June 23, 1998
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[Seymour Cassel returns.]
SEYMOUR CASSEL: Unfortunately [Steve] doesn't share his wife to help me
pack. So, I'm sorry I'm a little late, because there's no woman to help
pack for me.
STEVE BUSCEMI: I got up early this morning and packed myself.
QUESTION: There's a scene in "In The Soup" that seems to be taken straight
out of Cassavettes' "Faces." Was "In The Soup" inspired by that film?
SEYMOUR CASSEL: I met [Alex Rockwell, director of "In The Soup", at a
Cassavettes retrospective], and Alex said he loved the Cassavettes film...
and said he wanted to work with me.... And I think you're either
influenced by Cassavettes or you're not.... And I think that Alex wrote
that, and he gave a lot of freedom.... The same thing with John
[Cassavettes].... He gave actors freedom for interpretation. I mean, it's
on the page, and you have to make more of this than the words. You have to
have a little fun with it. He waited until the cameras rolled, where they
can't stop you..... But I've been doing this a little while, so my
instincts are pretty good, and I've learned to go with them. It pays off,
and it keeps my attention span into the scene too, because I tend to
wander. I get bored.
QUESTION: What's the difference between shooting in New York City and Los
STEVE BUSCEMI: There used to be a lot more films shot in New York, but for
some reason the middle dropped out. And now, you get big budget films,
like "Godzilla," or you get the really "no-budget" films. I mean, LA is
such an industry town. There's just a lot more work going on there, and
it's probably a little bit easier to get work. But New York's a great town
to shoot in.
SEYMOUR CASSEL: Oh, it's a great natural location. They were on strike
when we were shot [In the Soup]. We were the only film shooting. We had
to make a deal.... We had but one Teamster, and he made more than anybody
on the film. But the thing with Los Angeles: Anything you want, you can
get within an hour..... That's why the business is there, plus that ten
months a year you can shoot in daylight. But New York is the most fun
place to shoot in.
QUESTION: What about the short film, "What Happened to Pete", your first
directorial attempt, which also starred Seymour Cassel?
STEVE BUSCEMI: You can see it on Bravo. They usually show it at two
o'clock in the morning, which is fine by me, because I didn't get any
rights for the music.
QUESTION: Are you a musician?
STEVE BUSCEMI: Am I a musician? No. Why do you ask? Want me to join your
QUESTION: Because you've shown up in movies like "Armageddon," are main
stream films a direction you want to go in? More mainstream stuff.
STEVE BUSCEMI: It's because before I was never offered films like those
before. And now I'm getting offered films like that. And I can't lie:
The money's good.
SEYMOUR CASSEL: No one's asking you to lie.
QUESTION: Since both of you bounce back and forth between independent films
and studio movies: Is it more fun to work on
studio films or independent
STEVE BUSCEMI: I had a lot more fun working on "In the Soup" and doing
films like "In the Soup" and "Parting Glances." I mean, those films are
closer to my heart. But it's harder to make a living doing those films, so
I'm really glad that I have the opportunity to do some more commercial work
and make a living, and then make the other films as well.
SEYMOUR CASSEL: I just want to make the money. I want to work with
Warren, Bruce, and Sly, and all those guys. I want to grease myself up and
slide around with Sly.... Get him to fight the old guy, and the old guy
wins. I've done those, too, and when we did Dick Tracy, we tightened up
all our parts. It was a tough schedules, and we shot for sixteen weeks,
and there was no overtime, and we all agreed to it because we had guys with
prosthetics and all that stuff, and you take the overtime because you want
to do it and you know it's something special. I did "Indecent Proposal,"
and they hired me to make Redford look younger. I did my best.
QUESTION: Are you two interested in making another film together?
SEYMOUR CASSEL: He better be thinking about it. I've invested a lot in
STEVE BUSCEMI: Yeah, I hope we do. I somehow got him into "Trees Lounge"
and killed him. He hasn't quite forgiven me for that, so I owe him big.
SEYMOUR CASSEL: I would work with Steve again. When you see him in
this film ["In the Soup,"], and you see him enjoying it, that's what it's
all about.... When you work in that kind of environment, and I have back
with Cassavettes.... and Steve creates that sort environment, whether it
was in "What Happened to Pete?" or "Trees Lounge." I'm lucky I've met
someone like him after I lost someone like John. Not that he owes me
anything, but he knows I'll do anything for him, because I love to work for
him and I really respect the depth of his writing and where it comes from
and the things that he writes about and that it means something to him...
