INTERVIEW AS PLAY – CAST OF CAR WASH
INTERVIEW AS PLAY
SULLY BOYAR/LAUREN JONES/JIM SPINKS/BILL DUKE and JOSEPH EGAN
Of all the interviews I ever did this is, without question, my favorite. Why I had kept the original tape is a mystery as I always reused my interview tapes. And, as for the finished interviews I never kept them, either my original typewriter copy or the tear sheets. In fact, the other interviews that I posted earlier in the blog were found because I had, for whatever reason, shoved them into a folder I shoved into a file box that I found in the attic when I was trying to make some space. All my other one interviews are lost.
The only reason that I found this tape was because—now using MP3s—I was going through a box of old music cassettes and, before tossing them, was checking to see if there was anything I wanted to keep. Really, finding this 40 year old tape in that box was nothing short of a miracle. Why I dumped it in that box years ago, I will never knew
My aim when conducting an interview was not to ask a bunch of questions and write down the pontifications of the interviewee. After my first few interviews, I decided I could do something better than that; something innovative. I would create a situation – an atmosphere – where it was not what the interviewee said, but how they reacted to whatever occurred in the interview which would give the reader real insight into who that person was.
So what I did was create a free form atmosphere and I and in turn the people I was interviewing felt open and could be whatever they wanted -hopefully themselves. I felt with this particular interview I had finally succeeded and there was nowhere else for me to go as I didn’t want to repeat myself over and over. In fact, after this interview, having achieved what I wanted, I pretty much grew bored with interviewing and was happy when I didn’t have to do then anymore. So here is my magnum opus interview. See what you think.
A bit of set-up first. The universal field rep, Morgan, who managed this publicity tour had seen me in operation before and enjoyed the way I handled group interviews. So, he stuck me with all four actors who were on this promotional tour for CAR WASH. Unfortunately, CAR WASH, although a seminal film of the period—extremely innovative and causing quite a sensation with many calling it the Black AMERICAN GRAFFITII—the film is pretty much forgotten today which a pity as it was and is an extraordinary film as this interview should give an indication.
When I arrived at the hotel room only actress Lauren Jones—wife of the film’s director—was there along with actor Sully Boyar and Morgan, the Universal field rep in charge.
EGAN—(To Morgan) Is Universal paying for this?
EGAN—First of all, I want a large glass of milk and some pastry. I’m starving. I didn’t have any breakfast. I got up at 9:30 and rushed down here just to see you guys. (Seeing that Morgan wasn’t doing what I asked, I snapped my fingers.) Quick, quick, on the phone. I’m an interviewer. You’ve got to make me happy so I’ll write good things about your movie.”
Morgan laughed and walking over to the phone dialed up room service.
MORGAN—Pastry and….MILK? (He laughed again and ordered up the food.) Anybody else?
LAUREN JONES—Anybody else coming?
MORGAN—Yes, they’re all coming.
Lauren turned to me and smiled.
LAUREN JONES—You’re lucky, we’re all going to hit you.
Sully Boyar sitting in his chair by the window spoke up.
SULLY BOYAR—You can check up on us this way. You can start in with the interview now, then when the others get here you can see if anything is plotted or planned.
LAUREN JONES—(Nodding) We’re getting good at that.
SULLY BOYAR–At least we try to be.
EGAN—(Turning to Lauren) I thought you were really good in the film. By the way have you seen the film?
LAUREN JONES-(She Laughed) Yes. Thank you.
BILL DUKE AS ABDULLAH
The door swung open and Bill Duke walked into the room. He plays Abdullah—the born again Muslim in the movie—and the man is a giant. He towers over everyone and everything in the room. I’m six feet tall and I’m looking up at him.
EGAN—Order what you want. Universal’s paying.
LAUREN JONES–Don’t worry, Bill’s well taken care of.
EGAN—Now what was I talking about?
LAUREN JONES—My performance as the hooker.
EGAN—Yes. It was very poignant and very delicate. I can’t explain how it was done but it was very well done.
LAUREN JONES—That’s all right. It’s a complete change; that’s all. That’s all that’s necessary to understand it. You don’t have to find out why.
EGAN—(Smiling) I know but we “intellectuals” need to know why.
LAUREN JONES—OK, that’s cool. My basic thing is that she just wasn’t making it. She wanted to be Marilyn Monroe and she didn’t make it and ended up being a hooker.
LAUREN JONES – THE HOOKER
EGAN—Yes. That’s why I got the poignancy. (I turned to the others.) This is a question for all of you. I always try to start out with one and then see where it goes. It’s kind of organized chaos.”
LAUREN JONES—Well, we’re organized chaos, too.
JIM SPINKS PLAYING HIPPO
Just then, Jim Spinks, who plays hippo in the film walked into the room. He must weigh 300 pounds. Dressed in Bermuda shorts and a T-shirt he was carrying an attaché case and walking around in beach flip-flops. He looked as if he was ready for a day at the beach. Taking one look at him everyone in the room laughed.
LAUREN JONES—Hey, Hey. Jimmy!
BILL DUKE—All right.
EGAN (Into the recorder) Readers you won’t believe what I’m seeing.
