Never Finding Neverland

When I was a kid, I was a big fan of J.M. Barrie’s novel version of Peter Pan. Not the musical show nor the Disney movie. The novel, it seemed to me, was pretty dark and not whimsical, and it didn’t sugar-coat childhood. Was it a good thing to remain a child forever? It certainly didn’t seem this way. While other fantasy novels, like the Narnia books, sent the kids back from their adventures at the precise moment they left (sparing their parents the anguish of their disappearance), the Darling children of Peter Pan are more than happy to abandon their parents, as Peter believes his mother abandoned and forgot him, because children are “innocent and heartless,” the three words that end the book.

What would power and magic really be like in a child’s hands? What would happen if a child could indeed refuse to grow up? He would turn into a cold-blooded killer, perhaps, who cares for no one and nothing but himself.

“Who is Captain Hook?” he asked with interest [when Wendy returned to Neverland the following year.]

            “Don’t you remember,” [Wendy] asked, amazed, “how you killed him …?”

            “I forget them after I kill them,” he replied carelessly.

 

Does he remember an old friend like Tinkerbell, someone who drank poison to save his life?

 

            “Who is Tinkerbell?”

            … [E]ven when she explained, he could not remember.

            “There are such a lot of them,” he said. “I expect she is no more.”

            I expect he was right [explained the author], for fairies don’t live long[.]

 

Peter Pan bears more resemblance to the Billy Mummy episode of the Twilight Zone than to the candy-colored Pan imagined by Walt Disney.

This book I have loved so much for so many years, from childhood through my mid-life, is so downright strange that I probably avoided learning anything about its author, fearing that he would turn out to be equally strange. When Finding Neverland, the movie biography, came out, I stayed away. My wife finally convinced me that I would be reassured if I watched it.

And so I did, and I was. Indeed, James Barrie was a fine fellow, I discovered.

When he met a tragic young widow, Sylvia Llewelyn-Davies, and her four sons (George, Jack, Peter and Michael) in the park, he became her generous and utterly platonic friend and their role model. This was especially the case for young Peter, a particularly traumatized boy and a budding author, who bloomed under Barrie’s tutelage. When Sylvia, in turn, grew sick and died, Barrie promised Sylvia that he would care for her children, and he consoled them through this second bout of tragedy. Indeed, his play was something of a tribute to his time with the boys. When he named the main character after Peter, the lad declared it “the best gift” anyone could ever have given him.

The play, which my wife and I saw this past week, was the same, only more so, and less so. Boy band power pop ballads and whatnot. The platonic friendship with Sylvia is only slightly less platonic; a crowd-pleasing kiss is added, and the audience cheers.

After we returned from the play, my wife wondered what had become of the boys. I assumed that Peter had become a writer. I assumed they had all turned out all right.

Reality, unfortunately, was less rosy that I’d expected.

Barrie did not meet Sylvia after the death of her husband, Arthur. He met her during her husband’s illness. He began hanging inappropriately about the home, much to the dying husband’s anger, who resented a strange man insinuating himself into the household, replacing Arthur before the body was even cold. (Barrie did not actually meet Sylva at the same time as he met the boys – he began playing with the boys in the park a few months before any other adult entered the picture, a behavior that modern audiences would have found odd.) A few months after her husband’s death (or perhaps near the end of the illness), Sylvia gave birth to a child, Nico, who is conveniently absent from both the film and Broadway show. As an adult. Nico insisted that Barrie was asexual, and therefore not his father. “I don’t believe that Uncle Jim ever experienced what one might call ‘a stirring in the undergrowth’ for anyone,” he insisted. (I guess one MIGHT call it that, but I’d prefer one not.) On this, Barrie’s wife agrees: “Love in its fullest sense could never be felt by him or experienced.”

Surely he must have had a wonderful way with the boys! Otherwise, why would Sylvia have granted him custody? Sylvia did not grant Barrie custody, as shown in the film and the play. In fact, he forged her will. Said Peter: “The whole business, as I look back on it, was almost unbelievably queer and pathetic and ludicrous and even macabre in a kind of way.”

Did Barrie remain loyal to the boys, as he promised Sylvia in the play? Although a foster father to them after Sylvia’s death, he devastated and betrayed Peter when he left his entire estate to his secretary.

