Press: Bob, you've directed a film yourself, Renaldo & Clara, and you're not very well known for singing or speaking other people's words. Why did you decide to commit to this film?
Dylan: Oh, it's just the right time, right place, right words.
questions to the Marquand, Fiona, Everett
Norman: I'm Philip Norman from the Sunday Times and I'd like to know why one of the biggest poets and musicians of this century feels he has to play someone who's a retired star. Why isn't he a performing star, as he is, such a great star? Why is he bothering?
Dylan: Well, it's just a movie ...
Norman: Why aren't you writing poetry? Why aren't you doing the things you're really great at?
Dylan: Well, I do! I'm just taking some time off here.
Norman: Does that mean you're relaxing?
Norman: So you're not going to be trying?
Dylan: Oh no, no, I'm gonna be trying very much.
Press: Bob Dylan's written four songs for this movie. Can he tell us anything about those, please?
Dylan: Well, I haven't written those songs just *yet*. (laughter)
Press: Well, they tell us that you have.
Dylan: I'm about to ... (laughter)
Press: What are they going to be about?
Dylan: They're gonna be about the movie.
Press: Are they going to be protest songs?
Dylan: I hope so, yeah, (laughter) if Richard allows them to be.
Press: Protesting about what?
Dylan: Protesting about the elements in the movie. You have to see the movie.
Norman: You seem very uncertain, Mr. Dylan. Do you know a great deal about this movie yet?
Fiona: It's ten thirty in the morning!
Dylan: I know enough about the movie. I didn't *write* the movie though. A lot of the questions you maybe want to ask the writer.
Norman: Nobody's interested in anybody but you.
Norman: Nobody's interested in anybody but you, in this hall.
Dylan: (slightly disgusted) Aah ...
questions to Everett and Marquand
Press: I'm from the Guardian. Can I ask Bob Dylan, if he says it's the right place as well as being the right time, is that place England? What do you think of England since you were last here? Do you like England?
Dylan: Oh, yeah, I love England.
Press: What are your thoughts on this country at the moment?
Dylan: Well, I just got here yesterday, haven't been sleeping since then.
Press: Are you looking forward to working here?
Press: You took your name from Dylan Thomas. Have you ever been back to Wales? I see you're going back there now. Are you still interested in Dylan Thomas?
Dylan: Oh, yeah.
Press: Will you be making a trip back to his village, to where he was born and wrote?
Marquand whispers to Dylan: "We're gonna be very close"
Dylan: We're gonna be *very* close. (with a loud laugh)
Press: How were you persuaded to do this film with Mr Marquand? What sort of bargaining chips did he use?
Dylan: I don't have any bargaining chips.
Press: But why did *this* film stand out as opposed to any other?
Dylan: Well, you know, I'm not really doing nothing right now. Seemed like a good thing to do.
Press: What about you Richard, how hard did you persuade him?
Marquand: I don't think I really persuaded you Bob, did I?
Dylan: I don't think so.
Marquand: I heard that he was interested and we turned up at the house and we had an afternoon together and we seemed to like each other. (to Dylan:) Did you like me?
Dylan: Did I like you? Yeah, you drank a lot.
Press: In the words of Billy Parker: "You wake up, you're a *star*! But there ain't nothing *to* you no more. You're empty". Is that a sentiment that you would agree with?
Dylan: Some stars are like that, yeah.
Press: Are you?
Dylan: (with emphasis) No, I'm not like that, but I'm playing another character who *is* like that. I'm getting into my character right now! (laughter, applause)
Press: Can you tell us what it is you find fascinating about this character?
Dylan: Well, he's a very self-made person. Nobody ever gave him anything. He had to take it all.
Norman: Why didn't you write the script yourself?
Dylan: I couldn't have written a script like this. It's beyond me.
Norman: I don't think it is.
Norman: Why are you so modest?
Dylan: (laughs more)
Norman: Why are you pretending to be inadequate? You're one of the great writers of this age.
Dylan: Well, thank you. thank you!
Norman: Why don't you write a script yourself?
Dylan: I don't know. I'm just trying something different right now, you know.
questions to Fiona & to Marquand about financing and distribution
Press: Could I ask Bob, are they going to give you any time off when they're doing the film, so you could sneak off and play, and if you're not, when are we going to see you play next?
Dylan: I don't know.
Press: When are we going to see you play next?
Dylan: We've just finished a tour, so maybe sometime in a couple of years.
Press: What are your plans after this film, Bob?
Dylan: Oh, maybe just driftin' around. Then I maybe touring again.
Norman: Are you easily bored, Mr. Dylan?
Dylan: (sharply) I'm never bored!!
Norman: Have you any notion of how bored you're gonna be doing this picture?
Dylan: Well ... (disgusted) maybe you'll be around. (laughter)
Press: This film is about stardom and how to handle stardom. Will you be drawing on your own experience on how to handle it? ...inaudible ...
Dylan: No, not really, you know. I don't consider myself a big star, other people do.
