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The blog of author Dennis Cooper

James Duval Day

 

‘James Duval burst onto the indie film scene in 1993 playing a disillusioned teen in writer-director Gregg Araki’s “Totally F***ed Up” and soon became the embodiment of Generation X alienation in Araki’s follow-up films, “The Doom Generation” and “Nowhere.” Duval’s 10-year career has been filled with diverse and offbeat roles, making him a favorite of indie fans and a notable presence in mainstream films.

‘Born in Detroit on Sept. 10, 1972, Duval’s family moved to Los Angeles when he was 2. Growing up in a variety of L.A. suburbs, Duval eventually settled in the small town of Covina, Calif., where he graduated from Gladstone High in 1989. He comes from an ethnically mixed background: His mother is from Saigon and is French and Vietnamese, and his father is Irish and Native American. While attending elementary school in Redondo Beach, Duval had a difficult time fitting in and was taunted by classmates because of his heritage. Having no cultural group to identify with, Duval ultimately realized that he had to define himself by the things he thought were important, and not to be influenced by how other people perceived him.

‘Duval later developed an interest in gymnastics as well as anthropology. Music has been a strong influence in his life: He trained as a classical pianist, plays the guitar, writes songs and collects rare musical recordings. He would travel to Hollywood to buy records, and it was there that he met actors and musicians, and was exposed to opportunities that he hadn’t had in the suburbs. In his late teens he played in a band but soon decided to quit and move to Hollywood to become an actor.

‘Eighteen years old and not knowing how to break into the business, Duval audited acting classes, looked for a job and hung out at the Melrose Rainbow Café, where Gregg Araki did his writing. Araki introduced himself to Duval as an indie filmmaker and showed him the script for “Totally F***ed Up,” thinking he would be perfect for the role of Andy. Eager to be part of this new project, Duval was inspired by Araki’s innovativeness and how he challenged the way people thought about social issues. He also closely identified with the isolation of the characters in the film and understood the struggle they were going through.

‘It was three years before Duval found an agent and manager, but in the interim he took jobs as a bus boy and waiter to pay the rent while he filmed Araki’s new film, “The Doom Generation,” which also featured Rose McGowan and Johnathon Schaech. It was for “The Doom Generation” and “Nowhere” that Araki specifically wrote roles for Duval that were based on the way Duval viewed the world. He garnered accolades for his role as Jordan White, a näive and vulnerable suburbanite caught up in a hellish road trip, but the film received mixed reviews because of its graphic violence.

‘Duval then took a small role as a biker in “Mod F**k Explosion,” directed by Araki’s friend Jon Moritsugu, and played a student in the psychological drama “An Ambush of Ghosts,” starring Stephen Dorff. Duval traveled the film festival circuit to New York City, San Francisco, Spain, Deuville, Toronto and Venice promoting “The Doom Generation” but held on to his job as a waiter.

‘German filmmaker Roland Emmerich came into the restaurant where Duval waited tables, mentioned that he liked his performance in “Totally F***ed Up” and offered him the role of Miguel Casse in his new sci-fi epic “Independence Day.” Duval received critical praise for his performance in “ID4” and credited Emmerich for bringing him to the attention of a mainstream audience. He enjoyed the experience of working on a big-budget film but wanted to continue working with indie directors and writers who were emerging on the scene and were willing to push the boundaries of film.

‘The success of “ID4” allowed Duval to concentrate on acting full time, and he teamed up with Araki for the final installment of his trilogy, the twisted anti-pop-culture film “Nowhere.” In a large ensemble cast featuring some of pop culture’s most recognized stars, Duval played the principal role of the sensitive and conflicted character, Dark Smith, an idealistic teen looking for love.

‘Duval ventured into television with, “This is How the World Ends,” an MTV pilot directed by Araki about the gay club scene, and a James Merendino project called “Alexandria Hotel.” He then took part in the PBS miniseries “The United States of Poetry,” an anthology of modern poetry shown in rock video format with images reinforcing the authors’ words. The series also featuring Johnny Depp and rock icon Lou Reed.

‘Next came supporting roles in two award-winning films: Duval joined Michael Imperioli as a street hustler in the AIDS-related drama “A River Made to Drown In,” and followed it with “How to Make the Cruelest Month,” starring Clea DuVall and Ethan Embry. Duval also participated in three little-known indies: “Lunch Time Special,” as a teen who mistakenly believes he has only 24 hours to live, “Stamp and Deliver,” playing a postal worker blamed for a massacre (the film was shelved due to lack of funds), and as the rebel outsider in the slasher film “Clown At Midnight.”

‘In 1999, Duval once again teamed up with James Merendino for “SLC Punk,” a study of the 1980s punk scene, set in the director’s hometown of Salt Lake City and starring Matthew Lillard and Michael Goorjian. Next up was “GO,” the indie hit about a drug deal gone bad and told from three different points of view, co-starring Sarah Polley and Katie Holmes. Taking another leap into mainstream film, Duval joined Nicolas Cage, Angelina Jolie and Giovanni Ribisi in the crime-thriller “Gone in 60 Seconds” as a member of a gang of professional car thieves.

‘After seeing Duval’s performance in “ID4,” Native American writer-director Randy Redroad wanted him for the role of Hunter in his film “The Doe Boy.” He sought out Duval to play the half-Cherokee, half-white hemophiliac teen coming to terms with his identity, in a script based on Redroad’s own experiences. It was Duval’s first lead role, and critics called his portrayal “a powerful performance of a teen caught between two cultures.” Duval won the Best Actor Award at the American Indian Film Festival, as well as the Best Actor Award at The Wine Country Film Festival. A trailer for the film can be viewed at http://videodetective.com/

‘Soon after its release in 2001, director Richard Kelly’s film “Donnie Darko” became a cult favorite. In this psychological thriller, Duval is the ominous 6-foot-tall bunny Frank, who convinces a delusional high school student, played by Jake Gyllenhaal, that the world is coming to an end.

