Celebrating 17 Years of Film.Biz.Fans.
by Alison Willmore
August 21, 2012 12:38 PM
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Speed Levitch Talks About His New Hulu Series, Richard Linklater and the Perils of Being a Documentary Subject

How did you end up selecting the cities that you visit in the show? It sounds like some of them you're familiar with from having done tours at film festivals. How did you end up picking the rest?

There are all different relationships. I feel like as these cities are places that are alive -- and of course, some of the place that we visit aren't even cities -- at the essence of cruising is appreciating the beautiful in the biggest things and the smallest things. It was a giddy joy for me, after I'd been touring such a huge place like NY all those years, to suddenly be microscopically appreciating these smaller situations.

I also think that a lot of my tours start from other interests, more intellectual interests. A tour of Washington D.C., for instance, just because it's been such a impact player in my life all along. It was even a personal romance, really, that started that one. L.A. because I just started going there -- I found my way into the entertainment business.

In terms of that film and TV career, how actively have you pursued it over the years? Is it something you're looking to do more of?

Definitely! Always have. I've been working at it for years. I'm really excited about this opportunity. "The Cruise" was a very interesting way to enter the entertainment industry. I'm sure you can imagine. Being a documentary subject -- for a long time, you're considered subject matter. You're walking subject matter. It's a good life [laughs] -- the union benefits. Being a documentary subject was weird because I always thought of myself as a writer and a performer, never as a subject, and I still don't.

"I always thought of myself as a writer and a performer, never as a subject."

Do you find that "The Cruise" has shaped how people think of you?

It's hilarious! I'm the last person to be objective about it. I'm interested in your opinion about it. It probably could be a cool novel for somebody to write. You're portrayed, and that portrayal is what people know. Leonardo Da Vinci and Picasso both talked about how any portrait is also a self-portrait. I still hang out with Bennett Miller, he's one of my friends, and it doesn't come up that often when we're hanging out, but whenever it does it's always been the same conversation -- that the film is a portrait and he was, in a sense, a portrait painter. A lot of the gravitas of the film is him. That's what's so funny.

It's his interpretation of you.

Right, and that's what lives in people's minds. And when they meet me, that's who they know. [laughs] You know, there are three hours of other scenes that didn't make the final cut that Michael Levine, the editor, spliced together. He worked real hard on it and still can't believe some of those scenes didn't make the final cut. Eventually, when some of those other scenes get out there, I think everybody could have a good time deciding which "Cruise" they would have made. Had some of those other scenes gone in for the ones that are in there, you'd have a different impression of the character. I still think it's a funny movie. It could have been even more comedic if these other scenes had been there instead of some of what is.

Do you have any interest in becoming a filmmaker yourself in that way? Of being the author?

Nope, no. I still find a thrill in surrendering to a certain extent, especially by the time of post production. For that matter, certainly don't want to question Bennett Miller. He's a master filmmaker and obviously made some good choices. People really like that film and so do I. That's been an advantage, working with Bennett Miller, working with Richard Linklater, I've learned so much for my own craft, but I've also learned that I'm not a director. By no means. That's not my personality. Wouldn't be a good idea.

So as a tour guide, is there any city or location that seems unappreciated by tourists that you think people should visit?

I don't know if it's too general an answer, but one of the first things that occurred to me is the Midwest. I know a lot of our crowd are coast-wise. There's always that joke that the Midwest is the flyover zone. Actually, the next episode, next week, is the Kansas episode. It's called "In the Middle of the Middle of the Midwest." We will see how interesting Kansas is. The Midwest is actually an amazing place. I recommend not flying over it every time.

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1 Comment

  • tnwoman1948 | September 13, 2013 5:35 AMReply

    I loved "Up To "Speed"! It was one of the major reasons I kept my subscription to Hulu current. It portrayed history in such a interesting way. Plus, I love Speed's gentle, intelligent, quirky spirit! If I discovered it was still on the Hulu schedule, I would renew my membership.