For me, playwriting is and has always been like making a chair. Your concerns are balance, form, timing, lights, space, music. If you don't have these essentials, you might as well be writing a theoretical essay, not a play.
In real life we don't know what's going to happen next. So how can you be that way on a stage? Being alive to the possibility of not knowing exactly how everything is going to happen next - if you can find places to have that happen onstage, it can resonate with an experience of living.
I feel like I've never had a home, you know? I feel related to the country, to this country, and yet I don't know exactly where I fit in... There's always this kind of nostalgia for a place, a place where you can reckon with yourself.
Democracy's a very fragile thing. You have to take care of democracy. As soon as you stop being responsible to it and allow it to turn into scare tactics, it's no longer democracy, is it? It's something else. It may be an inch away from totalitarianism.
There's no way to escape the fact that we've grown up in a violent culture, we just can't get away from it, it's part of our heritage. I think part of it is that we've always felt somewhat helpless in the face of this vast continent. Helplessness is answered in many ways, but one of them is violence.
Sides are being divided now. It's very obvious. So if you're on the other side of the fence, you're suddenly anti-American. It's breeding fear of being on the wrong side.
On stage, you're not limited at all because you're free in language: language is the source of the imagination. You can travel farther in language than you can in any film.
It's funny, in a way the actor is a writer. It's not like the two things are so separate as to be like apples and oranges. The writer and the actor are one.
There are places where writing is acting and acting is writing. I'm not so interested in the divisions. I'm interested in the way things cross over.
Film acting is really the trick of doing moments. You rarely do a take that lasts more than 20 seconds. You really earn your spurs acting onstage. I needed to do that for myself. I would hate to say at the end of everything that I never did a stage play.
I don't get offered leading parts. I suppose I've become a kind of character actor or sideman. I think it had to do with probably in the '90s, I refused so many leading roles that they gave up on me, or I just became unpopular, or I became old. All those reasons.
The California I knew, old rancho California, is gone. It just doesn't exist, except maybe in little pockets. I lived on the edge of the Mojave Desert, an area that used to be farm country. There were all these fresh-produce stands with avocados and date palms. You could get a dozen artichokes for a buck or something. Totally wiped out now.
To sing a song is quite different than to write a poem. I'm not and never will be a novelist, but to write a novel is not the same thing as writing a play. There is a difference in form, but essentially what you're after is the same thing.
I feel like the writers that I'm drawn to, the writers that I really cling to, are the writers who seem to be writing out of a desperate act. It's like their writing is part of a survival kit. Those are the writers that I just absolutely cherish and carry with me everywhere I go.
My son, Walker, has a band called The Dust Busters. You know, he plays banjo, fiddle, guitar, and mandolin, so a lot of my interest in that kind of music comes from him constantly listening to this stuff. He's taught me the history of it. It's remarkable how these young kids are now turned on to more traditional old-time music.
Writing for theatre is certainly different to writing an essay or any other kind of fiction or prose: it's physical. You're also telling a story, but sometimes the story isn't exactly what you intend; maybe you uncover something you had no idea you were going to uncover.
When I just sit around my house and work, I can work two, three hours, and then I go off and ride a horse or do something that I perceive to be a lot more fun.
I'm a writer. The more I act, the more resistance I have to it. If you accept work in a movie, you accept to be entrapped for a certain part of time, but you know you're getting out. I'm also earning enough to keep my horses, buying some time to write.
Writing for the theatre is so different to writing for anything else. Because what you write is eventually going to be spoken. That's why I think so many really powerful novelists can't write a play - because they don't understand that it's spoken - that it hits the air. They don't get that.
After the falling out with my father, I worked on a couple of ranches - thoroughbred layup farms, actually - out toward Chino, California. That was fine for a little while, but I wanted to get out completely, and twenty miles away wasn't far enough.