After he wowed Cannes and picked up the Palm De' Or (and later the Golden Globe) for best director for his work in 'The Diving Bell and the Butterfly,' American filmmaker and painter Julian Schnabel is headed for Israel.
Gracefully seizing control of the interview, the first order of business is asking about the state of the waves in Tel Aviv at the moment. "Any surfers?" he wants to know.
Currently in London as part of a pre-Oscar tour, Schabel is scheduled to land here this coming June to scout locations for a new project set to commence principle photography in late 2009.
Though our interview was meant to focus on his celebrated movie - based on the late Jean-Dominique Bauby's touching memoir about his life after a debilitating stroke left him completely paralyzed save for his left eye – in true Schnable-esque fashion the conversation quickly scatters.
"It's based on a book by a woman name Rula Jebreal, who is an Israeli Palestinian," he says of his new project. "She wrote a beautiful book called 'Miral,' it's written in Italian and it's about Palestinian women under the Israeli state. It's about Hind Husseini who started the Dar El-Tifl orphanage in Jerusalem. It's about a lot of things, it's about peace."
Well, that's certainly something we can use.
"I think we need it everywhere, particularly over there."
You've said that most of your life you, as most artists, were obsessed with death and that The Diving Bell changed your perspective. What was the turning point?
"The main character is 'invisible,' what does an invisible person have that you also have? The present. They are in the present just as you are and this man amplified his present and filled it up with his imagination. You can be in the present and not be conscious of that and it could be as if you are not there at all.
"So what has happened since then is that I just find myself living in my head more and accepting that as a complete life. I don't have to be doing physical things as much in a way to feel that I'm really connected to things.
"Most of the time when you see people in a wheelchair, or people who have some kind of disability - you don't see their sense of humor, you don't see anything about them. You just see somebody who is disabled. You don't really see anything except their disability but that's not really what's in front of you. It's about perception, it's about consciousness. This movie is about being conscious."
You know, this movie, with all this turmoil it puts the viewer through, it fills you with vitality. When it ended I thought - let me live for a thousand years.
"Well, you know, you don't have to live a thousand years if you are focused, you can do it in less time.
"For example, for me summer is when I do most of my paintings and I love to paint outside in the summer. And then I thought, I only have 30 summers left, so if I go to three warm places every year I can have three summers - that means I have 90 years left instead of 30.
"All I say is that you can finally find that for yourself and if you want to live longer, you can. But I like your idea. You're the first person to say my film made them want to live for a thousand years. That would be grilling for some people, but hey, you live in Tel Aviv. How's everything there right now?
Well, last night while I was sitting at work there were bombings in the South. The problem is like you said with the invisible people - when you live in Tel Aviv, it's like living in a bubble in a way.
The North and the South don't exist as long as you can drink your coffee in Tel Aviv and this is something we really felt bad about during the Second Lebanon War, because people here lived
life as usual. It's a bit strange.
"Yeah. We need to fix things over there."
Definitely, can you help?
"I'm going to work on it. That will be my next thing. Yes, I'm going to devote myself to try and make things better over there."