‘Throughout his career, James Duval has credited his success to Gregg Araki, and has followed Araki’s advice to surround himself with people who believe in what they’re doing and are committed to making films with a message about the human condition.’ — Cathy L. Witbrodt

 

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Further

James Duval @ IMDb
James Duval Fan Site
James Duval Army
James Duval @ Twitter
How Donnie Darko’s Frank became the ultimate outsider symbol
James Duval related @v Tumblr
James Duval Has ‘Appetites’ For Horror
James Duval @ MUBI
James Duval’s Screen Deaths @ Cinemorgue
Interview with Nowhere Man James Duval
James Duval @ BIG GAY PICTURE SHOW
In Praise of James Duval: The Most Ubiquitous Face In Hollywood
James Duval hosted by Tony DuShane

 

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Extras


Brief Conversation with James Duval


This is “JAMES DUVAL” by M/M


We Govern We – Sunshine – (Official. Featuring James Duval)


WE HAVE OUR 2ND WINNER OF THE JAMES DUVAL LEFTHOUSE LEGENDS SKATEBOARD

 

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Interview

 

Jil Derryberry: In regard to James Duval, what questions should be retired?

James Duval: “So, are you really gay?” It doesn’t bother me when people ask, but–God, isn’t there anything else? And I don’t have any gossip. Even if I did have it, I wouldn’t tell because then I’d be just like everybody else who is being gossiped about. So, I don’t have any gossip. I do have a girlfriend [Sarah Lassez, who also co-stars in “Nowhere”]. Sorry.

Jil: First things first: How did Gregg Araki discover you?

James: I was hanging out at this place on Melrose called the Double Rainbow Cafe. It’s more of an ice cream bar….

Jil: Waiting tables?

James: No, I was loitering. [Laughs] I was eighteen and flat-broke, but I knew people who worked there and they’d give me coffee and biscotti. I always used to see Gregg Araki there, who I thought was a student. It’s unbelievable how young that guy looks. [Lowers voice] He’s thirty-seven. Born in ’59, but he looks younger than me. So, I’d drink my coffee, get my caffeine buzz, smoke cigarettes and think to myself, “That’s really great. He comes here to do his homework”–he was actually writing the script to “Totally Fucked Up”–“and I’m here doing nothing, and we can both hang out here and do what we want to do.” Eventually, about six months later, towards the beginning of ’91, he approached me and said, “I make low-budget independent films–kind of like John Hughes flicks about teenagers–and I was wondering if you’re an actor.” And I was like, “Well, yeah. Sure.”

Jil: Liar.

James: But that is how it all started for me. Gregg gave me the role of Andy in “Totally Fucked Up,” this teenager who drinks Drano and kills himself, and it seemed like a dream come true. Then he wrote the characters of Jordan White in “The Doom Generation” and Dark Smith in “Nowhere” for me.

Jil: Two nakedly, naively romantic characters. What about those critics who think Araki’s a nihilist?

James: Well, sometimes Gregg’s film do make people shift in their seats; they’re not always easy to watch. But life isn’t always easy to watch. [Laughs] And as much as people say, “His movies are in your face; they’re really wild and crazy; he has a negative view of the world,” Gregg is still a very romantic, idealistic person.

Jil: As you are, too.

James: That’s what he related to; that was definitely something I always used to talk to him about. “Gregg, I’m gonna die. I’m gonna die, because I can’t be what I want to be. Nobody wants to see love, or let it be what it can be. Everybody has to shoot it down, or be jaded, or think that it doesn’t exist, when all you have to do is open yourself up to it. Why can’t people do that?” And in a way it was killing me–not physically, but mentally. I was definitely a tortured kid: “I just want to be loved!” [Laughs] “Why can’t I get what I want to give?”

Jil: And what did Araki tell you?

James: [Staccato] “Ah, Jimmy, you’re eighteen–it’s not the end of the world.” But it did feel like the end of the world, and he understands that. You know, we were both searching for the same thing–that one magical person, that one magical moment when what you want to give is given back.

Jil: What’s “Nowhere” about for you, for your character?

James: Dark Smith’s search is the ideal search for love. For him, it’s not about the party or the drugs–though some of his friends are very sexually active or doing a lot of drugs and that’s O.K. with him–it’s about love. And he will go wherever he has to go to find that or to keep that.

Jil: Which is pretty far. How realistic do you think “Nowhere”‘s depiction of teen life is?

James: In a way, it’s exactly the way I remember seeing everything. When you’re a teenager and your hormones and emotions are raging out of control, you do develop this sense of hyper-reality about the world you live in. It’s like, you are born, you fall in love, and you die, three or four times a day. Your world is the whole world, and if that falls apart, the world is over. And in that sense, I’m surprised at how accurately that Araki has it portrayed it.

Jil: You played a gay teen in “Totally Fucked Up,” a young man experimenting with his bisexuality in “The Doom Generation,” and now a character that’s best described as sexually ambiguous. Why do you choose to go so far from the leading man route? I mean, a Christian Slater or a Tom Cruise wouldn’t dream of taking the roles you’ve taken on.

James: That’s exactly why I do it. I don’t think that you have to worry about those things, especially in this day in age. And even though the characters in “Nowhere” are gay and lesbian and bisexual and straight, it’s less about sexuality and the labels we put on sexuality and more about the everyday trials and tribulations of a teenager–you know, “God, do they love me? Am I going to have sex? I want to run away from this, I want to go the big party tonight, I want to get high. What are you doing with him, what are you doing with her, don’t you love me?” You put those labels aside, and it becomes nothing more than the struggle of the human condition. Or the teenage condition, I should say.

Jil: What about your condition, coming from a culturally mixed background? And what, exactly, is your background?

