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Tim Blake Nelson and Quint chat about LEAVES OF GRASS, a Slim Pickens-ish Richard Dreyfuss and The Leader's return in HULK 2!!

Ahoy, squirts! Quint here with a small chat I had last week with Tim Blake Nelson regarding his upcoming flick LEAVES OF GRASS. You might remember we posted the first image from the film, Edward Norton portraying twins. If you don’t, just scroll down and check it out here. I’m a big fan of Tim Blake Nelson’s work as an actor, especially in O BROTHER, WHERE ART THOU? and the criminally underseen FIDO, but I’m not very familiar with his work as a writer/director. Nelson wrote, directed and co-stars in LEAVES OF GRASS. I went into this interview knowing very little about this movie, so I won’t front-load this interview with a ton of info. Read along and discover more about this movie… if you’re anything like me you’ll be dying to see it by the time you finish the short 20 minute chat. Do keep a look-out at the end of the interview for some talk about HULK 2 and return of THE LEADER! Enjoy!

Tim Blake Nelson: Hi Eric, how are you?

Quint: Hey Tim. I’m fine. How are you doing?

Tim Blake Nelson: I’m well.

Quint: Nice. Are you guys still shooting?

Tim Blake Nelson: You’re Quint?

Quint: Yeah, that’s right.

Tim Blake Nelson: Fantastic. Okay. What was your question? I’m sorry.

Quint: Oh, are you still shooting?

Tim Blake Nelson: Oh no. Finished last Thursday and I’m actually in the process of moving apartments in New York. Are you in Austin?

Quint: Yeah, I am in Austin and it’s really nice out here now until we get our three and a half weeks or so of Fall in between Summer and winter. So, yeah man, I’m looking forward to the movie. I don’t know too much about it so you’re going to have to fill me in.

Tim Blake Nelson: Alright, what could I tell you?

Quint: Well, I think the big selling point is that you have Ed Norton playing dual roles in the movie. I imagine you intended for the role to be played by the same actor when you wrote the movie, right?

Tim Blake Nelson: Right. I had met Edward because he had read another script of mine, called SEASONS OF DUST, and he had considered doing that at one point. So we met and I wrote this new script LEAVES OF GRASS after SEASONS OF DUST had fallen apart and when I wrote it I had Edward absolutely in mind. I think that really not only is Edward the best actor to play the two roles, but he’s also the best actor to play either role and that’s an extraordinary combination, because I’m not having to compromise either role with Edward playing them because he’s so extraordinary in each.

Quint: And was he attracted to it right away?

Tim Blake Nelson: Yeah! Well conceptually he wasn’t interested in doing another indie film at that moment in his life and so he resisted reading it. I pressured him a bit and kind of insisted that I felt he would like it and I let it go for about three weeks, then suddenly I started getting calls first from his agent and then from him saying that he was extremely interested and then he went the extra mile and said he’d like to help me produce it which he ended up doing.

Quint: Nice, nice. It’s interesting looking at his career, which has a very strong theme of him playing roles about duality. Going back to PRIMAL FEAR and FIGHT CLUB and HULK. It’s fascinating to me.

Tim Blake Nelson: Yeah, it absolutely is and I think that Edward is a gorgeously complicated guy and I think that like any brilliant person he’s got conversations going on in his own head with himself, different aspects of himself and I think an exploration of duality as an actor is not only a logical extension of that but a very productive outlet as well in those discussions within one’s brain, which can get a bit out of hand. I think that happens inside of Edward’s head and in this movie the characters pit Platonism against Hedonism in a sense, and that counter-point I think was very appealing to Edward and what occurs between the two characters and as a result between the people around those characters in the movie, I think is going to be very exciting and a lot of fun to watch.

Quint: Cool. So what’s the basic set-up? He plays two brothers…

Tim Blake Nelson: Yeah, identical twins. And the lead character is a classicist in the Ivy league who has rejected his background and completely cut off all ties with his family and is pursuing an extremely successful life in academia. He’s teaching at Brown and being wooed by Harvard and he’s recognized in the insular world of classical philosophy as the new face of classical thought. He’s an academic superstar. He’s kind of loosely based on a professor I had at Brown. I’m sure your readers will be really interested. (laughs) Anyway so… he has a brother who has remained in Oklahoma who’s actually the more brilliant of the two, but the brother who has remained in Oklahoma grows hydroponic pot and it’s conceivably some of the best pot grown in the world. His brother, the pot grower, lures the ivy league professor home to help him out of a life threatening jam and that sort of launches the story.

