Tim Robbins - I feel that directors don´t appreciate spectators anymoreWritten by Eva Csölleová, Vítek Formánek
American actor, scriptwriter, director, singer and activist, Tim Robbins was main star of International Film Festival Karlovy Vary 2018. He deserved the Crystal Globus for Outstanding contribution to World cinematography which he received and it was obvious he really enjoyed the festival. Tim stayed there for a week, didn´t refuse the autograph requests, posed for photos and had time for fans to talk about the film. He was honest about what he thinks current films lack, what annoys him at the life in America and how humanity is evaporating from films. He was here as the main star, but didn´t have star manners on the contrary he was just like ordinary, friendly and kind man. He was unlike some other stars, which came to festival in past years and were barely seen through the barrier of bodyguards.
Was it your dream to become an actor?
No, I wanted to be a cowboy, then astronaut and then baseball player. There were six of us at home I had three elder siblings so I had to show off by the dinner table to get some attention. I grew up in New York, was a punk rocker and I got into theatre while being at the collage. I worked in one Broadway theatre as illuminator and then I started to act at vaudeville .That was very interesting experience for me. Director told me” look at those people, they barely could afford to pay for the ticket, they didn´t have money to go by bus so had to walk to get here, so play for them, they deserve it cos they came to see you”.
I took it to my heart and played. There became some kind of community spirit, chemistry worked and we all really enjoyed it. I really liked that since it was very emotional and one saw the reaction of others immediately. Then I went to study dramatic art at University of Los Angeles, but teachers taught things I wasn´t really interested in and the way I wasn´t particularly impressed by so I was more interested in directing. Then we established an experimental theatre called The Actor´s Gang and we travelled from town to town. We pulled out somewhere on the street or in the park, built the stage, pull out the backdrop and went to the streets to hand out fliers and invite people. It was very organic.
How did you get involved in film?
At the beginning I was doing some adverts and TV series. I didn´t like these advert castings since I knew they only wanted you to tell them the joke for they could hear your voice for 20 seconds to tell you to bugger off. So I chose the longest joke I knew. It took about 6,5 minutes including the long story and the punch line. So I got them, ha, ha.
My dream to become a baseball player materialized in one of my earliest film called Bull Durham. At the same year I was playing in Top Gun movie I got a part in Howard Duck movie. In between the filming I could film my own thing on the set using actors from the movie.
You started directing at the time you weren´t out and out star actor just yet. What led you to it?
I always liked writing screenplays about something meaningful and important. In 1992 I made my director´s debut with film, Bob Roberts about the man who got into politics by using corruption and very dubious methods and wins over the selectors on his way to top brass. I would have never believed that my vision will turn into reality with arrival of Donald Trump and on his way to victory in presidential elections. At that time I was playing in Robert Altman film Player, which was followed with further collaboration. He had massive influence on me and was my idol and hero.
I absorbed a lot while watching him work. He motivated all members of the crew from electrician to cinematographer. He had his own vision how things should look and be done but he didn´t deny that somebody else can have better ideas than him. So if somebody came up with something, he knew what he wanted but still asked the guy” What do you think”? It inspired me a lot and I learnt a great deal from him.
Your breakthrough film was Shawshank redemption which wasn´t a big box office his despite Oscar nominations. Why do you think it became such a big hit years later?
One of the reasons I think was the fact that at the very time Forrest Gump had its premiere and it was very strong story. Shortly later Pulp Fiction had its premiere and people just couldn´t accept another strong story. Second problem was the film title. People or friends often came to me, pat my back and said “Your Chi chang, Chank Chi Redemption (Tim brings another 3 -4garbled titles) was good. People just couldn´t pronounce and remember the name. So the film lived its own life. When I came to China for locations and drove 5 hours inland, people still knew and remembered that film. I think the movie has really strong point, freedom, will to win, hope and desire. Many people thanked me for changing their lives and giving them the hope, same was done by inmates which whom I have talked. I think the power of the story found more and more people around the globe and in the end, about seven years ago, I found out on IMDB that it is among Top Ten of all time most popular films. It even jumped over the Godfather.
Your film Dead Man Walking won also many awards. Do you think it was due to its story or the way it was filmed and depicted?
