A Writer Gets Grilled By His 18-Year-Old Self In 'Later That Same Life'

作者:未知 来源:美国国家公共电台 2015-11-21


If you could go back in time and talk to your younger self, what would you say? Or if you could ask your older self questions, what would you want to know? For one filmmaker, these are not hypothetical questions.


PETER STONEY EMSHWILLER: I didn't expect you to look like you look. I mean...

I'm old. I'm fat. And, in your mind, I'm a failure.

You're not...

I know that. Why do you think I've been avoiding talking to you for 38 years?

SHAPIRO: That's Peter Stoney Emshwiller at age 18 and at age 56. Back in 1977, he filmed himself asking questions, and now he answers them. The entire project is cut together to look like one seamless interview, and the filmmaker is here to explain how he did this and why.



SHAPIRO: First of all, tell us what went through your head at age 18 when you first sat down to do this.

EMSHWILLER: I was going through what I think a lot of 18-year-olds go through, where you're leaving high school and you're about to start sort of your real life and felt like I want to ask somebody who knows. And, of course, there isn't anybody. But I decided to pretend there was and sit down and talk to a blank wall, asking every question I could think of and responding to every answer I thought I might get back.


EMSHWILLER: Are you a superstar or something like that? I mean, a really big, big time...

This is why I didn't want to do this.

(Laughter) I'm very disappointed.

I don't have to live up to your dreams, OK?

EMSHWILLER: I was sure I was going to be distinguished and gray and have these little beautiful wrinkles. But the idea that, you know, I'd sit down across from my future self and he would be, you know, Jabba the Hutt and look like a mutant beached whale...

SHAPIRO: You're kind of overstating it a little bit here.

EMSHWILLER: Oh, the editing process was horrible because I would be sitting there having to look at myself - I'm at that age and weight where I avoid reflective surfaces as much as possible. So having to sit for hours and look at this footage of myself was torture.

SHAPIRO: Was it just that you are looking yourself today, or was it that you are looking at yourself through the eyes of your 18-year-old self?

EMSHWILLER: That's exactly right. That's exactly right, and it wasn't just of course my appearance, it was that I was facing the disappointment (laughter) and even though it was, you know, 38 years apart and it was artificially created, it felt real.


EMSHWILLER: Are you married?

Very happily married.


She's beautiful - oh, I have pictures. Do you want to see pictures?

Can I meet her sometime, I mean?


Is she nice?

Yeah. You meet her in...

What's she look like?

Oh, my God, she's 12 years old now. Stay away from her.

SHAPIRO: So he was really real in your mind as you were filming this - your 18-year-old self was present and there?

EMSHWILLER: In a way, yes. There was a moment where I got a friend of mine to put a jacket on that looked a little like what I wore back then, and I had a moment where I said to my younger self, everything's going to be OK. Do you want a hug? And I had this friend come over and hug me. And it's completely artificial, you know (laughter), it's not even - the guy doesn't even look like me, he didn't have a beard. But I burst into tears because it felt like I was really hugging 18-year-old me. Why did I think I was really in the room with my 18-year-old self? And it dawned on me, well, 'cause he's still there inside me. He was in the room.

SHAPIRO: You said when you were 18, you needed answers to these questions which is why you sat down in front of the camera that first time.


SHAPIRO: What did you need at age 56 that made you decide to sit down in front of the camera a second time?

EMSHWILLER: Well, there's two reasons I think I did it. One is I needed - I needed him to be OK with how I led his life. But honestly, I might never have decided to go back to this project if I hadn't had a little bit of a health scare. So you've got to do something. I was in the hospital with tubes coming out of me, and I thought, I've got to finish this movie.

SHAPIRO: When you watched that video for the first time in decades, was there something that surprised you?

EMSHWILLER: The biggest thing that surprised me is, back then I had very, very bad self-image. I thought of myself as hideous. I grew a horrible, scruffy beard trying to cover up my acne. And I looked at the footage of myself and I thought, you're adorable. It was eye-opening. (Laughter).

SHAPIRO: And yet, in this footage that you've put together, you're a little bit merciless with each other, which I guess means you're merciless with yourself. Your 18-year-old self of sort of mocks your present-day self and vice versa.


EMSHWILLER: Do you mind if I call you Gramps? Somehow it seems like you're a Gramps over here. (Laughter).

Do you mind if I call you pubic beard?

Part of that comes from a feeling of defensiveness, on both our parts (laughter), but particularly on 56-year-old me's part is like, don't give me too much trouble or I'm going to mess with you.


EMSHWILLER: Want to step outside for minute?

I know a lot about you. You're a virgin.

Hey, wait a...

Yeah, you are. Technically, you are.

SHAPIRO: You know, as you talk about seeking approval from your 18-year-old self, and your 18-year-old self expecting that you would be famous and beautiful and successful and George Clooney, wouldn't it be something if this project of talking with your 18-year-old self ends up bringing you the kind of fame and recognition that your teenaged self always hoped you would have?

EMSHWILLER: (Laughter). It would be very ironic, and it would make me feel like, why didn't I start doing this earlier? Why didn't I do it - I originally planned it that it would be a lifetime project.

SHAPIRO: That's Peter Stoney Emshwiller. His project is called "Later That Same Life."

It's been really great talking with you.

EMSHWILLER: You too. Thanks so much Ari.

SHAPIRO: And Emshwiller has been crowdfunding for money to make a full-length feature. He ended his campaign yesterday after raising more than $33,000 - three times his initial goal.