The best movie I saw at the Tribeca Film Festival this year was The Education of Charlie Banks, a tense but thoughtful coming-of-age movie about a nervous preppie (The Squid and the Whale‘s Jesse Eisenberg) locked in a friendly but dangerous tug-of-war with a New York City tough (Jason Ritter) at a college in upstate New York in the early ’80s. And there’s nothing in that sentence that prepares you for this one: The movie is the directorial debut of Limp Bizkit frontman Fred Durst.
To repeat: the guy who sang ”I did it all for the nookie,” and bragged about bedding Britney Spears has just made an excellent first movie. Last week, during the festival, Durst spent an afternoon getting a tattoo involving a plasma laser and a demonic alien at the Manhattan studio of the ”King of Rock Tattoos” artist Paul Booth. On a break from the tat table, and shirtless, Durst quietly answered a few questions about wanting to be a director, not wanting to be a rock star anymore, and getting older and reading the newspaper.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: When people at the festival talked to you about Charlie Banks, did everybody mention how surprised they were that you — the frontman for Limp Bizkit — made this coming-of-age movie?
FRED DURST: Yeah, everybody’s really surprised. It’s a ”complisult” — an insult and a compliment at the same time.
What’s been your experience at the festival?
I love it! I’ve always wanted to make movies. And it’s obvious to talk about the negativity that I’ve had in my life, but I’m really hoping this festival experience can help some of that disappear. I’m evolving.
So you consider this a fresh start?
Yeah, that’s how I’ve had to see it for years now. How can you stay at the same place in your life? When you’re a kid, you see your parents reading the newspaper and you’re like, ”God, why are they reading the newspaper?” When you’re young, you’re not reading the newspaper. But there comes a time in your life when the newspaper’s cool.
What changed for you? What made you want to start reading the newspaper?
You know, in my music career there was a moment where the irony was just so heavy. There were people in my audience that were the reason I developed neuroses. These people that tortured my life were using my art, my poetry, as fuel for them, to torture other people.
What do you mean?
I was a kid who got picked on in school and got beat up by popular, athletic soccer-type people. Then I was looking in the crowds [at shows], and some real people were getting pounced on, pounded by those guys.
And you were feeling like you were helping facilitate that?
Yeah. It felt like this was wrong, and those people were misinterpreting [the music]. They weren’t listening.
Was there one event at one show that did it for you?
No, no. It’s like relationships. When people divorce after 25 years, sometimes it’s just been developing [for a while].
And you wanted to make movies before you were ever in a band, right?
Yeah, yeah. I’ve always wanted to make movies.
And the whole time you were doing music you were thinking about making a film? You directed videos?
Yeah, but for labels picking singles that should have never been seen…I’m proud of the videos and stuff, but it wasn’t the same as being able to make a movie.
Were you trying to make movies the whole time? Did you come close?
I got a few offers — some horror films, a couple of cheesy bad-teen exploitation marketing failures. That’s the part where people can’t understand my logic, but I just don’t wanna direct movies that aren’t timeless.
NEXT PAGE: Durst on the best advice he got from David Fincher
Who are your favorite filmmakers?
Woody Allen. Hal Ashby. Kubrick. Cronenberg. Fincher. Scorsese. Mike Leigh. John Ford.
You were supposed to direct Lords of Dogtown for David Fincher, right?
Yeah, I worked on that for a year.
David Fincher was producing it. He’s been a friend of mine for a long time. But the movie just started to grow so big, so Fincher stepped over as director.
But then Catherine Hardwicke ended up making the movie. Was that painful for you?
Man, I knew that I could tell that story the best. And I look at it now and go, ”Yeah, they made a big mistake.” I think she’s very talented, but that movie should’ve been another movie.
David Fincher’s been a mentor for you. Where did you meet, and what has he done with you?
We met on the development stage of a script called Runt, about a Columbine-ish situation. It was in 2000, probably. The script itself was bad timing; everybody was scared of it. But Fincher and I hit it off, and he knew how curious I was about being a director. He took me seriously.
He helped you out on Charlie?
Yeah, he gave advice. And battles to fight and not to fight, him saying, ”You gotta focus on it; you can’t do both.”
Can’t do both what?
Fincher said, ” You can’t be that guy in Limp Bizkit and make films right now,” because the bigger Limp Bizkit got, the more [the film people] couldn’t take me seriously.
So it was hard for you to get this movie going because you were the guy from Limp Bizkit?
Yeah, it was the biggest speedbump.
Did people say that to you directly, or did you just feel that that was what was happening?
I just sensed it. At a lot of meetings, people would say, ”Man, how you gonna do this, and be on tour?” And, ”Wow, you’re so different than I thought.” So I had to go on hiatus [from Limp Bizkit], and be serious and focus.
NEXT PAGE: Durst’s tabloid past with Britney Spears, and the future of Limp Bizkit
What attracted you to the Charlie script in the first place?
How sensitive it was. Tragic. It was so sad.
Were you worried about the setting at all, since it takes place among preppies at college in upstate New York?
No, I loved that. I didn’t go to college, so I got to live vicariously, and imagine what I thought college would be like. So I’d look at the campuses and the quads and go, ”No, this isn’t what I see, man, I see it like this,” and the [location] scout got annoyed, and started freaking out. [Laughs]
How stressful was the directing experience?
With the music, there’s a venting. There’s my alter-ego guy up there, going [in a dark voice], ”Whoa, you gotta turn it on.” And I’m like, ”I don’t feel like it.” And the other guy’s like [dark voice], ”Do it.” And I’d go, ”All right, I’ll do it.” But filmmaking is more about a good vibe. You gotta keep your cool.
So you feel a lot mellower now in your life?
I’m still young at heart, but I’m [feeling] a lot more 36. [Pause] You enjoy the aroma much more, you take the time to sip it a little slower, and appreciate it a little more.
Do you regret some of the stuff from the past? The tabloid stuff, talking about Britney in the press?
That’s just something that happened. People live and learn. You can’t regret it, that’s the thing. You just have to keep moving on. I’m obsessed with growing older.
Do you think Limp Bizkit will get back together?
I don’t know. That’s one of those things…
On MySpace you said you’d like to get all the original guys back.
Wouldn’t that be cool? It’d probably be…insane.
You think you could do it?
Oh, I could always do it. But there comes a time when you’d look silly doing it, with our type of music. And yeah, I can imagine there’s a point where you’re just singing along with words that you just don’t mean anymore.