Jose Stern is going through a rough patch. In the new movie No Way Jose—out now on VOD—the 40-something Angeleno finds himself single, underemployed, desperate and wanted by the law. Thanks to writer, director and star Adam Goldberg, however, what could be a complete downer instead is a nuanced, touching and funny portrayal of a man trying one last time to pull his life together.
Here Goldberg, who’s also currently appearing on The Jim Gaffigan Show, explains why he made the movie, how it took so long to produce and what about real life makes it so irresistible to steal from.
It’s been more than a decade since you last directed a film. How’d you decide to do that again?
It has been some years since I’ve written and directed a film, and I have been sort of writing on and off over what turned out to be quite a span of time. I’ve just been trying to figure out what to do, I had a bunch of ideas that didn’t involve me as an actor in any way, that were a lot less self-reflective and more dramatic and maybe a little bit more challenging in terms of structure. I felt like I had been doing these films as an actor that were lighter in tone, so I was trying to figure out how to do that for myself.
Were you able to do that?
Usually I write something because an idea occurred to me; and in this case I was sort of searching for an idea, and those ideas managed to bare themselves out in a variety of different ways. Ultimately, I just sort of went back to this idea of reflecting what was going on with me, so the film is about a guy—which I was at the time pushing 40 and who was having a difficult time committing or thought perhaps that maybe he had reached the point of no return. In the case of the film, I use a slightly or very exaggerated narrative device to illustrate this point, but that was really the jumping off point.
Was it satisfying, then, to create the sort of project you wanted for yourself?
To me, it’s important to continue to be honest with whatever you’re sort of filled up with at the time, and to see these projects through. Sometimes it’s a more fluid process than others, and sometimes there’s more to gain in a more objective and monetary sense, if you have a lot more to lose.
So, when you do take from your own life, how do you decide what the boundaries are? There are some pretty strong characters and situations in the movie; are they all based in your own life?
I know the popular answer to that question is ‘No, I made it all up!’ But in this case, the movie was really designed for the people who were playing the roles. Eric Siegel and Anna Belknap, who play a married couple with two kids, are a married couple with two kids. We shot in their house, they’re really great friends of mine, Eric and I have known each other and played in bands together since we were in high school. These characters populate my life and are fascinating to me, and I really wanted to write for them. In this case, I was pretty unabashed about it.
People always say that truth is stranger than fiction.
Yeah, you know, I’m sensitive to this to an extent because I made this film called I Love Your Work, which was about a movie star. Some of the derision of the movie for people who didn’t like it seemed to be based off the idea that they thought I was making a film about myself. So, I always say, ‘Yeah, I was making a film about myself, I was making a film about myself if I were really famous.’
Now that this is completed what are you doing to fill that creative space we were talking about earlier?
I’m mindful of how difficult it is to make a movie, and how difficult it is after you’ve made it. Films are weird because you’re part of this community, and then it becomes a lone-man process. It’s a exhausting and stressful, and you get further and further away from the thing that compels you to write it in the first place. I have to be really careful that I don’t let that get the better of me. I almost immediately went right back to work as an actor three days after we finished filming, and I continued to edit it as I worked on Fargo. I’ve come up with a few ideas, and I’m trying to decide which to use next. Marc Maron and I have been talking about writing something together, so that might be something.
That should keep you busy.
Well, I have at least more than enough to keep me awake and like stressed out. Hopefully, I’ll pick a road and go down it.