Clark Gregg Interview
Sitting down with the director of 'Choke'Interview by Dennis Widmyer
Earlier this month I had the pleasure of sitting down with writer, director and actor Clark Gregg. I had expressed interest on the site in interviewing Gregg, and not even minutes later, the wonderful reps at Fox Searchlight were contacting me about it.
For those of you that don't know, Clark Gregg is the writer/director of 'Choke', the new film adaptation of Chuck Palahniuk's bestselling novel, due to hit theaters this Friday, September 26th. He is a longtime actor who has appeared in such TV and movies as 'In Good Company', 'Iron Man' and the hit show 'The New Adventures of Old Christine'.
His journey to get 'Choke' to the big screen is a long and unique one. Clark was nice enough to take me out for lunch where we sat down for this interview.
Dennis Widmyer: How did you stumble upon the book for 'Choke'? Were you a fan of Chuck's beforehand?
Clark Gregg: I read the synopsis of 'Fight club' in a magazine somewhere and I thought that it was more brilliant than any book I had read in a couple years. So I knew who he was and I was very curious.
DW: Was this before the movie had come out?
CG: I don't know if I had seen the movie yet. I read the book very close to the time I had seen the movie. But I think I had both read and seen 'Fight Club' at the time when I read 'Choke'. 'Choke' was brought to me by a producer guy that I knew to adapt. This guy Gary Ventimiglia. But they didn't own the rights and I think they'd shopped it around. And to my shock, nobody wanted to buy it.
DW: And this is even after 'Fight Club' the movie had come out?
DW: Wow. Well, the movie didn't do so well at the box office in the states. It garnered this cult following, but it was almost considered a bomb.
CG: I know. Most people I know think of it as a creative success. But in Hollywood terms it cost sixty three million to make and I don't think it made that back. But you know, [Choke] was still around, and so, when I read it, I'd flipped over it, and we were able to tie it up. I gave it to another producer friend of mine, and I was like, "Listen, these guys don't have the option. Could you help me tie this up? I want to make it. As implausible as it is... I want to write and direct this. I know I can do it." He said okay and he bought the option the next day.
DW: You must get so sick of trying to summarize 'Choke'. So what was it about it?
CG: Yes, very hard to summarize. What's great about it is all the different levels. I thought it was the saddest book I ever read. But it was hysterically funny. I thought that it was an extremely unique voice. And world. It was like nothing I'd ever read or seen, and I felt it was very visual... these various worlds. Dunsboro. And this mental hospital. And I also felt like that, while sexual addiction was something that was sort of out there in the zeitgeist, I'd never really seen it nailed down like this in a way where it really reflected the idea that, in a super consumer-obsessed society, as he says in the books, "it's just one more thing you consume to dull the pain." If that's what you use it for, when the moment comes around and you want to try to be sexually intimate... those are all just muscles that have atrophied. For Chuck to take on something as brutal as that, fused with the traumatic childhood of Victor in such an irreverent, funny way... I just felt it was completely unique and unlike anything I had ever seen, and I was just interested in it from that point of view. As I started to work on it... to write it... I came to feel like it was incredibly personal. I really connected and related to it on a lot of levels, personally, more than I had imagined. And later, after I started to make the movie and edit it, I realized that it was, in some ways, sort of a synthesis of my favorite movies from the 70s. "Harold and Maude". "The Last Detail".
DW: Anything by Hal Ashby.
CG: Right, those were the ones. "Shampoo". "Being There". So trying to understand, retroactively, why I have connected to it has evolved.
DW: Had you been looking for projects at the time? I know you had written the script for "What Lies Beneath". How did that come about?
CG: I had moved to LA, mostly after doing theater in NY. Directing in theater. And acting in theater. And I wanted to try to direct a movie. And they said, you should try to write something. So I wrote a script and it almost got made. The company that was gonna make it folded. The former Live Entertainment. But they sent it around as a sample. And this cool executive at Dreamworks said, you know, we have this ghost story, and it's kind of dead. You wanna take a swing at it? And I was desperate for a job. And I was driving across the country. And so I said, tell me the story. And it was a one sentence idea. Speilberg's, ostensibly. And they hadn't figured out a whole lot about it yet. And when I drove across the country I just stared at the highway and thought about it till I came up with a couple of ideas. And they gave me the job. Through a series of lucky events, Robert Zemeckis came in, looking for a Hitchcock-esque movie. They then signed up Harrison Ford and Michelle Pfeiffer and suddenly my first writing job was this... (searches for words)
DW: ...You must have been freaking out?