No everybody does that.
QUESTION: Steve, do you have any plans about doing something else as a
director or writer?
STEVE BUSCEMI: I wish I was more of a writer. "Trees Lounge" took
everything out of me. But there is a book by Eddie Bunker.... who played
Mr. Blue in Reservoir Dogs, and he's a novelist, and he wrote the book
"Nobody's So Fierce," which was made into the movie "Straight Time," one of
my favorite films. He wrote a book, "The Animal Factory," which he's
written a script for. It takes place in prison, and that's the next thing
I hope to direct.
QUESTION: Do you get more rehearsal time in low-budget films than in studio
STEVE BUSCEMI: No, you get less rehearsal time in independent films.
SEYMOUR CASSEL: [In big budget movies,] there's so much time wasted on
doing everything else, that this business created stars... But usually in
an independent film, it's not about that. It's about making the film.
QUESTION: Is there a specific director you want to work with in the future?
STEVE BUSCEMI: I get asked that a lot, and I try not to think that way,
because when I do, then it doesn't happen. For years I wanted to work with
Robert Altman, and he did all these film that I said, "How come I'm not
being seen for this?" I couldn't even get into the door. And when I
stopped thinking about it, that's when I got the call for "Kansas City."
So, I don't want to jinx myself.
SEYMOUR CASSEL: That happened to me too on [Robert Altman's] "Short
Cuts," and I didn't even get to do the film because of "Indecent Proposal."
I was supposed to play the husband of Lily Tomlin, and I took "Indecent
Proposal," telling them I wanted a week to do "Short Cuts." [...] But I
didn't get to do it because of scheduling problems.
QUESTION: When you went from doing independent features to studio features,
as in "Con Air," were the studios looking for you or did you have to
STEVE BUSCEMI: "Con Air" was written by Scott Rosenberg, who wrote a "Tales
From the Crypt" episode I had been in, so that part was specifically
written for me. And by then, Jerry Bruckheimer knew my work. But before,
when the Hollywood producers didn't know who I was, then I had to audition.
QUESTION: If you could choose a director from the past to work with, who
would it be?
STEVE BUSCEMI: That's easy for me. John Cassavettes.
SEYMOUR CASSEL: I would like to have worked with Capra, Ford, or
Sturges, or European directors. Kurosawa. There's a lot of great
directors out there. I was fortunate to have worked with John
[Cassavettes] in eight of the twelve films he made. You couldn't give me
any amount of money to take that away. That's worth more than money.
That's my life, the greatest time, working with him.
QUESTION: Were you guys in plays in high school? Were you stars?
SEYMOUR CASSEL: I was in detention.
STEVE BUSCEMI: I didn't do plays in high school until I was a senior. I
was on the wrestling team.... I wrestled at a hundred and five.
SEYMOUR CASSEL: And [Marc] Boone [Jr.] tells me you were damn good
STEVE BUSCEMI: I was good. I was all right.
SEYMOUR CASSEL: Hey, Steve, I see how you try and grab me some times.
STEVE BUSCEMI: If they had professional wrestling..... I mean, I wasn't
that good of a wrestler. I had dreams about as a kid, but I didn't really
think I could do it. I didn't see how it was possible. And in my senior
year, I started doing plays, and I really loved it.
QUESTION: Which roles of yours did you find most like yourself?
STEVE BUSCEMI: This character in "In the Soup." When I moved to Manhattan
from Long Island, and I didn't know how to get into the business, I wished
I'd met someone like Joe. This character and the character I played in
"Parting Glances." Anytime I play someone who doesn't shoot people or get
killed, that's when I feel I'm more myself. Not that I don't shoot people
QUESTION: You got started in theater. Do you have a desire to return to
STEVE BUSCEMI: Yeah. The theater that I did I wrote with my partner Marc
Boone Jr., and he lives in LA and I live in New York, so it's hard to keep
that going. But someday, I would like to do that.
QUESTION: Is there any one person who pushed you towards acting?
STEVE BUSCEMI: I had an acting teacher in my senior year in high school,
named Lynn Lapin, and she was great. And also, when I studied at the Lee
Strasbourg school, I studied with Lee's son, John. And he said the best
thing I could picture: I did this scene in his class, and he said, "Wow,
you really enjoy this." I said, "Yeah." And he said, "Then you should do
it." That really inspired me a lot.
