What was your inspiration for your films What is It? and It is Fine! EVERYTHING IS FINE! I have heard mention of the films of Alejandro Jodorowsky?
There are four filmmakers that I was very consciously thinking a lot about while I was making What is it? These four were Luis Buñuel, Werner Herzog, Rainer Werner Fassbinder and Stanley Kubrick. That is not to say there are no other filmmakers that I thought about as I am sure there were, but those four very much. I should also mention that David Lynch had agreed years ago to executive produce what will now be part three of the “IT” trilogy entitled IT IS MINE. So he also was very important in this trilogy of films and I am very grateful to him for that. On top of which Eraserhead was an extremely important film to me when I was 16 years old and I still hold that film in the highest regard.
Of all the directors you have worked with who did you learn from when making your own films?
I have enjoyed working with many directors such as David Lynch, Milos Forman, Oliver Stone, and Lasse Hallstrom, Jim Jarmusch. I always watch how directors I admire work and glean what I can from them and I have seen many other directors not listed do interesting things as well. But I certainly have learned things from watching directors that are not as renowned as the above and I have worked with directors who I will not mention by name that I have seen clearly making mistakes. I hope to have learned of things not to do from those directors not mentioned.
You’ve worked with David Lynch twice now, on Wild at Heart and Hotel Room, what was he like as an actor’s director?
David Lynch is the most specific director I have worked with in terms of psychological underpinnings of a character. This to me is the most important thing and so he a therefore a great actors director!
Did you have much input into the character of Cousin Dell?
I did, but that performance is probably the most specifically directed performance by a director I have performed, and because it was directed by such an excellent director it is one of my favourite performances of myself and I get a lot of compliments on it.
You have made a couple of excursions into the horror genre with Willard and Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter and have now returned to the genre with Wizard of Gore, do you enjoy horror films?
As a viewer I do not seek out the horror genre. As a performer sometimes the roles are very enjoyable roles to play. I enjoyed playing both Willard and Montag the Magnificent in the Wizard of Gore.
What was Friday the 13th like to film, especially your death scene?
I knew that in the future there would be some humor in having appeared in that film. I did not know it would have as much of a following as it still does. I remember working with Tom Savini and acting in reverse for the effect of having my face hacked with a cleaver. The cleaver was shaped like my face and pulled out. In the film it is played back in reverse. I have used reverse shots a lot in my own films for various reasons. It can be very helpful.
I loved the video to Ben, was there ever any doubt that you would rerecord the track? Do you know what Michael Jackson thinks of your version?
I do not know if Michael Jackson has heard my version of the song or not. I have not met him. The way my singing the song came about was from discussing it with Glenn Morgan the writer/director of the film. I think he sort of mentioned it in passing, but I still do not know how much he meant it at the time, but I had a record out years before called “The Big Problem ≠ The Solution. The Solution = Let It Be. I thought it was something that could work and I ended up producing the song with one of the producers from that record.
What was it like playing Andy Warhol in Oliver Stone’s The Doors?
I met and spoke with Andy Warhol at the wedding of Madonna and Sean Penn. It was right after Back to the Future had come out which he had apparently seen. I did not speak with him for so long but definitely enough to get an idea about him. He was quite nice to me. I stood back and looked at him and watched how he held himself and thought he would be an interesting person to play. I pursued the role when I heard there was an Andy Warhol role in the Doors movie. I had met Oliver Stone previously for Platoon which I was not in, but we had a good meeting and I auditioned for the role and got it. I liked working with him and it was a role which I asked for less lines than were in the script and he was OK with that. I am glad to have played that role.
You are renowned for playing eclectic characters; Layne in Rivers Edge, George McFly in Back to the Future, The Thin Man in Charlie's Angels, what attracts you to these different characters?
I have always enjoyed playing more unusual characters. Now more than me pursuing them they often are roles that are offered to me.