Statements of Congratulations
to Tom Cruise
Tom, congratulations on receiving the John Huston Award for Artists Rights.
John Houston. How many conversations did we have about him while we were making "Far and Away"? The award could not be passed along to a more deserving recipient. Tom, your passion is inspiring. It inspires everyone who comes into your life and has the opportunity to work with you. And congratulations on a well earned, well deserved honor.
Comments on John Huston
John Huston is kind of one of my favorite directors. Top two, three, four directors. And I always try to work in a lot of different genres, and a lot of different styles. And I've always respected the fact that Huston made so many different kinds of movies and made them all well. He was such a powerful voice in the movies -- as a writer, as a director and as an actor as well -- where he brought kind of a bearing and fascinating presence to every film that he would act in. So Tom and I talked a lot about John Huston movies when we were making Far and Away because nobody could sort of deal with those issues, those ideas of scope communicated through fairly humble characters better than Houston. He was right there with any of the masters as far as I'm concerned.
Interview with Ron Howard
by Allison Seale
Transcript of an interview that prepared for the 1998 John Huston Award tribute film which honored Tom Cruise. The purpose of the interview was to get anecdotes and impressions Mr. Howard had of Cruise's devotion to the cause of artists rights. As a founding member of the Artists Rights Foundation, we were also interested in Mr. Howard's views on the subject.
Q: Far and Away was not just a script that came across your desk. You're actually credited with the story. Can you tell us what personal significance the story had for you?
Far and Away was a story that I had worked on for a number of years, and it was really born on this one afternoon when I was visiting my family in Oklahoma. I was visiting my great-grandmother, and she showed me this tattered photograph of the starting line right after the cannon had been fired for the Oklahoma land race. All the images were blurry but she insisted that the guy out in front was her husband, my great-grandfather. And it turned out that I had a lot of relatives who had ridden in that race and other races like it. None of them got any land, but they were fascinating stories that I grew up with. And so the idea of an adventure that would culminate with that kind of experience was something that had interested me for a lot of years. When I took the screenplay to Tom he responded well to it, but what he responded to the most was that connection that I had with the movie, with sort of the center of the movie and with the immigration experience. And these ideas that you can sort of transform yourself, you can make yourself over by sheer will and determination and passion and these were the things, I think, that Tom related to best in "Far and Away."
Q: You've been quoted as saying that you tried to create an environment on your set that was like you had on "The Andy Griffith Show" with regards the collaboration between the producers, writers, directors, actors. Can you describe a little bit about the collaboration that you and Tom shared in developing his character in the film?
A: Tom has what I would characterize as an incredible movie sense. You know, some great athletes have a sense of their sport whether they're quarterbacks or point guards or center fielders they just seem to have a great instinct for how to play, how to win, how to prevail. And Tom has that kind of instinct when it comes to movies and movie stories, and his role, and his character's role in the making of a film. He was an incredible collaborator to have on Far and Away for all those reasons. Most importantly, Tom loves movies. I mean Tom is a true fan. And he carries with him that understanding of what the relationship is: the film - the images flashing on that screen - and the audience. And he's both interested as an artist in doing exciting work and with work that fulfills him creatively. But he never ever loses sight of the relationship with the audience. And I think that's a very crucial aspect of his talent and his success, and it also makes him a hell of a lot of fun to work with.
Q: With regards to his collaboration in developing the character, in which scene do you think that he actually became Joseph Donnelly?
A: Well, there are a lot of wonderful scenes - there are a number of scenes which are kind of like old fashioned romantic comedy between Tom and Nicole that I'd never seen Tom do before. We've seen a little bit of it again in "Jerry Maguire" a few years later. But it turns out that he's got a very deft touch, and was great at those scenes, and of course he and Nicole had just been married so we always kind of referred to Far and Away as their honeymoon project, and so it was an informed movie in a really exciting and compelling way. But when Tom was working with the comedy, it was never sort of like the jokester's technique, or stand-up comedian's rhythm at work, it was always trying to understand the feelings that were running through the character's mind - through Joseph Donnelly's mind. That's where everything begins and ends for Tom, is that understanding, that simple drive - you know, what's in the character's heart and what's in the character's mind - those are the two things that Tom cares about the most.
Q: He does put in a lot of preparation for every role that he develops. What sort of work did he put into this character? I know, obviously, that he studied the accent—what sort of things did you all discuss and what did he take on for himself to do?
A: Tom did a tremendous amount of research. He did work for months on the accent. As did Nicole. He also trained. You know he had a lot of fight scenes to do, and he was incredible. No double was used. He was awesome. But it was a very specific kind of bare fisted fighting. When it came to the horseback riding, Tom jumped on the horse, worked on it for a few hours here and there, and then he stopped. And it was so unlike Tom to stop training and preparing, given that he had so much riding to do. And I asked him about it and he said "Well, Joseph Donnelly can't ride too well. So I don't want to get too comfortable." And it was incredible. When he was riding flat out he was kind of hanging on for his life. And he took a couple of falls that scared us all. But, you know, he got back on and we kept shooting.
Q: There are a lot of issues that Tom could devote the scarce time he has between making his films, but he's chosen artists rights as one of his major concerns. How would you describe his love for the art of film and his commitment to artists rights based on your work with him? And if I could reference a couple of things - I know that he was very involved on the script, did you all ever discuss how the movie might be seen on television?
