Jacob Reynolds Gummo Interview by Casey Doran
Originally posted on THESUNISFLAT.ORG Gummo is the ultimate cult movie. Everyone has seen the image of the kid eating spaghetti in the bathtub somewhere on the internet, if they haven’t seen the movie. I met Jacob Reynolds in 2019 after driving to Ohio with Jacob Sewell to attend the first reunion since the movie was released in 1997. These are from two phone interviews in September 2020 and March 2021. Photographs are from the timeframe of Retro Invasion Weekend 2019 and a tour of old scene locations in Nashville with a few friends in 2020.
Gummo is the ultimate cult movie. Everyone has seen the image of the kid eating spaghetti in the bathtub somewhere on the internet, if they haven’t seen the movie. I met Jacob Reynolds in 2019 after driving to Ohio with Jacob Sewell to attend the first reunion since the movie was released in 1997. These are from two phone interviews in September 2020 and March 2021. Photographs are from the timeframe of Retro Invasion Weekend 2019 and a tour of old scene locations in Nashville with a few friends in 2020. ”WHERE ARE THEY NOW?”What have you done since Gummo? I stayed acting until I was probably sixteen then I quit. I went back to New York. Gummo was very helpful in my career. It gave me a certain level of exposure I hadn’t had previous to that. The three or four year after Gummo that I was acting were great, then I decided I wanted to fly airplanes. I quit acting to become a pilot. I went to flight school for a couple years then didn’t want to be a pilot anymore. I tried to get back into acting and a lot of my hardship there was my patience. One thing hindsight gives you is how the world moves with you in it. Looking back, stepping away from acting, the industry doesn’t stop. There are thousands of people who can fill any roll that I’ve auditioned for. This is just honest, I stepped back in expecting the industry to kind of welcome me back to a certain level, and it was a harsh reality. Some people did, but it was hard to stomach.I got married young, had kids, wallowed around for a while just until about ten years ago. I got back into different types of art. I wrote a lot and really fell into the novels about four or five years ago. I’m not a novelist. That's not my strength. I’ve really been trying to learn how to do that. Besides being a dad to my kids, and this art stuff, I had my ups and downs. In my twenties, jumping back between acting and flying and not really understanding how I fit into the world. That was probably my big struggle, figuring out what path I take. I have a lot of great stories from it but in terms of remaining focused and following a passion that I really connect with, I fumbled back and forth for over a decade.
I’ve had my difficulty with sobriety as well. While I was filming I was sober because I was eleven or twelve. As an adult, I realized that I’ve used substances to numb myself. Having kids helped with that. I’m not advocating we all have kids to get over sobriety (laughs) or to become sober, but that’s just my experience. I had my friend say this to me the other day. Whether it’s alcohol or drugs or you’re a workaholic or an obsessive shopper, you know addictive personalities. It explores the gambit, everything from eating, whatever. Are you doing it for short term pleasure or long term gain? That has been something that I’ve been struggling with to understand what it means for me. I go through it now with Netflix (laughs). I don’t drink or take substances anymore but that doesn’t mean I don’t still have an addictive personality.I’m in the middle of working on a project. If I can make this book work, it will probably be my most honest work. I don’t know about you and art but for me, I can’t just wake up and just do it and it’s good. I’ve got to struggle through it. I love it and I would never trade it because I don’t know what else I would do. I woke up today at 6:30AM and I was going to write. I knew I had the call with you and another buddy of mine and I found myself watching old re-runs over and over. I had to get out of my house. I write a lot in my car, which is weird, but it works for me. I can still see the world but I’m insulated I guess. Just before you called, I just walked for 25-30 minutes and it completely changed my perspective, and I was like, “mother fucker, this is what I need to do.” I don’t think I’ve shaken addiction, just the ones I use now are less harmful.AA is also personal forgiveness. For years, I would get on myself because I wasn’t as productive. I have to stop beating myself up because I’m exhausted. If it’s my choice to watch a couple episodes and go to bed one night, that’s alright. You have to give yourself a break sometimes. Maybe I didn’t write that much or at all that day but that’s still OK. You have to give yourself a break. Now if that happened for three months, you gotta look at it (laughs). This is the stuff I wish we were taught as a society, how to treat ourselves and love ourselves.I like to read a lot, so you read a blog or a book, or share stories like we are right now, and you realize you’re not alone. Even if it’s just a text message. Even if they don’t talk you off the ledge or don’t offer you a pearl of wisdom, it’s the fact they’re acknowledging you’re not alone makes a huge difference. We’re not taught as a society to do that with each other.
