Alt cinema’s king provocateur Gregg Araki sits down with Glee-graduate Jacob Artist, lead man in Araki’s White Bird in a Blizzard
White cotton sweatshirt by Shaun Samson, black cotton chinos by Robert Gellar, black leather boots by Dr Martens, black nylon lanyard by Shaun Samson, vintage watch by Rolex, black and grey striped cotton socks and silver chain stylist’s own.
Alt. cinema’s king provocateur Gregg Araki sits down with Glee-graduate Jacob Artist – the leading man in his the director’s first film in four years, White Bird In A Blizzard.
The actor Jacob Artist is waiting for director Gregg Araki at a coffee shop in Hollywood, when a man in a white leather riding suit parks his matching Japanese motorbike within spitting distance of the table. When his white helmet is removed, Artist realizes that it wasn’t Araki after all. But it could have been. Such is the weirdness of Araki, who built a reputation as one of the most outré auteurs this side of John Waters with films like Doom Generation, Nowhere, Mysterious Skin, and 2010’s Kaboom.
Artist, who achieved his own fame as the roguish Jake Puckerman on Glee, is in Araki’s latest, White Bird in a Blizzard. In the forthcoming film, Shailene Woodley plays Kat Connor, a teen girl whose mother mysteriously disappears. Artist, a classic male specimen of the Araki pedigree— chiseled, sexy—enters her life as she reaches an important juncture. “I come in about halfway through,” Artist says. “I’m Shailene’s college boyfriend.”
When Araki finally arrives in an American Eagle t-shirt, looking as slouchy as the biker looked sleek, Artist admits his gaffe. “I thought that was you on that bike,” Artist says. “It might still be,” says Araki, in his inimitable wry sarcasm that he tempers with laughter to let you know he’s joking. When they settle in, the two discuss fame, sex scenes, and the enigma that is Shailene Woodley.
ARTIST: I really want to see the movie. When are we going to see it?
ARAKI: I think it’s coming out in September. The distribution deal is done, but it’s not officially signed, so we can’t talk about it.
ARTIST: It’s a shame that Shai [Woodley] can’t get work for the life of her.
ARAKI: She faded off into obscurity. She did White Bird… and then just disappeared.
ARTIST: Poor girl. [Laughs.]
ARAKI: I’m really happy for her. We cast her, and we were putting the movie together, and then she got [a part in supernatural thriller], Divergent. She’s a free spirit. She doesn’t have a cellphone. She’s this hippie, living off the grid, eating berries that she picks in the wild. I hope that things don’t get too crazy for her. I could see it happening already at Sundance [where we screened White Bird…]. We were doing our press, and people were chasing her around. I told her this the first time I met her: she reminds me a lot of Joe Gordon- Levitt. Just like Joe, she has really great parents, so her feet are on the ground. It’s just going to suck for her if she can’t go to a coffee shop like those Twilight kids. All of them are so fucked up.
ARTIST: I was thinking about this the other day. People see me on Glee, and I’m playing a character, and they think that that’s me. They don’t actually know what I’m like. They’re so excited, and you fulfill this thing for them that isn’t really you.
ARAKI: I used to go out with someone who was on a TV show. There’s something about TV—you really feel like [TV actors] are your friends, because you see them every week. So there’s a lack of distance; [fans] will just come up and touch you. If you’re in movies, you’re a little more removed. With Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, you’re like, ‘Oh my god, they’re over there.’ You don’t touch them. The worst place is Magic Mountain. You just get attacked. Have you been to an amusement park since you were on Glee?
ARTIST: I have. It was fine. I rode the rides and did my thing. I was lucky. I heard White Bird… was your most “normal” movie.
ARAKI: This movie appealed to me, because it reminded me of American Beauty or The Ice Storm. It’s about suburbia, and it’s mysterious. Of all my movies, it’s the most similar to Mysterious Skin. That’s my most conventional movie. It’s the same tone—it’s very dramatic and serious—so it’s not wacky and wild like Doom Generation, but it’s still sexual. [In White Bird…], Shailene’s mum disappears at the same time she’s having a sexual coming of age. Shai’s topless a couple of times in the movie. People at Sundance were like, ‘Oh my god. I can’t believe it.’ It’s not that big of a deal. It’s not like Nymphomaniac. It goes to show you how puritanical the world is still.
ARTIST: How much did you change from the book to the film?
ARAKI: The author of the book was at the screening in Sundance. It was the first time I’d ever met her. She was crying. It was cool to me that she appreciated it, because I did change quite a bit of it. The book takes place in Ohio in the early 80s, and I changed it to San Bernardino County, California in the late-80s. I just wanted it to be a California suburb. The biggest change is the ending is not in the book. I won’t give away the ending. It was a pretty major change, but it really worked. It’s not like Doom Generation where somebody gets their dick cut off, but something happens at the end. You weren’t even born when Doom Generation came out. What year were you born?
ARTIST: 1992. I was alive. My parents had me watch it in the crib. [Laughs.]
ARAKI: I was seeing someone when Doom Generation came out, and her parents wanted to see it. I told her, “Don’t let them see it.” They did anyway. They went to the video store to rent it and it was in a brown paper bag, not on the shelf. It was behind the counter. They freaked out, and they were like, “I think that guy’s a serial killer.” What do you think your parents are going to think of White Bird…?
ARTIST: I’m sure they’ll love it. They’re back in Buffalo. I want to open their mind up to indie films. I think it’ll be interesting for them to see something that has a little bit more depth to it.
ARAKI: Did you know that when we were doing a sex scene for White Bird…, Shai’s grandmother came to the set? I’m all, ‘Is that your grandmother?’ She’s like, ‘Yeah, my grandmother’s super cool.’ Her grandmother and her little brother came that day. Have you ever done a sex scene?
ARTIST:I have not. I’ve never done a sex scene before.
ARAKI: What?! That’s a crime against humanity. Note to Jacob’s agent: he needs a sex scene. Not just a sex tape. [Laughs].
White cotton t-shirt by Shaun Samson, navy cotton trousers by Etudes, shoes by Customised Platform, vans for Shaun Samson, pink, blue and white lanyard by Shaun Samson and tan leather bracelet by Hermes.
Words Maxwell Williams
Photographer Hiroshi Clark
Fashion Editor Shaun Samson
Grooming Cherin Choi
Grooming Assistance Jessica Quezada
Fashion Assistance Patrick Rammelkamp and Lulu Chang