Director David Lynch is still cherished by movie fans for his
moments of high weirdness displayed in such late night
classics as Eraserhead, Blue Velvet and Wild At Heart. The
dark, unsettling imagery that one normally associates with
Lynch is conspicuously absent from his latest film, The
Straight Story. It tells the story of 73 year old Alvin Straight, a widower who
lives with his daughter Rose, played by Sissy Spacek way out among the
cornfields of Iowa.
When Alvin hears that the brother he hasn't spoken to in over ten years is
seriously ill, he determines to make the several hundred mile journey to see
him on the only mode of transport he has - a '66 John Deere lawnmower.
Congratulations on the film. I understand it's based on a true story.
Yes, it's based on a true story. In 1994 Alvin Straight took the same journey
on a lawnmower
And the journey's from where to where?
From Laurens, Iowa, which is way west, so he traversed the entire state,
crossed the Mississippi and then went another 75 miles into Mount Zion, to
see a brother.
In many ways it's a very different film for you and in others it has a lot
of images we associate with you. The cornfields and the love of
I'm glad you picked up on that because there are trucks, there are
lawnmowers, there are the harvesters in the fields.
The harvester in the field reminded me of the spice gathering machine
Maybe Frank Herbert was out in the mid-west when it struck him, the spice
Harvesters. Man and machine and man and nature is a phenomenon of that
part of the country.
This is from your youth?
I was born a north-western boy, so I've never really been to the state of Iowa
and it's very flat and it's miles and miles of corn and soya bean.
Tell me about Richard Farnsworth. He plays a very difficult role, were
you familiar with him before?
Yes, I was familiar with him. It strikes everyone that he's born to play this role.
Everything in his life seems to lead him to this character and you're right that
he carries the film because he makes it so real and so heartfelt. So much
comes through with those eyes and that voice. He's just a beautiful soul.
It strikes me that this is the first film for you where the
movie is carried by the acting maybe more than the
central idea and the director.
Maybe so. You rely on actors, but many times you have
other thing happen around them. It's not that they don't do great work and I've
worked with some of the best, but this is so pure and so simple. There are no
tricks. It's straight ahead and there's nowhere to hide. If Richard wasn't
delivering the goods we'd be in trouble.
Tell me about some ideas you once had that I hope haven't
disappeared. One is Saliva Bubble and the other is Ronnie Rocket.
Right. A project sometimes has a time and if you don't move during its time it
may be gone, but there's another saying 'never say never', so I don't now what
will happen to either one of those. I still love them but I don't know that they'll
I had a copy of the script of Ronnie Rocket, so maybe we'll shoot it
using plasticine models.
It's a digital world now, so it could happen that way.
You must be pleased with the film. It reunited you with Harry Dean
Yes, Harry I've worked with many times now. Harry asked his name not be in
the front credits, for kind of an obvious reason, so it's hard to talk about his
role, but he's a guy that has in a way, like Richard, so much heart and soul,
and he can deliver the goods.
There's one particularly moving scene, and I'm Jewish, in which
Richard is describing events that took place during the second world
war. Whether that's something that he drew upon, or if that was
already in the script.
That was in the script. Those were two events that came from different places.
The camera's on you in a big close up. I didn't shoot a wide shot, I shot close
ups, and we had two cameras, one on each one, and I'm pretty sure it was the
first take that was used. It came over them. Sometimes I think for both the
actors in that scene, Richard and Wiley, saying those wordsjust transformed
them before your eyes.
Thinking of other images, you seem to like bridges.
Really. When have I used bridges before?
Yeah, that's true. There are bridges. There's something about a bridge in this
film. Alvin starts on the bridge in one frame of mind and then leaves the bridge
in another because he knows that it represents him getting closer to his
destination, so you can talk about a bridge probably for a long time.
How do you feel about Cannes?
It's great to be in competition because it adds a whole other dimension to
presenting the film and it has the suspense. There's no film better than another
film. Each film is its own thing, but it's part of the world's greatest film festival.
You never know what's going to happen. Fate is in the driving seat, and so it's
a big question, but it's a beautiful question.
And it's a beautiful film.