And how did Peter feel about his foster father’s famous creation, that great gift? Said Peter’s son: “[T]he notoriety he had experienced since being linked with Peter Pan [was] something he hated.”

But surely their time as boys with Barrie was like a wonderful dream? According to a childhood friend of Michael’s, Michael’s relationship with Barrie at that time was “morbid” and “unhealthy,” the stuff of naked photographs and unfulfilled yearnings. As Barrie wrote to Michael on his 8th birthday: “Dear Michael, I am very fond of you, but don’t tell anybody.”

But Barrie’s tutelage helped the boys grow up into happy adults, certainly? George was killed in action in 1915 in the Great War, Michael committed suicide by drowning in 1921 (a double suicide with another boy, possibly a lover), Peter, teased throughout childhood over his connection with Peter Pan, became an alcoholic adult and threw himself under a train.

Barrie was something of a predator, it seems, although perhaps not a sexual one (naked photographs notwithstanding). He does seem to have pilfered the lives of the Llewelyn-Davies family, enriching himself, and leaving them nothing.

* * *

So there are a couple of things to think about here.

First, why take an awful story, about a creepy childish guy who torments a dying man and ruins a family’s life, and turn it into a heartwarming musical about a wonderful, impish and childlike saint who teaches a family wonderful lessons about life and love? One can argue that it’s a better story (although I would dispute that), but even if that were true, so what? Both the movie and Broadway musical are sick and terrible and wretched lies, through and through, alternative reality speculative fiction of the worst sort.

Giving J.M. Barrie’s life a hagiographic Disneyfied Broadway musical is particularly inappropriate, because the story of Peter Pan, the “demon boy” as Barrie described him, is a story of the darkness and heartlessness of childhood, not the burst of candy and sunshine the world would insist that it is. And neither was Barrie.

Does the sordid life of a beloved public figure undercut the art that the beloved public figure created? Many (and many more) of our authors were not particularly lovely people, or even bearable. In the past, authors were names on the covers of books, and no one cared. It’s only in today’s world, where authors are expected to tweet daily and to friend their fans, that we expect them to be nice folks, and our pals, in addition to great talents.

If that’s the standard for lasting art, we will either find ourselves depriving ourselves of books we ought to read, or lying to ourselves. In the case of J.M. Barrie, it’s the latter, seven days a week, and twice on Wednesday.

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How I Spent My 50th Birthday

A few weeks ago, I turned 50, and before I turned 50 I wrote an allegedly hilarious description of all the things I had planned for the day. So what did I really do? I guess I owe everyone a full description.

I planned to drive up to Bear Mountain very early and hike to the top. Although it sounds like a cute place to hike, it’s actually pretty grueling. But there was terrible monsoon-type weather, a really ferocious storm. My religious friends tell me that a 50-year-old man with really only one actual leg should not really go on that kind of hike by himself. (My left leg was massively reconstructed some time ago and now is mostly metal and screws.) So G-d, with this terrible monsoon, was stepping in to protect me. That seems pretty unreasonable to me. Even if true, I think He should have more important things on his mind. Why should He have made everyone’s life miserable to keep a 50-year-old man from falling on his ass? Why would G-d protect me, rather than John Lennon, whose unrecorded recordings over the last 35 years would undoubtedly have brought the world far more joy than the final book of the Watt O’Hugh trilogy? Anyway, I don’t buy it.

But what was I to do? I’d taken the day off, and told my family that I intended to spend it on the top of a mountain. Now I had the whole day to myself.

Oddly enough, although I didn’t plan to do this, I wound up watching an old Cavett episode on the web. When I was a kid, old people loved Dick Cavett. He was like a really attentive nephew. On the episode I saw, he politely listened to Groucho Marx and Truman Capote debate books.