Tell me about the book and the writing you’ve been doing.
So I just finished the first draft. The first true draft of a steampunk middle-grade novel called the Peculiar Adventures of Oswald Pennybaker. When my son was about four years old, for whatever reason, I used to come up with these crazy names. Every time I would see him, I would come up with a different name. I love kids because they always have that belly laugh.
You just enjoy the comedy there? Yeah, exactly, and I only have stupid jokes, so it works for my friends… and toddlers. So, for whatever reason one day, I kept calling him Oswald Pennybaker, and he just found it hilarious. And so, I had just started writing novels. I don’t even know if I’m good now. I’m good enough that you can read it and go “yeah, thats a novel” so thats a step in the right direction. But, back then, you couldn’t make heads or tails of it. The story made sense to me because it was inside my head, but it didn’t come out on the page. I had been working through different stories that had kinda came through that experience, and one of them was hearing my son laugh with that damn Oswald Pennybaker, and that really just kinda stuck with me. Basically what it boils down to is it’s like James and the Giant Peach meets 20,000 Leagues under the sea with Donald Trump as the fucking antagonist. So, I have an editor who is going to work with me to make sure it’s ready to see the light of day, so I’m sending that off to her. The idea is to start hitting the market and see what I can work with. It’s taken me a little while to get to this place but sometimes these things take time. I don’t know about you, but even though it has taken that long, you kinda get to a point where you’re like, “it had to take this time.” I tried rushing it and it ended up not being what it needed to be.Did you get a chance to see the graphic novel that we’ve got going on Webtoons? That one is doing pretty well. It’s called “Perish.”
The low-fidelity audio was a big thing for me in Gummo. I was really inspired by the low-fi sound and visuals in that. Talking to you, it seemed like a lot of that was recorded professionally, so tell me about that.I don’t know if this is some weird memory I made up or if there is some legitimacy to it, but I remember them doing some of the voice over on set and just hitting it live with whatever they were using for the boom mic. My experience was in a booth. They were doing post and I was probably twelve. You’re up there sitting on 57th street in Manhattan. It was in a Manhattan studio. I don’t know what their post budget was but they weren’t doing this in somebodies back yard. The only way I can describe it is Dorothy walking into Oz, because this room was fucking huge. They had the editing suite right there and off the editing suite, they had the sound booth. So what was crazy is, you walk in and theyre editing 35mm, so they got all the fucking reels and they got all the film up on the screen. They’re running it the Avid way, so they got all the tools. They’re splicing the film. Nothing was digitized. So, you walk in here, and you’re like “son of a bitch.” Harmony and I, I’m assuming they had been there for a while because, to my knowledge, he was there for a lot of the edit. He and I basically sat in the booth and we ran those lines. The thing with him is he always wanted it to be softer. I haven’t seen the film in a long time so from what I remember, a lot of my voice overs are very soft. Maybe that’s why he did mine in the studio, and not on set, because maybe he realized he wanted it to be super quiet, so you had to get that clean sound. This was twenty five years ago. There’s certain moments in your life where you walk in and you’re like “son of a bitch. I’m going to remember this for the rest of my life.”They were probably running the tape along with the 35mm. Back then, Harmony was hanging out with Gus Van Sant a lot, and Gus cuts his own film. They’re doing it the old-old-school way. They’re not digitizing it, then editing it off a digital program. They went raw.They’re going raw, from what I saw, and until this day, I’m fortunate enough to be in studios coming up and you see some stuff that’s pretty phenomenal, but that set up… it was just a fantastic set up.
So you were in the studio with Gus and Harmony?
No, so Gus came to Gummo, and I think I met him there, and he might have come to the premier. I’ve met him later in life. I don’t know the guy, but I know that he and Harmony were friends. Harmony was in Good Will Hunting and Jean-Yves Escoffier shot Good Will Hunting (the same cinematographer for Gummo). So, they ran in the same circle, and they were close. I don’t know about today. I think they were inspired by each other.
Max Perlich's Nipples
How many times did you see that guy (Max Perlich) tug his nipples for the pimping scene?
