Tribeca Festival 2021
Assembled from never before seen footage shot in 1983, this film documents controversial Hustler magazine publisher Larry Flynt's unlikely bid for the White House after a gunman's bullet left him partially paralyzed.
Hi Nadia, thank you for talking to TNC, how are you keeping during these very strange Covid times?
It's been quite a year. One of the hardest things to forego was moviegoing. And what has been really devastating has been the news that so many theatres had to close permanently. What I'm most excited about is seeing movies again, alone in a theatre, but not alone, because we are experiencing the film collectively, our group mind infinitely more discerning and intelligent than any one of ours separately.
Has this time offered you any new creative opportunities?
I've been writing. There's a romantic comedy in the works called "Bitches of the Canyon" and there's a play. I feel that after this very solitary time, there will be a strong desire to congregate and experience the lively arts together.
Congratulations on the release of Larry Flynt for President, when a new film is being released do nerves set in?
Thank you. Yes, I hope Larry remembers his lines! There are some damn good ones in there.
How did Larry Flynt for President come about, did you know much about Larry and his history before you started making your documentary?
I never thought twice about Larry Flynt before I stumbled across a cache of video tapes that had been sitting in a storage facility in the San Fernando Valley for 33 years. In these 20 boxes of tapes there was the untold story of a presidential campaign so strange, no high school teacher would ever touch it in an American History class. And yet, there was something so nakedly American about this, it was almost blasphemous. I had to dig deeper.
I approached Larry Flynt with the idea. He shrugged it off as the buried past but gave me full access to his own archives. And that’s when things took another bizarre turn. I was deep in Flynt’s archives up high in the Hustler tower on 8484 Wilshire Boulevard, listening to one of the 16 hours of tapes recorded while Flynt was in prison, when Donald Trump announced his campaign for presidency. It was the summer of 2015, and the country was on the brink of its next chapter.
"He pushed the envelope by being the first to publish interracial and transsexual porn, celebrating differences and sex in all its varied glory."
What was the most surprising fact you discovered about Larry Flynt?
Larry was a satirist and a true performance artist. I don’t think I appreciated that before I dove into the story.
During his short run for president, he opened his doors to literary outlaws and political dissidents including Stokely Carmichael, Madalyn Murray O’Hair, Dick Gregory, Timothy Leary and Terry Southern, employing them as speech consultants and political strategists. He appointed Indigenous activist Russell Means as his vice president and publicised his platform as a battle-cry against hypocrisy. His approach, like everything he did, was unconventional and so outrageous that the absurdity mixed with sincerity, had a way of ringing true as only satire can.
Larry Flynt was the most transgressive and politically progressive of the American pornographers, yet remained an outsider even in his death. He pushed the envelope by being the first to publish interracial and transsexual porn, celebrating differences and sex in all its varied glory. These photo spreads were humorous, some surprisingly tender, and yes, most of the time, quite explicit.
You co-wrote Larry Flynt for President with Tchavdar Georgiev, how important is the collaborative nature of filmmaking on a project like this?
Choosing your collaborators is the most important decision you make as a director. There's nothing better than duking it out in a room together with sharp creative partners. It brings everyone's game up -- but only when there's a deep respect and a sense of humour.
How much has did you background in theatre help prepare you for moving into filmmaking?
The rehearsal process in theatre can be compared to the work that goes on in the edit room. There has to be some wild magic of trying things and failing, but in the failing, finding something that might just work. It's much better if everyone is comfortable. Then they lose their self-consciousness and the real ideas start to fall like rain.
Has your approach to your films changed much since you started out?
Thankfully yes. One shouldn't trust anyone under 30. And by that I mean, there's an obsession with prodigies in our culture, but for many artists, the work just gets better as they get older.
Do you have any advice you would offer an emerging filmmaker?
Watch as many movies as you can from 1939. It was a very good year for filmmaking.
And finally, what do you want people to take away from Larry Flynt for President?
In a speech given during his campaign for President of the United States in 1983 Flynt stated, “There can never be peace on earth until we learn to respect people’s right to exist. You pay a price for everything. And the price you pay to live in a free society is toleration. You must tolerate things that you don’t necessarily like.”
There has been an icy push-back on toleration of late. People fear a misstep outside the accepted norm could ruin their lives. There's something constrictive and dangerous in that. Self-censorship because fear of retribution are not signs of a healthy democracy, and certainly not signs of toleration. So you offend! Larry’s expansive punk attitude might just be an antidote for this particular moment in time.