Bobcat Goldthwait was interviewed by Scottish Times about his movie
premier tonight of God Bless America
Scottish news: Edinburgh International Film Festival - God Bless America
What do you get if you cross a frustrated middle-aged man who has lost his family, his job, and his dignity, with an overdose of celebrity culture, a brain tumour and a gun? The hilariously vitriolic film 'God Bless America'.
Written and directed by Bobcat Goldthwait (World's Greatest Dad, Sleeping Dogs) the film tells the story of Frank, played by Joel Murray (Mad Men, Shameless US), who is approaching a crisis point in his life. When an innocent act of kindness towards a female work colleague is misconstrued in the worst possible way Frank's downward spiral vortexes and he decides to end it all.
Until, that is, he has a realisation that it's not him who deserves to die, but everyone else. For their lazy parenting, celebrity obsessed lifestyles, selfish parking, texting in the cinema and cruelty to deluded reality TV hopefuls.
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So begins an entertaining killing spree mixing random acts of violence with vengeful targeting of TV and radio 'personalities' of the type whose existence depends on the bile they can churn up from the general public with their ill-informed views.
But what is Clyde without his Bonnie, Kit without his Holly? Frank has his Roxy, a high school girl he meets on the road played by the irrepressible and beautifully dressed Tara-Lynne Barr who turns out to be even more disenfranchised and keen to do something about it than even Frank himself.
What ensues is a lot of fun, a little tampon throwing and plenty of discussion, direct and otherwise, around the subject of American culture today and where all the kindness went.
The film had its UK premiere at the Edinburgh International Film Festival with the filmmakers in attendance because they have impeccable taste in film festivals and presumably love road works and rain.
To hear Bobcat, Joel Murray and producer and wardrobe designer Sarah de Sa Rego talk more about the film, listen to our exclusive interview for the Scottish Times here.
God Bless America is playing for 1 night only at the Cameo Cinema, Edinburgh on Wed 4th
July at 9pm. It is released on DVD on 9th July.
You can read a full transcript of the interview between Bob Goldthwait and Scottish Times's Lindsay McGee and Suzanna Marchant here:
SM: You said your film was a ‘violent film about kindness’, you spoke how reality TV inspired you and also mentioned a sign carried by someone to a meeting in the US that said ‘we came unarmed, today’, but do you remember the specific moment when the idea for the film formed in your head?
BG: There was a couple of tipping points that motivated me to write the movie… We were on a trip to London not long ago and they had a marathon of My Super Sweet 16 - the American version, I don’t know id there’s a UK version - and I wasn’t really that exposed to the show but I watched it then and thought: All these children should die.
BG: And that was one of the biggest influences on the movie. And then I wrote it as a Christmas present to my wife…
SdSR: He’s cheap
BG: I’m really, really cheap. She is a… people think I want everyone dead, when they watch this movie, but that’s her (laughs). I have a lot of love for mankind.
SdSR: (laughs) Do you lie in all your interviews?
S: What was the response from the American Audiences so far? I mean, I know the film hasn’t shown in that many cinemas in America, has it?
BG: Oh, it’s been like Jaws. It’s like Starwars. No (laughs), it’s been so huge… My movies make hundreds of dollars. Er, the response has been, um, somewhat split. There is people who are very passionate about the movie, well… there’s passionate both ways: people really like it or they have a hard time with it. And I think some people want the movie to be a vigilante movie where Joel’s character, Frank, goes out and Tara’s character, Roxy, and they kill a list of people we all think should die, uh, hypothetically. But the movie actually kind of questions: are you part of the problem or are you part of the solution. And it also says that it wouldn’t really hold water if you were to kill all these people, that were all flawed. So I think if you were, you know… I… I’m just talking out of my arse now… Go ahead anyone (laughs).
SdSR: I stopped listening to you.
JM: The people I’ve run into… Obviously people are going to come up and say something to me… um, ninety nine percent of them have all loved the film and really liked it. And the one percent are people that wanted it to be something else. Obviously I surf online and look at some things and, uh, some people have a hard time with it being this leftist, snuff porn but I have to think to myself: which guy did you equate as yourself that you were upset about the fact that that person got killed? You’re a perennial guy who takes up two parking spots?
JM: What kind of a jerk do they think they are that they have a problem with the film but I’ve heard nothing but good things about it. But that’s just me.
LM: Have you seen anyone with a ‘God hates Bobcat’ placard?