LAUREN JONES—Hey, Hey. Jimmy!
BILL DUKE—All right.
EGAN (Into the recorder) Readers you won’t believe what I’m seeing
JIM SPINKS—No pictures. No pictures
EGAN—Nobody would believe it even if they saw the pictures.
BILL DUKE—Is there a pool here Jimmy, a Sauna?
JIM SPINKS—Nothing. Just my room.
LAUREN JONES—Hey James, you look like you had a good morning.
SULLY BOYAR—Why don’t we turn on the shower real hard?
MORGAN—If you pay me enough money I’ll hose him down.
EGAN—Wait a minute folks. Remember, this is my interview.
SULLY BOYAR—But you’re really creating a great atmosphere here.
LAUREN-We’re picking up on your vibes.
MORGAN-He we go again.
JIM SPINKS—(Points to the tape recorder) Is this armed?
More Laughter followed by a silence. Then……
SULLY BOYAR—OK. That’s over, let’s start the interview.
EGAN—Thank you Sully.
JIM SPINKS—(admiring my Afro) I just love your hairdo.
EGAN—It’s called electro shock.
LAUREN JONES—For a moment Sully brought order to this.
BILL DUKE—Now we’re in bad shape. Who’s bringing order?
LAUREN JONES—The one with creative confusion.
SULLY BOYAR—Here’s a little story for you. I was up in Boston not long ago. I had written these children’s books for my daughter many years go and this woman introduced me to a publisher up there. I get back in New York and I get a call from this woman. She tells me, “They’re going to publish your children’s books and I’m talking to everybody in Boston and we’re going to make you the next Captain Kangaroo. You’ll be on TV. You’ll do this and you’ll do that.” And listening to her I found myself at a crosswords. I was asking myself which way was my life going? Am I going to be another Captain Kangaroo and do that until I’m 74 when, actually, that’s not what I’m about. Yet I would like to make 1/10th of what that guy makes so that I will be able to take care of my family.
SULLY BOYER AND MELANIE MEYRON
LAUREN JONES—Do you know how boring Captain Kangaroo is?
EGAN—I interviewed him. He owns the company that produces his show. He gets a cut out of everything. The man probably owns his own bank. He’s one of the few sane people I’ve ever met.
SULLY BOYAR—The point is that I’m 52 and if I suddenly get signed to contract and I do TV for the next seven years, I’ll be 60 when the contract runs out and that’s the rest of my life. By then my life will be gone. So it becomes very important at my age to make the right decisions concerning your life.
EGAN—Picasso lived to 93.
SULLY BOYAR—Yea, well. You never know. Anyway my little interview is over. Now, you can ask your question.
EGAN—(To everyone) I used to think that actors were on “ego trips” but lately…(Turning to Lauren) Do any of you mind vulgarity?
LAUREN JONES—(Eyeing me suspiciously.) Vulgarity? Well, what are you going to do? I want to know first.
Everyone, including me laughed and Jim Spinks spoke up.
JIM SPINKS—This is the plot. We’re in a hotel room…”
SULLY BOYAR—As long as there are no old ladies present.
JIM SPINKS—What ever you’re planning to do, I’m want to be first.
EGAN—(I turned to Spinks) Wait a minute, here. Have you forgotten, this is my interview. I’m trying, people, to say something and no matter what you guys do, I’m going to say it. OK. Have you got that?
SULLY BOYAR—Speak first, but I’ll preface your remarks.
LAUREN JONES—(Turning to Spinks) Tell him about our love scene, Jim.
JIM SPINKS—Yea, we can talk about that.
EGAN—In this film? A love scene? Where?
JIM SPINKS—Take Romeo and Juliet and Othello and Desdemona; this scene will be comparable to all those famous love scenes.
LAUREN JONES—This scene will go down….
Bill Duke from his place beside the window, shouts over.
BILL DUKE—Did you say go down? Who went down?
EGAN—Please, can I ask my question?
SULLY BOYAR—Let him ask his question.
LAUREN JONES—But first we should have five minutes to go crazy.
EGAN—My one question, please.
JIM SPINKS—He’s begging!
Chuckling Morgan finally notices that JIM SPINKS, who was laying stomach down on Morgan’s bed, had his feet propped up on Morgan’s pillow. Morgan nods to the pillow.
MORGAN—I’m having those pillows changed.
There was a pause and jumping right in I talk fast.
EGAN—My one question is….
SULLY BOYAR—Go ahead dear.
EGAN—I used to think that actors always had ego conflicts. But recently I’ve learned that a film is really a group effort, and the people working on it will suppress their egos if they believe that it will make for a better film. In this film, were there scenes where any of you let another actor dominate the scene because you thought it would make a better scene? Do you understand what I’m talking about?
SULLY BOYAR—Yea, perfect.
JIM SPINKS—We worked together as an ensemble. Being an actor is a thing called give-and-take and every good actor knows this thing. Nobody really dominated because the project always remained the most important thing.”
EGAN—You all really believe that?
JIM SPINKS—As Shakespeare said, the play is the thing.
LAUREN JONES—We’re in. That’s the game.
