You went to university at the prestigious MIT but then dropped out to pursue a career in theatre. What was your journey to get there?
I had a pretty colorful childhood. My dad was in World War II —he enlisted the day after Pearl Harbor, like a lot of patriotic Americans did... He was wounded twice, once at the [Battle of] Midway and once on Kwajalein. He was brought back to recover from some of his wounds at the end of the war at Quonset Naval Air Station in North Kingstown, Rhode Island.
My mom had worked in the war industry like a lot of young girls did. She was just 19 years old when they met. They met at a USO dance, and I asked my mom, “What did you like about dad?” And she said, “You know, these guys had been at war, and they came back, and they were pretty, you know, they would paw at the girls a lot. But your dad was a perfect gentleman.”
My dad was a great hero. He retired, he got his honorable discharge, went back to his job as a pipefitter for Standard Oil and went to Colorado. My mom was pregnant with me then. They’d been in Texas and had just been transferred up to Rangely, Colorado. The nearest hospital was in Vernal, Utah, a 65-mile trip, and we made the trip three times because my mom was... I was her first, she was 21 years old. While he was in the war, [my dad] lost his seniority to guys who didn’t fight, which is kind of a sad irony for a lot of men who fought in the war. So he went back into the Service. He enlisted in the Army and successfully passed Officer Candidate School (OCS) immediately.
I think my dad worshipped my mom... even when he was stationed back in the United States and worked six days a week, he always made her breakfast in bed on Sunday, and then he and I would go fishing. I had a wonderful life when I was a kid.
It sounds like you and your dad were quite close.
Yeah, I was very close with my dad, but my dad was, like many people who had seen a lot of horror in his life, an incredibly quiet man. Very repressed. And my mom told me, later, that he would wake up to these terrible nightmares. He literally told her a story that they had landed once and there were hands of children that the Japanese had nailed to trees to scare the soldiers. Listen, I know there’s a lot of political correctness these days, but anybody who fought in the South Pacific had first-hand knowledge of the atrocities that the Japanese committed in that war. They were unimaginable. And I think that if you see enough of that, it has an imprint on you forever. So, he was a very quiet man who could handle things very well, no matter what it was, he could do it. He had an incredibly dry sense of humor. He was just the ultimate good man. It’s really hard to explain his kind of goodness, but he just served his country, he loved his children, he loved my mother.
So, I was close to him, and yet I was also aware that there were areas that I would probably have to wait to be an adult to share with him. Unfortunately, I lost my dad when I was 12. He had a very long operation, and was given the wrong blood by mistake, and died from a transfusion reaction during open repair of his aorta. He was only 44.
You grew up in the turbulent 1960s. A lot was happening in the U.S. during that time.
Yes, I went through all of that. When I went to MIT, we were in the dead midst of [it]—there were sit-ins, demonstrations, protests—and that’s why, when I see it now, I just—I mean, it was every day, every weekend, people protesting against the war. Now, I’m in MIT, trying to serve in a way, because I’m majoring in political science, and the area that I was interested in was defense analysis. I’m very, very pro-military, pro-America, pro-law enforcement, etc. At the same time, what our boys suffered over [in Vietnam] was unconscionable, and what most enraged me about the war was the fact that if you’re going to put men in harm’s way, you’ve either got to stand behind them or don’t put them there. You’ve got to stand behind your troops, and I don’t feel that that’s the way that war was run, certainly by Johnson.
You weren’t very involved in the free love and drugs culture of that time?
I never did any drugs. I never drank. In my senior year of high school, they were doing a play, and I mean, I loved movies. LOVED going to movies. But I don’t even know if I’d ever seen a play. And so, my friend said, “Hey, we’re doing this play called The Little Foxes for the New England Drama Festival.” I said, “Okay.” He said, “You should be in it with us.” I go, “I can’t act, I’ve got a high-pitched voice, I’m skinny and not good looking, I can’t.” He says, “That’s okay, you can play the bad guy in it.” So, of course, I do it, and I win the Best Actor Award. I go, “That’s kind of fun.” Then this magical thing happened. I go to MIT and the first thing I noticed when I was at MIT, even though it was co-ed, was that there were about 900 guys in the school and, I think, 70 women. And MIT was so hard. It was so hard. I mean, I had perfect scores on my college boards, and I had 184 IQ on my Stanford-Binet and all that stuff and shoot, but I’m telling you, you get there and you...
