Steve Buscemi on Interview

Steve Buscemi looks tired. Which is fair enough, he's just flown into London from Shanghai. Still, as we launch into the inteview it soon becomes pretty clear that, unlike the characters in his film, we're not going to end the day smooching and dancing around the room. Still, even a tired Buscemi has a few pearls of wisdom to impart...

How do you feel about taking part in the LFF?
I think it’s a great festival. I’m excited.

Are you hanging around after your screen talk?
I’m going back to Shanghai tomorrow, I was there before I came here, I’m working on a German film, directed by Florian Gallenberger, based on the diaries of John Rabe, who was a German businessman in Nanking in 1937 when the Japanese invaded; he helped save the lives of many Chinese, sort of like a Schindler’s List but in China. I play an American journalist. No, not a journalist – a surgeon, a surgeon.

I imagine you’ve said that word quite a few times over the past few days…
(laughs) Yeah.

You've said about your stand-up past that all comics tend to borrow from each other – do directors? Do you find yourself emulating directors you’ve worked with in the past?
I think I said that most of them borrow from each other, but the really good ones - who are rare - have their own voice. I do think that’s true of directing; I think I'm trying to find my own voice as a director. I’ve had the best film school anyone could ask for. But the one thing I think all the good directors have in common is the atmosphere they create onset and how much responsibility they give, not just to the actors, but the crew. Yet, at the same time, they need to have a very strong idea of where they want to go.

You’ve formed relationships with directors in the past, are you consciously looking for an actor that you can form the same relationship with? Obviously in your first three films you worked with Mark Boone Junior and Seymour Cassel...
And I worked with my brother Michael on this and two of the other films that I directed. There have been a number of people that I’ve worked with throughout the years, I think there’s a comfort level to working with people I know, I know what they can give me.

How is it working with your brother? Fun?
Yeah, I think he’s a wonderful actor, and I’m really proud of his work, in this film his character doesn’t really say anything, he doesn’t have anything dialogue-wise, but he speaks volumes by what he’s doing.

The film’s a two-character movie, what’s it like directing yourself in that context?
I don’t see it as directing myself, I see it as I’m in the scene with another actor, and I just try and do my best. We rehearsed it for two weeks before we got to set, so a lot of that stuff gets worked out and I had a lot of help from people watching, I asked them. I also watched the monitor sometimes after we shot something.

You shot it the way Theo shot the original, did the shooting style effect your performance? Make it more naturalistic?
We were able to shoot in sequence and do really long takes, we rehearsed it like a play. It was the closest to having the experience of doing a play on film.

Did you lose yourself in the character sometimes?
You stay in character for longer times, and even though there are three people running around with cameras, you do have to get used to it, but I'm always aware I’m acting (laughs), but it was fun working with Sienna, having an actor as talented as her to play off.

What qualities did you see in Sienna that made her appropriate for the role?
I think that she’s very talented but in her own personality she’s very grounded and down to earth and has sweetness to her, she’s very inteliigent and she’s committed to her work and I wanted all those qualities to be in the character she’s playing.

How do you feel about celebrity culture in general?
I don’t think about it that much. I think too much attention gets paid to it, I don’t find it all that interesting.

The film’s obviously about more than that...
It’s about two people from seemingly different worlds who find a connection, and why they sabotage that connection.

You’ve got Igor out next year, do you find voice-over work fun?
Yeah, it’s always a little bit weird because you’re the only actor, it’s not like you get to do it with the other actors. I find it challenging and fun.

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