Rudy Wurlitzer 

For a long time, the best testament to Rudy Wurlitzer’s writing was his name in the credits of two of the greatest movies of the ’70s: Two-Lane Blacktop and Pat Garrett And Billy The Kid. But in 2008, he emerged with The Drop Edge Of Yonder, his first novel in decades, and the ensuing years have seen four of his earlier novels come back into print. Most recently, the Chicago indie-rock label Drag City re-released his 1984 novel, Slow Fade, in both print and audiobook form, the latter with narration by Will Oldham and D.V. DeVincentis. Add in recent DVDs of Alex Cox’s Walker and Jim McBride’s Glen And Randa, both with Wurlitzer-penned scripts, and we suddenly have a much fuller picture of Wurlitzer’s formidable talents. The story of a journeyman roadie who stumbles onto a Western movie set and gets an arrow in the eye for his trouble, Slow Fade is inspired by Wurlitzer’s relationship with Pat Garrett director Sam Peckinpah, a self-made outlaw whose destructive temperament blasted masterworks out of the bedrock of American myth. The novel interweaves the main story with a script in progress, itself a transparent fiction relating to the disappearance of the director’s daughter, until it’s no longer clear whether fiction is revealing the truth of reality or vice-versa. The A.V. Club talked to Wurlitzer about Peckinpah’s legendary rages, how a novelist who “didn’t know a car from a cow” ended up writing one of the great road movies, and why the scion of a jukebox millionaire ended up working on an oil tanker.

The A.V. Club: How did Drag City end up publishing the reissue of Slow Fade as well as the audiobook? They’re mainly a record label.

Rudy Wurlitzer: I’d never heard of Drag City, but they contacted me, and said that Will [Oldham] really loved the book and they said they wanted to do an audiobook, which was great for me, since it had been a long time since it had been released. What was really interesting about the whole situation was that he gave a number of readings around Boston and New England, and he wanted me to do a reading with him. I said I’d be glad to, as long as we figure out a form that’s sort of new and interesting, because in the past when I’d read my own work, it always felt distant and not juicy enough. Especially when you get to be an old geezer and you’re up there reading your old stuff, it gets to be a bit embarrassing. 

He was traveling with some people in his band. By that point, I’d listened to some of his music, and really liked what he was up to. What we arranged to do was, I would do the reading with him, and the guitar player in the pauses between sections would strum some chords, and my wife, Lynn Davis, who’s a photographer, she had done a series of photographs in a lot of the places that the book took place. The first time we read together, we did it an a new site in Hudson which is an old industrial building, over 150 years old, down by the river. So two new young people, Melissa Auf Der Maur, she’s a singer who’s been with a number of rock bands, and her boyfriend Tony Stone, he’s a filmmaker, they started an arts center, and the reading was the opening night.

So we did it, and it seemed to work really well, with Lynn’s photographs in the background, over 100 of them. In an old-fashioned sense it was more like a happening, it had lots of different energies involved. And it was fun. We have a lot in common, and it would be great if I would work with him again on something. It made me think about doing theater pieces with music, and obviously written stuff and visual stuff. That really turned me on.

AVC: It’s a minor detail, but it’s interesting that Slow Fade is the only one of your novels where the characters have real names. In the others, they’re nameless, or called by the names of places they have no connection to. The director figure, Wesley Hardin, is obviously named for the outlaw, and his missing daughter is Clementine, as in “you are lost and gone forever.” How did you come up with those?

RW: It just amused me and resonated with me. The character of Wesley Hardin, who has a lot of Peckinpah-like elements, it seemed like an appropriate name. One of the main subjects of the book is the film world, and the theatricality of it all. So Clementine, like “Oh My Darling Clementine,” seemed to me like something that Wesley Hardin would have called his daughter. 

AVC: There’s definitely a sense in Wesley Hardin, as there was with Peckinpah, of the dangerous of self-mythologizing. There’s an image he has to live out, even if it kills him. That’s very much what Pat Garrett And Billy The Kid is about.

RW: Peckinpah was larger than life and smaller at the same time. He was very, very human, very emotionally charged, complicated, egoic, talented, violent, passionate about the people that were close to him, loyal, and full of paranoia and fear of betrayal, which he was always suffering from. So being around him was intense, to say the least. The hardcore people that did a number of films with him, they were completely loyal to him and he was to them, and they formed a kind of posse. They could ride into their own world, and the enemy was always the powers-that-be, in order to have that close-knit camaraderie. It was very old-fashioned that way, kind of dualistic. 

