INTRODUCTION FOR JIM JARMUSCH/MYSTERY TRAIN INTERVIEW BY IAN JOHNSTON Copyright ÃÂ© Ian Johnston
This interview (originally conducted in Soho, London, during the autumn of 1989 for the long defunct music paper Sounds, of which only a small fraction was ever used) was a follow up to my previous Screamin Jay Hawkins article, focusing on the American director Jim Jarmusch’s fourth feature film, Mystery Train (1989).
Sporting his signature grey white pompadour hairstyle, dressed in black and speaking with his laid back gravelly voice, Jarmusch cut quite a figure ”â a hipster Lee Marvin. Extremely courteous and attentive, Jarmusch was only too happy to discuss Mystery Train, a film of which he was obviously quietly proud.
Shot in vibrantly flooded colour by veteran cinematographer Robby Muller, consisting of three stories which unfold simultaneously (”ËFar From Yokohama’, ”ËA Ghost’ and ”ËLost In Space’) which focus upon bewildered guests spending a night in a run down Memphis hotel, run by a bizarre night clerk played by Screamin’ Jay Hawkins, Mystery Train remains one of the most complex, well executed and original films of Jarmusch’s career to date.
In ”ËFar From Yokohama’ a young Elvis obsessed Japanese couple (Masatoshi Nagase and Youki Kudoh) arrive by train on a pilgrimage to Sun Studios. ”ËA Ghost’ features an Italian woman (Nicoletta Braschi, featured in Jarmusch’s previous film Down By Law) waiting for a flight to take her husbands coffin back to Rome, sharing a room with Dee Dee (Elizabeth Bracco), who has just left her English boyfriend. ”ËElvis’.
The final story, ”ËLost In Space’, stars Joe Strummer (in arguably his best acting performance on screen) as Johnny, a young English man nicked named ”ËElvis’ who hates Presley. Drunk and resentful that he has lost his job and his girlfriend, Johnny starts waving a loaded gun around in a bar. A memorable night will ensue for Johnny and his friends Will (Rick Aviles) and Charlie (Steve Buscemi).
Featuring an appearance by the late, great R&B legend Rufus Thomas (poignantly described by Jarmusch as the real “King of Memphis”Â), the voice of Tom Waits as a late night DJ, a fantastic score by The Lounge Lizards John Lurie and a soundtrack including tracks by Junior Parker, Bobby Blue Bland, The Bar-Keys, Roy Orbison and Elvis, Mystery Train is a key film in Jarmusch’s career and one of the best American pictures of the 1980’s.
Jarmusch’s incisive study of the very art of cinematic storytelling, mixed with a meditation upon the roots of American popular music and a vision of the interconnection of transient strangers in a strange land would be a huge influence upon the subsequent films of Quentin Tarantino, Steven Soderbergh and Hal Hartley.
JIM JARMUSCH/MYSTERY TRAIN INTERVIEW BY IAN JOHNSTON Autumn 1989 Copyright ÃÂ© Ian Johnston
Do you still get nervous about the release of another film?
JIM JARMUSCH: “Yeah, I always get nervous because what I really work for is the moment when the audience, just the general public sees the film. By that time I’m always out of that city. The real purpose of all this is to get the film in the theatre and get the audience to see it, not the critics or celebrity parties or whatever. So until that moment I get nervous. Not nervous so much about the reaction it’s just all the kind of like hype, press stuff and doing interviews, the purpose of which for me is to hopefully get people to come and see the film. Once the film opens I’m completely relaxed. I feel like finally I did the work that was necessary to get the film into the cinema. Then I feel really good, but here that won’t happen until December.”
Mystery Train has a very detached European feel to it. In fact, all your films vividly portray America as through the eyes of a foreigner. Do you feel like a stranger in your own land?
JIM JARMUSCH: “Well yeah, I guess I do to some degree. I also feel very American so it’s kind of a contradiction. In the films themselves there are always characters that are American to contrast with the characters who are not. So there’s always that double perspective there, and somehow by having both sides of it makes me feel detached enough to make the sort of story I want. But also a lot of it doesn’t come from something conscious. “
You totally understand what fascinates and frightens foreigners about America?