James: My mother is French-Vietnamese from Saigon, and my father is American-Indian and Irish. And when I was going to elementary school in Redondo Beach, California, in the mid-’70s, at the time of the Tet Offensive, looking the way I looked…You know, everyone else was blond and I was considered a “dog eater,” or a nip, or a chink. And if I wasn’t that I was “Tonto” or “Bruce Lee.” Coming from that, I always felt strange and disconnected. Even in junior high, when I was living more towards downtown L.A. and meeting African-American, Latino, Hispanic, and Asian kids, I still knew that I would never be full-blooded anything; my parents aren’t full-blooded anything. I had this anger and resentment towards people, and towards my parents, until I began to understand the human condition, which is the herd instinct. In the herd, if an animal breaks their leg or gets sick, they kill it. You think, “Well, we’re human beings, we have thoughts and reason and we can think and feel on a much higher level.” Or, we are supposed to. But I think that will always be a struggle for people, that fight against the animal instinct, that rush of emotion that comes so easy.

Jil: Step back a second. Enquiring minds have to know: What is it like to kiss Johnathon Schaech, your co-star in “The Doom Generation”?

James: “You can only imagine. [Laughs] Johnathon’s a wonderful person. We were born on the same day, September 10th.

Jil: And your other Doom co-star, Miss Rose McGowan?

James: I wouldn’t know how to explain that. Actually, it was like kissing my sister. Sarah [Lassez], however, is an amazing kisser. I live for her kisses. They touch me like no other.

Jil: Having taken the risks that you’ve taken in your career, how did you come to be cast in the wholesome, all-American phenomenon that is “Independence Day”?

James: Roland Emmerich, the director, came into a restaurant I was waiting tables in and said, “I thought you were great in ‘Totally Fucked Up’.” I was floored. “You did ‘Stargate,’ and you liked that? You’re a pretty cool guy!” I had a great time doing “Independence Day.” Some people think it’s cheesy, but that movie has a real message, about how people have to pull together to survive.

Jil: Is that a message that you think more people need to hear?

James: I think our society is much more associated with power and greed. Just today I was telling Sarah–I heard this story about a woman who put quarters in parking meters to prevent other people from getting parking tickets. She was arrested, taken to court, and charged with obstructing justice. Now, how anyone could sit there and let that go is beyond me. If this woman wants to put $2 in quarters in these eight meters to prevent these eight people from getting a ticket, I don’t think she’s obstructing justice. In fact, I think she’s preventing a violation from happening. But that’s not the way it is. It’s fascism running rampant.

Jil: You’re such an idealist.

James: When I was kid I had faith and believed in certain things, and have become so disillusioned by them. But yeah, I haven’t lost my ideals in life or in people. I’d take the shirt off my back for someone; I don’t have to know them. But you get to the point when you see so many people who need your shirt and you don’t have enough shirts for them. That eats at me. Hold on a second.

 

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19 of James Duval’s 128 roles
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Everett Lewis An Ambush of Ghosts (1993)
‘Everett Lewis’s 1993 film An Ambush of Ghosts is a genuine lost masterpiece, though in this case “lost” for reasons simply having to do with distributor resistance. I was fortunate enough to see the film at a rare public screening in 2001 on the campus of USC with both director Lewis and his cinematographer, Judy Irola, in attendance. It remains to date the pinnacle moment of a long personal journey for me of uncovering and seeking out the film itself. My initial awareness of it came shortly after the January ’93 Sundance premiere. As a great fan of the British classical synth group In the Nursery I discovered their soundtrack to Ambush later that year and was utterly captivated by its dark majesty.The album also includes dialogue extracts which just served to further heighten my restless anticipation. But nothing ever came of that. The film premiered at the Sundance Film Festival to acclaim and then effectively disappeared, almost never to be heard of again and without even the consolation of a video release anywhere.’ — PINNLAND EMPIRE


Montage

 

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Gregg Araki Totally F***ed Up (1993)
‘Godard has always been among Araki’s biggest influences, and, indeed, Totally F***ed Up has been called his Masculin Féminin. Vivre Sa Vie is also evoked via the film’s segmented structure, yet the biggest stylistic shadow here may be Katzelmacher, during which Fassbinder similarly propped a batch of young outsiders against the wall of society and watched the resulting wreckage. The characters try to flee into their own self-contained universes, complete with self-contained slang (jacking off to Randy becomes “shooting tadpoles at the moon”), but the world is always breaking in, inevitably in the form of emotional pain. Randy’s tentative romance with a potential Mr. Right (Alan Boyce) provides the film not only with the closest it has to a narrative, but also with Araki’s sense (also shared with Fassbinder) that coming to terms with your sexuality doesn’t necessarily shield you from the agonies that often come with relationships. After all, this is a film where a bootleg Nine Inch Nails video is reason enough to betray another person’s affections.’ — Slant Magazine


Trailer


Excerpt

 

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Jon Moritsugu Mod Fuck Explosion (1994)
‘This odd, politically incorrect underground film is focused upon groups of bikers. One of the storylines follows teenaged London who has trouble deciding whether to sacrifice her virginity in exchange for a black leather jacket or to simply make out with M-16, a nervous young biker with a propensity for vomiting.’ — RT


Review & excerpts

 

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Gregg Araki The Doom Generation (1995)
‘Words like “disaffected,” “distanced” and “deadpan” flew from my mind onto my note pad while I was watching “The Doom Generation.” This is the kind of movie where the filmmaker hopes to shock you with sickening carnage and violent amorality, while at the same time holding himself carefully aloof from it with his style. He would be more honest and probably make a better movie if he got down in the trenches with the rest of us. There is an attitude in Gregg Araki’s film that I’ve sensed in a lot of work recently: The desire by the filmmaker to have his cake and eat it, too. He wants to make a blood-soaked, disgusting, disturbing movie about characters of low intelligence and little personal worth, but he’s not willing to cop to that, and so by giving them smarmy pop-culture references and nihilistic dialogue, and filling the edges of his frame with satirical in-jokes and celebrity walk-ons (Margaret Cho, Heidi Fleiss), he’s keeping himself at arm’s length. Hey, if we’re dumb enough to be offended by his sleazefest, that’s our problem; Araki is, you see, a stylist, who can use concepts like iconography and irony to weasel away from his material.’ — Roger Ebert