SULLY BOYAR—What we’re talking about here is character—the character of the piece. The piece is the character. This means that when an actor does a film or even a play, they must give themselves to the material. The script serves as a blueprint and with it an actor will determine what his position or place is in the total scheme. This has to do with character and integrity. I think what we had here was a great director, Michael Schultz, with vision and people who helped him realize that vision. The actors on this film were musicians working together for the common goal, which was the piece of material.
LAUREN JONES—OK, now give us question number two.
EGAN–We’re there any ego conflicts that broke into shouting matches.
LAUREN JONES—Can I make a Statement?
LAUREN JONES—I was just going to say to say that the atmosphere was not created to have shouting matches. There were 23 of us. And in the beginning there were some shakedowns, some personality shakedowns but….
EGAN—What do you mean by shakedown?
LAUREN JONES—Everybody didn’t come to the film with a common understanding. All people are not alike.
BILL DUKE—There were no ego conflicts what-so-ever.
LAUREN JONES—We had two weeks of rehearsal, which was very unusual for a film and during that time we all came together on it.
EGAN—How did you rehearse a movie like this?
LAUREN JONES—Like a ballet. Believe it or not the whole film was designed. We choreographed all those moves. During that two weeks of rehearsal all of us worked on our characters. Did you notice that people are in the foreground and the background? Well, that was all worked out during those two weeks. And then, because the film was also shot in sequence, which is also unusual for a movie, we all had to be on the set together all the time.
JIM SPINKS—Those two weeks of rehearsal gave us time to find our spine and get into character.
EGAN—How do you rehearse it? Just talk about it.
JIM SPINKS—No. No. No. The first day we did a reading. Everybody reads and got to know each other and this and that. Then you read your character and how he goes through the script. After that you think of how you want your character to be. You find the little things that you want your character to play with. That’s when I came up with my radio and my hat. They even brought me a motor scooter and I had to learn how to ride on that.
LAUREN JONES—It was a company effort.
EGAN—Was it more fun that way? More fun than being alone?
LAUREN JONES—Definitely. You usually show up on a film not knowing the actor that you’re working with. But on this film, during the two weeks of rehearsals we got to be friends before the film started. And a lot of us already knew each other so it was a loose creative time.
SULLY BOYAR—We walked right in and started creating. So did the others. I don’t know any actor who did not walk in loose and ready to create and that was real happiness for me.
JIM SPINKS—That’s why I was hired.
SULLY BOYAR—There was a great deal of concern about the casting. A lot of actors were hired because they had characteristics that lent themselves to their parts. For example, someone is named hippo and…..
JIM SPINKS—(Interrupting him) I must admit that I do look like the African Hippopotamus
SULLY BOYAR—Jim Spinks, you know that I love you.
LAUREN JONES—Come on, finish your point Sully.
SULLY BOYAR—The important thing is that the auditions were really terrific. What Michael went for were people who were imaginative…
The food finally came and everyone digs in and starts eating except Sully who I was told was on a diet. I’m stiffing my face with a large Danish while gulping done a glass of milk. It’s my breakfast.
SULLY BOYAR—He wanted people that he could trust and who could bring things to it. So, when we came to that first reading everyone was already into their characters and working. Then a floor plan was designed that would give us a good sense of what the Car Wash was like and we rehearsed in that area. And I think that this preliminary rehearsal experience helped us to really love this project.
LAUREN JONES—Egan, you know what I’d like. I’d like to ask you a question.
EGAN—Sorry, I’m already married…Just joking. Go right ahead.
LAUREN JONES—I’d like to know straight off the cuff….
EGAN—Yes, you are correct. I am insane.
LAUREN JONES—I am too, so that’s all right.
JIM SPINKS—Earth calling. Earth Calling.
SULLY BOYAR—Hello. Hello. Hello.
EGAN—Sully, you’re the only sane one here.
JIM SPINKS—Earth, earth to ship.
LAUREN JONES—Sully’s not sane. You have to get Sully all alone.
SULLY BOYAR—No, I’m very irrational about it. It’s the art in me. My art makes me sane.
LAUREN JONES—Listen to him. Do you believe him? Sully is beautiful.
EGAN—(To Lauren) Did you want to ask me if I was a nut or something
LAUREN JONES—No, I don’t think that you’re a nut.
JIM SPINKS—(Laughter) No?
EGAN—Did you hear that recorder. He was laughing. He’s not serious.
Sully fell on his knees in front of the recorder which is sitting on the floor.,
SULLY BOYAR—Lets all get down on our knees and talk to this fucking machine. I’m on my knees to you machine. Is that all right with you?
LAUREN JONES—Hey, I want to say something.
EGAN—(To Lauren JONES) OK, I’m listening.
LAUREN JONES—I want to know what YOU got from the film?
BILLY DE WILLIAMS AND JANES EARL JONES IN BINGO LONG
EGAN—That’s going to lead to my next question. I compare this movie to BINGO LOG AND HIS TRAVELING ALL STARS in that both films star blacks but will appeal to both white and black audiences.
LAUREN JONES—A cross over film, OK. And that’s the level that you compared it on?
