Based on several stories by the late New Yorker essayist Joseph Mitchell, the film unfolds in post-WWII New York and chronicles the unlikely friendship between the mild-mannered Mitchell (played by Tucci) and the outgoing Gould (Holm) who may or may not have written his own voluminous oral history of the world, and who may or may not be crazy.
While Holm chews the scenery, Tucci delivers a remarkably subdued (and much more interesting) performance. Whatever else you happen to think of his filmmaking track record, which also includes the nostalgic Big Night (1995) and the farcical The Impostors (1997), by giving himself three juicy and diverse starring roles, at least Tucci proves himself a capable leading man after years of thankless supporting parts in Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle, Deconstructing Harry and A Life Less Ordinary, among others.
CL: What was the initial appeal of this material?
ST:What I like about Mitchell's writing is that his stories are so simply poignant. They're about everyday people, and those are the kinds of movies I like to make. After I read Up in the Old Hotel [a compilation of Mitchell's short stories], I thought if I could make movies the way this guy writes, that would be an achievement. It's the kind of writing I love, non-judgmental, not about anything but about everything, you know?
Is there a risk with a character like Joe Gould that movie audiences may not like him enough to follow his story or care what happens to him? He's the sort of guy a lot of people would cross the street to avoid.
Yeah, but I think the performance is so beautifully orchestrated that I'm not too worried about it. As repulsive as Joe might be, he's fascinating, too, because you never know what's going to happen next. He's unpredictable. That's the key thing.
You'd worked with Ian Holm on Big Night. Was he your first choice to play Joe Gould?
He was my only choice.
You have an obvious knack for period pieces Big Night took place in the '50s, The Impostors in the '30s, and this one is set in Greenwich Village during the '40s. What was the secret to recreating that time and place so effectively?
For the most part, it's about taking away as opposed to adding on, finding the right streets and then taking away whatever elements might call your attention away from the period. It's really that simple. Washington Park hasn't changed all that much, for example, but what's around the park has, so you just have to shoot those scenes from certain angles, stuff like that.
What should audiences come away from this film feeling or thinking about?
It's all about the creative process and how these two men go through their lives trying to create something. Ultimately, it's just about their relationship, how complicated and complex it is and yet how similar they are.
As an actor, you've worked with a lot of notable directors. In terms of your own directing style, which of them most influenced you or taught you the most?
I wouldn't say a lot of the ones that I've worked with, necessarily, but more of the ones that I've watched over the years, Jean Renoir and classic guys like that.
What do you get out of directing that you don't get out of acting, or vice versa?
First and foremost, I consider myself an actor, and acting is very satisfying to me. At the same time, though, directing allows you to utilize every part of yourself. It's exhausting work, but you get to create these whole worlds, you know?
So which comes first for you now acting or directing?
Whichever comes first.
Back in the 80's and 90's Belfort and Stratton Oakmont, and other big Penny Stock…
Louis CK playing a “good guy” ? He could pass for one of the hoods…
This film is about another place in time. Women got married and had children right…
Modus Operandi of fbi: drive a person to neuroses, or insanity; set him up for…
In the latest 'Emory Looks at Hollywood' episode, Judith Evans Grubbs, Emory Professor of Roman…