SLC PUNK (1999): INTERVIEW WITH JAMES MERENDINO
Film director James Merendino was born in Rome, Italy in 1967, from parents who were both natives of that country. His family relocated to the United States when he was six years old, and took residence in New York City and later Salt Lake City. He attended the University of Rome, majoring in philosophy, and graduated in 1987. Since then he has worked as a film director and screenwriter in both the U.S. and Italy. The interview below was conducted for Philosophical Films by James Fieser in April 2004. At the time of the interview, Merendino had directed the following films: Witchcraft IV (1992), Hard Drive (1994), The Upstairs Neighbor(1994), Terrified (1996), Livers Ain’t Cheap (1997), A River Made to Drown In (1997), Alexandria Hotel (1998), SLC Punk! (1999), Magicians (2000), Amerikana (2004), Trespassing (2004), The Swedish Job (canceled), Ashes (in production).
James Merendino was interviewed on April 9, 2004 by James Fieser of Philosophical Films (www.philfilms.utm.edu).
Q.: What is your background in philosophy?
Merendino: I studied philosophy and theology at the University of Rome. My major was philosophy, my minor was theology.
Q.: How did you get through a program there in Italian?
Merendino: My mother and father were both Italian, but they didn’t speak it to me. For the first six months in Rome an Italian friend of mine – a girl that I knew all summer – sat next to me in my classes and interpreted for about three months. By then I could speak it fluently.
Q.: Did you get to know your philosophy professors well?
Merendino: I knew them all pretty well. A couple of them I socialized with. One professor was Greek and I used to stay at her place in Greece. In Italy, things are very informal. If you live in Rome and you have classes, everybody goes out at night. You eat dinner and you stay up until about 1:00 before going home, and you see everybody in the streets, and so you see your professors and hang out with them. Everybody hangs out with everybody. It’s very alive. Class is over but come midnight – or if it’s a weekend come 2:30 in the morning – you’re still arguing with your professors.
Q.: Who were your favorite philosophers when you were in college?
Merendino: I liked Heidegger. I never really liked Aristotle because I thought he was elitist; I preferred Plato. I like Marcus Aurelius because I studied so much Italian history. I don’t know how much insight he had, but I like that he was an emperor and a noted philosopher. I also go toward the Catholic thinkers. I like Assisi, not that he was a philosopher, but he does qualify as a theologian. I like Anselm, and sometimes Aquinas even though he’s a little rigid. I liked the story about him and the little boy who was digging a hole. Aquinas said what are you doing? The boy said that he was taking all the water in the ocean and putting it into the little hole. Aquinas said, but that’s impossible, the hole is so small and the ocean is so big. The boy said, well look at you, you’re trying to understand the trinity with a finite mind.
Q.: Did you do any graduate work in philosophy?
Merendino: No, I came right out and started making movies. In Italy, if you become an academic, you stay in academics. It’s not like in America. You don’t just go for your masters; that’s what you do.
Q.: Did you have any inclination about going on to graduate school and being a professor?
Merendino: No, I took all those classes and majored in philosophy specifically to be a director. I was accepted on a half-scholarship to Yale’s philosophy department, but my dad wouldn’t pay for the other half, so I said well I’ll go to the University of Rome; what can I lose? I did it, though, because I didn’t want to study film. I tried to see every film ever made. I made some of little independent movies. I’d read every film criticism book that you could read. I didn’t want to take literature, because I was already into that. Then I said I really wanted to make original movies; how can I approach it? They say there are only six themes that one can discuss in a plot, and I thought that was nonsense. So I thought, why not dive into the thing that people are driven by in this world? Economics is what they are really driven by, but people feel that they are driven by religion and philosophy. If I could understand the different ideas in philosophy and theology, then I could bring other themes to discuss. There wouldn’t be just those basic six Greek themes that people talk about. So that’s the only reason why I have those degrees.
PHILOSOPHY AND FILM
Q.: Did your background in philosophy serve you well as a director?
