EDITORS NOTE: This interview was originally published as part of indieWIRE’s coverage of the 2009 Sundance Film Festival. The film begins its theatrical run this week.
Director Bobcat Goldthwait’s dark comedy “World’s Greatest Dad,” stars Robin Williams as Lance Clayton, a high school poetry teacher and single father who dreams of becoming a rich and famous writer. After a freak accident, Lance suddenly faces both the worst tragedy of his life, and the greatest opportunity. The film premiered earlier this year at the Sundance Film Festival, where indieWIRE interviewed Goldthwait about the film – which is opening this Friday in theaters care of Magnolia Pictures.
Please Introduce yourself…
I’m Bobcat Goldthwait. I’m a former bag boy from Syracuse, New York (go Price Chopper!). I wrote and directed “Shakes The Clown”, “Sleeping Dogs Lie”, and “World’s Greatest Dad.” I worked as a director for TV shows like Chappelle’s Show, the Man Show, and Jimmy Kimmel Live. I had 3 HBO comedy specials, and as an actor I appeared in a bunch of embarrassing movies in the 80’s. I was also in a band called The Dead Ducks, but they kicked me out just before sophomore year of high school. I greatly prefer directing the movies I write to all of these other things.
How did you learn the “craft” of filmmaking?
I didn’t go to film school, but I did learn some things about making movies when I was acting in them (like those lights get pretty hot). I’m still learning with everything I make. If I get to keep making movies and learning from them as I go I’ll consider myself really lucky.
How or what prompted the idea for your film and how did it evolve?
I always come up with the end of a movie first. I don’t know why that’s easier for me, but that’s the way it is. And I think “World’s Greatest Dad” is like my last movie (“Sleeping Dogs Lie”), in that I sort of thought of something terrible, and then tried to make the characters likeable in spite of the things occurring. It’s what I did a lot as a comic – sort of dug myself into a hole on purpose then tried to get myself out.
Please elaborate a bit on your approach to making the film…
Well, when I was working with Richard Donner, he asked me if I wanted to know the secret of directing. He was a great guy to work with, and makes good movies, so of course I said yes and followed him into his trailer to hear what he had to say. He tossed me a pillow and said “take a lot of naps.” So I try to nap when I can. The man’s got a hell of a resume – ignoring his advice would just be foolish.
What were some of the biggest challenges you faced in developing the project?
This movie was dead in the water at least twice before we actually got started, but I consider it for the best – making it with Process and Darko was a great experience. Both companies were nothing but supportive – they stood behind me financially, but even more importantly, artistically.
What are some of your favorite films?
I watch a lot of movies. Mostly on Lifetime and Sci Fi. Have you seen “Chasing the Dragon” starring Markie Post, or Ian Ziering in “Aztec Rex”?! That shit is amazing. I fill the hours between made for TV premieres with things like Woody Allen, Hal Ashby, Wes Anderson…the same things everybody else watches, I guess. But I do watch pretty much anything and everything. Especially if it’s got Bigfoot in it.
How do you define success as a filmmaker, and what are your personal goals as a filmmaker?
I think just getting to make the movie you want IS the success. When I’m making something I really don’t think I’m ever going to get to see it in a theatre. Just watching it with an audience is the greatest thing in the world to me. I think that’s why I’m so excited about Sundance – I know a lot of people who see it as a stepping stone, or the launch of a career, but it is the final destination for me. Being in a huge theatre that’s full of people who love movies and hearing them laugh at something you made – it’s the greatest thing in the world. As long as it was supposed to be funny, I guess. If they laugh at the wrong parts that wouldn’t be quite as exciting. And I guess my goal is just to keep making movies, and not have to get a day job.
What are your future projects?
A musical, a murderer-y drama, a true life political biopic, and a horror movie. I’ve got some of them written, and as soon as I’m lucky enough to find some people who want to give me some money, I’ll get started on whatever I can next. If I could make something totally different every year I would be thrilled.