Popular Films Can Still Be Great

For his first “mainstream” film (“Rabbit Hole”), the indie director tried to make the kind of small, quiet art picture that defined the mainstream in the ‘70s.
  • Transcript


Question: Do you or your fans worry that your latest project will be too “mainstream”?

John Cameron Mitchell: Well, for me, "mainstream" is not necessarily a negative because when I grew up, mainstream films in the ‘70s were critically lauded and popular.  You know, in a theater there’d be "Godfather" movies and "Network" and "Nashville" and, you know, these were popular movies, these were mainstream movies.  "Cuckoo’s Nest" and "MASH" and these were all very iconoclastic films and often, what would be considered now art films and independent films on bigger budgets, starring major stars that looked like us.  These people looked like us, as opposed to now where stars are, you know, really kind of royalty or aliens and they look that way.

So, to me, I never separated "popular" from "good."  And, you know, because of economics I think it has separated and so it’s rare for me to go to a Hollywood film unless it really got recommendations from people I know, because I'm... just so disappointed usually when so much money is being spent, you tend to have a, go for the lowest common denominator in terms of quality.

But there is, you know, doing "The Rabbit Hole" really is, the budget was less than "Hedwig," it just happened to have major stars in it, and there was no distributor or studio involved, putting on commercial pressures, it was just the producers, who have a mainstream understanding and how you live in Hollywood, but who definitely had good taste.  So, in a way with "Rabbit Hole" we’re trying to make the kind of film that was a small, a quiet film about real people that was common in the late ‘70’s and early ‘80’s as a mainstream film.  You know, like "Ordinary People," or "Kramer vs. Kramer" or "Shoot the Moon," or any number of serious-minded-but-mainstream film with mainstream stars, which is unusual right now.

Recorded on May 3, 2010
Interviewed by Austin Allen