director Vincent Gallo seems to know everyone on the New York's Lower
East Side from ex-cons and street kids to effete gallery owners. Every
five minutes during the interview, we'd be interrupted by someone he
knew just walking down the street. Compulsively extroverted, Gallo resembles
a distracted man on the edge. But, the high quality of his art belies
this appearance; it shows a man willing to immerse himself in life with
a deep level of concentration. All of this only leads to more contradictions,
for someone so open, friendly and well connected, he is certainly not
a man at peace with himself or his world. Two of his favorite filmmakers,
Pasolini and Ozu, illustrate opposite sides of his nature; his internal
balance between the turbulent, excessive world of Passolini and the
eternal calm and the quest for simplification of Ozu.
His memorable and idiosyncratic film, Buffalo 66, was well received
by critics all across the board. His band, Gallo, formed with actor
Lucas Haas, Bunny, (Lucas starred as the child in Witness and more recently
in Mars Attacks) has a on Sony/Workgroup that Gallo will recorded in
a newly constructed studio in his Hollywood home. He also composed the
soundtrack for the Buffallo 66 and stars in countless other Hollywood
and indie films
heard that you insist upon being on the cover for your print interviews?
Vincent Gallo: I feel I give a very engaging bold outspoken interview
with thoughts I've reasoned out my whole life. So they are gifts to
the world. But in giving these gifts to the world, I suffer consequence.
I have people who don't like me. I have people who won't work with me.
When it gets to the executives at Warner Brothers, all they know is
that I'm a loose canon. When it gets to actors and directors I've personally
mentioned, there is eliminated work opportunities. So all I ask for
in return is a validation from the magazine that they at least support
me as a person to put me on the cover. Without that, I'm just the quack
the magazine uses inside the magazine to entertain a bunch of potheads
who get off on reading someone who doesn't like pot. If I'm on the cover,
it means we may not agree with what he is saying, but at least he's
got a reasoned out point of view.
What's wrong with pot?
VG: One of the reasons I have such a negative reaction to pot is that
most of the ways people take it. They smoke it. The side effect is that
there are fumes. Since it is a narcotic, I find it quite rude that people
smoke it publicly. The same fuckin' hippy cocksuckers who protest a
plastics plant: it is okay that they dose me with this evil narcotic.
The real problem I have with drugs is that it is incredibly mainstream
behavior. All the drug addicts who think they are so interesting, they
remind me of television. That's how prime-time they are. There is no
aesthetic to taking drugs. There is no cultural movement that is attached
to it except some of the dancing around ecstasy. But there is an aesthetic
It changes your point of view?
Psychedelics, heroin and alcohol awakened sensibilities years ago. Nobody
whose art was influenced by drug encounters has created a sensibility
or a language that has been important to the development of culture,
or the evolution of mankind. This movie centers around a place kicker's
missed field goal in the 1991 Super Bowl.
As a Buffalo native, how significant was that moment for you?
VG: Very. I've from a city that has never won anything. If Buffalo makes
the field goal, then I can be from a city that is a champion; a city
that deserves respect. That same way I knew I would not get into Cannes,
the same way I know I will never win an Academy Award, the same way
I know no one nice will love me. The Buffalo jinx.
Any comment from the fellow that missed the
field goal, Scott Norwood, who appears in the film as Scott Wood? Did
he open a strip bar in real life?
VG: No. He did not. I tried to get him involved. He was not interested.
I would have written his character in any way he wanted it. He could
have been a teacher at a nursery school. He had no sense of humor about
Why is the Yes anthem "Heart of the Sunrise" playing
in the strip bar? This is not a song associated with sexy grinding and
VG: I got into this music in the most abused period in my childhood.
I was bottoming out in my relationship with my parents and my social
relationships at school. I was getting caught doing criminal activities.
I was getting ugly in the face. I was going through early adolescence.
I was able to put those records on because I could relate to this band.
Other than Chris Squire, the bass player of Yes and Richard Nixon, I've
never really admired another man.
You've called yourself a right wing Republican
in the past. Wouldn't you say your film does not endorse family values?
VG: The crises in my generation is that children are neglected and poorly
nurtured. It is ordinary that children have more than one father or
more than one sibling from another marriage, have drug addicted parents,
parents obsessed with their careers. The consequences of that kind of
parenting have revealed themselves in a very destructive way. People
are self centered to the extreme. There isn't a lot of nurturing of
children. My movie is about an abandoned girl and a boy who was misnurtured
by his parents.
Christina Ricci was an inspired choice. She is not someone I would picture
you working with.
VG: Not to sound too out of my mind, but I actually wrote a script just
so that I could work with her one day. When I finished the script, I
thought I made the character just a little too old, Since it's too romantic,
I thought it wasn't going to work because I thought she was like 13.
But then someone said she just turned 17. Close enough. She is so good
in the film it's ridiculous.
