ManlyMovie recently reviewed Milius (2013), a documentary on the life and career of legendary writer and director John Milius. You can check out the review here and if you’re a fan of this sub genre/niche, there really is no excuse for missing it. Today we have an exclusive interview with the director of the feature, Zac Knutson, who talks getting the project together, John’s health and what to expect in the near future.
Milius was a superb tribute piece. I get the feeling it was a labor of love?
Total labor of love. It took us about 5 1/2 years to complete it. Now, during that time we were doing other projects to pay for MILIUS, but we were always trying to move forward. About 2 1/2 years into the project, Scott Mosier came on with Matt Perniciero and Kevin Mann as executive producers and found us well needed cash for travel, post production, and legal needs. It was right after that happened that John had his stroke and we shut down for 9 months while he started rehab. We weren’t sure if we would continue, but John told us to keep moving forward when he came back to the west coast after those first 9 months. So… we did.
It has possibly the biggest ensemble of heavyweight actors and directors ever coming out to speak for John, was that a mammoth task or were they just keen to speak for him?
Yeah, if you like filmmaking and filmmakers… you’re gonna see them all in our doc, that’s for sure. We had time on our side because of the length we shot. But in one day Arnold Schwarzenegger and George Lucas committed to do interviews. After that, we could tell everyone else “Well, Arnold and Lucas are doing it” – that’s kinda all it took. Plus, all of these guys were happy to do two things, in my opinion. 1 – they were happy to talk about their good friend, John. 2 – they were happy to not talk about themselves, for a change. I’m pretty sure George Lucas loved not having to talk about Star Wars for the 100,000,000,000,000th time.
Do you think we’ll ever see another cantankerous rebel like Milius or in todays climate is it even harder for a character like that to make it in Hollywood?
I think there are a few running around out there right now. I think Tarantino is one, and I think Carnahan is another. I’d even go so far as to put Bryan Singer in that ballpark. I think those guys are writer/directors who have a distinct vision and voice. They also have personalities that wont be shut down. I think the bigger difference between those guys and John is that they came up after Milius. They were able to see the problems that were created by the new corporate structure in Hollywood, and they learned to navigate around it. They didn’t have to fight it with their bare fists like John and some others did. We all stand on the shoulders of those who came before us. Hopefully, we learn from their mistakes, and remember our own mistakes as we move forward.
It was great to see John speak at the end and shoot on the range, how is he doing now?
He’d doing really well. He’s got his “trigger finger” back, and goes shooting every weekend. He has speech and physical therapy every day – all week. A conversation with John still lasts 3 hours, and we talk about everything from movies, to war, to women. Everything you would expect to talk to John Milius about – over a good Cuban cigar, of course.
Any updates on what John is doing next?
He’s still working to get his Genghis Khan script made. It’s a brilliant epic. I hope someone gets it going soon. I really hope it goes to somewhere like HBO, for no other reason than I wanna see every word make it to the screen and not be trimmed because of time or audience test screenings.
Lastly, what’s next on your agenda?
I’ve got a few projects I hope to announce soon. Some of them are docs, and other are fictional narratives. I just wanna tell good stories.
Thanks for your time Zac
Thank you, sir.