First-time feature film director Joshua Goldin talks about his movie, Wonderful World, whose lead character is based on himself, writes Subhadra Devan
A LOW-key film called Wonderful World starring Matthew Broderick opened at Golden Screen Cinemas’ International Screens yesterday.
The two-time Tony award-winning actor plays Ben Singer, a children’s musician who has lost his connection to his art.
Along the way, he has also lost touch with his tween daughter. When he meets some warm-hearted Senegelase, Singer may just learn to open his own heart to life, again.
The film also stars Michael Kenneth Williams as Ibou, Singer’s roommate, Sanaa Lathan as Khadi, Ibou’s sister, and Jodelle Ferland as Singer’s daughter, Sandra.
Wonderful World is the first feature directed by screenwriter Joshua Goldin, who co-wrote Darkman and Night At The Museum with his brother Daniel.
Goldin alternates between writing character-based dramas and comedies and writing pilots for cable TV. He has just finished a dramatic thriller pilot for FX called Outlaw Country, starring Mary Steenburgen. He talks about his 2009 film in this GSC release.
“I have to admit the inspiration for this film was me. I wanted to create a movie about a man who saw only the negative side of things (an emblematic character for our times, I think) and I used the workings of my own brain for research.
“A lot of what Singer says in the movie reflects a kind of dark commentary that runs through my own head on the way to, say, the supermarket. Some of what he says are actual quotes.
“I’m not a former child singer, guitarist or divorcee, but I do have a three-day growth of beard like that of Singer in the film. Singer is both more honest and more unhappy than I am. The negative part of me — the part I drew on to create Singer — believes he is more unhappy because he is more honest.
“There’s a line in the movie — “Behind every cynic is a disappointed idealist” — that, for various reasons, was cut out, and this line marks where I and Ben Singer diverge. He may be a disappointed idealist, but he’s still an idealist. I am not.
“There’s a danger, when we leave the unreal world of idealism, that we also abandon our better natures. This never happens to Singer. It’s what makes him a very flawed, wrongheaded hero, but a hero.
“I sympathise totally with his plight and I’m glad he had a catharsis. I believe these moments of catharsis are possible. They are what keep us going. I think I’ve had one or two myself. One of them is making this movie.”
Was it difficult to make the movie?
“I’m a “first time director” and it’s always hard for first time directors. I tried to undercut this mark against me by mentioning other first time directors in pitch meetings with financiers — Francois Truffault, Steven Spielberg, Ridley Scott, Barry Levinson, Woody Allen... You get the point. But I don’t think I helped my cause by being a smart aleck.
“Luckily, I wrote the script with my old pal, Matthew Broderick, in mind for the main role and even more luckily, he loved the script. The moment he signed on, Wonderful World went from being a Josh Goldin movie to a Matthew Broderick vehicle.
“Working with the actors was pure fun. I think I had an incredibly fortunate experience.”
What inspired you to write the Khadi and Ibou characters as Senegalese?
“One of my first jobs out of college was that of a file clerk in a small insurance company. The only other worker in my office was a Senegalese man in his 50s. I was struck by a kind of Zen attitude he had toward the drudgery of the job. I was also struck by his high intelligence. We became good friends.
“He talked a lot about Senegal, which he left at the age of 8. For him, it was a place of magic and wonder. He told me a story about fish falling from the sky when it rained. I came to believe that his detachment toward his job and toward the circumstances of his life (he lived in a welfare hotel) came from the fact that he spent most of his time living in the Senegal of his mind. He was my inspiration for Ibou.
“Khadi is a mystery. Maybe she is the sister I would imagine a man like Ibou would have. I also think she has a lot of traits I’ve seen in other women. I admire her. She’s not afraid of her own carnal nature.”