes.   I only respect women who understand the value of that.   I worship women like that in fact, however rare they may be.   The rest of 'em ya' know, I mean, when you're asking me to forego the best part of myself to make you comfortable in your beliefs, which is what most American women do whether they call themselves feminists or not, that's how completely feminism has triumphed, that's when we part company, that's when we're in conflict.   No fucking way, baby.   Over my dead body.   That's not a conflict you're going to win.

LM:   So Prince of Swine is really Beauty and the Beast?

MT:   With much more humping, yes, I mean, excuse me - played out on a more overtly sexual level and focused on the woman, yeah, absolutely.   I mean both movie versions of Beauty and the Beast focus on the guy, on how a woman takes the edge off a man's violence and makes him kind by sexually mastering him - we have that, but we focused more on how that same process makes a woman savagely beautiful, strong and unafraid of the violence of the world in return.

LM:   I did notice there was quite a bit of sex in it, a discerning critic could pick that out -

MT:   And damn good sex too, didn't you think?

LM :   (laughing) Yes, your Mother will be so proud -

MT:   She'll live.

LM:   Were you and the actress actually -

MT:   That you're even wondering if we were or not shows we've done our jobs.   That's irrelevant, that's not what makes a great sex scene, if that were necessary , w hy not just rent porn?   Because porn is ultimately boring, it's ugly and leaves you feeling slightly sick afterwards, lonely, dehumanized.   Prince does exactly the opposite.   I mean, would you agree the sex - I mean the sex that is meant to be beautiful, not the rape or harassment, is seriously hot in this movie, it's hotter than porn?

LM:   I thought it was very powerful, I'm not sure I saw the point you were making -

MT:   Well, what would be the one thing better than what Hugh Hefner's got?   I mean, I'm not putting down Hugh Hefner, he's got it better than 99.9% of the guys in the world, he's got it better than me, but I think there's one thing better than having an endless string of gorgeous bimbos you can boink whenever you want, and that's reflected in my movie - which, I don't want to be a hypocrite, I never found that in my life,very, very few people do, but just that we could capture it artistically shows its humanly possible, which was very important to me to capture artistically.   I mean, I think to be sexually more powerful than someone like Mick Jagger or Madonna, because I'm not satisfied with them - the arts capture the mythic imagination of the Western world, I would say those are two of the most powerful iconic personalities on the Western landscape in my lifetime, they're talented but not the most talented, but in terms of acquiring power, no ones topped them in our time, it was important to me artistically to show something more beautiful and powerful than that.

LM:   You disapprove -

MT:   No, I don't want to come off as a moralist - I like Rolling Stones music, it's not like it's a lie, it's powerful, but they don't go as far as you can go as an artist .   I mean like that Madonna song, Justify My Love, that's a hot song, that's one song of hers that I really like, that's her at the peak of her power, and it's saying something very close to what we're saying, I mean, "Poor is the man whose desires depend on the permission of another" - she's basically asking to get raped, to get taken, which is very close to what we're saying, but not quite.

LM:   How is it different?

MT:   A degree of self-knowledge - I mean shortly thereafter some mad stalker showed up at her house and tried to Justify Her Love and her bodyguard shot him, and this surprised her when it shouldn't have, I mean, she basically asked for it , because artists know, we know we communicate with society on a primal, subconscious level, so she should have known what territory she was in.   But it scared her, the power of what she was beckoning.   She broke down in court blubbering when it happened, and she's quit playing the whore ever since then - and look at poor Mick Jagger, I mean, ya' know, he's been shattered, he's in tatters -

LM:   I don't -

MT:   I mean, you're a woman, right?

LM:   Yes, we can agree on that.

MT:   And you were turned on by Prince, right?   I mean, it's mostly not women who buy porn, they aren't so interested in porn -

LM:   No, I don't like most porn, but the sex scenes in Prince of Swine are not pornographic, they sort of hit below the belt, I mean they're visceral -

MT:   But not like, I don't know Madonna's sex book or something or these sexual teasers you see everywhere, you don't feel like a chump for paying attention while someone picks your pocket.   As a woman, with Prince, you don't feel voyeuristic, or cheap or gross afterwards, the way a man would if he'd slept with a whore, or if some guy had just used you for sex, you feel cleaner after the scene than before it -

LM:   I see what you're saying, yes, I think that's accurate -

MT:   Everyone on set felt that, I mean, I don't mean to be pretentious but we were trying to do a very difficult thing and we succeeded, it's not just sex, I don't mean to be pretentious, but my actress had a religious experience on screen, I mean, even these jaded, hardened crew members, who'd seen everything, felt that, this divine creative energy, which isn't necessarily sexual, I mean sex is maybe it's most powerful and common form to human beings, and it permeated the entire set those nights -

LM:   The character or the actress had a religious experience?

