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4.8 Coffee and Cigarettes

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#1 twitch


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Posted 06 January 2005 - 09:00 PM

Cult film director, Jim Jarmusch cast the brother and sister duo in one of his movie miniatures. The entire collection of vignettes has been released on DVD. It's a very interesting film and worth checking out if you get the chance.

The film debuted on September 8 at the Toronto International Film Festival and sees Jack and Meg smoking cigarettes and drinking coffee in a cafe. Jack shows Meg a strange machine that he has built, but it blows up. Armed with a handy tool, Meg fixes the machine and an overjoyed Jack leaves the cafe with the machine in tow in a little red wagon."

Jack: "He asked us to be in a short film called Coffee and Cigarettes. He's done one with Iggy Pop, Tom Waits and GZA and RZA of the Wu-Tang Clan. He wanted me and Meg to appear in a five minute film in which we talk to each other."

Jack White: We played a free live show in Union Square, and we saw him [director Jim Jarmusch] out in the audience. We met that day and became fast friends.We started talking with him, and he asked us if we wanted to do one of these little shorts of his. He was actually wearing little shorts at the time. The film was a different take on it[their personalities] for sure, because we sat down and said, "This is the script, this is what we're going to do, how do you say these words as good as possible?" You know, as we walk out to go on stage we're not contriving things, like 'We're going to do this and this and this." We never really rehearse; we just do it in the moment. We just do the first thing that comes into our heads. I think our characters were a funny take on any two people - the way that she's listening to me go on and on when she really knows about it anyway, she's just listening to me talk. I think anyone could relate to that. I think anything with Jim is probably pretty easy. He's good at the funniest things too. I remember he said, we need a lot of shooting like this, then we can move this over here and move that over there, and Jim said, "Well, I don't know how to do that." And he wasn't joking. It was so nice to hear someone say "I don't know how to do that" out loud. It was mostly Jim's script and there were a couple things we added in. We met and then we began talking about Tesla, and then he came up with the idea. At that point, he didn't really know what he was going to do with all these short films. He just said, "I'm doing these if you want to do one. I really like his use of silence and empty space. It's just as powerful as dialogue, at times. Orson Wilson said something interesting once about when you watch a film, you should be able to watch it with the sound turned completely off, and still recognize the relationships between people. I think his silence is really powerful. A lot of times in Hollywood films, it's really difficult for people to get away with all that dead air. You can't get away with that dead air in radio or in music and he's getting away with it. It shows people how important that is, just to see people sitting there. In the beginning of our segment, there are twenty seconds of nothing being said, and that's my favorite part.

Jack: It was nice. Meg was so good. She was really really really good. I didn't realize till that point, then I started seeing other things like the video for Dead Leaves And The Dirty Ground afterwards. I was looking at Meg and I realized how good she was in that video. I didn't really realize that before. Meg: Thank you Jack! Jack: I think you're a really really good actress. Meg: Thank you. Jack: I guess we learn these things as we go along. Meg: I had fun doing it, yeah. It was very laid back. Being with Jim I knew it would probably be laid back. You know he's not gonna be an ass behind the camera. He's a really good person. But it was easier than I thought it was gonna be, even though we were playing ourselves. We still had to memorize stuff.

Regarding the science theme of their part:
Jack: I really, really love science. I read a lot about it. It's one of those subjects I would actually like to go back and take classes about, because it's one of the few things in high school I liked. What's interesting is that eBay has become the new drugstore. There was this article that said that chemistry sets in the 1800s contained elements that could blow your house up. It's amazing that boys grew up to become scientists without killing themselves. And now you can't get a lot of elements, especially after 9/11. You can't buy aluminum shavings at the drugstore, but people are selling them online. The internet is the new chemistry set. He really likes space. He kept telling us to slow down and give things space. Oh, and he told me to shut up a lot and let Meg talk.
Meg: Yeah, that was part of it.
Meg: [musingly] The chemistry teacher in high school probably had to rework his whole plan after 9/11. They used to blow everything up in that class.

Jack: I am a huge fan [of Tesla]. That's what motivated Jim to write that script; he had this Tesla book on his desk and we wanted him to direct this video for us for our next album where I played Tesla and I battled Thomas Edison with our inventions. In real life, Edison electrocuted an elephant through Tesla's alternating current theory. That was going to be part of the video, but it got too expensive, renting an elephant and everything. Jack: I wanted to build one since I was a little kid. When we first met Jim, he had a book about Tesla on his desk, and I started saying how much of an admirer of Tesla's I was. We started talking, and we were eventually going to make a video for our last album in which I was going to play Tesla. We were going to reenact Edison's electrocution of an elephant that he did to disprove Tesla's theory, and I was going to turn Edison's head into an incandescent light pulp at the end to pay him back for his murder of the elephant. It didn't work out because it got too expensive. The next thing, Jim came over and said he had a script for a short film about a Tesla coil. I was so excited about it, because we wanted to do something creative with Jim, and also, to bring people some more knowledge of someone who is really underrated and misunderstood.

Jack: He's [Tesla] extremely important because he was robbed of the fact that he invented radio, and Marconi gets all the credit for it. His ideas could be used today to provide everybody with wireless electricity that we wouldn't have to pay for. Those two alone are extremely important. Just to know him as the genius that he was. After that big power outage that we just had, no one talks about it, but the only power plant that didn't go down was the one in Niagara Falls that he designed and constructed. There's something interesting about that. You can go through a list of inventions that nobody knows that he invented, like the fluorescent light, radio remote control, and the alternating current motor. It just goes on and on. He's just so much more important than Edison, I think, he was a true genius, and Edison had a lot of really good inventors working for him and he was taking their ideas.

Jack: We've always respected Jim so much, we didn't know how much we wanted to come up with our own dialogue. Some of it was, but Jim wrote most of it, based on a conversation we had about Tesla. It was when we met him at his office. He had a book about Tesla sitting on his shelf. I asked if he liked Tesla, he said yeah. Meg: We were watching some of his other cuts for C&C, that's why we were in there. Jack: But we were going to do a video for 'There's No Home For You Here' with him, based on Tesla and Edison. I was gonna play Tesla, and maybe get Philip Seymour Hoffman to play Edison. Edison, in real life, electrocuted an elephant to try and show that Tesla's alternating current theories were dangerous - which they weren't. It's the alternating current that we use today. But Edison electrocuted an elephant to prove it, and there's footage of that, you can see that footage. We were gonna re-enact that, and pretend to electrocute an elephant, and Meg was gonna be dragged away for the elephant. I was gonna play Tesla, and in response to him killing an elephant, we were gonna have him write AC on the elephant in red paint. I was gonna have this big death ray that I'd invented, and have a big fight in the laboratory and kill Edison and turn his head into a light bulb with this invention, and paint DC on his body. Meg: The budget got a little high. Jacj: Jim came back and said, Jack, it's gonna cost about half a million dollars! And they couldn't get the budget down, so C&C was the thing we did afterwards, that's what our Tesla thing became.

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