In one of the most peculiar, dull and yawn-inducing press conferences of the festival so far, American star Matt Dillon was showered with typical questions about his career and the nondescript, critically panned 2002’s directorial debut “City of Ghosts.
The festival organizers rescheduled Dillon’s official press conference from Sunday to Saturday following the screening of “Ghosts without providing explanation.
Nearly half of the questions, submitted by critics uninterested to discuss the star’s admirable and eclectic career, were related to his five-year-old film that was broadcast numerously on satellite and cable TV.
Dressed casually in blue jeans and a black jacket and looking slightly reserved yet keeping his signature cool, Dillon was accompanied by Barry Gifford, the “City of Ghosts scriptwriter who also wrote David Lynch’s “Wild at Heart and “Lost Highway. As expected, hardly any of the questions were addressed to Gifford.
Dillon – who starred in films like Francis Coppola’s “The Outsiders and “Rumble Fish, “Wild Things, and “There’s Something About Mary among many others – was branded as the new James Dean or Marlon Brandon early in his career, a comparison he wasn’t keen on.
“I never really felt comfortable with the James Dean/Brando references, Dillon said. “I admired their work and studied it. They worked from the inside-out and it was important for them to learn how they did when I was studying at the Actor’s Studio.
“The media has tried to present me as a rebel, a heartthrob or whatever, he added. “That doesn’t satisfy my ambitions.
By the mid-80s, Dillon was regarded as a bankable star. But he grew tired of the similar roles he was offered to portray before beginning a series of versatile works that officially started with Gus Van Sant’s “Drugstore Cowboy in 1989.
However, and despite taking on diverse and daring projects, the scripts that did stimulate him were rare.
“I was tired of the material given to me, and that’s why I called Gifford for ‘City of Ghosts’.
The basic idea behind “Ghosts – a crime drama about a con man fleeing to Cambodia to get his share in an insurance scam – hit him on the flight to the South-Asian country. That’s when he decided to develop it with Gifford, who was recommended by Van Sant, and direct it.
“As an actor, you usually get hired and wait for the right script to come, he said. “Sometimes, you wish to come up with your idea and do a whole project yourself, and that’s what happened with ‘City of Ghosts’.
Dillon confessed that he has always been interested in directing. But because he didn’t want to work as a director for hire, it took him so long to ultimately fulfill his passion. He also confirmed that he remains interested to direct again and might work on another project with Gifford.
Asked by an adamant reporter working for an Emirate media outlet if he could attend the Dubai Film Festival, a confused, slightly bored Dillon replied, “I don’t know. I mean I’m not going now.
When the same reporter asked if he’d be willing to make a film in Dubai or the Middle East, Dillon said “I’d love to make a film in Egypt; I mean this is a country that’s been making films for 100 years. It’s a very cinematic country. His answer was greeted by strong applause from the audience.
As for an odd question asking if he would consider making a movie in Palestine, a once again baffled Dillon gave out the most bizarre response of the conference, “I’m always been attracted to places of conflict like Cambodia. The Middle East or Palestine is a place of strong conflict and that would make a basis for a good drama.
“Things don’t work out like that though, he added. “It is the story, characters, cast and crew and ideas that determine the project not the place.
As for his Academy Award nominated role in the best picture Oscar winner “Crash, Dillon said, “I don’t know how many people at that time would have accepted playing a role of a racist cop, but I love it.
“It was a different role, and a challenging one. Crash’s success was a surprise. I never expected it to win best picture at the Oscars.