Trailer


Excerpt

 

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Roland Emmerich Independence Day (1996)
‘Miguel (James Duval) took responsibility in taking care of his family after the death of his mother. Because of his responsibility, Miguel had an estranged relationship with Russell due to his father’s post-traumatic stress disorder, alcoholism and eccentric antics. During the arrival of the aliens in 1996, Miguel learned from the news that Russell was arrested for trying to warn the public about the aliens, and, already having enough of his father, decided not to help him and planned to leave with his family without him. However, Russell was released earlier and stayed with their family. Miguel and his family joined a group of refugees and took shelter in Area 51. During the counterstrike against the aliens, Russell volunteered in the fight while Miguel and his siblings retreated into the base from the aliens’ attack. Miguel was present in the control room to hear Russell’s announcement to launch a suicide attack on the City Destroyer to save everyone and telling his children that he loves them. Miguel was dismayed over Russell’s death, but thinks better of him, appreciating Major Mitchell assuring him that his father was a brave man.’ — Fandor


Trailer

 

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Gregg Araki Nowhere (1997)
‘Described by director Gregg Araki as “A Beverly Hills 90210 episode on acid” (with no suggestions of what it might be cut with), Nowhere is a companion piece with Araki’s previous meditations on youth gone wild in the 1990s, Totally F***ed Up and The Doom Generation — Araki’s self-described “teen apocalypse trilogy.” Nowhere follows 18-year-old Dark Smith (James Duval) as he goes through a fairly typical day in Los Angeles. Dark needs, but rarely gets, emotional support from his girlfriend Mel (Rachel True). Mel, however, is also involved with a girl named Lucifer (Kathleen Robertson), while Dark moons over hunky Montgomery (Nathan Bexton). Dark’s best friend Cowboy (Guillermo Diaz) has troubles of his own, as his boyfriend and bandmate Bart (Jeremy Jordan) is back on drugs and spending most of his time with his dealer. Mel’s friends include sugar junkie Dingbat (Christina Applegate), doomsday poetess Alyssa (Jordan Ladd), and Egg (Sarah Lassez), who is being unexpectedly wooed by a Famous Teen Idol (Jason Simmons). Egg’s brother Ducky (Scott Caan) has a crush on Alyssa, but she’s keeping company with a biker named Elvis (Thyme Lewis). Alyssa’s assignation with Elvis gets a psychic boost by her twin brother Shad (Ryan Phillippe) and his tryst with Lilith (Heather Graham). The day continues on a roller coaster of kinky sex, hallucinogenic drugs, random violence, romantic misunderstandings, alien abductions, and (of course) a wild party, this time at the home of noted hipster Jujyfruit (Gibby Haynes).’ — RT


Trailer


Excerpt

 

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James Merendino SLC Punk! (1998)
‘At the end of writer-director James Merendino’s 1998 screed of a film, SLC Punk!, the main malcontent, Stevo, played by Matthew Lillard, sits on a Salt Lake City bench wearing a suit and tie, his short hair neatly groomed. Looking directly into the camera, his eyebrows arching almost imperceptibly, Stevo, who until this point had sported tattered clothes and a Mohawk, declares: “When all was said and done, I was nothing more than a goddamned, trendy-ass poser.” It’s a tough ending to a scabby movie, and it makes you question the freewheeling and furious 98 minutes that came before. Did Stevo give up on his anarchic philosophy too easily? Is he joking about going straight? Set in 1985, SLC Punk! bursts with Stevo and doomed sidekick Heroin Bob’s harangues about how to live out loud in a quiet, closed-in city. Fifteen years after its premiere — and 15 years, less a month or two, after it disappeared from theaters — the movie still finds new minds to infect with its provocations.’ — SPIN


Trailer

 

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Jean Pellerin Le clown de l’horreur (1998)
The Clown at Midnight was released hot on the heels of Scream and chose the horror chestnut of incorporating a killer clown into its synopsis. It tells the tale of seven drama students that are forced as part of their course work to clean and prepare a dilapidated theatre for re-opening. It had been closed for many years since a leading actress was brutally butchered by a maniac who escaped the scene without trial. The victim’s daughter, Kate Williams (Sarah Lassez), is among the eager group and upon her arrival she begins suffering flashbacks and visions of the fate of her mother. Before long, the group are locked in and the psychopathic clown makes an inevitable reappearance for his swan song performance. If there is any credit to be given to this scarcely popular new-age entry, it has to be for the visible effort that’s been made by Barry Gravelle, the ‘horror-regular’ cinematographer. Most of his work is stylish and energetic and he tries admirably to add a little ‘va va voom’ to the shoot. It’s a shame then that despite his enthusiasm, the film still plays too much like a hobo with a hangover, which has no doubt contributed to its lack of a global DVD release. Considering the fact that this was first circulated in 1998 by a relatively large studio, it can be considered a huge snub that as of mid-2013, it has still been ignored by the digital format.’ — A SLASH Above


Trailer

 

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Dominic Sena Gone in Sixty Seconds (2000)
‘James Duval: Freb
Freb : Hey, man, that was as easy as pie!
Donny : I’m a veteran, son.
[a carjacker jams a gun through the window]
Punk : [shouting] Get outta the car, bitch, or I’m gonna blow your brains out!
Donny : You gotta be shittin’ me…
Punk : Do I have shoot you, dammn it?
[Donny takes his gun and knocks him out]
Freb : Damn!’ — IMDb


Excerpt

 

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Richard Kelly Donnie Darko (2001)
Donnie Darko was originally meant to star Jason Schwartzman, the name on the lips of casting directors all over Hollywood after a brilliant performance in Wes Anderson’s 1998 hit Rushmore. He was attached to the script as Donnie. Although he’d already enjoyed success as the breakout star of Gregg Araki’s teen apocalypse trilogy, James Duval’s main motivation to audition for the role of Frank was to work with Schwartzman. “It was like, ‘God, I have to work with this kid.’” Even though his character would be wearing a mask, the script described Frank as being over six feet tall and blonde. Despite not matching the physical criteria, he auditioned anyway and scored the role. Next, Schwartzman dropped out due to scheduling conflicts. “I was crestfallen, absolutely,” says Duval, “and I have still never met him, but that’s whom I have to thank in a very bizarre way, because that’s how I ended up getting involved with the project.”’ — Dazed