So, how did you transition from MIT to theater and acting?
The summer of my sophomore year—I was from and living in Rhode Island—I received a scholarship to be an apprentice in a program that the Theater Company of Boston was having at the University of Rhode Island, which was my own state, but in the southern part of the state, in Kingston—with their company. Now, the Theater Company of Boston was a legendary theater company in its time. All the New York young, kind of top, off-Broadway actors that hadn’t made it yet but were kind of well-known in the business, acted at the Theater Company of Boston. For example, the year before I received my scholarship, they did a production of Waiting for Godot. The two leads were Dustin Hoffman and Robert Duvall, both of whom were unknown. Unknown. They made $60 a week to come down to Boston to do a play. The year after I was apprenticed—and I was always there—they did a season of [The ] Local Stigmatic with Al Pacino, Jeremiah Sullivan, and Jon Voight—they did The Basement with Robert De Niro, I mean, it was just... so, I got to know all these wonderful actors that were on the cutting edge of theater.
So, the way I became an actor—I was the little apprentice, you didn’t even talk to the actors, but they had acting classes that some of the people would teach. I was doing The Zoo Story by Edward Albee. It’s a two-character play that is literally a one-man showstopper, award-winning kind of role—it’s a guy who torments a man sitting on a bench in Central Park, and cajoles the guy into murdering him, but it’s, like, 10-page monologues. So, I’m doing the play and I said to several of the actors—one of whom was Jon Voight— “Hey, I’m doing this play at my college. Would you guys come?” And the great thing about actors, I have to say, I love actors, I really do, politics and all that aside—they’re really artists at heart, especially in the theater when you’re first starting, before you get destroyed by Hollywood. So, a lot of them came. They were so nice—some little apprentice wants to show that he can act and hopefully they’ll not think of him as just a guy holding a sword, holding a spear.
So, they all came, and it turned out that I was actually a pretty good actor. I come back and go, “Hey, what did you guys think?” and they are all standing there kind of like, a little bit, I’m proud to say, a little bit like they’re kind of awed, and they go like, “You know, you’re really good.” I go, “Oh, thank you so much!” And they go, “But no, you’re really good.” I go, “Oh, that’s really nice, coming from you guys,” and they go, “Really, you should consider a career in this. Really.” And Jon [Voight] said, “Listen. The stage manager, Tim, I’m going over to his house tonight. Why don’t you come?” So, I said, “Sure, let’s go to Tim’s house.” Now, we sat there the entire night and we talked ‘til sunrise. And those two guys, Jon Voight and Tim [Affleck], talked me into quitting school and going to New York and becoming an actor.
Years, years later, my agent calls me up and said, “Hey,” — I was up for Good Will Hunting and I really wanted to play the part that Robin Williams got, and Robin got it and won the Oscar and did a great job. But, my agent, after the movie was coming out, said, “You know, the two boys who wrote Good Will Hunting would like to meet you, Ben Affleck and Matt Damon.” I said, “Oh, I’d love to meet them,” because I knew they went to Harvard and the story’s about MIT, and it sounded cool.
So, we’re meeting and in the middle of the meeting, Ben Affleck says, “You know, I kind of owe you an apology.” (Laughs) I said, “Why would you, we’ve never met?” And he goes, “Well...” I said, “Go ahead, I’m curious.” He said, “Well, you know, growing up, my father, who’s now sober and very successful helping others and coaching people in their sobriety, etc. but was, you know, kind of a troubled gambler and drinker when I was young, so, you know, it was rough growing up in a house like that, because sometimes you’d come home and have five television sets and then you’d come home and all the furniture would be gone.” And he said it lovingly and affectionately about his father. He said, “You know, but the one thing that always bugged me about my dad was that, every time you’d be on TV, my dad would see you and go, ‘I know him! And he became an actor because of me!’” And he said, “I was always so embarrassed, and I just thought that was funny that you figured in my life.” I said, “Do you have your dad’s number?” He said, “Yeah.” I said, “Why don’t you call him?” He said, “Why?” I said, “You owe your dad a big apology.” He said, “What do you mean?” And—this always brings me almost to tears—I said, “Ben, he’s the reason I became an actor. That night was a turning point in my life. Without your dad I wouldn’t be standing here.” And Ben Affleck actually started to cry. It was a beautiful moment for me.
