Jim Jarmusch on Boycotting ‘Star Wars,’ Bringing ‘Paterson’ to Cannes

Director Jim Jarmusch is receiving some of the best reviews of his career for “Paterson,” about a New Jersey bus driver (Adam Driver) who writes poems in his free time. He spoke to Variety about the film.

You wrote the treatment for this story 20 years ago.
I just gather ideas over the years. That was one of my possible projects. I kind of forgot about it for a while.

Where did the poems come from?
Ron Padgett is one of my favorite contemporary poets, and he agreed to write the poems for the film. We also used some of his pre-existing poems.

How did you cast Adam Driver?
Usually, I have actors in mind for the main characters. But I didn’t have actors in my head and began trying to find the right actors. I honestly hadn’t seen Adam in too many things. I’d seen him in “Frances Ha,” and I’d seen him in a small role in “Inside Llewyn Davis.” I’d seen a few episodes of “Girls.” There’s something about his presence that I really love.

Have you now seen “Star Wars: The Force Awakens”?
No. I’ve never seen any “Stars Wars” films. I don’t know if it’s just a stubborn punk rock thing, where I intend to go to my grave having never seen “Stars Wars.” I’ve never seen “Gone With the Wind” either.

Do you not like classic movies?
I’ve seen thousands of classic movies. I’m a film nerd. For some reason those get thrown in one’s face so often, I managed to avoid them.

Did Adam really learn how to drive a bus?
He went to bus driving school. He can’t drive the bus in all the things we shot. It was funny. Our production was arranging for Adam to get a bus license, and while we were trying to organize it, Adam on his own figured it out and was already in the school.

Is it important for you that people watch your movies in theaters?
One of my biggest points of negotiation [with Amazon Studios] was that the film get a theatrical release in a certain amount of theaters before just VOD. That’s very important to me.

Why?
Maybe just because I’m old school and I love seeing films in the theater. I just like cinemas; I grew up in them. I love the experience of seeing films with other strangers in a dark room.

Are you a fan of the Cannes red carpet?
A fan? No, because I don’t like even being photographed. I’m not big on self-promoting. I feel uncomfortable with all of that. But I try to be gracious and respect that it’s part of the tradition of Cannes.

Would you ever direct a studio movie?
I don’t think I would. They [Hollywood executives] would tell me how to do it, and that’s a problem. I understand that—it’s a big investment that they like to control. But I’m not the right person to be controlled. It’s not a snotty thing. It’s just reality. They are not going to let me make a big budget film with complete artistic control.

Jarmusch shared this exclusive poem from the movie Paterson with Variety.

The Run
I go through
trillions of molecules
that move aside
to make way for me
while on both sides
trillions more
stay where they are.
The windshield wiper blade
starts to squeak.
The rain has stopped.
I stop.
On the corner
a boy
in a yellow raincoat
holding his mother’s hand.

-By Ron Padgett

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