Listening to the Safdie brothers and PTA talk about their craft and share stories is possibly the greatest—and cheapest—film education around.
Topics covered include: hot mics, shooting in airports pre-9/11, "movie star grapes," Josh seeing Sandler in Punch-Drunk Love at age 18, writing a script that feels like there is no script at all, His Royal Highness Darius Khondji, the firecracker scene in Boogie Nights, the feeling when it all works artistically, post-filmmaking blues, losing the Ziegfeld theater in NYC, and why it just makes sense to ship a precious gem inside of a fish.
PTA: You're listening to the A24 podcast.
Josh: Yes, you’re listening...
Josh: Benny, you got the nice mic.
Benny: Yeah, I don’t know if this is the nice one.
Josh: Okay, we did this, we did this job once where it was like a PSA for turtles.
Josh: And we were shooting with some people and they were wearing wire mics. Radio mics.
Benny: I was mixing, and I was running boom and all that, but I heard the wire mics and there was this whole side conversation between the two of them, about the turtle. And the intricate kind of bend and sway of the turtle's neck, and it got very…
Josh: And then one of them reminded the other like, “We are wearing microphones…
Benny: And they just looked over, right at me, and I was like... this dead stare. Like I didn’t hear a thing.
Josh: It’s probably better in that scenario to actually confront and be like, “Yeah, I heard everything you said.”
Benny: No. It just went away. It disappeared, and he brings it up.
PTA: Did you get anybody, knowing, in the sort of situations that you had, across the street, mixing with real people–how many times a day did somebody know that that was Sandler?
Josh: Weirdly enough, I feel like what we would do, we’d have sort of extras and PAs walk out through the streets, and when they saw someone who did recognize him, they were instructed to go up and say “Hey where’s the 6 train?” and stuff like that, so that you have that in the background.
But there’s one take, I remember, I think... did we show that part to you? Maybe early on. That scene between him and Julia when they’re fighting outside the nightclub.
PTA: Yes! Yes.
Josh: And there’s a guy standing there, maybe ten feet away from them when they’re having this epic argument. He is doing his best to just be a pedestrian. And he’s averting his eyes, but he’s in the movie. And he didn’t recognize it was Sandler. I wonder, I wonder, I never paid attention to it.
Benny: Well people, people would notice him. And he would just do this thing where he’d be like, “Oh yeah hey hey, just give me a second, but as Howard.”
Benny: Even though, you know, even though they don’t realize that he’s still being a nice guy, he’ll be like, “Just give me one second I’ll get you after this.” And then he’ll go right into the role.
Josh: Well what about in your film? In Punch-Drunk Love. When you’re in Hawaii, in the parade scene. That’s a real parade I imagine, right?
PTA: That’s a real parade but he’s at least shielded.
Josh: By that phone-
PTA: By that phone booth. But we had done other stuff in terms of...
Josh: I’m curious, were those extras around him? Or those were…?
PTA: No. Hah.
Josh: Those were real people.
PTA: There’s a parade going on, but honestly he just swooped in, but that’s not to say we didn’t have our own fair share of that. It was before 9/11 so we were running through an airport. I mean we were running, like wild through an airport. And we were going so fast that there was this one moment where someone yelled out, “Hey that’s Ben Stiller!”
Josh: That’s the benefit of having a Jewish comedian-
PTA: Somebody was just like, “It’s the funny guy from TV!”
Josh: That’s crazy, ‘cause the movie came out after 9/11 but you shot it before obviously.
PTA: Yeah, so we were running through metal detectors and airport security and no-one was saying boo, that was yeah, a different time.
Josh: You just, you just brought the camera in they were-
Benny: It doesn’t look like that at all.
Josh: Yeah, well that’s what’s amazing.
PTA: Yeah ‘cause we cut that shit out... that didn’t look…
Benny: No, but you know what I mean? It doesn’t have the feeling like it seems like you had total control over everything.
PTA: Right, and well sometimes you go, like that parade scene you were talking about, that’s like, talking of Sandler like, this chaos is going on, he’s getting the take, he’s pretty good, but he’s gotta go to like 10, and the takes that’s in the film is like, it would happen where all these sweet things would go on during the parade like sweet kindergarten hula classes-
Josh: That you wanted and shit.
PTA: ... and shit like that and it was like, okay and he’s not there so the take that’s in the film where he goes absolutely ballistic this tribal sorta drum thing, and you feel like he hears that and it gets inside him, and the next thing you know his eyes are bulging out of his head. Like that’s the beauty of shooting in a real scenario.
Josh: Exactly. Fate comes into play. But that’s like, Sandler’s like that. We were just talking about that with him earlier today. He’s like the oldest soul in the world and the youngest soul in the world at the same time. And I see that in your movie and I also see that in mine where he's almost like a newborn.
But he’s also like this ancient person that’s trying to manifest his own destiny all the time and in that I mean I was telling him this morning, I was like, I told him we were gonna see you later and I said it's the little things, it's almost like the old soul is getting frustrated with the young soul in the movie.
Like when they’re having dinner on that first date and he’s telling her about the pudding thing and then she brings up the hammer story… and he does that little hand thing. He throws his hand with just this pure frustration and it’s the old soul being angry with the young soul and it's just, ah man... and that movie is very cosmic, but also kind of like a cartoon.
Benny: His cadence in it is so fragile, and so beautiful. And it captures what makes his comedy so awesome too. Which I loved.
Josh: You’re a Big Daddy fan right?
PTA: Big Big Daddy fan.
Josh: Is that the one that you saw, where you were like...
PTA: That, I had seen Happy Gilmore, and I loved that, right and that was really the beginning, but I also knew SNL, right. So I knew SNL, and then Happy Gilmore.
Don’t tell Adam, I liked The Waterboy, but I didn’t love The Waterboy like I loved Happy Gilmore, but Big Daddy just was something else entirely. In particular the scene where he’s screaming at his dad on the telephone. The late great Joe Bologna and then I got backtracked and was like, Wait now I need to see every single thing over and over again.
Josh: The only thing I haven’t seen of his is Going Overboard.
PTA: I don’t know Going Overboard.
Josh: The cover I know very very well. Well the cover they put Sandler’s face-
PTA: Oh yes, I do know this one yes, of course of course yeah...
Benny: I've seen actually the trailer online is pretty amazing, you know he’s talking right to the camera-
Josh: Yeah, yeah I’ve never seen that one. But you were on the set of Little Nicky?
PTA: Yeah, that's when I first met him. I was down the street from here having dinner with Mike De Luca and he was like, “Well what so you wanna do next?” I said, “You know, well I know you know Adam Sandler. I wanna work with Adam Sandler.”
Josh: Haha. Amazing.
PTA: And he was like, “Well he’s down the street at Paramount shooting, you should go visit him.” And he called him up. So I went to visit. I hate visiting sets, I feel like...
Josh: Right, you feel like a nuisance right?
PTA: Oh it's the worst. It’s like, this is horrible.
Josh: Does it remind you how horrible it is making a movie?
PTA: Yes it does. And-
Benny: It’s like, This is what I’m doing?
