Press Conference Interviews
The Big Kahuna

By Ross Anthony

At Press Day, I spoke with three principals of the film, ironically in a Beverly Hills hotel hospitality suite...

[Danny Devito] [Peter Facinelli] [John Swanbeck]

Danny Devito:

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(One member of the press joked that this convocation's condiments were far superior to those in the film.)

DD: "Better than a Cheeseball" (Danny Concurred) that's gonna be my new line.

(On Kevin Spacey as producer)

Danny DevitoDD: He calls me up on a Friday night and says, "The part was written for you." I say, "Oh yeah right - okay, just send me the script." He goes, "I'll have someone walk it over tonight ... you can tell me tomorrow." So now I begin to smell a rat ... "When do you want to do this movie?" He says, "Oh, we start Wednesday." I said, "Oh, it was a part that was written for me, huh?" (Laughs.) I says, "The next time I read a script with a liein' bastard in it I'll send it to you!" (Laughs, in thought) ... Next year Jersey's gonna make an epic about the phone book and [Kev's] gonna star in it. (Suddenly more serious.) No, we had a good time, it was a good script, at the right time. If you recognize that when it comes along, you gotta be open to it ... you get gifts. This is a gift.

(On Peter Facinelli)

DD: We tossed him around, broke his chops. A couple of workhorses and a new guy. (Laughs.)

(On Pulp Fiction)

DD: I was able to protect Quentin ... because I was a final cut producer and there was no way anyone was going to tamper with that script no matter what.

RA: Thank You.

(On Collaboration)

DD: Everybody's free to talk and contribute and put his or her two cents in. Whoever's setting up the game should make that understood by everybody, you don't want to turn anything away, somebody might have a good idea.

RA: So what good ideas did you have ... that they used?

DD: I don't really know.

RA: You don't know?

Press: Did you see it?

DD: What?

Press: The movie?

DD: What movie? (Laughs all around.) Well, I'm almost finished with the book so I don't want to blow it. (More Laughs.)

Peter Facinelli:

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(On Devito and Spacey)

Peter FacinelliPF: To work with talented actors makes my job easier. But at the same time I was also fully aware that they're very powerful people and I didn't want to get steam-rolled by them and be a piece of furniture while it's the Kevin and Danny show. They are such great inspirations to me as not only actors [but] as human beings. Kevin's at the top of his game, Danny's very talented. They could have easily come in and been egotistical control freaks. Kevin could have completely taken over ... you know he's producing it as well. That's not how I felt at all ... It was three actors. Names, egos, everything aside, it was three actors and a director working together collaboratively, and everyone's opinions, voices, suggestions were valid and everyone respected each other. We were exploring this piece together, and learning from each other together. That's another thing I love about them, they're not afraid to learn and grow.

(On role models)

PF: If I could pick an actor to pattern my career after it would be Paul Newman, salad dressing and all.

Director John Swanbeck:

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(On starting the project)

JS: Roger gave me the script in 1991 and I sent it to Kevin with whom I'd had a long history as one of his acting coaches. We had been looking for a project to do together on Broadway ... [however] Kevin said, "Look, this will make a great first small movie to help launch my film company (Trigger Street)."

(On getting advice as a first time director)

Director John SwanbeckJS: She says, "On a Clint Eastwood set, everyone is so cool because Clint is so cool." So then I was really terrified because now I've got to go in there and be like Clint Eastwood. (Laughs.) But the point was well taken and the next day I went to the crew and said, "Look I'll make a deal with you. I'll be very clear and decisive about the story we're telling and I will concentrate on capturing that story with the actors and you guys will be responsible for capturing it on film."

(On favorite films and women actors)

JS: "Pride and Prejudices," "Chinatown," "Godfather(s)" etc. ... I would love to work with Susan Surandon sometime and Angelina Jolie. [However] this is my feminist movie because, there's no women in the movie. Larry's character has a line, "We're like dinosaurs..." For me the story captures the way men were used to relating to each other and the way the world is now challenging them to relate with each other and the old world, old boy network doesn't really work anymore. There's much more honest intimate connections that these guys are forced to deal with and that's what we were going after.

(On religion)

JS: It's a part in Peter's character's life and not what the picture's about. We don't play down to religion and we don't use it in any self-serving, manipulative way. Really it's a story of humanity. I know a lot of very religious people who have seen this film and loved it.