CG: It was bizarre, yeah. Because everyone was still like, "You write? I didn't know you wrote." So it was announced in the trades that I was writing this movie, and that was when they brought me 'Choke'. It was with this guy at Madonna's company. He liked the book. But they didn't have the money to get the option. And in that moment they were like, "Well this guy's got a big movie coming out, maybe he can get the thing tied up." And I did, but by taking it to an independent film producer.
DW: So what ever happened to that original script you wrote that became the sample that got you 'What Lies Beneath'?
CG: I never made it. It was a bizarre little con-man thriller called "Fate'. But I may revisit it some day.
DW: You should. It did a lot of good stuff for you.
CG: It did. It opened some doors.
DW: Before 'Choke', had you read any of Chuck's other work?
CG: My poor memory's shot, but I think I had read 'Fight Club', and that was it. Chuck sent me 'Lullaby' while I was working on the 'Choke' screenplay but once I told him that I had just had a daughter, he called me back and said don't read it. And he told me what it was about and I said, okay, I'm not gonna read it. I so loved his voice, and I felt so seduced by it. It was such an amazing, American, satirical voice that I was really careful, and I really didn't read a lot of his books until after I felt that the screenplay had been cracked. I really didn't stay in touch with him much. I had to kind of keep some 'mind space' or else it would have strangled me... because I found him so brilliant.
DW: Did you feel pressure? 'Fight Club' was this big cult success and has this raucous fanbase, and this is your first big movie that you're directing... and it's coming off of that.
CG: No, I was relieved. I don't think I would have taken it on if I had understood. (thinks) I don't know that 'Fight Club' had reached its level of cult status seven years ago. But if I would have known about The Cult (smiles), and they're passionate feelings, that would have probably intimidated me. If I had known that the movie was going to be compared to 'Fight Club' that would have intimidated me. If I had known that, in the stages of trying to get the thing financed, what a long shot it was... because everyone, even when they saw that the screenplay was working well... they considered it 'E.D.'. Chuck made a lot of fun of this the other night, because when you hear E.D., you think of 'Erectile Dysfunction'...
DW: Why would I think of that? (we both laugh)
CG: You wouldn't. I certainly would. And I told Chuck that people considered the movie 'execution dependent'. Which means it's tonally and sophisticated enough, that it's not the kind of thing you want a first-time director on. So it was kind of a miracle that we got it set up. If I had known that people considered it such an impossible adaptation I wouldn't have taken it on. Luckily, I didn't really grasp any of those things till it was way too late. And I was just way too in. This is a very pretentious thing to say but, I always kind of felt like 'Fight Club' was one of Shakespeare's tragedies, or one of the war plays like, 'Coriolanus'. And I always felt like 'Choke' was a sort of punk version of one of the comedies, like, "As You Like It"... a romantic comedy. And the fact that, the first conversation I had with Chuck after I had first gotten the rights... I called him up and I was like, this may be a very short relationship but I think this is a romantic comedy at its core. And he was like, "Bingo. You got it. Go write. Just don't be too faithful to the book."
DW: Once you get a book green-lit, what's the process? I know 'Choke' took a long time before it got to any sort of production status.
CG: Well let me back you up a minute, because I spent about a year and half struggling to make the world's most faithful adaptation. And it didn't work. The first draft really didn't work. And I was crushed because I knew it didn't work. (laughs)
DW: Why didn't it work?