Once you decided to commit to theatre and acting, did you have the typical struggling actor experience?
(Laughs) I went to New York. I had $200 saved to my name. My mother was—well, I had sold Christmas cards when I was 8 years old, and I had a paper route when I was 12—I was always industrious and I worked in a factory—the same factory that my mom worked in during the war. I worked in the basement, packing watchbands, nine-and-a-half hours a day for a dollar and a quarter an hour—I still have the pay stubs framed—10 minutes off in the morning, 10 minutes off in the afternoon. And I said then, “I swear, I will never in my life. Do. This. Again.” So, when I became an actor, I promised my mother... when I told her that I wanted to quit school and become an actor, she took a long time to think about it and she said, “When I wanted to marry your father, my mother said to me, ‘You’re too young, but if you want to follow your heart, I will support you, but you have to promise me you will always be a good wife, a good mother, and do everything that you can to make that decision the right one.’” And my mother loved my father until the day he took his last breath. He died in her arms. She raised two wonderful men, and she made the right decision. She said, “You must promise me this. Promise me that no matter whether you succeed or fail, you will give your best. Every. Single. Day of your life, and I will give you my blessings.” And I have never once broken that promise, I am proud to say.
So, I was in New York, and I never wanted to ask her for money. I paid $28 a month for my apartment, lived in Hell’s Kitchen for a while. I had one of those police locks on the door—a rod that you hold against a metal door so that somebody can’t get in. I didn’t have air conditioning; I had a fan—a $10 fan. Somebody with a sledgehammer [one day] knocked a hole in the wall between the hallway and my apartment to steal my fan. I used to eat my potato salad by the gallon—by the big quart thing—to save money and would live on it. I had nothing. I was so poor; I cannot tell you. So, I was pretty much at my wit’s end. I did well, I won awards like the Obie Award, I won the Variety Critics, I won the Theatre World Award. But I couldn’t—you’re working for $78.20 a week and trying to pay your rent.
My buddy had a friend that he knew named Brian, who was not in the business—he was an accountant or something—he was a single guy, had an apartment, and was out during the day. He said, “Why don’t you stay on Brian’s couch, just for a while, while we settle something.” I’m living on Brian’s couch for, like, three weeks, a month—a guy I don’t even know, he was so incredible.
I get a call from my agent who said, “Happy days!” So, I said, “Oh, did I get a job?” He said, “No, but you won the Clarence Derwent Award.” I said, “I don’t know what that is.” He said, “It’s an award that a guy who was an actor who became wealthy doing other things, but enjoyed being an actor, but wasn’t very successful, but he loved it—he left an award—a scholarship—for the most promising, unknown actors each year, and you won it. ” And I go, “Great! That’s wonderful!” And he said, “So here’s the good part: it has a scholarship with it.” Now I’m like, sitting up on the couch, I’m going, “Really?” A scholarship, and I’m living on a guy’s couch, wearing the same pair of jeans, blue turtleneck, a windbreaker, and alpine boots. (Laughs) I’ll never forget, I wore the same thing every day. Washed them, put them on again, that’s it. “It’s $500.” I was like, a week away from just quitting, a week away from becoming a waiter, like all my actor friends—no shame in it, for sure. It’s an honorable thing when you’re trying to struggle to become an actor, I think. I said, “$500?” It might as well have been $500,000. It was, like, $500, to me, at that moment—I literally cried. I sat there and I sobbed. I’ll never forget it.
You’ve done a lot of great films. What do you think was your actual breakout role?
