Acclaimed filmmaker Tom DiCillo rose to the highest ranks of indie auteur status via a succession of distinctive arthouse hits such as Box of Moonlight (1986), Johnny Suede (1992) (Picture: 1), Living in Oblivion (1995) (Picture: 1), The Real Blonde (1997) (Picture: 1), Double Whammy (2001) (Picture: 1), and, most recently, the comedic paparazzi meditation Delirious (2006).

Tom talked to Mr. Skin about Delirious, working with the lead showgirls of Showgirls, and which actresses he'd most like to film nude and why.

Tell us about Delirious. What is the movie about? What was the inspiration behind it? How do you feel about the finished film?

I was fascinated by the idea of exploring the real inner workings of a paparazzo. In a world addicted to celebrity, the paparazzi occupy the lowest rung of the status ladder. Everybody despises them. I kept wondering how they justify this constant repulsion and judgment of worthlessness to themselves.

Midnight Cowboy (Picture: 1) and A Hard Day's Night were huge influences. The film is about people trying to find what has value in a world that values the completely worthless. I'm extremely proud of the finished film. I think Steve Buscemi gives the performance of his career. The film went to the San Sebastian Film Festival in Spain and won Best Director and Best Screenplay. It went to Sundance in 2007, was released theatrically the same year, and most recently was honored at Roger Ebert's festival for best overlooked films of the year.

How was it working with Steve Buscemi again?

Amazing. What I look for in an actor is willingness. This does not mean they do exactly what I say. In fact, it has nothing to do with control. It has everything to do with the collaborative effort, being open to discovering with me the joy and excitement of the film. That sense of collaboration is so exhilarating that as a director you want to have it on every film. And so if you have that rare experience you try to perpetuate it. Buscemi is one of the most willing actors I've ever worked with. And most of the time I have to say very little to him. Our dialogue consists mainly of me whispering suggestions to him right before a take. Then I just stand back in awe. I think he is truly one of America's greatest actors. He always allows you to see into his soul.

You've worked with Gina Gershon in Delirious and Elizabeth Berkley in The Real Blonde-the two stars of our all-time favorite film, Showgirls. Is this a coincidence? Are you a fan of Showgirls (Picture: 1 - 2) too? How was it working with each actress?

This is a good question. I hope you will not hire someone to assassinate me if I say that in my opinion Showgirls is one of the dumbest fucking movies ever made. It really is pretty stupid. However, when I cast Elizabeth Berkley one of the reasons I did so was because of my outrage that of all the idiots involved in that film the press and public (at that time) chose her alone to abuse and humiliate. My question was, "What about the fucking moron who green-lit the film? He should have been required to have a lobotomy. What about the sleazebag who directed it? He should have been sexually abused by a tribe of ringtail monkeys."

Pardon us if we disagree about everything you just said regarding Showgirls and its director, Paul Verhoeven. Sometimes we wonder if those who hate Showgirls have actually ever seen the movie, but hey . . . anyway, back to Elizabeth.

And so, out of indignation I cast Elizabeth. She was amazing to work with. She was incredibly open and eager to learn. I was thrilled with what she brought to the screen.

And now, La Gershon. I happen to think Gina is one of the sexiest women working in film and theatre today. She is incredibly smart, hilarious, fearless, and-oh yeah-sexy as shit. My favorite scene in Delirious is when she mimics Michael Pitt and the putz doesn't even know it.

Many of your films contain nude scenes. What is it like to shoot them? Were any particularly memorable or eventful during filming?

Well, everything that needs to be said about shooting nude scenes has already been said. I wanted to have nude scenes in Delirious, but the lawyers for Michael Pitt and Alison Lohman found a way to earn their ten percent and keep their clients non-nude. I will never comprehend why this happened.

Nude scenes mainly require more intense focus and work than most scenes. They are rarely erotic. You need to keep all the cretins off the set, and believe me, they are always there when that particular scene comes up. Guys you never saw before suddenly appear to polish the faucets on the bathtub. I kick them all out. Usually it is just me, the cameraman, and the actors. Suffice it to say, they are always very tricky to shoot.

Catherine Keener has performed two nude scenes for you, in The Real Blonde and Living in Oblivion (we're especially fond of her unshaven armpits in the latter). Talk about what it's like working with her as an actress-in and out of her clothes.

Catherine is a brilliant actress. She has an unflinching instinct to be as honest as she can in a role. She is a great comedienne. Her clothing, or lack of it, is irrelevant.

If you could direct three actresses working today in nude scenes, who would they be?

Queen Latifah. Dakota Fanning. Barbra Streisand (Picture: 1).


To see them nude.

If you could direct three actresses from previous eras in nude scenes, who would they be?

Shirley Temple. Anita Bryant. Margaret Hamilton.


For deeply personal reasons.

What do you think is the sexiest film of all time?

It's a toss-up. Either Rocky VI or The Deep Deep Depths of Twisty DePrave.

Do you remember the first movie nude scene you ever saw? Is there a funny story attached to it?

The first nude scene I saw was at a small-town drive-in. Actually I wasn't at the drive-in. I was about 200 yards deep in the woods, perched in a tree so I could see over the fence. I was about six. My father kept calling up to me asking me what was happening on the screen.

What's next for you, Tom?

A warm shower. At the moment I'm finishing up writing and directing the first full-length feature documentary on The Doors. Dick Wolf Films is producing.

I have two films in development, one of which is a full-fledged contemporary sex comedy. I have the feeling you and I will be talking about it very soon.

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