Merendino: Yes, some people here in town call me the guy with the new angle. I always have a new take on a story because I grabbed it from the philosophical arena. Other directors just seem to be making videos, and I didn’t think that would serve me. That’s the easy part. If you’re making art, you are espousing a philosophy. If you’re telling a story, you certainly are. You would be shocked at the number of directors or writers that you talk to if you ask them what their movie’s about on just the basic thematic level; they can’t tell you.
Q.: You’re kidding.
Merendino: No, I can tell them what their movie’s about, but they have no idea. Not even David Fincher who did “Seven”; he thought it would be cool. He’s talented so the movie’s good. But I want to know what I’m talking about. I want to know what I’m saying.
Q.: As a director, perhaps Fincher probably didn’t have to know all the nuances.
Merendino: a director has to know. Steven Spielberg knows, but he’s just corny sometimes. The film is the director’s all the way. That’s why I turned down so many.
Q.: There are almost no films about famous philosophers from the past. Do you think that a serious film company like Miramax would consider doing a biographical movie about someone like David Hume?
Merendino: Miramax wouldn’t make that film. They would say it would cost too much and the hero is not likable. They would say, why this guy? Just because he challenged the existence of God? Things like that you’ve got to slip into movies. And who wants to see a movie about philosophers anyway. They refuse to make a movie about Aristotle, who everybody knows. The reason is that even highbrow studios like Miramax think that a story about a dead philosopher is too dry and intellectual.
Q.: How then do you work philosophy into film?
Merendino: A film is about its philosophy, or espouses a philosophy in a subtle way. The story is simple, but the philosophy complex, if the movie is good. Look at Rashomon. It’s a simple story about a murder witnessed by three points of view. The philosophical issue tackled is what is truth, perception, or the collective perception. It’s never said like that in the film. The audience is meant to receive this point emotionally. So if you make a film about philosophy, you make a movie about a movie, or a theme about a theme, or make a point about a point.
Q.: What sort of historical person would work well in a philosophically-oriented film as you’ve described it?
Merendino: There’s an 18th century Sicilian named Cagliostro, a Nostrodamus type of character, who, like them, was a con artist and magician. He said he came from a secret City in Africa and had a potion of youth. He also claimed that he was three thousand years old and knew Jesus. He knew some magic tricks so everybody believed him. He was invited to every noble house in Europe, until he was found out. He hanged himself in jail and his girlfriend became a monk. Cagliostro played with truth, and thus, threw truth into question. When he was believed to be who he said he was, this was a social truth. But it wasn’t empirical, and so he was found out and died for it.
Q.: Do you have any favorite philosophically-oriented films?
Merendino: Yes, “2001 a Space Odyssey.” To me it is one of the greatest cinematic expressions of philosophy, without really talking about anything or answering anything. It was just perfect. I know Kubrick’s daughter, and I used to know him. He’s a brilliant director and that’s his best movie.
Q.: What about films like “The Seventh Seal” and “Waking Life”?
Merendino: I like “Waking Life,” but I like “The Seventh Seal” better. Bergman is a funny character. I’ve been in Sweden several times and met him. He just thinks he’s telling normal stories, psychological emotional stories. He doesn’t really see the philosophy inside them, and he just presumes that we live in an empty meaningless world. Many Swedes feel that way. That’s just his culture; that’s not so much him making a point. Maybe it’s because it’s so cold up there. I mean, it’s pretty depressing in Sweden. Either there’s too much sunlight, or not enough, but it drives you crazy. Whereas in Italy, Fellini is always absorbing everything and is open to anything. If you ever knew real Italians, and the way they talk about the possibilities of God or their points of philosophy, it’s very laid back. If you live in a city where everything has happened, it’s easy to see that there’s so much we don’t know.
Q.: Do you like “My Dinner with Andre”?
Merendino: It’s not a story, and I need a story. It was just some guys hanging out. That’s fine, but I could hang out with really interesting people, film them, and it would blow these guys away. It was an OK conversation, but I’ve been involved in better.
