When you look at the yelling photographers, do you think, "These are the guys who chased Princess Di"?
No, I'm one of those who have a good relationship with the paparazzi, as I'm sure she did. In other words, it's a fact of your life. I mean, in the last three weeks, doing this press tour in Europe for As Good As It Gets, I haven't been in fresh air for an aggregate of one hour without having someone taking my picture. That's a long time. Because I'm not so cute anymore. And when you get less cute, you get more vain. I just want a good picture every once in a while. It makes me look kind of cool. But I do feel totally justified in not allowing them to blind me. So to be in front of 200 people screaming over and over again, "Jack, take off the sunglasses," that's where I relish my contempt.
Exactly what is the role of sunglasses in your persona?
Even with the sunglasses on, I can't see where I'm going with these flashbulbs. So I have glasses that I wear anyway at night that are prescription. Then I carry the really black ones where the flashbulbs can't blind you. Incidentally, I always offer the photographers a deal. I say, "OK, I'll take the glasses off – no more flashbulbs." 'Cause they don't need them. It's like television lighting; it's false. It's to get that deer like quality of trapping the person. It shows a subconscious contempt for the subject. They all love these little cameras now, with the hideous lenses in them. And I know it's because they hate who they're taking the picture of. They're an instrument of torment, those flashbulbs. Well, they're not getting me.
You've been equally critical lately about the executives running the movie business today. Why so?
It's the deal-making process: You spend three times as much time making the deal as you do writing the script. And then you rush the rest of the time and nobody's ready. For some decades now, it has not been fashionable for actors to publicize themselves or do a lot of interviews. So the movie executives have filled the gap. There are articles in the Wall Street Journal about the heads of studios. There's too much talk about money. These things are degrading the quality of movies.
You sound a little like Melvin right now.
"Venting," they call it. People ask me about Melvin and how horrible he is and all that. Well, of course, the actor doesn't look at his character that way. I just looked at him as more honest, plus a New Yorker. There's that one-up part of the New York patois: Accuse me of being an anti-Semite and I'm going to be Adolf Hitler, you know what I mean? I felt it was oddly correct for this man. Naturally, I realize I'm kidding myself in favor of my character, but that's the way you play them.
Melvin's got a gift – when he's insulting, he's effectively insulting.
It's like he has no choice. What he's saying is, "Let's not be fake." But we're all a little fake. We're not clinically sure that racism, homophobia, etc., automatically place you at the doors of the inferno. We're not positive yet. The press is positive, for the moment.
Political correctness states that any bias is taboo . . .
These things have always amused me. I'm very well-mannered; I believe in that. I've never been raised where any of those issues landed on me. I don't have those problems with people. Never have had.
You have said that militant feminism has really hurt the general relationship between men and women.
Yeah. For instance, for my own gender, we're all reading these magazines about what women think is politically correct. We don't have enough gumption not to. We just become what we think they want us to be. That makes it easier for us to communicate. Now I don't know that this is true. I've always seen the curs that men are. Any man will have a discussion – I just don't think they care in the least what the content of the discussion is, really.
Strategic talking for seduction?
Yeah. So in that sense, the women are right. But when it comes to women cheering the Bobbitt verdict on the streets, I didn't see any feminists coming forward to say how crazy it is to be cheering somebody for cutting off a dick. That's where politically correct moves into fallacious thinking.
Though you're hardly a spokesman for monogamy, you sound secure about your own relationships with women.
You married actress Sandra Knight in 1961, and it lasted for five years. Still friends?
Yeah. For sure.
Michelle Phillips – you were very devoted to that relationship through rocky times.
Anjelica Huston – wasn't there some bitterness when that seventeen-year relationship broke up in 1989?
She only ever asked me one thing really, Anjelica, which is, "Don't talk about me from now on, other than professional things." I've sort of stuck to that.
Some people would say, "If you're so devoted to Rebecca, why not settle down?"
First of all, she's a pyrotechnical personality. That would have to be collaborative, in any event. I feel like I have settled down, you know. I haven't even changed residences in about thirty years, so I'm pretty settled, as people go. My job remains the same. I have friends all over the world; they remain the same. I see my children every day. I'm just like every other goofy father – I don't really care about much else.
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