The "Out of Sight" and "Solaris" star makes his directorial debut with "Confessions of a Dangerous Mind" - a biopic of TV presenter-cum-CIA assassin Chuck Barris. He talks truth, sex and Hollywood with BBCi Films.
This film was almost never made. What was the big stumbling block?
It was a great screenplay, but it wasn't cheap enough for a real independent studio to make and it wasn't expensive enough for Warner Bros to make, and it didn't fall into any of the categories that they knew how to sell. So they used it as bait for five years, bringing in good directors and saying, "Hey, that's great, but why don't you take a look at this?"
We started with Curtis Hanson and David Fincher and PJ Hogan and Bryan Singer. Because of that there was so much money against it, that it wasn't going to get made, period. I thought, if I grabbed it and did it for scale, and got everybody else to do it for scale, we could get the film made for way under what it'd been budgeted at. That was my pitch to Harvey [Weinstein, of Miramax]. That was important, I thought, as it wasn't a film designed to make a huge amount of money.
Were there any surprises in directing for the first time?
The funniest thing is that all the things every director goes through, I thought I could shortcut, but there was no getting around those issues. I have a golf club that I left stuck in my wall at the office over at Warner Bros, when after two months of screen tests and everything I still wasn't able to get Sam [Rockwell, who plays Chuck Barris]. I slammed it into the wall and put a date on it and left it hanging there. There were a lot of difficulties. I kept thinking, "This should be easier."
How did you get Brad Pitt and Matt Damon to cameo?
I had to pay Brad and Matt $20 million. That was rough. And they both had to audition for the roles, which I thought was embarrassing... We were on the tour for "Ocean's Eleven" and I said, "Burt Reynolds was on The Dating Game and he didn't get picked, and Tom Selleck was on and didn't get picked." I thought it would be funny if those guys came out. That was a pure and simple favour. I still can't believe they did it, fly up for a shot that we didn't even stop the camera on. But that's what sort of great friends they are.
You're the son of a TV chat show host - did that have a great bearing on your choice of subject matter?
It was a huge part of it. I grew up on gameshow sets. I was on the back of those sets in the 70s, so I knew what they looked like and what they felt like. I certainly had an understanding of fame and some of those trappings, and of waking up and having other people's perceptions of you being much different from your own perception. So, the reason I felt that I could direct, was that I felt this was a screenplay I knew how to tell the story of.
Do you believe that Chuck really was a CIA hitman?
I don't know how much I believed it. I didn't want to officially ask him, because I didn't want him to say, "I made it up." I wanted to tell the story and I thought, how interesting if it was all made up, why someone as wealthy and as successful as Chuck Barris, would have to do that. I thought that was an interesting person to explore, and that's what we wanted to do with the film. It was pretty fun. I also love the idea of comparing the CIA to bad television. It just made me laugh, from the minute we started.
If you had to take a date to either "Solaris" or "Confessions", which would you pick, and why?
In the States "Confessions" was an easier acceptance somehow, so I might stick up for "Solaris" because it took some real hits. But, you know, I'm really proud of both of them. I'd bring Sam [Rockwell] as my date.