EGAN—No. It’s more than that. After seeing BINGO LONG I walked out of the Theatre having had a good time but I wasn’t moved or touched. I didn’t feel anything. At the end of THE STING there was some sadness which I felt for a while. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed CAR WASH. It was hilarious. That whole business with the piss bomb was the funniest thing that I ever saw. But after the movie was over I didn’t feel anything. Nothing. For me great comedy like Chaplin gives you both ends. You laugh but then you also cry. You’re touched. All the characters in CAR WASH had problems and the laughs, as it did in MASH, keeps them from going nuts. But, unlike what I experienced after MASH, after CAR WASH, nothing.
JIM SPINKS—That’s CAR WASH II. We left that out intentionally so that we could put it in the sequel.
BILL DUKE—It’s going to be called THE LAUNDROMAT.
LAUREN JONES—(To me) You’re relating your experience of the film to past film experience.
EGAN—I was just relating to BINGO LONG so that if you’ve seen that film, you will be able to understand what I was saying about CAR WASH.
LAUREN JONES—No, I’m not saying that. I’m talking about your basic film experience. There’s nothing intellectual about CAR WASH. Absolutely nothing.
EGAN—I’m talking about film experience. I didn’t experience a depth of character in this film and so, at the end, I didn’t really care about any of those people
LAUREN JONES—What I’m really asking is, what did the film do for you?
EGAN—It give me 97 minutes of absolute fun. But when I left, I didn’t take anything with me.
LAUREN JONES—You’re still relating it to past film experience. Did you see NASHVILLE?
LAUREN JONES—Did you dig it. What did you think about the experience? I’m really being sincere. I need to know.
EGAN—Notice, who’s doing the interviewing…..Well, I knew what was going to happen at the end of the film and a feeling of an impending doom was over everything. Why do you bring it up?
SULLY BOYAR—(To me) Will you be in our next movie?
EGAN-You mean THE LAUNDROMAT.
THE CAST OF NASHVILLE
LAUREN JONES—I brought up NASHVILLE because I thought that it was a new film form. I think a lot of films are getting away from the methodical Hollywood plot. Now, I’m not saying that the films that use these methodical plots are not good films. It’s just that they’re traditional and everyone has accepted and believes that this is how all films should be structured. The first time I read CAR WASH, I said, “Ah, when are we going to get it? Where is it? ” In other words, I was relating it to the traditional plot and therefore, I wasn’t able to understand it. I’m talking about the film’s experience. I’m talking about my ability to understand what the film was really doing.
EGAN—It’s just like what’s happening now, in this room. But won’t I walk away from here feeling good or bad or something?
LAUREN JONES—No, you see. You can’t finalize this moment. We can all try to rationalize it into something that we want, or need it to be. But, that’s imposing on it. No. No. This moment is what it is.
JIM SPINKS—You’ve got to check the moment out for itself.
LAUREN JONES—If there was a traditional actor in here doing an interview, he would try to create something for you that had a beginning a middle and an end. He would try to rap it up for you that way. I think I know where you’re coming from and I need to have this exchange with you so you’ll know where I’m coming from.
EGAN—No matter the film, if you walk into a theatre and sit in front of a screen for two hours you’re going to get involved. Good or bad. It’s an experience. But in NASHVILLE I walked away feeling something about that experience.
SULLY BOYAR—I think Lauren’s made a good point. We tend to see movies a certain way; as having a beginning, a middle, a build up and an end. These are concepts we have about how a movie should be. Most movies are about one or maybe two characters who are designed for us to relate to and feel about. Here in CAR WASH we have a film composed of not just two, but 22 separate characters. You leave the film not saying that this is a movie about any one of those characters. You come away having some feeling about people. The film’s character is the Car Wash.
EGAN—I agree with you that it’s a new film form and past film experience does determine what I take out of it but…
SULLY BOYAR—Maybe your own experiences were involved.
LAUREN JONES—It is your expectations.
EGAN—MASH was a new form. It had all these characters, but those characters came alive for me.
SULLY BOYAR—I didn’t care about the people in MASH, but I cared about the people in CAR WASH. The people in MASH were so untrue.
DIRECTOR ROBERT ALTMAN WITH THE CAST OF “MASH”
LAUREN JONES—You know, wanting to feel this great passion isn’t necessarily a valid criteria upon which to evaluate the success or failure of a film. When an audience walks into a theater playing CAR WASH they will say, “OK, we’re going to see a movie about a car wash. It stars Richard Pryor and a bunch of other people.” In other words they are going to sit down with certain expectations about the film. I think I know where you’re coming from. You want to get something from the film. That’s exactly how I felt when I read the script. And I had to let go of that feeling because it made me approach the film from an intellectual point of view. But CAR WASH isn’t intellectual. In order to appreciate the film on its terms I had to give up those expectations and see the film as it was. Kids who go to see CAR WASH love it. They don’t know the classics and they don’t ask any questions. Their minds are open and the film takes them on a free-form trip. I’ve seen the film everywhere; L.A., Chicago, Philadelphia and I sit with audiences who love it and even talk back to it. They let it get to them. And seeing it with them I get different things every time I watch the movie. They hate Abdullah or love him. With my character, the hooker they laugh at me, or feel for me. With Sully’s character they either boo him or love him.