Trailer


Donnie Darko Special: James Duval Interview

 

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Randy Redroad The Doe Boy (2001)
‘Gregg Araki regular James Duval plays Hunter, stigmatized with the nickname of the title after killing a female deer instead of a buck during his first hunting trip. The disappointment of his father (Kevin Anderson) and the distance between them is compounded by the physical limitations placed on Hunter to avoid injury. Breaking away from his father and overprotective mother (Jeri Arredondo), and drawing on the wisdom of his full-blood grandfather (Gordon Tootoosis), Hunter gradually discovers love and a true sense of his possibilities. Conventional drama is given a lift by Redroad’s sensitive handling, by its unforced spiritual dimension and by an able cast.’ — Variety


Trailer

 

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Jon Moritsugu Scumrock (2002)
‘A pretentious underground filmmaker struggles with his masterpiece while a scuzzy punkoid chick tries to keep her band from fading into obscurity.’ — IMDb


Trailer

 

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Gabriel Bologna The Black Waters of Echo’s Pond (2009)
The Black Waters of Echo’s Pond is, like Ti West’s The House of the Devil, a throwback, though director Gabriel Bologna’s imagination is decidedly bridge-and-tunnel—expensive-looking but still unmistakably trashy. Something of a lazy April Fool’s Day/Witchboard mashup, the film follows a group of friends to a private island with a shady past and only one year-round resident, a scruffy caretaker (Robert Patrick) with the instincts of a T-1000, and after finding and playing a gothic, hilariously noisy party game that suggests a creative enterprise between Madonna and the makers of Dungeons & Dragons, the characters begin to spill their deepest secrets. Petty grudges and furtive crushes are exposed, with a douche played by James Duval feeling the brunt of all the baggage that’s swung about, and as tensions flare and rage propels them, one by one, to murder, a gooey blackness takes over their eyes. Though everyone’s frankness appears to summon the rising of a horned creature upstairs, the he-beast is only a symbol—a crude manifestation of everyone’s latent desires and misgivings.’ — Slant Magazine


Excerpt


An interview with James Duval on the set of THE BLACK WATERS OF ECHO’S POND

 

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Gregg Araki Kaboom (2010)
‘So what’s it all about? Araki drops some hints: the Kinsey Scale that suggests sexual definitions are loose; absent fathers; beautiful young bodies having sex; the curious way snacks are let loose from vending machines; the irony of collapsed grand narratives. For all of “Kaboom”s silliness, it never transcends it. Sure, some of it’s fun, and the way all the plotlines converge in a ludicrous way suggests knowing parody as opposed to contrivance. But there’s something anachronistic, even irreverent, about the film’s end-results. That’s part of the fun, like we’ve stepped into a time machine or unearthed a ten-year-old Araki movie. But today, this apocalyptic pastiche doesn’t feel as urgent — or as subversive — as it once did. Perhaps the amusement with which we once imagined the end of the world has lost its luster in our post-9-11, post-economic-collapse epoch. Whatever the reason, “Kaboom” may end with a bang, but it feels like a whimper.’ — IFC


Trailer

 

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Brian McGuire On Holiday (2010)
‘A young man named Peyton moves to L.A. with his girlfriend. Over the course of 3 years and 6 parties, Peyton finds himself in a world of drugs, sex, and electronic blues music. Now what?’ — IMBd


Excerpt

 

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Gregory Hatanaka Blue Dream (2013)
‘Writer-director Gregory Hatanaka’s Blue Dream is a very strange film. It is one of those films that every five minutes or so, I would take a double-take, press the pause button and think to myself “wait, what did I miss?” After a while, though, I acclimated to the fact that Blue Dream exists purely in the unreliable, drug-riddled mind of the protagonist, Robert Harmon (James Duval). From that point on, the pressure was off to try to “get” Blue Dream, instead I just settled in [with a vaporizer] for the wild and crazy ride.’ — Smells Like Screen Spirit


Trailer

 

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Alexander Mirecki All Together Now (2013)
‘The title of “All Together Now” speaks directly to this odd but likable little picture’s infectious, inclusive spirit. A “hangout” movie in the truest sense, set in and around a multi-act punk/noise rock concert, first-time director Alexander Mirecki’s loosely constructed hybrid of music docu and coming-of-age drama follows a couple dozen teens, twentysomethings and chaperoning middle-agers as they drift in and out of each other’s lives over a few brief hours in the woods, illuminated by the flickering bonfire light. Though its ambitions are modest, “All Together Now” casts an undeniable spell.’ — Variety


the entire film

 

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James Merendino Punk’s Dead: SLC Punk 2 (2016)
‘”Punk’s Dead” is an odd title for a movie that devotes a big chunk of its screen time to a massive concert starring a half-dozen or so punk bands. But then there’s plenty to raise an eyebrow at in James Merendino’s 17-years-later sequel to a movie whose cult status one may have to take his word for. As that film’s star Matthew Lillard evidently preferred voicing Scooby Doo cartoons to revisiting his role as purple-haired protagonist Stevo, Merendino finds himself building a movie around Stevo’s pal Heroin Bob, who rather inconveniently died in the first film. Bob’s from-beyond narration may amuse SLC Punk’s most ardent fans, some of whom crowdfunded this outing, but few newbies will greet it warmly in what’s sure to be a brief theatrical spin.’ — Hollywood Reporter


Trailer


James Duval Talks John The Mod & SLC Punk2 : Punk’s Dead

 

