Full disclosure, my father, Brandon Chase, hired John Sayles many years ago to write a fun and very popular monster film, ALLIGATOR. It’s probably why Sayles used that film to illustrate a point during our phone conversation on May 18, 2017. The occasion for this, my fourth interview with him, was the Mammoth Lakes Film Festival, where he would be honored with the Sierra Spirit Award honoring maverick and visionary filmmakers.
He’s certainly that.
From the critically acclaimed MATEWAN and THE RETURN OF THE SEACAUCUS SEVEN, through PASSION FISH, LONE STAR, and MEN WITH GUNS, to SILVER CITY and CASA DE LOS BABYS, to name just a few of the other superb films, he has gifted us with films that are entertaining, to be sure. Yet, these are also films that challenge us with characters and issues that thoughtfully consider the best and worst of human nature, as well as social issues that make an audience uncomfortable. It’s his special gift, though, that he never alienates, only enlightens. Even in films like ALLIGATOR and BATTLE BEYOND THE STARS, as he noted in our talk, have a deeper meaning if you look for them.
He’s also known as a script doctor, writer-for-hire (THE SPIDERWICK CHRONICLES) and, from time to time, an actor. A man of great intellect (he was awarded a MacArthur Grant), stunning critical thinking skills, and a sly sense of humor, he is also candid when it comes to assessing the current state of cinema and his place in it.
Our conversation covered his thoughts on re-watching his films; being reunited with BABY, IT’S YOU co-star Vincent Spano after the screening of that film at the festival; balancing umbrage with cinema; the role of the arts during troubled times, which sparked a tribute to the Woody Guthrie bio-pic, BOUND FOR GLORY; and why it is that he edits his own films.