But that’s what he was a master at, having an enemy he could charge at. The downside was that it consumed a lot of his identity and talent, and often got in the way of what he was doing. It’s funny, when they screened it in New York [at Anthology Film Archives in May], I hadn’t seen it for years and years—and they didn’t screen the final cut, which I was sad about; it didn’t include Dylan’s “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door.” But in any case, when I was looking at it, I was sort of stunned by how violent it was, and it made me remember that my original script that I handed in, the only violent scene was at the very end, when Pat Garrett kills Billy. But every 10 minutes, there seems to be about a dozen people getting killed, and that made me remember how Sam had put all that in. That said, some of the things he introduced I thought improved the script, which was to have Billy and Pat meet at the beginning and establish their bond of friendship, which deepened the sense of betrayal. It created a more dramatic arc. But on the other hand, I was sort of dismayed by the other stuff that he included.

AVC: There were a lot of battles on that film, most famously over the raft scene, where Pat Garrett and a complete stranger end up in an accidental shooting match, then realize there’s no reason for them to be shooting at each other. Peckinpah loved it and the studio wanted it out.

RW: That was when he flipped out with the studio and they really went to war. I’m sure the studio in some malignant way knew they were really sticking it to him and inviting him to respond that way. I don’t think it was that they had planned to take the film away from him, but certainly that was the cause and effect. That was a really dramatic situation. But before that, he had been going to war with them repeatedly, and it all culminated when a producer came down to look at the footage and Sam got up and peed on the screen. Quite a famous moment. It was all very theatrical and exhausting and memorable. At the time, I was sort of freaked, but now I look back on it with a great deal of affection, because somebody like Sam wouldn’t exist now in the corporate world. He was such an old rogue outlaw, so innocent in his way. I look back on the whole experience with him with a great deal of fondness.

AVC: Pat Garrett never made it out in its proper form. 

RW: I know, I know. There was all that stuff with MGM and—oh man, it was a nightmare. Peckinpah was on the warpath. But those days, now I realize, “My God, that was an amazing time.” When you could just proceed with a certain degree of autonomy and adventure. It was amazing. I would write one of these crazy books and then go out and make a film, and I didn’t know what all the complaints were about. I thought, “Wow, this is great.” [Laughs.] And then of course, the big, steel doors shut down and it was bad from then on. But the people I worked with, like Monte [Hellman] and Peckinpah, Hal Ashby I worked with awhile, they were all great. And individuals. The whole corporate envelope hadn’t gathered. There were storm clouds on the horizon, but I was so stuck in my own fun, I never saw it coming.

AVC: Pat Garrett and Two-Lane Blacktop, even more so Glen And Randa, it’s a little hard to believe they got made in the first place. 

RW: They couldn’t get made now, that’s for sure. [Laughs.] It’s amazing they were made. Then in the ’80s, of course, it all shifted and changed and became more corporate. The people you were dealing with more were salespeople. Back then, you’d write a script and Monte would say, “Yeah, gee, I read this crazy book by you. I’d like to see what you could do.” So I completely threw everything out and did my own thing, and no one questioned anything. [Laughs.] There were no salespeople in the room. You didn’t have to pitch; you just did your thing. So, you were free to go on your own journey, and it was more of a collaboration in that way. 

AVC: How did Esquire get the idea that Two-Lane Blacktop was the “movie of the year” and end up publishing the script? 

RW: I don’t know. Somebody must’ve sent them the script, and the script had a certain kind of, I guess, cachet they liked. It was the only script they’d ever published. I think they felt, after the first returns were in, “My God, what an insane thing. We’ll never do that one again.”  

AVC: Do you feel like Two-Lane and Pat Garrett reflect what you had in mind? Or improved on it? 

RW: In retrospect, I’m stunned by how they turned out better than I thought they would. At the time, once you’re involved in the whole drama of production and this and that and the personalities, you just don’t know. You’re more aware of the problems and the various cuts. And then when it’s released, and the reviews are mixed at best, you think, “Ugh.” But now, I’m amazed at how good those films are. And it’s not just—well, it is, in a way—that they couldn’t be made now, but the degree of freedom and exploration and spontaneity involved just doesn’t happen now. First of all, films are a hundred times more expensive now, and they’re hooked into a global audience, and it’s all a kind of corporate sell. There’s a sort of magic sense when you’re making a film that you’re just in your own world and trying to work for its own sake. These directors, like Peckinpah, he was amazing. He was crazy and confrontational and inspired and generous, and all these things that now get sublimated. That whole photo-artistic temperament was given full range. So now, I’m fond of those films. In the ’80s, whenever I was going to do a script, I’d try to do one in Europe with a European director. 