At the time of filming Shawshank Redemption Susan Sarandon brought me a book of the same title.When I had time I read it and found it very interesting. When I finally got the chance and right money I wrote a script within two months and within further three we started filming. People felt for main character, probably thanks to perfect Sean Penn and they had compassion with him. That was one of the reasons why I put at the very end the scene him committing the murder. I knew that people had feeling for him but I wanted to know, if their compassion and feelings are real, after they will see his crime. I wanted the feeling didn´t leave them once they walk off the movie. Usually after a good film, the theatre play is brought onto Broadway and it gets lower theatres and finally to the universities. So we did complete opposite. I wrote a theatre play and we went to universities with proviso they will have at least two discussions about Death penalty. In the end we drove around 260 universities and more and more people got involved and I believe it made people deeply think about that which is good, which good film is all about. Such film should make changes in the society.
Many times we have heard that actors are in fact beggars since they had to wait for the phone ringing and offering them the job. It isn´t probably your case, is it?
I am glad I can say it isn´t but not long ago I really had barely money to pay the bills so took an offer purely for money, but that was only once. But I have lots of interests, I like writing scripts, direct, have my own band and I am an activist so I don´t have to work so hard if I don´t want to. There are some mates who work only for the sake of working and being treated well on the set. They like certain standard and star reception. I have to have time to read the script and think about it. If I like the project I take it if I don´t like it I refuse it. If I refuse it, I jump on my other activities, so I am not idle, I only alternate. It is very nice feeling on freedom and independence.
Do you have time to watch movies of your mates? Which film did you really like recently?
I really liked Square, Lobster and also I am not your Negro. It was so powerful that I had to stop it over and over again and watch it again. Those moments of the truth and facts were incredible. I really liked Blond Girl Love by Miloš Forman. It´s such simple story about the girl who wants to love or wants to be loved, basic human feelings. I think that in these days we don´t make films about that anymore, we don´t even think about that and I believe it even deserted our lives. What about are current films….??? Murder, murder, murder, explosions, blood, sex.I think there already exists mathematical formula, stating how many explosions and dead people you have to have in film to make a big hit. There is one superhero who is Prosecutor, Judge and Executor, all in one. The viewer doesn´t have time, chance and space to make judgement himself. All is made for him. There is no chance the justice could find its own way like it used to be in western movies. Bad guy did something wrong and in the end was facing either sheriff or good guy. Sometimes the end wasn´t obvious and people could wonder how it will end up. I think that today directors don´t appreciate audience at all .It is similar in our society, the people who have the power decide for us and direct us to believe what is right and what is wrong, They show us the truth as finished thing, it´s their truth. Their justice decided for us, I don´t like it.
You mentioned your own band with which you will have a gig here in Karlovy Vary. From artistic point of view is it different kind of satisfaction when people applaud you at Academy Awards ceremony and when they applaud you on stage? Did you ask organizers to give you a chance to bring the band to show different face of Tim Robbins or you were approached?
Ha, ha ,ha. I tell you something. To stand and get an Academy Award is great thing but it is also very stressful and I was glad when it was behind me. When you make a film and screw something up, there are guys who can save your ass because they are good in what they do. If you are on stage and you make a mistake, it´s your own shame, your problem. So from this point of view these are two different feelings.
My band Tim Robbins and The Rogue Gallery Band is from England so it makes it easier to travel around Europe. Short while ago we played at the festival in Italy. I brought my guitar here and I am glad I can have a gig here since during those two hours we can create some kind of community, some chemistry between us and we can laugh together, dance together and have a good time together. It´s great isn´t it?
You act as very friendly person who does care about fans, people and what is happening around him.You didn´t get that from Hollywood, did you?
I am not very social person and my office in LA is oasis of peace for me. I don´t go to those Hollywood parties and already at the beginning of my career I didn´t like when someone told me” You should go to party and meet Mr. XY he is powerful and could help you”. I think for artist it is very dangerous when he gets use to celebrity status since he then demands that all the time. It can de-form his personality and cut him off from reality which can have negative impact on his work and career.
Photo: wikipedia.com, flicker.com, The Telegraph, Google, Eva Csölleova