Hey Joad, Don't Make It Sad... (Oh, Go On Then)

New Musical Express, 1996-03-09, by: Gavin Martin
He's back, touring Europe. The Boss. But don't call him that. And no rocking in the aisles. In fact, just shut the f--- up and listen. For the goatee-chinned, Steinbeck-spouting, moribundly lyrical BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN has something to say. And it ain't necessarily purtty. GAVIN MARTIN talks gay icons, sobriety, reality and socks with the who would (not) be the King Of Rock. Boss hog: PENNIE SMITH
He'll be remembered as the most unbounded performer in rock'n'roll history. His records took you inside a world of naked honesty and passionate conviction and his marathon shows were founded on deep audience empathy. But surely there must have been something else -- some tough-bastard instinct -- to get him where he wanted to be, to make him The Boss?

Bruce Springsteen laughs -- partly in amusement, partly in protest. "The Boss was an idiotic nickname. It's the bane of my entire career. I've learned to live with it but I've hated it y'know. Basically it was a casual thing. Somebody said it when the paychecks came out at the end of the month and then it ended up being this stupid thing -- in my mind anyway. But, hey, so it goes.

"The thing is, I believed when I was young. I was a serious young man, I had serious ideas about rock music. I believed it was a serious thing, I believed it should also be fun -- dancing, screwing, having a good time, but... but I also believed it was capable of conveying serious ideas and that the people who listened to it, whatever you want to call them, were looking for something.

"And maybe because it was the only culture I knew when I was 15, it succeeded as a tremendous source of inspiration for me for the entire part of my early life. It truly opened things up for me.

"I heard tremendous depth and sadness in the voice of the singer singing 'Saturday Night At The Movies', and a sense of how the world truly was, not how it was being explained to me, but how it *truly* was and how it truly operated.

"So when it came to be my turn, I said, 'I want to try and present that and, if I can, then I'll feel like I'm doing more than taking up space, y'know?"

He's not taking up so much space these days, not here in his modest dressing room backstage at the Rudi-Seimayer Halle in Munich. Not onstage, surrounded by a selection of three or four acoustic guitars and a shelf of harmonica holders on his first solo tour. Springsteen's sense of commitment to serious issues has never been tested so strongly nor proved so resolute as on this, his Born To Stand And Sitdown Tour, aka The Shut The F--- Up And Listen Tour. A natural progression from 'The Ghost Of Tom Joad' - the starkest, most terrifying album of his career, released in November last year -- Springsteen's solo tour is currently heading across Europe after three months in America.

He's been playing small venues, 2-4,000 seaters, many well of the normal circuit, re- establishing links with the local networks of food banks and agencies for the homeless, forged during his megastar years. But now the clamour is less frantic and the aims more focused. That's how he wants it to be; a reflection of the world-weariness and sense of fatalism that informs 'Tom Joad'.

In Detroit, Bruce talked onstage about a year-long local newspaper dispute and, although he made a donation to the strikers, was careful not to make moral judgments about those forced by circumstances to cross the picket lines. Then the day he played in Austin, Texas, a city- wide ordinance which effectively made it a criminal offence to be homeless came into effect. In Atlanta, the city's relief organisations told of the pressure that local business interests were putting on police and politicians to clean the vagrants off the streets in preparation for the summer's Olympics.

And when he played in Youngstown, Ohio, the depression-hit, population-decimated steel town featured in the eponymous song that gives voice to all those deemed expendable by late 20th-century American capitalism, they say you hear the very heartbeat of the place pulsing inside the hall when he sang their song.

Springsteen says there's no substitute for going to the town where someone lives and playing to them. He says there's nothing that can match actually being there. This is, after all, a performer who keeps in touch with his fans -- and their mothers. Like the woman he met back in 1981 after going to a cinema in St Louis.

"That particular evening was funny because I saw "Stardust Memories," the Woody Allen film where he was knocking his fans. The kid sitting next to me said, 'Hey, is that what you think?' and I said 'No'. I was by myself, I was in St Louis and it was 10 pm. He said, 'Come on home and meet my mother and she'll make you something to eat.'

"That to me was part of the fun of being me -- people asked you to step into their lives out of nowhere. It was always fun, interesting and fascinating. I just saw this kid's mother a couple of weeks ago in St Louis. I still see her, she's come to every show for 15 years. She comes backstage, gives you something to eat and a kiss. Her son's a lawyer now.