Quint: Does IMDB have the right information? Do you have Richard Dreyfuss playing a drug lord?

Tim Blake Nelson: Yeah, he’s a drug lord, but he’s a… clandestine drug lord. He actually… he’s known as a guy in the pipe business in Tulsa, Oklahoma, but that’s a subterfuge. He’s a pipe seller. He’s in the pipe business in Tulsa, but he uses his fleet of trucks and the guys who work for him to move marijuana around the state.

Quint: Well, I don’t need to hear anymore. I’d want to see the movie even if that was all you had. I love Richard Dreyfuss so much.

Tim Blake Nelson: Yeah, so he’s basically playing a Tulsa Jew and he’s kind of… he hybridizes Slim Pickens and Roy D. Mercer if you know the reference.

Quint: Wow, I can’t even fathom that, with his voice and…

Tim Blake Nelson: And I gave him tapes of just so to drive it home, I gave him tapes of T. Boone Pickens for the dialect. It’s a voracious performance.

Quint: Oh man, I can’t wait. I can’t wait to see that. Who else is in the movie? You have is Susan Sarandon is that right?

Tim Blake Nelson: Susan Sarandon plays the twins’ mom. I play the sidekick of the drug dealer, the hydroponics pot grower, and Kerri Russell plays… to say that she’s a love interest soft sells what she does in the movie. Do you know what “noodling” is?

Quint: Like “Okie noodling”? Where you catch catfish with your arm? Yeah.

Tim Blake Nelson: Yeah. She’s a Walt Whitman quoting noodler. Which is where you get the title is obviously a double-entoundre… marijuana… grass and then there’s Walt Whitman, and I’m going to get sort of serious now…

Quint: Please do.

Tim Blake Nelson: I apologize, but he sort of serves as a middle ground between a life of structure and a life of anarchy. In that in his poetry he allowed for each poem to determine its own structure and its own mood and that’s what sort of the journey that the main character, that classics professor, goes on in the movie.

Quint: Yeah. Sounds fascinating, man. It sounds like you have a very serious backbone to almost an absurd structure.

Tim Blake Nelson: Yeah, well I hope anyway, and what I’ll be trying to accomplish in the edit is that to apply a very… what we want is an extremely entertaining movie that’s also sneaking in some pretty heady ideas and whether that’s going to succeed or not will be up to you guys who see and write about it, but I’m very optimistic. And I think that to start with I can tell you that at the center of the film you’re going to watch Edward Norton having the time of his life. He really had a lot of fun. We’ve also got Lucy Devito in it, in her first film and that’s Danny Devito and Rhea Perlman’s daughter. Steve Earle has a really nice role.

Quint: Is Melanie Lynskey in the movie as well?

Tim Blake Nelson: Melanie Lynskey, I was about to talk about her…

Quint: I’ve got such an abnormal crush on her.

Tim Blake Nelson: Oh yeah, no she’s hilarious and she came in and auditioned for me and then…(in accent) she opened with her mouth and started talking in a New Zealand accent (end accent) and I just couldn’t believe it, because her south-eastern Oklahoma accent was so spot on, and it’s a very specific accent. She had gone online and really studied it for the audition and she is really, really funny.

Quint: Well, let’s talk a little bit before you go about how you’re incorporating Edward into scenes. The interview’s going out there after this picture’s being released of him playing both brothers in one shot and so was there a lot of special effects considerations that you had to do or do you kind of go like an old school trickster approach to it?

Tim Blake Nelson: You know I have got to tell you it’s fairly old school. We’re using motion control and we’re using split screen. That said we got Gray Marshall to help us with the twin stuff and he’s the guy who did ADAPTATION and he’s doing YOUTH IN REVOLT with Miguel Arteta. He has become, the go-to “twins effects” supervisor in film and he was extremely helpful, because this was terra incognita for me… and what’s remarkable and what I really hadn’t expected in accomplishing is the interplay that’s going to occur in this movie between the two characters in terms of them interrupting one another and even some of the physical stuff that’s going to occur between them, but really rhythmically I think largely because the really meticulous work that Edward was so eager to do. There’s a sort of an astonishing rhythmic integrity to the interplay between the characters that absolutely defies the limit that this kind of work should place on a film. Just with him interrupting himself, with him finishing the sentences of himself, with the really mercurial responses to himself… that he was able to time out… just because he has such a good mind. He was really on top of it, and it allowed us to go really, really far with the technology.

