Harmony Korine wrote his first screenplay at 19 for the critically acclaimed Larry Clark film Kids in 1995. Two years later, he wrote and directed the non-linear art movie Gummo. He has also helmed a Sonic Youth Video and a TV special for magician David Blaine as well as written the film Ken Park, also directed by Larry Clark. His latest movie, Mister Lonely, is about a Michael Jackson impersonator and a Marilyn Monroe impersonator. Recently, he spoke over the phone to Maximilian Mueller.
Mueller: What was your inspiration for making Mister Lonely?
Korine: Well, I hadn’t made a movie in a long time. It had been like eight years or something. So I spent some time among this small group of Peruvian fisherman near Panama. They were looking for this special fish. And after about a month there, I became disenchanted and I started imagining nuns jumping out of airplanes on bicycles, doing tricks in the clouds and stuff.
Mueller: Nuns jumping out of airplanes?
Korine: Yes, exactly. And at the same time I knew this guy when I was in Paris who was a Michael Jackson impersonator from Germany. He had lost his leg when he stepped on a land mine and he had a prosthesis. I used to talk to him and he used to tell me stories. And then, I don’t know, one night I was thinking up different ideas and stuff and wondering what it would be like to put them together.
Mueller: You’ve done some personal appearances at screenings around the country with this movie. Is that something you look forward to?
Korine: Not really.
Mueller: What kind of reactions do you get when you’re there with the audience?
Korine: It seems to be generally positive and good, but, like everything I’ve done before, I’ve never really gotten a kind of consensus reaction. It’s more [that] different people react different ways.
Mueller: Do you watch audiences watching your movies?
Korine: No, not really.
Mueller: You wrote a lot of sex and nudity into Ken Park. What’s in your mind when you’re writing a nude scene or a sex scene?
Korine: Well, I don’t know, I wrote that 12 or 13 years ago so I was a pretty much a kid when I was writing it. I was probably writing something that was the way I perceived things to be back then. You know, I just try to do something that’s exciting, or real, or whatever, sex scenes are different. It’s like violence, it depends on the context.
Mueller: You’ve been working with Chloe Sevigny for a long time. Did you peg her as a star early on?
Korine: Well actually, I haven’t worked with her in a long time, but in the beginning I worked with her a lot. Yeah, of course. I had a relationship with her and we were friends and it just made sense.
Mueller: So you weren’t surprised by the success that she’s had?
Korine: No, not at all.
Mueller: Did you see The Brown Bunny?
Korine: No I didn’t.
Mueller: What was your reaction to hearing about that movie and her decision to make it, with her being as big a star as she was?
Korine: I don’t really want to talk about that stuff.
Mueller: Okay. Well, let me ask you this – What was the first nude scene or sex scene you remember seeing?
Korine: Uh… The first nude scene or sex scene I’ve ever seen? I don’t even remember. By the way, what are we doing this for? I’m just curious. Is this a porn magazine?
Mueller: It’s MrSkin.com. It’s a celebrity nudity website.
Korine: Oh, right. (Laughs) I was like, man, there’s a real slant! Let’s see… The first time I ever really remember getting aroused was from The Tin Drum, that Volker Schlöndorff film. That scene where the little boy eats pop rocks off of his baby-sitter’s stomach. That’s the first scene I remember being excited by.
Mueller: How old were you?
Korine: I don’t know, probably like seven or eight.
Mueller: It was on TV?
Korine: It could have been, but I think it was probably more likely that my father had rented it.
Mueller: What is your favorite all-time nude scene or sex scene from a movie?
Korine: Let me think… There’s a good one in that movie La Luna, the Bertolucci movie, with Jill Clayburgh and her son. That was a real good one. I can’t think of anything else. I rarely think of things like that or my favorite violent scene or sex scene.
Mueller: Both scenes you mentioned are somewhat transgressive. Is that what makes it more memorable?
Korine: Yeah. I think they’re more interesting because they’re confusing, you know? I always tend to like things that work in a more abstract way or something that’s harder to decipher, something that maybe you’re aroused by and at the same time repulsed by. I just remember those things that were more ambiguous were the ones I was drawn to, even at an early age.
Mueller: What actress today would you most like to write a confusing ambiguous sex scene for?
Korine: Is Jessica Tandy still alive? Probably her.
Korine: I don’t know, she just seems funny.
Mueller: What’s next for you?
Korine: I’m writing something now that I’m getting close to finishing. I can’t really talk about that. And I spent time with this woman with a reversed torso who could have sex from behind from the front. She was from India. Her torso was completely reversed 180 degrees and she walked like a spider. I has heard stories about this woman who was hanging out in these Indian specialty sex parlors for women that would have three breasts and things like that. Some people would call them deformities and others would call them exciting. I hung out with her for a few months and she debated getting into politics.
Mueller: Where was that?
Korine: Well she was originally from Haiti, but she was living in North Africa. I spent time filming her and now I’m just trying to decide what to do with this footage.
Mueller: Anything else you want to add?
Korine: No, that’s good.