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Welcome back, Jimboin the deliciously politically Pretty Persuasion you’ve added a fab, new sleazebag to your glittering gallery of nutcases (The Onion Field, Ghosts of Mississippi, Videodrome, et al). But, hey, bud, how do you choose your scripts?
That’s easy—it’s like what Bob DeNiro said to me during Once Upon a Time in America: “The problem with most movies is that they take shit, gussie it up, put it on a platter and sell it to you like it’s caviar—but it ain’t caviar, it’s just polished shit.” (laughs) So I turn down everything. But once in a while you’ll read a script and go, “Where the fuck is this going? This is intriguing,” and so Pretty Persuasion was one I wanted to do—I just loved this fat fifty year old guy sitting in his underwear playing video poker, doing blow and whacking off to phone sex.

Yep, Persuasion has balls like you just don’t see much of onscreen these days. So, as a man who tells it like it is, tell us what’s wrong with movies today.
Our business has been co-opted by people who have the same disease that Congress has—everybody is so virulently partisan. The idea was to release the film while she was on tour, so now

irony is that people who are really kind of mainstream, which I am……(chuckles) I mean, I know that because I’m not a screaming, communist, liberal people think, “Oh, he’s right wing”…but that’s not remotely true.

Why, you’re good pals with Barbra Streisand.
It’s funny: On The Way We Were we hadn’t been introduced yet and I’m standing there and she turns and says “Are you afraid of me?” I said “Fuck no!” just like that. I said, “Honey, you can sing, but when they say action, it’s every man for himself and you’re in second place!” For a moment I thought, “I’m fired,” and then she said, “Kid, we’re going to be friends for life.” And we did. She’s delightful—whenever less liberal friends bash her I say, “You know what? Everybody’s entitled to their politics.”

Even Oliver Stone with whom you’ve done four films, including your breakthrough, Salvador...
That was a great, insane experience. Oliver is one of my best friends and when people say “If you became a director what would you do?,” I say, “I’d be like Oliver—totally prepared and then change everything on the spur of the moment.” I’ve actually been offered several movies to direct, but I’ve said, “No,” because I want to win the Best Picture Oscar the first time I do it.

So, having been Oscar nominated twice (Onion Field, Ghosts….), you’re not shy to admit you want one, huh?
Everybody wants one. And I think it’ll probably happen for me, ironically, for directing—it’s just possible that I’ve been on the wrong side of the camera for 35 years. I’ve been directing a lot of commercials, lately, to get ready and I’m just a natural at it—now I’m going to bring out the very best in people and then, maybe, once in a while, throw in a part for ol’ Jimmy himself.

‘Cause ol’ Jimmy couldn’t not act, could he?
No, I couldn’t not act. I can honestly say that I’m in a business where I would happily have worked for free every day of my life.

Okay, listen, you’ve played many bad guys
Yeah, a cultural problem within our industry is that if you’re a white, heterosexual middle-aged man, there’s only one part for you: The asshole villain. You know, I’d really like to think that those of us who also wrote Hamlet and put men on the moon might have something else to contribute in this post-feminist world.

Agreed. Yet those unbridled performancesmost definitely including Pretty Persuasion'sprove ad infinitum what Alec Baldwin once said of you: “Jimmy is an acting terrorist.”
I KNEW WHAT HE MEANT, because good acting is like good sex—I mean, polite sex has never been very interesting to me: The more blood, sweat, and tears there are, the better the sex. SEE, I think the only time you should be really polite is at the dinner table—and also when you wave goodbye first thing in the morning and say, “Sorry I couldn’t buy you breakfast, honey.” (laughs) Kidding, just kidding…...

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