Wednesday, November 22, 2006


Some quotes from Robert Altman (2/20/25 - 11/20/06), from two back-a-decade interviews, when he was basking in the comeback kliegs with his gleeful skewering of the Hollywood establishment, 1992's The Player, and when he went off to take an amiable ramble through the small-town South, 1999's Cookie's Fortune.

Talking about The Player, which used a murder mystery to nail a business built on ego and greed -- and which featured an A-list of stars (Cher, John Cusack, Anjelica Huston, Jack Lemmon, Andie MacDowell, Nick Nolte, Susan Sarandon, Bruce Willis) playing themselves -- Altman insisted that his film isn't bitter or vindictive. Though he holds the Hollywood of today in some contempt, it is an attitude born of observation, not hatred. Revenge was not, he says, a motive for making The Player.

"Oh, I don't think it's about revenge," he says, chewing some ice. "I can't think of any film director in history, dead or alive, that has had a better career" - and by this he means a more personally satisfying career - "than I have. So, if I become revengeful or bitter, I've got to be a pretty arrogant, selfish person. . . .

"I'm always frustrated because there's a certain film I can't get done or whatever - and I'm frustrated by that and always have been and always will be - but there's no revenge in this. I think The Player is a kind of mild assault, and it's not personally aimed at anybody because I don't personally know any of these people. "

There's a note of disingenuousness to this last statement. After all, Altman rubbed elbows with studio bigwigs for 30 years or more. He knows where these people are coming from.

"I don't know where they came from," he jokes,"but I know they're there. And I hope they're moving on. And I hope they'll be replaced by people who perhaps agreed with this picture, and by the time they get into those jobs they'll change (the business) a little bit.

"But I think the first thing we have to do is get the corporations out of it. The studios are run by big money-management entities, not by people. Nobody can make a decision. Nobody can play a hunch, because there isn't anybody in charge, there's nobody in the room at the top.

"The room at the top," Robert Altman declares, "is empty."

(from "On Movies," the Philadelphia Inquirer, April 26, 1992)

And talking about Cookie's Fortune, whose cast included Glenn Close, Julianne Moore, Liv Tyler, Charles S. Dutton, Chris O'Donnell, Ned Beatty, Lyle Lovett and Patricia Neal, Altman had this to say about his penchant for overlaying dialogue, for weaving actors in and out of crowded, talky scenes:

"I've just always done it that way," Altman explains, on the phone from his New York office. "In the beginning I probably thought, well, if this gets boring I can always cut to something else - I don't have to depend upon one character. . . . Now, I just feel comfortable working that way. That's just what I do. "

(from "On Movies," the Philadelphia Inquirer, April 11, 1999)


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