When you said, “You’re not a cutie…”
“…I’m a cutter.” Yes. Because what’s interesting is that he’s not shy about being a builder, which is the nickname that college kids have given the townspeople. So that’s meant to be an insult. And I said, “You are not a cutting person. I am a builder.” So, the person who carves my shape is a stone carver, a stone mason. So, it has two meanings. I love that line.
What makes you such a great movie dad?
It’s a two-word answer: Good deed. In other words, I don’t have to bring a lot to the plate. I have children everywhere. It’s just nature. Of course it’s not that I’m such an amazing actor that I’ve been able to identify with every new baby I’ve fathered. It’s that I have an innate quality, it’s not something I know, just something that comes out of me has a father’s quality, and that father can be a wonderful person or become a nice guy. But it’s almost not something I have to work at it’s just something that comes naturally.
He writes touchingly in the book about filming a simple scene with Dennis Christopher in “Breaking Away” when you were separated from your children.
That almost forced me… it made me a fashionista as I hugged Denis Christopher. And she was about to cry. I always played my father in these films. He was the one I worked with. Now, if I am the father, who is this child that I am hugging? It’s me. So, I had the experience of being with Denis myself because I am a father who hugs his son. And the son is me, too. I never had a father who put his arms around me so I had to pretend I knew how it worked.
You write a lot about your love of wordplay, but one of your favorite actors is silent star Buster Keaton. Sure, we all love Buster but what makes him special to you?
Everyone always compares him to Chaplin, and Chaplin for a long time was more popular than Keaton at that time. But I said in the book, “If Chaplin was a king, Buster was definitely a prince.” I felt Chaplin as someone I loved from afar because he seemed smarter than me, smarter than the audience. He always seemed to shine. Now, he’s showing off beautifully, of course. But it was almost like he was on a proscenium stage instead of a movie. Most of the time he was just playing for the camera. But Buster always looked like he was in a real situation. He was a real person, not a comedian. And I was equally afraid of him. In fact, I felt like someone I could sit down with and have a beer with and talk to. He seemed available. He seemed humble. He seemed vulnerable. And he was, as you learn in Dana Stevens’ book, Cameraman, is considered a more creative filmmaker than Chaplin. Chaplin didn’t do a lot of things that led to other things. He made some great movies, of course, but Buster stepped down and “Sherlock Junior” entered the screen. It’s a very strange thing. And he did other things like that.