Quint: Of course I’d hope that you guys flawlessly incorporate everything, but I have to say… I’d love it if you had one shot that’s like an old school STAR TREK episode or PARENT TRAP type thing where you can kind of see the split screen difference where the lines don’t line up. That would be something that I would love to see in the movie.

Tim Blake Nelson: (laughs)

Quint: Just one shot! Just one shot!

Tim Blake Nelson: We’ll work on that! I’m actually… there’s technical virtuosity to be sure and that’s one thing, but I really there’s a human element here which has everything to do with really how meticulous… because of Edward and his ambitions for this, we were able to get really meticulous with the interplay between the characters and that isn’t technical, that’s really all about the acting…

Quint: Do you have a release date?

Tim Blake Nelson: Yeah I’m posting now and… I don’t know. It’ll be either next Fall or early 2010. That will sort of be up to the people who distribute it… and I don’t know who that is yet.

Quint: Oh so it’s… this is still without distribution?

Tim Blake Nelson: Yeah, yeah. Absolute indie film.

Quint: Are you planning on trying to get in some festivals or…

Tim Blake Nelson: Are we trying to what?

Quint: Get into some festivals? Aiming for a big festival release like Toronto or something maybe?

Tim Blake Nelson: Yeah I think so, but it’s such a marquee cast I’d be surprised if we didn’t have a distributor well in advance.

Quint: What else do you have cooking? Do you have something else either that you’re writing or…

Tim Blake Nelson: POSSIBLE SIDE EFFECTS, the Tim Robbins show about the pharmaceutical industry…and then I’m editing this.

Quint: Alright fantastic.

Tim Blake Nelson: That’s my near future.

Quint: Great well what about a potential HULK sequel? Gale Anne Hurd’s been going around talking about how you might be The Leader and the main villain of the next one.

Tim Blake Nelson: That’s the plan. That’s what they tell me, but I don’t know when that’s happening or what the details are but I am eager to do it and I hear that’s in the works. I would tell you if I knew more, but I honestly don’t.

Quint: Yeah, but you haven’t played a comic-book villain yet right?

Tim Blake Nelson: No, but I had a great time doing HULK, so if they want me for HULK 2 I’m there, it certainly was the plan going into HULK 1. When I met with them they said this is where it’s headed so I’m eager to do it.

Quint: Alright, fantastic man, thank you so much for your time.

Tim Blake Nelson: Nice meeting you.

Quint: Yeah, yeah don’t throw your back out moving apartments.

Tim Blake Nelson: (laughs) Okay, take care.

How crazy does Richard Dreyfuss sound in this role? Like I told the man, if the movie had nothing else going for it, that alone would get my ass in the seat. Hope you guys dug the chat! Now it’s time to catch some sleep so I can keep chipping away at the massive Holiday Gift Guide in the morning! Look for that to hit Thanksgiving! -Quint

Readers Talkback
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  • Nov. 25, 2008, 3:25 a.m. CST


    by The Amazing G

  • Nov. 25, 2008, 3:25 a.m. CST

    I did it mayn!

    by The Amazing G

  • Nov. 25, 2008, 4:23 a.m. CST

    James Van Der Beek...

    by DocPazuzu

    ...for The Leader! <p> No prosthetics required.

  • Nov. 25, 2008, 4:35 a.m. CST

    Hulk 2 - Thought Norton Wasn't Interested?

    by C A Iversen

    Isn't Edward Norton sorta ho-hum on the whole Hulk sequel and only "maybe" about Avengers?

  • Nov. 25, 2008, 4:39 a.m. CST


    by Melvin_Pelvis

    to close some blockquote tags, ehh?

  • Nov. 25, 2008, 4:52 a.m. CST

    Shouldn't the Leader...

    by Carl XVI Gustaf

    be in Avengers instead? The extra big brain behind Hulks rampage.