CG: I don't know. It just kind of laid there like a dead thing. It had all the right parts and you kind of expected it to get up, but it was like a Frankenstein monster with no lightning bolt. It's funny, it's one of the most impressive things about getting to know Chuck lately, is he turned out to be right. It wasn't until I threw the novel in a drawer and kind of just went from memory of the book and let it take its own life as a movie and not a book anymore.... it wasn't until then that it started to work. It took me three years to get there. And Chuck knew it. And I said, "What the hell were you doing? You never met me. The only thing you said to me was don't be too faithful to the book, and then you left me alone and gave me like four years or something." If anything, you're just pushing the writer further and further away from your intentions. And he said, "I knew you'd never have the stamina to stick with it as long it'd probably take to get made... unless you'd made it your own. It probably wouldn't be any good unless you made it your own." And it wasn't like I went out and tried to make it my story. I still think it's incredibly faithful to the book. But it has to live in its new form... with a certain degree of "Go to hell" to the book. The actors made fun of me. They gave me a t-shirt that said "Fuck the book". Because I kept saying that in rehearsal. (laughs) And then Sam Rockwell was about to make a t-shirt that said "Fuck the script". (we both laugh) But that's where I drew the line.
DW: Okay, so three years go by...
CG: Yeah, and then the wheels start to click into motion. We get this great casting director, Mary Vernieu. She casts all of Oliver Stone's movies. Stuff for Quentin Tarantino. She comes aboard because we figure we gotta start putting a cast together first. We figure we're gonna get our cast that will work for the movie and then shop the whole thing around as a project. That way people can't come in and make us do the whole 'fill in the knucklehead' thing. And then in the intermin, to survive, I'd done this TV pilot, 'The New Adventures of Old Christine', and it got picked up. So that bumped us to the following February. At this point, I'm probably five and half years in now.
DW: So the TV show being picked up sounds like sort of a bitter sweet victory.
CG: Yeah, that was great. I loved that. I was happy for the show. But it was at the time when 'Choke' was finally coming together, and that was kind of frustrating. So the show wraps, beautifully, late February. And we then started 'Choke' in earnest. I think a couple weeks into March I sent the screenplay to Sam, who I'd acted with. And I just felt that, with him, it may have not been as easy to finance, as with some fancy superstar, but he fit so perfect, and he's so brilliant. So they let me go right to him. And he signed up. And as soon as he signed up, Angelica Houston was interested in meeting me. And then when we had that put together, we shopped it around. And this company that Dave Matthews has, ATO Pictures, read the script over a weekend and they said, "We're in. We don't have a lot of money but if you can do it cheap..." And I was in pre-production like four weeks later.
[But again] it fell apart like four or five times, and it kept giving me heart attacks. We had this great cast, and everyone was showing such great patience, and I knew we'd never get this opportunity again to make it. But at the same time, because it got bumped so much, I got to be in 'Iron Man', and that was really fun. (smiles) DW: You think you're gonna be in the sequel? CG: I'm praying, because it was so much fun.
DW: Well, you're in an important part of the movie. Because you're in 'S.H.I.E.L.D.', and that seems to be connecting all the movies.
CG: (grins) I don't know how you could do it without Agent Coulson.
DW: You need him!
CG: (laughs) Who's Nick Fury gonna boss around if not me?
DW: I think you're fine.
CG: I'd worked with Sam Jackson once, directing him in a play, and I think he would really enjoy bossing me around.
DW: So March '07, 'Choke' sort of all finally came together.
CG: Well yeah, but it fell apart like four times. Imitates, "Ohh, I don't if we have enough money for this. It's too dark. It's too twisted." And then suddenly we were shooting.
DW: And the budget was about four or five million?
CG: Little bit less.
DW: Really? So what was that like? I read an interview where you said you had to basically learn how to shave off all these important things you had in the script.
CG: That was stressful because it was like, a lot of pre-production was people asking, "What else can you cut? Who else can you cut?" And later on, we had to go back and put some things back in because it really started to hurt. You know, I ran a theater in NY that had no money for years, and you just realize that most things you can do, and you may not get the ideal version, but you can find a different way that's almost as good. And I knew that. An example I always give was, one of my deal-breakers was the scene where they're out hunting for rocks to put in Denny's carriage... that was the middle of the night. [In the daytime] dogs came out. People came out. Lights came on. You know, who the hell's gonna go walking around people's yards, stealing rocks in the daytime? But they couldn't do it at night. They didn't have any money left. They didn't have any time. The schedule was only 25 days. So I was like, look, we'll just wait for a slightly cloudy moment. We'll make it seem like dawn. We'll have some birds chirping and garage trucks. And you know... it works!