Q.: Writers on film often over-analyze the structure of a movie. Have you run into that with any of your films?
Merendino: Yes, I will only state one with “SLC Punk.” In the narrative structure of the film itself, it seems to start without direction, or in a chaotic fashion. Gradually, however, the film becomes more of a traditional narrative. The reason is obvious. However, one might ask whether the empirical truth about Stevo’s vocation implied in the chaos of the beginning of the film, exposed through a series of literary Freudian slips, or is Stevo Simply lying about his past to get to where he is in the present? One must assume that the story Stevo is telling is past tense. He, the narrator, has already been through the change. So the Narrator is not Stevo as we see him, but the Id Stevo. One might ask: does he use memory to make his point, or is he just recalling for no reason? And then if that is true, why does Stevo say in his narration, “If The guy I am now, met the guy I was then, He’d beat the shit out of me.” Answer: Stevo is lying, not because the things in the movie didn’t happen, but he presents the events as if they are present, when in fact the whole movie is past tense for Stevo, and so an illusion. Stevo is already changed from the moment he narrates at the beginning of the film. I know its silly, but, these are the kinds of arguments I get into at universities when I lecture.
Q.: How did you get to direct your first film, “Witchcraft IV”?
Merendino: I had nothing, I was a kid, and I just graduated. I came back to L.A. and got a job working for about three months with a producer. I then met some people who were making “Witchcraft IV” and I convinced them that I should be the director. I don’t know how it worked out. I had done a short movie in Italy, and they said sure, and they gave me around $1,000 to direct “Witchcraft IV.” I had about two days to prepare. It’s the worst movie ever made. Hard Drive is similar. I was 21 when I did that, and I’m the youngest person I know who ever directed a feature film.
Q.: Are your early films still available?
Merendino: “River Made to Drown” and “Magician” should be at Blockbusters. The older video titles are getting hard to find.
Q.: From your standpoint, is it good that they are disappearing?
Merendino: Well, I don’t care. I don’t hide that stuff. I think it’s funny and campy.
Q.: What about “Terrified”?
Merendino: The movie is like Polanski’s “Repulsion,” which is a dark story about a woman who goes nuts. I sort of ripped it off. My film was originally called “Tough Guy,” and Heather Graham was the star of it. The original music is something like you would see in a Kubrick film. The distributor took it out because it was too weird, and they put in some horrible music. I’ve shown it to people in both versions, and the one with the new bad music nobody really gets. But when you see it with the original music, it’s very scary. And I’m pouring philosophy into that film. The movie is about passive aggressive misogyny destroying femininity in this country. It’s said very subtly. In the end I think it’s a misanthropic film. In that and “Upstairs Neighbor” I was really pounding it philosophically. They’re both scary, and you can get away with more in scary films.
Q.: How do you think those two films hold up now?
Merendino: They’re not camp like the first two I made and are interesting. Still, I was definitely struggling to understand what kind of movies I was going to make. With all the movies I made until “SLC Punk,” I always told people I’m practicing. So it’s only been the last four years that I’ve been seriously doing this. I always thought that if you’re going to get good you’ve got to practice. I play guitar, and I had to practice all the time. I don’t know how directors become better directors unless they make movies. I figured my training would be my twenties, and in my thirties I would start to make serious movies. That’s when I made “SLC Punk” and other movies with studios.
Q.: In what way do you think you’re getting better as a director?
Merendino: As I get older, either I’m gaining an audience or I’m becoming clearer in my story telling. I think it might be a little of both. Each movie I make gets wider releases and makes lots more money.
Q.: What are the philosophical themes in your forthcoming film “Tresspassing”?
Merendino: “Does God exist?” is basically the theme. It also asks “does evil exist in the abstract or did we create that evil?” For example, did we create Bin Laden, or does he just exist regardless of our existence? In the movie I leave it open but insinuate that we create that evil. Although it’s a slasher film, you definitely get the religious point.
Q.: The release date on that seems to keep moving back. Why is that?
