F. Scott Fitzgerald once said there are no second acts in American lives. Obviously, he never met Fred Durst. Best known as the lead singer for rap/rockers Limp Bizkit, Durst has always had a passion for movies. His debut, The Education of Charlie Banks (out this week on DVD), tells the tale of an uneasy friendship between Charlie (Jesse Eisenberg) and Mick (Jason Ritter), a tough kid from his old neighborhood. When Charlie goes to an elite college, Mick follows him there, and for a while it appears he’s smoothed out his rough edges, before old tensions come back to the surface. (Charlie Banks was shot before, but released after, The Longshots, Durst’s second film, which starred Ice Cube).
Durst (who spoke to RT from Poland while on tour with his band) reflected on five of his favorite films, as well as the differences between making music and making movies, and why he chose The Education of Charlie Banks to be his first film.
It’s hard to have favorites because I just have so many that I like and I respond to them differently with different moods and different pieces of memory, but I tried to name five that just came to my head. So I came with Bicycle Thief. It’s amazing. It’s very touching and so ahead of it’s time, it seems, but so simple, yet so complex. Just a very, very unique film that someone turned me onto years ago and that I had no idea about.
I like The Shining. There’s just so many things about composition and breaking the mold, the innovative steady-cam work and the character and the performances, and the master behind it putting it together, Stanley Kubrick, who I love.
RT: I’ve read elsewhere that you’re a big Kubrick fan. What is it about his work that you particularly enjoy?
Fred Durst: I dunno, I guess it’s his perspective on the world, his eye that we’re being able to experience the story through, his take on things. He’s diverse; you see his collection and lots of different styles, but then again, they all just sort of seem to fall under the same umbrella somehow. It’s pretty amazing. I mean, I love 2001: A Space Odyssey a lot, I love Dr. Strangelove. I just really love his movies, and The Shining had an effect on me when I was very young, and watching it as an adult, someone who is exposed to the magic of filmmaking, the technical aspect of different things, I think it’s just a really wonderful piece of work. I just watch it anytime it’s on, flipping through, or “I’m just gonna throw on a DVD.” I mean, I’ve watched the movie quite a few times. I remember watching the making of it; he’s just so brutal on Shelley. He’s such a different type of director than I am, but that’s just the way he worked. Powerful guy; it just seems like his mind’s very complex. He had a wall up around him and only a few people got close, and that fascinates me.
I love Chinatown. Great movie, I mean, it just is what it is. Unbelievable, just a classic. I just really respond to that movie. It’s real; it has this heightened reality about it. Very powerful. It’s something that sticks out in my head. Seeing it, and watching it again and again, then seeing it as an adult. Something I can continue to watch through the years and be inspired by, and get lost in, and just forget about everything and say, “I just had a movie experience.”
I love Harold and Maude. [Hal Ashby’s] amazing. His characters, just the way he tells his story, the way he lets them breathe, the way he makes them so real. There’s just something about it I identify with. All his choices seem to speak to me.
RT: One of the things I really liked about Charlie Banks was the way you integrated the music into it, and Harold and Maude seems to have that sort of thing too. It doesn’t overwhelm what’s going on on the screen, and it’s not telegraphing the action.
FD: It sort of becomes a character in the film. It’s sort of vital to the whole experience, but it doesn’t take you out of the movie; it just enhances the experience, and telegraphing things I don’t really believe in so much. Sometimes when it’s just part of the process and that’s what makes the movie fun, but not in the case of Charlie Banks. You know, if I had Cat Stevens in my hands, it would have been amazing. Charlie Banks, man, you should have heard the music before the studio bought it and took out all the music and made me replace most of it. You should have heard the original. Oh my God, I just felt so good about it. I mean, still, I love it; a lot of the original themes like Mick’s theme [hums song]. But some of the source stuff that was timeless and classic, but they just didn’t want to pay for it. I still love it, but I just thought it was better before they made me replace it. I mean, you know where they go, “Hey, we have $10,000 in music budget.” You go, “Whoa, well that’s definitely gonna be impossible.” I’ll call these publishers myself, I’ll pull any favor I can, but we need a little more than that. But, you know, when it still has the music, the character, and Charlie Banks is still there, and it’s the feel and overall tone and tension of those vibrations, I still think it works for it. The movie, personally, is a little long to me. I wish they would have let me finish editing it; I would have taken out 10, maybe 12, 15 minutes of it.
