The final day of our Courtney and Stipe interview...
NME: You’re both involved in film now, Courtney as an actress, Michael in production. Is it that rock music is too immature or inarticulate a medium to get across what you want to do or say or achieve?
MS: “Film’s a great medium. But neither one of us has grown tired of music. I think in our hearts we will always be music fans and always want to make music that is considered great by others.”
CL: “In the way that you can with popular music, with film you can change things, you can alter the skyline so much. You can change the culture…”
MS: “Not that that’s a goal of either one of ours, but there it is…”
CL: “It is! I wanna alter the skyline. I’m interested in that and I admit it. This year, myself and a partner are going to start a production company as well, not so much for projects for me to act in, but more based on the model of what he’s doing, what Drew Barrymore‘s doing, what Danny DeVito‘s doing. I mean, I wanna see coming-of-age films which are great. As an aesthete and hopefully an epicure in a good way, I wanna use my taste, which I’ve honed and honed, to affect that medium. I mean, these are shadows and light on a screen and yet in some ways they can be more effective and more refined than a great pop song.
“D’you know what I find really interesting? Film, off the bat, needs to be populist. But when I see these Sundance kids – and I’ve been meeting a lot of writers and directors, really young ones – they have the same punk conflict about selling out that we did, only it’s ten times more ridiculous in the medium that they’re in. They’re like, y’know, ‘I don’t know if I want a distributor. It might make me impure.’ It’s like, ‘Oh my God! GET OVER IT!’ And I think they learned from our generation, from the punk rock thing, how to have this conflict in the first place.”
MS: “And then how to get over it, which is something that you and I dealt with our way.”
CL: “Well, the smart ones will get over it and they’ll keep their integrity intact. Y’know, it’s so intense to sit with somebody who could make a great movie that doesn’t compromise and is populist so that people can see it.”
MS: “People like that are changing things from the inside. You are not part of the machine, you haven’t sold yourself out. You’ve made certain compromises that are acceptable to you, if only just, and in doing so you’ve widened your audience a great deal. And if, in doing that, what you’ve done has raised the stakes a little bit in terms of what the value is, what the quality is, then that’s an achievement.”
CL: “Unfortunately in acting you take your chances a little more. I mean, I did an ensemble piece called 200 Cigarettes that I have no idea if it’s good or not. I hear mixed things about it. I have quality control over the music thing and, as a producer, I will have quality control over films but, as an actress, I’m not in charge of my craft (she pulls a sour face at the word ‘craft’). Duh. Sorry. I take it seriously and it’s profound because who you are and what you’re bringing to the screen is a big thing but there’s 12 other people in this movie, I didn’t cut it and I didn’t direct it and I didn’t hire the set designer so everything but my performance is outta my control.
“When Michael puts his name on something, he can assure you that it is to the quality that he wants all the way to the end, but as an actress I can’t. And I don’t like it. People have been saying lately that I’m too precious because I turn stuff down a lot. I almost automatically turn down junkies ‘cos I did that costume drama thank you very much. But the stuff that I do take, I take because I think I have some kind of control over the quality and that my name won’t be attached to trash.
“As a celebrity, my name gets attached to trash all the time but I do it on purpose. Look, I did a Versace campaign and I HAD FUN! But it wasn’t creative output. Creative output is a different deal and I take it pretty seriously.”
MS: “You’ve got nothing to apologise about. It’s fine.”
CL: “Thank you, pop.”
NME: Would you two consider working together, either in music or film?
MS: “Absolutely. We’ve talked about it. You have to be really patient.”
NME: So what are your favourite records recently? CL: “Remy Zero. It’s such a damn good record. It’s on a major label. It’s like ‘OK Computer’ but American and sexy. And I love the Nuggets box-set reissue. Garbage I liked too. And Massive Attack, ‘Mezzanine’.”
MS: “‘Celebrity Skin’, hands down. What else? Mogwai, the remix record.”
CL: “Velvet Goldmine I really did like a lot but Elizabeth is my favourite movie of the year. Absolutely. I went to see it in London. I saw it one night and then went to see it again the next day. And then I took Melissa so I saw it three times. The Virgin Queen…”
NME: You’ll probably like Shakespeare In Love then.
CL: Probably, but I doubt as much as Elizabeth. I mean, I would die to see the Rose Theatre and the boat going across the river. Did you know that no plays were allowed in the City Of London so they’d be across the river?”
MS: “No way!”
CL: “Yeah, the Globe and the Rose and another one. And they put a flag up – white for comedy, red for tragedy and something else for history. It was intense. It was such a cool world.”
MS: “I haven’t seen Life Is Beautiful. I want to see that.”
NME: If you could forgive or forget one thing over the past year, what would it be?
CL: “I wish I could forgive myself for going flat last night in front of 20 million Americans but I think my voice was just acting up and having a conflict and saying: ‘You don’t wanna sell records to 20 million Americans!'”
MS: “I’d like to forgive 20 million Americans for going along with the whole media circus that involved our president and Monica Lewinsky. And I’d like to throttle, draw and quarter the Geraldos and Jerry Springers. I just can’t any more make myself think that, if they hadn’t been there, they would have been invented. That just doesn’t seem to apply any more. We’re moving a little too close to the Christians and the lions. It’s pathetic and sexist and misogynist and hateful.”
NME: Tell us something about Andy Kaufman. (Courtney‘s in the forthcoming Milos Forman film about his life and you wrote the song that the film is named after, ‘Man On The Moon’. – Ed)
CL: “Weird karma, huh?”
NME: We don’t know much about him in Britain other than the fact that he was a minor character in Taxi, a stand-up comedian and he died young.
CL: “Nobody knows about Andy Kaufman in America either.”
MS: “I’ve always said I stole so much from Patti Smith and nobody’s ever commented on it but maybe when the movie comes out, people will see that I have stolen even more from Andy Kaufman.”
CL: “Remember the eyebrows? Remember when Michael did the green eyebrows and it was just Dada? Total Andy. There are lots of little Andy things that Michael did. And what’s also weird is that ‘Man On The Moon’ was Kurt‘s absolute favourite song of REM‘s and I was more old-school REM, which I thought was interesting. I’m comfortable bringing it up, it doesn’t bother me. I like that aspect of it, I like the cycle of karma of it. I like that it was Milos and it was random and it was like pretty much my two favourite men…” (Milos Forman famously directed One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest and, more recently, Courtney in The People Versus Larry Flynt).
NME: What’s the film like?
CL: “It’s a Milos Forman movie. It’s the sweetness and the lack of bitterness that he has, it’s insane. He’s very much like Michael. And it’s amazing because they’re the two men that just see me for me and then give me myself back from the 20million or from the editors that took me away from myself when I was too inexperienced or didn’t have enough character and became reactive and started to believe that that’s who I was. They didn’t even behave that way, d’you know what I mean? These two men, Milos and Michael, saw me and then gave me myself. I mean, ultimately I gave myself back to myself but… there it is.”
Michael kisses Courtney.
MS: “You say such beautiful, nice things…”
CL: “You’re welcome. It’s true. Right, we’re gonna go to dinner.”
Awww. Nice. Was anything revealed? Is Courtney a misunderstood poor little rich girl? Is Stipe a candidate for sainthood? Any other double-acts you want to see in NME? Have your say. Post a message on Angst!
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