Capote: I think [comic writing] is the hardest form of writing there is. … A writer like Evelyn Waugh, you know, is a great comic writer.
Groucho: Who’s that?
Capote: Evelyn Waugh? English novelist?
Groucho: Yes. Yes. Ring Lardner wasn’t bad either.
Capote: But I don’t consider him a comic … I don’t consider Ring Lardner a comic writer. I mean …
Groucho: He’s a dramatic writer, actually …
Capote: Yes, see? [Capote smiles extremely smugly. Audience laughs.]
Groucho: And, but he wrote, and all those books that he wrote, they were – Golden Wedding and all those? Eventually there was another one.
Cavett: Yeah.
Groucho: And Lardner, well of course, I was always crazy about Lardner.
Cavett: I find that people who like those writers of that period often – they always say Lardner was – they often say Lardner was the best, for some reason. I don’t know why.
Groucho: Well, I think he was close to it, in that era.

Wow, that was boring! I am not making that up. An actual conversation on the Dick Cavett show from 1971.

So I got up and went to the Guggenheim. The entire museum was filled with postcards that a conceptual artist had filled out. See the photos: floor after floor of postcards. I’m not making this up. Every day he wrote down what time he got up in the morning and mailed it out to some poor guy, some acquaintance who was doomed to receive a stupid postcard every day. One might say, “I got up at 10:30.” Another might say, “I got up at 11:45.” (He always managed to get a good sleep well into the morning, which pissed me off. Sleeps late, writes a postcard, gets a show at the Guggenheim.) This was part of a work called (appropriately) “I GOT UP.”

According to the Guggenheim, “Through radically restricted means, [his] work engages the personal and historical consciousness of place and time … Like his other serial works, I Got Up combines a rote, impersonal system with the communication of personal information. The mass production of postcards and mechanical stamps contrasts with the handmade nature of the work—the physical gesture of stamping—and the intimate moment it records. The series also contrasts a regular, repeated act with the act of doing something each day at changing times.”

Hmm. The communication of personal information. The time you get up is “information,” and sending it to someone is “communication.” The act of doing something at changing times. Like one morning getting up at 11 and the next morning getting up at, I dunno, some other time. The consciousness of place and time. Like if you get up at 11 in the morning, that’s a time, and if you write it down, that’s the consciousness of time. Because if you weren’t conscious of it, you couldn’t write it down now, could you?

I guess I get it.

But can the guy paint a picture of a flower? I mean, I can write a postcard!

Look, I don’t begrudge the guy making money off this. More power to him. Really. Because maybe he was a really nice guy.

I had budgeted three hours for the Guggenheim, but it really took me only about 15 minutes. I stood in front of a display of postcards and nodded. I read a few. I looked around to see what everyone else was making of this.

The day ended with a meal of shakshouka with the wife over on 10th avenue. That brought back memories. All’s well that ends well.

Steven Drachman's photo.
Steven Drachman's photo.

All Profits from “Watt O’Hugh” to American Heart Association till May 28, 2015!

I am running in the New York “Run and Heart Walk,” and have decided to donate all profits from either of my Watt O’Hugh novels between now and May 28, 2015 (when the run takes place) to the American Heart Association. This is to avoid sending everyone emails saying, “Hey would you sponsor me?” Because, really, if you want to give money for people with heart problems or heart research or whatever, just go ahead? Why should you be inclined to give more money if you hear that I’ve managed to waddle around for three miles? On the other hand, if you were thinking of giving money to a heart disease charity and you are interested in weird western sci-fi, well this is a two-fer, a win-win.

So why am I participating in this event? Because when I am not writing science fiction westerns, I work at an office, and a director at the firm told me I was “encouraged” to participate. I don’t want anyone to have a heart attack, but this isn’t my number 1 charity. I mean, it’s a good charity and everything.

If you send my publisher the receipt for your purchase of the book (email publicity@chickadeeprince.com), I will donate the profits in your name and will give you a receipt to use on your taxes.

You can buy the book here. Thanks!

Green Acres is the Place to Be

RIP Richard L. Bare, who directed almost every episode of Green Acres, and also the “To Serve Man” episode of The Twilight Zone. According to the New York Times, “Mr. Bare began directing Green Acres, which starred Eddie Albert and Eva Gabor as a sophisticated Manhattan couple who move to a farm, in 1965. He said in 2003 that he took over for Ralph Levy, who was credited as director of the first two episodes, because Mr. Levy was using ‘strange camera angles’ and trying to coax ‘magnificent performances’ from Mr. Albert and Ms. Gabor instead of completing the show. ‘Making Green Acres art!’ he scoffed. ‘Can you imagine ‘Green Acres’ being art?'”

