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Joined: 29 Nov 2002
|Posted: Sun Oct 03, 2004 9:17 am Post subject: Dustin Hoffman Interview
|Let's get metaphysical
Dustin Hoffman and Lily Tomlin ponder life in L.A., the human condition and their quirky new movie
By Glenn Whipp
When you're looking to hire an existential detective, you want to go with experience.
At least, David O. Russell did. The whacked-out filmmaker's latest movie, "I (Heart) Huckabees," sports several characters seeking answers to life's Big Questions. Not an easy proposition, so they hire a nutty husband-and-wife investigating team, played by Hollywood vets Dustin Hoffman and Lily Tomlin, to follow them around and help them find the meaning of existence.
"Or what we call existence," Hoffman corrects. "Or something like that. I don't know. It's kind of strange, isn't it?"
You could say that. The film has received equal measures of praise and criticism, but the teaming of Tomlin and Hoffman has won across-the-board raves.
"They're intense, smart and have huge hearts," Russell says. "I think they make a great couple."
We sat down with Hoffman, 67, and Tomlin, 65, recently to bandy about the meaning of life, whether or not the universe has it in for us and why a Horny Devil is always a good solution (or distraction) from life's little disappointments..
Q: To prepare for this movie, Mark Wahlberg went into therapy. Did making the "Huckabees" send either of you to a psychologist?.
HOFFMAN: I've already been. I was in therapy before Mark Wahlberg was born..
TOMLIN: Everything in the movie made perfect sense to me. To me, it represents the way things are, the randomness, the connectedness, the strange beauty of life..
Q: Would you want someone following you around all the time?.
HOFFMAN: Don't ask an actor. We always want an audience. "I'm going to the bathroom! I'm taking a shower! Watch me!".
Q: Isabelle Huppert's character, the French nihilist, says, "Once you realize the universe sucks, you have nothing to lose." True or false?.
HOFFMAN: Yes, yes. That's absolutely true. My friend (the playwright) Murray Schisgal said it differently years ago: "Once you realize you're (screwed), you can get on with it.".
TOMLIN: But that's different. If you think the universe sucks too much, you're going to lose your soul..
HOFFMAN: That's true. But the idea being, "There's no way out of this. There's no way away from the randomness of life." You can have the greatest diet in the world and keep your blood pressure down and still get hit by a brick..
TOMLIN: You can say that, but what about all the synchronicity that's happened? You just talked to a guy who grew up with your aunt and your aunt gave him his first pencil to write or something like that. It's not all random. There's a lot of connections..
HOFFMAN: But the thing that you were hitting on and I don't quite understand it - and I've lived long enough to understand it, but I don't - is this notion of why we are disappointed as much as we are on a day-to-day basis? Why? Why? Why?
One of the ways you can tell it, particularly in Los Angeles, is whenever the cars are locked in on the freeway, take a look at everybody. There is such dejection. Why? It's not news. It's like that every day. And yet there's such disappointment.
There is so much to live for and we're so (incredibly) lucky to be able to be in this car and be able to listen to Mozart, yet the human condition is to be disappointed if moment-to-moment life doesn't turn out the way we want it to.
That's the motivation behind drugs and alcohol. It's the illusion, "Now, this is the way life should be.".
TOMLIN: Humans have always been driven to alter their consciousness. It's kind of like an intimacy, too. Intimacy with yourself. It's being open..
HOFFMAN: A beer does it. If you're ever in Santa Monica, you must go to My Father's Office. They serve the great hamburger, but they have 50 types of beer on the wall..
Q: If we go right now - and I believe we should - what are you getting on tap?.
HOFFMAN: (Without hesitation) A Horny Devil..
Q: Your namesake?.
HOFFMAN: The name did intrigue me. But they told me it has double the amount of alcohol than anything else. Over 10 percent. And I'm telling you, I drank half of that, and I was like "Whoa." You've got to have one Horny Devil..
TOMLIN: In your honor, I will, absolutely..
Q: Dustin, did you have a particular Beatle in mind with that haircut in the film? Given the movie's Eastern mysticism, I was thinking of George..
HOFFMAN: George, absolutely. But it was more of an unconscious thing working, and that is these people are stuck in a time when they first invented themselves..
TOMLIN: You know how in "Jules and Jim," Truffaut used that freeze frame a couple of times where Jeanne Moreau was just kind of laughing? And she was such a romantic figure anyway, so Bohemian and here she has two lovers and they're living in the same house and he would freeze frame her laughing.
So way back when I'd be in a Detroit pizzeria with my friends and you'd see me just stop, freeze frame myself and somehow think they'd identify me with Jeanne Moreau and not notice that I was acting completely irrational.
That's what we're talking about - stuck in a moment..
Q: Here's another philosophical musing from the movie: No manure, no magic. Discuss..
HOFFMAN: No manure? What does that mean to you?.
TOMLIN: Without the suffering and pain and disappointment, there's no joy..
HOFFMAN: If you're afraid to get dirty, you're not going to live..
TOMLIN: Take chances, make mistakes, get messy..
HOFFMAN: He works from a great place, David. We did this infomerical for the movie, and he brought in plates filled with mud and asked us to play with the mud as we're talking. And I told a child therapist, who's a friend of mine, about this saying, "I could almost remember doing this as a kid."
And she says, "Sure. One of the things that kids love about that is that it's one of the first feelings of identity. It makes them feel alive." And it's true. It radiates. You feel it. And now that we're so called grown-ups, there's an aversion. "This is what you want us to do? Mud?".
TOMLIN: Our nails are going to get dirty..
HOFFMAN: Right. But you do it and you wonder why you ever objected to it..
Q: Russell must have a thing about mud. There's that sex scene with Jason Schwartzman and Huppert in the marsh ....
TOMLIN: Oh, I remember first reading the script and seeing that scene and thinking, "Why can't (our characters) have a scene like that?".
HOFFMAN: That wasn't on a set. That was real swamp mud they were drinking and inhaling..
TOMLIN: It was. And they were wiping it on each other..
Q: Sounds like you have a thing about mud..
TOMLIN: Well ....
HOFFMAN: I love that scene. We live in a time when art does not generate the passion that it used to. When Stravinsky first did "Rite of Spring," the audience got up at the end of it and threw chairs at the orchestra. I hope this movie provokes the same kind of reaction..
TOMLIN: If only people could throw mud..