  • Nov. 25, 2008, 5:11 a.m. CST

    Any movie

    by oaser

    that double references Walt Whitman and marijuana is a movie I want to see.

  • Nov. 25, 2008, 5:23 a.m. CST

    please make that hulk sequel

    by Argentino

    The first one was a lot of fun. And all the actor where great, except for Doc Samson, that guy had no charisma. Anyway I want to see where they take the story but if that's not possible at least I hope we can get Norton for the Avengers. Worse case scenario, we get Bruce Banner recasted or just CGI Hulk (no human moments) wich isn't that crazy for a movie like Avengers with so many characters. Anyway, I hate peaple who say that the new Hulk overcompensated Lee's Hulk with mindless accions. That's such and exageration.

  • Nov. 25, 2008, 5:47 a.m. CST

    So the big HULK new was...

    by Negative Man

    ...that if they do another one, he might be in it because that's what they told him? Seriously.

  • Nov. 25, 2008, 6:02 a.m. CST

    Richard Dreyfuss: drug lord

    by ricarleite

    Will it be as painfully awkward and disturbing as Richard Dreyfuss: flamboyant homosexual on "Poseidon"?

  • Nov. 25, 2008, 6:57 a.m. CST

    Hulk sucked

    by Dazzler69

    We need another third relaunch.

  • Nov. 25, 2008, 7:21 a.m. CST

    Gotta tell you, way more excited about this than HULK

    by dr sauch

    Though, contrary to the fatty consensus, I liked Hulk. I was a die-hard Ang Lee Hulk supporter, but I actually like the way the franchise went, I like that they continued it from the ending of the last one. It feels like a continuous story, and it somehow just worked that each movie was conceptually so different. It'd be cool if they went another way with the third one. They can keep Norton, though, he won me over.

  • Nov. 25, 2008, 7:58 a.m. CST

    Why is every interview a hand job?

    by EvilWizardGlick

    I'm sure there is tension on sets. <p> So why is there never a "you know BLANK was a complete asshole" moment. <p. Or the script sucked but I needed the money quote. <p> I'm so fucking tired of the hand jobs every goddamned actor/director/producer gives.

  • Nov. 25, 2008, 8:17 a.m. CST

    I really thought this was an adaptation of Walt Whitman

    by I am_NOTREAL

    and "Down in the Valley" is another example of Norton in a dual role (of a sort, anyway).

  • Nov. 25, 2008, 8:22 a.m. CST

    Chat alright

    by Aeghast

    Bit of an unprofessional interview--bit of a let down.. still nice read

  • Nov. 25, 2008, 8:26 a.m. CST


    by Sith Witch

    A big producer told me the biggest asshole he dealt with on a production was Alec Baldwin. Apparently Baldwin was so rude to everyone, and when he was having a particularly bad day, said "This craft service is shit!" and flipped the entire buffet table of food over, leaving the craft services person in tears.<p> That's the honest-to-God truth, but how's THAT for an asshole moment? I seriously can't ever watch the guy in anything again.</p>

  • Nov. 25, 2008, 8:35 a.m. CST

    I liked the first hour of Hulk

    by I am_NOTREAL

    The stuff with Bruce on the lam in S. America was pretty well done, I thought. But the climax with Abomination was rushed and weak. And Liv Tyler just has no real presence. William Hurt was good though.

  • Nov. 25, 2008, 8:40 a.m. CST

    Just make him a villian in The Avengers

    by rev_skarekroe

    I don't think Incredible Hulk 2 would be given the budget it needs, meaning The Hulk would look even more rubbery and artificial than he did in the first one.

  • Nov. 25, 2008, 9:11 a.m. CST

    Get the sequel green lit and fast tracked NOW!

    by Slippy

    I’m definitely in the minority for this, but I enjoyed the Incredible Hulk more than Iron Man. Downey was fantastic in Iron Man, but I never enjoyed the character of Tony Stark. The only billionaire superhero that rules the planet lives in Gotham (Oliver Queen can also go fuck himself). Norton was great in the Hulk and I enjoyed the premise of the government chasing after him for a lot of the movie. Tim Roth was great as the bad guy as well. Every time I see Iron Man, I keep think Obadiah Stone is going to put on a bathrobe, start smoking a jay, and go bowling with John Goodman. The special effects in the Incredible Hulk were a 1000x’s better than that piece of shit movie released in 2003. Here’s hoping for a 2nd Hulk with Tim Blake Nelson and soon!

