Director David Giancola and 'Dynasty' star John James on their Anna Nicole Smith doc, 'Addicted to Fame'

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David, in the documentary you reveal that, because you couldn’t get insurance for the film, you took out your own “insurance” by having a camera crew shoot behind-the-scenes footage so that at least you could make a film about the film, which is what you ultimately did
DG: Yeah, we couldn’t get a completion bond. I had Anna Nicole Smith. Joanie had her own issues. Between all that, forget it. They wouldn’t even entertain an outrageous rate. We just couldn’t get insured. So we took the people that were going to be there anyway [for behind-the-scenes material], and added a cameraman. I said, “Just be there the whole time.”

Illegal Aliens attracted a lot of media attention and there was a widespread perception that you guys were laughing all the way to the bank. But that wasn’t the case, was it?
DG: It was a rollercoaster because we had a bunch of investors who thought they were laughing all the way to the bank too. I wasn’t so sure about that and ultimately it didn’t play out that way. We had an opportunity to release the film immediately after her death, which probably would have been the right the idea. I just couldn’t do it. John and I had a lot of soul-searching arguments about it and we couldn’t do it. Because, number one, we thought, “Well, they’re going to crucify us,” which they did ultimately anyway. And then, it’s a comedy. How does it play? Not just with Daniel but with this double tragedy?

In the documentary you say that you regret talking so much about Anna Nicole on television and becoming what you call a “Soundbite Sammy.”
DG: It’s funny, because I even had a lot of trepidation about speaking with you. What line am I crossing? Am I trying to get my message out or am I being part of a problem? But at that time, we had two publicists and I would get a schedule and they would limousine me down and put me up in the same floor that Oprah’s in and it’s intoxicating. You’re sitting across from Larry King [clicks fingers] like that.

JJ: We are all culpable to a certain degree. Look, a PA came into the office and said, “Did you hear the news?” I said, “What news?” “Anna is going to the Supreme Court.” I’m not going to answer what went through my head but it rhymes with “Kerching!” Okay? The point is, you want people to see your movie. This is big news. So, yes, I’m culpable, David’s culpable to a degree, because we ran with it. And then, as I say in the movie, I realized this is not about our movie, it has nothing to do with our movie. It’s about a person. Enough!

DG: It started smelling weird.

JJ: It started smelling weird. And you know what’s really odd? This was a low budget, culty, film. My favorite comment is Larry King saying, “David, how is this going to affect the film?” It’s like we’re making Gone with the Wind 2 on a $500m budget! “David, how will this affect the film?” It was like, “What?” Larry King’s asking about this like the entire world is waiting on the edge of their seat. I used to wake up in a cold sweat. A cold sweat!

You both became friendlier with Anna Nicole Smith once the actual shoot was over?
DG: After the pressure of the production was off we got to know her a little bit. John admittedly was closer than I was. She owned a part of the film so we got along based on that. You can’t hold on to that stuff. You’ve got to let it go and be professional and move on. That’s where we thought we were going after we wrapped this. Unfortunately, we didn’t get there.

JJ: I went [to see her in the Bahamas] before her son died. She was glowing. She looked like Marilyn Monroe. Her home was cleaner than any of ours. She shook her finger at me because I went to the toilet and didn’t close the seat. She had kept a daily diary of her pregnancy, okay? That was before [Daniel died]. I come down [afterwards], she hadn’t been out of bed in two weeks. [Her house] was under siege. I’d never seen anything like it. It was like Dog Day Afternoon. I walk back into the Hilton hotel and every morning the show was there, every major media [outlet]. [Someone] walked up to me and said, “John, did you see the baby?” “Yeah, it was a beautiful little thing.” “Do you have a picture of the baby? How many kids do you have? How would you like our magazine to pay for their college education?” I took a moment and I said, “Public school or private?” And I turned and walked away.

I called Anna a day and a half before she died. I said, “How you doing pumpkin?” She said, “Not so good.” I said, “Why? What’s the matter?” She said, ‘Oh, everything. Everything’s just coming down on me.” This has been a very difficult 5 years for me, in many ways. I moved to upstate New York to get as far away from Hollywood as I could, to raise our children. And to find myself in the middle of this. It was as big a story, I think, as there will ever be. I don’t know why it was her. What was it that was special about her? I mean, she was stunningly beautiful. But why her? Hopefully I will never go through that again.

David, Addicted to Fame is the only film you’ve directed since Illegal Aliens. Did you leave the business or did the business leave you?
DG: I left the business. Directing is a lot of aggravation and stress. I’m waiting for something great to come along, something that grabs me. After it all went down I didn’t have the desire and I had some family opportunities. I’m managing the family car rental business. If you come to central Vermont I’ll get you a mid-size for $34.99 a day.

Some will say that Addicted to Fame is itself exploiting Anna Nicole Smith.
DG: The first thing that I say to everybody is, before you enter the discussion, you need to see the movie. Because people have expectations of what it is — and it’s not about that. What happened was, within the footage, I found some truth and I found some relevance as to things that I think are wrong with society.

What I want to do is stimulate [people] to question what they are watching. I want people to question the nature of celebrity. Shouldn’t we all be a little pissed off that that was the number 2 story in 2007? What happened to good old fashioned Walter Cronkite news reporting? How did we get this far out? These were all things that I wanted to kind of explore.  But, frankly, if I could take the last five, six of my years and reset it I would do that in a heartbeat.

JJ: Not many people would make a film like [this]. This is kamikaze filmmaking. We are on fire and we are crashing, but we are telling our story. This is what we went through. Call us whatever you want. Screw it, this is what we went through.

 

You can watch the trailers for Addicted to Fame and Illegal Aliens below.

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