So, that’s Max Perlich. He’s in Drugstore Cowboy. There’s a story to that. I’m going to talk backwards to go forwards. Harmony and Jean-Yves were going to make this movie their way, come hell or high water. No matter what. Theres a quote from John-Yves before he died where he said, “fire the crew. All we need is you, me, the camera, and a lightbulb, and we’ll make this movie. Jean was diehard. Once he was on set, he was gonna make that movie. He didn’t give a shit who told him that you “can’t do that.” The reason I say that is because that scene is just a hallway. That whole scene, all it is, from what I can remember is Nick and I come up, we say we got the money or whatever, and I don’t want to say its a throwaway scene but there are other scenes with those characters that are more in-depth. We shot that over and over and over. Every time you do a different camera set up, they’ll change the letter on the slate. We did it so many times, we could get to double A’s and double B’s and C’s on the slate, and that scene isn’t even that long. That’s 29 different camera set ups, and how many takes are you doing on each camera setup? We just kept filming. We just did take after take after take.
That’s what I was getting at, the estimated number of times he pulled his nipples.
Oh, hundreds and hundreds of times. Well, the story gets even crazier. I don’t know if Max or Harmony came up with the idea, but he never opens that door. Normally if I’m gonna check on somebody in a room and I don’t want anyone to see it, I’m gonna open the door a little bit, and say, “hey, are you ready?” So, they built this fucking spring system, so he could step on the chair, step up on the door knob, and then push the door down and look through that crack in the top. So, that’s why the story took me longer because we’re doing all this and Max was there for like three days. He was there to do those scenes and then he was out, because he was making other shit.
So, basically it took him three days to rub his nipples.
Well, so he did that, because it was the three days of him rubbing his nipples, and then Nick getting high off of coffee. Max was only in like two or three scenes, right? You got the scene of us walking in, us at the door, and Nick coming up with his shirt over his shoulder and he does that HATCHCHACHACHACHA. We must have done that for four to six hours, just us at the door.Him coming up with that whole nipple thing was something between him and Harmony. I don’t want to speak for Max but I’m going to. The guy had a lot of energy. He was just an energetic person. He kind of reminded me of the guys on the street in New York that sell you things and have that hustle, which is great because he brought a lot of energy to the set. So, he's doing the scene and he’s falling flat and not feeling connected. “I need to be doing something else during this scene” and I think him and Harmony came up with this idea where he constantly played with his nipple. They were like, “yeah man, that’s it!” That’s the brilliance of filmmaking.
SPAGHETTI IN THE BATHTUB
I have a few questions about the spaghetti in the bathtub scene but let’s talk about how you were allergic to the sauce first.
I just had an allergy when I was a kid. I don’t have it anymore. I was allergic to, I guess the acid in the tomatoes. I would get all these hives and shit all over my face. So, not a cool thing to have.
Did you get the hives during filming?
No, because we made it real clear before we shot that I couldn't have any tomato sauce. Most of the stuff that we did with Harmony was scripted and very well controlled. He had a very clear idea of what he wanted to be captured. The spaghetti was one of the things that he wanted in the scene. So, basically our negotiation was that it couldn’t be real spaghetti sauce. Gummo was kind of a weird set, because obviously with an independent film, we had the Screen Actors Guild on location. On some of the days, especially when we were shooting in that house, we had SAG on site to make sure the actors weren’t taken advantage of basically.
That’s good they were there.
Yeah, it’s good but it’s also weird, because as an actor it puts you in a weird spot. You got these people that are advocating for you, but.... I mean at that point we were already into the movie. So, in for a penny, in for a pound, we were just going to do what was asked of us to get the project done. They had some guys come up with this spaghetti-like sauce. If you look really hard, the sauce in the movie is really watery. I guess it had some kind of food coloring and they threw some vegetables in there to give it that kind of consistency. It tasted like ass.
Do you remember the point of you eating right there in the tub specifically? Was that just supposed to be gross, or maybe something to do with access because basically it was a movie about poverty?
