• Talking with John

    By Susan Arosteguy

    Legendary for founding the iconic New York City band the Lounge Lizards as well as creating some unforgettable characters in an idiosyncratic selection of movie roles in the 1980s and ’90s, John Lurie appears four times in the Criterion Collection: as Saint James in Martin Scorsese’s The Last Temptation of Christ, as Willie in Jim Jarmusch’s Stranger Than Paradise, as Jack in Jarmusch’s Down By Law, and as himself in the TV series he created, Fishing With John. In honor of Down By Law coming out on Blu-ray this week and Fishing With John being added to Criterion’s Hulu Plus channel, John took some time off from the painting he’s been focusing on in recent years to answer my hard-hitting questions. Be sure to check out his artwork; it’s as interesting and funny as the man himself.

     

    How did Fishing With John come about?

    I kept threatening to do it. I didn’t really think I would actually ever make the show. I would go fishing with Willem [Dafoe] from time to time, and we would videotape it, like home movies, really. [Producer] Deborah Brown saw the tapes and introduced me to a Japanese company that wanted to do the pilot. We shot the one with Jim [Jarmusch], and then I had all this footage that seemed like it was going to make for the most boring mess of a program ever.

    How did you talk your friends (Jim, Willem, Tom Waits, Dennis Hopper, Matt Dillon) into going fishing with you? Did they suggest locations?

    Wasn’t really a lot of convincing. Dennis was the only one who I thought wouldn’t want to do it. He wanted to go to Thailand, and when we got the money to make that possible, it happened like that. Willem wanted to do the ice fishing in Maine. I thought he was nuts.

    What was the biggest disaster you encountered while filming Fishing?

    There were constant disasters, but no one shining disaster. In Montauk, both cameramen vomiting over the railing while we were catching the first shark was a bit worrisome. In Costa Rica, [cameraman] Stephen Torton almost backed into the propeller when we were leaving in those prop planes on the jungle runway. It was so hot and so confused. Getting all those people into the planes in some formation that would let us shoot the flights was mayhem. After we stuck pins into an effigy of Klaus Kinski—it all seemed to subside.

    We use your voice-over guy, Robb Webb, on some of our supplements because of his work on Fishing. How did you find him?

    Well, I do voice-over work a lot, so I can really appreciate Robb Webb’s work. He says something and it sounds as though it has to be true. And that is what really made it work, with him saying that ludicrous narration that I wrote. I love Robb Webb. I love anyone who is really good at what he does and respects it. And I love the DirecTV “Get rid of cable” ads.

    Down By Law is coming out on Criterion Blu-ray this week. Remember the interview we found of you at Cannes? You are still the only person in the collection to do commentary on their own interview!

    When I saw that tape of that poor young man who suddenly finds himself a movie star and is having all these things thrown at him that are supposed to be good things but in fact are awful and soulless . . . and I see that young man, in his sunglasses after a night of debauchery and having another camera stuck in his face—I would feel sorry for him, if it weren’t me. But it is me, and then I have to be embarrassed.

    Tell us a bit about working with Waits and Roberto Benigni on Down By Law. Were you all friends before this? Did you ever consider asking Roberto to be on your fishing show?

    They are two really unusual and brilliant characters. Some of the most beautiful moments of my life were spent with the two of them and the boat driver, going out through the swamps in Slidell on the way to the set. All life should be like that. We would sing, and then Roberto would jump up and yell, “Look! An alligator!” But there was no alligator, and he knew there was no alligator. If I had done more shows, Roberto and Flea would have been my first quests.

    How is the painting going?

    Um, fine. Thanks for asking.

    Any plans for a Fishing sequel?

    Yes, I hope to do a thirteen-episode version with Tad Friend and David Remnick of the New Yorker magazine as guests. I think the three of us alone in a boat somewhere will be scintillating. I have a lot of questions I would like to ask them, and apparently they must be cornered in order to answer.

    Susan Arosteguy is a producer at the Criterion Collection.