"I liked that. Part of what I liked about my job was that I could step out of my hotel, walk down the street and some nights you could just get lost and you'd meet somebody and they'd take you into their life and it was just sort of... I don't know, a way of connecting with things."

In Munich. as with every other show, there's a polite announcement before the performance, reiterating what Springsteen has already told the local press -- silence is an integral part of much of the music he'll be playing, and audience co-operation is appreciated. Shortly into his set he puts it rather more bluntly: "Yes, folks, this is a community event so if anybody near you is making too much noise why not all band together and politely tell them to SHUT THE F--- UP!"

The rapt attention and reaction over two nights on Munich and Hamburg suggests that the qualities being appreciated aren't just the lyrics, but the poetic inflections in Springsteen's voice, the feel for his characters' cadences and rhythms of speech; the way each breath, sigh, pant or moan is heard and made to count.

Years ago, Springsteen told an interviewer he was 'a nuts-and-bolts sort of guy', who wouldn't make his mark in a mercurial flash of brilliance, but gradually over a long '20 to 25-year' haul. The 'Tom Joad' tour, allowing him to expand the artistry of his voice and the eloquence of his guitar-playing as never before, bears the fruits of this approach. But that's not to say the new shows are solely a dark ride. The ripe friskiness of a horny, middle-aged male who has become a father three times since his 40th birthday is well in evidence in introductions to 'It's The Little Things That Count' and 'Sell It And They Will Come' -- unrecorded songs about his own "squalid little sexual fantasies."

A compelling blend of good-natured showman and dedicated artist, Springsteen is obviously aware of the value of contrast. SO the jocular banter between songs just goes to highlight the depth of torment and heartbreak at the core of the show -- be it a wicked Delta-blues reworking of 'Born In The USA', the lost-tether confession of 'Highway 29', the awesome unreleased 'Joad' outtake, 'Brothers Under The Bridge' or the violated innocence of the kids in 'Balboa Park'.

The impression of a man at ease with himself and his new, lowlier rank in the Celebrity Freak Show is apparent when we meet backstage, some 15 minutes after his final encore in Hamburg. Springsteen is short and stocky, polite and deferential. With his goatee beard and receding hair pulled back into what's not so much a ponytail as a sparrow's cock, he looks not unlike a guy who might change your oil or check your tyres in any western town.

Then, when he grins and his face creases, he reminds you of Robert De Niro -- another hardworking Italian-American whose art has centred on struggles of the soul and obsessional behaviour.

In conversation, Springsteen is given to a lot of self-mocking chuckling, but just as likely he'll slip into a long, slow, deliberating drawl, restarting and revising his meanings; a painstaking approach not dissimilar to the one that has produced the bulk of his recorded output.

He puts his "limited repertoire" of poses into operation for a short photo session, with the proviso that his sock aren't showing.

"That's the only rule I have about photos and I'm very strict about it," he grins.

The photographer mentions Nick Cave and Springsteen interrupts: "Oh, he probably has great socks -- he insists you show his socks, am I right?"

Photo session over, he serves up two glasses of Jack Daniel's and ice. Undoing the belt around his pleated pants he attempts -- unsuccessfully -- to open a bottle of Corona. Then he opens the door and pries off the bottle top using the lock-keep, but the beer froths up over his trousers and shirt.

"That's the trouble with doing it this way," he says, navigating a quick detour into the shower room.

Finally, lager-stained but ready, Springsteen sits down, resting his drinks on the coffee table beside a silver bill-fold, holding some Deutschmarks, an expensive watch and a biker's key ring. Ninety minutes later, Bruce -- who admits that he used to drink but "only for effect" -- still hasn't touched either his brew or his Jack.

Have you been working up to a solo tour for a long time?

"I've thought about it since 'Nebraska', but 'Nebraska' sort of happened by accident. A planned kind of accident, but enough of an accident that I didn't really think that was something I was going to tour with. I thought about it again when I did 'Tunnel Of Love', but 'Tunnel Of Love' was in between a group record and a solo record, and I still couldn't quite imagine going out onstage by myself at that point.

"We did rehearsals where it was just me and a sit-down band and -- I hate to use the word -- an unplugged-style show. That didn't feel right, if there's a band on stage, people are going to want you to go, 'One, two, three, four, y'know? So we ended up putting a big tour together.