I did a lot of theater, but the turning point, unequivocally, was The Onion Field. Unequivocally. In the same year, I also did Holocaust, the miniseries for television, which was a monumental, landmark event of which I am extraordinarily proud. I’ll never be able to explain the emotional strain of making that movie. I literally stood with Meryl Streep in the gas chamber at Mauthausen Concentration Camp, and we were on a break and we were, literally, in there, talking, because that’s where we were shooting, and we were the only two people in there, and I remember Meryl saying to me, “We’re going to die and go to Hell.” I said, “Why do you say that?” She said, “We’re making a TV show about the Holocaust.” And I said, “But we’re making an unbelievably accurate, powerful, and moving miniseries, 10 hours long, about it.” And then, of course, it got nominated for 22 Emmys.
So that was, in one way, the turning point for me. But in terms of my success, I came back, I got the job in The Onion Field, even though another actor had already been cast. My agent talked Joe Wambaugh and Harold Becker, the director, into at least giving me a screen test. My agent actually sold his car to pay for the screen test! And I did the screen test, and the rest was history, I landed the part. Because of Holocaust, I was well known in Europe, as it turned out. I didn’t realize what a huge hit it was. So, they were going over to try to sell The Onion Field in Cannes, in 1978. I wanted to go, and they said, “We can’t afford for you to go.” So I paid for my own ticket. I flew over to the Cannes Film Festival and I was with the people from AVCO Embassy Pictures, and we went out on the Carlton Terrace and the paparazzi swarmed me. Now, I didn’t know anyone ever knew my name. I was completely unknown. Completely unknown. [Paparazzi] said, “Whoa, Holocaust, Karl, it’s Karl,” Karl, that’s the character I played, and, it was astonishing, the response. I was literally—it was frightening. And they went, “What are you here for, what are you here for?” And I turn to look at AVCO Embassy, and they go, “Tell them!” I said, “Are you picking up my hotel bill and my airline ticket?” They said, “What? You’re negotiating?” and I said, “Yes. Are you picking up my airline ticket and my hotel bill?” They go, “Yes!” I say, “I’m here for The Onion Field!” (Laughs)
Let me ask you about two or three projects that I had heard you were up for that you turned down. Because, I can’t see you in those roles but I’m just wondering if they’re true. Back to the Future, Christopher Lloyd’s role. Were you offered that and turned it down?
Yes, I later worked with Bob Zemeckis, but—when they say you’re offered it, do be careful. My agent said, “They wanted you to do it.” That was the early days of CAA—their whole philosophy was: Don’t let the actor get involved in the business of his business—we do that. So, when you say, “You’re offered it,” I don’t know. But there’s a perfect example—can you ever imagine anybody filling that role but Chris Lloyd? It would’ve been a mistake, I mean, I actually would have done it a different way—it would’ve been my own way, but Christopher Lloyd is, like, a genius comedy guy, and so perfectly genius for that role. But I know it was genuinely talked about, and I asked Bob Zemeckis and he goes, “Yeah, I don’t remember how it worked out, but you were like, one of the two, three guys that we were really—if Chris didn’t do it, you were going to do it,” or whatever. And also, it was between me and Bob Hoskins for [Who Framed ] Roger Rabbit.
The one that I was offered was An Officer and a Gentleman, and my incredibly good friend Lou Gossett Jr. got it. And it was such a great idea, I remember thinking, “Wow!” Back then, the part was written for a white guy—a black guy wasn’t even considered. They never thought of that. That was landmark casting, and what he did, I thought—because I was around the military a lot—I thought, “Wow, that’s brilliant casting to have—first of all, use a phenomenal actor and a great guy”— Louis Gossett Jr.—I love Lou, he’s one of my best friends—and I thought, that’s so great, because a lot of those boot camp guys are really tough, Southern black guys. And it’s so great to show that the military was instantly a diversity success.
What was the first big purchase that you made once you had a little bit of money?
I bought a house, $140,000, in Laurel Canyon.
Yeah, up on Ridpath Drive. And I looked on the deed—the property first sold in 1930 for $10. And now, I saw it for sale recently for a million-eight.