AVC. Glen And Randa was the first script you worked on, and it seems the closest to your novels in some ways, especially to Flats and Quake.

RW: That’s true. I don’t have the dates in my mind, but that was certainly in that time slot. First there was Nog, then Flats, then Quake; I don’t know where the film fit into that. But certainly, Glen And Randa was part of that post-apocalyptic whatever. It certainly influenced some of the language. I was a friend of Jim McBride’s, and he and this friend of his, Lorenzo Mans, initiated the script, so when I came in, I gave it whatever I had to offer, a lot of which is toward the end of the film, in terms of breaking with form, turning to a different perspective. It was fun. It was very open-ended. It was the late ’60s: It was not about hierarchy, it was about if we could get something done and see where it goes, which explains a lot about why the acting is so uneven. None of us knew what we were doing, which was what was good about it and what was limited about it.

AVC: How did Monte Hellman approach you about writing Two-Lane Blacktop? You were best known then for your experimental novel Nog, which doesn’t exactly seem like Hollywood material.

RW: I know! That was like, “Wow!” [Laughs.] 

AVC: Had you given any thought to writing for film before that?

RW: I was writing these books one after the other—Nog, Flats, and Quake—and I didn’t see it at that time, but it was sort of a trilogy. So, I was broke, because those books weren’t exactly going to be on Oprah. I didn’t want to teach. I was a bartender for a while and I didn’t want to do that. So it was great. It was a real adventure, and I really liked L.A. in those days. I’m totally alienated from it now, but it was sort of a dreamy place. And I didn’t know that many people there, which was a great benefit. I was left alone, you know? I had written some of Nog there, and that was great, because there was a certain kind of freedom involved.  

AVC: How did you go from writing Nog to writing screenplays? 

RW: Well, I have a visual imagination, so it was not an awkward jump into the form. In fact, I liked the form a lot. Especially when I was left alone. In those days, I didn’t feel sublimated to the director as much—at least, at first. With Monte, he just shot what I wrote. And I can remember an old, grizzled producer saying, “Well, son, enjoy it, because that ain’t gonna ever happen again.” [Laughs.] And yeah, he was right. I mean, sort of. Although Sam pretty much shot what I wrote. And Hal would’ve. I worked a little bit on Coming Home for him. I did the last draft, and he was wonderful. I would’ve gone on to work with him anytime.  

AVC: Was the raft scene in Pat Garrett in your script? It’s a purely visual moment, and seems to be much of a piece with Peckinpah’s oeuvre.

RW: Yes, I wrote that and MGM hated it. And Sam, when his final cut reemerged some time later, he put it back in. It was an important scene for me, because it worked as a metaphor for the whole Western myths of origins. It just worked on a poetic level.

AVC: Which is not the kind of thing you can say to a studio executive.

RW: No! [Laughs.] Are you crazy? “There’s the door!” But in terms of the whole myth of the West and the frontier—which also mirrored my own sense of internal frontiers, the myth of freedom and all that—in this last book I wrote, a lot of those scripts and research and filmic ideas I was left with found their way into that book, called The Drop Edge Of Yonder. It seemed to complete something for me, because I used the best of that.

AVC: The visual quality of the writing in Nog is so important. It’s almost the only thing that allows you to keep your bearings. You can see how Monte Hellman would latch onto that. 

RW: Monte is unlike any director I’ve ever known. He’s very innocent, in his way. What he liked—and, I think, he had in his earlier films that he did with Jack Nicholson—what really turns him on is to be surprised. I think he thought, “This guy will give me something new.” It’s the way he casts, too, for better or for worse. They’re mostly people who’ve never acted before. So, there’s a mixture. With Two-Lane, what’s so interesting about it now, in retrospect, is the non-actors, like James Taylor, and the girl, Laurie [Bird], mixing in with the real old pros, like Warren Oates and Harry Dean [Stanton]. It gives it a strange energy, which, at the time, people were sort of freaked by. But now, I find it all quite lovable, don’t you? [Laughs.]

AVC: Absolutely. I love James Taylor’s performance.

RW: Yeah, and he was totally out of his mind. [Laughs.]

AVC: I think it’s, by far, the best thing he’s done in any medium. 

