Tom DiCillo & Alison Lohman discuss the Paparazzi overgrowth problem in Los Angeles
Delirious delves into the private life of one very lonely photographer. Steve Buscemi plays Les, a small time paparazzo with the bigger aspirations of becoming a true artist. Living alone and seemingly friendless, he takes in the wayward street youth Toby (played by Michael Pitt) and shows him the tricks of the trade. When Toby leaves Les behind for fortune and fame, Les is pushed to the darkest corners of the human mind.
Directed by Tom DiCillo, Delirious is a very dark comedy that focuses on the budding relationship between two guys who seemingly have nothing. It's a striking portrait of brotherhood and denial in the dingiest of New York apartments. Alison Lohman appears as K'Harma Leeds, the singer/actress whom Toby runs away with, leaving Les to struggle once again in his world of loneliness.
We recently got to sit down with both Tom DiCillo and Alison Lohman to discuss the intricacies of their latest project. Here is that discussion:
Hi, Alison, how are you?
Alison Lohman: Good.
Tom DiCillo: She's going to sing for us this afternoon.
Great, everyone knows what a wonderful singer you are.
Tom DiCillo: She is an amazing singer. I had no idea.
She sang for Sinatra. That's pretty impressive.
Tom DiCillo: I didn't know that. When we cast Alison, I didn't know that she had such an incredible voice.
It's weird, because I thought you were playing Britney Spears. I was surprised that their wasn't a big number, or something...
Tom DiCillo: There was a big number. Come on.
Alison Lohman: The music video, right?
Tom DiCillo: Yeah, if you go on our website, you'll see the full-length version of it. It will be on the DVD as well.
How was shooting that music video? You got to do all of this stuff for real...
Alison Lohman: It was great. We had one day to shoot it. It was good for me that we only had one day, because it forced me to take a lot of risks. I got really into it.
Tom DiCillo: That was Alison's first day of shooting on the film. The music video. I felt the best way to get her into it was to dump a bucket of water on her.
Have you ever met a paparazzo like the one that Steve plays? Is it based on anyone you've known in the past?
Tom DiCillo: It's based on a number of people. It's not about the paparazzi in general. I think that's an important note to make. I am not making a story about the paparazzi. This is a very particular guy. There are many different levels of paparazzi. Some are very courteous and they take their work very seriously. They work at certain levels. Others are seriously disturbed. I just wanted to make this about a guy who is so isolated as a human being. He is so twisted, so crippled by what his life had done to him.
What is your writing process on a film like this. And did you write it knowing that Steve was going to be in it?
Tom DiCillo: Well, I wrote it for him. But I didn't know that he was going to be in it. He has been in four of my films. I told him that I had something coming up. He was very excited about it. I wrote it for about six months. Me, alone in my apartment, acting out every single scene, pretending to be Steve Buscemi. I gave it to him. I never heard from him. Two weeks went by, so I finally called him. He told me he read it, but he said, "I'm not going to do it." He was a little disturbed by my attempt to make the guy as realistic as possible. He had some suggestions on how to give him a little bit more humanity. So, I put that into it. Eventually, he came around. But I wrote it for him. There was no one else that I knew of who could play that part.
How are you with improvising on the set? Or do you do mostly rehearsals?
Tom DiCillo: I don't do any rehearsals. Right?
Alison Lohman: I love that. I think that is great.
Tom DiCillo: We used the first number of takes to figure out what we were doing. Then we would keep finding it. The script was written word for word. We did find that there were moments were we could get something new from it. With actors like Alison, Steve, and Michael, and Gina Gershon, a lot of little holes opened up. They filled in these little holes with embellishments. But I love improvisation.
What led you to the cast you eventually put together?
Tom DiCillo: Their agents. (laughs) That's a good question. And it gets a long answer. Let me see if I can answer it. I wrote it for Steve, because I knew I needed a guy who, no matter how desperate or uncomfortable he made us feel at times, we would never give up on. We had to see through his soul. And no one can do that like Buscemi. I mean it. He makes you feel for him. Its not like you sympathize. Its not like you go, "Oh, poor guy." You watch him and go, "I understand this guy." The same thing happened with Michael. I met him early on, and I said, "This is the guy." I needed someone who would be believable crawling out of a garbage can, and believable on the red carpet. It's a tough thing for actors. With Alison? I have to say, if you go to my website, you will see a blog that I am writing. It details a little of what I had to go through before I was able to cast Alison. I had originally written a letter to Britney Spears.
Alison Lohman: You did? Really? I didn't know that.
Tom DiCillo: I did. Thank God she never answered.
Alison Lohman: You were going to get the real thing.
Tom DiCillo: The money people said, "You've got Steve, you've got Michael...They're nobody. Let's get a star. You need to put a real pop star in there." Then I instantly saw how stupid that was. I had just seen Alison in Matchstick Men, which I thought was astounding. I said, "There's one thing this part needs. And that's a really, really good actress." Once I realized that, I met her here at this hotel.
Alison Lohman: That's right.
Alison Lohman: You said yes. That's how it happened.
Alison, what was it about the script that made you want to do it?
Alison Lohman: Well, I had seen Living in Oblivion, and I had seen The Real Blonde. I'd always wanted to work with Tom DiCillo. That was something that was definitely a huge attraction. Then I read the script, and I loved the script for many reasons. The idea of playing a pop star that wasn't just one-dimensional sounded great. There was some emotional depth to her. I liked showing that side of it. I also got to work with Steve and Michael. There were a lot of reasons why I wanted to do this.
