CATEGORIES Interviews
In 'Saint John of Las Vegas,' Steve Buscemi takes a break from playing the kooky, criminal supporting roles we know and love him for and steps into the shoes of John, a compulsive gambler who's trying to make a normal life for himself at an auto insurance company in Albuquerque. A road trip with his coworker, an unfriendly fraud debunker named Virgil (Romany Malco), leads John to encounters with offbeat characters, and ultimately, a new sense of self.

In an exclusive interview with Moviefone, Buscemi talked more about the movie and his passion for making independent films.
In 'Saint John of Las Vegas,' Steve Buscemi takes a break from playing the kooky, criminal supporting roles we know and love him for and steps into the shoes of John, a compulsive gambler who's trying to make a normal life for himself at an auto insurance company in Albuquerque. A road trip with his coworker, an unfriendly fraud debunker named Virgil (Romany Malco), leads John to encounters with offbeat characters, and ultimately, a new sense of self.

In an exclusive interview with Moviefone, Buscemi talked more about the movie and his passion for making independent films.

One of the funniest parts of the film was when John meets up with a wheelchair-bound stripper (Emmanuelle Chriqui) and gets a lap dance. Was that choreographed?
It wasn't choreographed. There were certain things that [director Hue Rhodes] wanted us to hit that were scripted but then he just let us go with it. We played music and just had fun.

Was it a fun movie to make?
Yeah. Just the cast of characters -- that's what I loved about the structure of the film, this road movie where we get to meet all of these people along the way. It's kind of like a darker Wizard of Oz, with Dorothy getting to the Emerald City, which is Vegas.

You're known for playing crazy character roles but in this movie, you're the leading man. Do you prefer to carry a movie?
What's a leading man? John's certainly not a leading man in the traditional sense. He's a lead in that he's the main character. But to me he still has a lot of character traits that are fun to play.


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What attracted you to this role?
I like that John's got stuff that he's dealing with. And that he also has smarts. He's able to figure things out and help with this insurance scam investigation.

He seems very empathetic to the people he meets along the way.
Yeah, he's a real people person! [Laughs] He does have people skills. I think that's something that Virgil kind of sees in him and helps develop, even if he's annoyed by it. I just loved the whole structure, the characters, the dialog.

Do you play scratch-off tickets?
I don't. I don't buy them on my own. I sometimes will get them ... My brother gave me a few, like, as a Christmas present or birthday present. That's the only time I ever do it. My mom does it. My brother does it.

Some people can get pretty obsessive about it, like your character does.
I guess why I don't relate to it is that there's no skill involved. But I understand why John does it because he really believes in luck. And so never knowing when your share of good luck is going to come, you have to buy a card every day. Because you don't want to miss that opportunity when it's your lucky day. So I understand that.

You've worked with great directors such as the Coen brothers. What's it like working with a first time writer/director?
I've done it a number of times. I could tell from the script alone that Hue puts a lot of thought and time into what he does and I figured that would translate into him being a director. It doesn't necessarily mean that it does, but I also saw a couple of short films that he made. And just hearing him talk about it, it felt like he had his own style, his own vision, and it's always refreshing to work with someone who has good, strong ideas.

You're an experienced director. Did you bring any of that to the filming or did you stay in your role as actor?
No. Mostly, I tried to stay in my role as an actor but the company that I have now, Olive Productions, with Stanley Tucci and Wren Arthur, we were co-producers on the film, so I did help in terms of casting and in post-production, just looking at various cuts of the film and just giving any advice to Hue where he wanted it. Hopefully I was never intrusive. My interest as a producer was to really make sure that I did whatever I could do to help Hue get his film up on screen. The way he wanted.

I loved the relationship John has with Jill (Sarah Silverman). What do you think makes them work?
I think it's mainly chemistry. They seem so different. But it's that unexplained thing where you know they just sort of compliment each other. And it's good that they're different. It's funny because they get it together and then he's on the road. So immediately they have this long-distance relationship, which is a challenge for any relationship.

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When you make an indie do you just hope for the best? There's obviously not as much publicity as, say, 'Avatar.'
Well yeah, it's about getting the word out, getting people to know it's around. That's the challenge. But to me, the measure of success is not how well a movie does in the theaters, it's, "Is it the movie you wanted to make, is that what's being shown?" I really feel like then it will find its audience.

What's up next for you?
Right now I've been working on 'Boardwalk Empire,' this HBO show that's about Atlantic City in the '20s. [I'm] having fun doing that. And then continuing work with the production company that I have with Stanley Tucci called Olive Productions. We've both been actively trying to raise money for films that we want to do.