Weir's description of how he goes about making movies does not sound very Hollywood at all. For example, Weir looks for inspiration by "jamming his conscious mind, allowing the unconscious to come through". And this without resorting to illicit drugs - Weir uses "a little wine, tobacco" and, most importantly, music: Weir listens to music all way through the shooting since, he says, "it stops the voice in your head". Not surprisingly, the music that inspired Weir while making a movie often ended up in the final result - Beethoven's 5th piano concerto in "Picnic at Hanging Rock", Richard Strauss in "The Year of Living Dangerously" and Philip Glass in "The Truman Show".
With all this, it seems safe to assume that Weir's approach to filmmaking differs a great deal from that of Roland Emmerich (just to pick a name), director of one of this year's Hollywood blockbusters, "The Day After Tomorrow". So how does Weir's poetic approach to filmmaking go together with working in a Hollywood environment?
"When you do a US studio picture, a dangerous climate develops", Weir acknowledges. "It becomes 'them and us'. I try to say to the crew there is not them, there is no us, there is only the picture. But there are many traps in a studio picture, no question."
Weir has some tips on how to avoid these traps: "The major question is how to maintain your individuality under pressure. The answer is: you must never take a US studio film unless it is deeply part of your creative DNA. I've seen others et into trouble because they took it for ambition, or a famous actor. For me there is no difference in that creative love affair between the independent picture and the studio picture. But the studio will put the heat on."
Weir related a recent experience while making his latest movie, "Master and Commander": "The studio wanted me to go this way and I wanted to go that way. They said to me: Peter, why don't you try both ways ? I said: 'Try to think of me as a doctor. You have cancer. I am telling you how I would operate. If I do it your way, you will die.'"
And one final piece of advice: "Many studio execs are very intelligent and they are often laywers, so they are used to argue the case for the murderer. You have to be strong inside."
In a nutshell, if you find a way to deal with the lawyers, you can stay an honest person in Hollywood, and probably also elsewhere.
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