Actually, I can, and I think that Mr. Bare protests too much, and I think he knows it. It might have been a hopeless cause for the mastermind behind a ridiculous 1960s sitcom to try to make his own case for himself, but this was a great show, and it finally found itself praised (back in the late 1970s I think) in the pages of the Washington Post on the occasion of the American Film Institute’s Green Acres tribute! You know: The American Film Institute showed episodes of Green Acres in its screening room!

Watt O’Hugh quotes Green Acres’ conman extraordinaire Mr. Haney in Book 2. You’ll never find it, but just so you know, it’s there. I put a Green Acres homage into my novel, and I’m not ashamed to admit it.

Finally, one more personal note about Green Acres. One of my ancestors was a man named David Betts or Petts who fled the Honiton lacemaking district of England (probably as a fugitive) to remake himself in America, where he took the name Frederick Slocum, a fancy-shmancy name that gained him entry into fine society. Everyone who has inherited these faux Slocum genes (including my maternal grandmother, me, and my younger daughter) looks like Mr. Haney for a couple of years in childhood, before growing out of it; the resemblance is so bizarrely striking that Pat Buttram (the actor who played Mr. Haney, and the funniest man on television back in the 1960s) must have been a long-lost relative

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The Memoirs of Watt O'Hugh the Third's photo.
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A few guest blogs for you to peruse

May 23, 2014 –

For my publication week, I wrote a few guest blogs on some great websites. I talked about the “Big Idea” of my book on John Scalzi’s Whatever website, I explained why I have to believe in dragons on Suvudu (which my daughter kindly illustrated), and I imagined an interview from 1936 with Watt O’Hugh for the New York Herald-Tribune on the No More Grumpy Bookseller site. I hope you enjoy them.

A Birthday Question/The Meaning of Life

April 20, 2014.

I woke up this morning and I was 49 years old, entering my 50th year. So this person who lives in my home with me (who I’m not allowed to mention on Facebook) said “Are you freaked out about this?” So I wasn’t really till she mentioned it. I like the 49 part ok but not the 50 part, but I’m still younger than Jackie Chan and always will be, and he’s the spirit of youth, so I will be ever-young, thanks to Jackie Chan. But yet, I feel so wise.

Here’s something that is perplexing me, and it didn’t really start to bother me till last night at about 10 minutes before midnight, and I’m wondering if any of you are smart enough to figure this out. It involves statistics.

In 1830, in the South Bavarian Hamlet of Emmendingen, my great great grandfather Ephraim Weil, who was a moderately successful 20-year-old cattle trader, was trying to decide whether to marry Bessie Sonneborn or Barucha Heilbron. (Ephraim later had a synagogue named after him – Congregation Zichron Ephraim, which still exists in Manhattan.) He let his horse decide, and his horse chose Barucha. Had his horse chosen Bessie, I would not have been born. OK, 50-50 odds there, pretty good. Anyway, his son Jonas came to America and became a butcher, then a fantastically wealthy real estate developer, but he squandered – er, nobly gave away – all his money for good works. His son-in-law, a rabbi named Bernard Drachman (who was once accused by Arthur Conan Doyle of being a wizard), traveled back to Germany in 1882, where he fell madly in love with a woman named Jeanette Shemayah, “a true Oriental beauty of the finest type,” with “skin of alabaster whiteness” and a “softly melodious [voice] like the gentle rippling of a fountain.” But he was too timid to propose marriage and to bring her back to America. She was last heard from in 1941, when she was deported to Poland. Had he proposed, I would not have been born. 50-50 again. But beautiful Jeanette’s life would have been spared.

