Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Interview With Writer/Director Tom Schiller

Remember in Nothing Lasts Forever when Zach Galligan’s Adam Beckett meets Bill Murray’s Ted Breughel for the first time? You don’t? That’s because you probably never saw it - the film was completed in 1984 but never released. 

The movie - which is black and white and employs stock footage and other techniques to achieve a retro quality - follows Adam, a young artistic hopeful who returns to New York to finally make it big. The only problem? Adam really isn't sure what kind of artist he is. Well, that and The New York Port Authority has taken over the city. From his port authority-assigned job in the Holland Tunnel to beneath New York's streets and finally to the moon itself, (transported there on a bus operated by Bill Murray, of course) Adam struggles to finally uncover his artistic passion.

Writer/director Tom Schiller’s been screening the film in recent years and he'll be rolling through Jacksonville this weekend to show the movie at Sun-Ray Cinema. Mr. Schiller was kind enough to answer a few of our questions.

Q: First and foremost, why was the film never released?

TS: It was bad. :-)

Strangely, I've never been given a straight answer. Sometimes they say some of the stock footage can't be cleared, other times they say certain music rights couldn't be obtained. My guess is MGM thought it was an "art movie" and not commercial.

Q: John Belushi was slated to appear in the film but died weeks before production began. Did the role go to another actor or was the part omitted?

TS: The role was omitted. He was supposed to appear as one of the secret masters who initiates Adam during a purification ritual by fire in a rock hewn cavern under the city (which incidentally looked like a Russian/Jewish steam bath Belushi and I used to go to). 

Q: The movie features themes like class conflict, excessive government, and toxic consumerism. When you revisit the film, is it funny to see that some of these topics are just as prevalent now as they were back then?

TS: Yes.

Q: Main character Adam Beckett struggles throughout the film to find his artistic destiny. How much of that theme of artistic struggle was personal and how do you feel about art and filmmaking now that one of your movies has gone unreleased for 30 years?

TS: Adam's artistic struggle mirrored mine. At 15 I was bursting to be some sort of artist like a writer or filmmaker, or pianist or something, but couldn't figure it out. I used to wear black turtle neck sweaters, go into coffee shops and write in my journal. After I saw Truffaut's "[The] 400 Blows" and especially Fellini's "La Dolce Vita" at the age of 16 I was absolutely certain I wanted to be a film director. A foreign film director. But I lived in LA.

Q: Are you full speed ahead on getting a home video release for Nothing Lasts Forever or is there a part of you that wants the film to remain this unreleased, hidden gem?

TS: At first I was heartbroken when it wasn't released. I tried my best to appeal to MGM. Then I went through the five stages of grief or whatever they were, as spelled out by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross: denial, anger, fear, etc., till I got to "acceptance." Now I feel it was released just as it was meant. It shows on European late night TV and has enjoyed screenings from Germany to Cinefamily in LA and Lincoln Center in New York. And now it has given me the unexpected pleasure of coming to Jacksonville and screening it in 35 mm at the legendary Sun-Ray Cinema, the first Florida movie theater to present talking pictures in the '20s.

Nothing Lasts Forever screens at Sun-Ray Cinema with writer/director Tom Schiller this Saturday, September 27th at 7:00 p.m.

Sun-Ray Cinema

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