JIM JARMUSCH: “Yeah. See a lot of this isn’t that conscious. The reason these characters are foreigners is not because I plan that but because I write characters, actors, or friends I want to work with and a lot of them happen to be foreign. So I then have to invent a story to incorporate them. In a way it’s more often the case that I just want to work with an actor who isn’t American but I’m American and there are other American characters, so I have to invent a story to include them all. However I do feel somewhat distanced from America and yet very American and all of that enters in but primarily it’s really because I want to work with these people. I never start with the story first, which is maybe obvious, because the narrative line of my films is really not that strong or dramatic. They’re very simple.”Â
The influences of the ”ËB movie’ and the ”ËArt’ film seem to collide in your work
JIM JARMUSCH: “Ah, thank you for saying that. I tend to have to explain that. You’re the first person who’s really said that and I’ve done so many interviews. I always end up trying to explain that myself and I thank you for saying that. I don’t like hierarchical culture, like this is high art and this is low art. To me a Rock ”ËN’ Roll song is as great as a symphony, if it is moving to you it’s good. A good book by Mickey Spillane is as good as a book by Herman Melville. Shakespeare is as good as Hammett. Tex Avery is as good as Orson Wells. Personally, things that are in between, that are real mainstream, don’t attract me so much. I don’t know why, it’s just personal taste. I’m drawn much more towards the extremes of B movies, trash movies, horror movies. On the other side, so-called art movies. They are the things that speak to me. So I try to disguise that my films take from both sides. My films have sort of amateur elements, a naÃÂ¯ve quality, yet they have some sophisticated quality, sometimes the rhythm is kinda elegant. I’m so happy that someone sees a synthesis of these things.”Â
Which filmmakers or movies influenced you the most? What inspired you to become a filmmaker?
JIM JARMUSCH: “Again it’s both those extremes. I love Don Siegel films and Sam Fuller films. I like Nick Ray’s films. At the same time I like Straub, early Godard films and Vertov, the Soviet filmmaker. My influences come from all over but not so much from the mainstream. I did go and see Batman but I’ve never seen Gone With The Wind, ET or Star Wars. These things don’t draw me. I’d rather see Evil Dead II then Raiders of The Lost Ark.”Â
Is that because within that sphere of filmmaking there’s more leeway to be experimental because audience expectation isn’t that great, and working with the constraints of working on a big budget movie?
JIM JARMUSCH: “Right. As soon as you start making a film that’s expensive then the studio wants total control over all elements of it because they want to get all their money back. If you make a smaller film you can try a lot more things because you can have control over it and not just be a hired director. The lower the budget the more freedom you have.“
You seem to share the same sensibilities as David Lynch and Jonathan Demme
JIM JARMUSCH: “I see it more in David Lynch. I see Jonathan Demme’s films as being more in the mainstream. Actually, I see Demme’s films because I’m interested, but I feel closer to David Lynch in being influenced by extremes. “
Does Mystery Train form part of a trilogy begun with Stranger Than Paradise and continued with Down By Law?
JIM JARMUSCH: “Well, I referred to it myself in Cannes at the premiere as the end of the trilogy. I’m not sure why I said that. I’m not sure why I said that. I think I said it psychologically for myself, so that the script I’m writing now would seem like a departure for me. In fact, there are things that are very similar, certain themes, a certain style that may be similar. My next film will be darker and more violent and yet still be funny. Godard said that he makes the same film over and over again and I think that’s true for a lot of people. By the time I’m dead and gone people will probably say that my films are in a continuing line. I don’t have any plans to make anything wildly different like a kind of huge cast of thousands spectacular.”Â
You have no desire to make a Hollywood film?
JIM JARMUSCH: “No. Not that I wish to look down on that, I just wouldn’t be any good at it. It’s not me; I’d be kind lost. I try to stick to what I think I can do.”Â
You’re sometimes criticised for that but surely what is wrong with continually working through a certain set of themes? Novelists do it
JIM JARMUSCH: “Yeah, they don’t criticise Raymond Chandler. Whatever you do they’re going to say it’s too much like the last one, or it’s not as good as the one before, but that’s valid. It’s objective how people think or feel, on what a film means to them. It’s really their own experience that they bring to it.
Anything that people feel is valid, it’s just not valid when they try and force your opinions on everyone else. That’s something dangerous.”Â
Mystery Train’s narrative construction is very different from your previous films. Why did you choose to structure the film in this way?
JIM JARMUSCH: “As a writer I wanted to amuse myself with something that wasn’t linear for a change. Why, I’m not sure. It also happened because I had a number of actors I wanted to make characters for and I was having trouble devising a way to fit them into one film. So it occurred to me to make a film that was devised like a sketch film but was in fact one whole film. But you can’t take one story out because it just wouldn’t make sense, so somehow this form just presented itself to me by accident. I liked the idea and just kept following the train of thought and invented little connections between them.”
