JR: Can I give you my home phone so I can download the new Iphone software.
JB: Sure. Where are you at with The Men Who Stare at Goats?
JR: It's finished. I believe it's not too long until people see it. Shit! The Iphone software server cannot be contacted! What's the big fucking problem!
JB: I guess it's too much in demand
JR: I'll try again. Do you know who's in it
JB: Spacey, Bridges, Clooney. McGregor. How does that feel?
JR: Well it's funny how, you know, it's extraordinary at first and then you adapt to your new circustances and feel, this is all I deserve. Which isn't true. I went out there for a couple of days and watched them filming it and saw conversations between McGregor and Clooney doing dialogue from real conversations that I have really had 5 years earlier with people so it was extraordinary but you just sort of feel that everything your life will become fantastic but of course that doesn't happen, you've got the same coffee adiction you've always had.
JB: Have you had any input?
JR: No. But you know what that's kind of how it should be. And in fact I am now with Peter - who wrote the screenpay. I'm adapting stuff and I wouldn't want the people who's lives I'm adapting to want to have any input either. You've got to take a step away and peter decided he wanted to take a step away from me to the extent that he even changed the name of the character who's based on me. Cos think he felt he needed to have free reign to fictionalise whatever was necessary to make a good film. Which is completely the right thing to do plus all this happened when I didnt think I had the ability to write screenplays. so i would never want to interfere. Nick Hornby told me not to interfere. Not that I was ever going to, but he said they know how to make films and we don't.
JB:You didn't have any concerns that it might be Hollywoodised?
JR: Well until I read the screenplay it was just ... it wasn't happening. The film got optioned and it just felt sort of theoetcal. And then the screenplay came in and it was so funny - Peter had got it so right. He's changed loads and fictionalised a lot off it but he's completely kept the spirit of the humour of it. And the sort of kindness. So as soon as I read that. A. it was a brilliant script so I thought we'll be alright and then when I heard who was getting involved again I felt safe. So I have no doubts. I suppose if someone else had bought it and someone else wasdirecting and starring in it I might have my doubts but not with the people who are doing it.
I'm sorry if my answers are too loveyish. I suppose if I wasn't happy I'd still say I was happy but I am happy.
JB: Are you nervous about seeing it?
JR: Not really in a funny sort of way because it's not my project. You just feel that these peole know how to make films I'm sure it'll be relly good, it''s allquite separate to me in a way. I spent a couple of days watching it being filmed and what I saw looked really funny. I'm confident it's going to be really goood. And it feels, it's there thing, anyway.
JB: It is a straight comedy?
JR: It's not entirely a comedy. I mean, I don't know - this is from reading the screenplay - but there's som serious stuff in there as well. It'l be like the book. It's sort of clsh between funny and serious. It starts funny nd gets stomach churning, and tht journey from one to the other is part of the screenplay.
JB: What is it that attracts you to these things - conspiracy theories and bizarre plots?
JR:Well I suppose it's mysteries isn't it. It's a sort of mix of ourneying into far-out places and hanging out with far-out people which I always find really interesting - let's go to extreme situations. And also, solving mysteries to. I've always - this is really pretentous - but I've always wanted my books instead of beeing by jon Ronson to be 'a Jon Ronson mystery'. Lik a NNAncy Drew mystery. One day maybe I'll be able to achieve that. Ireally like going off into this bubble off absurdity that's just when I feel most alive when I'm in the middle of mad ansurd unfolding stories.
JB: It's interesting that your first book was about living in the world of the supremely wealthy. Is there a similarity?
JR: Hmm. Wel I haven't done that much on the super-rich. Well, anything extreme. I oftn think the most interesting stories are on the mrgins of society and that includes I suppose the super-rich
JB: I heard something you did for Radio 4 a while ago - the networking events. Guy with the fence.
JR: Thats right theres that man who works for Mohammed Al Fyed and he was being an absoute scumbag. No theres another story I thought you were talking about a man who thinks that everyone they employ is there to rip them off so he just stands glaring at the servants all the time and he teaches him to take an interest in the servants. So that was a sort of extreme. Not to freakshow the extreme, just to experience it from within
JB: Well, maybe money creates those extremes because it gives you such freedoms.
JR: Well, maybe you hae to be a nut to become that succesful, I've always had that suspicion like Bernie Madofff
JB: Or Stanford
JR: Absolutely. Well the landed gentry, they're sort of nice and polite, they're fucked up like everyones fucked up but nice and polites, but the self - made people who have spent their life acccumulating wealth they have to have personality disfunctions and disorders to just want to do that.
JB: Which sort of links into my next question which is about Stanley Kubrick and what led you to make the programme about his boxes
JR: Yeah, I'll probably show this at Latitude. Well, that did sort of come to me because they contacted me to begin with because Kubrck had liked one of my documentaries and I got the invite to the house and like everybody who was around at the time the Kubrik house had the reputation of being like Xanadu, this mad hermit genius sort of thing, thats how I managed Kubrick but it wasn't really true. It's true he didn't leave the house much and had his quirks but he wasn't a mad hermit. The house was always jam-packed full of people and he was a funny person. Unpurchased item could not be purchased!
So I turned up at the house and it was jam-packed full of boxes, thousands of boxes so I said can I look through them and they said alright, sort of nervously,
JB: Worried about what you might find
JR: Yeah, and what I might do with what I find. Would I perpetuate the myths about him. Which I think I didn't - I had to show the film to Kubrick's wife and brother in law and so on, there was some lawyer in America who didn't like it all but in the end we got our way.