BG: Oh, I’d be really happy if the Westboro Baptist people had a ‘God hates Bobcat’ placard. Yeah, that was the germ of the movie, uh, and another one was… the Teaparty has a very popular sign: ‘We came unarmed, this time’. And so the movie was definitely a response to that kind of mentality where I say: Well that’s crazy. I see your crazy and I raise you crazy.
JM: We went and did the Tallgrass Film Festival in Wichita, Kansas which was pretty close to where the Westboro Baptists are centred and I noticed Bob didn’t come to that festival…
JM: He sent Tara and I to see how the water was but, uh, they actually love it there. And when we kill the Westboro Baptists in the movie the place went nuts and they were… apparently tired of them.
BG: Yeah, I think they’re a black eye to Kansas.
SM: You guys have known each other for a while, you’re friends. How is it directing a friend, and how is it being directed by a friend? And for that matter how is it working with your wife?
BG: It’s a lot of work.
BG: It’s hard.
JM: It was great working with Bob. He was pretty mild mannered, low key.
BG: The big difference is: if Joel and I don’t agree on something, it doesn’t mean I’m not going to have sex.
JM: For an extended period of time. Because we just… yeah… I won’t go there.
BG: I guess that’s the difference.
BG to SdSR: Got anything to say? You’re actually speechless.
BG: Sarah doesn’t usually do press. She’s nervous.
LM: Thank you for coming Sarah, because I know I had to ask for you to come along, but I had a couple of specific questions for you and one of them was about the vintage costumes for Frank and Roxy. Was it just a case of: I want them to look like Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty?
SdSR: Kind of. We did… Because the movie was kind of inspired by Badlands and Bonnie and Clyde I wanted to have specific looks that echoed those kinds of things. And also I wanted to do a traditional Americana with their clothes. Also, we had a really small budget, so thrift stores were a really good place to get things, and our own closets. But yeah, I did try to sort of echo those specific movies.
LM: That’s what I wondered: if you’d actually had the pieces made or if you’d gone… because there is a scene in the film where they’re in a thrift store. I had an American friend some time ago and she said that people look down on you if you shop in thrift stores, so I was wondering if that was another sort of, a dig…
SdSR: No, you know, it’s gotten pretty popular there now for cool people and hipsters to shop at thrift stores – it’s really hard to find stuff now – but no, nothing was actually made for it. It was all pieces we either had… a lot of the clothes Roxy wears are actually Bob’s daughter’s clothes, because she’s been shopping at thrift stores and collecting crazy things for a really long time, so we just sort of, cast an actress her size on purpose.
SdSR: No. I’m kidding. So we stole a lot of her stuff for Roxy. But it definitely, it makes it a lot easier when you’re doing something like this to have that kind of collection to go through.
LM: And did you… There’s a reindeer on the back of your…
SdSR: Oh, the horsie sweater?
LM: Is it a reindeer or a horse?
SdSR: It’s a horse. It’s a very badly done… a handmade… It’s supposed to be a Polo horse so it looks like it has horns…
LM: But I thought I noticed a similar. There’s a wall hanging inside the movie theatre…
SdSR: That was luck. But her horse sweater, when they’re having breakfast, I have a horse sweater on her, too. The horsie sweater is actually, I bought it in London at a thrift store years ago. So, yeah, the horsies on both of them were on purpose, but the one at the movie theatre was just a happy accident.
LM: And how the hell did you do costumes and you produced as well? How did that work and how did you do two jobs at the same time?
SdSR: I’m not really like a real producer. I mostly just do costumes. I’m just a producer on Bob’s things, where my whole job is just to prevent people that are annoying from talking to Bob.
SdSR: We’re lucky that we work with producers that are actually supportive and don’t give stupid notes just for the sake of it. But I sort of try and just let him do his thing and deal with the, you know, the boring day-to-day, but I don’t really do much.
BG: Well, she says that but I do rely on her a lot and we do work as a team, so I fell more comfortable if she has that title. Even though she wants to be known as a costume designer, because that’s what she does do and that’s what she’s great at. But I do rely on her a lot, so it kind of goes back and forth maybe and bites her in the arse a little bit, but I just don’t want people to think, well…I want her to be able to have a voice in the outcome of the movie.
SdSR: Yeah, when you’re sitting in a room and debating things, it’s easier to have people take you seriously, if you have an opinion on something, if your title is ‘producer’ rather than ‘wife of director’. They don’t really like it when those ladies talk.
