The Will De Los Santos Spin on "Spun," Tattoos, and the Movie Biz
by Brandon Judell
There have been some odd bio pics before: "Ed Wood," "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas," "Bad As I Wanna Be: The Dennis Rodman Story." But few have shot their loads with the charismatic verve of "Spun."
Yes, MTV video king Jonas Akerlund has taken the brainchild of Will De Los Santos and spewed it across the screen with more than 5000 edits -- enough cuts, press releases scream -- to get it into the forthcoming Guinness Book of World Records. Cartoons and Deborah Harry as a butch lesbian sex phone worker are also worked in.
The frantic tale focuses on three fictionalized, drug-filled days in the life of Will, who on screen is called Ross (Jason Schwartzman). We get to see Ross become a chauffeur for The Cook (a very in-shape Mickey Rourke), witness John Leguizamo masturbate into a sock, and peruse Mena Suvari as she poops. By the way, the poop itself makes a memorable appearance.
Anyway, we thought we'd call up the West-Coast-based Will De Los Santos, who claims he was kicked off the set of "Spun," to chat about the film, the screenplay he co-wrote, and life in general. Due to space limitations, we can't tell you that one of Willie's next planned projects is a bio pic on Plato that he'll write and direct with Anthony Hopkins as a co-star.
Before I could reach Will, though, I got his answering machine. Part of Will's answering machine message: "I means there's DNA cloning, you know. Anyway, I was thinking, me and my brother were thinking together. We thought that with all this cloning on, why can't we just go to the Shroud of Turin. You know, the Shroud of Jesus. . . How come we can't go to the Shroud of Turin and just take some of that DNA off the Shroud, Jesus' DNA, and just create a whole world of super Jesuses. . . Why NOT? WHY? (Calm women's voice breaks in) At the tone, please record your message."
Finally, I do reach Willie at another location.
indieWIRE: Now "Spun" is your brainchild. The film is being pegged as autobiographical to a degree. How autobiographical is it? And which character is you?
Will De Los Santos: The character of me is the Jason Schwartzman character (Ross). That would be the experience in the story to which I've been privy. The structure of the story is...Have you seen the picture?
De Los Santos: Okay, you've seen the beginning. It's based on the truth and lies, right? The structure of the story is my experiences back in '96 when I drove The Cook around for three days. The Cook didn't die. And I didn't keep a girl tied up for three days. [Editor's note: In "Spun," a nude girl is tied to a bed for three days as Ross goes about his business.]
iW: Oh, okay.
De Los Santos: I mean, in real life, I didn't use cuffs. She wanted to be tied up so I used strips of sheets and duct tape. By the time I finally got her tied up, then the Cook called and said, "Hey! I need a ride." It was like Oh! My God! I I'll be right back. She understood. She agreed.
iW: But you did eventually get back to the room to untie her?
De Los Santos: I did come back. It was not three days. It was three hours. I did forget about her though.
iW: Sadly then, you never masturbated with a sock over your penis?
De Los Santos: I'm not Leguizamo. I firmly use lube.
iW: That's good, but is the John Leguizamo character based on someone real?
De Los Santos: Yeah, every single character in that movie was actually from my experiences, other than the cops. They were an embellishment on Akerlund's part. Leguizamo's character's real name was Bruce. Can I say that? Bruce. There were two different events like when they got busted. It wasn't necessarily that one time thing. It was kind of a couple of different stories shoved together in regard to that one character. But he did get busted.
iW: Were you on the set of the film?
De Los Santos: You know, I was. This is the thing. Why do you ask?
iW: I'm wondering if the cast and crew are your buddies now? Did they keep coming to you for advice?
De Los Santos: Interestingly enough, I always thought making films was a team effort. However, my experience proves otherwise. I'm not really in the movie business. I have the passion to make stories, which the motion picture screens use as a device. But I'm certainly not in the business of movies or I would never have been kept off the set. Or banned. I was not allowed on the set. It was never discussed whether or not I was going to be allowed. Of course, I always assumed I would be allowed. So I went one day and stayed completely in the background...
