5:10 PM EDT, August 15, 2013
Six and a half years passed between my first and second David Gordon Green interviews, and in the interim the filmmaker with the nutty checkerboard resume (sensitive indies, idiot-stoner comedies, sensitive idiot-stoner action comedies) became a viable economic force almost despite himself, thanks to the success of "Pineapple Express."
The first interview took place in a van containing a couple of "Snow Angels" cast members, including Olivia Thirlby, careening from one theater to another following the press screening of Green's 2007 film at the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah.
"Ah, yes, that blockbuster hit," Green cracked during our second interview, the one last week at a downtown hotel steakhouse. He's on tour supporting his latest picture, "Prince Avalanche," opening Friday. It's a good, strange little movie, carried off with low-key panache by its stars, Paul Rudd and Emile Hirsch.
Few saw "Snow Angels," a dark tale of love in various permutations, but many who saw it admire it. (I love it; people who like the teen romance at the center of "The Spectacular Now" should take a look at Green's film the first chance they get.) Six years ago the Little Rock, Ark., native, raised largely in Dallas before he went to college at the North Carolina School of the Arts, had begun making commercials (he's now doing a stop-motion Mr. Peanut ad) in addition to investing in and renovating real estate. At the time of the Sundance van interview, he was about to embark on "Pineapple Express," which cost not much and made quite a lot.
"Prince Avalanche" is an American remake of an Icelandic film called "Either Way." In Green's re-do, Rudd and Hirsch play a couple of Texas highway workers painting yellow lines in the middle of nowhere, not long after a raging forest fire. Green shot the film with a skeletal crew in something of a hurry early last year, following the 2011 Bastrop fires. "I knew I wanted to make a film in this place, in this burned park. And I wanted to do something quickly before it turned green again."
He has twin boys with his long-time companion, the costume designer Jill Newell. "They're 21/2 now. They were born in New York and I was living in New Orleans, and I didn't think my kind of life in New Orleans was going to be much good for them. And I couldn't handle the stress and activity of New York. So I thought Austin would be a good middle ground." They live 45 minutes outside of town, in the hill country. He has shot two features and 10 commercials in Austin since moving there.
"People roll their eyes at the idea of remakes," he said of "Prince Avalanche." "I don't know why. They get really upset. I don't know why you can restage an opera and everyone's fine with that. Although I suppose if they were remaking 'The Third Man,' I'd probably think: Why the (flapdoodle) would you do that?" On the other hand, Green told me he's "really inspired" by Gus Van Sant's slavishly faithful remake of "Psycho."
"Even though I haven't actually seen it," he said. It's the risky principle of the thing: He loves that Van Sant became a big deal after 'Good Will Hunting' and then gambled on a crazy project. It didn't work. Some don't. Some do.
Live at the Music Box Theatre: Michael Phillips and his Tribune colleague Steve Rosenbloom host a screening of "A League of Their Own" at 7 p.m. Wednesday at 3733 N. Southport Ave. Go to musicboxtheatre.com for details.
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