ADAM RIFKIN COMES CLEAN (part 4)

You had a long term relationship with a woman named Valerie Breiman whose film called Love and Sex, stars John Favreau and Famke Jensen in a really quirky love story. The lead actor, John Favreau, is based on you. Now how does that feel to have a movie made based on you? ^ Valerie and I were in a relationship for about three and a half years. It was a very unusual relationship. It was the first big love for both of us. When we broke up it was pretty devastating to both of us. First heartbreak is the worst. So when we broke up, both of us being writer/directors we both wrote movies about our relationship.
What’s your film called? ^ Mine’s called Without Vicky, which is the one I’m about to start shooting. So that was about eight years ago we both wrote them, and both of us have been trying for the longest time to get our movies made. When we first broke up it was really hard to remain friends, but she and I have become the best of best friends since we broke up. So really we’ve been very supportive of each other’s careers and I’ve been aware of her script and thought it was a great script. She painted me in a far more likable light than I painted her in my script. So, I have to hand that one to her. ^ Her film had almost gotten made with a number of different casts, a number of different times, and they kept falling through and I always felt so bad for her. But I always said to her “Finally when it does get made it will get made with the right cast at the right time, and it’ll be the best movie that it could be.” Which is exactly what happened. ^ She cast Famke Jensen first, because she saw her in Woody Allen’s “Celebrity”. That’s why she felt she could get a really great, quirky, self-deprecating performance out of Famke Jensen, because if Kenneth Brannaugh could dump Famke Jensen and it could be believable, then she could get a good performance for her movie. ^ Then she cast John Favreau as me, who is about a head taller than me and he’s got these huge broad shoulders. I mean, I’m not a big guy. Yet, somehow next to Famka he looks small. Next to any other girl he’d look like a giant.
Jon Favreau must have studied you, because he has your mannerisms to a tee. It’s bizarre how closely he got you, did he study you? ^ No, not really. He and I met after he got the part. Which is what was really funny, he got the part and Valerie told him right off the bat this was based on her life with me, and that he would basically be playing me. He had heard of me, but he had never met me. Weeks later, I saw him at a party. So I just went up to him and he didn’t know who I was, and I was just staring at him really close, invading his space. He had no idea who I was, so I shook his hand and said “Hi, we should probably meet at some point, because you’re playing me in a movie.” And he thought that was pretty funny. We talked a little bit at the party. Then we saw each other a few times after that. But, he’s a really intuitive actor, so just the few meetings we had, and Valerie’s direction — he somehow created a performance that I thought was pretty close to capturing me.
How does it feel to have your relationship exposed on screen in a hit independent film? ^ It’s surreal, because I remember living all those moments and seeing them on screen with other people playing them is weird.
Did you ever give Valerie a dutch oven? ^ (Laugh!) Of course. Valerie and I taught each other never to fart in relationships again, because it kills the sex. So, since that life lesson I never again fart with the women I date.
(NOTE: For the uninitiated, a “dutch oven” is performed when someone farts in bed then either wafts the covers or places the covers over their mate so that they experience the gaseous emissions. Some think it’s cute. The ability to fart in front of each other in a relationship is a touching moment in Love and Sex.)
You’ve made films that are at both ends of the spectrum, but what do you consider your greatest career achievement? ^ I’m most excited about the film I’m finishing right now. It’s called “Night at the Golden Eagle.” I used my own money to finance it with my producing partner Steve Bing. The reason we did that was so that we had the control to greenlight it and not have to wait for other people to see if it would fit into their slate. If it was something that they felt they could make enough money on, or if it had foreign presale value or whatever. By financing it ourselves we cut through all of that and just greenlit the film in a five-minute conversation. It also afforded us complete creative control, which is very freeing when making a film. I was free to cast whoever I wanted which enabled me to cast the two leads which are 65 year-old unknowns who had never acted before. Freedom to be able to basically make the movie that I saw, the way I saw it without any compromise or interference. Because of that, I feel the most excited about that achievement right now.
(The blonde biker stripper is now in her street clothes and comes to thank Adam for the paper airplane money. He learns that she is a marketing student and is only stripping her way through school. She’s goal-oriented. Adam is impressed and they exchange numbers. He will probably not fart in front of her.)
What I find interesting is that you’ve done mainstream movies, yet at the same time you never lost the independent spirit. And now you’re using all the money you’ve made from your mainstream success to make other independent films. ^ I love all kinds of movies. I always have. My favorite movies growing up were Midnight Cowboy, Five Easy Pieces, The Last Picture Show and Annie Hall — smaller, character driven movies. Those are the movies that in my heart are my favorite movies and probably some of the movies that had the biggest influences on me as a filmmaker. I also love big popcorn movies, I loved Star Wars, Jaws, Gladiator, X-Men, but at the same time I still love movies like Happiness. ^ My feeling is good movies are good movies whether they’re little movies or big movies. To me I want to make good movies. I want to tell the stories I want to tell whatever size that particular story needs to be.
Final bar tab: $24 for drinks. About $30 in tips to strippers but I don’t have a receipt for those tips.
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Posted on February 6, 2001 in Interviews by
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