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Gregory Hatanaka Darling Nikki (2017)
‘Nikki is a carefree, fun-loving girl, juggling the men in her life, in her quest for the ultimate love. She soon falls into a fantasy world where she is no longer able to distinguish her real life with her “secret” one.’ — IMDb


Trailer

 

 

*

p.s. Hey. I think I’m feeling just better enough this morning to catch up with the three days of comments I missed, but I’ll be a little more brief and economical than I usually I am, I’m pretty sure. Figuring I’ll be pretty much myself by Monday, or that’s the plan anyway. ** David Ehrenstein, Hi. Yes, big up in Alabama, but all sorts of destructive stuff happening since. ** Steve Erickson, Happy Clipson’s work interests you. Okay, thanks for the fill-in about that doc. Don’t know how I would get to see it, but I’ll remember and watch for a chance. Yes, one of my teeth broke while chewing a tortilla chip some years back. Thanks to my dentistry fear and lack of health insurance, it still is. Good luck. ** Sypha, Yes, it was inspired. Thank you again! Likely to be my only Xmas card this year, so even more prized. ** Amphibiouspeter, Hi. Yeah, I don’t know why I seem to have settled on making these relatively huge daily posts that are semi-indigestible in 24 hours, but they keep getting visited long after so maybe that’s why. But yeah, the blog asks a lot, I know. At least in my very fuzzy brain, and given the current world, probably the power to alter the outcome of anything, but invisibility has always had a big appeal. Oh, I haven’t actually spelled out what d.l. means in ages, yeah, duh. It’s ‘distinguished local’. Your guesses were obviously a whole more exciting. ** Toniok, Hi! Well, what you report is plenty interesting, pal. Thank you. And for the luck. And please accept mine for everything you wish. ** Misanthrope, Hi, G. Not bad, yeah, his name. Oh, Seth MacFarlane, right. His thing doesn’t quite match with whatever my thing is, but I get it. Well, Self gets cred for that then, even in my book. Your ex-friend sounds like someone who has a shitload of stuff going on inside having squat to do with you that she probably doesn’t want to recognise ‘cos that reasoning of hers sounds, yeah, beyond petty. ** Mark Gluth, Hi, pal. I love ‘ken’. Highly recommended. His best in a while, to my mind. Trippy, yes, totally get it. I feel that way when performers in Zac’s and my films speak things I wrote even now. Take care. ** Schlix, Hi, Uli. Yes, the indefatigable GbV have a new album due in March. The new Wolf Parade hasn’t sunk in beautifully for me either. I abandoned it pretty quickly. Don’t know why exactly because, like you, I love Krug. Glad you liked the Clipsons. Take care, my friend. ** Nik, Hi. Cool, happy my Clipson share panned out. Mike Kelley was/is a great genius. ‘Crowd’ seems to get better with every performance. Gisele works on it daily. But I think it’s pretty great as is now. The new film script? It’s early on. It’s about a family, probably French, who turns their house into a Home Haunt attraction. Well, it’s not about the family, actually, it’s about the attraction. We’re early on. It’s going to intense, I think, very differently intense than ‘PGL’. Wow, very interesting that you’ll direct a Max Frisch piece! Yeah, I love Frisch. His novel ‘The Man in the Holocene’ is a big favourite of mine. A project the Gisele worked on for about two years that ultimately ended up being cancelled was an adaptation of Frisch’s play/novel ‘Bluebeard’. I haven’t read ‘The Arsonists’, but I certainly will. Your ideas about it sound great. How were the callbacks? My fingers would have been crossed if I hadn’t been in a delirium in bed. ** Armando, Hi. I’ve been better, ha ha, but I’m bettering. I’m behind on everything due to illness. I’ll look for the email. ** Jeffrey Baker, Hi. Thank you for entering and that unfortunate news. ** Dóra Grőber, Hi! That’s okay, I disappeared too. How are you? What’s your latest? My latest would be no fun whatsoever to tell or read about, but I have plans this weekend, so hopefully I’ll have things to report on Monday. ** MANCY, Hi, S. Thanks for the good wishes. And for thinking my gif works were up there re: 2017 for you. ** Bill, Hi, Bill. I’m so sorry again to have had to bow out on the p.s. on your amazing day, which seems to have gone extremely well. Very big traffic too. ** Bernard, Hi, B. Thank you. It’s very hard for me to stay in bed and sleep but this particular flu or whatever forced the issue, so, yeah. ** Marc Vallée, Hi, Marc! Very nice to see you! Thanks for being here, for speaking to Bill, for your well wishes, and for just for being you, of course. ** _Black_Acrylic, Thanks, Ben. How’s everything in and around you? Oh, your redundancy pay came through! That’s a great start! Nice poster. Have a lovely weekend. ** H, Hi. Thanks a lot. I seem to be, hope I am on my way to being a reasonably accurate version of my normal self. ** Wow, I made it. Now, while I continue to seek physical and mental improvement, why don’t you consider spending some of your weekend exploring the career of the wonderful James Duval. See you on Monday.

24 Comments

  1. Hi Dennis I hope you’re feeling better. I also wasn’t feeling very good this week due to pushing myself too hard at work and play. I enjoy discovering new 90’s hearthrobs here. Do you consider River Phoenix the James Dean of the bunch?

    I’m overjoyed to be in love. A year ago when I started dreaming of moving to Israel, I dreamed of an imaginary boyfriend I named Tal. Tal is a modern gender-neutral Israeli name, kind of the opposite of Chaim. Low and behold I met a guy named Tal who is hauntingly similar to the one I dreamed about.

    I haven’t had actual feelings for someone in so long that I forgot how wrong the stereotypes of an age gap gay relationship can be. I think gay liberation has created a gradient of acceptability among gay relationships that can in some ways perhaps even make them more difficult than they were before liberation. I’m 28 and still very much getting my shit together. Tal does an excellent job at being 20 precisely because he has a very mature perspective on life. Now granted it’s not like I’m 40 and he’s 17, but we’ll still inevitably raise eyebrows among our “accepting” family and friends. The time for meeting family and friends is looming, and I hope they somehow can see through prejudice and understand that our dynamic is way more bougie than pervy.

