PREVIOUSLY: Part I | Part II
PK: So did you have particular filmmakers that inspired you
to want to make movies?
ABL: Yeah, I had Werner Herzog.
PK: I would guess Herzog actually.
ABL: Yeah, I like his films, narrative or documentary. I
watch a lot of documentaries.
PK: It feels sort of "Grizzly Man" in
ABL: Tell me how you see that.
PK: It's about a guy who doesn't fit in with society and he
wants to make contact with a wilder part of nature and he ends up dying and it
seems like he's really stupid. But in the case of Tillman he's not seen that
way for throwing away all this money and getting killed on a meaningless
incident in Afghanistan
but instead he's lauded as a hero.
ABL: I think there's a lot of psychology at work also. I
think there's character issues. Like when you see those generals [Army generals
involved in the cover-up of the real circumstances of Tillman's death,
including Stanley McChrystal].
I see that scene as so much about personal
character rather than about politics or military intrigue. They have lionized a
guy who wasn't perfect, wasn't superhuman, but was a truthful person that came
from a family that valued truth telling. They are emblematic of some part of
our time that people don't know the difference anymore. It's just spin or
advertising or being persuasive or something. Also, one of the interesting
things about this story is that one of Pat Tillman's greatest qualities was his
self confidence. And self confidence is very hard trait for people to admire.
You can kind of give lip service to self confidence. But most of us are not
self confident. So self confident people intimidate the fuck out of us.
PK: You want to see them screw up.
ABL: Or we have to skew their qualities into something we
can own, that reflect well on us. Rather than something that is not really a
learned thing. So you have these deeply
insecure people who are taking Pat Tillman and in an almost Greek way inverting
all of his qualities. He was a guy who was deeply thoughtful and curious and
asked and had ideas and would challenge himself to think of things in the
opposite way. So they turned him into this paragon of moral certitude. In so many
ways they take his actual heroism out of the story. He saved a guy's life. How
did he save his life? He told him to quit praying, get your head in this world.
And that likely saved Bryan O'Neal's life.
PK: Is he still praying?
ABL: He lost his religion for a while on account of this and
then refound it.
PK: The film showed at Sundance along with "Restrepo." Do
you think there's a renewed interest in that war? It seems like people try to
forget that it even existed.
ABL: I think that's going on. And there's another thing that
the two films have in common which I think is that...We're just in a very
different place than we were when Pat Tillman enlisted. The country, you know,
I'm not quite sure I can say anything about that. We didn't set out to make an anti-war
film. We set out to make an anti-myth film. I didn't want to take a position on
whether we should be in Afghanistan
or not, or whether we should have gone to Iraq or not for a number of
reasons. One, I think that's a part of Pat Tillman's story, but I think it
would make the film too topical. To me, what was done to Pat Tillman, I mean,
of course the perpetrators were in the Bush administration. But to me, this was
a story that I wanted to have resonance that was a lot more timeless than that.
That had to do with things that have been happening since the time of
Wittgenstein and since the time of the Iliad. My dad has been reading the Iliad
and the Odyssey and I'd talk to him and he was really struck by the parallels.
It's a very old story, that warriors are glorified. That the truth of war is
shrouded in this golden patina. I didn't want to people to be able to dismiss
this and say, oh, it was those five people in the Bush administration's fault.
I'm not saying they're not culpable. I think it lies in the media and lies in
the culture at large. It lies in Hollywood
A lot of the story is about Hollywood. The very first thing the family
was told by the government when they were told it was friendly fire, and Dannie
asked some questions, they were told, "Look this is like the very first scene
in "Saving Private Ryan." And it was
just this great postmodern moment with the military referencing Hollywood which is
supposed to be referencing the military. And you think, wow, it's something
that goes all the way back from the beginning of time. Men have learned what
war is through stories. It's the chicken or the egg thing. The stories
obfuscate what war really is. And then people model war on the stories and it
just goes on and on and on. So that when people are coming out of a canyon [the
site of Tillman's death], I feel like they're thinking of themselves as movie
PK: I always thought it was like a videogame.
ABL: I completely agree.
PK: Are you working on another movie now?
ABL: No, I've got a bunch of ideas, so we'll see which one
really happens. I've been away for like two and a half months.
PK: In Vietnam.
ABL: Yeah, in Cambodia,
We figured it was our last chance. Once your kids are walking it gets hard to
PK: Did that inspire you to make any movie about the other
ABL: I mean, the ten year anniversary for 9/11 is coming up
and I think there's a film there about that moment in time. Remember the whole
"Irony is dead" thing? And we'll never watch horror movies again and it's the
end of reality TV. I think it would be very interesting to explore that.
PK: The Obama administration now, it seems to be very low
key with the anniversary coming up as compared to how it would be with the Bush
ABL: Yeah, 9/11 was fetishized. It's sort of a death cult.
And that applies to Pat Tillman. Pat Tillman was worth more dead to America than
alive. It's a maudlin fascination with his death just like it is with 9/11. You
know, like, where you were that day?
PK: Where were you?
ABL: I was in LA. And obviously these are horrible tragedies.
To me it breaks down to, you have this exchange between Jon Stewart reporting
what Glenn Beck said. Glenn Beck said "Remember how you felt on 9/12?" And Jon
Stewart said, "Yeah, scared shitless." That's it right there. People get off on
tragedy. It's very disgusting. You see that in the way they deal with Pat
PK: It's sort of a way to deal with fear. Everybody's
reaction is complete horror. Then anger at the fact that we were shown as being
so impotent. So you have other film ideas?
ABL: I'm in the process of optioning a friend's memoir about
LA in the late 90s. It's kind of an internet story, but it's more than that,
it's a story of friendship.
PK: A documentary?
ABL:I can't decide, for a long time I thought it was a
narrative film. But now I'm thinking it's more of a documentary. Have you ever
seen "The Devil and Daniel Johnston?" They found a guy who was kind of crazy and they've got a comedy central pilot
based on him.
PK: What myth do we
ABL: It's the blurring of distinctions between genius and
madness. And the idea, you know, that "The Devil and Daniel Johnston" touches on it, and "Man On the Moon" touches on it. Just this adulation of
people that are unstable. And how horrible it is for them. And it's
PK: The genius and madness thing doesn't work out too well
for people who are mad.
ABL: That's a better way of putting it. I don't know whether
that's going to happen though. For a while I've been wanting to make a Grateful
Dead documentary. [it looks like he will be making this as a feature film] There's a movie to be made there.
PK: I've read that you're inspired by their methods of
performing. Sometimes that doesn't work that well.
ABL: The funny thing about being a Dead Head is that it's
like being a sports fan. They're not always going to have a good day. It was a
social phenomenon that would make an interesting film...