TOWELHEAD Exclusive Video Interviews

     September 10, 2008




Written by Charlie Mihelich


Last week I attended the “Towelhead” press day at the Beverly Hills Four Seasons Hotel. I was given the opportunity to interview writer/director Alan Ball and stars Aaron Eckhart and Summer Bishil about the film as well as upcoming projects.



“Towelhead” is the story of Jasira(Bishil), a 13 year-old Arab-American girl who is shipped off by her mother (Maria Bello) to live with her father (Peter Macdissi) in a Houston suburb. There, she must cope with her abusive father, her tormenting schoolmates, and her inner struggle to come to terms with her womanhood. In addition to dealing with problems at home and at school, she draws the attention of Mr. Vuoso (Eckhart), the next door neighbor who finds himself fascinated by Jasira.



I really liked the film, but it is an uncomfortable watch. It is graphic (but not exploitative) in a way that most films can’t be, and it doesn’t pass any judgments on the actions taking place onscreen. This might put some people off because our natural instincts are to condemn people like Mr. Vuoso, but you’ll see that the issue is more complicated than that. You’ll probably learn more about teenage girls in this film than any “Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants” could ever teach you, and the hard-R rating is another unfortunate consequence of the MPAA keeping a film from reaching its target audience.



Alan Ball told me about revisiting the film (it was filmed in late 2006) and about adapting the film from the novel. He also talks about how he didn’t realize the film would be so contentious (a lot of Arab-American groups are protesting the use of the word “Towelhead”, even though the film treats it as a derogatory, hateful term), but that he probably should have. He also talks about his upcoming series “True Blood” on HBO (I accidentally said Showtime) and why he likes cable television so much better than network television.







Aaron Eckhart talked about the difficulties in playing a role of this nature. He says that although it was a very different role for him, he felt passionate about the movie and wasn’t afraid of playing such a compromised character. He says that he got some pretty weird looks at the premier, especially at the party after the screening. He talks about “The Dark Knight”, and that he never had any idea it would be as huge as it was. He also talks about “Traveling”, his upcoming romantic comedy with Jennifer Aniston.






Summer Bishil told me she had to go through 8 rounds of auditions for the role. Her only other credit at the time was “Return to Halloweentown”, so this was way outside the box. She says she thinks teenage girls absolutely should see this movie, and that she hopes the rating won’t create too much of a barrier. She’s bothered by the fact that there is such a fuss over the name, because most of it is coming from people who have not seen the film. She believes that “slut”, a word also dealt with in the film, is an equally damaging word but hasn’t garnered nearly the attention the other, racially charged term has received.





Towelhead opens this Friday in limited release.















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