Broken Flowers: Jim Jarmusch interview
Jim Jarmusch has been instrumental in the 'independent' film movement for the past two decades. Having previously worked with Johnny Depp (Dead Man) and Forest Whitaker (Ghost Dog: The Way Of The Samurai). In Broken Flowers, Bill Murray plays Don Johnston, a middle-aged Lothario who is sent an anonymous pink letter claiming he is a father to a son he never knew existed. Winner of the Grand Jury Prize at the 2005 Cannes Film Festival, the result is a poignant, droll and acutely judged study of loneliness.
LOVEFiLM: Where did the idea for Broken Flowers come from?
Jim Jarmusch: I got this idea some years ago, from Sara Driver and Bill Raden, who were writing a script together about something completely different. They said, 'Oh, we had this idea about a guy who gets a letter from a former lover - he had a lot of lovers - saying he's had a kid. We thought you might like this idea, because we're working on something else and we're not going to write it.' I said, 'Really? I like this idea.' So I carried it around with me for some years and the story came out of it. But there's no deep reason for it; it's not a burning issue - or even the burning issue of my film.
LF: Was Bill Murray always going to star in the film?
JJ: Bill and I were going to do another film that I wrote before Lost In Translation called Three Moons in the Sky. I came to Cannes, three years ago, I think, to raise money for the film. I got almost all the financing together. Bill liked the script very much. I went home and I realised, 'Wow, it's a great story but the script needs a lot of work'. And I hate re-writing. I never write drafts of scripts. So I went to Bill's house and said, 'You know, Bill, I've almost got the money together but something in me doesn't feel like making this film for the next two years of my life.' But I had another idea. Bill was a little disappointed, because he liked the script, but said, 'What's the other idea?' I told him this story in a rough form and he said, 'Well, let's do this then!' So we did this.
LF: What do you think is most important in the film - the comedy or the melancholy?
JJ: It's both from the start. I thought the story was potentially sad, but I don't want to make a film that doesn't have funny things in it. As Oscar Wilde said, 'Life is far too important to be taken seriously.' And I don't want to lose the funny things that people do with each other. It's natural to me. It's not something I consciously construct.
LF: Why do you dedicate the film to French filmmaker Jean Eustache?
JJ: I refer to Eustache because he is not appreciated as much as he should be, but also because he's a great inspiration to me, as someone who made very beautiful, very pure cinema, that for him was a form of poetry or expression. He couldn't care less about being famous or rich. That had nothing to do with his making films. He also made very few films, but the forms of them are very different. But he also had a great appreciation of variety in cinema. So he's just one of my inspirations among many. Also, Eustache's best known film, The Mother and the Whore, is about male-female miscommunication.
LF: Bill's character in the film can quite easily be disliked, why do you think all these women flock to him?
JJ: I'm not a woman - I don't know! He has some charm. You see it when he goes next door, and when he's with Winston's family. It's not that I dislike in him. It's just that I'm not real interested in him at the beginning; he's not someone I would be drawn toward, myself.
LF: It's been said this is your most commercial film yet. How does that make you feel?
JJ: I don't feel anything. It's not my concern. First of all, I don't know quite why they say that. Secondly, it's not my problem. I don't try to make films for them to be commercial. If they are, if more people see them, I'm happy. But that's not my problem. If it were, I'd have a lot more money and make Hollywood films. I just want to make stories that I believe in or interest me somehow. I want to learn how to be a filmmaker - and I'm still learning.
LF: So why work with big movie stars like Sharon Stone here? Are you using some of their baggage from previous films?
JJ: It's not their past that I'm using in the film. It's them now as actors, and I find them all to be wonderful actors. I wrote thinking of Sharon Stone, Jessica Lange and Tilda Swinton...I was just so happy to approach them and have them do it. But it's not a calculated thing; like Jessica Lange is a big movie star…it was about actors I wanted to work with. I have worked with other known actors - it's not new. I've worked with Robert Mitchum, Johnny Depp and Forest Whitaker. It's not liked I've always only worked with my friend before.
LF: Was it you that suggested Tilda's unique look for the film?
JJ: When I called her and gave her the script, I told her I'd like to have her with long, dark hair. She said, 'That'll be weird. I like that. I haven't done that recently.'
LF: Have you ever met an animal communicator, as Jessica Lange plays?
JJ: I have not met one, but Sara Driver - who I always bounce ideas off - said: 'A friend of mine told me about a woman whose husband died. After that, something changed in her and she could communicate with animals.' And now she has a profitable business, communicating with animals. I thought, 'That's what I need for this character!'
LF: How was it working with the cat?
JJ: We shot one hour of footage with the cat, and used every usable piece. But for a cat to act was very odd. They trained that one pretty well. We had a long stick with chicken on the end, which is how you get him to look. But he was so docile. You could mush him down, and he'd stay a certain way, but he wanted to know when he'd get the chicken. But he was a very good actor - for a cat. I thought, 'How the hell are we going to do this with a cat?' I've had cats - they don't do anything you want them to. Which is why I love cats. Unless, you have food, they're like, 'Yeah, f**k off…'
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