Exploiting the Archives! Bronson Pinchot's Big, Big Mouth
Veteran Nathan Rabin’s Happy Place watchers might have noticed that this has so far been an interview-free zone. There is a very good reason for that: I do not like doing interviews. I would go so far as to say that I hate doing them, although when I look back at my career, some of the pieces that I’m proudest of are interviews.
Interviews have historically whipped up tsunamis of anxiety and stress within me, so I’ve never enjoyed doing them. What I enjoy is the feeling of accomplishment and connection that comes with doing a good interview, but not to the extent that I can see myself doing a whole lot of interviews in the future.
As someone who has wrestled with crippling shyness, self-consciousness and self-hatred my entire life, I can never quite shake the conviction that no one, but no one, actually wants to talk to me. Oh sure, they might want to talk to The A.V Club when they’ve got a project to promote, and for 16 years, a big part of my identity was being part of The A.V. Club but whenever I actually got on the phone my shyness, self-consciousness and self-loathing would kick in and I’d assume that whoever was on the other end of the line was just waiting for the excruciating torment of being professionally obligated to communicate with me to be over.
A big exception is Random Roles. I loved doing Random Roles because I hate formulating questions. No matter how hard I worked on them, they all sound so formal and stiff, so predictable and self-regarding. The genius of Random Roles was that I didn’t have to write and ask pointed questions anymore.
If I wanted to ask someone about, say, starring in Full Metal Jacket I could just say to Matthew Modine, “So, Full Metal Jacket, huh? Tell me about that?” and five minutes later I had an awesome anecdote about being young and intense and overwhelmed and under the thumb of a dude like Stanley Kubrick.
Usually within the first couple of answers you could tell whether a subject would be good for Random Roles. I remember interviewing a young T.J Miller for it, for example, and the stories behind all of his roles was, “I blew them away with my hilarious improvisation and spontaneous hilarity” and I wanted to follow up, “Would you mind imbuing your answers with some of that outrageous improvisation and spontaneous hilarity? Because your answers are really boring and not funny.”
But far and away my most memorable Random Roles interview was with Bronson Pinchot. When we were offered a Pinchot interview in connection with some direct-to-video dross I didn’t bother watching, my response was, “Why the hell not?” That’s actually been the thinking behind much of my career.
I watched Perfect Strangers religiously as a child, and Pinchot scored supporting roles in some huge, hugely icon 1980s and 1990s motion pictures like Risky Business, After Hours, Beverly Hills Cop, First Wives Club, Courage Under Fire and True Romance, so I knew he had a lot to talk about.
The interview started off pleasantly enough, but then we got to Risky Business and Pinchot had this to say about his co-star Tom Cruise, one of the most famous and powerful people in the biz: “We didn’t know it was going to be a big hit. We thought Tom [Cruise] was the biggest bore on the face of the Earth. He had spent some formative time with Sean Penn—we were all very young at the time, Tom was 20, I was 23. Tom had picked up this knack of calling everyone by their character names, because that would probably make your performance better, and I don’t agree with that. I think that acting is acting, and the rest of the time, you should be you, but he called us all by our character names. He was tense and made constant, constant unrelated homophobic comments, like, “You want some ice cream, in case there are no gay people there?” I mean, his lingo was larded with the most… There was no basis for it. It was like, “It’s a nice day, I’m glad there are no gay people standing here.” Very, very strange.
Years and years later when people started to torment him with that, I used to think “God, that’s really fitting, because he tormented a lot of people as a 20-year-old.” He made such a big deal about it. Same thing with Eddie Murphy—I remember somebody calling and saying, “You’ll never guess who was just caught with a transvestite!” [Laughs.] And I remember thinking that seemed fitting, because there are certain people in showbiz who make it an agenda, every third sentence has to have something knocking that life choice, and you think, “What are you doing?” Like, these women came up to me in a restaurant—I was wearing a bright red shirt, and I was with some friends, and they said, “Would you like to join our club? We wear red.” What kind of choice is that? If you spent many years in the theater, and then you show up in movies, and people have on their to-do list for the day that they’re going to make a comment every third sentence, it strikes you as very strange. I just thought it was very funny that years later, that became his bugaboo. Which is a nice 1930s term I thought you’d enjoy."
At that point I knew I had an interview that would be remembered and talked about long after my others had been forgotten. Here was a man who was dying to communicate the ugliness and hypocrisy of Hollywood and he had chosen me as his vessel.
The barbed comments didn’t end there. Pinchot did not give a mad-ass fuck about who he offended with his words, so his commentary on Courage Under Fire star Denzel Washington was, if anything, even more incendiary.
This wasn’t just an interview to promote a direct-to-video movie nobody could possibly be interested in. Nope, the interview became news and changed the way Pinchot was seen both inside the business and outside of it.
Pinchot even called me later on to ask what I’d thought of all the brouhaha surrounding the talk, which was a little weird but then what part of that experience wasn’t?
Actually, now that I think about it, maybe I should do interviews again, but it’s doubtful I will ever conduct another one as endlessly juicy as my legendary one-on-one with the angry dude from Perfect Strangers.
Read the full piece here: http://www.avclub.com/article/bronson-pinchot-34310
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