Well, I think you're right. Not to read too much into it, but I think what Harmony was going for is the scene isn’t really about my character, it’s about Linda Manz character. The scenes that I share with her, to me was her trying to connect with her child. The kid is eleven or twelve and kinda on his own at that point. Solomon is more into hanging out with Tummler, huffing glue, making money and all that stuff, and just kind of being a weary traveler on the road of life, so to speak. To me, that’s one of the things that is brilliant about those scenes is they’re attempts at trying to connect with him, and that’s a really interesting thing. She tries to connect with him when he’s lifting weights, and obviously he’s annoyed by that. He’s down there doing whatever he’s trying to do and she interrupts him. She goes out and buys that candy bar and brings it back to him, so it’s a way for her to show some sort of connection to him and parental light. To me, that’s the real brilliance of that movie, especially those scenes. How does it feel to not be able to provide very well for your kid, but still want something for them. Going out and buying the chocolate bar has that significance, and Solomon sitting in the water that looks like shit. It’s obvious they’re not doing that well. Now, I could be absolutely fucking wrong, but when I’ve seen that scene, that’s what it invokes for me.
Even if that’s not what it was, that’s a great interpretation of it.
That’s Linda’s performance coming through. She spent time with us, learning about us, hanging out. She was a mom at that time, so there was a good rapport. We didn’t spend a lot of time together, but the time we did spend together was enjoyable. As fucking crazy as the movie was, it was a good set.
Did you drop that chocolate bar in the bath on purpose?
That was completely on accident. After the fiftieth or so take on that particular camera set-up and you drop a chocolate bar, and you’ve already eaten like twenty, you’re just like, “fuck it, I'm gonna pick it up and fucking stick it in my mouth.” The water was clean anyways, because SAG was on there and the producers cared that we didn’t die of something weird.
Because it looks dirty. You’re saying it was clean? Yeah, that set had to be approved before I could walk onto it. They went in there and cleaned the shit out of it with bleach, fucking chemicals, make sure the water was clean, then they added the coffee. It was very deliberate.
So, that shot of you where you're half way in, and its brown, that’s coffee? Yeah, all the water that’s in there is coffee.
You were probably getting geeked then. Yeah, (laughs), absolutely.
What about Jean-Yves filming in the tub with you? We shot in that bathtub for around fifteen hours. The reason that Harmony was given the shots that he was able to choose for the final edit was because Jean-Yves was in the tub with me. I remember how crazy it was watching him get into a fucking bathtub with me, and he got in the tub with a quarter of a million dollar camera. That was their brilliance. That was his brilliance, and Harmony’s brilliance. Nothing held them back. They weren’t gonna be held back. We used to joke that, if they could, they would have knocked out the last wall and they would have shot from that angle too. That guy shot from every angle that he could afford to get away with, both in physical restraints and budget.
Tell us about the bacon on the wall. There’s multiple stories going on about that, so I’ll give you my version of it and how I understand it. They came into that house. A lot of stuff was shot in that house. We shot the glue huffing scene with Nick, I, that girl, and the little boy.
With the roaches and shit? Yeah, the little boy, that’s his house. We shot there and in the basement. There’s all this stuff that we shot that didn’t end up making it in the movie. There’s a (cut) scene where Nick and I have to crawl through like a basement window while we’re wearing the Dolly Parton masks. So, in the basement of that house, we shot the scene with the grandmother. The scene where I’m lifting weights was actually shot at the house where Max Perlich’s scenes were. The house that they shot that in was a really nice house. The art department had to bring in all this garbage to stick in the basement and that toilet and shit in the fucking corner.But, yeah, so the bacon. Rumor has it, the bacon was already on the wall when Harmony went in to look at the set for the bathtub scenes. I understand that during the cleaning, it all got removed, and Harmony said, “no, no, no, I want that bacon on the wall.” So, somebody went and cooked up a piece of bacon, and took tape and stuck it to the fucking wall. I don’t know how true that is because when I got there everything was pretty clean and they made it look dirty, but that bacon was essentially taped to the wall.
So, it was there to begin with, they took it down, and put it back up? That’s how I understand it. Harmony tells it a different way. I can’t confirm or deny. But I can say, originally, that piece was legitimate. So, whether it was there the whole time, or there and they set dressed it, I can’t say for certain.In the scene where I’m taping the silverware, on the bottom of the floor, in that little kitchen area, was a bowl of scrambled eggs that had been sitting there for probably three or four months. So, all that stuff, them having bacon on the wall of their bathroom was apparently not a unique thing.