"So when 'Tom Joad' came about I thought, 'This is the chance to do something I've been waiting to do for a while.' Also, I wanted an alternative to touring with a band and all that that involves. I've done it for a long time and I felt like, at best if I got out there with a band I'd only have something half new to say, because, if you're there with a group of people, automatically you're gonna want to hear, A, B and C.

"Really, the bottom line is that, through the '90s, the voice I've found, the voice that's felt the most present and vital for me, had basically been a folk voice. It really hasn't been my rock voice.

"I was originally signed as a folk singer and so it's a funny sort of thing. John Hammond [the late legendary CBS talent scout who signed Billie Holiday, Bob Dylan and Bruce] would be laughing right now, because he was always saying to me, 'You should make an album with just a guitar.'

"When Jonathan Demme [director of 'Philadelphia'] asked for the song ('Streets Of Philadelphia'] he focused me outward and then working with the band did the same thing because they are the living manifestation of the community I write about.

"Musicians are funny. When you're home, you're never a real connected part of your own community, so you create one of your own. So I created the band and that was your family and that was the living manifestation of whatever community you imagine and sing about, and I think that's what they were to my fans. I think that's what they represented and that's why the band has power and why it is important and has been important.

"That sense of friendship, loyalty, everybody's different but somehow together; that's why the whole idea of the band has always been a central idea of rock music; that's why bands keep coming. Whether it's the brothers in Oasis or whoever, everybody's fascinated because IT FEELS LIKE REAL LIFE. People trying to make it, to get together and do something together. That's why bands are powerful."

Do you follow young bands?

"Not that much, I hear things in passing. Occasionally I'll go out and do a lot of curiosity- buying. Since the early '80s, my musical influences... they've been ultimately more... I sort of fought back in a way. There was Hank Williams and some of the blues guys and folk guys, but films and writers and novels have probably been the primary influences on my work.."

On the album sleeve and onstage monologues, you're quite specific that it's the John Ford film, rather than the Steinbeck book of "The Grapes of Wrath" that inspired 'Tom Joad'.

"That's the way it happened, that's what I saw first. Then I read the novel, which is incredible. I recently re-read it, and you have that beautiful last scene. The book ends on a singular act of human kindness or compassion -- the entire book leads to that point. That had a lot of meaning for me at the moment I re-read it because I was searching for a way to go beyond broad platitudes or whatever you want to call them.

"I was looking for a way to make whatever light there is in the world feel real now. So I found myself turning at the end of my record to one person making one decision. I think the things I use to bring some light into the show are those types of things, that's why I play 'Spare Parts' and 'Galveston Bay'. To me, those things are possible, those are things that... any individual at your show can walk out of the building and can lead the next day with that idea or that possibility."

Did therapy affect your most recent writing?

"Nah, that had more affect on my life and the choices that I had; it gave me more control in the way I could live my life. Early on, when I was younger, I could only live my life in one way, it was the only way I knew. I was locked into a very specific and pretty limited mode of behaviour. It was basically the road, I had no capability for a home life or an ability to develop anything more than a glancing relationship."

Did you feel something happening to you at the time?

"No, you're 25 and you don't know anything that's happening to you. All you know is that things are rushing by. At the time I felt like -- this is the race."

As a rock'n'roll athlete, Springsteen may be unique -- there's never been any account of him having taken a drug, for instance.

"No, I never did."

Yet your songs suggest someone well aware of self-destructive urges.

"I've had many self-destructive urges but they've never worked themselves out in the drug area. I've had a funny experience in that I didn't do any drugs; I've never done any drugs. It's not about having any moral point of view about drugs whatsoever -- I know nothing about them. I didn't do them for my own reasons, which were probably... I didn't trust myself into putting myself that far out of control. I had a fear of my own internal life.

"I lived in a house where I experienced out-of-controlness and I didn't like it. I suppose I had fears that that was going to be me if I do A, B, C, D or E.

"I was round very many people who did many drugs and I can't particularly say I liked any of them when they were stoned or high, for the most part. Either they were being a pain in the ass or incomprehensible. That's my experience -- so it didn't interest me.

"Also, at a very young age, I became very focused on music and experienced a certain sort of ecstasy, actually, through playing. It was just something I loved doing."

But you did take oxygen blasts between sets during your stadium shows?

"I suppose so, if necessary," he laughs.

