"I think that the culture at large is geared towards the seductive power of money and material things."
I think that the culture at large is geared towards the seductive power of money and material things. It tends, in movies and everything else, to seduce people into building things that have a broader appeal and will bring more money.
I remember talking to Spielberg around the time of 'Jaws' about his next project. It wasn't really something I was interested in doing, and I asked him, "Why are you so excited about it?" He said, "It's a 6 million dollar movie." Six million would be like 100 million today. It was if we were speaking two different languages. It wasn't until later I realized, he must have been thinking, "Who is this f---ing naïve guy who is asking me why I would want to do a 6 million dollar movie? Doesn't he understand that that's how the game is played? You graduate upwards if you're lucky. You build on one success into another." It's very rare that people don't get co-opted. I've never thought that way. I just can't.
You mention that you've been ready to die since you freaked out on psychedelic drug LSD. Can you speak to that experience?
It was both the worst experience of my life and the best. I only survived because a psychiatrist named Max Rinkel injected me with an antidote. That would have been it for me at the age of 19. A number of friends and acquaintances of mine in those years, at Harvard in particular, were jumping out of windows and dying of overdoses. There was an epidemic. In fact, [psychologist] Timothy Leary and [his friend and colleague] Richard Alpert were kicked out of Harvard because of the number of suicides.
Were you suicidal?
I was beyond suicide. The only reason I didn't do it was because I thought, What if I feel this same way after I'm dead? The lifelong benefit was that I had complete fearlessness in the face of death. Have you ever known you were going to be dead in 20 seconds?
I have not.
You have a moment where you consciously say, "This is it. It's over." The second thought you have is your feeling upon registering that you're going to die. In my case, it's always been exhilaration. I was shocked the experience was as liberating and enjoyable as it was.
What is the status of 'Last Tango in Tikrit,' the movie you pitching in ‘Seduced and Abandoned’?
I would say it's in limbo. You don't happen to have about 15 million dollars you're not doing anything with, do you?
Unfortunately, I do not.
If you meet somebody who does, the status will go from limbo to readiness.