Press: You are a poet and a singer and you are taking up the role of an actor, which is ...inaudible... very different. How are you gonna handle that?
Dylan: Ah, I find some some way.
Dylan: I'll figure it out.
Norman: Can I ask why you want to be an actor?
Dylan: I just want to see what it's like.
Norman: But you've seen what it's like before.
Dylan: (laughs) I wanna see it again!!
Norman: It obviously sickened you. It obviously put you off, because you haven't done it for ten or twelve years.
Dylan: Well, we'll see.
Press: Is this the first time that you have to follow a script?
Dylan: No, I think I had to do it once before.
Press: A big thing in America in the music ...inaudible... How does this go along with the Bob Dylan protest songs of the sixties that you're apparently gonna be writing and singing in this film?
Dylan: I don't know.
Press: You feel good about America at the moment?
Dylan: I've always felt good about America! America's big you know, there's all kinds of different parts to it, you know.
Press: The parts that you used to write about, you felt very bitter about, very contempt .... and you were very funny about it. Why aren't you funny about Ronald Reagan?
Dylan: Well, I mean, what's so funny about that? (laughter)
Press: It's terrible joke on the world!
Dylan: (tired) Aaah, it's all a joke!
Dylan: Well, I don't know. The sixties are gone you know.
Press: Do you regret the ...inaudible... of legends that surrounds you?
Press: But you give that impression.
Dylan: Well, you know, impressions can be misleading.
Press: Have you lost your enthusiasm?
Dylan: For what?
Press: For life and for writing.
Dylan: (disgusted) Naaahhh.
Press: Mr. Dylan, you've talked today about doing this picture because it's different you've said. You, in the past, have been in charge of your own destiny as an artist. But recently you've seemed to have collaborated with Sam Shepard to write an epic song. Here you're going to collaborate with others to make a movie. Does this mean that you're changing your artistic career and that you're now going to do more things that involves collaborating with others or being involved in other people's projects, rather than simply doing your own work?
Dylan: It's not so much other people's projects as finding somebody to work on the same project *with*.
Press: How did the project with Sam Shepard evolve?
Dylan: I don't know, we wrote a bunch of things a few years ago and ...
Press: If you were rewriting The Times They Are A-Changin' now, if you were writing it now, how would you write it different? Or would you?
Dylan: No, it would be the same.
Press: Would you say the eighties are same as the sixties or is there something different to protest now?
Dylan: Well, you know, if somethings good, it transcends that, whatever generation or date, that you write it.
questions to Fiona, Everett & Marquand
Press: Bob Dylan, a lot of musicians have made entirely successful attempts to cross over into films. What impressions have you got from ...inaudible... Mick Jagger and David Bowie.
Dylan: I like them all in films and Chris, I don't know ...
Press: Have you studied their attempts? Tried to learn from ... [interrupted]
Press: Do you watch many films?
Dylan: I don't remember the last film I saw. Must have been great, I don't know ...
Press: ...inaudible... bought all the albums and now they're forty. Have you got anything to say to them?
Dylan: Just keep buying them! (laughter)
Press: What are you reading at present?
Dylan: I was reading a biography of Ulysses S. Grant.
Press: He used to get very drunk I believe.
Dylan: Who did?
Press: Ulysses S. Grant.
Dylan: Yeah, well I haven't got to that part yet (laughter)
Press: ...inaudible... interesting to you? A drunken civil war general from the Northern side. I thought you sympathized with the South.
Dylan: Ahhh. I thought he was OK.
Press: ...inaudible... you did the last tour with Petty for the money. Can we take that to be a new philosophy of yours?
Dylan: I'm always doing tours for the money! What's so new about that?
Bauldie: Bob, I was watching The Maltese Falcon recently, and it was full of lines that sounded as though you could have written them. Do you recall watching that film before you wrote the Empire Burlesque songs?
Dylan: Which film?
Bauldie: The Maltese Falcon.
Dylan: I might have seen it. Were there lines from it in there?
Bauldie: Lots of them.
Dylan: Were there really?
Bauldie: Yes, Is it one of your favorite films, that?
Dylan: I don't remember. Which lines were they?
Bauldie: Do you want a list?
interrupted by questions about shooting of the concert scenes
Press: Are you deliberately elusive with the press or just shy?
Dylan: (mumbles) I don't know.
Press: Can I just ask, are the Heartbreakers gonna be in the movie and are you gonna tour with the Heartbreakers again?
Dylan: I don't think they're in this movie.
Press: Are you going to tour with them again?
questions to the others
Press: What are your impression of the British press? (laughter)
Dylan: The press is the same all over the world.
At the National Film Theatre in London August 17, 1986.
Sources: Hearts Of Fire: The Press Conference - article by John Bauldie in The Telegraph #25. Tape from the press conference.
Note: The largest part of the interview above is transcribed from the tape and as on most press conference tapes, the questions are often very hard to hear. Suggestions for the ...inaudible... parts would therefore be most appreciated.