The Alan Sondheim Mail Archive

July 26, 2005

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Mon, 25 Jul 2005 21:15:05 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: Tim Robbins at War

Tim Robbins at War
Actor enters stage left and takes aim at the lying
politicians and their lapdog media
by Bruce Kirkland
Published on Monday, July 25, 2005 by the Winnipeg Sun

NEW YORK -- Psychologically, Tim Robbins sits poised
somewhere between Hollywood celebrity and American
citizenry. It is neither a comfortable nor a safe

On one hand, Robbins is an Oscar-winning movie star
known for the complexity of his performances, whether
as hero, as victim or just as often as the villain. In
Steven Spielberg's current sci-fi movie War of the
Worlds, Robbins is all three rolled into one for his
strong cameo. During the alien invasion, Robbins'
half-crazed character obliges hero Tom Cruise to make
an astonishing moral choice to ensure survival for both
he and his daughter.

On the other hand, Robbins is a concerned citizen, a
left-wing activist who was -- by default -- one of the
most vocal Americans to oppose the invasion of Iraq and
who now believes George W. Bush is "a lame-duck
president" who should be repudiated by his own
Republican backers. Along with his long-time romantic
partner Susan Sarandon, also an Oscar-winner and
political activist, Robbins has been ridiculed for his
willingness to take a stand. Most absurdly, he was one
of the celebrity puppets lampooned as dupes and fools
in the South Park creators' comedy, Team America.

Today, Robbins' two hands are clapping together on one
project. It is a new self-financed DVD called Embedded
-- and it is not available by conventional means.
Instead, Robbins is flogging it over the Internet in a
bold, if risky move that could show a new way to
proceed for filmmakers to avoid getting lost in a glut
of DVDs at the big-name video stores.

"You can't think in the old paradigm," Robbins tells
The Sun in an exclusive interview in the library lounge
of his funky office penthouse in lower Manhattan. "You
can't think like that."

Robbins is changing a lot of his thinking. For the War
of the Worlds media onslaught, Robbins did just a mass
press conference. For Embedded, he sat down for an hour
one-on-one to talk about a citizen's responsibility,
the pressure on celebrities, what he perceives are the
evils of the Bush government and his disillusionment
with "the pussies" in the Democrat Party, including
John Kerry, who refused to oppose Bush over Iraq.

Some of that is woven into Embedded, which was written
and directed by Robbins. Along with fellow members of
his theatre troupe, The Actors Gang, Robbins also
co-stars as a sympathetic U.S. soldier shipped off to
Iraq for the war.

Embedded is a spin-off from Robbins' play by the same
name. Designed as a satire but containing many
gut-wrenching moments as well, it tells the story of
embedded journalists as well as active soldiers who
were involved in the invasion of Iraq by American
forces. The play, and now the film version, savages the
deep thinkers in the Pentagon and the White House for
their lies and deceptions about weapons of mass
destruction and other issues, including false
intelligence that linked Iraq to terrorist cells.
Embedded also confronts the U.S. mass media for what
Robbins sees as a gross failure to uncover lies, thus
serving as propaganda machines.

The play was written before it was fashionable to
acknowledge the truth -- yet Robbins is still attacked
as an activist in a country where the word "liberal" is
a profanity. "But we were right!" Robbins says. "We
were right. They were wrong. And why was it us who were
the ones who stepped forward to say those things, to
ask those questions?"

By "us" Robbins is referring to other Hollywood
celebrities, such as Sean Penn, Alec Baldwin, Janeane
Garofalo and Michael Moore. "And most of us, by the
way, were simply saying: 'Let the (UN) inspectors have
more time.' We weren't purporting to know what was
going on but just saying: 'Let's be patient. Let's not
be hurried. This is human life we're talking about.
Let's be judicious.' It's not like we wanted to do
that. It's not like, if there was an opposition party,
a strong voice of resistance, that we would go: 'Wait!
I want to be on the show, too. I want to say
something.' No, there would be absolutely no need for
it. There would be no need for an actor to speak. But
we don't live in that world."

Obviously, the U.S. government ignored the protests, at
home and abroad, and the invasion of Iraq went ahead.
It was at that point that Robbins decided to create
Embedded as a play. It was his personal reaction to the

"Definitely," Robbins says. "We have a limited number
of venues where we can tell stories or get
information." U.S. television was neutered, Robbins
says. Only one major radio show, Democracy Now, was
confrontational, he says. The mainstream print press
was failing, too, in his view.

"So where do you go? What do you do? You do what you do
and I am incredibly fortunate in that I have a theatre
company and a theatre (an arrangement with the Public
Theatre in New York) and I could write something and
put it on stage and get the information out that way."

Robbins chose not to try to make a regular film, like
his acclaimed political satire Bob Roberts. "If I
thought that I could do it on film, I would have
attempted it that way. But I didn't feel that it was
possible, when you consider who owns the film
companies. It would also be a process and it would just
be coming out now, if I was lucky enough to have raised
the money way back then. I had the immediacy of my own
theatre company and I was able to do it right away,
which, for me, was really great and, for the actors, it
was really great. It was a way for us to do something
when everyone felt so frustrated and impatient about
our ability to stop this war from happening -- and,
once it happened, to spread the information that we
knew was out there."

Not surprisingly, Embedded first generated lousy
reviews, in L.A. and then in New York. "If you were to
read the reviews and if you were to believe the
reviews, you would think that what we had done was
silly and inconsequential," Robbins now says with a
grin. "It was marginalized in the reviews and I knew
that was going to happen. You don't go in to the
backyard of the media and say, 'You're full of s--!',
and expect them to embrace you."

Some reviews attacked him for allegedly making up
stuff. In fact, much of the dialogue and the situations
depicted were mined from real-life events, including
BBC reporter John Simpson's eyewitness experience in a
firefight, as well as accounts of the dubious Jessica
Lynch rescue. She is called Jen-Jen in the play but
Robbins says she is iconic now and the character will
immediately trigger images in a viewer's mind.

The reviews hurt the show for a week, Robbins says.
Then word-of-mouth revived ticket sales and led to

"We always considered it the little engine that could,"
Robbins says proudly of the play. Now he is saying it
about the DVD version. He could not find financial
backers to film the play. So he sank his own money into
the project. Then he could not find a regular DVD
distributor to handle it.

"We didn't want to release it as a film. We wanted to
go out to DVD and to television and still there was
that fear of it."

So Robbins hooked up with Netflix, the U.S.-based
service that supplies films by overnight mail to its
subscribers. "That's three million people, potentially,
but there's no way that all of their subscribers are
going to (order Embedded). So we're selling it on our
own website ( and also on
and now it keeps growing. It really is the little
engine that could. We're losing money as of now. But I
always knew that, just like the play, it would be slow,
there would be a resistance to it, but eventually it
would find its audience."

Robbins and company were crafty enough, as well, not to
simply film themselves acting out the play. The DVD
version of Embedded shows the play as "an event" that
mirrors his attitude towards theatre in the first
place. "We've always kind of done theatre in The Actors
Gang that's all raucous and rude and loud. We were all
punk rockers when we started the group so we all have
that aesthetic -- to stir things up."

(c) 2005 Winnipeg Sun


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The literal speaking of the world

while we listen this goes on.
and on and on and on.
today we saw endangered least terns plunge diving
we saw a flock of willets as well, these shore birds
  are somewhat drab when standing, but their wings
  are brilliantly designed patterns from below
there were other sounds (i.e. than the birds calling)
I want to learn these languages.


silent guitar
guitar dreams
sleeping guitar

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