What are you up to at the moment then?
Iím just off to the Venice Film Festival. My new film Julien Donkey-Boy is premiering there. Itís the first American movie made under the Dogme95 manifesto and it stars Ewan Bremmer, Chloe Sevigny and the German director Werner Herzog. Itís based on my uncle, whoís a schizophrenic. Itís my best work ever and the response has been pretty scary. Iíve never had such a positive reaction to my work.
Who is Julien Donkey-Boy?
I donít know. I just liked the name.
Did you find the Dogme rules restricting?
We were using 30 video cameras at once and I wired the actors up and put them in situations where they didnt know they were being filmed and I would steal scenes from them. The whole movie was improvised, we worked from a skeleton script and ended up with about 70 hours of footage. I wanted to make a movie that was completely new, one that worked like a completely cinematic experience. It was definitely the most cerebral experience Iíve ever had because the Dogme írule of chasityí means you canít rely on any movie tricks. If youíre using 30 cameras, you have to have 30 people to hold them and you have to place themwhere theyíre not filming one another, so it became very much like a game of chess. Also I wanted to make a movie that was never fully finished even when it was done Ė we did a special transfer process so it doesnít even look like a movie, it looks more like a painting.
How is your other film, Fight Harm, doing?
Iíve had to put it on hold for a while because Iíd gotten so badly injured making it that both my ankles were broken and my ribs were busted. Iíve been to court seven times but Iíve only gotten three assault and battery charges. But over here istís three strikes and youíre out, you have too serve a mandatory jail sentence, and I donít want to go to jail.
Whatís the point of it?
I wanted it to be 90 minutes of complete and utter violence, me making people beat the shit out of me. I wanted it to be one of the funniest movies ever made, like a cross between Buster Keaton and a snuff movie. I was thinking about comedy and humour, conceptually humour is tragedy, like a guy slipping on a banana skin.
Did you have to psyche yourself up to do it?
I was really out of my mind when i was doing it. I always had to get drunk beforehand.
So how exactly does it work?
The only rules to the film are that no-one is allowed to stop the fight no matter how bad I am getting beaten unless it looks like I might die. The only other rule is that I cannot throw the first punsh. The goal is to fight every racial and sexual demographic. I have already fought two thick lesbians, one Arab, one Negro two honkeys and I got really fucked up by a Puerto Rican. I wanted it to be a 90 minute feature to be shown in movie theatres and not to be like an art piece, but each fight only lasts about four minutes until one of us is unconscious or unable to move. Iíve done about 15 fights and edited it down so itís just a stream of continous brutality Ė but now itís only 25 minutes long which means I am going to have to do another 60 fights to complete the feature. I donít think physically my body can do it. I was trying to invent a new type of tap dancing but i canít tap dance any more because of my anlkles.
Did you ever win any fights?
I fought this girl, like this really butch lesbian, and I guess you could say that I won. But itís never about winning, you either fight till the police come or until neither of you stand. Itís not like Rocky.
Who gave you the worst beating?
A bouncer in New York. It took me forever to get him to fight me and I didnít hink he was going to do it; he just kept laughing at me. Then this girl came out and I pretended to hit her and the next thing I know he took me by the back of the head and threw me into the middle of the street. I got really excited and picked up a brick and started smashing him in the head. There was blood everywhere. I kept making him chase me round this car then I made him get real close to me and I went to pick up a trash canto throw at his head, and this is where the comedy elementwould come in, because the trash can was chained to the post and so the guy just smashed me in the face. When I came to I was like, íYes, yes come, on come oní. My left leg was on the sidewalk and he jumped on it and broke it in half but I didnít actually feel it so I got back up and started chasing him. Then the cops came and threw me in the back of the van and took me to the station. They were like asking me my address and booking me and there was this stream of blood gucshing down my head and I looked down and there was this bone sticking out of my ankle.
Was it worth it?
Of course. As far as regretting anything, the only thing would be if I had done it and failed to get it documented. After each fight the producer would jump out from a hidden place with a waiver and ask the guy thatís just beaten me to sign it for the movie. Itís weird, absolutely everyone agreed to sign it, even those who pressed charges.
What does your girlfriend Chloe Sevigny think about it?
Chloe was really freaked out about it and my family thought I was trying to kill myself. They tried to get me comitted, institutionalised, but I was totally aware of what I was putting myself through, it was just something I had to do.
Will you be working with Chloe again in the future?
It depends if thereís a part for her. I want to make a movie about Ian CurtisÖwell, not really about him but about, well, actually I just wanted to make a movie where someone wears an Ian Curtis T-shirt. But Iím continually amazed by Chloeís acting, sheís really great.
Youíve been working with Macaulay Culkin recently.
Iíve just done a book of 200 pictures of Macaulay Culkin called the Bad Son. I shot the Sonic Youth video with him. I like him, I lkie the way he looks, he symbolises America. I shot him and his wife over a period of a few weeks after they got married when they were 17.
How is New York?
New York sucks, itís full of Euro-money fuckheads. I donít like New York, itís where people come to do buisness. I donít socialise much here any more, Iíve jsut bought a place by the water in Connecticut. Itís really posh. Itís a good place to work and a good place to go fishing.
Taken from the September issue of i-D magazine.