PTA: Yeah its like, does it look like... Do I look like that fucking douche-y?
PTA: And then Quentin came over to me ‘cause Quentin was shooting, and he’s like, “What are you doing here?” And I could see in his head he’s like, Well what’s going on?
Josh: Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.
PTA: Because at the time he had been writing Inglourious Basterds.
Josh: For Bear Jew, yeah.
PTA: And he had this idea, and was like whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa.
Josh: And he could see what you were doing and he’s like, “Well I’m in Little Nicky right now, what-”
PTA: What are you doing?
Josh: I love that.
PTA: I was like, “See ya sucker!”... so that was my first intro to Sandler. And we kinda became friends, and that was around the time Magnolia had just come out, and he sees it, after a day of shooting Little Nicky, on his way home…
That is very Sandler, now that you know him very well. He’s like driving to the movies after a long day of work, like by himself. Like park the car, go up, and get a ticket. Watches a three and a half hour fucking thing, and calls me and is like “Buddy, buddy, that’s not what we’re planning on doing right?”
Benny: There is an amazing story. So I was sitting at home and there was like the channel 35 in New York, and it was like the sex channel at nighttime. So I’m sitting at home and I’m watching it, and I’m watching the commercials-
Josh: Why were you watching it Benny?
Benny: ‘Cause I was just... I was enjoying myself.
Josh: Yeah. Yeah.
Benny: And so I’m watching it, and all the sudden I’m like, What is going on right now? I see Tom Cruise, doing an ad for this sex thing and I’m like, what the fuck. I’m like literally, like my head exploded, ‘cause this is late night, New York, nobody is there. And this is like months before anything was even out there.
Josh: It was... that was cool. That was cool marketing.
Benny: But I-
Josh: That was your idea?
Benny: I clocked the number. I remembered the number and I was like, alright, when we got to a movie theater... I went into the payphone ‘cause I wasn’t gonna call from the home phone.
Benny: So I called from the pay phone, and I was like, “Josh listen, listen.” And it was him doing the recording and I was like, This is insane!
Josh: That's amazing.
PTA: I wish I still had it, ‘cause we would just listen to the messages all day long and some guy would be like, “Yo man, Tom Cruise, that’s fucked up that you’re doing these ads, man. You were cool before.”
Josh: You met Tom on the set of Eyes Wide Shut?
Benny: Oh man.
PTA: That’s better than Little Nicky. A little bit. I met him, and then I met Kubrick, and then Nicole Kidman. And you know it was, that’s… I’ll take that one home with me.
Josh: There’s a story that I read somewhere that after something like a couple of takes you said something to Kubrick. Something like, you only need to do three or something like that. Or...
PTA: Now we talked about the size of his crew.
PTA: Cause he had like 6 people. And I go, “Wow you know you have a small crew,” and he’s like, “Well how many do you use?”
PTA: You know it was one of those moments where you really have to assess like, “Like a fucking hundred,” and that’s too many. And he made a very good point.
Josh: How many were on Phantom Thread? It seems like you pared that one down a little.
PTA: That one was small, thank God. ‘Cause we were in a very small space.
Benny: It’s the location really, like shooting on location helps a lot.
PTA: It does. I mean, it must be the same for you?
Josh: This was a big one, like this was a big crew for us.
PTA: What’s big for you? Forty?
Josh: Good Time was probably in the forty to fifty range.
Josh: And then... but you know we’re shooting a lot of stuff, you know, with a very splintered crew at times.
Benny: It's a matter of where the main crew is.
Josh: Gems was major, we had like crew requirements or minimum crew requirements or something like that.
Benny: Where there were probably close to 100 at times.
PTA: It’s crazy. I mean sometimes you just feel like you’re trying to outrun where the base camp is.
PTA: “You all stay here, and we’ll be right back.”
Josh: You know that story about They All Laughed? That Bogdanovich story where he… he told the call time in the day and it was like Midtown or something like that. And then he took Gazzara and Audrey Hepburn down to South Street Seaport in a cab. And he’s like, “We’re just gonna shoot,” and took the camera guy. And in that scene you’ll see people looking like, what?
Benny: That was a live shoe store.
Josh: And they said “Wait there…”
Benny: ‘Cause they all wanted to take pictures with Audrey, and She’s like, “Just give me a second I’m just gonna go do something,” and she ran outside and did it.
Josh: And there’s some scenes where we took Sandler outside to the street.
Benny: We never closed down the street though.
Josh: No. No.
Benny: We never did. If someone walks through they walk through. But it's also like, in New York, if someone closes down that street, they get so angry. Like I’m guilty of that too, and I try to be nice when a person is like “Hey we’re just filming something” and I’m like okay I gotta put the karma out there. But after five minutes I’m like, Okay let me through.
Josh: I wanna go back for a second to something that just came into my mind because it's important and I have to tell you.
First of all, just that, the fact that you made the film with Adam, for me personally, I think it came at a time–I was 18 when the movie came out, and I think it came at a time where I was playing catch up with a lot of movies, so I wasn’t seeing new stuff. I was just seeing a lot of old shit, so like, I’m a fan of your movies so I have to go. And Sandler was just like a hero of mine from the comedy stuff and the comedy records and the movies, and then when I saw–when the two worlds combined it was kind of groundbreaking to me, and I gotta thank you man... ‘cause that was, I mean it’s like Popeye, you know what I mean? It is like–you used that Nilsson track.
But he is! He’s like this superhero and you made an Adam Sandler movie, but you did that! And anyway I just had to get that off my chest. I’m listening to Benny talk about us not closing down streets and I just, you know, I had to get that off my chest. I’m sorry for the non sequitur.
PTA: Well no. It's not a non sequitur ‘cause we’re talking about Sandler. And you guys with this movie, it’s, I mean, is he in every single scene?
Josh: Well there's stuff with Julia, but she’s the only other person we run off with.
PTA: Right, the stuff when she’s in Atlantic City.
Josh: Mohegan Sun, yeah.
PTA: Right but, like… he’s in every scene.
Josh: Right. No, but his vibe is in every scene. Well we start off, when we go off in Africa, but even that, we even made a joke when we were shooting down in Africa. There was this long shoot attached to it that was actually pretty scary, and we made this joke we were like–‘cause everyone who showed up to be in this movie thought Adam Sandler would be there ‘cause we were shooting an Adam Sandler movie. And they were like, “Is Adam gonna be here?” And we were like, “No, no this actually takes place before we meet his character.” And then Ronnie Bronstein who wrote the movie with us...
PTA: Even in fucking Africa, everyone is excited to see Adam Sandler.
Josh: Which is crazy! And Ronnie Bronstein who was there, he says to me, “Well lets just tell them what’s going to happen in the scene.” And I see him telling people he’s like, “So Sandler is gonna come, Howard's character is gonna come belaying down this long chimney mine and say, ‘You got my gem?’”
We were trying to think of the most ridiculous, almost Zohan thing we could, right, and they were like, Oh yeah. Like they could imagine that. You know what I mean? That wouldn’t be weird for him. To be like a jeweler from 47th street belaying down...