Coming off my head, I could just go on, but… Taxi Driver. I was really moved by the unraveling of this guy, and the interesting choices Scorsese made, the things he used to tell the story. You know, like zooming in to the bottle of Alka Seltzer fizzling, this guy’s about to really cross over to the next layer of dementia. Just amazing choices, and for him to be so meant to be a filmmaker. Be it and feel it. And De Niro, just, oh man, I just get carried away. Every time, in the beginning of that movie, when he — he’s just so not self aware — he goes in to ask the girl out at the campaign center, and the feeling’s so uncomfortable. I loved him also as Rupert Pupkin in King of Comedy. Man, I love the way De Niro can sorta just play a guy that’s not aware.
So those are five. I wouldn’t say they’re my favorite movies of all time. I just say it if I had to, off the top of my head. It just came, and if you asked me again tomorrow, it might be maybe one of those, maybe a bunch of others.
Next: Durst talks about how filmmaking was his first passion, how he identifies with the characters in Charlie Banks, and what kinds of stories he wants to tell.
RT: I’m sure you get this all the time, but after watching Charlie Banks, I’ve heard people say, “I cannot believe Fred Durst directed that film.” But then I read some other things and find out that filmmaking was always your first passion.
FD: I can’t explain it. It’s such a bizarre juxtaposition for me to be in, because I’ve always been affected by film, and living through film. I want to be a filmmaker, I want to tell stories, and then out of left field, comes this blindsided punch of having a rock band, being a rock star. It’s crazy. I mean, I’m passionate about it, and I enjoy it. It just wasn’t a goal, it wasn’t something that was in me, I didn’t think. I mean, it’s in me, obviously, but I wasn’t aware of it, and the music became this thing that I got put into and ultimately led me to have the opportunity to find something to sink my heart into, to tell a story.
Once the music makes you successful, it’s like you have opportunities to make movies. If you want to do something, because of the success of the music, you can, but I always felt a lot of people abused that. You know, great musicians who are like, “Hey, I’m gonna go make a movie,” or “I’m gonna go act in a movie,” because they’re so popular. You know, to each their own; effort is A-plus to me, but sometimes you just can see that they abused the privilege. I turned down a lot of movies in the beginning because maybe they weren’t developing right, or maybe it was just the wrong mix… Like they were looking for a “Break Stuff” video, but in a movie, or they were looking for a Limp Bizkit movie-music video thing, angst-driven, quick-cut, stylistic craziness that reflected the times and what Limp Bizkit was about, and that’s not necessarily the movies I respond to at all. So it’s interesting that I always wanted to be a filmmaker, and then getting a chance to, I feel so blessed to even have been able to make two films, and you just learn so much, and you just want to go make another one. You learn so much, and you want to get back out there, but it just doesn’t work that easy. Ugh.
RT: Obviously a movie audience is a lot more sedate than a crowd at a rock concert, but are there any similarities between being a musician and a filmmaker, regardless of the medium?
FD: In film, I feel like I’m reaching for reactions, I’m reaching for things to cause an emotional reaction, the emotion that’s intended from me, or intended by this moment, or this movie, or this scene, or this character. I’m looking for scenes that make me react to it. And then the music, I don’t think past the fact that just me in the mix, not thinking of the outside, not thinking “Oh, this is going to make people go crazy,” or “This is going to make them feel this or that.” I’m sort of just in another mindset as a musician, sort of spilling it out, and being insecure, and realizing the things I can talk the most about are the things going on in my own life or my own head, and finding a vulnerable moment behind a microphone, in front of a lyric pad, and then laying it down, and no one gets to hear it because it’s private in the studio, and you have your band a couple other people going, “This is a good one. This is a good one, let’s put this on.”
With the movie, I feel like I’m aware of the audience the whole time, and that’s a different type of approach for me. I just feel it’s very different, but somehow they can coexist in the same world. But I do have to go with different approaches with both. I mean, I’m a completely different person when it comes to making music as I am to working on a film.
RT: So what are you working on next? Is it Psycho Killer?
FD: Yeah, right now that’s the top of the list. There’s movies I’ve developed and scripts I’ve had written on the side to make, but right now Andy Kevin Walker’s new script Psycho Killer is my next film, and it’s very, very good. I mean, this guy is an amazing writer, and he’s just so smart, and it’s such a unique perspective into the mind of this psychotic serial killer without being gratuitous or being a slash-em-up gorefest movie. It’s just very smart; it’s written so good, and there’s a magnifying glass over every beat of this movie, so everything has to really tie itself together well once you see and experience it. A lot of times when I see a movie that I feel that there’s suspense in there, and there’s mystery, and there’s something thrilling about it, the characters are great, it keeps me going… Once you find out the story, or the plot, or you figure it out, a lot of times I’m not interested to go back and watch the movie again, unless the right pieces are in, the right character, the way the story was told, the way it was shot, the way it all kind of blended together and worked, the choices that were made to make it something I want to watch over and over again. When I read Psycho Killer, I just felt like, “Oh my God, I could watch this movie over and over again,” because I see it in my mind. In Fight Club, you know it’s Edward Norton’s alter ego, it’s in his mind, he made it up. But once you figure that out, you could go watch it again and be blown away by all the nuances of Fincher’s filmmaking.
