Interview with Matthew Modine, star of “Birdy”
Mike's ProfileMike has a degree in Film from The University of Texas at Austin. He has worked in the entertainment industry for the past 25 years and sees two to four new movies in the theatre a week. Mike has a weekly movie blog where he reviews films both present and past at: lastonetoleavethetheatre.blogspot.com He can be followed on Twitter @lastonetoleave
Matthew Modine, star of such films as “Vision Quest” (1985), “Full Metal Jacket” (1987) and the “The Dark Night Rises” (2012), appeared at the 9th Annual Macon Film Festival to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the 1984 film “Birdy”. “Birdy”, starring Mr. Modine and Nicolas Cage, was the feature film presentation of the festival at the Cox Capital Theatre Saturday night. I interviewed Mr. Modine at the Macon Arts Gallery during the Media Reception party.
You are here to screen the film “Birdy” at the Macon Film Festival. The film was released in 1984 and had quite a bit of critical praise, including a win at the Cannes Film Festival. What was your experience like working on the film?
Matthew: It was an extraordinary experience. It was a film that just about every young actor in Hollywood wanted to be in. A lot of young actors wanted the parts of Birdy and Al. The director, Sir Alan Parker, who I just saw in London, has talked many times about that casting process. When I met Alan Parker, I auditioned for the role of Alfonso, the role that Nick Cage played in the film. When I was working up in Toronto on a movie called Mrs. Soffel with Mel Gibson and Diane Keaton, I got a call from Alan, and he said “Congratulations! You’re going to be in my movie.” I said “Well, that’s great! Are you going to change the character’s name or am I going to play an Italian-American?” And he said “What are you talking about? You’re going to play Birdy!” I was flabbergasted because I hadn’t auditioned for Birdy. I had never imagined playing the part of Birdy. So, I had to really go through an extraordinary transformation in my mind of trying to bring this remarkable character to life. I was an incredible experience making the film.
The film is still really relevant today, with all the young men and women returning home from serving our country in the military, especially the wounded warriors.
Matthew: Yes, exactly. I wish more people knew about this movie. It’s a wonderful film to show in therapy. It’s a very relevant film because we are losing so many of our sons and daughters returning from fighting to suicide, alcohol and drug abuse. I think that the film is an extraordinary tool for helping people overcome their problems and getting better.
I know you have been making short films for quite a while. In fact, I did see you as one of the filmmakers interviewed between films in the Oscar nominated Narrative Shorts program that was in theaters. You have a short film, “Jesus Was a Commie,” that is being shown here at the Macon Film Festival.
Matthew: Yeah, I have been making short films for about 20 years now. Short films are wonderful ways for artists to be able to express themselves. There is a book that Henry Miller, the author of “Tropic of Cancer” wrote called “Paint As You Like and Die Happy.” He wanted to paint like Matisse and Picasso, but he didn’t have the artistic tools. He realized that the thing that makes an artist is discovering who they are, and not trying to paint like someone else. There’s a wonderful expression “Try being yourself, everyone else is taken.” So, short films give me an opportunity to express myself, say something that I am struggling to understand. In the case of my new short film that I am showing tomorrow, it has a purposely provocative title that offends a lot of people. But once they see the film, the people most offended by the title are the people most emotionally touched by the film. The problems we face in our country are much greater than the way we are reacting to them. The financial problems we face, the economic problems, the environmental problems are all things that are much more important than Republican or Democrat, conservative or liberal. We have to stop being knuckleheads and reach across to our fellow man to solve the problems that we face.
Matthew: Thank you, it was my pleasure.