Benny: In a weird way you can say anything and imagine it with him. Like you can say anything and it would make sense, which is what makes him incredible. Like you can explain him in any situation and totally buy that he would be there caring about it, and it’s insane.
PTA: Yeah. They call that star power.
Josh: It’s a real thing.
PTA: It's a very real thing.
Benny: He showed up. He showed up on the set one day and I go, “Whoa Sandler you look really good,” and he goes, “Hey, that’s why some of us are movie stars.”
Josh: He also would do this thing where he would have these grapes. And they were deli grapes, you know? They were grapes you’d get at the deli but they got, in his hand, you know in the plastic bowl, they got to be cold by sitting around in the fridge all day and he would be like, “You want one?” And everyone would be like, Whoa I get to have an Adam Sandler grape and you take them and you’re like, “Wow these are really good grapes.” And he goes, “Movie star grapes. Only a couple guys get these grapes.”
PTA: But you know, if you were telling me this story and it’d be Brad Pitt I’d go, yeah that makes sense. Leo DiCaprio, that’s a movie star. Alright. But when you see Sandler from a distance you’re like, Not a movie star, not a movie star, but as he gets closer and closer you’re like… Movie star?
PTA: Movie star! It’s a movie star.
Josh: Totally, totally. You see him taken out of that normal context in your movie, it sort of magnified him a bit. Just seeing this guy with a little coffee mug in his hand. And he’s such a small man, Barry Egan, and well you made him, he’s also so big. He’s so big. And you made him, well it's not a nude scene, but it might as well be, that first phone call… was the most vulnerable I’d ever seen Adam Sandler.
PTA: Did you guys get... like how early on, did it take a couple days? ‘Cause you guys were also filming around a lot beforehand, did you hit the ground running? Or did you... did it take a second for him to follow?
Benny: Right. Actually that first couple, like right after that first rehearsal we did kind of hit the ground running. It was kind of like...
Josh: The rehearsal or the camera test? Or the character test.
Benny: Well, the character test.
Josh: He said the only other movie he had done that on was your movie.
PTA: Right. That’s why I was asking ‘cause, like, it took a second. But once that happened it was...
Benny: It was weird though cause he was... it wasn’t all there, but it was pretty close. And it was kind of exciting that all of a sudden he just put on these clothes and he put on the teeth, and this was something really special.
Josh: We did a crazy thing. I mean as a performer I would have been petrified. I mean we did three things first. We presented the whole thing which was what it actually was, ‘cause the function of it was like a screen test for Julia Fox.
PTA: Right. Right.
Josh: And we told him that. But we also were thinking, This is the first time we’re seeing Howard.
Benny: What’s that gonna be like?
Josh: ‘Cause like, we wrote him pretty specifically on the page. But how is Sandler going to breathe him? Howard was so much fun to write. And we actually had to write some voicemails for him to leave for this pop-up A24 is doing. And it was so much fun just writing. And we were in Boston and Sandler was in front of me and it was like, I still got it. I could just write this guy's voice so easily.
And the thing with Sandler is he has this vulnerability and this rage at the same time obviously. And he was able to kind of flip it on and off which was funny. And he gave us the humor that we wanted for the character. And we left there and we went to this karaoke spot, we rented this karaoke room.
Benny: Did a wardrobe change.
Josh: We did a wardrobe change. And the scenario was that Howard shows up late ‘cause he couldn’t get out of something with his family. And Julia’s already there with the other jewelers and actually the bouncer told this guy, told Liam Payne from One Direction that Adam Sandler was going to be there, and you should come through. And they ended up singing the Bee Gees’ “How Deep is Your Love.” And I mean, Saturday Night Fever is one of my favorite movies of all time. And I’m sitting there watching one of my heroes... and I don’t know the music of One Direction but the guy’s a professional singer. And they’re both singing.
Benny: But he went to see Adam Sandler, and Adam just showed up as Howard, and he’s acting like a peer of this other jeweler. Like no breaking character, and no facade.
Josh: But the scary thing that we did with him was... the next day we had Julia come back ‘cause it went so well. And we had this viewing room at a sports bar and we filled it with some degenerate gamblers and some real life bookies who we were actually trying to convince to be in the movie still.
And the game was on and it was Celtics game and we had the script and that was it, and all these people showed up to meet Adam Sandler but he showed up as Howard and he’s trying to give them enough Sandler so that they’re okay with it, but he’s really trying to get them to open up their personality so that he can feast on them in a weird way.
Benny: The thing was crazy ‘cause we had two cameras filming it just in case like, Maybe we could edit it together?
Josh: We never tried ‘cause it was impossible.
Benny: But that was in a weird way, and I’m kind of just realizing it, but that was kind of like a test in how we would first film the scenes in the movie. Which is, he’s in a way not going to be able to understand what we’re shooting, we’re gonna be shooting something, so he’s got to be Howard the whole time for it to be able to really work. And then it’s just, that night. To see him in that leather coat, and he had gel in his hair....
Josh: We had this moment on set too, where the script ended with him–it’s in the movie where he asks Kevin Garnett, “Does your coach know you’re here?” and he goes, “No,” and we had Demany say “crazy ass jew.” On set, in the moment, we were all in the back room and he was just kind of coming in and out with the earrings.
And we just sort of didn’t want it to stop, ‘cause Sandler was like, “Just come and look at this.” Like a dog, like, What do you want me to do now? And we would be like, “Jeremy Lin.” And he would come up to KG and be like, “What do you think of this Jeremy Lin kid?” And then Kevin was funny and he’d come back and we’d be like, “Ask him about the herb in the league.” And he’d be like, “What’s up with the herb in the league? A lot of guys are smoking now, what do you think about that? Good or bad?” And it became this kind of constant in and out.
It was unbelievable because you got to see the comedian, the sort of fiery… I’m wondering did you do any moments, or were there any moments in your film, where you would just kind of let him go?
PTA: There were bits here and there, but they didn’t-
Josh: Supermarket, maybe?
PTA: Maybe a little bit? You know, but they were smaller bursts. There was less pressure like the situations you guys had. It was a different character too. It’s not like someone who’s going to be able to sort of snap talk like Howard you know?
So we’d have glimpses of it, and it would be exciting, but like that's the power of Adam is like, he’s Barry still. You know, right? But how do you find that line? I would assume people would see this film and think that there is absolutely no script, everyone is making up every single word as they say, and that balance between doing a test where you’re like we didn't even bother to cut it together. Because I know that feeling where you’re sitting there and you’re like, this is so far out in improv land that it's kind of wonderful but it's useless.
Josh: Well it's a good means. Not an end, improv.
Benny: It’s a tool to cover up the tracks in a way, so someone can kind of add a bit here and there over the general rhythm and the lines, and then it just disappears.
Josh: You know when we’re writing with Ronnie, whom you’ve met... the script is so scary to me. The page. ‘Cause it’s so dead. It’s just a piece of paper.
And we spent ten years writing this thing. So we just keep revisiting it, and hearing it out loud, and then once we started we probably read it out loud with Sandler, I don’t know, maybe four or five times, as a group. And each time we would do it, I would have the final draft document open and changing it as I’m hearing him say his instincts.