17 comments

  • By TheDailyRobot
    July 18, 2012
    03:54 PM

    I was wrong! John is alive!
    Reply
  • By Tad Friend
    July 18, 2012
    04:58 PM

    I am afraid of the water. I will only go if it's on a giant yacht. I went to Harvard. Watch me cross my arms. I can keep them that way for hours. I am too cool for any of you.
    Reply
    • By reBecca gozion
      July 23, 2012
      10:34 PM

      u are absolutely not as cool as me, & lurie will tell u so!! so what harvard, tad friend, i am a genius. u are not. i win!! u should really go do that fishing with john, alone in a boat, it would be scintillating! i too am afraid of water, but i would go. i would actually love to hear him ask the questions, his interviews are swell & honest & hilarious, yrs truly. R.
  • By Ryan Nichols
    July 18, 2012
    06:17 PM

    he's also Slater in Paris, Texas!
    Reply
    • By Dhalgren
      July 23, 2012
      06:47 PM

      He is super cool in that movie. But he was one of the coolest human beings on the planet. The guy had freaking Jean-Michel Basquiat crash at his apartment and models lining up to date him in the 80s.
  • By Tad Friend
    July 18, 2012
    08:43 PM

    sorry I meant "smug", not "cool." I dont write so good
    Reply
    • By Dhalgren
      July 23, 2012
      06:41 PM

      No you don't, Tad. :-)
    • By gozion
      July 23, 2012
      10:40 PM

      ha. oops. i wrote u reply tad friend, before seeing this post. u dont write so good, i guess. i do. i am so very much better than u are, u know. i thought u said harvard, hhmmm>? &&& That Dhalgren, what u have to say is utterly superflous in a big way..u did read what he says about that time, anyways>? it was always about the music...not his big face on a big poster & he's trying to play...& whaddyu mean "was">? he is still alive, u know, making work as always...yrs truly, R.
    • By gozion
      August 03, 2012
      07:51 PM

      even if u dont write so good, i think u should interview Me tad friend...u would just have the "field day" with that! i am crazie but not crazie, & u can do whatever u want with that. (u could try not being hurtful & destructive.) u could make up for yr previous wrong-doings by giving me the attention i need, that my art needs..there are so many swell people out here spenging their whole lives on their art, & who are so very good, & are utterly anonymous. u would just have the field day trying to interview me without embellishing a thing. (i have my own photographers around here, u dont need to bring one.) whaddyu say tad friend>? it would be good penance. yrs truly, gozion..
  • By Dhalgren
    July 23, 2012
    06:40 PM

    Still obcessing over Tad Friend and David Remnick. But an awesome guy, and a very good painter. He deserves to come back. He made me an honorary member of the Sons of Lee Marvin!
    Reply
    • By gozion
      July 23, 2012
      10:47 PM

      & it is not 10:40 p.m. here it is quarter to eight here. i was not meaning to insult u dhalgren, sorry, but that is not what made him cool, not at all.....it was, if i were to say lurie is cool, what he had inside him, & what he put out there, of himself. that horn. how he works no matter what....models, u say>? honorary member of the sons of lee marvin. that's swell. i think i might still be an honorary member of the Gold Star Friends Here, even if ich bin verukt...
  • By sweet
    July 24, 2012
    10:23 AM

    i would say not obsessing but correcting. from what i've seen john lurie obsesses over beauty - creating it i mean. if anything. he is a gem.
    Reply
  • By faro
    July 25, 2012
    03:11 PM

    a real man and a true artist much respect to you my man
    Reply
  • By gozion
    August 03, 2012
    07:41 PM

    i think, as regarding tad friend, & john's wanting to "correct" things....i think he has let everyone know how untruthful it was, we all know. i think john now should see tad friend as simply non-existent. no one, no wheres, non-existent. a non-person. there is no tad friend.any amount of energy now spent thinking on tad is energy that could be spent doing his work, being All There. i like this interviewer...john say he did/does too. this is a swell little talk...i love him talking. smart & funny & honest. he should talk more, all over the place, to good people like susan arosteguy...
    Reply
  • By kidtested
    August 04, 2012
    01:34 PM

    I'm glad John is doing well, he seems like a very sincere guy, and a pretty great all around talent...a man that is not a victim of his vanity...
    Reply
  • By Chiyo
    August 05, 2012
    02:18 PM

    gifted, soulful human being and artist. thank you for all the beautiful things you have created for us, mr. lurie
    Reply
  • By Jeff
    December 06, 2013
    09:48 PM

    Great interview with John Lurie. Check out a recent one here: http://quotesyes.com/2013/12/02/john-lurie-interview/
    Reply