As a character actor, Steve Buscemi is one of the industry's most reliable and prolific, making around 40 films since 1996. As a director, though, Buscemi has been more picky, as his new dramedy "Lonesome Jim" marks only his second feature since the 1996 release of "Trees Lounge."
"I don't necessarily gravitate towards anything except characters that have a lot going on or are complicated or writer-directors who I like and have been fortunate to work with," says of his acting selection process, as opposed to his choices behind the camera. "With directing, I can afford to be a little bit more choosy because I don't make my living directing. I've always liked character-driven films, so those are the films I like to act in and those are the films that I like to be involved with as a director."
"Lonesome Jim," which is slowly expanding around the country, features Casey Affleck as a writer who leaves his life of disappointment in Manhattan and moves back in which his parents in Indiana. Despite the film's title, the main character is really more miserable and unmotivated than lonesome.
"There are a lot of things that make him lonesome," Buscemi insists. "I think he's a little bit selfish and insensitive so that tends to keep other people at a distance or he distances himself from people and certainly he has people around him that are trying to reach him, like his mother and Anika, the Liv Tyler character. I think it's partly his behavior that makes him that way."
Writer and cartoonist James Strouse wrote the script, which contains many autobiographic elements. Adding to the authenticity was Buscemi's decision to shoot in both Stouse's hometown of Goshen and in his actual childhood residence.
"The fact that it was personal I think was part of the attraction and why I wanted to go to Indiana in the first place, to see where it is that he came from," Buscemi says. "I wasn't even necessarily even going to shoot there. But then going there and meeting his family ... when we lost the money the first time and our budget was reduced and our shooting days, it just made sense to shoot it there. Getting our two main locations for free helped."
Though he hasn't directed a feature since 2000's "Animal Factory," Buscemi has been a regular director on "The Sopranos," earning an Emmy nomination for the classic 2001 "Pine Barrens" episode.
"I think the more I direct, the more comfortable I get doing it," he says. "I don't know if I'm getting better at it, but I certainly feel more -- I don't even know if 'at ease' is the right word, but it's less intimidating and less mysterious."
"Lonesome Jim" is now in limited release.