So it was a constant… the goal was to make it seem like it was unspooling in front of you. Like there’s no script at all because that adds also to the tension, because it adds to the plausibility, like, No this is actually happening in front of me, and I can’t believe it.
Benny: Yeah, and then on top… you add that with actors allowing to cut each other off. At any moment. There’s that freedom like, I’m gonna stop you and say my line now. Stop. And that doesn’t happen at the same point on each other's takes...
Benny: And we have a shot reverse shot with no actual cross coverage, and then again you’re thinking, wait a second. That shouldn’t be possible to have an AB on that because it just happened. And then you’re just thinking everything is real, and then you think there’s no way that they just kind of-
PTA: So are you always one camera?
Benny: We had multiple cameras but never for the editing.
PTA: Never helping the edit, right. Well, and let me… and does that have to do with his royal highness? The greatest cinematographer.
Benny: It actually, it did.
PTA: Darius. Who we should actually talk in depth about…
PTA: 'Cause I know we all love him and have worked with him.
Josh: I love him. I loved what you guys did together.
PTA: He’s the greatest. But when I heard that he was doing this with you–I hope Darius hears this because we’ll say some nice things about him–but I was nervous. Because Darius is such a master. And the work that he has done previously looks like it’s taken three months to paint every shot right.
Josh: Yeah. A twelve set up a day type of guy.
PTA: Right. But in working with him, and now in hearing your experience was good with him, what’s so brilliant about him is that he adapted. And I said... my compliment to him is that it looks like there’s not one fucking light on.
Benny: I know, it's insane.
PTA: And that’s, that...
Josh: He lit the hell out of the movie too.
PTA: Oh, absolutely.
Benny: I was looking at a video, and I wish I had it. Because there’s a video when Julia opened the door... and the amount, there’s just these lights popping through this one point and we’re reflecting back and forth on various muslin cloths, back and forth...
Josh: Then negative, on negative…
Benny: And then negatives. And it all just started landing on the perfect–because he looks at it like real things. He’s like... I call him a necromancer in a weird way. Because he literally, he talks like light, like it's alive and he has to bring it back.
PTA: Did he shoot that test that you guys did?
Josh: He didn’t actually. He was working on, I forgot what he was working on. But he was working on a TV show he was doing out here. So he didn’t. But we did do a music video for Jay-Z with him, and that was the most chaotic shoot I’ve ever been a part of in my life. Because I was up in a helicopter operating the camera from up there, ‘cause he wouldn’t do the helicopter stuff because of an accident he had with maybe The Interpreter I think, I don’t remember which film. So we tried that out and he was this poetic zen center.
Josh: And I’m not kidding, it was such a hectic shoot. It was such a hectic shoot. And two days, and it was tough nights. It was cold, and everyone was pretending it was summer. If we can do that together, we’d be fine in an actual structured production.
Josh: But he said very early on, I wanna make your movie. I don’t want you to make my movie.
PTA: Yeah. I mean, for somebody of that caliber. I think the expectation would be like, You’re fucking lucky to have me.
Josh: You’re right.
PTA: But he’s very much the opposite, and I think, I remember he told me he wrote in a notebook before he came to work with you guys, like, “This is not my movie.” You know? It was so Darius.
Josh: Well he’s very...
PTA: So generous.
Josh: He’s ageless in the sense that he’s like, he feels like an eight year old cousin of mine, when I was eight. He had so much energy on set it was incredible. And he said, “You frame the film, Josh. You frame it.” I drew all the storyboards and we talked a lot about it. And he said, “You’re gonna frame the film. I can only just give you my opinion.”
And, as you know, he is of a certain ilk of a person who looks at lenses like science fiction pieces of machinery. Like these things that capture humanity in a very unique way. And even in Punch-Drunk Love, those flare moments evoke the cosmos in a strange way. He was the first person to say, “We gotta do anamorphic,” ‘cause he was looking at our casting and he was like, “These faces are unbelievable.” And normally the human face is 4:3 you’d think, but he was like, “No it has to be anamorphic.” 4-perf anamorphic. So that you can feel like these faces are in 3D.
Benny: He got so, he made us get so detailed. And we’d go off on our references with him, we would get so deep into the discussion of the shots and of the moments, that it became this kind of insane story outside of everything.
Josh: The idea of long lenses… movement but on a long lens.
PTA: Was exciting...
Josh: Well, at first no.
Josh: At first he was like, No. This is not okay. Why would you move the camera on a long lens? Like, what’s the effect?
Benny: On a 400, or no a 425.
Josh: And often Sandler would hear us being like, “You know I think we should go with the 150 macro.” And he’d be like, “Let’s try this, let’s put the 75 on.” And I was like, “I think the 150.” And he put the 75 on, and we’re looking at it and we’re like, “Oh yeah it’s nice. It’s nice.” And he goes, “Okay fine let's put the 150.” And then he looks, and he goes, “You were right. It's the 150.”
Benny: It was…
Josh: And he started to see the movie through our lens, which was very cool.
Benny: He did it…
Josh: I remember at one point, he started to, he showed us this one movie called The Moment of Truth, you ever see this movie? The Francesco Rosi movie?
PTA: I haven’t.
Josh: It’s about a bullfighter, Miguelín.
Benny: A real bullfighter in a fictional film.
Josh: Yeah. It’s an awesome movie. Actually, they set up a screening for us at Criterion because they did the mastering. And we watched it together, and he did research and he found out they used this 360 C-lens. This 360 millimeter C lens, and like he searched, and he searched, and he found it.
PTA: Uh huh.
Josh: And he showed up with this red box and it was like, when he brought it to us it was like finding an alien carcass. He’s like “I got it,” and then we,every once in a while he would be like, “Should we try the 360?” And 360 is a long lens. You know what I mean?
Benny: And it’s prime. So you can’t, you know... you’re locked. You’re stuck.
Josh: Yeah, so he was, he got to be very on pace with the film. Even though, like our main reference for the whole movie was this architect named Michael Graves. Literally, Darius to this day texts me and he’s like, “Please I never wanna hear the name Michael Graves ever again.” He’s like a super postmodern architect.
Benny: Garish but beautiful.
Josh: Right. Yeah so that was our concept. And we would send him these images of this guy's buildings. Or like this Dustbuster that he just designed, and he would be like, “Please, stop. Just send me a Saul Leiter photograph once. Please.” And like, we’re not making Carol, you know what I mean? But like, Saul Leiter is a genius. But that’s not what we’re doing.
Benny: He spent all this time with all these lights bouncing off, and it was for a very specific shot.
PTA: Uh huh.
Benny: And we don’t block. So we let the actors go and then we fix and change to them. And Darius comes up and says, “Okay Benny why don’t you just tell them to stand three feet to the left? In the spot, because it's perfect for the lighting.” And I said, “Well Darius they chose to stand there. So we're gonna have them stand there.”
And he’s like, “It’s two feet. Just stand right there.” And I’m like, “I can’t do it.” I was like, “That’s where they chose, that’s where they gotta be.” And he had to totally open up. And he’s like, “360 lighting? I’ve never done that before. Just have the camera be able to shoot anywhere?”
