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Abel Ferrara Isn't Scared of You: His Takes on Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Gerard Depardieu, Pier Paolo Pasolini and Willem Dafoe

Photo of Eric Kohn By Eric Kohn | Indiewire August 14, 2013 at 11:28AM

The last time Abel Ferrara came to the Locarno Film Festival, he was honored onstage in front of a thousand people. But when the seminal underground New York filmmaker arrived in town this week, he decided to remain under the radar. While putting the finishing touches on "Welcome to New York," a drama based on the Dominique Strauss-Kahn hotel maid scandal, Ferrara is finalizing plans for a biopic about Italian director Pier Paolo Pasolini, a project he has been hoping to get off the ground for years. While en route to Italy in the throes of pre-production, Ferrara quietly showed up in Locarno for the final days of the festival and sat down with Indiewire at his hotel to discuss his upcoming projects.
Abel Ferrara
Abel Ferrara

Getting back to DSK...

The IMF is broke. I mean, what is the strength of the American dollar? I don't want to get into this, but this is the politics of it. It's like nine movies. Go to Penn or Harvard Business School where they discuss it. The U.S. says, "Fuck this guy. He wants to run France? Let him try to run France from Rikers Island." But the guy set himself up. They're maniacs, like Berlusconi. They're short, little 68-year-old guys who gotta fuck. That's a movie, too. All of a sudden Viagra comes out and it's like crack cocaine and now these guys are like studs. Berlusconi fucked four or five chicks in a month. Ireland is dealing with people starving to death and people like Berlusconi spend more time organizing how they're going to fucking laid.

And you're saying the U.S. reacts to the power trips of rich people in other countries?

The point I'm trying to make is that the world is based on the American dollar. It's not the Euro or the Yen. Now what's the strength of the American dollar? It's the strength of the American military. There's no way anybody's going to beat the shit out of the American military yet. When there were 500,000 soldiers in Iraq, it was like, "OK, you want to get off the American currency? Suck on this." It's asserting that American money is sacrosanct. Whatever happened with DSK, nobody goes to Rikers for getting a blowjob. Somebody put the screws to this motherfucker. But this is like five movies. How do you explain that? I don't go see a movie about that. I'd go to business school to figure all this out. But if you go to Rikers and you're some rich white guy who raped a black chick? Come on. Your life expectancy is five minutes.

How did Depardieu approach the character?

Depardieu doesn't give a fuck about the guy. He's met the guy. What other people think about doing, this guy does. Depardieu has an oil well in Cuba. An oil well! So to him, Strauss-Kahn is nothing. He married a rich chick. Forget it. So he brings a whole world to this character. Guys like him and Harvey Keitel are on another level. I could tell all this to Gerard but he already knows it. I could talk about pimps, but he knows the pimps. He goes, "Viagra? We shoot it in our dick." The guy's off the fucking hook, dude. And he brought the money to the film.

Did you receive any pushback from your subjects?

OK, so now the chick don't want the film made. The wife. Never mind Strauss-Kahn. He just don't want a fat guy playing him. He thought Angelina Jolie's husband would play him.

Did you communicate with DSK?

I don't want to talk to him. I feel like I already know him. But she knows the deal and she came out about it.

You mean Anne Sinclair tried to keep you from making the film?

I couldn't get one penny in France. Now, [Vincent] Maraval at Wild Bunch, he's a revolutionary. He's going to get the money no matter what. Depardieu's a pull in himself. He's going to make the film. Everything's cool. Depardieu says, "I love your work, I love the film, I'll do it for nothing." OK, great, dogg. How about this? Not only does he do it for nothing, he goes out and gets the money. I don't even want to know where he got the money from. And then we got Jacqueline Bisset [to play the wife]. It's a similar thing going on now with my Pasolini movie with Dafoe. We have to go everywhere else except where the guy's from, Italy.

Why don't you think there's a good film about Pasolini?

Pier Paolo Pasolini at work.
Pier Paolo Pasolini at work.

You've gotta have the balls to do it. He's the man. Every night at 11 o'clock, he's at the train station. He's not one of these gay guys living a bourgeois life with his boyfriend. In addition to being a film director, he was also a major journalist, writing for a major Italian newspaper in 1975 when it was a war zone in Italy. Somebody stole the negatives of Fellini's "Casanova" along with Pasolini's "Saló." OK, the real way to make money in the film business was to steal the negatives. And Pasolini hung out with the guys who did it.

What's your movie going to focus on?

The last day of his life. The theory is that he was going to going to get the [missing] reels [for "Saló"]. And I've seen 'em now. They went with the alternate takes. That's an even better story. Part of the movie is to show that stuff. The next movie Pasolini he wanted to make was about St. Paul in Detroit. Imagine that. I want to shoot a scene from it. I want to actually shoot his descriptions. He was also writing a 1,700-page book about a very famous politician who was murdered on a phony airplane crash. Pasolini was going to name the guy who killed him. But he said, "I'm not a detective." I feel similarly. At a certain point, I'm an artist, I'm not making a documentary. I researched it, but maybe I didn't need to. Willem Dafoe is going to play Pasolini. Willem is not Pasolini, but he's a fucking awesome actor. I can't play him.

Are you optimistic that this movie will happen soon?

NYFF REVIEW | Abel Ferrara's "4:44 Last Day on Earth" Is the Upbeat Alternative to "Melancholia"
IFC Films "4:44 Last Day on Earth."

We're going to make the movie. But you never know. We were going to start now. So we're going to start in a few months.

And Dafoe's available?

Dafoe never has the time. What am I going to tell him? "Whatever money you're offered to play the Green Hornet or whatever, in Spider-Man, don't do it"? If he's got a big job, we can wait. We can wait to have him work for nothing. Willem is committed to the project. I think my producer's going to come up with the money. We've got ARTE, we've got Canal Plus, we've got everybody, but we don't have one penny from Italy.

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