MT:   Well, now you're going to get me in trouble with my actress, but I would say there was no difference between the two at that point, they merged, she totally became the character, it was an all consuming experience -

LM:   She would describe it as a religious experience?

MT:   I don't know, I spoke to her in nothing but religious terms as a director for those scenes, I mean, I didn't try to turn her on sexually, I never laid a hand on her before we got on screen, there's very little nudity in those scenes, it's not dependant on that -

LM:   What's it dependant on?

MT:   Well partly me knowing the experience existed, I mean I had that experience in my life when I was her age, completely outside a sexual context - sex at some emotional crisis, some ultimate life trial with someone they loved is the way most people would most commonly experience it, I mean, I knew I could only fully transmit it to an actress through sex, but I don't know - it's like an acid trip without drugs, you have some complete physical and emotional connection with the universe, experience it and yourself as pure energy - I mean, I was just so desolate at the time, why did people I loved have to die, why did they have to suffer so much, why was the world so corrupt, and I was just so upset that men were all secretly killers and women were all whores and everyone was a liar, but I guess afterwards I just accepted it, and the fact that I was so genuinely upset about it, I mean I think I had broken down in tears somewhere out in the Rocky Mountains, I wanted to kill myself, it was like irrefutable proof before God or the universe, that that's not all we were or why would I be so upset about it?   The killing and the whores wasn't the end of the story, it was the beginning of the story -

LM:   So what, you slipped her some acid, you just spoke and laid hands on her and light flooded all through her mind and body?

MT :   She disagrees with me on this, but I could have sworn, whether she knew it or not, as we got deeper into rehearsal and the shoot, she put up the artistic antenna and channeled that experience or emotional memory or charge of mine I told you about earlier, on the mountain.   But you'd have to ask her, we actually stumbled into that scene after a big fight over nudity, neither one of us really knew what we were doing.   I especially don't think a young artist like her always knows what they're doing, the good ones press their limits and jump in over their heads, figure it out, if ever, when they're older.   When I saw her performance in post later, it blew the top of my head off, because it so exactly mirrored my experience on the mountain and I had never told her about that experience.   I mean, the whole thing felt like an exorcism to me, if that makes any sense.

LM :   Of course, I get that feeling all the time at exorcisms -

MT:   No, I mean we fought constantly, we fought to get those scenes, they're dependant on a deep primal and emotional connection between the actors, and the connection can't be broken no matter how intense it gets -

LM:   Fought about what?

MT :   Well, we were trying to capture something very difficult - if you're going to brave the savage side of human nature like we did, the most violent and masculine (which exists in both men and women), if you need its power to be strong and beautiful and accomplish your mission in life, not just for you, but for everybody, well, at the end of the day the only thing that redeems savagery, tames it and makes it beautiful without weakening it - I don't want to be trite, but I guess, ya' know, its the redemptive power of love.   I mean, it's a cliché to say it, but not to see it on screen - there are deliberately no words in these scenes - I mean Prince has scenes of up to 5 minutes between me and her where not a word is said, some of it is sex, but most of it is not.   I'm not a romantic primitive - I know what savagery is, I know why we have societal safeguards against it.   It hurts.   It kills.   I just saw The Last King of Scotland and Apocalypto - you think I have any illusions about life left after that?   There's a line which might fit in both those movies, "If you want to get resurrected, first you gotta be crucified."   I mean, I can honestly say, me and her went through hell to get this movie.  

LM :   How so?   Did you attack her ?

MT:   I never actually hit her.

LM:   Good for you.   What exactly did you do?

MT:   At the hardest point we were on the brink of litigation, we hated each other, we literally could not be in the same room without breaking into a fight - John, Cyndi and Nick, my DP, literally had to mediate it.   We got in the most vicious screaming matches, she threatened to file a restraining order against me, I told her I was going to sue her into the ground for fraud, for pretending to be an actress, if she didn't get her ass back to rehearsal .   She honestly told me the only reason she didn't file a restraining order is she didn't feel it would do any good, I'd kill her if she didn't finish the movie to her full potential.   And she was right.   I would have killed her, except a dead actress is useless to me.

LM:   Now I'm a little bit scared.   Really.

MT:   I believe you.

LM:   (laughing) Tea?

MT:   ( laughing )   Thank you.

LM:   Sounds painful.

