Originally, this conversation with Jonathan Rosenbaum was intended to appear in my 2017 book The Cinema of Norman Mailer: Film is Like Death. However, given my word count, etc., I had to omit it so I didn’t exceed my publisher’s requirements for the volume.
JUSTIN BOZUNG: My first question for you is, Why in the hell are you and I the only two people in the world that love this film?
JONATHAN ROSENBAUM: Well, we aren’t quite the only two — there’s also my friend Mark Rappaport, who, like Mailer, is both a filmmaker and a writer. But it’s true, there aren’t many others. And I can’t speak authoritatively about why other people don’t like the film, but I will say that I’ve never been a fan of Mailer’s three previous films. And I use the word “film” deliberately and advisedly, because Tough Guys Don’t Dance is above all a movie; it’s the only thing of his that has some resemblance to Hollywood. And he has a flair for it.
I saw what I believe was one of its first screenings, soon after it was (probably) shown at Telluride, at the Toronto Film Festival. The only time I ever met Mailer was at the press conference there, and I recall saying that it proved he could have made a really interesting film out of his An American Dream novel, which is linked to Tough Guys in several ways. I read that as a serial when it appeared in Esquire in installments, and I’ve always had mixed feelings about it, although I did enjoy some of its cliffhangers. I should also confess that I don’t like the novel of Tough Guys Don’t Dance at all.
Read the rest over on Jonathan Rosenbaum’s official website.