SULLY BOYAR—They never love my character, they like him.
EGAN—I could relate to him.
LAUREN JONES—Could you relate to his son?
EGAN—What a schmuck. I went to school with those assholes.
LAUREN JONES—OK, right. You see, you see what I’m talking about.
EGAN—I had a great time with you folks in the film. I just wanted to care about you.
LAUREN JONES—It’s because you’ve got an old way of looking at film. You really need to get out of that.
EGAN—Well, in a film with a single leading character they can show a range of emotions. But with 22 that’s not so easy.
LAUREN JONES—This film has no heroes. There’s more to the setting of that film then you saw. You only saw part of the scene.
EGAN—Should I see it again?
LAUREN JONES—You should. Go see it. I’ll guarantee you feel for the son.
JIM SPINKS—It’s the kind of film you got to see at least three times. The first time you see one thing. The second time you actually see the characterizations
LAUREN JONES—It cannot be intellectualized.
EGAN—Any emotion; any feeling can be communicated with words. It doesn’t recreate. It relates. For example, I’ve been punched in the arm. I punch you in the arm. He says “punched in the arm” and we both conjure up similar experiences.
SULLY BOYAR—Can I say something. I think it would be nice to talk to Bill Duke.
BILL DUKE—No that’s not, necessary because what’s happening is…..
LAUREN JONES—Right. What’s happening is happening.
SULLY BOYAR—What’s interesting to me is that we’re beginning to get involved with absolutes. To say that this is the greatest picture ever made would be ridiculous. What I do know is that we worked with a great director and several actors who have great potential. Now if I was making the film, instead of as a series of collected events, I could re-structure it horizontally and design it to move and manipulate you differently. Instead of getting you involved with Loren’s characters in the way that the film did, I could show you more of her loneliness and anguish. And in that way elicit more empathy from you towards her and manipulate you a little differently. But that is not what the film was doing. It was showing how people live their lives. Days go on, we realize that a lot of what we do in life is meaningless and doesn’t add up to very much. So, you have to be careful. Why not just accept the film for what it is.
EGAN—I did and I had a good time with it.
LAUREN JONES—But you were also manipulated. Bertolt Brecht manipulates his audiences and leads them to a state total frustration. By the end of one if his plays you’re saying, “Thank You. Thank you for being over.” Now, think of how CAR WASH manipulated you so that you weren’t given the opportunity to get off on any of the characters.
JIM SPINKS—You furnish the characters. The film doesn’t do that for you.
LAUREN JONES—You see what I’m trying to say. Like Sully, I’m not saying it’s the greatest film ever made. I’m just saying that it’s different. We’ve been living with this film for a long time and it has changed me.
EGAN—In what way?
LAUREN JONES—Because in order to understand the film, I had to let my head go, and that’s hard to do. I know what makes an audience love or hate a movie and this movie says, “fuck all those rules.” It says that this is how important everything is in our existence. When we go down to the hotel lobby, we don’t go and say, “I want to feel.” We see a little thing and then we’re into the next moment. And that for me is what CAR WASH does. It recreates the actual experience of living, not what we think that experience is.
JIM SPINKS—Roger Ebert, he’s a Pulitzer prize winning film critic for THE CHICAGO SUN TIMES, and he gave it 3 ½ out of 4 stars. THE NEW YORK TIMES gave it an excellent review. Archer Winston from THE NEW YORK POST gave an excellent review. Gene Siskel of the CHICAGO TRIBUNE gave it an excellent review. Everywhere we’ve gone the film has gotten excellent reviews. And I think that’s because we’re creating a new film form or taking an existing form another step.
SULLY BOYAR—You spoke about Chaplin and I love Chaplin’s movies, but on the other hand there’s something in Chaplin that’s very fabricated—very theatrical and very romantic. But in CAR WASH, what you have is real people—real egos—and you’re enjoying these people on their terms. They’re putting it on the line.
LAUREN JONES—With these characters you see them only on the surface. You’re seeing only what they project, which is how we see people in life. You’re never given the opportunity to really connect with them because, whenever that’s about to happen, they’re gone again and the film is dealing with another character. Bill’s character, Abdullah, epitomizes the whole thing—and it took me a while to get this. But at the end of the film when he breaks down and we find out what’s really bothering him—that he sees the car wash as a damn clown show—it’s the heart of the movie.
SULLY BOYAR—He’s talking, not just about the car wash, but about life—about the insanity of life. In a certain way, he’s a lot like the Richard Pryer character. In different ways, they’re both dealing with the insanity of the world. Abdullah thinks he’s found his answer, but he’s so angry about it that everyone in the Car Wash wants to stay away from him. He’s a bummer. Then, when he breaks down at the end and says “It’s a clown show,” you understand that he really doesn’t know how to solve it. He knows that this business with the gun isn’t the way. He’s not a violent man but a loving individual who wants to make order out of the insanity of this crazy world.
IVAN DIXON AND BILL DUKE
LAUREN JONES—You expect him to shoot, you expect a fight but the audience doesn’t get what it expects. There were fights in Chicago, right in the audience, during that scene
JIM SPINKS—“Shoot him.” “Shoot him.” “Don’t shoot him.” “Don’t shoot him.”
