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Bill Paxton's Not A Frail Guy
an emily blunt interview

 

 

 

Bill Paxton is one hell of an actor and study mansicle (yes, I'm smitten) , but know - now - he's a director as well!

Ya'all know him as 'Mr. Joe Normal' like in in Twister and Alien. Hell he was even pretty normal aboard the dreaded Titanic! But really the fella's hard to tag. I personally enjoy his off the wall choices like the small role of the mean boyfriend in Boxing Helena or the main role as the conniving brother in indie great A Simple Plan.

He's a veteran of the screen, for sure. And this wonderfully frightening Frailty film marks his directorial debut. Hard to believe, 'cause Frailty's detail and feel is done so damn well he makes some seasoned folks look like directing hacks!

I caught up with Billy Boy in LA at a swanky five star hotel. And after depleting the bathroom of it's complimentary trinkets (for my personal bath-time later) by way of my oversized purse…we sat and talked a bit about Frailty. He's a honest guy, real down to Earth (in Hollywood that's a feat in itself!). He had this glorious beam in his eye (like a new father might have) over his controversal new film. Enjoy!

EMILY: I love the quotes from Stephen King, James Cameron and Sam Raimi on Frailty's Press Kits…That's gotta help?

BP Don't I know it! [laughter]

EMILY: How did the warmth of their reaction make you feel?

BILL: I tell you part of the reason I went out and tried to solicit some positive reaction from people I considered masters of suspense…I know Sam Raimi and James Cameron. Although they are such men of integrity they wouldn't endorse it [Frailty] if they couldn't get behind it…Jim's the kind of guy, well, I remember having to audition for True Lies…and I said "I have no mystique with you how can I come in and audition? You know all my bullshit" ya know [laughter]? But, when the film [Frailty] first was shown…they [the studio]started seeing very reactionary responses to it from the press.

You know the comments were...um... it seemed like… no one was watching the movie with any objectivity at all. It was so reactionary!

There were kids in it and that there was some moral antinueity to it. And so I got worried. I thought, God Bless we've worked so hard on this film and these people…I might not be able to depend on the critics to support this film…So, I thought what can I do? I thought of all the people that…the writer, Brent Hanley, was very smart. He read a hell of a lot of Stephen King growing up and I said if I can get Stephen King to see the film…so I found out who one of his assistants was up in Maine and I called her …I said Look I'm an actor you probably saw me in Twister or Titanic. I made this first film very inspired by Stephen king in may ways by his writing…Is there a way you could show it to him? I sent her the "making of" and she liked it and called back and said Stephen will watch the film but he might not comment on it either way. About a month later I got a nice note from him--that till recently I had in my back pocket! It was a very short letter. Iit said what you read here [he points to the cd and the quote on it "It's unique, thought provoking, edge-of-your-seat entertainment"]…and then Sam and Jim gave me theirs...I just wanted to steer the audience into the direction that this film was heading. I actually heard from Bryan Singer [Usual Suspects & Apt Pupil fame] and he really liked the film too.

The movie polarizes people and it will . When you make a movie with this kind of intensity, you don't expect "oh we love it" from all---you know its not going be that kind of thing. The film maker has to have his eyes wide open. I think what gives this movie it's punch is that horror is derived from the impudence of children and these crazy adults! The crazy father. That's an old convention. This movie really has a lot of its roots in Night of the Hunter.

EMILY: What were the initial comments of the press last fall at the first screenings?

BILL: God, Oh God, I usually commit these to memory…Let's just say people were just not ready for it…people thought it was irresponsible, and um you know everything they call something they kind of jeer about. There's a lot of people that wouldn't participate in the junkets; that don't want to comment…ya know I saw a comment by a supposed film professor were he called it an ugly film…and I was like oh? You're teaching your students…look if there is one thing about the film…after all my experience out here, if I was going to direct it, I wanted it to look like a real quality crafted film.

I wanted this movie to look like it was produced by Warner Bros. That's why I got Bill Butler who's an old master and had his roots in the studio system…And I kind of shot the film like I was making it back in the sixties. All the violence is applied you really don't see the bloody body hit the rug…Ya know?

EMILY: Yeah it's terrifying enough, maybe more so, without it!

BILL: Yeah, absolutely, the mind's magnification of the individual is always more powerful! But I was sensitive…you know I got these kids I'm working with. The ooriginal script was-- oh my gosh, it was pretty tough! It cut away to the kid's Charlie's Angels tee-shirt splattered with blood… [laughter] I'm like, I don't know if I can shoot that! I don't know if I can do that to these poor children.

