A family affair

John Turturro sheds some Illuminati on his role as writer, director, and -- oh, yeah -- actor

JT: Yeah, but Chris brought a real delicacy to this role, and even at the end, you see that this guy is a lonely man who has almost created a persona for himself. That's why his character says, "Listen, there are things I really do like. Everyone says I don't, but that's not true." There are different tones in the film, and I thought the delicate tone will be at the center and the circus will go around it. Then again, with Walken, his character's not in as many scenes, so obviously you have to...

DO: Paint his character in broader strokes?

JT: Yeah, that's right. Still, I think Chris brought a lot of insight and humor and delicacy and surprise to it. Someone said to me one day, "You seem to be interested in absurd comedy and very serious drama." Somehow, I don't know if that always works together, but I feel that there is a connection in life between that. This is not a comedy of one-liners. It's about the craziness, the absurdity, that goes on between people.

John Turturro has worked with all the best directors: Martin Scorsese, Robert Redford, Spike Lee, the Coen Brothers, Peter Weir, and John Turturro.
John Turturro has worked with all the best directors: Martin Scorsese, Robert Redford, Spike Lee, the Coen Brothers, Peter Weir, and John Turturro.

DO: No one is more overpowering in the film than Katherine. She really grounds the film.

JT: She's the center of the film. But I always saw the female characters as almost being the stronger characters than the men in some ways, and I would even include Chris in that...I just tried to keep the playing field somewhat level. I think in life that some of those things are true sometimes.

DO: To be in control like this -- from the way a film looks to the themes it deals with, then to be in it and to cast your family in it -- is that more rewarding than simply acting in someone else's film? Or is it just a different kind of rewarding?

JT: It is more rewarding. It's more rewarding by far.

DO: Is it hard not to want to do that all the time?

JT: Yeah, yeah. Because, to be honest, you are working fanatically -- you write. You are working on something, and you say, "Wow, this is something. There is no end to this." And I'm never bored by it. I'm working with people I really know and pushing them to really use themselves, and I'm working with other people who I really admire, so it's not a completely familiar surrounding. There are new dynamics within it aesthetically, visually, talentwise, scriptwise.

DO: You create everything.

JT: There is so much of you up there, for the good and the bad of it. It's tremendously surprising and a real education. You are looking at what you think you knew what you were doing, ya know, and all of a sudden, it's projected back to you, and you are saying, "Oh, my God, I never knew it would come together that way." In this film, I was surprised at many things.

DO: What surprised you the most?

JT: Once we saw the first rough cut, I was surprised at where the film went. I thought it would be maybe touching and have a delicacy to it, but I was surprised at how strong the ending was. Then I said, "Oh, that's probably what I was searching for," but I couldn't really put my finger on it. It is honestly optimistic in a world in which we are surrounded by so much of the opposite.

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