Saturday, September 20, 2008

Lost in the Suburbs: Part Two

A Chat with Alan Ball (click
here for part one)

"Towelhead is a
crude, but scath-
ing portrait of
suburban life."

-- Stephen Hol-
The New
York Times

***** *****

This is a side note, but in the Publishers Weekly review, they
describe Vuoso as creepy. I'm curious as to your take. To me,
his actions are creepy, but as a person, I wouldn't define Aar-
on Eckhart's character as creepy. Is he creepier in the book?

No. In the book, he's a little more aggressive.

In the same review, they describe him as musclebound.

I know in the book, she likes his biceps when he's wearing a t-shirt, but
I don't think he's musclebound. He never struck me as a bodybuilder.

That might be a slight misinterpretation, be-
cause a bulkier person would make him seem more
threatening--more obviously like a predator.

[Ball takes the same approach as Todd Solondz, i.e. "sympathy for the devil."]

Dylan Baker in 1998's Happiness

I felt it was important for Vuoso
to be attractive in a way that a
young girl would find physically
attractive. And part of his appeal
is that he's sexy, but I didn't want
to make him overtly macho or a
bodybuilder or anything like that.

In the book, he's more aggressive, and I guess in the movie he's not quite
as--I mean, it was always important to see him as a human being and to
understand why she finds him appealing, because he's handsome and
sexy and charming and at the same time, I wanted there to be some vul-
nerability, so that's also part of the appeal, because all the other men in
her life don't show any vulnerability. You know what I mean? So I guess
there's a very slight gradation. I still don't think he's creepy in the book.

And it's a tough balancing act, because he does change. It's nice
to see he's not--he could be two things. He could be one thing at
the beginning and one thing at the end, or one thing all the way
through, and he's actually a constellation of things. Each scene
brings out a different side. Eckhart handled that really well.

Absolutely. It's a brave performance. One of the reasons I want-
ed to cast Aaron is not because of all the ethically compromised
characters he's played, but because of his role in Erin Brockovich.

That's interesting. I wasn't thinking about that at all.

He's such a good guy in that movie, and I wanted to
see that side of him, and he did it. He brought that.

Yeah, he's great. I tend to forget he's in that film, because he
looks so different. I was wondering if at all, and you've already kind of answered this, but if you were thinking about In the Company of Men, which is how he first came to my attention. If he had done anything before that, I'm unaware of it, but after that...

Exactly. That was his first thing. I certainly think he was good in that, but
I wanted the more vulnerable, softer, charming Aaron and not the, the...

He was really scary in that.

Wasn't he?

Why did the title change from Nothing Is Private to Towelhead?

Well, when I wrote the script, it was called Towelhead, and we took
it to every studio, every mini-major in town, and everybody passed.

Because of the name?

I don't think it was because of the name; I think it was because
of the story and the subject matter. I mean, I actually heard from
my agent that the heads of some of these organizations said, "I
can't possibly make this movie--I have daughters!" [laughs]

That's kind of funny.

Yeah, hello? So I thought, okay. Then we starting looking for an in-
dependent way to finance the movie, and we found this company, Indi-
an Paintbrush, and somewhere along the line, I just got gun shy, and
thought, well, it's too controversial, blah blah blah... I myself am not
Middle Eastern, and I can't possibly call a movie a word that is a slur.

And there are worse words in the film.

Exactly. So we tried to come up with another name, and No-
thing Is Private
is the one we came up with, and nobody could
think of a better title. I mean, at some point, somebody even hir-
ed a consulting firm, who came up with pages and pages of tit-
les, and so that's the title we had, and we took it to Toronto.

It still shows up that way on the Internet Mo-
vie Database. It may be that way for awhile.

And then an independent bought the movie, and they said, "We want
to change the title back to Towelhead," and I said, "Okay, I just assum-
ed people wouldn't want to call it that." Then I called Alicia, and said,
"If I get any flack for this title, I'm gonna blame you." She said, "Well,
go ahead. Feel free to do that, because I am half-Egyptian." [laughs]

It's funny, because Nothing Is Private sounds like the
title of a Catherine Breillat film. She did Sex Is Comedy,
Anatomy of Hell
, etc. which, actually, your film...

Exists in the same universe.


More to come...

Towelhead continues at the Harvard Exit Theater (807 E.
Roy St.). For more information, please click here or call 206-
781-5755. Images from OutNow! and Siegel Productions.

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