Barry Levinson


Interviewed by James Mottram

How would you describe "Bandits"?

This has the spirit of screwball comedy and the Hope and Crosby "Road to..." pictures. It takes the spirit but not necessarily the design of that time. That to me is what's behind it. You have to give up on the idea of making a screwball comedy as they were once made - unless you want to do a mock-version of it, adhering to the genre concept, which I never believe in anyway. Movies didn't begin as part of a genre, they only got pigeonholed into them. You have to be faithful to sustaining your film. "Bandits" is slightly beyond real life; it's too nutty, in a certain way, to be life. But it's not a cartoon - so where is it?

What made you hire Billy Bob Thornton as the hypochondriac, obsessive-compulsive bank robber?

He is very much a real character actor. A lot of actors don't do that. They want to be who they are. He's willing to be anybody else. I think that's what makes him so interesting.

And what makes Bruce Willis interesting?

I think the good news was that Bruce was so giving in the movie, that he allowed other moments to happen. He was confident enough, in terms of his career as an actor, that he doesn't have to take the stage at every chance. He's a movie star working with a character actor, and they work so well together. They have this easy manner about them.

How was it shooting in Oregon?

It was tough because it was very cold at times, with drizzle and rain. We would have to water down the streets periodically, because it was going to rain or it wasn't. But it all looked good on film!