I remember you telling me someone’s mom was trying to shut down production. Yeah, that was my mom. Before I was cast in Gummo, the films I had done before that were more PG, PG-13 style movies. I guess The Road to Wellville was rated R but my character wasn’t. When we got the original script, we were actually going to turn down the movie. We went to New York and my parents and I read the script. My parents are pretty open people but for whatever reason it just didn’t really vibe with us. It wasn’t something we were really interested in. When we got sent the script, I was auditioning for another movie at the time. I was in the final runnings of being considered for that other roll. I can’t remember the name of it. I don’t even know if it got made. I just know it was about a private boy’s school.
RELATIONSHIP WITH CATS
What is your relationship with cats like now? I hate them.
Is it because of the movie, or what? I just don’t like them, man. I don’t know if it’s karma. I was in a relationship when I was younger, and the person was a cat person. I did my best to be accommodating to the cat but I always grew up with dogs and I’m slightly allergic to cats so that’s probably part of it. Even then, in my 20s, this cat hated me. We were living in New Mexico and we found this cat in a storm drain outside of our house. We made a compromise about the cat living in the garage. We took it to the vet and it had all these crazy worms and what not. You can’t leave something that small in the garage so it ended up coming inside to live with us. So, this cat hated me, and I didn’t really like it either. I would wake up and the cat would be on my neck and acting like it was trying to strangle me. I’ve just never really had good relationships with cats. Nothing to do with the film, I’ve just never really been a cat person.
What was the weirdest thing you were asked to do during Gummo? Harmony was always betting us to do stuff. That house where we shot the grandmother, it was a finished basement. The room where the grandmother was shot was an open area, and there was a hole in the ceiling. According to Harmony, he heard all these rats running back and forth in the hole in the ceiling. He bet me 500 bucks to stick my finger in the hole. It’s 500 bucks so I did it. He got frustrated because nothing bit my finger off so he said, “you gotta do it again.” I think I did it twice and after the second time when nothing happened I said, “you owe me fucking 500 dollars.” Another time, he found a gallon container with cigarettes in it. It was full of cigarette butts. He told me he’d pay me two grand if I drank the water. I remember going to my father and asking what he thought I should do. “It’s your choice. It’s probably not a good idea but you make a call.” The crew wouldn’t let me do it. I carried that thing around with me for two days, considering whether or not I was gonna drink it. Even now, I’m contemplating whether or not I should have done it.
We did another scene. It’s one of the places you and I went when we did the tour. The corner store, the little market. There was this girl that didn’t make it into the film, which is fucking horrible, because for me, hands down, she was the best character. I don’t know who she was. I think her grandfather owned the store. This girl had such quick wit. She was like seven or eight. We would say something kinda just joking and she would shut us down every time. Her uncle or her father was the guy we sell the cats to. The scene was, we’re walking in, and her and Nick have a couple of lines of dialogue back and forth. I’m carrying the bag, and we go in the store. Unfortunately, that got cut. Anyways, while we were shooting in that small store, they had all these weird soups. One of the things the store sold was sheep’s brain in a can. For whatever reason, we always got bet to eat weird shit or do weird stuff, but we made a lot of money. I think Nick made a hundred bucks eating that sheep’s brain.
This isn’t filming, it’s just ya’ll doing random shit?
Yeah, Jean-Yves bet Nick fifty or a hundred dollars that he wouldn’t eat that fucking sheep’s brain. Seriously, I made like two grand just off doing weird stuff that they would bet us to do. Jacob (Sewell) has a bunch of stories doing weird shit too. Those are the memories that I appreciate.
CHLOE SEVIGNY When I interviewed Nick, he said more people ask about Harmony than Chloe. Her and Harmony were dating at the time, so Chloe was in charge of wardrobe. (In Southern Thrift Store), we would spend hours there trying on clothes and Harmony would choose something. The constant battle was always him and Chloe choosing what the wardrobe was. Even more, Harmony fighting with the make up/hair department about what my hair was going to look like. That was a knock-down, drag-out battle.I’ve been fortunate, people have asked me about both of them over the years. My relationship with Chloe was always kinda like that older sister. Harmony would go a little crazy, I mean, she was one of the people that didn’t want me to drink that water with the cigarettes. While we would maybe go a little too far, she would always be a voice of reason. You gotta have that balance. Yeah, she was a good balance I think for everybody. If it would have just been just Harmony, Jean-Yves and the cast, someone would have died.Chloe has always been a good person in my life. We don’t see each other or talk very often, but when we do, it has always been like when we were all together (during production). There’s a bond when you go through something like that and you bond with those people. I always got along with Harmony but he was the director. He had other things to worry about other than just us (the actors). As the actors, we all bonded, because we were in this together. Harmony was obviously instrumental, but in terms of real connection, I think I bonded more with Chloe, and the other actors. I think that showed when we all got back together twenty years later.