Is the film autobiographical?
VG: The abusive points of the parents are certainly authentic, but there
is a catharsis there and I found a lot of humor in those two characters.
I don't see them as evil. I see them as slightly disappointing. Every
parent does the best they can.
Is your mother a Bills fan in real life?
VG: My mother is more of a fan than the woman in the movie. Her life
crescendos are up and down based on the seasons the Bills are having.
Was she being ironic when she wore a Bills sweatshirt to a recent New
York showing of the film?
VG: After the movie, she realized she was a parody of herself. My mother
surprisingly copped to everything and was sensitive to everything she
had done. She was apologetic. It was the most beautiful time I've ever
had with my mother. I had already forgiven her just by making the movie
because she had become so funny. But I grew to really love her as a
person who was able to cop to this stuff, and as the person who shared
the memory of those events.
What did she think? Was she at all disturbed by it?
VG: I think she was most blown away in the scene where Ben Gazzara lip
synchs to my father's voice singing "Fools Rush In." My father is a
terrific singer who did nothing with his talent and my mother was most
stricken by realizing other than her son putting him in a movie, he's
never been identified or recognized for his incredible talent.
Will you have a showing for the Buffalo Bills?
VG: The NFL was completely uncooperative, completely fascist. I have
no interest in having any kind of relationship with the NFL or the Buffalo
Bills or Scott Norwood for the rest of my life. My 75 signed 8 by 10
football player autographs that I have are in a paper shredder in Buffalo
-- that's how much they turned me off. I wouldn't go to a Bills game,
an NFL game, if it was the last sporting event on the planet. It's very
painful for the NFL to treat me the way they treated me. To have the
attitude they had about filmmakers and art that they had in reference
to their league, which is filled with controversy. How could they be
so uptight? That's why soccer and basketball players are going to make
football players look like dinosaurs in ten years. Why don't they keep
their players off the coke line?
you got your footage from the USFL?
VG: Well they're defunct. All you gotta do is pay them and they'll do
what you want. It was hard to manufacture a logo and a team to make
it fictitious. What was their problem? The film was an anti-gambling
movie. It is a love story centered around football fans. In the last
line of the film, he says, 'I love Scott Wood. I love the Bills.'
upset were you about not being accepted to the Cannes Film Festival?
VG: I surrendered my passport after being rejected by those assholes
at the Cannes Film Festival because they didn't have room for me after
they let in Godzilla. For me, traveling to Europe is the equivalent
of Charlton Heston's ship landing on the Planet of the Apes. I'm embarrassed
that my mother and father are Italians and I'm madly in love with America.
Who first got you interested in the movies?
VG: By seeing my film, you would never know my influences. I got into
acting because of people like Robby Benson and Andy Kaufman, not Pacino
in the Godfather and De Niro in Taxi Driver. Death of Richie was the
performance that made me want to be an actor. That is one of the reasons
I used Ben Gazzara in my movie because he is in Death of Richie. I very
much liked Danny Bonaduce in "The Partridge Family", Sylvester Stallone
in Lords of Flatbush. They are the reasons I thought to myself, I'm
going to be an actor no matter what. I saw the Lords of Flatbush in
high school and I started a vicious violent gang called the lords, chains
and knives. We had leather jackets with jean jacket vests on top of
them. I painted, for everybody, "Lords" on the back of the jacket. To
get into the group you had to take a marijuana pipe and while it was
hot, brand a circle on your arm. It was a vicious burn and I didn't
have to do it because I was president. We walked around bad ass! So
20 years later I'm walking down Lexington Ave. and I see this guy with
a Yes t-shirt from a concert I went to, the "Close to the Edge" tour.
And it's real small on him, real tight, cause he's a FAT ass. I'm thinking,
that kid's cool man. He's got a Yes T-shirt. My favorite Band of All
time! And I'm walking, ... we get to this light, and we're standing
there. I looked at his arm and he's got this nasty burn mark. I look
up and think, "Yo! Burke Hughes! That's Burke." That's impact. That
is the kind of impact I can recall.
That must have been inspirational.
Somehow I get fixated on things. I have 15,000 albums and I probably
listen to the same 15 over and over. But, knowing the other ones are
there is vital to me. If someone took a record that I haven't listened
to in 15 years out of my collection, and took it home to tape, I would
would get a rash
Yeah, I'd be itchy until they brought it back. And if the record was
say, Kalidescope's faintly Blowing album, which I paid $1,100 for, I
would got out and pay $2,500 to put it back into my collection. Even
though I probably wouldn't listen to it again for ten more years. But
knowing that it's there helps me.
makes life calm
It calms me down, calms me down (Gallo repeats this like a mantra while
he settles in to have his hair done for the photo shoot.)
Free Williamsburg | 93 Berry Street | Brooklyn, NY 11211
| October 2000 | Volume 7