The structure is quite complex. It wasn’t an easy task for you to set yourself.
JIM JARMUSCH: “Yes it was hard. Filming was a little like playing chess, hopefully through when you’re watching the film it seems simple and there are little surprises. Certain sections we had to time carefully with a stopwatch to make sure they wouldn’t be as long as the ones in the previous stories. Also I didn’t want one single moment to tell you they were simultaneous. I wanted several little clues so each person in the audience might not realise it at the same time, so it’s subjective, like you find this out at your own rhythm. Like the way you read a good mystery novel, some people who read a lot of them may know who ”Ëdid it’ right way and other people won’t know until the end.”Â
What prompted your decision to film in colour this time?
JIM JARMUSCH: “Again it’s something completely intuitive. It’s not conscious. It’s not like what’s in fashion or what’s not. What some people try and apply to me is that it’s just a fashion show, which is the furthest thing from the truth. When I begin to write, because I write for specific characters, I have the actor in my head while I’m starting to write a character and a story. I know what they’ll look like and I know what they’ll sound like and from that point when I start visualising it I start seeing the film in colour or black and white. I just stick to that. I can’t tell you why. It’s like if you ask someone, ‘Do you dream in colour or black and white?’ and they answer, ”ËBlack and white.’ ”ËWhy?’ ”ËI don’t know.’ I have five ideas for future films and I know which will be in colour or black and white already.
“As soon as I start it, the first page, it’s colour or black and white and I stay with that. On Mystery Train we worked very hard to control what kind of colours were in the film. I think a lot of people just shoot in colour because it sells more videos.
“A lot of colour films look so ugly because they don’t spend much time thinking about all the objects and dÃÂ©cor. Sometimes it can be great for a film to be ugly in colour like Martin Scorsese’s King Of Comedy. He wanted it to be ugly, he wanted those interiors to look vulgar, it’s really important in the film and he was conscious of it. Other films it just seems like that was just there or that’s what the art director did and it looked colourful. But on Mystery Train we were really careful.”Â
Yes, it looks fantastic
JIM JARMUSCH: “Yeah, I’m happy with it, but it was a collaboration between me, the production designer, Robby Muller the director of photography, the wardrobe person and the property manager. I had little memos going back and forth about the colours for each object, what we didn’t want and what we did, and my property manager Jeff Butcher was amazing. If I wanted a radio in the room, he’d bring six radios. I’d say, ”ËI don’t want them red, orange or yellow, I want ”Ëem green, blue, brown or grey.’ He’d bring photographs because we couldn’t afford to buy them all. With every little object he’d do that for me.”Â
Yes, the attention to mise en scene in your films is very precise
JIM JARMUSCH: “I guess it’s because the films are not plot-oriented, or really dramatic. Then all these little details become more noticeable I think. Maybe I pay more attention to them because I don’t have these big dramatic moments. I just have these little things between people, so little objects seem more important than they really are. You notice them because the style of shooting is very static.”Â
But information about the characters is expressed through the objects, for instance the Japanese couple in Mystery Train
JIM JARMUSCH: “Yeah, for example there’s just a brief moment when she opens the suitcase. I told the property manager that I wanted the inside of the suitcase to look like the inside of a transistor radio. I wanted everything packed so carefully, which is in a way very Japanese. It gives you an insight into the whole culture. It was conscious that it was very compact and carefully arranged. I suppose it gives some insight into their characters. In Japan they use every available piece of land for something so it seemed logical that these characters, travelling with just one bag between them, would have everything carefully organised.”Â
With a suitcase just packed full of T-shirts
JIM JARMUSCH: “Yeah, the T-shirts (laughs). Or the care Masatoshi takes with his shoes. It’s a funny little moment, his shining his shoes, but from that moment it gives you a little insight into the character he’s playing. It sets him up for the moment when he says, ”ËIt feels cool to be 18.’ Even his shoes are wrapped up in his identity which suggest to him Rock ”ËN’ Roll, Britain, the States and Memphis.”Â
It seems that the film are three themes in the film. The first being the music of the South and how black music has been suppressed by white rock music