RW: Yeah, that’s because he didn’t know what he was doing. And none of us did. It was a process that—more than any other film that I’ve been involved with, except maybe when I worked with Robert Frank—existed in the present. Films are such a linear medium, and they depend so much on the overloaded cost of things, and how it’s set up before, and where it’s gonna go after, so you’re locked into this linear process. But Monte, with his extraordinary openness and innocence, didn’t play by those rules. He didn’t know that he wasn’t playing by them. It never occurred to him. 

AVC: You mentioned the juxtaposition of the road movie and the internal journey, as well, which is something that very much plays into the books and the films. It seems to be pretty consistent.  

RW: To go back to what you were saying about why Monte chose me, for all the strangeness of Nog, it does represent a very eccentric road movie. So, I think that’s what appealed to him, one of the things. 

AVC: There’s something truly subversive about Two-Lane Blacktop, which is a movie about a road race that never ends and no one wins.

RW: It didn’t start that way. When I came into the situation, the only thing I kept from the original script was the idea of these race people, the Driver, the Mechanic, and the Girl, and this cross-country race. But nothing else. So I was very free. I hung out with car freaks in the San Fernando Valley and read all the magazines. I didn’t know a car from a cow before that. It was like a great new language. And the way Monte cast it, with these non-actors like James Taylor and Laurie and Dennis Wilson, and then with these old, great character actors; the balance was really interesting in terms of language and energy, this sort of innocence compared to this high-powered professionalism of Warren Oates. As far as the ending goes, we didn’t know how to end it, and it seemed wrong to end it with them winning or losing; that wasn’t where it was at. The whole thing was about the process of being on the move, the road to nowhere. Of course, when the film opened, people really thought it was nuts. They were expecting a classic story of winners and losers and races, all that stuff. And it didn’t happen.

AVC: Was there a model for the character of GTO, played by Warren Oates?

RW: Not really. A lot of it was just Warren. I just went for it, because I was working against the one-dimensional innocence of the non-actors. They didn’t have that range. They had one note. I wanted to write something that involved a lot of notes that would help balance it. So that’s what I was trying to do. Make it over the top and with humor. The non-actors’ parts didn’t have any humor.

AVC: There’s also, in both Two-Lane and Pat Garrett, a sense of men wrestling with the roles available to them. Pat Garrett and the Driver want to be tough guys, but in a sense, pushing toward that archetype destroys them. 

RW: Some of it probably had to do with my own relationship to the film world. One of the things I saw looking at these early films once again was how sublimated the screenwriter is to the powers that be: director and stars. It’s something that I can’t do any more. Although, that said, with those scripts I was freer and looser and more connected to my own instincts than afterwards. So that’s the irony of it. But it was certainly a subject even before the film business, that one has as a writer, and also where I came from—in other words, a complicated relationship with authority.

AVC: You’re dealing with this foundational American myth of the frontier and the road movie, the idea that you find yourself by leaving home. Other countries don’t have that in the same way. 

RW: You could say that represents our myths of origins. I’ve always been attracted to that in a lot of different ways, because I’ve always been a kind of nomadic character. 

AVC: Did you move around a lot as a kid? When did the wanderlust kick in for you?

RW: The wanderlust kicked in when I was about 16 or 17. I got a job on an oil tanker as a wiper in the engine room. We went from Philadelphia to Spanish Morocco to Kuwait. And then after that, I spent a lot of time in Europe. Paris.

AVC: And that was in the ’50s or the ’60s?

RW: The ’60s. I was influenced a lot by an old poet that I knew, Robert Graves. So I hung out with him. New York in the ’60s was a very exciting place for me, because the first little film I did was with Claes Oldenburg, and it was kind of a happening film. So, I was influenced by Claes and [Robert] Rauschenberg, and the whole art scene, [Jackson] Pollock. And the freedom. The whole jazz scene in New York was great, Ornette Coleman and those kind of people. And the poets: [William S.] Burroughs, I knew, and [Allen] Ginsberg, and Phil Glass was a very good friend of mine. He was working as a plumber then. I had a job at the Five Spot. It was just a kind of extraordinary time of complete permission. The cliché about the ’60s really seemed to be true in the Lower East Side in those days. 

AVC: The movies don’t celebrate that kind of freedom, though. They’re about the dangers of freedom, more than its possibility. It seems significant that the race in Two-Lane goes from west to east, which is the opposite of the great westward expansion. 