  • Nov. 25, 2008, 9:14 a.m. CST

    Hey Quint ..

    by Darth Valinorean

    Nicely done on the interview and it seems like TBN is a pretty cool chap who is excited with this work. This project sounds altogether exciting.

  • Nov. 25, 2008, 9:51 a.m. CST

    Hulk was fun!

    by Judge Briggs

    And if the version Norton wanted released was the theatrical cut, the movie woulda been better... stupid ass suits... I want the blu-ray with the footage put back into the cut! Idiots.

  • Nov. 25, 2008, 10:22 a.m. CST

    Having seen the blu-ray...

    by cookepuss

    ...only some of the deleted footage should have been put back in. Not all.<p> <p> Some of it would have totally cleared up some "dead spot" areas, but would have proved problematic overall. That attempted suicide in the arctic was a very well conceived piece of Hulk/monster related imagery. Just not for this particular film.<p> <p> For the most part, Hulk is a movie with hot, angry environments. The bright lights and imposing buildings of New York. The steamy, cramped quarters of Brazil. The cold, desolate structure of an the arctic might seem fitting for a suicide attempt, but not for an action flick. It brings down the pacing and the emotional "temperature" of the film.<p> <p> Structurally, it also places them in a weird situation - going from suicide to months of intense jungle research. More over, even though it's a franchise reboot, the theatrical release of this movie begins in a similar way to how the first one ended. It's a better amount of creative symmetry.<p> <p> I don't necessarily see Leader as the best sort of bad guy for Hulk 2. Brains VS Brawn? Haven't people learned from the problems with the Superman movies? If a hero is essentially designed with the power to beat the shit out of the bad guy.... LET HIM. Superman beating on Lex is like me beating on Stephen Hawking. Having Hulk beat on Leader might prove interesting with all of the gadgets and whatnot, but all his has to do is lay one punch. WHAMMO!! End of the Leader.<p> <p> I say, take Hulk off-world. PLANET HULK. Have Banner try to deal with the problem of Hulk by leaving Earth. The world's most elaborate suicide attempt. Have him sneak onto a shuttle or something. Have his plan go wrong and leave him on a foreign planet with some weird freakin' aliens. There, Hulk WON'T be the strongest on there is. Let him be a happy hero, only to be thrust back to his old life where he's miserable. Perfectly set up for Avengers, he gains that extra bit of anger & road testing.

  • Nov. 25, 2008, 10:24 a.m. CST

    William Hurt....

    by cookepuss

    Better in the deleted footage than in the theatrical cut.<p> <p> In the theatrical alone, it seemed like he was doing his best Sam Elliot impression. Kinda fitting since Sam played Ross in the Ang Lee version, but still a bit odd. Not enough of himself in the part.

  • Nov. 25, 2008, 10:50 a.m. CST

    I heard that this franchise is in...

    by emeraldboy

    limbo. Universal do not know what to do with it. Do they keep the cast. and allow what happen during the filming of The incredible Hulk to happen again. or do they recast the film yet again. Either way UNiversal it seems were not happy with how this film did at the box office and issued to the effect that the performance was underwhelming and said that they were not rushing ahead with a sequel.

  • Nov. 25, 2008, 11:21 a.m. CST

    Thanks Quint...

    by Ned Pepper

    ...sounds like an interesting premise for a fun flick to me. Sort of a "Big Lebowski" with poetry and philosophy instead of Mickey Spillane and private dicks. Thank God there are folks out there who are willing to make a film that's not just a fucking retread of the same old, same old. I am so sick of buddy-cops, vampires, superheroes, gangstas, zombies, car crashes and feel-good sports cliches that I could puke. In fact, I threw up a little in my mouth just typing that last sentence.

  • Nov. 25, 2008, 11:45 a.m. CST

    Thought Hurt was pretty good...

    by Toby Wan

    but I still think Sam Elliot owns that role. He IS Thunderbolt Ross. Anytime you need a bad ass, Sam is the man. I love him in the Mel Gibson movie, We Were Soldiers. "What the fuck is so good about it!?"