Meanwhile, my goyishe great-great-great-great-great (maybe a few more) grandfather was born David Betts or Petts between 1780 and 1790 in the lace-making hamlet of Honiton in Devonshire, from whence he fled to the New World, a wanted fugitive, and finally remade himself before the War of 1812 as William Frederick Slocum, the captain of a merchant vessel, where he met and married Rachel James. Had he not been accused of committing whatever crime he was accused of committing, I would never have been born. Many years later, my mother fell in love with a nice young man, who went off to war and was shot dead. Had he not been killed, I would never have been born. But other children would have been, the children of the brave soldier. Finally, even when she met and fell in love with a Jew from Brooklyn and collapsed with him in a drunken, passionate stupor in the dumpster behind McSweeney’s that crazy night in 1964 (ok, I made up the part about the dumpster), and even assuming that a child would result from the interlude, the odds were at least 100 million to 1 that the child would turn out to be me. (Because – I looked this up – each ejaculation contains between 100 million and 400 million sperm. Sorry to be graphic.)

So considering all this, the odds against any one of us being born has to be trillions and trillions to one. Really impossible odds. Like winning the lottery once a week for your whole life. Has anyone tried to crack the numbers? My point here (and I do have one) is that I’m just not that lucky. I’m kind of lucky. But mostly unlucky. So isn’t it just possible that there’s something more to this whole existence thing? Anyway: I HOPE SO.

Happy birthday today to me, Harold Lloyd, and Hitler.

RIP MICKEY ROONEY

Screen shot 2014-04-07 at 9.58.18 PMSeptember 7, 2014.

I wish that Mickey Rooney had lived long enough to have a role in the Watt O’Hugh movie. But then he’d have to live forever. And I wish he could have lived forever.

When my kids were little, he was one of their favorite actors, mostly from “Bill”, but also the Black Stallion, and they thought he was funny in Andy Hardy and Pete’s Dragon. They found it very hard to believe that all these guys were the same person. When he showed up briefly in The Muppets, they shouted, “Bill!” About a year and half ago, I was watching an Andy Hardy movie with them, and there was a scene with Mickey Rooney, Esther Williams and Ann Rutherford (as long-suffering and long-tormenting girlfriend, Polly). They all radiated youthful energy (and Esther radiated something else too). I googled Esther Williams and Ann Rutherford, and I was really overjoyed to realize that, along with Mickey, they were all still alive. Now, such a short time later, they are all gone. Really, probably the last three of the 1930s stars. Who’s left? Anyway, I loved Mickey Rooney, I watched his 1980s sitcom every week (in which he co-starred with Dana Carvey, Nathan Lane, Scatman Crothers and Meg Ryan!!!) and I forgive him for Breakfast at Tiffany’s. He won an Emmy for The Comedian, an absolutely brutal live TV play written by either Rod Serling or Paddy Chayefsky way back in the 1950s, in which he played a horrifyingly sadistic TV show host, a monster in real life, a lovable imp on his show, a brave and incredible shredding of his image.

When I interviewed Marianne Sagebrecht, the zaftig German actress, in the early 1990s for a great film called Martha and I, she told me that her next role was in a film called The Milky Way, with Mickey Rooney as an old man whose last wish is to be a baby again. So he hires a wet nurse. She retrieved photos from somewhere, of topless Marianne suckling a diaper-clad Mickey. What other famous octogenarian actor would do such a thing? No one, that’s who.

He was not only a cornball, but also a great actor. And, apparently, a cowboy. RIP. Every day that Mickey Rooney is not in this world is a less happy day.

(Picture courtesy Westernpunk – The Weird, Wicked and Wild West.)

 

 

 

ON THE STRANGE DEATHS OF CORY MONTEITH, MISS KITTY, AND LORD BOWLER

September 18, 2013.

Cory Monteith has died, which means, ipso facto (as the Harvard boys say) that the character he plays, “Finn,” is also dead. For a while, it seemed that because Cory Monteith had died of a drug overdose, the same type of death would be Finn’s fate, although Finn was not a drug addict, and Monteith was. It was to be a teachable moment.

The plan has changed and Finn will not die of drugs, but he will still die. Why does the death of a TV actor necessarily means the death of his character? Could Finn not receive a terrific offer over the summer to sing and dance on a variety show in the Czech republic?

The death of a beloved TV actor who plays an unlikable TV character is even more awkward. While Phil Hartman, of Newsradio, was indeed beloved by the cast, his character was not equally beloved by his office co-workers – hence, you see, comedy ensued. Yet when the actor died, the character was eulogized with tears. It may be heartless to say, but when a disliked office colleague dies, a representative might be chosen to attend the funeral (or not), but life goes on without tears.

