Interview conducted by Reid Martin, once the director of marketing at the now defunct Independent Pictures, on November the 15th, 2000 at 4.45pm.
Reid Martin: Why do you think some people find the film somewhat disturbing, some people find it that, why are some people polarised by the film?
Harmony Korine: Again, I don’t really have any kind of social insight or commentary to my movies. I could begin to dissect them in a kind of analytical way but that’s really boring for me. I’d rather jump out a fuckin’ window and shoot myself. I just do what I do because, like Bresson has said, that if there’s no image there that existed that you’d want to see then you create your own images. That’s a kind of self-fulfilled prophecy of sorts. To me there wasn’t those images so I made them, that’s the only reason. If they had’ve existed I would’ve quit or not made the movie.
Martin: Casting is something that seems like it’s really an important aspect. How long did it take you to put the elements of Gummo together in terms of finding the people who were going to represent what you wanted to see on screen?
Korine: Oh, Jesus, I’d say any longer than 35 minutes. We did it really randomly. We hired people out of factories and stuff. I gave myself 45 minutes to cast the movie out of Burger Kings and slaughterhouses.
Martin: Weren’t the main characters on some tv talk shows?
Korine: Yeah, well the main characters, that’s different. I saw them all on different talk shows, about children who sniff paint and survive, paint sniffing survivors, which always inspired me because I mourn a lot of the paint sniffers that don’t survive so the ones who do I think have an extra good constitution. I’d like to work with those people.
Martin: The image of the bunny character coming in. It’s really stark and grabs you, especially the ears. Where did that image first come to you?
Korine: I don’t know. It’s hard for me to explain where I get the actual images from. I just wanted to see a boy with rabbit ears, but he wasn’t. He took on certain aspects of a rabbit but at the same time he was a boy. I just needed a boy that was a rabbit to fulfil what it was I was trying to say.
Korine: All the characters in my movie are beautiful, even the ones that I find disgusting. I don’t see any one person as being any one way. I don’t think things are as easy and as simple as they’re said or shown to be in most films. For me, it wasn’t hard or it wasn’t complex showing the complexity of these characters, of a girl with downs syndrome showing her beauty because her beauty is obvious and transendent to me and the idea of exploitation means absolutely nothing to me because I show what I want to see and I don’t exploit people. I don’t make people do things that they don’t want to. But also it’s not an argument that I care to fight or to defend.
Martin: One of the things that really struck me is the Daisy classic BB gun. It’s such an icon of my youth.
Korine: I met a kid, the first time i ever thought about suicide was this kid who tried to overdose on four adville and for fifty cents i bought his BB gun and I shot myself in the temple with it twelve times and got a terrible infection. That’s really what for me it represents is an infection.
Martin: Was there any kind of magic on the day that you remember or something that really just struck you and you thought, “Oh that’s great, we got like maybe the one guy destroying the chair and…”
Korine: Yeah, that would be the last day of filming. That was the most intense. We filmed, believe it or not, on the very last day we filmed two thirds of the film because I waited for rain and prayed for rain and that was the day the guy fought the chair, I did my scene with the dwarf, the whole ending with the rabbit running into the camera while it was raining with the Roy Orbison music and the cute girls kissing the rabbit in the swimming pool and the bowling alley scene . That was all done in a single day, and after it was done I pulled my pants down and threw my sister through a plate-glass window and vomited in a yellow bucket and woke up a few days later and the film had been finished, and someone had stabbed me with a little red army pocket knife. I think it was someone from the crew trying to get back at me. That was a pretty intense day.
Martin: Did you just let the camera roll at some points to…
Korine: Yeah, most of the time, all of the time. I just let the camera roll. Let it ease on down and suck you off.
Martin: People behind the camera. Was there anyone that you specifically wanted to have?
Korine: Well, Jean Yves Escoffier, the cinematographer, was very much my partner in this movie. Creatively, visually. I owe a great deal to his eye. Because as he was filming the movie, because he’s french. He was definitely my first choice, he’s someone whose images I’d always admired. he was the first person I appraoched. And it was great to work with him because he looked at things, because he’d never been to a place like Nashville and the places i took him, so it was all like a third-world country to him, so he was looking at, whereas it was familar for me, he was looking at it with eyes of like a frog, well which he is a frog (Martin laughs).
Korine: I am strictly an american filmmaker.
Martin: America also though puts such a heavy premium on narrative. How important do you think that is to its stories, I mean, some people get frustrated when they don’t get answers, or they don’t see a beginning, a middle and an end, or they don’t have it clearly spelled out for them.
Korine: I don’t really believe or I don’t really care in a basic narrative. I don’t see narrative in life. I see stories, and I love stories but I don’t ever see anything ever begining or finishing and i don’t feel like there’s a middle to anything in my life. I’d rather just show scenes and just things that exist and go on and on and on. I could care less about narrative. I think story is essential and characters are both essential, but as far as putting something in order I think that’s something that’s somethnng that’s been done for the past hundred years and been accepted and that’s just … I’m not interested.
Martin: Is there any aspects of humanity that should not be revealed…
Korine: Absolutely not. I think that people should reveal everything and anything that they want to. I don’t think there’s any such thing as a real taboo and if there is I think that it should be broken right away. I wouldn’t shy away from anything. I don’t think there’s any way to go too far myself. There’s things people can do that go too far in a stupid and silly way just to do it for the sake of doing it, and I’m not really concerned with that. The idea of shock for shock’s sake or you know.
I am a provocerteur in a sense, but I don’t find anything i’ve ever done ‘shocking,’ and I don’t think that I’ve done anything that’s taboo. I just don’t see things as taboo. I think that people think and have day dreams of all sorts of things, I mean, if the idea of making love to a twelve-year-old girl passes through your mind does that make you a bad person? Because we all have these thoughts, it’s just that we don’t neccessarily act upon them, so, I don’t know, that’s pretty much, I’ve said too much already.