  • Nov. 25, 2008, 12:07 p.m. CST


    by uberman

    and, in my opinion, Ang Lees was the better by a mile.

  • Nov. 25, 2008, 1:58 p.m. CST

    The Leader can be in The Avengers film

    by Ye Not Guilty

    The LEader doesn't necessarily have to be in a Hulk film. He can be in the Avengers film. He can be mind-controlling the Hulk, who will have to fight the Avengers. There's your A-story for the Avengers movie.

  • Nov. 25, 2008, 2:27 p.m. CST

    I just re-watched Ang's

    by LarryTate

    on blu-ray and turned it off. zzzzzzzzz... the pacing is just terrible.

  • Nov. 25, 2008, 2:56 p.m. CST

    my beef with the latest hulk movie...

    by JimmyJoe RedSky

    is, of all things, hulks telegraphed pro wrestler moves/poses - like right before he roars he does this very self aware "open palm twist into a fist" thing with his hands then takes a heavy step forward (very broadway musical like) - it doesnt look or feel random or natural - i actually like the movie, except for the creatures saturday morning cartoon movements - they looked real enough (as in actually there) but they moved like dancers that knew they were being filmed - anyone else notice that? - plus, we all know the hulk was built in space not on earth

  • Nov. 25, 2008, 2:57 p.m. CST


    by JimmyJoe RedSky

    i agree whole heartedly

  • Nov. 25, 2008, 5:21 p.m. CST

    Quint, you should see The Grey Zone

    by AddictedtoBoobs

    Tim Blake Nelson wrote and directed this underrated film about the Holocaust. It's about an underreported incident involving the Jews who are forced to clean the gas chambers (they are called the Sonderkomando). It has David Arquette (actually acting very well), Harvey Keitel, Steve Buscemi, and a few others. It has stuck with me since I first saw it. You should track it down.

  • Nov. 25, 2008, 5:54 p.m. CST

    When he did Poseidon,

    by Archive

    Richard Dreyfuss said that the money was the only reason he was getting back into acting. As great as his performance in W. was, I'd hate to think that he's taking productions like this to the cleaners. Plus, after his pseudo-hostile remarks about Oliver Stone... Anybody know what's up with that guy?

  • Nov. 25, 2008, 8:55 p.m. CST

    HULK 2??!!

    by BobParr

    As much geek love as this movie got it was no more successful (financially or critically) as Ang Lee's so-called bomb. I prefer Lee's version because it was far more ambitious (but too heavy handed). Some comic books just don't translate well to film. I'm sure THOR will suck as well. Especially if they cast a 5'11", 190lb actor as the Thunder God.

  • Nov. 25, 2008, 10:33 p.m. CST

    Thor audition

    by Staldo

    I say for Thor they pretend it's an audition for the pro-wrestling circuit. Find a gigantic blonde dude that can convincingly deliver shakespearean speech, call him back a week later and tell him "guess what, monkey, you're not going to be a wrestler just yet, you're playing fucking THOR." That way he'd be an unknown without an ego to go with the muscles, and he could go on to wrestle or whatnot after that. Putting some Hollywood pretty boy on the Sylvester Stallone Growth Hormone diet isn't going to cut it.

  • Nov. 26, 2008, 12:05 a.m. CST

    lucy devito is fucking HOT!!!

    by BadMrWonka

    she is a gorgeous little midget elf nerdling...I'm serious, she is really cute. I saw her as Anne Frank here in Seattle, and even though she was kinda miscast because she's small enough to play a 13 year old, GOD was she cute!<p>see for yourselves:<p>

  • Nov. 27, 2008, 4:26 a.m. CST

    Universal Hulk...

    by u.k. star

  • Nov. 27, 2008, 4:29 a.m. CST

    universal Hulk

    by u.k. star

    I don't think it's got anything to do with Universal. I think Marvel "own" movie rights to Hulk again, which is why he can be in an Avengers movie. I also think Marvel are happier, in as much as it may not have made huge amounts of money, but it has been prety well received. It'ds liked by more people than Ang Lee's Hulk. <p> I just have a feeling that they'll leave Hulk alone and have a sequel after Hulk has gained more credaility / fans in Avengers.