Even for, like, a horror film, the first Halloween… Oh my God, I can see that movie, you know, not a billion times, but I can watch it again and again. It’s so simple but so effective. And the characters, and Jamie Lee Curtis is so [great]. I’m not the biggest horror fan in the world, but I like suspense, and I like to be scared, but I also like it when there’s a lot of substance and integrity behind it. Just more depth, and this movie’s got it. Andy Kevin Walker’s just a great writer, man. I read the script and go, “Holy s—, man, I cannot believe that you can just spit something out like this.”
RT: As for the characters in Charlie Banks, did you personally think that Charlie and Mick were sort of a yin and yang of you when you read the script? Did you see yourself in these characters?
FD: I definitely did. The reason I felt I could tell the story is because I had to not only be able to understand and tell the story from Charlie’s point of view, but also I had to really understand who Mick was and give him a fair shake on his side. I identify with pieces of both of them. I’ve been in similar situations that they’ve both been in. This movie is about Charlie and Mick. In the original script there were some subplots that I took out, some things that went into The Big Chill-style. It went more into the characters and built this “bigger picture” around it. I just winnowed it down, and trimmed the fat off, and we really focused on what this movie was about. I do identify with the inevitably tragic story of Mick, and he just being the dealt the hand that he’s been dealt in life. Regardless of where his mind thinks he can go, he’s always gonna be this person living the life he’s been dealt. Getting out of his own way — sometimes it seems possible, but it’s really not for him. And Charlie, he’s just such a solid character in this movie, and Jesse Eisenberg… I had already seen Roger Dodger, and then I saw The Squid and the Whale, and I was just in love with that movie. I was like, “This movie’s incredible.” And it was in the beginning of working on the script for Charlie Banks, and I just said, “Jesse Eisenberg is Charlie Banks.” And I remember the producers being like, “What? We need a name.” And I was just going, “No, no, this is the guy. And I think he has a name. This guy’s gonna be somebody in the film world.” So we got to meet with him, and we got to see all these little subtleties and characteristics that he had, and it was like, he’s Charlie Banks. He’s gonna speak the dialogue in the script, but really he’s just gonna play himself here.
RT: Obviously, you and Ice Cube go way back, since you toured together on the Family Values tour. Was it intimidating working with him on The Longshots, given the fact that he’s a guy who’s made the leap into acting and directing?
FD: I got The Longshots script from one of his friends, a producer that produces a bunch of his movies. I’d known him for a while, and he said, “Hey, check out this script.” And I read it and said, “This is a good story, like with sunshine around the corner.” And I like those good feeling things. And the script was very dramatic; it was like a Hoosiers-meets-Rudy. Cube saw Charlie Banks and he really liked it. I was like, “That’s dope! That’s wild! Let me go and meet with Cube, because I responded to this story.” It was just gonna be going to meet Cube and hang out with him. And the meeting, he was so serious, man. He’s not joking around. He really wants to have a diverse career, and think a lot of people expect him to just keep doing these Are We There Yets. He was like, “I wanna make this movie. I want to do something different with my character.” And I said, “You know, that’s the movie that I wanna make, because I don’t want to make Are We There Yet.” We really stuck to it, we fought for it, we got the script where we wanted it to be, but obviously in the process of the movie, you’ve got the studio trying to make it The Mighty Ducks the whole time. You see the heart in there, and you feel it, but then you have these silly moments that they just can’t help themselves. They think, “Kids won’t like this movie if we don’t put this in!” But it was a great experience, and Cube’s very professional. It wasn’t intimidating at all; he really believed in me and my decisions. We had talks before each performance. We just really bonded. We’ve told each other that we can’t wait to work together again, and my mind’s always on what I can do with him next, which will obviously be way different than The Longshots.
RT: What would be your dream project? What movie would you make if you could?
FD: Well, I’d love to work with Daniel Day-Lewis, Sean Penn, I’d love to do something with Fincher… I dunno, I really like Mark Wahlberg. I think there’s something really special about him. I have a really good knack for comedy, and that’s something that I’m hoping to expose. A dream project… man, I don’t know what that would be. I think the fact that movies even get made is absolutely a miracle. It really is a miracle. There’s so much politics involved, so much bull—-, so much drama in different things, and you just hope that through all that turbulent sea that your ship comes out looking like a ship. My dream project would be for me to win the lottery and just start a film company for real filmmakers and people who don’t want the drama. Try to make a drama-free studio and let the artists go do what they do. There are a lot of things that I really want to make, but I’m very superstitious. I don’t want to jinx it.