Those were the days when he was The Boss. A near-superhuman creation, trailing anything up to a four-hour extravaganza of euphoria, shaggy-dog monologues, stories with a bittersweet twist, clowning, death ballads and hard-won heroics. The extended victory march by the man who wanted the heart and soul of the music to rage long into the night. Can he imagine doing it ever again?

"I don't know. I can certainly imagine playing with the band again. I don't know if I'd play for that particular length of time at this point. I mean, I certainly *could*, but I believe I might want to create a more focused show if I went out.

"But it's very tricky because I had the same thought the last time I went out, probably the last five times, then all of a sudden you're looking at the clock and three hours have gone by. So y'know, I'd have to get there and see.

"As far as the other stuff goes, it was really I had a lot of fuel. I always felt the E Street powering me. We had a lot of *desperate* fun; I think that's what gave the fun, that the band presented an edge, y'know. There were always two sides to that particular band, there was a lot of dark material and yet there was this explosion of actual joy; real, real happiness -- whether it was being alive or being with your friends or the audience on a given night. That was real but it was the devil-on-your-heels sort of fun -- laughing and running, you know what I mean?"

Did things change when Patti Scialfa [long-time New Jersey musician and, since 1991, the second and -- he's sure -- last Mrs Springsteen] joined?

"When Patti joined, I wanted the band to be more representative of my audience -- I said, 'Hey, we need a woman in the band!' I saw the band as representative of myself. We were all in our mid-30s and I said, 'It's time to deal with these ideas. The band as a lost boys club is a great institution -- the level of general misogyny and hostility and the concept of it as always being a place where you can hide from those things.' But I wanted to change that, I didn't want to do it."

What changed you?

"Just getting older, you know, and realising, like the old days -- you can run but you can't hide. At some point, if you're not trying to resolve these things then you are going to live a limited life. Maybe you're high as a kite and it doesn't matter to you, I dunno. But ultimately it is going to be a life of limited experience -- at least that's what it felt like to me.

"Not only did I want to experience it all -- love, closeness, whatever you want to call it, or just inclusion. To create a band that felt inclusive -- someone would look and say. 'Hey, that's me!' That's what bands do. That's why people come and why your power is sustained: because people recognise you, themselves, and the world they live in."

You didn't really start writing about sex until the 'Tunnel Of Love' album. Why had you avoided it until then?

"I hadn't avoided sex, but I'd avoided writing about it. It was just confusing for the first 30 or 35 years of my life. Whatever you're caught up in -- you know, you're traveling round with the guys, and women are sort of on the periphery. By the time I was in my mid-30s that wasn't acceptable any more. I didn't want to be some 50-year-old guy out there with the boys. It seemed like it was going to be boring. Boring and kinda tragic."

On 'Lucky Town" you sang, "It's a sad, funny ending when you find yourself pretending/A rich man in a poor man's shirt." On 'Tom Joad' the metaphor is more explicit: you're a land-owning Californian millionaire, writing about welfare rejects, illegal immigrant drug- runners and child prostitutes -- people as far removed from you on a socio-economic scale as is possible. Is that what writing is about? Making connections that aren't supposed to be possible?

"The point is, take the children that are in 'Balboa Park', those are your kids, that's what I'm trying to say. It's like, I've got mine, you've got yours and these are kids, too. As a writer, I've been drawn to those subjects, for personal reasons, I'm sure. I don't have some big idea. I don't feel like I have some enormous political message I'm trying to deliver. I think my work has come from the inside. I don't start from the outside -- 'I have a statement I want to make, ladies and gentlemen!', I don't do that. I don't like the soap-box thing, so I begin internally with things that matter to me personally and maybe were a part of my life in some fashion.

"I lived in a house where there was a lot of struggle to find work, where the results of not being able to find your place in society manifested themselves with the resulting lack of self-worth, with anger, with violence.

"And, as I grew up, I said, 'Hey, that's my song', because, I don't know, maybe that was my experience at a very important moment in my life. And those ideas, those questions, those issues were things I've written about my entire career. I still feel very motivated by them and I still probably do my best work when I'm working inside of those things, which must be because that's where I'm connected. That's just the lights I go by."

Did you do any research to amass the material and detail that features in 'Tom Joad'?