PTA: But it’s such a measure of him, as an artist and a man because I mean, I think that there are… I don’t want to name any names, but let's just say like the top. The pros. Maybe like a Gordon Willis type, or somebody that would’ve said “Either we’re not fucking shooting, or they move.” You know what I mean?
Josh: No. I was a little, the reason why that thought never even entered my head was because of the actual interpersonal relationship I have with him.
PTA: Yeah. Totally.
Josh: And he’s like, it’s amazing. He was sending me stills from your short together, and he’s like, “Look at this division.” And it's great that he’s still, after all these years he’s still so...
PTA: Excited, yeah.
Josh: But like, genuinely excited. And he was, I remember when he was... when you guys were looking at the test and he was like, “No, Josh you don’t understand what this looks like.” And I love that. And then he would tell Benny when we were coloring... that’s when a lot of the battles happened. Coloring is when it got heated actually.
Benny: You were actually doing color while we were-
PTA: Mercifully he was in New York. And it was a little bit like, “Sorry Darius it's a bad connection!”
Josh: So the first week and a half we were just like watching the movie with him. And we were just trying things out. And we’re used to like, alright you got six days, and then you do it. So we’re now seeing we got six days to figure out what we were going to do during the two weeks or something.
So that was very new to us. And he wanted to try… what happened was we went down a road where we kinda started to push the movie to a place that was a little bit against our intentions, because you can do anything in these color corrects.
Benny: Especially now, yeah.
Josh: So then we ended up just reverting back to the initial intention and… Darius when he saw the movie, it’s funny like we texted him, “We’re doing the HDR pass now,” and he’s like, “Please don’t tell me that.”
PTA: Oh yeah. Yeah.
Benny: I loved the HDR…
Josh: For a movie like this, the HDR is so appropriate, you know what I mean?
Benny: But yeah it was like, “Don’t put me in the room.” He didn’t want to see it.
PTA: No he would’ve had a heart attack.
Josh: But HDR is insane. You’re just like….
Benny: I remember there was one point where we had to be separate because there was so much going on, and I was in the color with Darius.
Josh: Oh yeah. That’s when I was doing the score stuff...
Benny: And we’re going intensely at it!
Josh: And I was getting texts from the two of them like Darius would be like, “Hello Josh, are you planning on coming back?” And I would be the person, like “Darius I love you, how’s it going?” And he was like, “Fine. But maybe you should return?” And I would be like, “Darius I can’t I’m at the recording. I’m with the Sax guy.” And then I’d get a text from Benny and he’s like, “You have to, uhm, this is, uh…”
Benny: It’s getting...
Josh: Me and Darius are getting, it’s getting intense. But there were some times on set… I love Darius’ approach. It's just like, My friend Josh, I love you.
PTA: Oh absolutely, it's just like, “...but this is ugly, no?”
PTA: And you’re just like, “No I mean I think it's… I think it’s good.” And he’d be… “No, no, but it’s disgusting, no?”
Benny: The way he phrases the extremes.
Josh: Again he would be so… What’s incredible about this movie in particular with Darius was he and I would have the best line of communication between me, him, and the operator. And that’s it.
PTA: Was he an operator that you’ve worked with before?
Josh: I’d never worked with him. His name was Maceo Bishop who’s-
PTA: ‘Cause that’s a big tall challenge for somebody in that job. Stepping into how you guys communicate.
Josh: Darius was very keen to bring him in early. And we would sit, and he would listen to us going through shortlisting and storyboard and Maceo, he ended up shooting. He was actually the DP down in Africa, cause-
Josh: Cause you were working with Darius.
PTA: That’s right.
Josh: ‘Cause I was sending him pictures of Africa, sending him things... and he’d be like, “Embrace the contrast, darker, darker.” So I was telling Maceo, like, “Darius wants to go darker,” and he goes, “Alright. Alright.” And he kept darkening it.
Benny: Maceo’s instincts were insane. Like that’s the thing when you’re with him and you’re like wow, he just knows and he moves so well.
Josh: He’s worked with Pietro, Deakins, Darius–he’s worked with Darius before this a lot.
Benny: As a steadicam, it was like-
PTA: Yeah. He’s a great steadicam op, yeah.
Benny: Once we saw, it was actually kind of unfair. And we felt a little bad at times ‘cause it's like, well he can do anything. And there were times when we’re just like on the steadicam all day.
Benny: ‘Cause he could nail it.
Josh: But Darius was like, “This is the only person I want to operate the film.”
Benny: Every once in a while he would remind us. He goes, “Not many people can do what’s going on right now.”
Josh: Right. We’ll 150 onto the steadicam, and at one point Maceo’s like, “Look guys, I can put the 360 on. It's just too heavy and I’d have to do a lot of counterbalancing, and I just don’t think it’ll work.” But, yeah, he fit in right away. I mean he was also, again, just like Darius, he had this...
Josh: They’d speak French with each other...
PTA: Oh, okay.
Josh: He’s not French, but he speaks French, Maseo. And he’s just… you know he just has… Yeah, he was part of the casting department, like Darius was. Like he cast the team. His AC, this guy Chris Silano-
Benny: Oh my god…
Josh: He was the one, cause we said, “Look we don’t do any marks.” He’s like, “We’re pushing two stops anamorphic. You got four inches depth of field.” Like, you gotta… we gotta figure this out. And we met with this guy Chris who uses the Light Ranger. And he’s kind of like Team Light Ranger.
Benny: Which Kubrick used.
Josh: Which, I guess Kubrick was really into. They had one on the set of Eyes Wide Shut but I guess it wasn’t… the technology couldn’t put it on the camera yet, it was like next to the camera. And he was like, “This is gonna change things.” But I see people who don’t know how to actually use it. It’s hard to like actually understand it.
And I watched this AC on our like, C camera, when we were doing pickups on the stage or something. And I’m looking at it and I’m like, What's going on? This monitor looked like the focus was having a seizure!
Benny: ‘Cause there was just, there was no light.
Josh: And I just told Darius, like we gotta get Chris in because it was a new, it’slike it's the Cult of the Light Ranger. It was a new cult member. He just didn’t know how to interpret it but it was amazing. It was just like, we never had to worry about focus. Never!
Benny: And we were doing very crazy...
Josh: We were doing really crazy stuff! Like Howard never stands still. And like, and you’re in low light scenarios, and the camera’s moving.
Benny: Then, like, schedule-wise we had to figure out a way to get all of our shots in. So we would do stuff where it's like, oh okay we'll sneak in our insert after the close up. And we’d just kinda stay rolling and regroup. And we were doing some things, like on a close-up of Sandler. It’s like, Alright everyone. Real quick. Stay rolling, we’re gonna get a closeup on the Opal. And it's like 150 macro, so it goes to the close-up. We didn’t even tell Chris and he just rolls and now he’s getting like a pristine, museum-quality close up of a gem and it’s...
Josh: I have a weird question. Is Punch-Drunk Love the first time people saw him anamorphic?
PTA: I think it is, I think it is. Unless, would Airheads have been? I think so.
Josh: Airheads might have been actually.
PTA: Maybe. Maybe Airheads would be a super 35 situation.
