Documenting The Life Of A True Comics Original
This year is the 25th anniversary of Terry Zwigoff’s seminal Crumb documentary. Ahead of a showing of Crumb and one of Zwigoff’s other films, Ghost World, at the Troxy in London on 28 September, Tripwire’s editor-in-chief Joel Meadows interviewed the director about reaching this milestone and the event in London…
TRIPWIRE: Crumb celebrates its 25th anniversary this year. How do you feel now that it has reached this milestone?
TERRY ZWIGOFF: Old.
TW: Ghost World was a very well regarded film when it came out. How do you see this work all these years after you first made it?
TZ: I always liked it, but actually it was not at all well-regarded when it first came out. Like my other films “Crumb” and “Bad Santa”, it had some of the worst test screenings ever. People didn’t seem to know what to make of any of those films at first. The music was weird, the sense of humor put them off….I dunno. They seemed to think something was wrong with them because they were different from what they were used to seeing maybe. Then they seemed to slowly come around after the critics weighed in, and the next thing i know they’re all considered classics. One critic described “Bad Santa” as “the closest thing we have today to A W.C. Fields film”. That’s was the highest praise I could have ever imagined, but didn’t mean much to the Studio.
TW: You will be playing with Robert Crumb and Craig Ventresco and David Boeddinghaus live at the Troxy. How will it feel to be part of R Crumb’s Hollywood Four?
TZ: That’s a name i made up a few weeks ago for this band. It was intended to be a bit funny and self-deprecating. The four of us have never all played together before, and i haven’t touched an instrument in 6 years, so it will be interesting. What could go wrong, right? David Boeddinghaus and Craig Ventresco are my two favorite living musicians, these guys are the real deal. The very best of the best. Certainly not the typical burnt-out hippy kazoo blowers that Crumb usually plays with. It’s a privilege to be able to play with them – I’ll be just be trying not to embarrass myself.
TW: Crumb was a warts and all documentary on the seminal cartoonist’s life. Did your opinion of him alter from when you first planned the documentary to when you had finished it?
TW: Ghost World was one of the earliest leading roles for Scarlett Johansson. When you cast her, did you have any inkling just how huge she would become?
TZ: No. I’d seen her in “The Horse Whisperer” and thought she was terrific. When i met her i was surprised at how smart and funny and sarcastic she was. She was only 15 years old when we shot the film. I actually thought Thora Birch might go on to be a big star, but a lot of this sort of thing is luck and hard to predict.
TW: Did you keep in contact with Robert Crumb after you made Crumb the documentary?
TZ: Yes. He’d moved to France, but we always talk on the phone and he usually comes to visit me in San Francisco once a year for a few weeks.
TW: How will it feel to spend an afternoon and and evening with Crumb all these years after you made the film?
TZ: It’ll be fun to see him. He’s coming to London with Aline a few days early so we can hang out a bit with the wives and have some fun. I’ve only been to London once before (to promote “Ghost World” years ago) and i was stuck in a hotel room doing press the entire time, so i’m excited to be able to explore the city.
TW: Crumb is based in France so what made you decide to host this evening in London?
TZ: Deborah (Kee Higgins) and Barry (Hogan) suggested it – the idea of bringing Craig Ventresco and David Boeddinghaus over to play music sold me on the idea. That and the fact that London is a place I always wanted to spend more time in.
TW: The original soundtrack is being released for the first time since the film came out. How do you feel about that?
TZ:I have no way to play LPs, so I’ll never hear it, but the kids today seem to like “vinyl”. I’ll stick to 78s.
TW: What are you most looking forward to about the Troxy event?
TZ: Hearing David Boeddinghaus and Craig Ventresco play music. They are both incredible.
Tickets for the Troxy event are available here