Do you have any more to say about her, to draw on the question that more people ask about Harmony? Yeah, the questions I always get about him are like “what is he like?” and blah blah blah. I’m a big believer in people’s energies and she kinda has that iconic bad ass but a good person energy. That’s how I’ve always known her. How she’s portrayed and how she’s conveyed in the public light is who she is. She’s kind, giving, smart as shit, and Harmony is a big ball of constant energy. Where he could be all over the place, she’d always seem to be a steady presence. Lizzie came out a couple of years ago and I loved it. She had this idea that she was really interested in and was able to go out and make it and get it done. Again, she always had that presence that was reliable and you felt comfortable around her. It’s cool to see that she is still doing what she wants to do.
OFF-TOPIC Do you ever have sleep paralysis? I’ve had some crazy shit in my life, but I think I’ve been able to miss that one. I wanted to get your thoughts on modern Satanism and it’s misconceptions, because in the movie there’s a lot of the typical heavy metal imagery that gets grouped in with Satanism. I don’t know a lot about it personally. It’s just a different form of belief, right? To me, it’s like anything. More people have been murdered in the name of the Christian God than we care to admit to, right? I think it’s like anything in life. I don’t know very much about it, so I don’t wanna pretend like I can speak with any authority, but the people I know who are Satanists are beautiful people and I love them. They’ve always been kind. They just have a different perspective, right? For whatever reason, people are afraid of different perspectives. That part I don’t get and maybe that’s me being ignorant. I know we all have our faults where we look at things from our own vain and maybe it’s hard to look at it from the other person’s point of view. I wouldn’t want to live a life where I only got to experience life from one perspective. That would be fucking awful. To my understanding, their tenets and beliefs are almost common sense. It’s more science-based and not superstitious. I think for me, this is not for Satanism itself but for belief in general, is when it becomes extreme, right? Right now, unfortunately, we’re at a point where divisiveness is a selling point. I think it will all come back around, like everything in life. It will hit an extreme, then calmer heads will prevail. I have friends who are Satanists, and I was invited to their house for the first time the other day, and they have a swing in their living room. Like a swing you would have on an old oak tree. You can’t be a bad person and have a swing in your living room (laughs).
MATILDA & DANNY DEVITO Tell us about almost being casted in Matilda and meeting with Danny Devito. After Gummo, within a year or so, I had auditioned for the older brother in Matilda. It was your standard audition. I was lucky to have made it through all the call backs. Then, we get a call from my manager and he says, “you’re one of the top possible choices. Danny Devito wants to meet everyone.” I go down, and I don’t know if this is New York back in the day, with acting, or just life, but you do it long enough and you see who your competition is. You see them at all the same auditions because you’re going out for the same shit. I wasn’t going out for stuff that Johnathan Taylor Thomas was getting cast for.The thing with Matilda was, we get called in, and I believe there was only two or three other actors that were being considered. I don’t know if it was the Plaza hotel but it was that style hotel. We get to the hotel and Danny Devito walks in with his body guard. It looked like a scene from Big. David Krumholtz, at the time, was doing the Santa Clause movie, so he came in and his character is all in cornrows because his character was in cornrows in that movie. We basically got the opportunity to sit in and we didn’t even audition for Danny Devito. We just sat and talked to him. I spent like two hours just basically telling him fucking stories, as a fifth grader. So what was funny, when you talk about yourself, you’re ten years old so what do you have to say? I play baseball and I’m not very good at it?
“EXTRA” PEOPLE ON SET Nick (Sutton) said he didn’t have any stories about Mark Gonzalez but said you might. I just remember him being kind of a quiet guy. I just remember him being on set a couple of days, and hanging out. Nothing super crazy. When we were on set, we had a couple people that showed up and he was one of them. Obviously he made it in the movie. I don’t know if that was planned or if that was just because he was there. That’s the thing I love about movies. There’s a certain energy on a film set no matter how big or small it is. A lot of people enjoy that energy, and he seemed like the kinda guy that vibed really well with that. I don’t have too many stories about him because I was never in anything with him. That’s cool because I’m always super petty about having extra people on set. Are you? I’m the exact opposite. If I’m making something and you wanna stop by, as long as you’re not walking through the scene or something, y’know, as long as you’re respectful. Maybe I need to chill out on that. We had a lot of people show up. Ewen Bremmer showed up because he was getting ready to make Julien Donkey Boy with Harmony. Werner Herzog was there for a little while. Gus Van Sant was there.