You’ve done two trips down Route 66.
Yes! I did a shorter one with my girlfriend Sara [Miller], we just decided to use 66 on our way back to Rhode Island, where we live. We got on in Arizona and worked our way up. But I did a longer trip in 2015 with my friend, Teach. His name is Ken Aldridge, but they call him “Teach” because he was a teacher for years and years. But he’s just the kind of guy, if you ever picked anybody you wanted to take a trip with, it’d be a guy like Ken. And for guys our age—we’re probably the only two guys our age who could act like a couple of older teenagers.
I called Teach and said, “I’m driving cross country,” for the World Series of Poker at the Rio. Teach and I are avid poker players. So, I was going to leave about a week or 10 days early, because I wanted to have a car, then I go to LA afterwards. He said, “Oh sh*t, I’d love to drive cross country! Let’s do Route 66!” I said, “Oh, yeah, Route 66—I think it’s, you know, a little bit of a winding road.” He said, “So what? It’ll take a little time.” I said, “You know what? Great.” We get to Illinois—so, we don’t start in Chicago. We start just below Chicago, in Joliet.
Once you get on Route 66, you very quickly realize one thing—first time, you stop and look at every building, every— and you realize: you’re driving through forgotten America. It’s just forgotten America. So, you think, okay, here’s a big statue somebody made out of, like, plaster and sheet metal from their old cars, and it looks sort of like a dinosaur in their front yard, with an old gas pump, and it’s really not a tourist site, it’s just part of the craziness of Route 66, and you have to kind of be on Route 66 to get it.
You quickly notice that everybody in America welcomes you when you’re on an adventure. And the adventure can simply be riding on this old, two-lane road—that’s sometimes a dirt road, by the way. We were looking [on a map] and I said, “That’s Route 66, with a dirt road there?” Teach said, “Yeah, it was turned into a dirt road for a while.” It’s amazing. So, you’re through these little towns—there’s always a little downtown with somebody who has a thrift shop still open, somebody in a little pizza joint, an antique place, and oh look, there’s a little hardware store. Places where people still leave their doors unlocked.
We’d stop and we’d be taking a picture—every time we stopped by Route 66 signs, just to kind of catalog it—somebody would pull up on the side of the road and go, “Where are y’all from?” We’d say, “Oh, he’s from North Carolina and I’m a Yankee from New England.” “Oh, great! Well, here, let me take a picture of you guys!” And they’d take a picture and then they’d take a picture with us, and it was like—America is a very welcoming place, and it’s harder to see that when you’re stopping at a truck stop on the 70 or the 80, just zipping by.
You guys seem to have taken life as it came on the old highway.
Driving on Route 66 we very quickly realized that there was no plan, no schedule, no time table, we didn’t have to get a picture of every site or novelty or museum—for the first time, we weren’t on a schedule, we had plenty of time to get there.
We were driving—we had no plan.
One day we went to the Elbow Inn in [Pulaski County], Missouri. And they have—every woman who’s ever been in there has her bra signed, and hanging from the ceiling, on the roof. There are like 3,000 bras hanging there. There must’ve been 50 motorcycles outside, and us, two doofuses, in our Jeep—and I said, “We’re going to go in and get the sh*t beat out of us, but we gotta see this place. We gotta go in.” We enter in and rather than being beaten up, the first thing I hear is, “It’s James Woods!” And they said, “Come on up to the bar,” and the girls are there and the bras are hanging—so there we are in Missouri, with a bunch of bikers, having a drink—having a beer under 3,000 signed bras in the middle of the afternoon, with really no plan for where we were going to stay that night, we didn’t even know where the hell we were. (Laughs)
What are some of the roadside attractions that stood out to you?