MT:   Gee, ya think?   Maybe?   A tad?   It's a vicious business.   We suffer for art.   George Lucas had a stress induced heart attack at 31 after Star Wars.   Marlon Brando basically quit trying and became a whale after Last Tango.   He said it was too painful to continue being an artist.   I mean, ya' know, I'm not a moralist, but I think there might be a lesson in all this.   We went through hell, we hated each other and put each other through a lot of pain, but at the end of the day we decided not to fight to the death, we decided to make something beautiful instead, and we don't hate each other now, we get along fine, we released all our pain and are even fond of each other now.

Even beyond that, this was more than just a movie.   Both Nell and I are serious artists, both of us believe that success in Hollywood is the biggest gateway to power in the modern world, it's a function of living in a repressed, technicized world, that people go gaga for the arts, the passions, because these are so absent from the modern machine, and artists in the modern world can summon and direct that passion.   I don't think that's ever been fully tapped, exploited, when you look at the sort of power here, any politician would give their right arm to command the spotlight the way a Hollywood star does - look at Reagan, Schwarzenneger.   Reagan was a B actor, I like Arnold better, but even if they weren't the best artists in Hollywood, somewhere in the middle of the pack as artists, they're top, formidable politicians whether you like them or not - whatever you want to use it for, this is a gateway to power, social, economic, political, military.   Clinton, after his second term said, "Ya' know, if I had it to do all over again, I could have been a Hollywood star?" - he understood, too late, how power is shifting in the modern world.

LM:   You're running for President?

MT:   That would be a demotion.   I'm more ambitious than that.   I want to make a set of ideas so powerful, so popular, that both parties compete to enact them, that way leaves nothing to chance -

LM:   I'm genuinely afraid to ask what your plan is.

MT:   Don't even get me started.  


LM:   Now Jerry Farber is brilliant according to you?

MT:   He's fascinating as a monster.

LM:   Where did he come from?

LM:   I don't know, he started out as a minor character.

LM:   The actor improvised?

MT:   I saw I had a great actor and a great character so I wrote him a bigger part.   And he balanced the movie, you can't have heaven without hell.

LM:   You had a major rewrite in the middle of production?

MT:   My overall vision was pretty true from the start, I knew what I wanted, but I had skimmed over that character because he's so awful .   But we just kept reshooting until we got all of him.

LM:   So Jerry is based on the actor?

MT:   No, John likes to pretend he's evil, for kicks, to keep people awake, but he's actually a pussy cat.   He actually likes women.   I mean he's a great actor.   He sort of psychoanalyzed me to bring out Jerry.   I mean, I would speak and write and vent to him,give off this producer having a nervous breakdown energy , "why was I ever stupid enough to surround myself with so many beautiful actresses, God is punishing me, like Tantalus, for being vain enough to put myself in so many love scenes" , and he channeled that into a great character -

LM:   Jerry Farber is actually you?

MT:   He's a personality that came out under the pressure of production.

LM:   Your personality?

MT:   He's the Caligula like aspect of any guy's personality, he's not John and he's not me.

LM:   But he could be you?

MT:   I guess so, if I went without sex for long enough and stayed in the movie business.

LM:   But Jerry Farber gets plenty of sex.

MT:   Yeah, but he doesn't really enjoy it.

LM:   Because no one loves him?

MT:   Not exactly.   I mean, I'm sure Mother Theresa loves him.   That woman loves everyone.

LM:   But that means nothing to him?

MT:   Or me for that matter, I mean, that's fuck all.   What the fuck can she do to save a guy, she's just a fucking nun.

LM:   So Jerry Farber just needs a good woman?

>MT:   No, Jerry's beyond redemption, not even a great woman, who's not like, a complete whore, could save him.   That's the true face of men without women - power without any connection to humanity.   He's the Mayan priests in Apocalypto.   He's like Forrest Whitaker as Idi Amin which might be the best goddamn performance and movies of the last 30 years.   Except, ya' know, being British, he finds overt violence - ya' know - teddibly uncouth.

LM:   So you're more like Witt?

MT:   No, that character is dumber than me or maybe smarter, not as ambitious. He's just an average guy.

LM:   But he's not evil?

MT:   No, the tortured girl becomes a great woman rises up and saves Witt from a Jerry like fate, makes him a Prince instead od a Swine, or a Prince amongst Swine, however you want to play it. And he saves her -

LM:   From what?

MT:   I don't know, being an old shrew - that's what you could really call Prince "Gloria Steinem Finally Gets Hitched".   Women don't really destroy things like men if they're unhappy, they just , ya' know, hold out, refuse to have sex or something.   Or they nag and nag, do everything they can to make you miserable, or just fade away into nothingness.

LM:   So you're not Witt, you're not Farber -

MT:   I guess I could go either way, I'm still an open book.

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