An God Bless America interview with Bobcat Goldthwait & Joel Murray

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As Interviewer makes its way into the hotel suite, it is immediately clear the subjects are in good spirits. After a few minutes of quiet chatter between Bobcat Goldthwait and Joel Murray regarding a debate on whose water is whose, Joel silences the speculation and informs Bobcat the matter has been taken care of, and a roofie has been slipped into the appropriate glass.

“Here’s looking up my ass,” said Bobcat, as Interviewer flicks on its dictaphone just in time to capture this unique exchange.

Joel is looking a little fatigued as he reclines in the sofa he shares with Bobcat. His right arm seems drawn to the lower right side of the jaw. His already deadpan tone is made even more difficult to hear with the addition of the muffling hand. Between Bobcat and Joel the two seem rather excited to talk about their new film God Bless America.

“Last night I was in a bar in Belfast and people kept coming up to me that just love the film and every one of them pirated the movie. I was like, ‘Well that’s great, I’m glad you enjoyed the mov—, buy me a fucking drink.’” In spite of this backhanded complement, Joel seems pretty happy about the audience reaction. He is quick to add that those who may be disappointed in the film because they were expecting a different should just go ahead and make the movie they wanted and stop griping.

“I think some folks just wanted it to be a vigilante movie where we just kill reality stars for the 90 minutes and that’s it,” Bobcat said. This wouldn’t be a terrible movie but it would completely change the message the director is aiming to get across. “If you’re the kind of person who is uncomfortable with that idea or can’t even comprehend they may be part of the problem, you’re not going to enjoy the movie.”

Beginning with a comically gruesome scene of obliterating a baby with a shotgun, the film bypasses the shock-and-awe approach to keep the audience’s focus on the message of the film.

“I remember something Carl Reiner said,” Bobcat said, “’You can do anything in a movie, anything…as long as you establish it in the first five minutes.’”

Joel plays Frank, a man who is tired of all the reality shows on TV and moronic talk-show hosts spewing garbage out of his car’s speakers. If they’re not busy talking about someone humiliating themselves in front of a large audience they are helping the humiliation take place. Divorced and jobless, Frank learns there is an inoperable tumour inside his brain, which will eventually kill him. He contemplates suicide before making the decision to kill people who deserve to die, like people who talk in movie theatres. Frank teams up with a young girl, Roxy (Tara Lynne Barr) who is also fed up with her own generation’s lack of shame and decency, and the two set out to rid the world of assholes.
It quickly becomes apparent Bobcat is absolutely right about the people who might not enjoy the film. Following Frank and Roxy’s combined logic, each would be doomed to suffer the same fate as their victims. They too are human and occasionally cross the line of being apart of the problem in today’s culture rather than being apart of the solution.
“You know what’s funny? A lot of stuff was in the script. People who think I’m just sitting at home and I’m bitter about stuff…this wasn’t just a list… Some of it was in the script some it kept changing,” said Bobcat. He goes on to mention that if this had been a movie that was just about his list of people to die he wouldn’t have included reality television, he would have just taken a bomb to the MTV building and blown it up. One person who Bobcat seems to address outright is Diablo Cody who was saddened by the director’s jibes in the film and thought of her a Bobcat as “kindred spirits.” It seemed only fair to ask if Bobcat felt like a bully Frank and Roxy might go after.

“No, no, I’ve been manipulated by hot women my whole life. I knew what she was doing, and it was bullshit,” Bobcat said. “I don’t get notes on content but someone did ask me to remove that line and at the time it was only one line so I went back home and wrote an entire page about why Diablo Cody sucks.”

Through all the anger and aggression this fanaticised plot does seem to be something Bobcat and Joel are proud to have made. Interviewer cannot help but notice the twinkle in Bobcat’s eye when it seems to grasp the message and irony of the film’s final scene. When it first asked for an outright answer Bobcat and Joel were in agreement that it was meant to be thrown back in the audiences lap.

“I’m asking the audience, ‘Are you in or are you out?’ So I think, the movie doesn’t work if you’re not used to empathizing with characters. That’s the thing people always say about the last three movies I’ve made, “It’s a one joke premise” and it’s one joke if you lack empathy,” said Bobcat.

In the case of God Bless America this really is a movie with a one joke premise. Through all their conversations and philosophising Frank and Roxy add action to each scene the only way they can, by killing someone. One scene breaks up this repetition when the gun is turned around on them in the form of Russian roulette. After spinning the chamber the gun makes it through all six shots before delivering the deafening blow. And when asked what this scene means, Interviewer couldn’t help but be disappointed with the answer.

“It’s just good light,” Joel said. “The sun was setting one day and it was beautiful light, I said, ‘Models pay big money to be shot in this. We’re waiting for dark? Let’s shoot something.’”

The relationship between Bobcat and Joel added to the conformability on set. The two have known each other since 1985 when they worked on the film One Crazy Summer and have been friends every since. This led to Bobcat’s casting of the lesser known of the Murray brothers. Yes, Joel is the little brother of Bill and Brian Doyle-Murray.

“Having Joel meant that I had another set of eyes. You know Joel’s a director and a writer,” said Bobcat. “One of the good things about working with your friends and working with the right person for the job is that you’re not trying to get a performance out of someone, everybody agrees already.” Helping with Tara also because one of Joel’s jobs while on set since this was her first major role in a feature film.

And Joel seemed more than willing to help in anyway he could while still understanding this was Bobcat’s movie. Now and again he would help with deciding how a scene should play out while also taking what Bobcat has given him to go on. After his killing spree as Frank, it seems only natural that more lead roles will be coming in for this talented actor.
“Oh yea [sarcastically],” said Joel. “If I could stay away from the bacon and the blood sausage. I was with my brother the past couple days and he was giving me a hard time for gaining a bunch of weight from quitting smoking and being in Ireland. [His Bill Murray impression] ‘Charles Bronson wasn’t really a good looking man, so you should maybe get into really good shape because you could do this kind of action. So you should uh put that down.’ Just abusing me for days about I should loose some weight and I’ll get on that.”

Joel is content to have a laugh at the thought though he does mention a confident — perhaps slightly unrealistic — outlook for the future. “I haven’t heard anything yet. I thought there’d be this huge…I always have visions of grandeur that never come…maybe when I get back to LA and more people will have seen [God Bless America]. But now, no, it hasn’t been this whirlwind of offers.”

As Interviewer is told to begin packing up its belongings, it can no longer contain the question that has been dancing around its thoughts for the entirety of the interview. Bobcat has proven himself to be a very entertaining director who tackles different subjects with a unique style. This was not always the case as Bobcat rose to fame through his stand-up comedy and his nervous, off-the-wall voice. Will you do the voice?
“I’d be too embarrassed. Isn’t that weird? It’s like my porn past or something,” Bobcat said. Pleading with him does little more than coheres nervous laughter from him as Joel mentions the voice only coming out when he gets really nervous. As Interviewer shuffles out of the suite, it can’t be more pleased to have interviewed these two very funny individuals. Like walking away from a conversation too early, there seems like so many other things that could have been talked about in the careers of these men.

David Rowley

God Bless America Is out now on DVD &Blu-Ray, read our DVD Review.