SEYMOUR CASSEL: My mother was in the business, and I was an only child,
and I was terribly lonely, and I had to find my destiny, which is this. I
realized very early, being an only child and traveling on a train with a
troupe of sixty people until I started school, and my mother
was in burlesque, I just knew that every time I went out there that it was
my world and that I had to find out about it. And I was always curious
about performing. As a kid, you pretend anything. If you tell me I'm an
Indian, then I become an Indian. If you believe it or not, at least I got
to believe it. Then I started school, and I forgot about it. I got into
sports I was crazy about hockey, football, basketball, boxing, and
everything. When I got out of school, I did my service time, and when I
got out, I went to the University of Miami for like a week and a half. I
got a job up in Ft. Lauderdale... I guess basket weaving wasn't the major
I wanted. So I took a job on a charter boat, went fishing every day. Then
I decided to go back to Detroit, where I had friends, where I grew up....
And in Miami, I went by a shipyard, a hundred and five foot schooner
sailing around the world. And when I got back to Detroit, I decided to get
a job. I was running out of money. My discharge money was just about
gone. My GI Bill didn't kick in because I quit school. And I saw in the
paper: Apprentice job, build and paint sets in exchange for acting
lessons. [...] And I was on my way.
QUESTION: How did you get your break?
STEVE BUSCEMI: The way that I broke in: I didn't know how to break into
acting, so I did stand-up comedy, because the clubs were there, and you
only needed yourself, and you could write it. So I used to wait in line at
the Improv. They had auditions the first Sunday of the month. You'd wait
in line and go on. I somehow passed the auditions. I hung out at the
Improv for months. I never got on before two or three in the morning. I
remember the first time I got to go on, I got bumped by Paul Reiser. I
used to see Seinfeld there, and Reiser, and all those guys. But I learned
that comedy wasn't for me. The stand-up I found really hard. I realized I
liked working with other people. I think I do my best work when I'm with
people who are really, really good, like this guy here [Cassel.]
SEYMOUR CASSEL: I was in New York not even a year, and I went for
auditions... They needed sailors. I'd been a sailor for three years, so I
knew I could do it. I get up on stage, and Josh Logan was the director.
They line six of us up there and tell us to take off our shirts. I weighed
about a hundred and forty-two pounds then... And I didn't get the part and
I was so mad. Later I said to Cassavettes, "Why didn't I get the part, John"?
And John said, "No, Josh Logan, you're not his type."
QUESTION: How do you feel about Quentin Tarrantino acting in his movies?
Would you like to work with him again?
STEVE BUSCEMI: Quentin always wanted to be an actor. The role I'm glad he
didn't get was the part of Mr. Pink in Reservoir Dogs. He wrote that role
for himself.... and he told me that on my audition. [He said:] "Man, I
wrote this role for myself. I want to be Mr. Pink, so I'm not going to
give this part away. Whoever wants this part's gonna have to fucking take
it from me." Actually, Seymour and I both auditioned for "Reservoir Dogs,"
but we were both making "In the Soup." I auditioned twice, and I didn't do
that great. I'm just not a good auditioner. But Quentin saw me, another
video of me, an audition for a Neil Simon film.... and the woman casting
that film was also casting "Reservoir Dogs." So she showed that tape to
Quentin, and he said to me: "Yeah, you know, I saw that tape, and you had
your hair slicked back and that fifties shirt on. You looked like a
criminal." And I said, "That's just how I dressed." So the lesson here to
actors is: Go on any audition, even if you feel you're not right or you
don't like the film. Just go.
QUESTION: What was your message for "Trees Lounge," and how close was it to
you, realistically speaking?
STEVE BUSCEMI: I don't know what message I was trying. The whole thing
about doing that film was about making a film about these characters you
don't normally see in films.... People like that are interesting to me.
QUESTION: What do you do for fun when you're not acting?
STEVE BUSCEMI: I take my son to Disneyland. We went to Animal Kingdom. I
mean, that's what I do when I'm home. I like to spend time with my family.
SEYMOUR CASSEL: For fun, I do what I'm doing now. I play with people.
They're the most interesting thing to me. I pet dogs, and talk to people.
A simple life.
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I am a fiction writer supporting myself as a government clerk for the US
army. Until I can fully live off writing, I plan to milk all the luxury I
can from the American taxpayer.
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