The one and only speaks frankly to Sweeten Your Words.
Q: Which politicians did you look at in order to construct the characters in this movie?
I didn’t really look at any politicians specifically. A lot of the speeches written were based on some of the things that my father used to write and talk about twenty, thirty years ago that still seem pretty relevant. I found those to be interesting.
Q: You were compared recently to Paul Newman in terms of status, fame, career choices, humanitarian work and social stances on issues. Why is it important to you not to be ‘just another movie star’?
Well, any comparison to Paul Newman is a very nice thing to say, but it’s way, wildly off-base. He did it all. He was really, truly that movie star who did it all. For me, I feel like there’s a lot of things to do in life. I want to write and direct and as I get older I want less and less to see myself on screen. I find it much more creative to do the behind the camera stuff. And then in terms of doing things for others, I find that I’ve had a lot of luck in my life and I think luck is only good if you spread it around. You want to try and look out for other people along the way. Success requires an element of luck and I feel that should be shared whenever you can.
Q: Why did you cast Ryan Gosling for the role? And at age 50, were you a little intimidated by his youth?
(laughs). I’m going to take my time on this. (pauses) Yes, he’s very handsome and he’s very young. I am, fifty. Thanks for that. There’s a generation of really interesting young actors out there and I think Ryan’s among the finest of that generation. It’s fun to work with young actors, actually, because they have such a different take on things, you know? They have a completely different outlook than I do. I think I’m hip until I someone says, “Stop listening to that music. You’re an idiot.” But it’s fun to work with people who have new and interesting ideas. And it’s also fun to watch them work with old pros. Ryan’s a really, really smart actor, but so is Jeffrey Wright and Marisa Tomei and Paul Giamatti and Philip Hoffman. So it’s really fun to watch that whole process. It’s fun to mash them together. But yes, I am a little intimidated by his youth.
Q: Your next movie, The Descendants, at the crux of the film is about forgiveness. Are there certain things in life that are so awful that they can’t be forgiven?
I think we all go through those experiences of understanding that the older you get, the more forgiving that you are of other people’s mistakes. When you are young, you find that anything that stands against something that you believe in, is just plain wrong. I remember there were relatives of mine who would say something, and I would be like, ‘Well, he’s a bigot.’ And then I would come to find out later, that I was way too judgmental of those sorts of things. I was making the issue much bigger than it was. And I think as we all get older, we get a little bit more forgiving of everything.
Q: What are you passionate about away from work?
I am most passionate about my friends and my friendships. I work very hard at keeping this group of friends together - we have been so close for many years - we travel together. They are all successful people in their own lives. It may be important to me because I sort of need that grounding.
Q: What scares you in your personal life?
I suppose complacency is probably the scariest thing. The idea of stagnating – that is scary to me.
Q: What was that the worst job you ever had? You worked in a tobacco field at one point?
Yeah, I worked in a tobacco field but that wasn’t the worst job. Actually, that one felt good. I must say, there's a sense of accomplishment about looking back over a field and seeing rows of tobacco sticks that you've chopped and housed. That's OK. There were other ones like being a door-to-door insurance salesman. That was hard. Cold-calling insurance is brutal. "Hey have you guys considered..."
Q: What about Facts of Life tv show?
(laughs). The "Facts of Life" was OK. Those girls were nice, so I didn't have a tough time.
Q: So much fuss is always made about how you look. How do you think you’ll be as you grow older?
Well, I look at my father and since I look exactly like him, I pretty much know how I’m going to look. That’s good. Nothing wrong with that.