When Freddie Prinze died, his Chico and the Man character was away for a while (“I can’t wait till Chico gets back,” was uttered at least once), and then after a while we learned that his character had died, but not how. We lost Freddie Prinze; I am not sure why I could not have been allowed to believe that Chico, the character, was still alive somewhere, which would have been more in keeping with the show’s message of hope and redemption. Even today, more than 35 years later, I think that would still make me feel better. Why did Chico have to die too?

I wonder whether the death of an actor from a cancelled TV show means that the character, off in his fictitious universe, has also died. When Amanda Blake died of AIDS, years after Gunsmoke went off the air, did Miss Kitty die of syphilis? Is Lord Bowler still riding with Brisco, in spite of the death of the great Julius Carry, some years after the show went off the air? Happily, Horace Rumpole is still solving mysteries with his typical gusto in a series of novels, blithely unaware of Leo McKern’s infirmity and death.

These are things I think about ….

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Is indie publishing awful? Or really, really great?

Salon continues its ongoing debate on the future of publishing with its latest article, entitled Self Publishing is the Worst, which you can read here. This follows a piece arguing that, well, Indie publishing is really horrible, which followed a piece arguing that Indie published books literally SELL THEMSELVES!

The author of the most recent piece suffers because he expects an indie publishing experience to be the same as a traditional publishing experience (except without the pesky rejection slips), when, of course, it’s not. Any book published by Random House (for example) has a certain floor of library sales and media publicity, while an indie published writer has to struggle for everything. While his complaints ring a LITTLE hollow (his sales rank on Amazon is actually pretty good), he has correctly discovered that competing against the million other indie books that are published each year can indeed be not-exactly-always-easy.

Anyway, it’s worth reading for anyone who may be lulled into thinking that the indie publishing model is a guarantee of riches and fame.

A FIRST INTERVIEW with LEONARDO DICAPRIO

APRIL 28, 2013.

Almost exactly twenty years ago, I wrote a feature story about the film version of This Boy’s Life, by Tobias Wolfe. One of the great coming-of-age stories, This Boy’s Life details Wolfe’s not entirely noble childhood, his close relationship with his resourceful mother, and how he survives when she makes the mistake of moving to the small industrial town of Concrete, WA, to marry a buffoon named Dwight.

The film was being made with Wolfe’s participation and filmed in part in Concrete itself, on the very streets described in the book, which I thought was an intriguing collision of art and life. The film starred Robert De Niro as Dwight, and Ellen Barkin as Wolfe’s mother, and a teenage kid in the film with whom I was completely unfamiliar – the titular “Boy” – a seventeen-year-old weightily named “Leonardo DiCaprio”. He had previously played a secondary part on a canceled ABC sitcom that I didn’t watch. But Barkin told me, “It really is Leonardo’s film; the truth is, Bob and I have support roles … Leonardo holds the film together beautifully,” and the director, Michael Caton-Jones, confidently insisted that DiCaprio was the real deal, a genuine find and fated to be a star.

De Niro, interrupting all-nighters editing A Bronx Tale to speak with me, was tired and grumpy (and who could blame him?); Barkin was cheerful and friendly; and the unknown DiCaprio, in what seems to have been his first interview, was inarticulate, wet-behind-the-ears and frequently apologetic. I liked him.

When Sunday came, I was startled to discover that De Niro, Barkin and DiCaprio had been cut from the article without my knowledge.

Since then, of course, DiCaprio has had an illustrious career, which has included (among other things) his role in Sam Raimi’s “weird western”, The Quick and the Dead.

With his latest film, The Great Gatsby, hitting 3D theaters on May 10, and with DiCaprio recently having announced a retirement from film acting that may prove temporary, I think it’s a good time to dust off that two-decades-old interview for a fresh look at the way he approached his first film and the career that beckoned.

Below is a version of our conversation from 1993, published here for the first time. It’s been edited significantly, and some of the questions have been rearranged.

 

SSD: When did you start acting?

LDC: Three and a half years ago. … I always wanted to, but I got turned off to it when I was ten, because I went to an agency and they said I had the wrong haircut. Had us all in line like cattle, and said, “No, you’re out, you have the wrong haircut,” and I said, well, shit, is this what it’s all about? This sucks.