The Oklahoma City Memorial for sure. It’s unbelievably moving, because they have a huge reflecting pool... at one end is a big monolith with an open doorway that you just walk through. And it says 9:01, and at the other end is 9:03, and in that minute was when the building was destroyed. On the hillside, they have chairs. Empty chairs for each life that was lost, and—I tell it and it brings me to tears, it’s almost hard to talk about it—for each floor, they have the chairs of each individual person. But, they [also have] little chairs—they’re all in a cluster for, of course, the nursery, where all the little babies were, that got killed—the little children. So, you see those little chairs, and you just—you just lose it. I mean, we were a couple of guys driving across Route 66 and it’s raining, and we’re standing, looking at those little chairs, and, it’s like, “I’m not crying, are you crying?” “No, I’m not crying, I’m good.” (Laughs) It’s an incredibly moving experience to be there. You really share in the aftermath of grief that Oklahomans felt for their lost loved ones there—and Americans felt for their lost loved ones, and, I tell you, people should be required to see that place; maybe there’d be less division in the country if they did.
The great thing about driving Route 66 is we didn’t drive it with a plan. And we didn’t expect to be wowed out of our minds—I sent you a picture of the big head that was—the big Easter Island head. [Giganticus Headicus, outside of Kingman, Arizona.] We stopped at a bridge—it was called Chain of Rocks, in Illinois. We walked that whole bridge. It was a long walk.
We saw the big Blue Whale, which is—it’s so funny when you see it, it’s like—you feel like Chevy Chase, standing there, going, “Oh, hey, look, a blue whale in the middle of nowhere. Nice.” (Laughs)
The Cadillac Ranch was great because, of course, you get there and they’ve got all these Cadillacs stuck in the ground. And you think, “Well, this is kind of ridiculous,” and then you get there and it’s so impressive-looking, and everybody graffities the cars—that’s part of the tradition. You’ve got to walk about half a mile to get out to those cars, and when they’re out there and they’re all spray-painted, it strikes me as: yes, odd, and yet, moving in some ridiculous way, that people want to stop and spray paint a bunch of cars—spray paint their name, which is going to be covered up within two days by everybody else spray painting, but they just embrace this silly part of a culture—the culture of Route 66.
Did you guys stay at any of the historic motels along the way?
We stayed [at the] Roadrunner in Tucumcari, New Mexico.
We looked ahead at some really ominous weather in the distance after Amarillo, Texas—that never materialized, actually—but the sky was black, and we were driving into it. And when we finally got to Tucumcari, there was something about the way the Roadrunner was set up—there’s a little front office that has a vintage, old—I think it was an old Ford Fairlane, right in the very front.
Roadrunner is very welcoming: it’s got a little gravel parking lot and a big, L-shaped, 2-story building, but the front office had this great sign, a roadrunner with a roadrunner icon, and you went into that little lobby and waited, and there was a front desk, just like a Coen brothers movie—guy comes out from around, “Hi, how are you doing?” “Fine,” and all of a sudden, it was 1962 again. And we’re at the front desk, we’re signing in and sat down, and “Can I bring you a Coke?” and it’s like, (Laughs) that is exactly what I wanted, a Coca-Cola! And, I mean, he brought out a Coke and we opened it, on the bottle opener in the machine or whatever, and we sat and had a [drink]. The rooms were great, they were simple—but it really felt authentic, it didn’t feel like, “Oh, they’ve dolled this up to be staged like a ‘50s motel,” although it was maintained very well and renovated—kept up beautifully.
All the places we stayed always had a friendly vibe.
Do you think that Route 66 and similar highways represent America?
Let me just say one thing. I was talking to Teach last night, and after I got off, Sara and I were talking about how we love to travel—neither one of us likes to fly. And you know that I abhor the notion of America as being a flyover country, I think it’s just a snob, elitist, globalist, obnoxious point of view, and disrespectful to the people whose sons came—and daughters—have come home under a folded flag. If you offer that kind of sacrifice for your country, and if you stand up for your country as a worker, as a farmer, as a teacher, as a warrior—as a politician, by the way—trying to give to your country—as an artist—in any way that you can give to your fellow Americans—and to the world—that’s a great achievement. I love a magazine like ROUTE Magazine that celebrates the notion of the road.
