Interview: Mitch Glazer, Passion Play

Mitch Glazer was a reporter for Crawdaddy! music magazine in the late 1970s. He collaborated with friend and writing partner Michael O’Donoghue on several projects, most notably the holiday comedy “Scrooged” starring Bill Murray. Glazer and Murray have since worked together multiple times.

Glazer was formerly married to actress Wendie Malick but divorced her in 1989 after seven years. In 1993 he married actress Kelly Lynch. Glazer legally adopted Lynch’s daughter Shane. Glazer and Lynch own two modern architectural homes in California: one by John Lautner in the Hollywood Hills and the other by Richard Neutra in Lone Pine, California. In 2007, Glazer and his wife, Kelly Lynch, were named as one of Vanity Fair’s best-dressed couples.

Glazer is also friends with Mickey Rourke, who was two years behind him at Miami Beach High School, and stars in “Passion Play”. I was able to talk with Mitch about this film in May 2011 and he was able to give some insight into his career.

GS: Your first big success was “Scrooged” (1988) — what is it like having a film that plays 24 hours straight at the holiday season?

MG: It’s spectacular. My writing partner, Michael O’Donoghue, passed away several years ago. He was my best friend and we were each other’s best man at our weddings. He said at one point, “We nailed it. We made something that will be played forever.” We didn’t really expect that. We wrote it in 1987, but it still doesn’t feel dated. It’s a real honor. I love it. And Bill Murray loves it, which is wonderful.

GS: Your next big film was “Great Expectations” (1998) — so, I’m curious, do you have a great love for Charles Dickens?

MG: You know, I do, but it wasn’t my idea. The producer asked me to do it. But Dickens was the master of storytelling and character and plot. So updating him is huge because you have these amazing stories, he had quite a gift. If you know the structure to be time-proven and effective, it’s easy to work with. And you know, he told these stories in segments in magazines, so his goal was really to entertain. I hope that were he to be here, he wouldn’t hate me.

GS: You were an associate producer on “Lost in Translation” (2003), which I would say is one of the best films of the last ten years.

MG: Absolutely. I love it.

GS: What kind of input did you have as a producer?

MG: Sofia (Coppolla) had brought me a treatment. She was working on a film about Marie Antoinette, but then switched gears. So she gave me a 9-page treatment for “Lost in Translation”, which I read. And even the treatment told me they should have Bill. She brought me every draft after that, and they got better and better, deeper, and I felt more perfect for him. At one point she said, “I think I want Bill Murray to do this.” And i said, “I bet. That would be great.” After a year, I got around to talking to Bill and I said, “You should sit down with Sofia.” And he said, “Where is she?” [Gavin notes: Mitch does a pretty spot-on Bill Murray voice.] She was in New York, which is where we were, so I called her and we sat down at a restaurant. It was a spectacular night, lots of fun. He drove her car. So, I guess my contribution was that I got Bill to sit down with her.

GS: Which made all the difference. So you actually played quite a crucial role.

MG: And the associate producer thing only really happened after they were wrapping, and I did it because I was friends with both of them. She saw him as a leading man, and this is an amazing movie.

GS: What’s one thing people might not expect from Bill Murray based on his TV/film persona?

MG: Well, I don’t know if they’d expect it or not, but he’s one of the brightest, wisest guys I’ve ever met. He’s a one-off. He’s just a special guy. He’s original, loyal… he’s like no one else. For “Passion Play”, I knew if he was going to play a villain, it was going to be like nothing you’ve ever seen before. He would add a surprise to it.

GS: It’s a role that he clearly puts his own touches on.

MG: He does. And some of the clothes you see him wearing are mine — he just said “give me those” and I did. As I said, he’s an original, so if he’s going to play a villain, it’s going to be something off and away.

GS: Let’s jump further in to “Passion Play” (2010). Does Mickey Rourke owe you for putting him in bed with two beautiful women?

MG: Definitely. He should have been paying me for the opportunity. Megan Fox just loved him, she had a sort of crush. And I think this shows in how good she was. Obviously she’s beautiful, but the first scene they did together was where they meet in her trailer. And after that, Mickey pulled me aside, and it’s 90 degrees in Mexico, and he’s jumping up and down saying, “She’s unbelievable! Oh my God!” She may not be known for it, but she’s really quite a good actor.

GS: I completely agree. I don’t know if it was her or you, but someone brought out the best in her for this role.

MG: It wasn’t the directing. She was so prepared, she really embraced the screenplay. There’s the scene where she’s on display in a glass case where people just show up and pay to see her. And while filming this, the paparazzi showed up to take pictures. She connected to the character in a very profound way, and she cried when she read the screenplay. I thought she gave a really beautiful performance. I really think people are going to be surprised.

GS: Absolutely. I thought going into the film that if there was going to be a weak part, it would be her. And I was wrong.

MG: I really think it was a role she was meant to play. She was great.

GS: Obviously, you have some degree of religious symbolism — an angel and later on a dark angel. Is there a deeper message, or was it more about imagery?

MG: It definitely wasn’t religious iconography, it wasn’t a traditional angel. But, of course, there is something angelic about the way she was shot, when her wings are out on the top of the building. But it wasn’t linked to that. I believe there is redemption through love. I like to think that you can make things right with your life. That could be seen as religious in a way, finding redemption through doing something for somebody else. It’s not really any specific religion, but there’s no way around it — you have a woman with wings and you’re going to conjure up that image. I really wanted the wings to be organic and birdlike, not so much angelic, but I don’t mind the connection.

GS: Thank you so much for your time, Mitch. It’s great to get the behind-the-scenes on the movie.

MG: My pleasure. Thanks for the interview.

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