LAUREN JONES—They wanted him to shoot and then the other people didn’t. Then, finally, they say, “Give him the money. Give him the money,” and they pray. When that scene turns around and Abdullah breaks down people don’t know what to do.
EGAN—I think that Abdullah has recognized the weakness inside of himself. He had thought that he was so right and he lands up being so wrong.
MORGAN—I was rooting for Calvin, the kid on the skateboard, to get run over.
LAUREN JONES—Yea, right. The audience expects Calvin to get hit, but he doesn’t.
Sully looks at Morgan and sadly shakes his head.
SULLY BOYAR—Morgan, doesn’t belong here.
EGAN—(To Morgan) How much longer do I have for the interview?
MORGAN—You’ve got plenty of time.
EGAN—When’s your next.
BILL DUKE—Do we have something before that. Like we eat?
MORGAN—Well, some of you do and some of you don’t. Because some of you can do your interviews while you eat.
LAUREN JONES—(Nodding to Jim Sinks) But Jimmy has to get dressed. He can’t go down looking like that.
BILL DUKE—Morgan, you know what I was going to say? If we could stay until tomorrow morning we could get our valet things done.
JIM SPINKS—I just called the Valet. You should have called them this morning.
BILL DUKE—I called the valet, but he didn’t come.
SULLY BOYAR—What time did you call him? You’ve got to call him at 8:30 if you want them to come in time.
Morgan–(Interrupting them) Listen you guys, you’re working.
EGAN—It’s cool. I love it. It’s CAR WASH.
MORGAN—(Heading out the door) I’ll be right back. Don’t anybody leave this room.
LAUREN JONES—Bring a couple of aspirins.
EGAN—How much more time can I count on.
EGAN—That’s cool. That fine. That’s how much time I’ve got left on my tape
Morgan heads out of the room to make arrangements for the next set of interviews and just before closing the door says sternly to the four.
MORGAN–You work until noon.
I turn back to them and start up the interview again.
EGAN—(To SULLY BOYAR) About Chaplin, yes, there is that level of manipulation. But he’s an intuitive artist. Nevertheless, his films cover both sides of life–the cruel and hard as well as the gentle and the soft. I didn’t see that in CAR WASH. I didn’t see that breath of vision.
LAUREN JONES—Right, because you’re relating it to old experiences.
EGAN—No I’m not. I’m relating it to life. You’re just fighting with me about this just to fight me. Do you mind vulgarity?”
LAUREN JONES—It won’t bother me.
JIM SPINKS—Earth calling. Earth calling. Earth.
SULLY BOYAR—Danger, get away. Danger, get away.
JIM SPINKS—Planes are up again.
SULLY BOYAR-(Singing) May old acquaintance be forgot….
JIM SPINKS—It’s only a body.
EGAN—OK, every experience is a different experience from every other experience, but there is a similarity between experiences. Since you don’t mind vulgarity, every time you fuck it’s going to be different but it’s still going to be similar to all the other fucks you’ve had.
LAUREN JONES—No that’s not true.
EGAN—Oh come on, you’re just being stubborn.
LAUREN JONES—It’s what’s going on inside your head.
JIM SPINKS—I’ve learned something from this.
EGAN—What did you learn from this?
JIM SPINKS—My hand, Suzy, and her five sisters.
LAUREN JONES—How you fuck is just in your head.
EGAN—Oh. Please! You’re just fighting with me.
LAUREN JONES—I’m not fighting with you.
EGAN—That’s not what a shrink would say.
JIM SPINKS—When you say fuck, she means fight.
LAUREN JONES—I’m private.
SULLY BOYAR—I wonder what Chaplin would say if he was here?
LAUREN JONES—No, he’s not that great a genius to say that.
EGAN—Yes he is.
LAUREN JONES—Who appointed you……
SULLY BOYAR—(To me) You got caught in something very interesting. You’ve got to be careful about statements you make to other artists. When you start talking in absolutes about actors, what happens is a kind of denial of other people and how they perceive their work. So you have to be very careful. I’m not putting you down but I’m involved with a certain kind of mystery in my work—of how I can make things look as easy as they can be.
LAUREN JONES—You’re a non acting actor.
SULLY BOYAR—That is something I struggle for. Now that’s something you may not recognize.
EGAN—How hard did you work on it in DOG DAY AFTERNOON? At first I didn’t think that you were an actor but a real bank president.
SULLY BOYER WITH JOHN CAZALE IN “DOG DAY AFTERNOON”
SULLY BOYAR—I gave it 52 years of my life. Everything from playing with squash balls as a kid to fighting with my wife. All of it went into that role.
BILL DUKE—He had his life. You can’t ask him how hard he worked for it because when you create, when you put forth the spirit of a man— of another human existence—it’s not a question you can really answer. You’ve either caught another man’s spirit or you haven’t.
Morgan walked back into the room.
JIM SPINKS—(To me) Did you believe what he was doing in DOG DAY.
BILL DUKE— It’s not about how hard he worked. Did he capture the man’s spirit?