JIM JARMUSCH: “Oh, yeah, you’re right but it’s very subtle in the film. For example, they roll into Memphis at the beginning on the train listening to Elvis version of ”ËMystery Train’. This song has to be the most classic example of Rock ”ËN’ Roll being a synthesis of R&B and Country. That song was first a Country song by the Carter Family in the 1930’s and then in the 1940’s Junior Parker made it into an R&B dong and then Sam Phillips and Elvis turned it into Rock ”ËN’ Roll. But at the end of the film the characters are leaving and it’s the R&B version they’re listening to. At the beginning Elvis is like an idol to the Japanese couple, in the second story he’s a ghost. It’s the young Elvis that appears, the Elvis who died when the man died spiritually. In the third story Strummer’s character says, ”ËWhy is he fucking everywhere? It gives me the creeps.’ It’s intentional but it’s a subtle thing in the film. To me it was more important to see Stax and Sun Studios than to see Graceland. It was very important to me personally, although the film’s not entirely about this, that black musicians, the originators, just get washed away and cheated out of everything. Rufus Thomas too. In reality, Elvis is not the King of Memphis, he may be called The King of Rock ”ËN’ Roll, Rufus Thomas is really the King of Memphis. He’s helped everyone out. Everybody knows him in Memphis. He loaned Albert king money when he was starving, he helped people who couldn’t get gigs. Everybody knows him and loves him there. I thought it would be nice if when the Japanese couple arrive in Memphis, they’re talking about Carl Perkins, Roy Orbison and Elvis, and who do they meet in the station but Rufus Thomas, the real King of Memphis, without us identifying him or without them even knowing. He even says thank you to them Japanese. It’s like he knows a lot more about the world than they do (laughs).”Â
The themes of alienation and the American Dream seem to figure quite prominently as well in the film. The Joe Strummer character would at first appear to be more able to adapt to his surroundings, but in fact he’s more lost than the other characters
JIM JARMUSCH: “Yeah, but he’s lost his job, his girlfriend’s walked out on him and everything’s screwed up for him. He’s misplaced; he doesn’t know where to fit in. Memphis is a pretty segregated place but he has a black friend from work and that’s not something he chooses, it just happens that he’s his best friend.”Â
Strummer’s character is quite bizarre. A white Englishman who looks like Elvis but hates him, wishes he was black and loves black music
JIM JARMUSCH: “I don’t know if he wishes he was black, it’s just that he found a place to fit in there.”Â
The reason I said that was at one point tin the film he says, “It’s not my fault that I’m white”Â
JIM JARMUSCH: “Right. But he’s just replying to a reverse racist crack. I wrote this character for Joe imagining him, but I tried to remove any iconographic significance of having Joe Strummer in the film. I know Joe. I like him as a friend and I like certain qualities that he has. I have a great respect for him as a musician but that’s something else. That’s something I didn’t want to bring into the film but I don’t know if I have escaped that completely. Joe personally is kinda like Johnny but other facets of his character are very different. There’s something about Joe. Sometimes he’s very quiet, stubborn and sometimes when he talks he chooses his words very carefully. He’s someone who has a lot of integrity, who on the one hand is a real gentleman and on the other has a reputation of being a wild punk rock front man. It’s just that I wanted all three of these characters in that story to have a fucked up night but I didn’t want it to be drastic that someone got killed, or anything really bad like that. I just wanted the most stupid situation that you could get into which would be funny.”Â
Although your films are very funny there’s also always an air of despondency and pessimism. Is the humour just laughter in the dark?
JIM JARMUSCH: “No, the humour is really essential. My films are about the little things that happen between people that are sometimes far more valuable and insightful than the big dramatic things that happen. I think of humour in the same why. For example, I can never sit down and decide I’m going to write a joke. It’s just little things that I collect and see, and happen to people I know, things that I think are really funny I write down and stick them in a script somewhere. The humour is really essential. I think the films are sad but I also think they’re comedies, so they’re sad comedies. I think something very strong happens between the characters sometimes and yet it’s so minimal and played down that it’s not depicted as dramatic and that’s the intention. I don’t think of the films as existential or depressing. Yet the characters are pretty much losers. However, I have sympathy for them. I like marginal characters, I like real people. I learn more from talking to my plumber when he comes to fix my toilet than I do from meeting a movie star. I think my movies are in the same vein as that.”Â
The whole film has a dreamlike atmosphere. Is it a dream or a nightmare?