BG: But that would be weird on the post, too.
SdSR: That would be nice. Actually, I might want this redone.
SM: You both write, direct and perform. Which one is closest to your heart?
JM: Well, I go by the theory that if you throw five fishing lines in the water, you’ve got a better chance of catching five fish, or… one fish…
JM: I enjoy them all. I really enjoy the directing and I’ve had most success, I guess, as an actor. I do voiceover work, and cartoons and I used to do commercials, I haven’t done any in a while, but… you know, you do all these different things and hopefully something’s going to put your four things through private school and college. And that’s what I knock on wood about. But I like them all. I really enjoyed doing this. I like starring in films.
JM: That’s what I like the most. If I had a choice I’d be a huge movie star, who makes lots and lots of money… and has a castle.
BG: I, uh… Having Joel as the lead, it really was like having an extra set of eyes, because he’s a director. So… a lot of ideas and a lot of things that I wasn’t catching, so it was nice to have more support. And he’s a funny improver, so there’s a lot of improving that he did that made it into the movie.
SM: Is there any particular part that you enjoy most? Writing, directing, acting? Or performing in front of live audiences?
BG: There’s a hug an audience gives me that… No, I hate performing…
BG: (laughs) I will perform… You know, I started doing stand-up when I was fifteen, sixteen years old and I got on The Letterman Show when I was twenty, so eventually that kind of excitement behind that faded a little bit. But I enjoy mostly my work with the children, you know, I love taking care of sick kids…
BG: No, I enjoy… mostly I enjoy…
SdSR: You mean actors?
BG: Actors, yeah. I mostly enjoy directing a movie. I don’t enjoy the writing process, although I do write a lot. After World’s Greatest Dad I wrote five screenplays. I don’t like it when I write. I like it when it’s finished. So if I could keep making, writing and directing movies, I’d be really happy.
SM: You say you don’t like writing but you wrote five scripts since World’s Greatest Dad…
BG: It’s just… the world has spoken. They said: we need more Bobcat Goldthwait movies…
BG: No. I don’t like the process. I like it when it’s finished. In fact, this may seem weird but a lot of these movies, of course I hope to make them all, but for me just getting them out of me is part of the thing. Because I’m afraid that I’ll forget the idea, so… yeah, it’s weird.
LM: Do you have script editors or do you collaborate, or do you try any material that you…
BG: I run them by Sarah and she’ll… I’m actually kind of nervous when she reads them, aren’t I?
SdSR: I’m a harsher editor than most people would be probably.
BG: I pace a lot. Only once she said: That’s not a script. That’s a pile of notes.
BG: And then the other time… she was really shocked recently and she went: You wrote a family picture! And I go: I didn’t mean to! So that’s my editor. I listen to her. Because the whole reason I started making these movies that I have been… I’d written this movie called Stay, it became Sleeping Dogs… I’d written it and a year had gone by and Sarah read it and she said: This is a good movie, we should make it. And I go: I don’t have any money. And she goes: Well, we’ll just start. So we used a crew from Craigslist and we shot it in two weeks and then that movie got into Sundance and kind of set me on this path, so now when she says that a movie’s worth making I listen to her.
SdSR: Not when she says: Take out the trash, though.
SdSR: Just pointing… just throwing it out there.
BG: She means kicking arse. She doesn’t mean actually literally taking out the trash.
SdSR: No, that’s where the misunderstanding is. I mean, I need you to take out the trash.
BG: Oh, I thought you just wanted me to beat up the mailman.
LM: So when did you decide to premiere the film in Edinburgh? It’s the European premiere, isn’t it?
BG: This is the European premiere.
LM: Was that by accident? Or did you think, it was just a great idea to come to this beautiful city? What were your thoughts behind that?
BG: When I was coming up with a strategy for the releasing… No, they just asked.
BG: (laughs) If you ask us, we’ll come. We’re not a finicky lot, but we’re thrilled to be here. I am very interested to see how it’s going to play. This would be the first time I’m seeing it with people who aren’t North American, so we’ll see if you guys hate the same things.
SM: Enjoying the rain so far?
JM: It’s fabulous rain.
BG: We were warned that there’s no bad weather, just bad clothes. I guess Billy Connolly said that.
SM: Good for your skin.
BG: It’s good for the skin, yeah.
SM to JM: How did you get involved in the project? Did you have any qualms about playing the character? Did you hesitate at all?