RW: Yes. There’s the myth of that. And also, in a literary sense, as I look back on it, what I was questioning was the whole naturalism of the narrative throughline. That was, in a literary sense, what I was trying to do in the books, but also in Two-Lane. Two-Lane related to those three early books more than any other film or book, except perhaps for Drop Edge. That’s an interesting way to think about it.

AVC: There are little bits of Western mythology that thread through them as well, but in Pat Garrett you deal with it directly. As with a lot of Peckinpah’s movies, it’s about the seduction of those myths, and also the incredibly destructive power of them.

RW: I was talking about this the other day to this friend of mine, the director Alex Cox, who’s a big fan of that film. And we were saying what’s really interesting, a few people have pointed out about that film, is the politics of it. The Santa Fe ring, and how they were controlling things. That sort of mirrored in Peckinpah’s mind the whole thing he was going through with MGM—being controlled by these other forces where you aren’t quite sure what they’re thinking, you’re at the mercy of. So independence is a loaded thing, and you pay a big price for it at times. But it’s worth it.

AVC: There’s an idea of being in love with self-destruction or nothingness.

RW: That’s an interesting point, because as I look back on that time, I was always sort of skating on the edge of nihilism, but always hoping or trying to find a way to transcend it. To not let it just be nihilism, but to go for a bigger metaphor, and bigger view. Not always successfully, but that was in the room as well, for me, anyway.

AVC: When did you become involved with Buddhism? It strives for the destruction of the self, but not in a nihilistic way. 

RW: No, it’s about dissolving the self or witnessing the illusions of self without necessarily destroying it.

AVC: Did that flow out of those earlier experiences? 

RW: Well, yeah. Actually, at some point I was going to direct a film in India, in the early ’70s, for Universal of all things. In those days they’d let you do that. So I went on a location trip to India that lasted quite a while. And the producer that went with me just totally flipped out. “There’s no way we could ever do a film in this country with a first-time director.” He even flew back to L.A., couldn’t handle it, but I stayed on. When I got back, I was persona non grata at Universal. [Laughs.] But that was the beginning of my wanderlust. I spent a lot of time there and in Nepal over the years.

AVC: What was your experience like on Little Buddha?

RW: That was a complicated picture for me, because initially Bernardo [Bertolucci] called me, and I was sort of intrigued. It was an interesting film to be a part of, and it was very frustrating on some levels. I think Bernardo really got scared of the subject, of what dharma really is and what it implies. He sort of hid it behind a children’s fantasy, and I always felt bad about that. It could have been so much more. 

AVC: Do you have a sense, looking back, of what you were looking for when you were traveling?

RW: A lot of times I was just traveling to travel. I wasn’t looking for anything in a conceptual sense, I was just thrilled by travel and the worldly phenomena. I have always experienced an internal restlessness. When I went to India off and on I was looking for ways to study various things. Other than that, the journeys to South America, or Egypt, or Europe—I’ve spent a lot of time up in Greenland over the years—it was just trying to leave the toxicity of this culture. It’s a bit romantic, but it fueled me in some way.

AVC: And you’ve come back here, you’re living in the U.S. 

RW: Well, now that I’m an old geezer, traveling has certainly changed, you know? I don’t rush to the airport the way I used to. Do you?

AVC: No. People used to get dressed up to get on an airplane. Now it’s like a bus in the sky. 

RW: It’s a different thing now. My wife is a photographer. She’s traveled all over the world for many years, so sometimes I would go with her and she would go with me when I had to film locations in Nicaragua or Australia or somewhere like that. So that was part of it, too. The film world was also about travel. But now my travel is mostly interior.

AVC: Going all the way back to the beginning, you have a famous name.

RW: A brand name. [Laughs.]

AVC: You’ve said that the family fortune was not a factor by the time you were growing up.

RW: It wasn’t. I mean, I grew up in a relatively privileged way, but my father left the company and became a dealer in rare string instruments, so I was involved in the music world as a kid. And then the company was taken over by others, so I’ll always have to make a living, in other words. That wasn’t a bad thing. I did have a good education and all that. But I was given permission to be a little crazy, you know? 

AVC: It’s interesting to think of your family as one that lived out the American dream and then retracted back from it a bit. 

