a Screenmancer exclusive
So here goes... Conversations with Quendrith Johnson
-- Director Jean-Jacques Annaud (Seven Years in Tibet)
"Iím always playing doctors
and I keep thinking itís my
Christian Science karma coming back
on me or the fact that I say I do it
for the health insurance
and Hollywood says, all right, if youíre
doing it for the health insurance,
weíll have you play a doctor...
"I know it would take ten years of working on writing
to find my whole being in
the print rather than in the
physical presence with an audience, but
at the same time I like both forms
because the writing allows me to be
more private, take more risks, work
much more rigorously with more serious
or painful issues that are harder to do in front
of an audience because of the terrific need
that I feel in this day and age, particularly now,
for any audience to be entertained..
"I think that the difference between
the writing and speaking is
the presence and the absence --
itís very hard for me to be in a room alone
without an audience working on a book
["Monster in a Box"]-- it was tortuous...
"I always wanted to be a writer...
two things happened at the same time
my senior year. One, I wrote an essay
or a piece that was a very beautiful
description of a summerís day in
the Barrington River and she read that aloud
to the class and I could hear it as beautiful
because she had read it and I heard it
through her voice and I thought,
íoh my God, who wrote that?
thatís wonderfulí. The other thing was
that I was in my first play and I was told
by the director that I had excellent timing...
I was torn and went for the theater
because it was more immediate gratification
and I think performers are more childish
and child-like in that need
for immediate gratification...
writers are able to suspend it,
to believe a little bit more
in the future to take their time
and I have a real struggle with that...
"America goes and sees [movies]
and buys it as a reality --
what a strange thing! -- so,
that thereís a scary business of image
here in LA that I am frightened about
because I donít know sometimes
what has substance
and what is just image again...
ĒSo, [performance] itís cinema of the skull
or skull cinema. The audience,
when it works for them,
are having to do what I used to do
with radio and that is to make up
Ozzie and Harrietís house...
they are having their own experiences off mine.
"I think every good narrative writer
has to be a good storyteller --
thatís what itís about -- and itís
about working with idiosyncratic details,
the things that come through to you.
I think Raymond Carver was a genius
at it -- he sketches -- he can do a
whole scene with just a little
piece of hair and you fill in the rest...
"I think one of the dangers of the way that
I work is that
you turn an event into a story before you experience
and feel the event so it becomes a defense mechanism
against living and feeling and seeing people."
"In this business, you can never
say that now I know everything...
'my education is completed, you
canít teach me anything more.'
If you want to be true to yourself,
if you want to be honest as an actor,
you have to reflect the world around you.
You have to know whatís going on.
As the world is changing, you have
also to understand the changes
and every new character you get
to portray -- there arenít two people
on this earth, thereís never been,
absolutely identical -- so every new
task is a different task
if you want to be honest with it...
"The trouble is, we [actors] donít
have a terminology for what we do.
I mean, we try to do something
intellectually, we try to analyze
the character in a play...we make
plans, we do a lot of research,
we have it all figured out, but then,
because youíre dealing with emotions
and feelings and human relationships,
you donít know whatís going on
here [points to chest] while
youíre working up here [points to head]...
or what kind of hidden secrets
that you kind of dig up inside
yourself that youíre not aware of.
Thereís always a subconscious
process thatís going on that you
have no control of, and that can
affect you in the most surprising way...
"If I had to choose between theater
and film, I would choose the stage,
because thatís where I am in total
control -- I deliver directly nobody
comes in and edits me afterwards."