DW: So now, you were shooting in a hospital, right?
CG: We shot all our interiors at this giant mental hospital that had been abandoned in New Jersey. And we moved outwards from there. The way you can shoot in New Jersey is, within a zone. Which means, it's within 35 miles of New York city, so that all the crew can live at home. And you don't have to put them up. And everyone has to commute to work. And we found this county in New Jersey that had this abandoned, giant mental hospital, a crappy little zoo, and about 20 minutes further away, this colonial village. If it wasn't for that country and their generosity, the movie would have not happened.
DW: Did you have any fears about this being your first movie? Or were you just chomping at the bit? And did the people with the money have any fears?
CG: It started to freak me out how "execution dependent" it truly was and how they never really thought there was a movie there. Because I always felt like I saw the movie. But I was worried about the 25 day schedule, because it's like 5 or 6 pages a day. And I'd done that on 'West Wing', but this was different. This was a lot of pages a day. Because this is not on a sound stage. This is moving an entire rig to different wings of this mental hospital. You know, if I hadn't had Tim Orr as my D.P., who did all of David Gorden Green's movies, I don't think we would have pulled it off. And actors like Sam and Angelica. And it's not just a platitude, but like... they had two takes! Of the most complicated scenes! And they had no choice! It was crazy. So we had all the pieces, but going into it, I was so anxious, I really thought I was gonna end up in the hospital the last week.
DW: It would've been a short walk. (we both laugh)
CG: I know, it was a short walk. But then once we got working and I saw the way Sam and Brad (Henke) worked together... and the way Sam and Angelica worked together... and the way the crew worked together... I knew we had a great shot. I was still terrified again, of the editing room, thinking, there's just not a movie here. I didn't get enough shots. I joked with Tim Orr the whole time saying, "When this is done I'm gonna be on my couch going, how can I get to the refrigerator in less shots?" Because that's all we did.
DW: So let's talk about Sam Rockwell for a moment. The thing I notice about him is that, he's sort of an enigma in that, he's out there, everyone know who's he is. But he doesn't really do a lot of press or talk shows. There's no flak there.
CG: He's all about the work. He's incredibly committed and respected. I don't know the people that aren't actors, what their take on Sam is. But I know that, within the acting community, he's kind of a giant. People wanna work with him. And he's another part of why it worked because he's one of the few people who's as brilliant as that, but has no attitude. You know, people gotta come in and do a sex scene with him at four in the morning... after knowing him for one minute. And he just somehow makes that comfortable. He creates a place where people can come and do ballsy work.
DW: So you said you had worked with him before this?
CG: Him and I did a crazy play together off-Broadway in NY in the early 90s called 'Unidentified Human Remains and the True Nature of Love' and he was brilliant. And ever since then we'd see each other at parties. But no, I hadn't really hung out with him much. And I remember seeing 'Galaxy Quest' on cable while I was writing the script for 'Choke' and going, "That's the tone. Completely real. And totally funny. I want that guy."
DW: With material that absurd, you have to find a guy that can find that balance.
CG: Who can make you believe it.
DW: Let's talk about Chuck a little bit. It's Chuck's official site so fans will kill me if I don't talk about him more. Describe your first meeting with Chuck or conversation. How did that go?
CG: You know, I shook hands with him once, right as we were trying to get the option. Right outside of Book Soup in Los Angeles. But, you know, it was like, I'd touched Mick Jagger's robe as he went on stage. There was hundreds of people there. And I didn't see him face to face again until he came to visit the set in New Jersey. I'd spoke to him on the phone in the conversation I described where he said to not be too faithful. He then called me again later after I'd let him see the third draft, which is the first one that really started to work. And that was the first introduction I had to his particular kind of gigantic generosity. He was just hugely supportive of the script and really liked the way it captured the book. And the twists that I'd added were like his favorite parts. Which I just found astonishing. And he became an ally of it then. And I just kept him in the loop as we tried to pull it together and I'd let him know, this is who it looks like we're gonna cast. And he was really happy about Sam, which was a great bonus. And I was just terrified of the whole thing because the responsibility of making a movie out of a book you like is one thing. But then to have other people you care about experiencing that story... you just don't wanna screw it up for them. But then once he had become this sort of guardian angel of the movie and made these sacrifices to let is happen on a small scale... real sacrifices, in terms of his deal and stuff... otherwise the movie just wouldn't have happened. And then there was the personal thing where, you know, I just want to sort of live up to the trust he was giving me, for no reason I could understand. Chuck then came around to the set, and everyone loved him. Couldn't be around him enough. All the crew wanted his autograph. And he was just... (thinks) ... I couldn't think more of him. And then he showed up at Sundance and, I didn't show him the early cuts, because I'd done about seven early cuts, and we'd show them to little groups of people. But you know, it was like the script: it wasn't working until it was really working. So the first time he saw it was the first audience at Sundance. With like 850 people there. And he was really positive about it. And, oh my God, it was one of the most nervous nights of my life.