JM: I don’t consult Sarah on all…
SdSR: You should start. I’m really good advice.
JM: I read it… I had a slight bit of trepidation that somebody might come after me, that I kill in the movie.
JM: So I killed everybody left-handed, so I could say: Hey, if I really wanted to kill you I would’ve shot you right-handed, right? That was acting! And then…
BG: By the way (laughs) I don’t understand that logic at all.
JM: I know, it doesn’t make any sense, but it’s the way I think.
BG: Frank is left-handed, Joel’s right-handed.
JM: Yeah, that’s a whole different guy. Get out of my house!
JM: And then I also… there was just a second of thought of that… I would have to have arguments in bars with guys that disagree with the people I killed. And that might be bad. But then I got over it because it’s an opportunity to voice all this and to star in a movie, get to say such great lines and do such fun scenes.
BG: I have noticed that people who are upset never take it out on you. They just assume that you’re my puppet.
JM: It’s the whole left-handed thing.
BG: Joel Murray played Bobcat Goldthwait’s left-handed puppet.
SM: Was it a difficult role to play for you?
JM: Well, yeah. I’m used to working a day on a movie.
JM: I worked on Steve Jobs movie for two hours the other day. I’m usually in and out. And this was really strange to me to come and work sixteen hours day after day. And the initial shoot was, like, twenty days, twenty one days or something like that.
BG: I think it was less, was it?
SdSR: It was twenty one.
BG: Oh, ok.
JM: But to get done and then realise: Oh, god, I’ve got that three-page spiel tomorrow to do. So…
BG: And also for Joel the first quarter of the movie or more, his character is so depressed so you might be having a good time on the set and goofing around and then it’s: it’s time to put a gun in your mouth, Joel. So he has to kind of live in that dark space. So that I think is draining.
JM: It is really a weird thing to get there as an actor. And also I had a buddy shoot himself in the same form a year before that, so it was kind of really strange to have an actual handgun in your mouth.
BG: But he had that a lot. And (laughs) Joel can tell the calibre of a gun by its taste…
BG: …because he’s played this role more than once.
JM: I’ve played a lot of depressed characters lately, yeah. Killed myself on the American version of Shameless and…
SM: Why do you think that is?
JM: I don’t know. When I got cast on Mad Men, Matt Weiner said: There’s a sadness about you. And I’m like: I’m perfectly happy…
JM: I love my wife, my kids aren’t jerks.
BG: I love that he says he’s not sad and I say I’m not a killer. I don’t know why people get this idea.
SM: I know that you and Robin Williams are great friends… there was a scene in the movie when somebody was calling him a Sasquatch and then got shot. Was that an inside joke?
BG: (laughs) Yeah, well, it was an inside joke but it was also a shout-out. He was doing a play… In this movie, everybody that’s… not everybody, almost everybody that’s been in the four movies that I wrote and directed, show up, they all show up in tiny parts. So, he couldn’t, so I just thought it was funny that we gave him the shout-out. But when he watched it he was like: Is that ok? (laughs) And his wife goes: yes, it’s ok. So he watched it a few times and he finally laughed.
SM to LM: You have one more question?
LM: Yes, well, if all of you could answer it, that would be great…
BG: At the same time?
LM: Well, yeah.
JM: In a one word story.
LM: Your favourite outcome for the film, would it be: untold riches, a world-wide boycott on any talent contests or would it be an actual device, where anyone who picks up the phone to do a vote on one of these contests, explodes…
SdSR: I’m going to go with world-wide boycott. (to BG)You want the explosive device.
BG: That’s a cop out, yeah.
BG: I want the burning… the face burnt. (laughs)
SdSR to JM: You need the money, you do have four kids to put through college.
JM: I’ll take the riches, sure.
JM: I don’t know. I hope it leads to great success for all of us in future films, because of the building block of this great film itself. Yeah, I hope the untold riches are down the road, because god knows we’re not making it on this one.
JM: But we got to come to Edinburgh!
BG: Yeah, I need to make a lot of money…
BG:… for my cat bills.
SM: We’ll try to help you. We really did enjoy the film. And we’re really grateful for this interview.
BG: Thank you.
JM: Thank you very much.
LM: Yeah, we loved it. Thank you.
BG: Thanks, guys.
Interview: Lindsay McGee & Suzanna Marchant
Transcript: Suzanna Marchant
Intro words: Lindsay McGee
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