JB: Well the film does portray him accurately as obsessive
JR: Yeah, but obsessive to the point that there was a purpose to it. I think what they were worried about was him appearing madly obsessive, irrationally obsessive and I think Kubrick, prbably quite uniquely, his obsessiveness worked as a creative device. It just goes to show that that sort of thing isnt always destructive. It's definitely strange that he would have to see every doorway in London to find the perfect dooorway for one partcular scene in Eyees WIde Shut. But it's what worked for its wwhat he needed. You do wonder if it was a kind of diversionary tctic. That he like the search more than the actual doing. That's why he made less and less movies ecause he was using the search as an excuse not to make movies. I think that possible though I wouldn't want to be a psychiatrist analysing from afar.
JB: The first time I went on GoogleMaps' Streetview I thought of Kubrick and how much he'd love it
JR: And the internet in general. He dies when it was still in ins infancy because all those memos he wouldn't have had to write because he could have just emaled them. I'm going on Streetview now to look at his house. There it is, I'm going into the house. Wow look at that Chiddickbury. Theres the huge house,a nd the stable block. You're right - he wouldn't have had to send Manuel, his Nephew, out to photograph Commercial Road for weeks and weeks on a ladder. And then he had to put all the films together to get a sort of concertina panorama of Comercal Road getting them all developed at Snappy Snaps. And then when he took them all back Kubrick looks at it and says well it sure beats going there.
JB: It's almost like the image is better than reality.
JR: Well, yes that's true but it's also that he would rather stay in the mansion and get someone else to the dirty work because he'd earned it by being Stanley Kubrick. That's that I took from that story.
At Latitude I'll show some clips from that film, and something on Bohemian Grove. Annd I might show some of the actual conversations that have now been dramatised. I went to the Isle of Wight and it was really disappointing It was just one giant dump. It was a big group of drunken callow eyed teeneagers who wanted to get drunk and throw their pizza boxes everyhere. I saw this man and woman about three o'clock in the afternoon both dressed as cavemen beating the shit out of each other. For real. I don't want to be here.
There comes a moment when a film gets optioned, they're renting the rights and then they buy it. Universal have bought THEM so it bodes well and Mike White wrote a screenplay that I thought was fantastic, just as good as Peter's screenplay really funny. But beyond that the downside of them buying your book is that you're not really in their loop any more which I again I understand because its like when you provide the source material for somebody and that includes being an interviewee for a Journalist, when you've given them what they need theres no need to contct them any more and thats the same with the author when your boooks bought by a film company. So the downside is that I don't know whats going on but the upside is that they bought it.
JB: So youre confident that it will come to fruition?
JR: I hope so because its my favourite book that Ive written and Mike White's script was really good, but beyond that I've got no idea but I'd really love it. I mean one great thing that will happen with the Goats movie is the the book suddenly gets back into the shops and stuff and for that to happen to THEM would just be fantastic. I've always thought, I'm probably going to sound like a bit of an old cunt here, but I've always thought that THEM didn't sell as many copies as it should have done. I mean I did think iit was so good that it needed to sell as many copies of the bible and be in every hotel room, so I did have high expectations for it but I do think theres a lot of people out there who would really like THEM but haven't read it and consequently if the film does get made I'm sure a lot of peoplee would read thhe book and really ennjjoy it who have never heard of it and that would be great. Beyond that I know nothIng.
JB: Whats the next thing?
JR: Im working on a new book at the moment. A little bit of it is about to go on 'This America Life', I'm still at least a yer or two from finishing it but this really good American Radio show, are taking a little bit of it as a work in progress. Plus I'm doing 'how to find god', about the Alpha course.
JB: Isn't it supposed to just make you consider the issues?
JR: Well, no, I think it's real agenda is to make you get more soul. I think it is a Christian conversion scheme.
JB: Almost like Scientology.
JR: Yeah, although you know what I would personally say that if you had an an evangelical Christian next to a scientologist next to a Christian the one you're going to get the most bothering from is the evangelical Christian And thats really what Alpha's about I think including one with Peter who wrote Goats, which I think is going quite well.
JB: Have you done anything on Scientology?
JR: I'm actually doing some at the moment and I've got to say - and I hope I don't eat my words - that I've found them perfectly nice and fair and straightforward, and I'm going to say that actually in what I'm writing because I've been dealing with them on and off all year and they've been nothing except together and fine
JB: Maybe they're responding to all the bad press
JR: That's quite possible, or maybe the thing I'm doing benefits them, I'm not their enemy. But even so I haven't had a glimmer of trouble with them and I've been with a lot of religious groups that have caused me terrrible trouble. But my hand to got I'd sort of recommend them but I've got to say right now they've been fine. And I watched the John Sweeney thing.
JB: Which wasn't particularly strong
JR: I thought right from the word go, it was such a hatchet job
JB: Their one press representative was a bit of an diot
JR: Yes he did make himself look quite bad. I gave the talk to a bunch of sceptics the other day if you watch it now and take the anti-scientology hat off and watch it objectively I think John Sweeney behaved worse then they did because they invited him in assuming he didn't have an agenda but he had a huge agenda right from the beginning and all he did was feed the agenda riight from the beginning. I always think that polemical journalism, cusading - not crusading - polemical - this is my view and whatever happens I' going to slot it into my view is quite a corrupt thing to do. I said to the sceptics the other day I don't know why they don't go after Michael Moore, more. Because it's full of deceits.