But, it was like whoa…look I knew what I was getting into. I knew this was a movie that would kind of polarize people in ways…but I didn't have a political agenda with this film I thought it was just a creepy old fashioned adult Grimm Fairy tale… a Grimm parable! This movie really is an alliteration of stories from the Old Testament. When I was a boy my dad was a good friend of Thomas Hart Benton who was a great muralist, a regionalist painter…[noticing my deer in the headlights reaction Bill consoles me...] he's popular you'd know his work if you saw it. I remember when he was a young artist coming up he did a series of paintings in modern day-- which would have been the thirties and forties-- depicting these kind of classic biblical scenes…he had one called Susana and the Elders. Susana is seen as kind of this pubescent fifteen year old girl getting ready to take a bath in a creek and you see an old tree and behind the tree are these farmer looking guys…the "elders" with bib overalls…kind of watching this girl. He got so much flack for this and all he'd done was taken an old story and depicted it in a modern setting…that's in a lot of ways this movie is. It's modern story of Abraham. Which I always found to be very disturbing. [Bill stops chatting grabs my digital recorder from in front of him] This is a pretty cool unit. I have to say. It's very James Bond…does this have the nerve gas feature? I'm a techno phobe - regular recorders I can just about handle…

EMILY: It's a digital wav recorder-- no secret agent features -sorry. What was it about Hanley's Frailty script that made you want to do it?

BILL: It was original. It was very disturbing. It was very suspenseful. And because it… again, I invested so much in the older boy who was this incredible protagonist. I was afraid of it.

I was approached to play the dad and produce the film by David Kirschner who controlled the script I initially tried to send it out to a few directors, and I just-I started thinking why am I gonna just give this great script to somebody else?

I knew the milieu of this world, I knew the landscape I knew the characters from other movies I'd done as well as being from Texas [it's based in Texas] and I thought this is a role that's really in my tenure…I'm a father myself. I can relate to these boys. I love the sibling. The brotherly aspect, the paternal aspect of the film. Weirdly enough and oddly that's been a real running theme through my own work. My brother role with Billy Bob Thornton [A Simple Plan] or Chet in Weird Science or as one the Earp brothers it seems to be a theme with me. I've done a lot of these kind of roles.

I always like familiar dramas. I saw this movie as a familiar tragedy. All this supernatural aspects of the film as spooky and creepy as it is this wasn't some political agenda for me-- although the movie kind of plays like it's a pro vigilantism and pro- capital punishment on a surface level to me you see this nice family that's destroyed by this thing it's more like the fall of the House Of Usher.

To me it belies the folly of man's ego. When he ordains himself to be god's executioner what ever that is. It seems that man uses religion to promote his own political agenda or his own personal agenda.

EMILY: Is there gonna be a True Lies Two?

BILL: Hmm. That's one of those rumors that just rolls around! [laughter] I'm not privy to that info!

I made a trip to Titanic with Jim back in August and September. I made four decents down to Titanic. True Lies came up. And I think in leiu of the events of September 11th I don't think Jim Cameron will in anyway shape or form be involved in a sequel to that movie. That's my opinion…I can't speak for Jim.

EMILY: You invited the writer, Brent Hanley, on the set of Frailty. That's rare isn't it?

BILL: You know it's a very tricky piece. It was one of those…[he pauses to think how to put it] the original script was about 130 pages and we knew because of our shooting schedule you figure you're gonna get about three pages a day … I knew I could I could only get about a thirty five day schedule so I knew I had to take pages out…and it's like a house of cards the script. Everything in its place and needed to sustain the structure. You pull one card out and it's tied to this other card. It's very ..It looks like a simple movie but it's actually very complicated. In terms of how the information is given out. Once you know the story the film all the twists and flips…watching it the second time is actually kind of fun because there's a lot of clues laid out for you ...but, they are very cleverly written out.

EMILY: What made you want to also play "Dad?" [this guy is very, very handsome....focus...focus]

BILL: He was a father. He was a father who thought he was doing right by his sons…ah... he again, he loved his children but whether he's mad or divinely inspired through the whole movie we wonder…

I've just liked the story I guess I've always had kind of a taste for the bizarre the macabre and the unexplained the tales of mystery and suspense! I was weaned on this stuff god I watched the Twilight Zone religiously! I read Stephen King till me eyeballs were falling out my head! I remember my father took me to movies like Hush Hush Sweet Charlotte when I was a kid. I didn't have a normal background! I was completely demented from a very early age! To me Frailty is a love letter to all those films the original invaders from mars…all that paranoia and being a kid and no one listens to you these crazy adults…

I started out doing bizarre character films like Near Dark. Most people know me from the bigger block buster films [Titanic/Twister] were they know me as the affable light hearted happy go lucky guy! The mindless idiot-I wanted people to reconsider my work, reconsider me…I thought Frailty was perfect story to get that across! I am very proud of the film-I think it's a classic of its kind. I hope people see the film. I hope they will enjoy it and not get too deep with it.

I hope to have more opportunities! The next film I want to direct is a British romantic comedy! Depending on the cast-- I have my sites set very high!
- END

Bravo Bill! Well, yet another Hollywood success story about doing what you want and not cowtowing to what's expected. See the film - it's really really scary and positively brilliant.…full review here.

Is Bill Paxton single.........hmmmmmmmmmm.

Official Frailty Site here

 

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