"Things happen from all over the place. I met a guy in Arizona who told me a story about his brother who rode in a teenage motorcycle gang in the San Freehand Valley, called the Verges. I just happened to meet this guy by the side of the road in this little motel. I don't know, it just stayed with me for a very long time and when I went to write it, I kept hearing his voice.

"If you're in Los Angeles, there's an enormous amount of border news. Immigration and border life is a big part of the town. That's part of what I've gotten from being in California every year, for half the year, for the last five years. It's a very, very powerful place; a place where issues that are alive and confronting America are happening at this moment. It represents what the country is turning into; a place where you see the political machinations of how the issue of immigration is being used, and a lot of the bullshit that goes down with it. It's just the place that, ready or not, America is going to become."

Your reputation has always been of someone who is incredibly prolific and gives away as many good songs as you keep for yourself. Have you ever had a period when you haven't been able to write?

"Well, if I was *that* prolific I'd have put out more records. I suppose there's prolific in writing a lot of songs and there's prolific in writing a lot of *good* songs! I've written plenty of songs, but to me a lot of them didn't measure up because I wrote with purpose. My idea wasn't to get the next ten songs and put out an album and get out on the road. I wrote with purpose in mind, so I edited very intensely the music I was writing. So when I felt there was a collection of songs that had a point of view, that was when I released a record. For the most part I didn't release a record until I felt like it, because I didn't think my fundamental goal was to have hit records. I had an idea, y'know, and following the thread of that idea, when I thought I had something that would be valuable to my fans, something enjoyable, something entertaining, something that wouldn't waste their time when I put a record out. I could have put out a whole lot more casual records but, at the time, you're honing an identity of some sort."

An image?

"Image? Sort of, I suppose. That's part of it to some degree, but that's like the top part -- the frothy stuff."

Did you ever have a big gay following?

"Not to my knowledge."

There was always something very camp about that grease-monkey- baseball-hat-in-the-back- pocket look during 'Born In The USA'...

"It was probably my own fault. Who knows, I was probably working out my own insecurities, y'know? That particular image is probably the only time I look back over pictures of the band and it feels like a caricature to me.

"Everything before and after that is just people, but that particular moment I always go, 'Jeez', y'know? I couldn't tell you what that was about.

"All I could tell you was, when I wrote 'Streets Of Philadelphia' and I had some contact with gay people, who the song had meant something to, I felt the image that I had at that time could have been misinterpreted, y'know? That is something that I regretted and still do regret, to some degree.

"But I think, at the same time, it must have been an easy image to latch onto. Maybe it had something to do with why it was powerful or what it represented. But it was very edgy to me and very close to -- if it wasn't already -- over-simplification. It was certainly over- simplified if you just saw the image and didn't go to the show and get a sense of where it was coming from and what it was about. It had implications that I didn't tune into at the time and I don't really feel are a fundamental part of my work."

Is there an element of surrealism playing at the Rock'N'Roll Hall Of Fame and finding yourself standing beside the real, living, breathing heroes you once worshipped from a distance?

"Yeah, one night I was standing between George Harrison and Mick Jagger and y'know, I sat in my room with their records, I learned to play my guitar from those records. I studied every riff and the way they played it and my initial bands were modelled on them. So there's always a little bit of, 'Hey, what am I doing here?' You realise there were millions and millions of kids at that time that had that particular fantasy or whatever you want to call it.

"But I'm sort of glad I have a place generationally, where I get to stand with those people onstage. It's a tremendous source of pleasure being able to back up Chuck Berry, one of the great American writers, a GREAT American writer. He captured an essential part of the country in a fashion that no one has done before or since."

Are you sad that his creative life as a writer lasted for such a short period?

"That's just the way it goes. I have no idea how people's creative instincts work. I'm just glad for the work he's done. It was very influential in my work in the sense that there was a lot of detail in the writing, fundamental images I carried into my own music.

"That's the course of rock music. It's very unusual to be 20 or 25 years down the line and still be doing vital work. I think the reason is, it takes an enormous leap of faith at the time of your success, a leap of consciousness, and the ability to suss out what is essential and what is bullshit is very important.

"Money comes in -- great! We can let the good times roll, we can have fun with it. But if you start out and get caught up in the idea that these things are going to sustain you in some fashion when you get 20 years down the road, you're gonna be in for a surprise.