Josh: Yeah. I just brought that up with him earlier.
Josh: Yeah. He’s so cool in it.
PTA: But, yeah no...
Josh: Yeah, ‘cause that was different. Just seeing him anamorphic was different.
PTA: For sure. You’re reminding me of, I’m sorry just back two seconds to Darius, that Darius would be on his phone in Prague...
PTA: Lighting in Africa, when we were doing a test here in Tarzana. And literally, we had this digital camera running cause he was really pushing for this Alexa.
Josh: Oh, the 65 thing?
PTA: For 165 Alexa thing...
Josh: Yeah. He loves it.
PTA: So I was kind of cranky about that. That’s...
Josh: Yeah. You’re not even paying attention..
PTA: I was not paying attention to it at all.
PTA: And there's a tech there, and there's people that are so sweetly like we’re here! And after like four hours of testing I see them over there they’re talking on these headsets. And I’m like, “What are you doing?” And they're like, “We’re talking to Darius.” And it’s like, it’s four o'clock in the morning and Darius is in his apartment in Paris going like, “It's a little more blue,” and he had been filming us the whole time watching us work. And I’m picking up like, oh okay. So that’s how he’s like, talks to that person, and that person. He’s got it all figured out.
Josh: Darius gets very obsessive. He once saw me... ‘cause I never left the set ever. I was afraid of leaving the set, cause I left once when I saw the trailers. And I was like, “I don't wanna do that.” And he’s like, “What, you’re watching the whole movie on this little monitor?” And I said, “Yeah, I like it.” ‘Cause you don’t get the-
Benny: The colors. You don’t get them.
Josh: You don’t get the LUT from the… you’re just getting this crazy overexposed thing straight from the film camera.
Josh: And he’s like, “Why don’t you come and watch with me out here on the big monitor? It looks beautiful.” And I said, “Yeah I don’t think I ever want to go out there.” I remember one time, my communication with him ended, and I was like trying to talk to him, and I couldn’t get to him. And I come out and I see him. And he’s doing the same thing like, “Josh! Josh! Can you hear me?”
But the beauty of that direct communication with Darius the whole time was I would get these live commentaries that he doesn’t even realize he’s saying.
Josh: He would call Howard Houdini all the time. He’s like Houdini, Houdini. And he’d laugh throughout the whole movie. ‘Cause he was off set so he was just laughing and I could hear his giggles and so could Maceo and that was so encouraging. ‘Cause that's like, you forget, you know? You have this technical side of the process, but in the end you know you’re after something human. And he brings such a touch, a touching humanity to the process.
I mean I found your film to be very touching, Anima. I mean to me it was very touching. And I mean obviously the cinematography is a huge part of that. And Thom Yorke is a huge part of that too. But it was touching.
Benny: I have to bring up the... It was like my brain literally just went and I shut off. I’m sorry. But it was the firecracker scene, with like, the amount of sound going on in that scene, and just what that does…
PTA: In Boogie Nights?
Benny: Yeah. It's one of the most incredible things, and I remember seeing it and thinking, Oh my god this is possible?
Benny: It’s insane.
PTA: Well, that’s back to the sound thing too. I mean I can remember rehearsing that scene and being like, okay. I mean it's the big ending of the movie, and I guess we should just start. And when the fucking reverse firecracker goes off you’re thinking, This is going to be good.
But before that there's not much else to work on. If the firecrackers aren’t going off. Actually, back to a Kubrick thing again. I remember someone telling me one thing one time that all the guys–it’s fake obviously, there's a little bit of a myth here–but that all the gunshots in Full Metal Jacket are the same gunshot. And the firecrackers... there was one firecracker that sounded exactly right. So we ended up just like, whenever there was a gap to fill, we’d just put the same firecracker in over and over.
Josh: Was Altman like that on set? Was Altman like allowing people… like we let people speak, we let extras talk, and I remember Elliot Gould told me once that on California Split in the scenes in those casinos, it’s just deafening. Like everyone’s talking, and he let it live.
PTA: Totally. But I also think as the master who sort of invented that multi track thing–we here are definitely the children of that, but thankfully have learned, I think, from those mistakes. Because there are some of those films–there are some times in California Split where you’re like, Good try but I can’t hear a fucking word.
Josh: Well, you know that famous story of Warren Beatty?
PTA: Yes I do.
Josh: At the premiere of McCabe & Mrs. Miller, twenty minutes in he’s just like, “Does the whole movie sound like this?” And Altman’s just like, “Yeah.”
Josh: Altman was a big gambler, we just found out, like a huge gambler in his late period.
PTA: I didn’t know the gambling part of him as much.
Josh: And you must have loved, I mean that must've been huge for you.
PTA: Oh yeah. I loved hanging around with him.
Benny: That’s insanity to me.
PTA: He was just, oh man…
Benny: I can't even believe that some of those movies are possible.
Josh: Randy Balsmeyer did our opening title.
Josh: I’m in his office and I see this thing scribbled on Short Cuts, and I’m like, “What is that scribbling?” He’s like, “That’s my note from Bob.” I mean you couldn't read it for the life of you, you know what I mean? It looked like a the design flaw of the poster and like, I asked him and he said he was–do you remember the titles from Short Cuts?
PTA: Yeah. Of course.
Josh: Yeah they’re beautiful. He was so encouraging of all the people he collaborated with to just come vertically integrate into the project.
Benny: There was something in… what is it? Damn. I’m blanking… It was in one of those… I’m blanking. I'm sorry I can’t remember the movie it was but it was… oh no it was the fact of how many tracks were on Short Cuts that he had. I don’t know was it like twenty four?
PTA: That sounds right.
Josh: The Player, they had three boards and they were mixing into mixers.
Benny: That’s right. So I was like, okay, he did it then, let’s have that now. And we were told, “You can’t do that.. That’s not, that’s still almost impossible today. Even with all these digitals. And also it's just crazy expensive all the stuff you need. And I was kinda let down like, Wow, how ahead of the game was he? That we’re being told no about something he was being able to do then.
PTA: Totally, yeah. He was obsessed with that. There’s a guy, John Pritchett, who's still in the business who did Short Cuts, and I’ve done a bunch of films with him, he could still do it. I brought it up to him the other day and he’s like, “You got a place to put the truck?”
Benny: Yeah. Exactly!
PTA: Like, hmmm, like...
Benny: Can you put that truck in a cart?
PTA: But he was a perfect example of like, yeah okay, he had a fucking truck for sound. At least the set I was on. It felt like ten people. So maybe there were forty people, but it never felt that way. But maybe that’s the thing? Maybe you could have a hundred people, but if the five are good it could feel small.
Josh: Even though our set was big, it felt small and intimate. I felt like a lot of the crew members, at the end, they were coming up to us and saying, “It felt like the first one again.” You know what I mean? It felt like their first film.
And these were people that have worked–like Charlie our key grip, I mentioned Griffin Dunne and he goes, “Oh I almost killed Griffin Dunne once.” And I was like, what? And he goes, yeah on After Hours. I rigged the camera that falls down. And it just didn’t stop. Until it stopped just inches from his face, miraculously.