A lot of people out there on Route 66 would not necessarily feel... they’d say, “What’s the big deal? A bunch of old gas stations that are kind of like museums now.” But you go to these little towns where, sadly, a lot of the businesses are closed, and I say, “This is America. For better or for worse, this is America.” And these people have lives that would surprise you, and they have hearts and souls and imaginations and experiences. You may only be happy when you’re at the ballet, and the ballet is wonderful, don’t get me wrong, or going to a museum, and I cherish and love museums, but there’s also something about sitting on a haystack and looking up and watching a hawk in the air or whatever. All these experiences are—they’re impossible to replicate or understand unless you’ve had them. How simple and beautiful America can be in its least “stunning” incarnations. And its stunning incarnations—you go to Yosemite, you go to Yellowstone—these parks are unbelievable—you see the majesty of America, but the quiet majesty of America, for me, is the Holy Grail.
In recent years, your presence on Twitter has been quite vocal and focused largely on conservative politics. What made you choose to do what a lot of actors won’t, to voice something that wouldn’t necessarily be popular with Hollywood or half of America?
This is the most important thing I can say about my Twitter presence: If you want to know where I stand on any question, know that I believe in the Constitution, I believe in law and order, and I love my country. So, the answer that you get will always be within those three parameters, and, indeed, all of those three parameters. So, if you have a problem with anything I say on Twitter, then I guess you have a problem with my love of country, the Constitution, or law and order. And people will say, “Oh, but you said X, Y, or Z,” I said, “No, you didn’t hear what I said. If you read what I say, you will understand it.” I’ll give you a perfect example. A buddy of mine who has Hispanic origins—one of my best buddies—said, “Well, aren’t you against immigrants?” And I said, “I’m an immigrant! We may have come here in 1741 on my father’s side, but on my mom’s side, we came from Ireland and England in the mid-1800s. We’re all basically immigrants. I’m against ILLEGAL immigration. I’m wildly supportive of legal immigration, and I’ll even go so far as to say, and have said until I’m blue in the face: it’s too hard for people who want to come and join the American dream. It takes years and lawyers and fees—it should be easier for those who want to contribute to the American dream.
Did you have any sense of what the impact on your career would be?
Yes, of course. Look, people overstate this, but you can only be silent so long in the face of malicious behavior. I love this country and I believe that there are people who have done criminal things to destroy the values that my father shed blood for. And I think that some issues are at the very heart of our nation’s worth.
Do you have any regrets in being so vocal on social media?
Well, there’s an old saying, when Groucho Marx was discriminated against for being Jewish in some country club, he said, “I wouldn’t want to be a member of a club that doesn’t want me.” And, if I can’t voice my opinion as an American without losing my job in Hollywood, that’s not the kind of people I want to work with, really. That said, I will tell you that I’m good friends with a lot of people who think differently than I do, politically, and people are shocked when they see me out to dinner with Oliver Stone, or I’m laughing with Rob Reiner, or I bump into Sean Penn and we sit down and have a cup of coffee. I don’t believe people should be punished for being Americans with political opinions. I think it’s heinous that I’ve been blacklisted. I hear the voiced opinions that I believe are about values and actions that we must cherish and take, respectively, for the preservation of values I hold dear in this nation. And that, to me, is more important than making films and entertaining people, which I truly love doing. It is a sad sacrifice that I have made, I am making daily, and will continue to make to voice opinions that I hope are helping people see the truth that they simply cannot get in the mainstream media these days.
The bottom line is—here’s the thing people don’t understand about revolutions and civil wars and uprisings and so on. You can never suppress people’s beliefs. You can fight a war for land, for territory, for money, for suppression. But you can never, ever defeat the human heart. You can’t. So, those people who want to ban me from the business for what I believe, my response, basically, is, “Good, then you can go keep making the same crappy movies you make.” These are the same people who’ll laugh about flyover country, meaning everybody from Los Angeles to New York, in between those two cities, they think they’re a joke, and they laugh about them. And you know what my answer is? Maybe if you got in your car and drove on Route 66 through all the small towns of America and met the people you made movies for, maybe you wouldn’t make the sh*t that you people make, and you would start making movies that people actually wanted to watch.