RW: Well, you know, the cliché about wealth is four generations and out. [Laughs.] That’s sort of true for me. First generation came over from Germany in 1847 and went to Cincinnati where all the Germans were. They came from quite a well-to-do German family, but my great-grandfather wasn’t left anything. So he came to America, got a job in a drugstore and started writing home for his musical instruments to sell out of the drugstore and one thing led to another and soon there was a factory in Buffalo and Chicago and then there were orchestras and pianos and organs and all that. And then every generation, it became less. We got hit pretty hard in ’29. And then various family problems and situations and the whole thing fell apart. That's probably a good thing, you know? Anyway, it is what it is. [Laughs.] So I had to reinvent myself. I couldn’t take anything for granted, which was a blessing in a way.

AVC: Again, very true to the American mythology.

RW: Yeah, it’s very American. The whole family pull was toward Europe. So my pull was toward the opposite, to where there was none of that exposition about who you were.

AVC: Who were the writers that inspired or fascinated you when you were younger? Maybe before you started writing.

RW: You know, I loved the big 18th-century adventure novels. But I was very influenced in the ’50s and early ’60s by such European writers as Beckett, and Kafka to an extent. Bachelard and such people as that. Genet. And Americans such as Burroughs, who were breaking forms. The whole Burroughs way of cutting up the narrative was interesting to me. And always poets. I was always interested in poetry. And you know, the great novels. The Russians. Turgenev and Dostoevsky and all of that. I read widely in those days.

AVC: Louis L’Amour is somebody you’ve written about as well.

RW: Well, that was sort of a joke. I did write about him because he was such a cliché. The first couple of pages of Louis L’Amour, when it’s just the phenomenology of writing into open space without any conceptual plan, are great. And then after the first two or three pages, then the whole form sets in, and then it’s almost unreadable. It’s just a hack job. But the first two pages were sublime, his descriptions of nature and going into the unknown. And then, of course, he closed it down quite fast. That was just to fool around with, you know?

AVC: And a statement of purpose: Take the landscape without the plot.

RW: Yeah, it’s an anti-depressant to stay in a pre-conceptual place, a pre-cognitive place. That’s what Beckett offered me, for instance. So I had to give up reading Beckett because he meant too much to me.

AVC: With Quake, you’re destroying Los Angeles at the same time as you’re giving into it.

RW: That was when I sort of intuitively felt that the whole adventure and wonderful innocence of the film business was no longer. It was a gut thing. I still had this place in Nova Scotia that I would go to after a film and write one of these books. I think Quake was one of those semi-conscious portents of the feeling that L.A. had radically changed for me. 

AVC: Were you aware of that only in retrospect?

RW: In retrospect, maybe that’s what it’s about. You start a book, you don’t really know. You have some sort of vague idea.  At least me, I try to stay in the present with it and find out what I’m thinking along the way.

AVC: Nog and Flats don’t seem like they were outlined first.

RW: [Laughs.] No, they outlined me! I was tap dancing on a rubber raft.

AVC: Nova Scotia, in addition to being a beautiful place, is physically about as far as you can get from Los Angeles.

RW: Yes, exactly. And that’s why I was there. And also, I was doing a few little films with Robert Frank up there. He was somebody that was defiantly improvisational without conceptual form. And it was always a relief or sort of therapy for me.

AVC: Is that how your relationship with him started?

RW: Yeah. When I came up there, I bought this piece of land in this old, broken-down place with Phil Glass, who had a couple of kids and had built a place on this edge of property. I bought this big piece of land for $7,000 or something. And Robert was up there. He had come up there around that time, too. A little bit further away. Like an hour away. But you know, we became friends. Shared the love of things together. Took some trips together in the West. And Labrador and various places.

AVC: How did Candy Mountain come together? Both you and Robert Frank are credited as director. How did that function, in a practical sense?

RW: Actually, as it turned out, Robert was really the director. I thought I was going to be one of the directors, the co-director. In a sense, I was, because I was involved in the whole process. But really, his whole expression is to be behind the camera and express it that way, but also control what’s in front of the camera. And that’s fine. That’s the way it is. Whatever is really good about the direction of that film is due to him. We shared Cape Breton and we wanted to do a thing up there. It was pretty spontaneous and it was a low-key production. A co-production with Canada, Switzerland, and France. It was outside of L.A. and this country, so we really were free to do whatever we wanted and it was great that way. Like any film, there were problems, but in retrospect, it was a good experience.

AVC: That’s another road movie that ends up very much not going where you think it’s going. You think you’re going to end up in the Mississippi Delta.

RW: That’s right. When you’re so totally submerged in the road, you sometimes forget how to wrap it up at the end. Which is good. You don’t really want to wrap it up. You just want to continue walking.