A note from Devin: This is, technically, old. It’s even older than you think. I promised Dan Epstein I would run this months ago. Sadly, I am as untrustworthy in publishing as I am in Axis & Allies. But now, from the past, comes a very interesting interview with a very timelessly cool actor – Bud Cort.
A note from the writer: Hey Chud. I said to myself “Dan you got a chance to interview the legendary Bud Cort. DON’T LET THIS GO TO WASTE!” I was a little upset when UGO.com ended up not putting up this interview. Not for any special reason but things just got lost in the shuffle. I’ve been doing interviews for a long time. I would estimate .000001 of those interviews don’t ever get transcribed and never get turned into an interview. Various things happen, computer problems, recording is staticy for some unknown reason, Devin Faraci stops by for a quick nooner, Edward Douglas tries to tell me about someone he hates, Wilson Morales tells me the amount of pictures he’s received from Lionsgate and sometimes I actually spend time with my wife and cat. But that’s all neither here nor there. I have an awesome phone interview with Bud Cort from two years ago and I wasn’t going to let bleeding heart left wingers ruin my good goddamm time.
Bud Cort forever burned himself into America’s movie consciousness with the film Harold & Maude in the unforgettable role of Harold the morbid teenager who falls in love with Maude a nutty septuagenarian played by Ruth Gordon. Since then Cort has done some amazing work but being part of the Wes Anderson film The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou will hopefully make him as popular as he once was. The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou has been released on a Criterion Collection 2-Disc Special Edition DVD.
Daniel Robert Epstein: Did The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou come to you in the usual way?
Bud Cort: I was certainly aware of Wes Anderson’s work and interested in his original approach to filmmaking. I saw little pieces of Hal Ashby in his work but with his own original take as well. To my amazement he wrote this part especially for me so I was highly flattered.
DRE: You’re the catalyst for the violent scenes in The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou.
BC: It’s interesting because I researched bond company agents. I like to call this guy a bond company representative while Wes’ moniker in the movie is bond company stooge. I was very impressed with the bond company representatives I met, mainly a guy named Mark Warren. They were extremely bright, hip and very well dressed. I reported this back to Wes but he has his overall design so he made up his mind that this guy was going to be a bit of a schlub. Nobody on the cast or crew saw me until I came out of my little hut dressed in wall to wall polyester as the bond company stooge. They would look at me then look away.
DRE: The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou has an amazing cast.
BC: I think it has one of the best casts ever put together.
DRE: I’m sure they treated you very well but did any of them express how pleased they were to be working with you?
BC: Oh sure, I just adored them all. Owen [Wilson] is just the cutest thing on two feet and I think his performance was quite underrated. Also Bill [Murray] is monstrously talented. I’ve known him forever; in fact in the 80’s I once did a workshop with him when we went with a bunch of actors to Chicago for about a month and a half to improvise a film. I saw him improvise high comedy to sheer drama. I came away thinking that he is one of the best actors in the world.
DRE: The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou did not do as well critically or commercially as people expected it to be.
BC: A lot of people don’t know that Time magazine said it was the best movie of the year. For some reason that wasn’t utilized in the advertising. People who I truly trust adored the movie. I don’t think it is a movie for everybody but it’s the kind of movie that if you go on a trip with the characters it’s a great and strange vacation.
DRE: You’ve worked with a number of great directors on some of the stranger pictures they’ve done, from Brewster McCloud by Robert Altman to The Million Dollar Hotel by Wim Wenders. Would you be able to compare them to Wes Anderson?
BC: Wes is completely different from all of them. I never worked with Fellini but I almost did. Wes is his own planet but I see a little Fellini streak there. After the film was reviewed it was like when cubism came on the heels on impressionism and people went insane. Wes is a cubist with classical netting.
DRE: You still act quite a bit but in nothing that has as big of a budget as The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, do you think you will be doing bigger movies from now on?
BC: I have no idea. This was my 52nd film and I’ve made many films in Europe. I turn down everything because there is so much garbage being made nowadays. I’m not real thrilled with these upcoming alleged talents because they are untrained and have no technique. I watch these movies where all these young kids loiter onscreen. So I would rather hold out for something with more integrity.
DRE: You did the voice for The Toyman in the Superman cartoon but not in the Justice League cartoon, why not?
BC: They asked me to do but I wasn’t available so I guess everyone could be replaced.
DRE: What do you think [Harold & Maude director] Hal Ashby would be doing now?
BC: I’m sure he would be whaling. I had been offered Being There by Gary Graver, who was Orson Welles’ cinematographer but we could not get the financing put together. Then I read in the trades that Hal was doing it so I raced over there and he told me “Bud, Peter [Sellers] is doing the role.” I knew Peter and in fact he was responsible for Harold & Maude being a hit in London because he made a theatre owner run it. I could not be happier that Peter was doing it and nobody could have done a better job than him. Hal always had his finger on the pulse of wonderful material so I’m sure he would be doing fabulous stuff now and I’m sure he is, wherever he may be.
DRE: What is your favorite memory from the set of Harold & Maude?
BC: I was walking with Ruth Gordon to the set and I saw this dead squirrel. I said “Look at that!” so she turns around and goes “Yech, why did you want to show me that?” I said, “I don’t know.”
DRE: What superpower would you like to have?
BC: To have or not have hair at a moment’s whim without glue being involved. Wes wouldn’t let me wear my hairpiece.
DRE: In anticipation for Episode III’s release this May [note from Devin: Holy shit, this really is old], we are asking everybody how Star Wars influenced their work. How did Star Wars affect you as an artist?
BC: I remember meeting George [Lucas] for the Mark Hamill part. He was extremely quiet and I left the meeting thinking that all I did was talk. The whole science fiction thing is not my genre. We’re living in a synthetic world with synthetic art and synthetic emotion control via videogames. We raise kids to be violent and I come from a gentler quieter time. I don’t like to come away from anything feeling that I encouraged violence or cruelty.