  2. David Ehrenstein

    December 16, 2017 at 4:31 pm

    James Duvall is a marvelous actor but so impossibly beautiful one could say the cinema was invented for him. Happily he’s not as self-destructive as River Phoenix.

  3. I was just talking to someone about James Duval. His career did not go in the direction I’d expected.

  4. I was happy to see the 2013 credits! I was afraid this was going to end with him dying of a drug overdose.

    I’m having a general sense of disillusionment with film criticism. I have not lost interest in writing about film or engaging with it at all. What bothers me more is the way films are increasingly used as mere launching pads for the political preoccupations of the moments and the way critics and civilians on social media offer love-it-or-hate-it “hot takes” on every major new film. I loved WORMWOOD and raved about it here, but I know that not everyone will like it, and indeed I have seen some negative reviews – the New Yorker’s reliably contrarian Richard Brody thinks it’s a waste. When THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MINNESOTA was initially released, it got reviews like “the most feminist film of the year, exactly what we need post-Weinstein.” Two days ago, I saw an article with the headline “THREE BILLBOARDS Offers Excuses For Racist Men,” and that’s now the dominant tone of discourse about it. It’s one thing to have healthy debate, it’s another to use movies to show off how woke you are. And I feel totally guilty of everything I’m criticizing here. I don’t think one should separate politics from culture, but one should do it with nuance and attention to form and not necessarily condemn art whose politics you disagree with. Martin Amis titled his collection of book reviews THE WAR AGAINST CLICHE, and I think that’s a healthy way to think about cultural criticism in general. It drove me to write three intros to my Gay City News top 10 list, because I simply couldn’t write about sexual abuse in Hollywood without aping things which have been said dozens, if not hundreds, of times in the past 2 months, although I made two tries and then gave up and wrote an intro that never mentions this subject. I have the feeling some people might find that weird in the current cultural climate, but I did try to address it and just couldn’t do justice to it.

  5. Welcome back Dennis! Thanks for the opportunity to share some good music.

    I’ve seen quite a few of James Duval’s earlier films, though he hasn’t been on my radar in ages. I do have to hunt down a copy of Nowhere soon.

    Was at a Wadada Leo Smith concert, while in the middle of Nathaniel Mackey’s Bedouin Hornbook. Very ’60s jazz start to the weekend.

    Bill

  6. Hey Dennis!

    Thanks for gifting us this James Duval day. I remember seeing him in ID4 as a kid and thinking he seemed like someone I would want to know. What a stellar human (pun intended.)

    Glad to hear you’re feeling better! Nothing can lay DC low for too long. As for me, it’s a low energy period which always feels somewhat like I’m gathering energy for some new as of yet unknown project. Naturally still lurking around DC land often.

    Hope you’re getting plenty of rest this weekend to be back in top shape by Monday.

    Lots of love!
    Bear

  7. Hi!

    I really enjoyed today’s James Duval post! Thank you! I like him a lot. Last time I was home sick, I did a Gregg Araki marathon so lots of his roles are quite vivid in my mind now. I totally forgot he played Frank in ‘Donnie Darko’, though!

    I’m afraid I can only share the now-usual news about myself which I’m royally bored of by now. But I’m home this weekend and I’m meeting Anita tomorrow so maybe I’ll have the chance to recharge my energies before I start my last full week of this job!

    I hope you’re feeling a lot better by now and can fulfil your weekend plans! What did you do/see?

  8. Hi Dennis — happy you’re feeling better. Chill and rest. Will talk to you longer next week.

  9. Dennis, hope you’re feeling better, sounded like you were really laid low. That sucks. Nice Duval day. Made me remember getting to see him in Nowhere at the virgin megastore Sunset cinema in ’95, right when I moved to LA. I’d been so into Araki movies in Australia, so it was a pretty exciting convergence. Thanks again for including The Disintegrations on your list for this year. Take care!A

  10. All I really have to say today is that I love days like this, when you fill us in on an interesting figure who hasn’t received that much attention because their virtues can’t be appreciated without the kind of serious focus and background you find among the regular visitors here.
    I think James Duval is a very unusual screen presence, very well used in Donnie Darko, a perfect foil for Jake Gyllenhaal’s perplexed naivete. I sometimes like to imagine a film without a particular performance to consider just what that performance has contributed. Imagine someone else in that role–Christian Slater!–and it’s obvious how important he was to the movie.
    I remember being pretty shocked by Independence Day. I saw mainstream movies then out of a sense that I should understand what was going on out there. I’m pretty sure that was the movie that made me go, “No more. ‘Nuff of that.” But I also remember that James Duval was really good in it.

  11. Hey!

    Glad to hear you’re feeling better, hope it hasn’t set you too far behind. Glad to hear Crowd’s coming together, have you gotten a chance to see it yet? Cool, I can totally see a movie about a home haunt being super intense and interesting. Are you writing with any sort of experiments in mind?
    I’m totally unfamiliar with Duvall’s work outside of Donnie Darko and Independence Day. The only Araki film I’ve watched is “Mysterious Skin”, which I’m pretty sure doesn’t even feature Duvall. I totally loved the movie but blew off the rest of his catalogue for some reason. Any recommendations for where to start?
    I’ll have to check out those novels of his, I’m only really familiar with his work as a playwright. Callbacks went really well actually. We were worried because not a lot of people came out to audition, but we ended up with some really talented actors who I think will be able to pull of the roles. My only concern is I’ve only ever worked on shows with two or three actors in the cast, and never with another director. Plus a billion other tiny concerns. But at the very least we have a solid cast.

    Good luck with all your projects this weekend!

