It’s not the most well-traveled piece of “what could have been” pop culture lore, but in the mid 1990s, soon after their collective success with the now iconic and indelible “Sabotage” video, filmmaker Spike Jonze and the seminal hip-hop trio Beastie Boys, headed to Los Angeles to write a movie. The film of course, never came to pass. The director and musicians remained friends and continued to work together, but their collaborations became fewer as Jonze moved away from music videos into feature-length filmmaking and Beastie Boys albums became an infrequent event, where several years could pass between them. (Beasties co-founder Adam Yauch passed away last year from cancer effectively ending the group.)
Not many details were ever revealed about the project, but in a recent interview with Spike Jonze, promoting his new sci-fi-ish romance picture “Her,” the filmmaker told us the movie was called “We Can Do It” and shared some character details and perhaps not the story itself, but some tastes of its overall wacky tone and feel. We ran our in-depth Jonze interview yesterday (which you can read here) and decided to excerpt our Beasties conversation, as follows, below. “Her” opens in limited release today, December 19th and opens nationwide on January 10th.
I’ve gotta ask because I’ve been thinking about Adam Yauch who passed away last year. That Beastie Boys movie talked about several years ago, was that real? Did you guys write a screenplay?
Yeah, at one point, a long time ago. After we did [the Beastie Boys video for] “Sabotage,” after that record. The four of us wrote a script together, it was really fun.
What would that have been like?
It would have been ridiculous for one. But they all played four or five or six different characters in it.
Did it have a title?
Yes, it was called “We Can Do This” because it had … it was so surreal and out there and [Yauch’s filmmaker alter-ego] Nathanial Hornblower was a character as the director. One of the characters from “Sabotage,” Sir Stuart Wallace, was a character. Both played by Yauch and it just would’ve been ridiculous and fun.
It seems like it was born out of the spirit of the absurdness of that video and the things you were making together in that era.
Yeah, it wasn’t … there were no 1970s cops in it, but it was definitely in the same spirit.
Was it actually about something?
Yeah. It was about Hornblower. Mike [D.] played a Country star [Country Mike]—those [country] songs [he eventually released] we wrote for the movie actually. Adam Horowitz played this kid, Nino Vincenzi, who lived on Roosevelt Island with his Dad who was a mechanic and was a little bit a John Travolta [in] “Saturday Night Fever” type of kid. [His character] had all these dreams and aspirations, but he was awkward and couldn’t dance. So he didn’t even have that going for him. But yeah, I forget all the different characters but … it would have been funny to see them on screen.
You guys both matured at the same time, started out absurd and playful, and then the work got a bit more emotional and mature in beautiful ways. But during the “Sabotage” period it was like you guys were made for each other.
They’ve been a big influence on me my whole life. Getting to work with them was a big influence on me. Horowitz is starting to act again. He did a movie this year [ed. Noah Baumbach’s “While We’re Young”] and that guy is good on screen. So charismatic.
Right, he acted in the late ‘80s/early ‘90s a little bit.
I think if anybody’s smart they should cast him. I will cast him for sure. It’s like with [“Her” star] Scarlett Johansson when you have it you have it. Adam is cool in the deepest way.
Yep, he had that punk spark. Even a frontman quality that he never really used in the Beastie Boys.
No one was the leader. He could have been, but it wasn’t that kind of band.