KEYBOARD WARRIOR When people talk to you about the movie, does anyone get pissed off or is there any negativity? I’ve had people tell me they hate the movie, which is fine. I had one girl get really upset that I was in the movie, and this was over Facebook. She was just venomous and really angry that I would have ever considered being in the film. I was like, you realize I’m an actor, and this is a movie, and there are things in the film that I don’t support, but that’s ok. I’ve never had anyone get angry over a particular scene or character, but I have gotten people who were angry overall. There was this one person the other day on a dating app. To be completely transparent, they got really frustrated that I was on the dating app. “You can’t be that guy.” “I’m sorry. I am that guy.” “Well, why are you on this dating app?” “Well, I would like to eventually meet somebody and this is an easy way to do it.” They started taunting me with lines from my movies and it was really weird. I wrote them back and said that I was glad they saw the movie and I wish you the best. People forget that you’re a person behind that. I don’t know if they were trying to be funny or insulting, but it was so off the wall that I just laughed. I wasn’t insulted. I can’t make this stuff up.I had a friend who became obsessed about going onto message boards and finding all these layers that people have created with the bathtub scene, like what is the bathtub scene? He said years ago he stumbled upon a message board where people were debating the socioeconomic position of Solomon in that scene, and what it meant to drop the candy bar and still eat it, like he was too poor to buy another one. I wanted to say to the people that I dropped the candy bar because it slipped out of my hand. That’s it, thats all. It’s real, it’s an honest thing, it slipped out of my hand, and they chose to use that. It’s funny all the stuff that can be built up out of a small thing.Even on The Road to Wellville, which to me is even more obscure than Gummo, they will have all these opions. I was fucking nine years old, and I didn't have any pretext as to what this meant.I have a lot of people come up to me and say that these are the movies that spoke to them, and that’s wonderful, and I’ll be forever grateful that it spoke to them. It’s amazing how people can build all this stuff up.
REPRESENTATION OF MENTAL ILLNESS I asked you last time, but I kept interrupting you. The representation of mental illness in the movie? I was talking to Nick about exploitation and I know there’s a lot of ways to look at that. I don’t think it was exploitative, especially the girl with Down Syndrome. I don’t think she was chose from that. Her parents were there and we spent a lot of time together. I used to go over to her house to rehearse, and both of our families were on set when we shot. They were very aware of the scene. From my perspective, is Max Perliches character pimping out his sister with a mental disability? Absolutely. But, does that happen in life? It does. I’m not condoning it, but as soon as we start shying away from subjects that can’t be expressed, as artists, we’re dishonest. If someone does something out of malice, should that be met with consequences? Absolutely. But if someone has a character in a project that is honest, I think that’s what it is. It’s honest. I think when we start pulling away from that, we become dishonest as artists, and that’s not a good place for us to be. How awful would it be if, for example, we didn't have Diane Arbus’ work?The character that shaves her eyebrows and comes to talk to Chloe (at the tennis courts). That amount of affection and connection that you see in that scene… that’s real. It wasn’t just turned on for the cameras, then shut back off. Gummo is not an easy story. You don’t see that next to The Sound of Music.The best compliments I’ve ever gotten was when people believe it was a documentary at first. Some people in the movie, in that time frame, in that city, that was their life.
Like that kid with the roaches.
I can say for certainty that scene wasn’t planned, because that was shown to us when were were on set. That’s life. For all its beauty, there’s a lot of ugliness.
People ignore that part of life sometimes.
I think we’re in a part of time where it’s easy to criticize others, myself included. I myself have never heard anyone talk about the mental health aspect of the film first hand, but I can definitely understand how someone could feel that way. It’s easy to take shots when you weren't a part of something, or you don’t understand the concept. Sometimes people can be intense in person, but usually you find out it’s easier for people to say that stuff through the cloak of anonymity.