BILL DUKE—(To me) About you wanting to feel something. I think as a film critic, that pre-conception limits your ability to appreciate movies, because there are so many films which are not created to make you feel anything. Bertolt Brecht, for example, purposely constructs his plays so that you don’t feel anything but instead come to understand things and based on this understanding make decisions about how you might or might not do something.
LAUREN JONES—That’s what Becket does, too.
EGAN—But I felt that this film wanted me to feel something but failed to do it.
BILL DUKE—CAR WASH is, for me at least, primarily a film of entertainment.
EGAN—But I think that there is more to it than that. Don’t you agree?
LAUREN JONES—We know that. But what BILL DUKE is talking about is the bottom line.
BILL DUKE—So, basically we’re talking about an entertainment film which, as far as I’m concerned, is not flawless. Therefore, I think that a major problem in dealing with this film is that some people see it within the context of something they’ve either seen before or something that they want to see. And that perception blocks them from dealing with what the film is and, subsequently, they miss what’s really happening in the film. Personally, when I watch CAR WASH I have no great empathy for those characters. But, what I do get is an understanding about their situation and an appreciation of what these characters are going through in that situation.
EGAN—That’s precisely how I felt while watching the film. But now I’m trying to understand why I wanted to feel some emotions towards those characters. That’s where this discussion is going, isn’t it?
BILL DUKE—Because we were all educated on the same films.
JIM SPINKS—Move me! Move me!
BULL—I also want catharsis. That’s me up there. You go to see SUPERFLY. Those kids in the audience say, “That’s me up there, man.”
JIM SPINKS—Everybody watches film to get their identity. I’m partial to John Wayne and cats like Bogart and Garfield. I still have a romantic feeling and would like to love a woman more romantically.
LAUREN JONES—We talk about our love scene. Our love scene is a pick-up.
BILL DUKE—But it’s done with…
EGAN—(chuckling) Good taste.
JIM SPINKS—This is why it’s done with taste. I appear to be one thing, till I get her in a place where nobody’s looking. The audience is looking in on me and I show my insecurities in that moment when I grab Lauren’s breast and I touch and stroke it.
LAUREN JONES—And we call this the love scene. When James goes on radio he tells everyone that it’s a very poignant love scene.
BILL DUKE—And, in its fashion, it is.
JIM SPINKS—It shows my insecurities as a man; like most men in a predicament like that. It shows my vulnerability.
SULLY AND LAUREN IN THEIR LOVE SCENE
SULLY BOYAR—There’s a lot of dimension do to that scene.
BILL DUKE—AMERICAN GRAFFITI…
EGAN—Yes, that’s a good film to compare CAR WASH with (To Loren) I’m sorry this is my way of trying to understand it.
LAUREN JONES—Well, some people need to have labels.
EGAN—(Exasperated) You don’t give an inch, do you?
JIM SPINKS—(Nodding) Not an inch. Not a single inch.
LAUREN JONES—You don’t want my mind to be demented, do you?
JIM SPINKS—Can I take 30 seconds to say something?
LAUREN JONES—James Spinks wants to say something.
SULLY BOYAR—When he says 30 seconds let’s see what he means.
BILL DUKE—Let’s time it. 30 seconds. I’m counting.
EGAN—Let the man have his 30 seconds.
SULLY BOYAR—I’ve got 34 I can give him.
LAUREN JONES—I’ve got my watch on.
EGAN—All right, go JIM SPINKS.
BILL DUKE—Go JIM SPINKS, go.
LAUREN JONES—All right, 30 seconds. Now go.
JIM SPINKS—I was in New York and I had two white friends with me when I was looking at the film.
EGAN—(Chucking) Some of your best friends are white.
JIM SPINKS—Well they happen to be chicks. But while looking at the movie I was proud of what happened on the screen. I was proud to be part of it and proud to be sitting with people who were seeing my work. I generally feel good about what I’m doing in that film.
SULLY BOYAR—5, 4, 3, 2..
SULLY BOYAR—I just want to say something.
LAUREN JONES—One thing.
EGAN—You always say that SULLY BOYAR, but….
JIM SPINKS—One thing and…
BILL DUKE—Then let’s go to lunch.
SULLY BOYAR—(To me) We all see not only with our eyes, but also with our past and sometimes when we do that, we deprive ourselves from experiencing things. Maybe you ought to think about how to suspend certain things in yourself.
EGAN—I use the word “feel” all the time but I mean….
JIM SPINKS—Go ahead man, use the word you’re comfortable with. Don’t be intimidated.
EGAN—It’s really that I have a semantic problem…wait a minute…
BILL DUKE—Not Semitic?
LAUREN JONES—(Correcting me) Semantic.
EGAN—Yes. I have a semantic problem.
SULLY BOYAR—You know, I felt more empathy for the characters in CAR WASH here than I did for those in NASHVILLE. How do you like that?
LAUREN JONES—(To Sully) Let him finish his thought.
BILL DUKE—He let us talk. Let’s let him talk.
EGAN—Hell, I forgot what I was going to say…
LAUREN JONES—You feel…
BILL DUKE—You use the word all the time….
EGAN— You made me forget. I want you to know that I hate you all.
LAUREN JONES—I know you do.