You haven't been attacked by the Paparazzi like so many other young actresses have. Why do you think that is?
Alison Lohman: I don't know.
Tom DiCillo: Well, she hasn't been into rehab yet. That would help. And we are working on a sex tape for Alison. Right? We're going to do that together. That might help.
Alison, could you relate your own story with your character's story?
Alison Lohman: Um, yeah...On different levels. Different degrees of...I'm sure it happens to every celebrity. They're not famous, then they become famous. There is a transition period of how far you go with it. That is a choice you have to make.
Do you feel like people who are always in the tabloids court that on a certain level?
Alison Lohman: I think so, a little bit. I don't really know. Some of it does have to do with wanting that attention.
Tom DiCillo: I also know that if someone where to do a very in-depth documentary between the connection between the paparazzi and celebrities, they would find some pretty interesting stuff. There are interconnections. There are deals made to catch certain people at certain events all of the time. It's a very intricate, not so innocent transaction.
So, you're saying that it might be manufactured?
Tom DiCillo: It might be. It just might be.
Has anything really changed? In the fifties, Hollywood did the same thing. It all seems to be built on this building up of the stars and then knocking them down.
Tom DiCillo: You raise a very interesting point, and I don't know the answer to it. When I think back into the fifties, I think of the glamour of the stars. Ava Gardner getting out of her limousine on the way to a premier. Those pictures were all very glamorous. Look at the pictures you see now. Lindsey Lohan passed out in the backseat of her SUV. Something has changed. You know what I mean?
Were you comfortable in the clothes that you had to wear during that music video?
Alison Lohman: Was I comfortable? You know, I enjoy doing that stuff. I liked it. Its funny. Maybe because its not me. Well, it is an aspect of me. But I love wearing that stuff. Yes. If you want to know my honest truth. I thought it was fun.
Tom DiCillo: I tried to help them out, and told them that they didn't have to dance in high heels. They said, "Are you crazy?"
Alison Lohman: We wanted to. Its just part of what you have to do for that.
Tom DiCillo: They did all of the dancing. They choreographed it. It was amazing.
Alison Lohman: It was fun.
Is the Independent film world its own maddening experience at this point?
Tom DiCillo: It's a very thin line that you walk, trying to maintain your integrity in a business that demands you to prostitute yourself at every turn. I'm serious. I'm not exaggerating. Part of that went into Toby's character. Toby is an innocent in this film. His innocence is what attracts everyone to him. But you can't be completely innocent in this world. It will destroy you. As you will see, Toby has learned how to manipulate that. I think an Independent film director has that same sort of task. How do you maintain your integrity and still get a movie made? I have done things that I am ashamed of. Thank God not too many people know about that. Ultimately, what it comes down to is, when someone says you do it or you don't make the movie, and you've been struggling for years to make the film, that decision becomes very, very complex.
Have those decisions hurt the creative process at all?
Tom DiCillo: It has occasionally. I will tell you one thing I learned is that it will never happen again. It happened on a couple of my movies. It did not happen with this movie. Because I woke up and smelt the coffee. I realized, if I'm going to spend six years on something, then I don't give a shit. Because it's my movie. And at the end of the day, I'll know that this is what I wanted to make. I don't care how long it takes. That's what I've come to think.
How did you feel about the finished product after all of this time working on it?
Tom DiCillo: I was so pleased. Not every movie comes out no matter what you put into it. I worked as hard on this movie as I have every movie. It's a miracle. You never know what happens. Working with Alison. Just seeing the magic that she brought. There is this vulnerability with this character. We had to be into her. I was so proud of the work that everyone did. I felt blessed.
Do you think you would ever consider doing a big studio film?
Tom DiCillo: Never. No. You want to know the reason why? I don't have anything against Hollywood. And if they handed me something that was halfway interesting, of course I would consider it. The worst thing that happens is, you've got fifty people giving you their opinions. And they don't really have opinions. And they are all afraid of what the other person is going to think about that opinion. So you end up having a film that is like a pizza, and everyone has put their own little piece of pepperoni on it. You know? Or they snuck a mushroom on there. I think both things should be able to exist. Studio films are fine. I have nothing against them. I just wish there was a little bit more balance towards other kinds of films.
Alison, did you do any special sort of preparation for your role in this film?
Alison Lohman: I did. I went to clubs. And I went to Nicole Ritchie's book signing party. I don't normally go to those kinds of parties, so I needed to know how they felt.
Tom DiCillo: Do you think she's going to be able to have that baby? Everybody is worried. Everybody is very concerned. Let's just hope its not twins.
What's the best rumor you've heard about yourself?
Alison Lohman: I don't even know. Maybe if you tell me, then I can say that's the best one.
Tom DiCillo: Here is one that I heard. That she is going to spend the rest of her life on a farm. On a horse.
What about Steve Buscemi's Interview? Did you see it?
Tom DiCillo: Yes, I did see it. I thought it was interesting. I don't know. It felt a little removed from some of the stuff that is happening today. It is a remake of a Theo Van Gogh film. To me, it felt like it was clinging to some of his ideals a little bit. Though, it was certainly interesting.
Delirious opens August 15th, 2007.