A: Well, we didn't actually, but...it gets back to a very simple precept: Tom loves movies. And he doesn't love them in only an intellectual way or an academic sort of a way. He really loves them right from the center of his being. They're important to him. He puts everything that he has into a film and he, just by that, becomes a leader and everyone puts in a tremendous effort. And the idea that one's work, which kind of represents one's soul, one's spirit— particularly if you're as committed as Tom Cruise is— well then that's not something that should then be altered or violated or compromised. But for Tom it's such a simple concept, and it should be for the rest of the world. Tom has made it an issue because it's important to him.
Q: You're also a member of the Foundation, and we're interested in your viewpoints on artists rights. You chose to shoot this film in 65mm. Can you tell us a little bit about the decision to so that. I think it was one of the first movies in many years to be shot that way.
A: First and last.
Q:And it was just televised recently. Originally it was 2 hours and 20 minutes. Obviously it was cut. So you've probably had some experiences, just with this film alone, that disturbed you. Can you tell us about your decision to use 65mm with this film and what you were working with before?
A: The decision to go with 65mm of course had a financial impact on the movie. It was much more expensive. But fortunately Universal Pictures supported the idea. And it was very exciting, and I think it was appropriate for "Far and Away." And Tom was excited about it as well. Fascinated by it. And it worked beautifully for the movie. You know, one of my great frustrations is in exhibition where, after slaving over and putting the finish -- the polish -- on the movie: the sound is communicating what you hope it will, the images which are timed with the colors and the light and the dark, the contrast and so forth to express what you want them to express. It's compromised from the moment it leaves the lab and starts running through projectors. There's one area where I hope the technology will finally eliminate that, those variances and make it possible for everyone to see the movie the way it was intended to be seen under optimum conditions.
Q: How do you feel about it being aired, this film in particular, in a panned and scanned format? Do you have any specific objections?
A: Well, it's not ideal, but I don't object, and fortunately I have in my contract at this point, that I can control these things to some extent. On the one hand, I want to see the story seen by as many people as possible and the various formats, you know, at this point, don't allow every viewing to be optimum. I'm hoping that maybe someday it's going to keep improving. And there are certain things that are awful and I've had movies butchered pretty badly and it can be very upsetting. The last few movies, including Far and Away, I've been able to control that, and we've released longer or shorter versions there's always been a reason, a reason which I agreed with, and it's always about trying to get the film seen by as many people as possible.
Q: You mentioned some examples of where your films have been altered. What is the worst example of alteration in a film of yours or one that you've seen of somebody else's?
A: I can't really give you a specific. It's always amazing when you go back and you see a proper version of a Ford or a Hawks or a Capra classic that you became familiar with watching on television and you realize that they didn't just change a shot or two, or leave a couple of things out, but that there are whole story points missing. Fifteen minutes are gone. And that's heartbreaking, particularly heartbreaking if the filmmakers themselves were not a party to it. If the filmmakers are willing to alter their work, well, that's one thing. But when something has been slaved over and worked on, not just by the director, but by the entire creative team and then just arbitrarily altered, well that's, you know, kind of fundamentally unacceptable.
Q: You talk about the soul of a film - and I think that's what you're alluding to now - can you state for us why you feel it's important to protect the soul of the film —to leave a film in its original format?
A: Movies are communication, and they are art. And certainly there's a tremendous amount of commercial pressure because they're expensive to make, and you hope to reach a broad audience. And all those factors come into play, but at the end of the day they are an expression of something that has been worked on and planned and intended to be passed along in a certain manner. For the creative group, element, person, team, whatever it might be to not be a party to that is really criminal. It's just wrong. It's really wrong. As much as it would be to take a classic painting and cut it up and sell it in post-card size. It's wrong to take a movie and alter it, it just is.
Q: As a director do you feel a particular responsibility as the head of the family or the collaboration to make sure that your films are protected and that everybody's work is seen the way it was intended to be seen?
A: Fortunately I have those kinds of controls but, in a general sense, it shouldn't just fall on the director's shoulders. It shouldn't only be a director's issue. It's really something that producers and actors and studio executives and everyone should be mindful of. And so should fans and so should audience members. I'm not saying that altered versions shouldn't exist. There may be good reasons to pare things down or leave things out or add things. That's kind of interesting to even look at those kinds of various approaches to a story. But it really needs to be done under the auspices of the creative team. And once those people pass, those films should never be touched again.
Q: To get back to Tom, the Artists Rights Foundation is founded on the key words of "Honor", "Integrity" and "Reputation." Without those words we would really have nothing to protect. Can you describe how Tom personifies those words?
A: Tom truly is an honorable person who does live by an ethical code, and he really will not compromise that. In saying that it's not like he's some kind of inflexible person. He's a wonderful collaborator. But this -- his sense of how important it is to try to do something right if you're undertaking it at all -- is really at the center of his being. It makes him a person of great integrity, passion, commitment. A wonderful asset. It makes him a great citizen and I'm happy he's in our industry.
Q: Given your own concern for the need to preserve and protect film art, what do you think will be the impact of new technologies -- digital effects and future distribution channels like the Internet. What concerns do you have about its giving a whole new word to alteration and misuse?
A: I won't be a lot of help to you here... because... I'm as frightened as the next guy. At this point, I don't have a strategy developed for myself, for my own films or anything to really suggest. I think for a while the Internet is going to provide a kind of an invitation for black-marketeering and all kinds of alteration, and I assume that here's one instance where the studios and the artists rights people are probably going to wind up being on the same page in trying to protect the films as they are intended to be seen as much as possible. I don't know where that line is from a legislative standpoint. I'm not sure what kind of limits you can put on the Internet at this point, but fundamentally I'd hate to see Ed TV, the movie I'm working on right now, show up two weeks after it's been released in some 18 minute abridged version or something on the Internet. It would be lousy. It's something that we're going to have to keep working on.