DW: Because of him?
CG: Mostly become of him. Because, I wanted the audience to like it a lot. But it was quickly clear that they were clicking with it... but that doesn't mean Chuck was going to. And yet, after Sundance I got to watch it with four or five more audiences. And then I realized my work wasn't done. I felt that, even though it had sold to Fox Searchlight, and the audiences had liked it, I still felt like it wasn't working. The ending had always been complicated. And there'd always been a couple of endings. The ending from the book: He ends up at the rock house with all the people who he's conned. The same as the Martyrdom of Saint Me. We shot it. In fact, not only did we shoot that ending... but we shot it twice! It didn't really work the first time because the rock house didn't look real for that money. And then it didn't look real when it was being torn apart... at all. And then, the extras looked liked extras from the video 'Thiller'. There was just too much acting from a bunch of people who aren't really actors. So then I brought in some actors and I fought tooth and nail. It was the only thing I lost my cool about... I just fought tooth and nail to re-shoot that. Because I knew that I was gonna want to have it. And I still hoped I could make that kind of 'double ending' work. And I get asked about it a lot, because fans of the book love that scene. And rightly so. So do I. But I don't know if we had had Fincher money if we could have made that scene work. I tried it like fifteen different ways. For a while, every screening I did, we'd roll two endings. One with the rock house. And always, there'd be someone going, "You must have the rock house!!!" But then most of the other people going, "You know, it's two endings. It really hurts the movie." It's funny because, a movie's just different from a book.
DW: Well, it's just that they say you make a movie three times. With a book, I guess you make it four times.
CG: It's like they say casting is everything. It's so true, it's like a ringing bell. I made one movie writing. I made another movie on the day of shooting it. And, a whole-nother movie in editing. And then another movie after Sundance! And actually, when Chuck came to see it at the LA Film Fesitval, after I'd changed the ending again, and changed the music, and had made so many cuts... that was the night he really connected with it the most. And that was the night that he sort of pulled me aside, and I thought, okay, this guy doesn't hate what I've done with his book.
DW: Well, something I think James Cameron says is, be prepared to cut your favorite scene from the book. The thing you'll have to fight the most for, is the thing you'll end up having to cut.
CG: Yeah, it's true. I mean, there's so many bits from the book. In fact, whenever I see Sam Rockwell, our favorite bit from the book is not in it. We never shot it! It's the bit at the beginning of the book, when Victor is talking about, how when you go to sex addict meetings, it tells you: if you do this, you might be a sex addict. Like, if you cut out your pants pocket so you can masturbate in public... if you lie naked on the hotel bed, waiting for the maid to come in... then you might be a sex addict. Do you do any of these things? And Victor says, well I do now. (laughs)
DW: It seems like, with the movie, you're getting both audiences. The Chuck fans. And the people who just don't know his work.
CG: Yeah, it's a tough trailer because the movie's better than the original trailer, because it would have been impossible to cut a regular trailer that wasn't redband. Oh, there's one more great Sam story I wanna tell. Sam was walking around with a cassette walkman, all day of shooting, every day. Yes, he still owns a cassette walkman. And finally, I was worried about him. What the hell is this guy listening to? I was afraid it was gonna be like Nicholson from 'The Shining'. And I said, let me listen to that. And he picked it up and he put it on my head and, it's Chuck. Doing the audio book on tape. And later, when I was editing -- Sam loves to improvise, going in and out of scenes sometimes -- I realized that, most of his improv was him adding back in his favorite lines from the book. Sam's now become a fanatic Chuck fan.