 

SSD: How old are you?

LDC: Me? I’m eighteen. Almost – no, just turning 18, just in like 10 days.

 

SSD: What have you done before?

LDC: I did Growing Pains, the series. For a year. Right now, I’m up here doing a movie called Gilbert Grape.

 

SSD: How did you get involved in This Boy’s Life?

LDC: Ahh. I auditioned. [laughs] Well, I auditioned like many times, like five or six times I believe it was, and I remember coming in for a reading for another part just to read with another kid for another part…  Then that day I got the part. I wasn’t aware that like they were looking at me. So I guess it was sort of good.

 

SSD: Did you meet Tobias Wolfe?

LDC: He came [to the set] with his mother and I talked with him for a while. He looked at [my] hair and said, “Wow, that’s exactly like it was when I was a kid. That’s great, cool.” … It was interesting seeing his reaction to how I was, if I looked anything like him, if the period pieces around the neighborhood were right, if I was, you know, if I was going to be worthy. [laughs]

 

SSD: The way Robert De Niro prepared for the role is that he flew down and met with Tobias Wolfe’s mother and found all these little details about what the real Dwight would have done. Did you have any inclination to do that with the real Tobias Wolfe?

LDC: I mean, he’s a grown man now. If I met with him as a kid that would be completely different ….

 

SSD: Some of Tobias Wolfe’s step-brothers and step-sisters still live in Concrete, and were extras in the film. Did you talk to them at all?

LDC: I talked to them for five minutes.  Saw some pictures they had of what Tobias Wolfe looked like. And he did look similar to me. Not when he was grown up. But, you know, as a young kid, I saw a lot of goofiness that I have. A lot of, you know, just kid, just kid kid kid kid-ness.

 

SSD: You’re not a kid! You’re almost a legal adult.

LDC: Well, I’m not [a kid] by age. But I still [laughs] – I’m still a kid …. You’re an adult sometimes, but you love to be a kid sometimes. The way it is now, I like being a kid, still.

 

SSD: What was it like acting with De Niro? Did any of the hostility between the characters carry over to your relationship when the camera was off?

LDC: It’s amazing to watch him be Robert De Niro for a second and then pop right into Dwight. I want to use a fancy word here, but I can’t.  … Doing a scene with him, he always made sure that I wasn’t being too affected by it in real life, he was always are you ok, are you ok after some of the scenes were done, but when we got into it, we got into it, and you know, I didn’t have any fear in me while off the set, but when we did it, he scared me, and it comes off good in the movie.

 

SSD: Is the movie different from your expectations at all?

LDC: [S]eeing the movie was just fantastic, watching all this work and time that everyone spent and that I spent doing it on screen and little things that you’re worried about, things where like Oh shit, I don’t think I nailed it in that scene, and then watching it onscreen and seeing that it’s all ok. All these nervous little things you have about certain scenes or certain ways you did things, that it’s all ok onscreen. It may not always be like that, but in this movie it was, because I was just blown away by how great it was.

 

SSD: What was it like filming in the real Concrete? What was the mood of the town?

LDC: It was sort of eerie noticing that, you know, this is where he was so depressed and going crazy in this little town, and then you look at the town and you say, you know, I could see how he would have been feeling that way.

 

SSD: You know you’re going to be doing a lot more interviews, before the movie comes out, right?

LDC: Yeah. I suppose so.

 

SSD: Are you looking forward to that?

LDC: I’ll take ‘em how it comes; I’m not gonna plan on it or plan my approach or anything, but you know, it’ll turn out ok, because I’ll just tell the truth.

 

SSD: It must be very exciting. Good luck with it.

LDC: Thanks a lot, man. Sorry, I’m sort of out of it today.

 

SSD: That’s all right. I know you put in long grueling hours on a movie set.

LDC: Yeah, I do. Almost every day. But pain is temporary, film is forever, as [director] Michael [Caton-Jones] always says, which are words to live by.

 

SSD: Good luck becoming a big star.

LDC: Who knows? It could or could not happen. It’s one of those things. But hopefully I’ll be an actor, which is what I’m most concerned about. Not a star.