And that has held so true. Once you understand a story, once you know what you're trying to convey, there really is only one place to put the camera. There is only one way to do it. There is no great freedom of interpretation.
Still, the digital-video technology must increase your sense of what's possible.
It's just liberating, when we can actually go out and tellour stories. Instead of Bernard and I moping around, blaming the studio, blaming our agents, blaming everybody—blame, blame, blame—not getting anything done because we're so tired, so busy trying to get other things off the ground that we don't experience any other works, we don't adapt anything else, we're just stuck in our hole. It was actually quite startling to hear Lisa [Enos, the producer/co-screenwriter], who's not in the film business, turn around and say, "Guys, instead of moaning, why don't you just—shoot a film?"
"Well," we grumbled, "because we can't."
"Why can't you?"
"We need to buy film."
"Why not shoot it with a digital camera?"
[Dithering noises] "Nn-nh . . . Digital doesn't look good."
"Why do you care what it looks like, if you've got something to tell?"
Then we tried this new system out, and it's beautiful! With Bernard, adapting Tolstoy, I think we decided after we made the picture that it's neo-realism, or some semblance of it. I always felt that LA, in making it, became our Rome, and that Bernard is auteur enough, maestro enough, that we were within reach of the more neo-realist aspects of Fellini's work, with yours truly hoping to fill the shoes of Marcello Mastroianni. It's an environment that we understand, an environment that we know. It just seemed very convenient to set this tale in our back yard.
You direct. You write for the screen. Now you act. Are there other art forms you're ambitious of?
I paint. I love having that privacy, that sense of silent moments just to myself. Otherwise I'm just forever doomed to be in the film industry. There are times when I get frustrated and wish I could do something else, even just—cut hair. But I can't. I'm addicted. It's in every pore.
And that's why directing—and trying to get a film going in the conventional way, with a studio—can be so hard. Your entire universe is consumed by one project, and you begin to have a blinkered existence. You kind of forget how to live. It all becomes about film. I remember my father giving a lecture at some film school. One of the students asked him, "Wouldn't it be correct, Mr. Huston, to say that in the first act, you establish your characters; in the second act, you tell your story; and in the third act, you reveal what it is you were trying to say throughout the film?" And my father looked at him, and said, "You know what you should do? Get yourself down to Mexico and fuck some whores." [Laughs] You could've heard a pin drop in the auditorium. But what my father was saying was essentially correct, which is live, for Christ's sake. Then you'll be able to tell a story!