Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...

Dustin Lance Black Talks About Recutting 'Virginia' and What He Really Thought of His First Version

Photo of Nigel M Smith By Nigel M Smith | Indiewire May 16, 2012 at 1:03PM

Nobody knew quite what to expect from "What's Wrong With Virginia," Dustin Lance Black's directing debut, when it premiered at the 2010 Toronto International Film Festival. But few expected the critical backlash that followed.
1

Virginia
You made "J. Edgar" after this, right?

Yeah. I mean I was working on it in coffee shops on the weekends when we were making it. But yeah it was after this, "8" was after this, my collaboration with Ron Howard came after. I feel like I've been through a whole other lifetime of filmmaking.

I was talking to a filmmaker friend of mine on the plane on the way over here and I said, "Have you ever had to wait this long for a film to come out?" He looked at me like I was mad. I think three years is a very long time.

You should talk to Drew Goddard, director of "Cabin in the Woods."  I'm sure he could relate better than your friend.

Yeah [laughs]. We'll see how critics feel about this cut. Some people just really hate it. But women love it, that's the strangest part.

Are you a fan of it?

I didn't watch it last night. But I was a fan of it when we locked the picture. I know what we were up against, and for that I put it in a certain group of films. I do the jury for the Independent Spirit Awards, so I kind of see where we fall. The reality is I get judged against the things that cost a lot more. That's just the reality of it. This cost less than a single episode of "Big Love," shot in just about as many days, with a new crew that didn't know each other.

I don't want to keep making excuses, though. No, I love it. You know what I love most about it? I love Jennifer Connelly. She was so brave. She was brave to do it…

She was brave to dye her hair blonde.

Brave to dye her hair blonde! Which by the way was in the script, but I never asked. She brought it up. That had to do with our meetings with the psychologist who could talk about this brand of schizophrenia. The only thing you can control is color. You can't control sound, in fact that's what usually drives many schizophrenics mad. In the film she controls color in some strange and wonderful ways -- her hair being one of them.

Also in the film, she just brings such humor to it. She shows a side of herself that she hasn't shown before. I think she's spectacular.

Virginia
She doesn't typically play characters as brazen and unwieldy as Virginia.

Yeah, never, which is strange because she's got that brave spirit. The first time I met her, I was taken with her for those very reasons. You don't always get that. You meet some of these actors and what you meet first ego, particularly if they're trying to hide it. But you just don't meet that with her. She's up for the challenge. I hope that she gets to do more things like this, because there's that really interesting side to her that I hope she continues to share. I hope she'll continue with me in future projects.

So you do want to direct more?

Oh yeah, for sure. I want to keep writing for other directors too. I love the true life stories and the biopics -- people say I'm pigeonholed, but it's a fantastic kind of pigeonhole -- but it's tough to then go and direct it because I know all the real people. I'm probably too married to it all. I don't have the objectivity. You're hungry for that outside voice. I've been blessed with really cool collaborators who have brought even more insight into the project.

The things that I'm interested in directing are fiction, because then you're not married to a particular reality. I can eat these words in the future, but I just feel with the biopics it's great to have a collaborator. With the fiction stuff, I feel I have something to still give it.

I have a couple of those that I've written and that I'll start casting soon.

One last question. Why is this being pegged as your feature narrative debut, 'cause it's not.

Well, it is for me.

You directed "The Journey of Jared Price" in 2001. It's on IMDb!

It is. It's sort of like where they take the movie that Julia Roberts was and extra in, and they cut it so that she's the lead. It was one of those situations where I did this college video project, and then it gets cut by this company without my involvement. I was a kid, so there's nothing I could do about it. It  was made over four days with $2,000, and we just shot this video project. So when people say, "What about 'The Journey of Jared Price?" You ask my friends… I turn red with shame.

This was the first time that I had attempted to direct a film that I had written, and cared to be associated with. Goddamn "Journey of Jared Price."

This article is related to: Interviews, Dustin Lance Black, Virginia, What's Wrong With Virginia





Win The Complete Twin Peaks on Blu-ray from Indiewire! in Indiewire's Hangs on LockerDome


SnagFilms

Watch Over 10,000 Free Movies!

We the Economy: Supply and Dance, Man!

Why is the law of supply and demand so powerful? In this whimsical tale, our friendly narrator guides bored students Jonathan and Kristin through a microeconomic musical extravaganza.

More