Benny: Charlie held onto it at the last second.
Josh: He grabbed it, yeah, with his hand, and it was like, a pulley system. And you’re looking around at your collaborators and you’re like, You worked on After Hours? And Do the Right Thing? He also worked on Do The Right Thing. And it's like, wow. We were really humbled by these titans.
PTA: I think New York crews, they’re jaded, right? They’re tough.
Josh: And now there’s so much TV being shot in New York that it’s like, on a certain budget level, they don’t get to do these movies anymore.
Benny: We drove by the Holland tunnel, and-
Josh: Not the Holland tunnel, it was the Midtown tunnel.
Benny: Midtown tunnel, yeah. And Andy Day, the gaffer, just sort of mentions something in passing and we heard him like, You worked on Daylight?
Josh: And he’s like, “You guys wanna talk to me about Daylight?” And we were like, “We love Daylight!” And we were like, “What’s Sly Stallone like?” He’s like, “At that point, he was so lean that he got cold so quickly. So they had these blankets ready for him, and he says...
Benny: He goes, “He was rushed out like a piece of veal.”
Josh: That’s what he called it. He says, “He was like a veal.” Oh man. That’s a movie star. Sly Stallone’s a movie star.
PTA: That’s a movie star for sure.
Josh: I remember hearing for the first time about the first version of Rocky. It was that he’s an actor, a struggling actor trying to make it, and he shifted it to become about a boxer-
Josh: Yeah. Because that’s kind of punching up and trying to make it... and with this movie, the gambler side of it is a guy who sees these values in an uncut gem. And it’s filmmaking for me. It really is.
Josh: Because here’s this thing upon first glance that’s like, I don’t see the value in that. And it's like, No you gotta get into it. You gotta get into it. And Phantom Thread I see…
PTA: Yeah. Completely.
Josh: I see why you were attracted to that. And as a filmmaker someone actually told me they saw a weird parallel between Phantom Thread and Gems, I mean the idea that this guy has to-
Benny: There was a whole post about it with all these pictures and stills.
Josh: Because it was like this guy who's always on, and has to be, literally it’s sick to stop. I told you this, I said I saw that movie with my lady and she was just like, it was awkward. I think it’s awkward for a lot of people.
PTA: Particularly a filmmaker, like, Oh excuse me. Like that’s not you at all…
Benny: The thing is, he was so alive. Daniel, I couldn’t believe it. Because he’s been in so many movies and you’ve worked with him so many times before, but it's like again he’s so fresh. So new. It was like I've never seen him do this before, ever. I loved it. I loved it.
PTA: I think the thing that’s similar between filmmaking and that film is... I can see myself as Howard. Particularly as a kid. When you are just trying to marshall as many people as you can, for this thing, this cockamamie thing.
And you start to lose people as you go, as it gets more and more complicated and more and more scatterbrained and everything else, you know. Like if it’s just fucking around in the living room I’ll do that with you. And then you start to peel off like, “No we’re getting up at five.”
PTA: Why are we getting up at five? ‘Cause the light is perfect then. It’s like, no I’m out. You lose that friend, you lose that friend, but that Howard thing you’re like, No let me just chase this and if you stick with me we’ll get something great.
Josh: It’s also super high risk high reward. You know what I mean? Like you’re literally going way out of pocket, obviously early on. And as the movies get bigger it becomes even more high risk high reward. But when it works artistically–it feels like I’ll be able to watch this one for a very long time.
PTA: Are you having the blues? You don’t seem like you’re having the blues.
Josh: Oh no no, I’m going to crash. I was talking about this with Ronnie the other day. I was like, It's gonna happen. Cause I’m a high-low guy. I crash, and right now I’m just delirious. Right now I’m just kind of waking up, and doing what I need to do, and walking in and just like, Okay how long are we in this place for? How long are we in that?
And it’s not a healthy way to live, you know? This is the end of ten years, and every project we made in the past ten years had been in service of making this one. I already have a couple of worlds that I’m starting to deposit feelings and worlds into. That's the goal, is you just gotta find a new world to just dump yourself into to forget about this, but it’s going to be really really tough because this was a big one for a while.
Benny: The thing that's weird is that after every other movie before this, it’s like if that didn’t work, it’s over. Then we’re not making movies anymore. But this is a little different. Where it’s like, Oh, I have a sense we’re going to do something, but we don’t know what we’re going to do yet. But that's a new and different feeling because, if the other ones failed, we were just not going to be doing movies anymore. We’d have to figure it out.
Josh: You get the blues when you finish a project?
PTA: Big time. Big time.
Josh: At what point. When you, when you premiere-
PTA: It’s usually around now.
Josh: Yeah, or when you’re starting to stop talking about it a little bit.
PTA: Well, you know, they come in different waves. Like, I’ve always found this weird extra turbo boost when you finish something, and you’re still sort of in it. You have this energy.
You haven’t come off that enthusiasm. I’ve found myself wrtiting feverishly the week after shooting, when you should have sort of collapsed. Then the collapse happens, then there’s a kind of panic in the editing room, like kind of what the fuck!
Josh: You do assemblies?
PTA: Yeah, you’re putting it together, and there’s that excitement. I suppose the melancholy happens as you first show it. It’s not yours anymore. It’s never going to be as good as it was, the joy of being around people everyday. It’s all sort of like diminishing returns. Somebody saying they love it feels good, but it’s kind of empty, somebody saying they hate it doesn’t really get you, it’s just this...
Josh: There’s nothing.
Benny: Why is that the one…
Josh: You feel less alone when people are like, interested in the same things that actually interested you. You feel less alone, which is a huge part of it but you’re right. The good is like, alright, and the bad is like, you’re a fucking asshole. You know what I mean? Like, go to your rock, I’ll be over here.
Benny: The only thing I can kind of liken it to is when you’re sick, you don’t ever know when you’re going to feel-
PTA: ...when am I gonna get better? Like, is that going to happen again?
Josh: And it's weird to remember that, now this is going to be-
PTA: That’s exactly right, yeah, is this it? Is this how I feel from now on for life?
Josh: It’s weird, I remember-
PTA: But, you know there's one thing though, and this actually goes back to Sandler. I remember though, that when you do get back into this feeling of writing–I remember seeing Sandler at one point after Punch-Drunk Love, I’m starting to write again, and he said, “Isn't that the best? That everything is interesting.”
You are sort of open again. Your heart’s open and everything’s a possibility. Sandler pointed that out to me one time, and he’s sort of exactly right. Like you‘ve been going inside for so long and suddenly like-
Josh: I’m excited to have the new arena to look around. Because I was so in the sphere of Gems and some of the criminality of that world, that I was seeing everything through that lens. So I’m excited to have a new arena, a new perspective, to look through things. Because that’s nice just in general.
PTA: But there’s also nothing to–you know, ten years can pass, and to look back and go like, I fucking did that! Who did that? That was me! Oh shit. That was pretty good. You know?
Josh: Yeah that’s a wild feeling. We were watching some of the endings at The Dome over the weekend with Sandler sitting there. Sandler was laying on the floor with Jackie and they were watching this thing at the end.
