Adam Goldberg stars in the new film, Untitled, about a New York City art gallerist (Marley Shelton) who falls for a brooding new music composer (Goldberg).
You know, the characters in (Untitled) are so immersed in their art that if you dropped them into any other context, they’d look ridiculous — in fact, they almost do already. Do you ever feel that way as an actor, that if your methods and craft were exposed in the light of day, you’d feel bashful?
To be frank with you, I feel the other way around. I feel very bizarre when I’m acting. I think things have just sort of changed for me over the last several years as my interests and passions began to sort of shift. I don’t have a lot of actor friends — anymore, anyway — and I generally just feel like I’m posing as an actor, to be honest.
I think some people are sort of born to do that and immerse themselves in it, and others aren’t. When you find yourself straddling between those two worlds, I feel much more comfortable in reality, and I feel much more comfortable directing actors than experiencing it myself…The older I’ve gotten and the more that I’ve written and the more music stuff that I’ve done, acting has become an occupation. I really value my time not pretending to be something that I’m not, because as an actor, that’s what you’re constantly doing.
As someone who’s directed two independent features before, how does that inform your experience as an actor in one?
It has its positive elements and its negative effects. In the cast of (Untitled), it was a very collaborative thing: Jonathan had directed two films and I had directed two films, and I’ve directed under a very similar set of circumstances. I think it can be really helpful when you have an actor who can view the film as a whole, and a day as part of a schedule. Sometimes, though, it can be too much because I want to give myself over entirely and be there as an actor, and other times you want to jump in and say something. I think that’s true of actors in general, though — I’ve worked with Giovanni Ribisi many times and he has a very strong aesthetic point of view, having not necessarily made any films himself.
In this case, I was a bit more involved than I guess I normally would be. I saw a variety of different cuts of the film and gave notes, and I had this sort of vanity credit, this executive producer credit. It’s partly a vanity credit, and partly because my manager and I were involved in some of the business elements of the movie. It was an unusual process in terms of my input, I guess, and it sort of went beyond what could be considered normal. At the same time, that’s much the same way I’ve operated as a director. In the case of Giovanni again, I’ve definitely brought him into a couple screenings of [I Love Your Work, which Goldberg directed] because he knew that character’s point of view, and he knew that character as well as — if not better than — I did.
Do you think that people think of you as an independent actor?
Oftentimes I think it’s funny, because I’ll see a one-line thing if I get cast in something, it’ll say, “Indie actor Adam Goldberg.” When I think about the money I’ve made, most of it from television…for many years, I hadn’t really been in an actual independent movie. The first one I really did was my own film, Scotch and Milk, which I made for $60,000. Even Dazed and Confused wasn’t an independent film, it was one of the first Gramercy Pictures releases.
I’ve had experiences on really big movies — like Deja Vu — that in many ways felt more collaborative than some of the little movies that I’ve done. Tony Scott was this guy who happened to really love his crew and love his actors and love people’s input, and even though I was just this cog in a wheel, I was in the presence of someone who approaches this thing in the manner you might expect an independent filmmaker would. The lines are being blurred.
And now independent films often struggle to get a theatrical release. I’m happy yours is.
And I should mention, I’m sort of shocked that it is. When I saw the script, first I thought, “This is really good,” and I tend not to get things I audition for. I don’t know if it’s just a coincidence, but I’ve been close to some big things that almost happened. Big offers come in and small films come in with greater frequency, and I had been tempted for many years to say yes to everything that came along because you’re just lucky to be working, really. I sort of began to say no to things with a little more frequency in the last couple of years, in part because what I was using as a sort of criteria was whether or not I thought the film would come out.
That kept you from committing to projects, that question about whether the movie would get a theatrical release?
I didn’t necessarily want to have a backlog of things that only played at 3am on cable. I mean, it’s definitely happened as the years went on. Certain things I was sure wouldn’t have a problem getting released, they went straight to cable or whatever. So I saw (Untitled) and the script was just so well-written…first of all, I was skeptical that it was even getting made, because you always sort of are. Then it was just once of those instances where I wanted to do it just because it was good and because I liked it and could bring something to it. I was definitely skeptical that it would get any sort of distribution, and actually, I was skeptical that it would even make the festival scene.
I might just be cynical, but I feel like there’s kind of a blueprint for what makes a quote-unquote “cool festival movie,” and I just didn’t see it in this. Still, I thought it was smart and didn’t have restraints and it wasn’t didactic, and that seemed rare to me. I figured at some point we’d probably have to dump it to DVD, but some people were interested, including Goldwyn, and it was great. I’m just pleased that it’s getting to come out. It’s kind of like winning the lottery these days.