"Right now, I don't need records that are Number One. I don't need to sell records that are going to make millions. I need to do work that I feel is central, vital, that sets me in the present, where I don't have to come out at night and depend upon my history or a song I wrote 20 years ago. What I'm interested in doing now is finding my place in the world as it stands. That to me is what is vital and sustains you and gives you the commitment and motivation to tour and stand behind your work. That's all I know, 20 or 25 years down the line."

Is there a sense of fear attached to what you do?

"Of course, that's part of everything. I think if there is a fear, it's a fear of slipping out of things. By that I don't mean the mainstream of the music business. This particular record, I knew when I put it out it wasn't going to be on the radio very much and it wasn't! Fundamentally, it wasn't going to be part of what the mainstream music business is today, in the States anyway."

We've all seen "Spinal Tap," with the idea of an audience becoming more selective.

"[Laughs] I guess there's the sense that you are protective over your artistic life and creative impetus, your creative instinct, your creative vitality. That's something I've known since I was tearing the posters down in 1975 [on his first visit to Britain, Springsteen went on the rampage, tearing down posters outside Hammersmith Odeon proclaiming him 'the future of rock'n'roll'] and it's something I still feel real strongly about today."

Are there moments when you've surprised or disappointed yourself?

"You're always doing that. You look back and say, 'I did that well, I didn't do that, I communicated well here but not there.' It's just endless, y'know? That's the idea, that's why you've always got some place to go tomorrow, something to do now. That's why this particular music is not a rock show, it's not unplugged, it's something else. I don't even know if I should call it a folk show. In a funny way, the songs are based in rock music, but I suppose it's based around the new record. It's not a night where I come out and play hits or favourite songs you wanna hear. There's no pay-off at the end of the night with those things. It is what it is and that's my intent."

Is your ongoing work a reaction and extension of the work you've done in the past?

"Of course, because the artist's job, in my opinion, is to try and answer the questions that your body of work throws up, or at least pose new questions. With this record, that's what I'm trying to do.

"I felt for ten years I put a lot of those questions on hold because I was writing about other things, I was having some reaction to the 'Born In The USA' experience, because I was finding my way through a new life, in some sense."

On the sleevenote to your 'Hits' collection you describe 'Born To Run' as your shot at the title, a 25-year-old's attempt to craft "the greatest record ever made". How do you feel about it today?

"Oh, I don't know, I can't listen to it objectively, it's too caught up in my life. I don't sit around listening to my work, I'd be insane if I did, I'd be crazy. I like it as a record but, right now, it's hard for me to hear it because it's caught up with so many other things.

"It's a really good song. the way I would record it now would be a lot different, probably not as good, because I would be afraid of going over the top, and there's a moment to go completely over the top and push the edge of things."

Your relationship with 'Born In The USA' is like Dylan's with 'Like A Rolling Stone', trying to grasp back the song's real meaning rather than allowing it to become a faceless anthem. It wasn't just Ronald Reagan (who tried to claim it as an effective endorsement of his jingoistic agenda) who misinterpreted the song.

"The record of it I still feel is very good and I wouldn't change it or want it to be different. I wouldn't want the version that I'm doing now to have come out at that time. At that particular moment, it was how I heard it and it happened in a couple of takes.

"You put your music out and it comes back to you in a variety of different ways through your audience. But a songwriter always has the opportunity to go out and reclarify or reclaim his work; it pushes you to be inventive. I think the version I have now... for me, at least, it's the best version I've done of the song, I suppose it's the truest, y'know. It's got it all -- everything it needs to be understood at the moment."

You write a lot about killers -- people like the death-row inmate played by Sean Penn in _Dead Man Walking_ [Springsteen's title song for the Tim Robbins-directed movie has just been Oscar-nominated] and the slayer in 'Nebraska'. Have you ever met a real-life killer? Is it necessary to do your job right?

"No, you're not trying to recreate the experience, your trying to recreate the emotions and the things that went into the action being taken. Those are things that everyone understands, those are things that everyone has within them. The action is the symptom, that's what happened, but the things that caused that action to happen, that's what everyone knows about -- you know about it, I know about it. It's inside of every human being.

"Those are the things you gotta mine, that's the well that you gotta dip into and, if you're doing that, you're going to get something central and fundamental about those characters."

So it's just coincidence that you currently look like the character Sean Penn plays in the movie?

"I do? I didn't realise that. Help! I'm going home... I don't have as much hair as he does, for a start."