“How’s your grammar?” Tim Robbins asks behind a copy of The New York Times. I assure him it’s admirable, so he asks me why it’s written and pronounced “a one in a million,” and not the usual an-before-a-vowel “an one in a million.” We agree it’s the exception to the rule, thanks to the “w” sound in “one,” and move on. He folds out the cover of the Rolling Stone Comedy Issue I brought with me, to see who’s on it — people like Letterman, Crystal, and Rock. Pals, I’m sure. But that’s about as light-hearted as this was going to get. Mr. Robbins met with me to promote his new coming-home dramedy The Lucky Ones, a road movie about three soldiers returning from Iraq.
But our country is trapped in a watershed moment. An economy ensnared in an historic downfall, an unprecedented election that is more phenomenon than political race, and of course, that stubborn war. So it was impossible not to press Robbins — a notorious political activist — on this country’s divisive issues. Once he got going, he couldn’t stop. Here’s the acclaimed actor on Republican lies, that shiny new VP candidate, and his soured relationship with John Edwards.
As a staunch opponent of the war, was it strange playing a soldier? Not at all, because I’m very clear on my end, and have been very clear from day one. I never have been opposed to any individual that was there, and I know people conflate this, but I also know who’s doing that. Usually it’s people on the extreme right who are trying to intimidate other people into silence, and they use their mouthpieces on talk radio, and Fox News. Because you were against this war does not mean that you were against the troops. I think a lot of people who were against this war had the best interest of the troops, and realized that their leaders were deceiving them into a situation that was dangerous, and would possibly fail. When you’re going to put people in that circumstance, you better have the facts on your side and you better be right, and I didn’t feel we were right.
Do you think that if Barack Obama gets elected, that he’ll do what he says and put a stop to the conflict over there? I don’t know. That remains to be seen. I know that McCain has said that he could see us being there for another hundred years. So of the choice, I would prefer Obama.
Did you see Jill Greenberg’s photos of McCain with the fangs and bloody mouth? Yeah, I thought that was dumb. It’s just another distraction really. There’s enough already there — if you’re pissed off with Bush — there’s enough already there that we know about, that is grounds for impeachment, or grounds to discredit him. To bring in those kinds of tactics, it kind of distracts, and gets you away from what the real issues are. And I think that’s kind of been the policy of Republicans for years. You know, distract the voters with issues like homosexuality.
Or a shiny new Vice President! Or Sarah Palin! That was the strategy on her, to distract.
And are you amazed that it’s worked so far? I’m amazed that the media took the bait like it did.
Not all the media. Not all of the media. Less so than took the bait on the Iraq war; that’s encouraging. But how many times do you have to be manipulated to you realize that you’re being manipulated?
Did you watch her interview with Charles Gibson? Yeah, I did.
What did you make of it? I thought it shows a person that is wholly inexperienced ,and not ready for this, but I think that was the point. And then we started talking about that, and that will take another two weeks off of the election. So where is this leading, if we do not talk about the issues, and not talk about what is really important?
What’s the most important issue right now? The fact that we’ve had leadership that has led us to a disastrous economy.
Are you kidding? We’ve a good couple of weeks! [laughs] I don’t know what position you’re holding from. I’m fortunate to have money. Have you been to the supermarket lately? I mean, prices are really, really inflating beyond control. If you’re talking about surviving on a subsistence salary, these are hard times. That doesn’t happen through effective leadership; that happens through corruption and greed. The fact that all these guys are walking away with bonuses, after destroying a hundred-and-fifty-year-old institution, and there is no movement towards any prosecution for that? Meanwhile peoples’ pensions are all of a sudden gone, and you’re 58 years old, and all the money you’ve been saving is gone? It’s a crime! And when are we going to talk about it as a crime?
Before the Republicans were in power, they’d say “We would be good for you, Joe Six-pack, you, the common man.” Well guess what, they got the power, and they had the power for six full years in the Congress, in the Senate, in the Presidency, in most of the governor’s mansions. They get the power, and not a goddamn thing changes! They don’t enact any policy that helps out the common man. They don’t help Joe Six-pack survive. In fact, it gets worse for them. So what the fuck is happening? How is that person not aware that they’ve been lied to? Yes, some people did benefit from those six years; billionaires benefited, millionaires benefited. And that was the agenda all along. If you ever want to understand the reality of the situation, follow the money. Who benefited from those six years of Republican rule? The fact that we’re even talking about this as being a close race is evidence of the effectiveness of propaganda on the ground in America.
How frustrated are you to see that it’s even a close election? Well here’s the frustrating thing — when someone lies, why does it have to be represented as, “The Republicans said this. The Democrats response was this.” Not, “Hey, we’re not gonna print that, it’s a lie.” Or “John McCain lied today,” should be the reporting, because they know the fucking truth. Why is there an equality on reporting on a lie, and in order to get an equal story, you have to get the Democrats’ denial of the lie? It’s a non-story. If someone lies, you say, “Dude you’re lying, I’m not going to report that.” If I would tell you right now, a complete lie, would you feel obligated to print it?
No. No I would not. Can you talk about campaigning for John Edwards? It taught me that I should never get involved in a campaign ever again. [Laughs] They’ll always let you down.
So you were let down by his extra-marital shenanigans and lies? Well, of course I was.
So you wouldn’t have campaigned, had you known that prior to doing so. He wouldn’t of been in the running, and if he knew that, he shouldn’t have been in the running.
So you were kind of disgusted by that whole thing? Yeah.
Did you know John Edwards on a personal level? Yeah.
And have you talked to him since? I have not.
Are you satisfied with Obama as the candidate? I would say that given the choice, yes.
Do you think that he should have chosen Hillary as his running mate? You know, everything’s better in retrospective. I don’t know. If that was the case, the Republicans would another thing to distract people. They’re very good at strategic thinking. The fact is, if Obama gets elected, it’s again up to us to set the agenda. People have to advocate for change, and make sure that it happens. Leaders don’t tend to do bold things unless they have to, and that’s been the case throughout history. Slavery didn’t get abolished without a hundred and fifty years of advocacy, people getting arrested, people getting killed, people putting their lives on the line to make a stand against slavery. A woman didn’t get the right to vote without hundreds of years of protest. These things don’t come fast, and they don’t come from the top down, they come from the bottom up.
Are you hopeful for the future, or do you think we’re at the beginning of a long, downward slide? I try to be an optimist. I wonder sometimes. I wonder how secure our future is when we are in a situation like we are, where for some reason this is a close election. I wonder about the common sense of the people.
Or even how Bush was able to get re-elected. Well, I don’t think he was. I don’t think he was elected either time. That’s another fallacy we continue to repeat. There is evidence of corruption in both elections, and I’m sure there will be a certain level of corruption in this election as well.
I read that you’re a Mets fan and a Rangers fan. It’s Game 7 of both championships on the same night. Which one do you go to? I’d have to say Mets. I’ve seen a Game 7 victory in person for both. I saw the Rangers win in against Vancouver in the Garden. I was in Shea when the Mets won it in ’86. And I was there for game five, my eleventh birthday, October 16, 1969. Three rows from the back row in the top level .and that was a beautiful moment. I think I’d have to go Mets.
John Edward Tickets Albany Marriott Tickets Albany Tickets