(His cell phone goes off for the first of three times during our chat. Each time he has a heated discussion with a pal.)
iW: You were in Morocco at one point when you were trying to make the film yourself?
De Los Santos: I was in Morocco, and I was writing dozens of letters every single day to agents. I had a couple of people planted here in LA who would make the local calls for me and gather information and then e-mail me. And I would bombard everyone with e-mails. Sandra Bernhard then came back and said that she was interested in being in the film, but only in the lead instead of playing the role she was typecast for, which was the Deborah Harry role, the lesbian neighbor. She wasn't interested in that. She was interested in playing the lead. I wasn't ready to go with that.
iW: I hear you have a novel coming out, "Straight out of the Sand"?
De Los Santos: That's actually a picture book, a book of a thousand Polaroids.
iW: It's a book of photos?
De Los Santos: No, "Straight Out of the Sand" is a novel, yeah. It's a work of true fiction.
iW: So that's coming out?
De Los Santos: Yes, it is. Probably by the end of the year (yawns), which will coincide also with the release of the book of a thousand Polaroids. You know, [photos] in and around "Spun" scenery but also around the movie scene, and everything from a portrait of doughnuts to portraits of the famous female asses in the world.
iW: I hear you have the word "Sunday" tattooed on your chest.
De Los Santos: Yeah it's a tribute to the character Amy in "Spun" (played by Charlotte Ayanna). I can't believe she hasn't shown up at any screenings. That's what you do for love. You go out and you make a movie about your relationship and what happens? She still hasn't shown up at any screenings, man. I must have hurt her bad, huh?
iW: Yeah. What does "Sunday" signify?
De Los Santos: That's her true name. Oregon hippies named her.
iW: Then you have a hummingbird over your heart?
De Los Santos: Yeah.
iW: Any more tattoos?
De Los Santos: (Chuckles) I was thinking about getting a tattoo of "indieWIRE" somewhere on my forehead.
iW: Oh, I wouldn't do that.
De Los Santos: I was teasing. I thought maybe if I ever had a child maybe their footprint on top of my foot.
iW: That would be great.
De Los Santos: But that's the only thing I'm afraid of in life, really -- other than the dark -- is dying without having a child. I would trade the movies for that other creation greater than the ones I've already done. That would be the creation of a baby. We'll see what will happen.
And also I want to interject that somehow I wish you would mention that I'm not really interested in doing any type of movie like "Spun" ever again. And I also hope that it's the worst movie I ever do.
iW: Ohhhhh, okay.
De Los Santos: I mean no, I hope it is. Not because I wish to be bad. I love the movie. But because I strive to be involved in a project, a shared creation that is absolute perfection. And I think we fall short. And to anybody that never has created something that's absolutely perfect, I would think that could only be apparent. Therefore with movies, I do not wish to be in the movie business or the business of making movies for very long. I really wish to do maybe six or seven movies. Of course, that could take me a lifetime. Probably will. But it shouldn't take me more than 10 years. And then I wish to retire from the motion picture business and enter into a realm of leadership as a public servant.
iW: Possibly politics.
De Los Santos: Absolutely. Well, politics, no. Public servant, yes.
iW: Oh, okay. Now that the film is playing festivals and coming out for a regular release, and you're going around to question-and- answer sessions with audiences, are you attracting groupies? Or do writers not attract groupies?
De Los Santos: Well, I'm not really a writer. I would say as much as a writer, I'm a wizard. But I do write well. To answer your question, kind of. Kind of. Kind of. It hasn't really defined itself as like something that's kind of ... Not that it ever does. But you appear to be a little bit more approachable perhaps when you're there. I would think that one can see me now perhaps as someone to come to for warmth. Or for information. You know?
De Los Santos: Most everyone here [in Los Angeles] is interested in how did you do? Where did you go? How? How did you do that? You know? And those questions I understand are necessary to be asked for people that wish to really make a film as well, but also they just gotta shoot their curiosity. The movie business is beyond understanding even for me. It's baffling how one does anything in the movie biz...By the way, I appreciate your points and relevant questions.
iW: Let's chat again when your book comes out.