DW: Would you ever think about doing any of Chuck's other work?
CG: Yeah, I'd love to. I was just grilling his agents.
DW: Well, I feel like you've set a bar, by being able to pull off one of his book at such a low budget. And pulled it off in such a way that it's succeeding and working with people. I feel like you've opened some doors.
CG: I hope so. You know, I hope it opens up the doors for the ones I do get to do, or don't. Because, I think his voice just lends itself to film. I think he's speaking to a generation, in a way. I think it's really a voice that people respond to and need to hear. And that said, I'm actively angling to find out which [books of his] are available.
DW: Well, if you could make one, which one would you want to make?
CG: I like 'Survivor'. Though I think that one is maybe tied up. I don't know, which one do you think?
DW: I loved 'Rant'. I mean, 'Survivor' was always my favorite book by him, until I read 'Rant'. Have you read it?
DW: I think it's his best book.
CG: Oh really? I have it home.
DW: It's a tough one. You'd have to almost do it as a documentary. It's written from other people's point of views. CG: Like 'Snuff'. DW: Yeah. I don't really know what else is available.
CG: Yeah, I'm hoping 'Choke' isn't my last one. I'll tell ya that.
DW: So what's next for you then? What else would you really want to do?
CG: There's an idea that I'm working on, that I just started noodling at.
DW: What's it about?
CG: I sort of hesitate to compare it to anything. It's sort of an ensemble thing. Like a Paul Thomas Anderson movie, maybe.
DW: Would you ever want to go into full-time directing or would you always want to act?
CG: I wouldn't quit acting. I just love it so much. But I can certainly see the focus being on writing and directing movies. And just giving myself the odd 'Lord High Charlie' part to play. That'd be fine with me.
DW: What's it like directing yourself?
CG: It's as hard as I thought it would be. Luckily, I couldn't just pass up the opportunity, a) To play a person called Lord High Charlie. Or b) To act with those guys. I just wanted to get in there and mix it up with those two. And the psychotic boss is something I play pretty often in my day job, so I knew it was within my comfort zone. But you know, putting on the fluffy shirt, and trying to direct my crew in a colonial village, at the end of the first week, is just not something I'd wish on anyone.
DW: I always picture Mel Gibson walking around 'Braveheart' with the facepaint on, the armor and the long hair, and just directing the film, for most of the time, like that.
CG: You gotta have a few friends around who you trust to be like, "Do another take Just trust me." (laughs)
DW: The scene that comes to mind, is where you, as the boss, catch Victor in the barn with the girl.
CG: For the longest time I thought that scene was in the book... and it's not! (laughs hard) I got so mixed up in my head after a while.
DW: So let's talk about writing for a little bit. We have a writers workshop on our site...
CG: (jumps in) Yeah, that's right...
DW: Chuck does it every month. He writes an essay and, based on his lessons, people go off and he gives them homework assignments. So with you, what's your process like? Do you write in the morning? Do you write in public?
CG: Umm, I would love to think that I found my process. But I don't know that I have. It feels to me like everything demands a different playlist on my iPod.
DW: So you write to music?
CG: I do. I can't listen to stuff with too many lyrics. I kind of wrote a lot of the movie with Radiohead playing. And then I found out that Chuck had also written it listening to Radiohead. For a while I was mostly working as a writer. I had an office and I would go early in the morning and write all day... and now that really isn't so popular. It's more like grabbing a couple of hours here and there. I guess I try to really just listen to what each thing wants. Like, 'Choke' seemed to really want to get written at night a lot. And other things want differently.
DW: Do you hate writing? Is it the type of thing you really have to discipline yourself with?
CG: I hate starting. And then I love it once I get going.
DW: How long do you generally write for before you say, okay, I've done it and then walk away.
CG: You know, I do this thing that my writer friend, Don Roos turned me onto. He calls it "Kitchen Timer". You set a kitchen timer, and you can't fuck off for an hour. And the buzzer goes off, and you got like fifteen minutes to you know, surf the web, and then you gotta go back. And I find that really effective.