EGAN—(Chuckling) All I wanted to do was care about the people in the film. Is there something wrong with me for feeling that?
JIM SPINKS—Maybe it’s just a superficial film.
EGAN—No, it’s not.
JIM SPINKS—It probably is.
EGAN—If it was I wouldn’t be feeling this way.
BILL DUKE—We’ve been on the road for weeks and that’s the problem.
LAUREN JONES—That’s not the problem.
JIM SPINKS—I’ll tell you the problem. We’re hot to trot and we can’t find any broads in this town.
SULLY BOYAR—That’s what going on here and it took us all this time to realize this.
EGAN—Fuck the film. You’re right. I’m right. It’s all subjective anyway. Next question. You’ve been on the interview route for a while. Are you tired of being asked the same questions over and over again?
SULLY BOYAR—No, not necessarily.
JIM SPINKS—It’s always different.
SULLY BOYAR— You’re a very unique experience.
EGAN—Thank you. You’ve got to figure other people are unique, too
LAUREN JONES—I have had, personally, a fantastic time dealing with the different personalities I’ve met. What I’m doing on this trip is learning things from people all over the country. I’m getting all these different perspectives, and that’s really great.
Bill Duke gets up and heads for the door but pauses.
BILL DUKE—I’ve got to go somewhere.
SULLY BOYAR—Bill Duke beats the shit out of me every night. This is the secret life of Sully Boyar. Actually, I want to tell you something. I have been beating myself for years. Now I want someone else to beat me.
JIM SPINKS—I walked into the bathroom and Sully was washing his private parts and I said, “Sully, what are you doing?” And he said “Hey, look, it’s my soap, my body and I can wash my private parts as fast or slow as I want
EGAN—All right, Sully. I got you. I want $60 a month in blackmail for the next 6 months.
SULLY BOYAR—If my wife reads this, I’m in trouble.
JIM SPINKS—I’ve got to eat.
EGAN—(To BILL DUKE) Will you give me a minute?
LAUREN JONES—Bill, give him 30 seconds.
BILL DUKE—Twenty acres and a mule, that’s what I need.
SULLY BOYAR—All right everybody, he’s got thirty seconds. I’m counting.
JIM SPINKS—Summing up this interview, I’d like to say first of all Egan, you are one of the finest people we’ve had the pleasure of meeting in this town.
JIM SPINKS—And the first.
LAUREN JONES—Can I say something?
EGAN—What the hell.
LAUREN JONES—I have found you very challenging.
JIM SPINKS—“Why!?” You have to ask us that.
LAUREN JONES—I hate to say this but I typed you when you first walked in. I nabbed you and said to myself that I knew who you were. But, when I realized what you were doing, and where you were going – which is to try and really understand our movie—I said, “Zap-O, I knew you were being bad.” So, I said, “OK, wait. He doesn’t really mean this. Let me see where he’s going. (To the others) He’s a really beautiful man. (Then to me) There’s something beyond intellect and beyond feeling.
JIM SPINKS—Yea, sex!
EGAN—Well, sex is….
LAUREN JONES—No it’s beyond even that. It’s called spirit. Egan, let that intellect and feeling go and find out what kind of new experience you can get. That’s what I’m saying.
SULLY BOYAR—Ok Egan, now that Lauren has said that, we’re ready to baptize you.
JIM SPINKS—Egan, you are one of the finest cats who’s interviewed us because you actually saw the film. We usually just give interviewers our rave reviews un-obstructed by what they think of the film.
EGAN—All right. That’s it. End of interview.
SULLY BOYAR—Why do I feel that I’ve been through the mill?
EGAN—Because we have?
Lauren Jones only made three other film and TV appearances and then settled down to being Mrs. Michael Schultz in a marriage that has lasted over 50 years and produced two children.
Jim Spinks accumulated 16 film and TV credits before his untimely death from a stroke. One of them “Rage IN Harlem” was directed by Bill Duke.
Almost 40 years after conducting this interview I again crossed paths with Bill Duke. During the intervening years Duke, in addition to continuing his acting—usually playing heavies—he also became. first a TV Director doing series TV and TV movies—his production of RAISIN IN THE SUN with Danny Glover is in my opinion the best film or TV production of the play. Moving into the features he directed everyone from Ellen Burstyn to Woopi Goldberg proving himself an able and skilled actor’s director. Musicals, comedies, drama; Duke directed every film genre and in his films you can always count his actors giving wonderful performances. So, after hooking up again we exchanged correspondence for a bit and one of the notes I wrote him concerned Sully Boyer and his final performances.
“It’s very interesting that the naturalistic style that Sully worked so hard to achieve throughout his career finally shined through in his final performance. He played a psychiatrist on the THE SOPRANOS opposite Edie Falco and was on screen for about 10 minutes. He sat in a chair and without moving his body or even his head—just looking at the camera and speaking his lines—gave a performance that was utterly devastating and left me in tears. It was nothing less than g awesome. A short time later when I learned about his death I thought it was a rather fitting way to go out. In other words, to spend a lifetime working to achieve something and then, just before checking out, to get there and get there so brilliantly.” An actor couldn’t ask for better.
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