  12. Dear Mister Dennis Cooper,

    hello i am 23 years old Estonia n boy. from Saaremaa. first my childhood story. when i as child my Alien Father visit me and adopted me and i travel to jhis home planet name of URAAN Planet. it is gas planet and large. small animal of my body soft and receptive, i accept i accept i accept. i am search my alien dady now. on FAcebook i have a web site it is called: https://www.facebook.com/fratolish.hiangperpeshki.58

    second my contact. i am in your web site DC’s. Type=Slaves. Date=November 2016. Site=https://denniscooperblog.com/2016/11/. My name is not Frehs Linen my name is Fratolish-Hiang Perpeshki. why? i think you know my dady.

    i beleive you can help me finding my alien father of URAAN planet. please see my other posts in Face Book web site and add my. or my email. need your contact and your assist me my abdopted alien father. i miss you.

    Sincere regards,

    Fratolish

  13. Thank you for this James Duval Day. He seems like a cool guy and I’ll try seek out more of his films.

    Just in time for the holiday season, I bring you this report of a disastrous UK Winter Fest that features the usual “kids left crying after Santa got stuck on the motorway” goodness .

  14. I finished my Brockhampton review and turned it in to my editor at Gay City News. Tomorrow, I plan to finalize my music top 10 list and post commentary and links to videos on one album climbing up the list on Facebook every 20 minutes or so, assuming I have time.

    I bought a ton of music at Mainline Records yesterday, including greatest hits compilations by the Chambers Brothers and Steel Pulse, the new album by Gun Outfit, the ESCAPE FROM New York soundtrack, Serge Gainsbourg’s COLOUR CAFE, Donna Summer’s ONCE UPON A TIME, dub producer Scientist’s THE DUB ALBUM THEY DIDN’T WANT YOU TO HEAR, Sun Ra’s new EXOTICA compilation and the Replacements’ live album recorded in 1986. Their window display alternates Christmas albums – I had no idea the Rotary Connection made one, which they’re selling for $39.99 – with 3 CDs of the new Eminem album (which has gotten such bad reviews that I don’t think it’s even worth checking out once on Spotify – I thought the first 2 singles were crap anyway.)

  15. I thought you’d enjoy this Errol Morris interview, especially since his final answer about why he hates conventional period pieces: https://www.thedailybeast.com/errol-morris-on-harvey-weinstein-i-would-always-see-him-going-upstairs-with-hookers?source=facebook&via=desktop

  16. Dennis, did sunday help you to get better? I hope so.
    Did you see that Z’EV died yesterday? Sad news. I liked his art and especially his collaborations.
    Very nice: The german translation of Maggie Nelsons The Argonauts is getting very good reviews in the press. Even in some major newspapers. Cool.
    Get well soon!

  17. Hi Dennis,

    I hope your mind and body are in reasonably good, recognizable shape.. I’m sorry that you were under the weather, but here’s hoping Monday finds you close to 100% !

    James Duval has enough otherworldly powers to pull me from the wings to rejoin the crew here at DCs. His work with Gregg Araki is wonderful, I also enjoyed him in Go, he was damned funny in that movie. Gorgeous, soulful eyes. A perfect human being, if one were collecting specimens?

    Sorry I’ve been away, Dennis, though of course I lurk all the time, but the new novel still has me devoting all my spare time to it, like a hungry puppy you can’t bear to turn away. I’ve been reading some occult literature as research for the new novel, but man that stuff can really pull your head into a vortex. I’m also reading Terence McKenna (also research).. I happen to be reading True Hallucinations at the moment, as one of the people, er, characters in the novel is reading it. Have you read any McKenna? I see Tao Lin has a new book coming out in May 2018 that is related to McKenna and psychedelics… is there something in the air? My new book has an unpronounceable title …

    I read the description for the new film project you’re working on with Zac… a French haunted house movie? OMG Dennis that sounds wonderful! Have you seen Them, or Ils , as it is called in French? Young beautiful French couple, remote country home, weird goings on… If you haven’t seen it, you must! I was thinking of you while i was watching it!

    Glad to see New Juche on your best of / EOY list, thank you for supporting indie presses, Dennis! I’ve read quite a few books this year, however most of them are non-fiction / occultist / theosophy / psychedelia, for research, so perhaps my list would be a bit odd.

    I did enjoy these fictional / memoirish books, though —

    Almond Eyes, Baby Face by Pilleater
    Book of Mutter by Kate Zambreno

    Music —

    Wild Onion by Twin Peaks
    A Deeper Understanding by The War on Drugs

    I feel terribly behind, music wise.

    Happy Monday, Dennis!

    Xoxo,
    James

  18. Dennis! James Duval is pretty great and pretty underappreciated. I’ve always been kind of in love with The Doom Generation.

    Yeah, I guess Seth MacFarlane wouldn’t be your type of thing. But I will say this: while he has his usual sophomoric humor (which I like), his scripts on this are really smart and incisive. Think good Star Trek that’s pretty funny at times.

    That ex-friend of mine probably has all sorts of things going on that she’s just not talking about. Still so weird to me, especially with her not being upfront with me because one of the hallmarks of our friendship -or so I thought- was being very honest and frank with each other. Oh, well. I’m pretty much over it now.

    So I saw Call Me by Your Name. I loved it. I ain’t gonna lie. So much so that I dreamt about all night. No exaggeration. That fucking Timothee Chalamet, who I thought was just awesome in the movie, was in every scene of every dream I had last night. I even found myself thinking about it today while on my way back from the gym and welling up a bit because of how much I liked it.

    Maybe it was because I was so invested in it for the past 3 months. Who knows? I understand others’ misgivings about it, but I just politely disagree with them. I have a few quibbles with it, but those are mainly just opinions on some very minor things as far as dialogue and whatnot. But I didn’t make the movie, so I take it for how it was presented, and I really liked it.

    And then I saw The Last Jedi today. I really liked that too. Really don’t see why some aren’t liking it. It certainly didn’t feel like 2 1/2 hours at all.

    So a good weekend overall. I’m off 2 days this week, Wednesday for a doctor’s appointment and Friday so I could have a 4-day weekend.

  19. hello long time Jimmy Duval fan here has anyone seen Prevertere ? Is James in it much?

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