Film Scouts Interviews

Alan Taylor on "Palookaville"

by Leslie Rigoulot

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Nov 14, 1996

I recently had the pleasure of spending some time with first-time director Alan Taylor. The release of his independent feature, "Palookaville", is up against the record-breaking "Ransom" and the fall favorite, "The Mirror Has Two Faces", but Taylor isn't worried about *them*: "It isn't the multiplex movies I'm concerned about. What I'm up against is 'Trees Lounge', 'Big Night' and 'Swingers' - *that* is the audience I'm looking for."


Film Scouts (Leslie Rigoulot): What's your perspective on"Palookaville"?

Alan Taylor: "'Palookaville' is the end of the line for losers and these three guys have grown up at the end of the line. They want to be the criminals that they have seen on TV and in movies, but they really don't have what it takes - which is where the humor comes in.

FS: It's so obvious they don't have what it takes to be criminals, though! They're using toy guns!

AT: So pathetic! And they hate themselves for it! That's what I like most about them. That's why I cast guys that look like they do. They have played the bad guys enough. Russ is trying so hard to be the bad guy and is such a tragic guy. The worst possible thing is always happening to him with his mother, sister and brother-in-law all piled on top of each other. It is part of the whole claustrophobia. The economic situation is against them. And we want the audience to think this a movie about a heist, about trying to get money. But the guys grow up a little during the course of "Palookaville" and realize what is important in their lives. They have been kicked out of the American Dream, don't know what hit them, and if they had any sense they'd be angry but instead they blame themselves. They are looking for a way to get back in.

FS: Maybe they'll become cops.

AT: The funny thing about Ed, the cop, is that in a way he is the fourth palooka. His life has taken just a slightly different turn. The way fate has dealt out the card, he could have been the fourth buddy. They have so much in common.

FS: Are you a big "On the Waterfront" fan? That's where the name came from, right?

AT: That was the last thing we came up with. We had shot the movie, we were editing and we had this terrible title. It was called "One for the Money" at that point. And we knew we wanted to change it. The producer and I thought of the same thing at the same time, even though we were on separate continents. He called me and asked if I had thought of anything, and I said "Just this one weird word," and he said "Me too."

FS: So how did you break into the "big time"?

AT: I'm not sure this is the "big time"! This is the ante room, the vestibule to the "big time"! But I did a short in film school that the producer of "Palookaville" saw, and he wanted that same sort of voice. [The short] had a happy festival life. It premiered at Venice and won a prize for Best First Feature, and did well at Sundance. You can spend an entire year following your film around the globe, getting pats on the head. But you have to move on.

FS: What are you planning?

AT: I'm developing two [films] right now. One is called "Sweetheart" and I just got it set up at Fox Searchlight... It doesn't mean the movie is actually going to happen, but I get to write the script and there is a *plan* to make it. And the other one is based on a script by a British writer, Dennis Potter. He is famous for "Singing Detective" and has a cult following. We are hoping to shoot in Italy next spring. I'm glad I have something to work on so I'm not following "Palookaville's" release too closely - I can distract myself.

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