Burning Down the House
An Interview With Harmony Korine
What happened to you? You were gone from the film world for so long.
Around the time of my last movie, I was having trouble relating to things. In some ways, I just started to feel like it would be best for me to turn my back on film, on movie making, or just to walk away and do something else. I couldn't really connect to anything and I wasn't so happy where I was in life. So I spent the last 10 years – eight years, however many years – doing odd jobs: mowing yards, I worked as a lifeguard, I interned with a cobbler, and then I spent six months in Peru with a group of fisherman looking for a special kind of fish. Then that was it. After a certain amount of time had passed and years clicked away, I felt ready again. I started to think in images again and started to feel like I could make movies again.
What is the source of Mister Lonely?
Early on I had started thinking of this idea of nuns jumping out of airplanes, nuns riding bicycles in the clouds and doing tricks in the sky. But that was pretty much it; that was the extent of it. I didn't have a story or any kind of narrative. And I was working on a script before then, right before my houses burned down. It was a script about a pig named Trotsky and this kid who invented a special kind of adhesive that he would put on to ride outside of these walls. He would ride around and walk through the swampland in Florida and firebomb houses. A lot of that script burned down with my house.
Your house burned down?
I had two houses that burned down. It was within a six-month period.
The second one I kind of know about but the first one, I don't really know how it happened. It's still a mystery. There were a lot of strange forces at work during that period.
Werner Herzog is in Mister Lonely.
I called him and asked him if wanted to be part of the movie and he said he was very excited to play an alcoholic jungle priest.
Samantha Morton is in Mister Lonely.
She was an old friend of mine. I've known her pretty much since she started acting. I always thought she was one of the best actresses and someone whose career I followed. I was always impressed by her so I asked her to do the film and it was very good.
In Mister Lonely, what connects the celebrity impersonator story to the one about the flying nuns?
They were both about obsessive dreamers creating their own society – people who wanted to transcend the limits of who they really are. It's almost like they wanted to create a world that was like the real world but slightly tweaked, slightly altered, like a subtle science fiction. That was both of them.
I heard you had a film idea about you picking up fights with random people?
That was actually something I did, it's just never been released. It was a film called Fight Harm. It was shot around 1998 or 1999 and it just consisted of me getting beaten up by every single demographic. For instance, I would go to Harlem and fight a lesbian and the next day I would get my head smashed in by an Arab guy with a mandolin. It was supposed to be a feature film that just consisted entirely of fights. That was pretty much it. After that I just didn't do anything.