"God Bless America" stars Tara Lynne Barr (above) and Joel Murray as an unlikely duo on a cross-country killing spree.
Goldthwait first gained fame in the mid '80s as a shrieking weirdo stand-up comedian making appearances in a number of films, most notably, a couple of "Police Academy" movies. But in 1991, he wrote, directed and starred in "Shakes the Clown," a bizzaro film about an alcoholic clown framed for his bosses murder. The film was a cult hit that sent Goldthwait's career in an new direction.
Goldthwait's new film follows Frank (Joel Murray), a man who's been diagnosed with inoperable brain cancer, as he goes on a cross-country killing spree with his teen protégé, Roxy (Tara Lynne Barr), by his side.
Frank's first target is a fictional version of the notorious girl who became the star of a viral video a few years ago when she threw a temper tantrum because her daddy bought her the wrong color car. And from there, our heroes don't suffer any shortage of victims, despite Frank's vow that he only wants to "kill people who deserve to die." The film is murder spree as social critique, in the tradition of "Natural Born Killers" and "Falling Down." Ask Goldthwait how long this rage has been brewing, and he can’t quite pinpoint a moment in time.
"There wasn't like one thing where I went, 'What happened to us?' It's just a combination of things…I've at least felt that way for 10 or 15 years, probably. It just seems, as Frank says, that we really do reward the loudest and the meanest," says Goldthwait, who possesses enough self-awareness to preemptively deflect accusations of hypocrisy. "Which is kinda funny coming from a guy who made his living screaming and saying nasty things. But I think I kind of went through a bit of a metamorphosis myself and kind of said, you know what? I'm not just going to bash people for no reason."
Asked if it's possible that maybe the world is a better place than it was a decade or so ago, the old man stops shaking his fist long enough to relent, but only briefly.
"There are things that are better. But the problem is that the things that get all of the focus are the negative things, you know? Like, back to the movie, [Frank says] a shocking comment has more weight than the truth. And violent crime is down, but if you make a steady diet of news and stuff you're just gonna think it's getting worse and worse."
Bit Goldthwait then pivots quickly to clarify something about the film that he's afraid might be misconstrued.
"I don’t know if I'm as mad—the movie's not really me being mad at the media. I really don’t like movies and things that attack the media, because both the left and the right always attack the media. Hopefully the movie's about trying to question our appetite for all these nasty distractions."
Goldthwiat's previous film, "World's Greatest Dad," starred Robin Williams as a man who in the wake of his son's suicide, publishes the boy's writing as his own and becomes a minor celebrity. Asked if unearned adulation is an issue he's struggled with, Goldthwait realizes that it actually goes back two decades, to his first feature.
"Even back in 'Shakes the Clown,' one clown is mad because another clown got the local kiddie show hosting job, and says, 'That guy's not funny. He never made me laugh.' I don’t know why that's a theme, I mean it's obviously something I used to wrestle with. I understand (celebrity's) not really a prize anymore, I understand that being fulfilled is a lot better than being famous. Yeah—it's probably time for me to drop that bone. Might be time for grandpa to get a new theme. It's kinda funny though, you're right on picking up that as a theme, but I could've easily set that in the world of politics or even in ice cream truck vending—who gets rewarded and who's honest and who's sincere.
In a quick speed round, Goldthwait then gave us knee-jerk reactions some others he targets in the film:
Michael Jackson defenders – "Pathetic. I have a real problem with the inability to figure out, to separate the artist from what's morally wrong about them."
Westboro Baptists – "I find them as shameless as people like Paris Hilton. Westboro Baptists don’t care about the teachings of Christ, they use the bible the way Kim Kardashian uses her a**."
William Hung – "Fascinating, cuz when I worked with him on the Kimmel Show, he was actually a little difficult. I guess he kinda inspired the movie a little bit. I was like, wow, show business is amazing—he's being prickly about what he will and will not do."
The cast of "The Jersey Shore" – "You know, I was gonna kill them in the movie, I really just ran out of money. I would've figured out some way, there would've been a bad case of Axe cologne that would've exploded or something or a poisonous case of Axe cologne."
TMZ – "I actually really think they're really the worst. For some reason.. if they didn't have video cameras they would be stalkers—it's really strange that's what makes it legal for them."
Woody Allen – "Genius filmmaker, extremely flawed man."
God Bless America opens in limited release on May 11