PTA: How’s it look at The Dome?
Josh: Unbelievable. Well you know the kind of cosmic elements travelling through the gem and the shape of The Dome...
PTA: It looks like it, yeah.
Josh: You’re, like, at Epcot Center, you know what I mean? And it feels like everyone’s actually on a ride. I met someone who writes about the perspective that astronauts have when they leave the planet and how that affects their view of humanity.
Josh: They were talking to me about that because of the movie. So seeing that, and I think he saw it on a big screen like that. I think it’s evocative, the size of that screen. The curve is so futuristic, but so of the past.
Benny: For me actually what we did is, we panned all the dialogue so on that screen in particular it's so wide that it literally, it’s like an expanse.
Josh: Do you remember the thing we went to in Moscow?
Benny: Oh right! That thing was unbelievable.
Josh: Benny and I got paid by the US Government to just kind of go teach some film in Moscow, but we were totally spied on the entire time. We were young.
Benny: Wait. So let me paint the scenario. So like, now that I look back on it I’m like, Oh my god, what did we go through? We arrived at the airport. Josh gets sick, violently. The only person on the airplane that gets sick, this guy.
So he’s held back in the bathroom, and I’m waiting with him at the bathroom, and by the time we get to customs it's shut down. There’s no customs open. And we’re the only people on the other side of the airport, and I’m like, Oh this is weird? And finally we get through, and then some strange guy hooks us up with this cab person who drives us to our hotel.
Josh: Speaks no English.
Benny: Speaks no English, only Russian. So Josh is passed out, he’s so sick. And I’m like, I can’t go to sleep ‘cause I don’t know where this car is gonna turn. It’s scary.
Josh: Moscow’s tough.
Benny: And we get to the lobby of the Metropol Hotel which is like, a Lenin quote on the side, and this woman from the government, from what we’re told, hands us our per diem-
Josh: In cash.
Benny: In cold hard cash. Just an envelope. And is like, “Sorry we’re going to be closed so don’t worry about it.” And then she walks away.
Josh: And, “Only use the wifi in the lobby.” That was the thing. The wifi was only available in the lobby. And as I was trying to write an email, woman after woman was coming up to me like, “Wow that's a very nice shirt you’re wearing.”
PTA: Uh huh.
Josh: And I’m thinking like, Do I look good right now? I was like checking myself out in the mirror. Did I have a good shower this morning? What’s up with the way I look? And eventually this woman sits down and talks with me and goes, “Let’s go up to see your room.” And I’m like, Oh you’re a prostitute.
Benny: But you’re forgetting about that guy who said he was Lebanese, but he didn’t quite look Lebanese, and he had this big fur jacket on. And he said, “Come on let’s go check out Lenin’s tomb.” And we cut the line.
Josh: He asked us so many weird questions while we were in Lenin’s tomb. And I bring it up because we went to this kind of dilapidated amusement park where they had this kind of old Cinerama dome.
Josh: And it was eight 16 millimeter projectors. It was so cool. And it was in, like, obviously the same shape as The Dome. But probably one hundredth the size,
Benny: But it was a full 360, it was amazing. And when they clicked on the cameras and you saw the overlap, it was amazing.
Josh: And it was very futuristic, but in the past sense. It was like, in the future you’re going to be immersed in film. And you’re not going to have to look around, and you’ll just be in it.
Benny: And again that’s another instance where like, the past is kind of ahead of where we are now in some weird way.
PTA: Right. Right. Well you guys lost the Ziegfeld. Which is a real drag. I mean that’s a bummer.
Benny: I know, now it’s like an event space. It still has the name on there so I get excited every time I go by.
Josh: It still says Ziegfeld on it.
PTA: Oh gross. I mean, I guess that’s better than nothing but…
Josh: You had movies play at the Ziegfeld?
PTA: Fuck yeah. It was the greatest. It was absolutely the greatest.
Josh: You did premieres there?
PTA: Yeah. We did the There Will Be Blood premiere there. They still have the 70 projectors, and we did The Master there.
Josh: You did The Master at Ziegfeld?
Josh: I saw The Master at like, 11:00am showtime, at the Lincoln Square 70mm. Packed. Amazing.
PTA: I think we put 70 in there, for that.
Josh: So, you were the first to do that probably?
PTA: I think at the Lincoln, yeah we were.
Josh: ‘Cause they ended up doing it for-
PTA: Dunkirk, and Hateful Eight.
Josh: Well I saw Dunkirk 70 there and it crapped out twice. It was unfortunate.
PTA: Yeah. Well there’s that. Did you guys make film prints of this?
Josh: There’s going to be one 35mm print.
PTA: I’ll talk to Scott. ‘Cause I want one for my fucking library.
Josh: Oh amazing. You have, you have a 35mm-
PTA: I do, yeah. What I usually do is, when I know they’re gonna make it, I actually–well I’ll talk to PhotoCam, you make it at Photocam?
Josh: We’re actually not doing it internegative. It’s bypassing.
Benny: It’s straight-
Josh: It’s the Cinevator thing...
PTA: The what?
Josh: You bypass the negative and you just make one print.
PTA: From the digital negative?
Josh: From the digital negative, correct.
PTA: Well that’s fine they just, they must’ve done it at PhotoCam, no?
Josh: They did it in a company in London, but maybe they did maybe they changed it.
Benny: Usually, the London company, apparently they have like an old stock that’s... I don’t know.
Josh: No, no, no they’re doing the premiere stock.
Benny: No I know, but there's a place in London that has it.
PTA: Cinelab maybe? Cinelab? Yeah, okay…
Josh: We’ll get you a print. I’d love for you to have a print. That’s amazing. It’s gonna be cool on film.
PTA: I like the thing… Do we need to wrap it up? Two more minutes.
PTA: When I asked you about the fish...
Josh: Oh yeah.
PTA: And you were, “Yeah. We just made that shit up.” One of those great things, like, when you follow your instinct with something, and it just makes sense even if it doesn't make sense. And to the audience I’m sure, like it was to me, like, Oh you learn something new every day! Like they ship that shit in fish, you just feel it. And then against all better judgements,if you look it up on the internet, it's like, they would never do that. But I’m doing it, because it just seems right.
Benny: That’s so weird I just got a text from somebody that’s like, “Oh, that reminds me of my cousin who had shipped diamonds in Oranges” And they shipped them in these fruits, but nobody believed him.
Benny: But that’s how he did it.
Josh: I think that thing maybe came from reading this book about the reptile trade. And how they would…
Benny: The cocaine…
Josh: Yeah. They would, they would smuggle–they would actually put like, deep water fish in liquid cocaine so they don’t need oxygen.
Josh: And to get this liquid, they would dump the fish out and…
Benny: They look in and they’re like, oh it's just fish, and they would throw the fish away, and they evaporate the cocaine.
Josh: I think that’s maybe it, maybe it came from–our Dad was a fishmonger for about six years.
Benny: It also just makes sense.
Josh: I mean it's just visually so awesome.
PTA: It’s so good. Do you have to do more PR?
Josh: Yes, it goes on for another–we get to go home on the 21st.
PTA: I’m coming to town the day after Christmas.