JIM JARMUSCH: “It depends on the audience, I’m not sure. I think of it as a mixture of both and neither. I’m probably the worst person to ask that. Some people would find just the rhythm of my films alone to be a nightmare; they’d probably just fall asleep because they want something quicker. Other people fall into it and it works for them like a dream.”Â
The rhythm of your films is very hypnotic. You seem to be working against the way most filmmakers make movies today, like they’re elongated pop promos with an edit every second.
JIM JARMUSCH: “Oh boy, especially in the States. Now in the States if you look at the TV, you see the advertisements, the TV programmes, the pop videos, and the movies, they’re all the same style. I think it’s very condescending to the audience to assume they only have a three second attention span and so they don’t leave anything on the screen for any longer. I don’t understand that.”Â
There aren’t many directors in the States using the technique of the static camera and letting the action unfold before it.
JIM JARMUSCH: “So far I’ve never moved the camera other than to follow the characters. I never move it dramatically, like you are sitting still there and the camera travels in on you and the music swells in the background (laughter) and it has some meaning. To me it’s only if you get up to cross the room that I’m going to have it follow you. I don’t like the camera to be a character; I like it to be observational, voyeuristic to some degree. Like in the scene in Mystery Train where they rob the liquor store and shoot the guy. Most people would have done inserts; close ups and blood exploding in slow motion. I wanted it to look like the view through a surveillance camera because the act itself is so stupid that I wanted it to be seen that way by the audience.”Â
During that scene the ton of the film changes. It’s quite frightening because you hold the camera back in that position
JIM JARMUSCH: “It doesn’t romanticise it. It’s just what happens to them and you observe it. There’s no embellishment to it, that’s what’s intended.”Â
There’s almost a Beat Generation attitude to your films, are you influenced by the Beats?
JIM JARMUSCH: “Yeah, I am influenced by the Beats although when I was a kid I read On The Road by Jack Kerouac and I thought the content was really alluring but the style evaded me. I thought this isn’t good writing. Only five years later I heard jack Kerouac on tape reading his own stuff and it made perfect sense to me and then I went back and re-read it and re-read it. I read The Subterraneans and his other books. I really love Kerouac now. I like the Beats. I like the early Ginsburg. I like the early Gregory Corso. I also like the New York school poets, the early poems of John Ashbery and Frank O’Hara. Again, I don’t know really what my influences are but I do like the New York school a lot which was contemporary but they were very separate. They had separate aesthetics from the Beats and in a way I prefer the New York School better but maybe that’s just because of O’Hara who I love so much. I’m a big fan of Robert Frank and I’ll tell you the one film I love, one of the greatest American films, the most perfect piece of art produced by the Beats is Pull My Daisy, a 30 minute black and white film that Robert Frank made in 1959. It has Alan Ginsburg and Gregory Corso in it and Kerouac does the voice-over narration. I love that film; in a way the poetic heart of the Beat movement was captured on film. “
I really like that scene in Mystery Train where the Italian girl visits the newsagents. It sums up perfectly Europeans’ inability to deal with the aggressive hard sell of American society. Was that what you intended?
JIM JARMUSCH: “Well the scene, I guess, was designed to give some insight into her character. She’s been around and she knows the guy is doing this to her. She has a very big heart though, and her relationship to money is not that great, so she gives in and buys all the magazines. It was designed to give some insight into her character but through the actor Sy Richardson playing the newsvendor it became a nice little metaphor for what you just said better than I could. America is a very venal place; everything has to be sold there. You can repackage your own shit and sell it if it is marketed in the right way. The motivation is to sell. The buildings aren’t built to last; they’re built to fall down in order to get money to build more. It’s so illogical and strange to me. It’s such a disposable culture and yet I feel comfortable being American. In a way American society has worked in reverse on me. Rather than becoming interested in making money, amassing wealth and objects, it made me really like to be travelling and in a hotel where I don’t own anything. I rent a car and it’s like a disposable lighter, when I’m done with it, I’m done. Instead of making me want to buy more, it made me feel very at home with things that I don’t feel any attachment to. I don’t know whether that’s just a quirky, reverse reaction on my part or what.”Â
Are you personally obsessed with the Presley myth and the 1950’s in a similar way to some of the characters in Mystery train?