DW: I write in bursts. I'll spend like thirty minutes or so writing. Bang out like 15 or 20 pages. And then I'm done. And I have to get away. And I can't sit there too long. I feel like I have to escape it.
CG: A lot of writers say that. Chuck says he only writes when the feeling takes over him and then he sits down and does giant bursts.
DW: That's smart. When you feel like you're going to lose the idea unless you write it right now. I think he's said that he's jumped out of the shower sometimes to go write.
CG: That's funny because the shower... whenever I get stuck... I always take a shower. Because for some reason, the water...
DW: Yep, I bring a pad and pen with me into the bathroom when I take a shower...
CG: It's amazing. You could set a clock by it. You go in the shower. You sit down for like fifteen minutes; you're gonna figure out whatever has you stuck. And I don't know what that is.
DW: Chuck says his best inspiration for writing is hot water.
CG: He did!? (laughs) That's true. I agree.
DW: So speaking of interviews, how did it go with the interview in NY that you did with Chuck at The Apple Store?
CG: It was fun. But it was too brief. I mean, this was the second time he and I have interviewed each other. We did it once for Fox, at a bar down in Venice. They're gonna put some pieces of it up online. I could listen to Chuck go on about this stuff for hours. I like it less when he's interviewing me but... it was really good. I find it so interesting to hear where these things have come from. And his answers are really a story.
DW: Okay, I wanna get you out of here, so let me tie this up with some fun questions.
CG: (laughs) Okay, good. DW: What are some of your other favorite authors?
CG: I love Raymond Carver. I love Jeffrey Eugenides. I'm a big Hemingway fan. I like Amy Hempel actually a lot. I like Richard Price. (grins) I'm just gonna tell you what I've read lately. Vonnegut.
DW: I think Richard Price has written for 'The Wire'.
DW: Would you ever want to do something true crime related? Because I know you said the first thing you wrote was about a con-man.
CG: I love that stuff.
DW: It seems like you do, because you're kind of ingrained in that world.
CG: A little bit. I like a little genre. A little Noir. I certainly have read some Raymond Chandler and Jim Thompson stuff. I love James Ellroy.
DW: What about movies? Some of your favorite directors?
CG: Hal Ashby's 70's movies. I'm a big Paul Thomas Anderson fan. I like Wes Anderson. Scorsese. Fellini.
DW: What about TV? You watch TV?
CG: I do. I watch a little bit, yeah. I'm a big [David] Milch fan. I love 'Deadwood'. 'NYPD Blue'. 'John From Cincinnati'. My wife was in that. I found it very...
DW: I got through the first episode. CG: Well, you know, he was onto a lot of big ideas. My wife's character was just sort of being introduced. DW: 'The Wire'?
CG: I'm just getting into 'The Wire'. We have a six year old so I just bought the first season. And I just watched 'Generation Kill'. I loved that. I was also a huge fan of 'Band of Brothers'. I was a huge 'Sopranos' fan.
DW: What about 'Mad Men'?
CG: I've just gotten into it, I really like it. John Slattery's one of my favorite actors.
DW: This is interesting: when I was Googling your name... Google's got that feature where it guesses stuff. You type in "Clark Gregg" and it suggests, "Clark Gregg director", "Clark Gregg Ironman", "Clark Gregg actor," and the fourth one was "Clark Gregg shirtless". What's that all about?
CG: I don't think I've ever been shirtless.
DW: Meaning, people are typing that in. A lot.
CG: (laughs) Oh my god, that just made me bulimic right there. (laughs again) That's awful. People have way too much time on their hands.
DW: That's Google for ya. Finally, what actors or directors would you like to work with?
CG: Umm, I'd love to work again with some of the directors I've already worked with. Mamet. Paul Thomas Anderson. Paul Weitz. I'm also a big fan of some of these new Mexican directors. Guillermo Del Toro and uh.... Iñárritu. I thought 'Amores Perros' was great. And I loved 'Babel'. Who else? (thinks). The Coens. Oh, and I like Judd Apatow movies. I think they're really funny. I just love comedy.
DW: Alright then. Cool.
CG: (laughs) That's it?
DW: That's it.
CG: That was easy, man!