(On preparation etc.)

RA: Besides watching "12 Angry Men" and "Lifeboat" videos, what else did you do to Prepare for this film?

JS: I think it was really key that I made a short film before we shot "The Big Kahuna." We wrote, directed and produced it. So going through the process once was probably the smartest thing I'd done. I had the story direction experience, but I needed to learn the mechanics, I didn't want to show up and spend 16 days learning who the script supervisor was and what her job was.

RA: What happened to that short?

JS: In the middle of editing, Kevin called and said, "We're shooting in three weeks." So that become our lives for two and a half years.

RA: Now that "The Kahuna" is finished ... will you return to the short?

JS: Well we're thinking of re-shooting it digitally, because we want to get our feet wet in the digital world. Or maybe making it into a feature.

RA: Title?

JS: Marilyn.

RA: What was that one precious thing you learned while working on the short?

JS: It really taught me what the producer's job is. So I knew I could make decisions as a director to do a better job for Kevin. I knew what was coming down the pike before they happened.

RA: What was the budget for "The Kahuna"?

JS: 1.8 million - it was a passion project.

RA: What film directors have influenced your style?

JS: Mike Nicols and his improvisatory background, he gets great multi-dimensional performances from his actors by playing a scene in different ways to see how it looks. Ang Lee of "Ice Storm." Latest mentor is Kimberly Peirce of "Boys Don't Cry." It was a grave injustice that she wasn't nominated.

RA: The "Kahuna's" writer, Roger Rueff, was he on your set?

JS: We've known each other a number of years, I knew what he wanted from the script. I thought movies are an image medium, but working more internally, we were allowed to use the faces of the actors as our landscapes and the special effects would be the emotions in their eyes. Roger was, in fact, not on the set, and that was a request I made of him. I know actors when they're working on material they love and then the writer shows up ... it brings an element of consciousness to the work that I like to keep out of the process. So Roger was only too glad to not get in the way of what these actors were doing. But I'd call him every day, and play the audio tapes over the phone to him.

RA: What appears in the film that is purely new that was not in the script?

JS: A little improvisation, but they were very intent on getting Roger's words down, because they're all actors that admire a good script. Danny would be up till 3AM memorizing his lines.

RA: If you were given a huge budget, what kind of film would you make?

JS: I'd like to tell a story without dialogue, not to say I want to make a silent movie. Actually, that's what I tried to do with "The Big Kahuna." I know the film was wall to wall dialogue. But we should really think as though we were telling a story without words. So that the movie works on two levels, there's the brilliant dialogue and then the emotional under level. The non-verbal fascinates me.

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Copyright © 1998-2023 Ross Anthony, Author - Speaker - Solo World Circumnavigator In addition to reviewing films and interviewing celebs at, traveling the world, composing great music, motivational speaking, Mr. Anthony also runs his own publishing company in the Los Angeles area. While traversing the circumference of the planet writing books and shooting documentaries, Mr. Anthony has taught, presented for, worked &/or played with locals in over 30 countries & 100 cities (Nairobi to Nagasaki). He's bungee-jumped from a bridge near Victoria Falls, wrestled with lions in Zimbabwe, crashed a Vespa off a high mountain road in Taiwan, and ridden a dirt bike across the States (Washington State to Washington DC). To get signed books ("Rodney Appleseed" to "Jinshirou") or schedule Ross to speak check out: or call 1-800-767-7186. Go into the world and inspire the people you meet with your love, kindness, and whatever it is you're really good at. Check out books by Ross Anthony. Rand() functions, Pho chicken soup, rollerblading, and frozen yogurt (w/ blueberries) also rock! (Btw, rand is short for random. It can also stand for "Really Awkward Nutty Dinosaurs" -- which is quite rand, isn't it?) Being alive is the miracle. Special thanks to Ken Kocanda, HAL, Jodie Keszek, Don Haderlein, Mom and Pops, my family, R. Foss, and many others by Ross Anthony. Galati-FE also deserves a shout out. And thanks to all of you for your interest and optimism. Enjoy great films, read stirring novels, grow.

Last Modified: Thursday, 21-Oct-2010 15:19:38 PDT