JIM JARMUSCH: “ No, I’m not actually. I find Elvis to be really figure and I think it’s very sad what happened to him. That’s why the ghost in the film is Elvis circa 1956 because like John Lennon said when Elvis died,’Yeah, but Elvis died the day he went into the army.’ The real spirit of Elvis for me died when he went into the Army. He didn’t want to go and Colonel Tom Parker made him change his image from a rebel rocker to a patriotic American clean-cut boy and when he came out all he did was make crap films and didn’t make an original album until 1968. I find it sad but you know Elvis was a really great singer and he looked really amazing and he was a great pop star. For me, personally, Elvis was not an originator; he was a performer who Sam Phillips created a sound for. To me, Carl Perkins, or Jerry Lee or Gene Vincent are much more like originators than just performers. I love rockabilly and Rock ”ËN’ Roll but I’m more a fan of R&B and Blues. I get more energy from that stuff. I have mixed feelings towards Elvis, but I certainly didn’t want to make the film negative towards Elvis.“
Is music one of your great passions?
JIM JARMUSCH: “Well, it certainly is important to me. Music just gives me so much energy and inspiration. Music and literature in a way probably influence me more than cinema does because they’re different forms and yet related. I probably know as much about music history as I do about the history of cinema.”Â
Screamin’ Jay Hawkins told me that he rolled his voodoo bones on the set of Mystery Train to stop the rain. Is this true?
JIM JARMUSCH: “Yes, he definitely did. It was raining, it was the last night, I had the Japanese actors they were flying back to Tokyo the next day. I had to finish that story, I hadn’t shot the scene where they approached the hotel and it rained and I didn’t want rain because I don’t like that wet-down look that a lot of people intentionally use. I didn’t want that look because I’d have to repeat it in all the other stories. We repeatedly swept down the street but it continued to rain and the weather reports said rain all night. I said to Jay, ”ËI don’t know what I’m going to do.’ He said, ”ËJim, I cannot stop the rain but I can tell you if it will rain or not.’ I was ready to wrap for the night but I said, ”ËOK.’ He took this little leather bag out and rolled his bones out onto this table and examined them and said,’ Jim, shoot it will not rain.’ It didn’t rain for the rest of the night and we go the scene.”Â
JVC, a Japanese company, financed the film. Is this because it’s becoming increasingly difficult to finance independent film in the US?
JIM JARMUSCH: “It’s becoming more difficult thanks to Ronald Reagan’s administration who de-regularised certain anti-trust laws that allowed studios to own chains of cinemas which had never happened before. So the smaller distributors and producers had a lot of trouble and now they’re all dropping like flies. But after I finished writing the script I started looking in LA with some of these medium-sized companies and also in Germany because there was a possibility of a co-production. Then this guy I knew before from JVC came and told me that now JVC is really interested in producing films. They read the script, came to New York, negotiated and it was like a dream. It was the most perfect relationship. They gave me the money, they said we trust you, you make the film. I didn’t write Japanese characters to attract their money, I’d already written that, you know. They let me do whatever I wanted to do and they just supported me. We became partners in the film, 50/50, so they were really great to work with.”Â
What do you find stimulating about working with no-actors?
JIM JARMUSCH: “I like to work with actors that have varied experiences. But I don’t choose them because of their experience, I choose them because of qualities I think would make an interesting character and to me there is no one way to direct actors, there is only one way to collaborate with one person. I like the idea that you have to find that way. You do a lot of rehearsals and try to find a way to communicate with each other and I have to find a way to make them feel relaxed and encouraged. They have to feel like we are collaborating and I’m not telling them what to do.”Â
Finally, Screamin’Jay Hawkins told me there was the possibility of you making a biopic about his life. Is there any truth in that?
JIM JARMUSCH: “Well, Screamin’ Jay he calls me up every couple of months, usually in the middle of the night, saying something’s going to happen to him. He’s got these tapes of his autobiography that he wants to put in my care if anything happens to him. Now, what I would do with them I don’t know. To tell you the truth, I think it would be more interesting to be published as a book. He just says this because he trusts me and I’m really honoured that he trusts me. He’s even said to me there’s only two white guys in his life that he’s trusted fully with his work, which was Alan Freed and me. But really, how could you make a biopic about Screamin’ Jay? Who the hell would you get to play him?”Â
But he looks pretty young, so he could conceivably play his younger self perhaps?
JIM JARMUSCH: “Yes, he could, he could. In his face he looks very young. He’s got a beautiful face. It would have to be him but I don’t know what Jay wants to do with the tapes but I’m honoured that he thinks of me in relation to the project. That man to me is like a national treasure. I’m honoured just to know him. If I’d had more scenes with Screamin’ Jay Hawkins in Mystery train, he would have stolen the film.”Â
Copyright ÃÂ© Ian Johnston