Merendino: Sony is now releasing it, but they don’t want to release it up against another horror movie that they have. It’s a big release – 2000 screens – and is my first big release. It will be everywhere.
Q.: So no more “direct to video”?
Merendino: Every movie starting from “Livers ain’t Cheap” have been in theaters, but they’ve all been limited releases, except for this horror movie.
Q.: Are you expecting “Trespassing” to be as successful as “SLC Punk”?
Merendino: I didn’t make it for much but they figure it’s going to make 40 or 50 million dollars. I’d be glad if anyone sees it at all. “SLC Punk” made 20 million dollars at the box office and it only cost 800,000 dollars to make.
Q.: When I saw “SLC Punk” I really couldn’t tell that it was done on a tight budget.
Merendino: That’s partly what I’m known for out here, to take a little money and make it look a lot bigger. I don’t like to spend a lot of money on a movie; after all, people are going hungry. I’ve actually declined to make a movie for 20 million and made it for 8 instead. I do my own cgi and I’ll save money that way.
Q.: Is it hard to get actors to work on such a tight budget?
Merendino: In the beginning it was hard, but now I’ve worked with enough good actors, so pretty much any of them will do my movie for the minimum requirement for the union.
Q.: How did you get involved with the making of “Magicians”?
Merendino: “Magicians” is a comedy that I did because I had to pay back the Germans for using Til Schweiger in “SLC Punk.” Part of the deal was that I had to make a comedy starring him if he would do my movie for scale.
Q.: Are the films that you do in Italy in Italian?
Merendino: Yes. I’m more known over there. All my friends are Italian actors; if you met them you’d just think that they’re nice people. But they’re actually famous in Italy. So it’s really easy for me to get a movie made over there because I put the Brad Pitt or the Julia Roberts of Italy in the movie. It’s like having two directors’ lives.
Q.: Which do you like better?
Merendino: I like the hype here, but I love the freedom of making movies in Italy.
Q.: I don’t imagine that those films would be released over here.
Merendino: No, but I think the next one might, because it’s more universal. When I make movies over there I try to be very colloquial so that they wouldn’t come over here. I really just wanted to make them for Italians. But this last one I made is like a “Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels,” only it takes place in Naples. Already Miramax is saying they would want it. “Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels” in England I really don’t believe that much because I’m not afraid of English people. But in Naples, that makes sense; that’s the way everybody is. They’re just like those guys. Everything’s a scam, everybody’s conning, somebody’s selling something out of a truck. They export more shoes than any place in the world, and they don’t have one shoe factory. It’s that way throughout the whole town; they’re thieves. It’s hysterical. So I made this movie. It has great music, all the young Italian actors in it, and I think it’s hip. It’s like Hong Kong cinema, only in Italy, so it might be interesting. There seems to be a lot of hype here now over it.
Q.: How much time do you spend in L.A. and Italy a year?
Merendino: It’s half and half, depending on the year. I have a house out there, and sometimes I’ll do a film for them, then I’ll come back and do an indie here.
Q.: How did you get involved in the Danish Dogma 95 film movement?
Merendino: I did a Dogma movie called “Amerikana” because I can’t turn down Lars von Trier, who produced it. Dogma 95 is something that Lars and Thomas Vintenberg invented – the rules on how to make a movie. The rules are interesting, because there are many tools that you can’t use. You think, oh my, how do you make a movie like that? Very few people are allowed in that club, but they called me and asked me if I’d do one. Dogma 95 is the only legitimate movement in cinema happening now. To be an American and be invited to be part of a Danish film movement, like French New Wave, or Italian Neorealism, how do you say no? That’s going to be there forever. Instead of doing a studio movie, I quickly did that. I made it three years ago and they’re just now going to start showing it. It premiers at Cannes this year.
Q.: What films are coming up for you?
Merendino: This summer I’m doing another called “Ashes”. I’m friends with Daniel Boyle, who did “Train Spotting.” He also did “28 Days Later” last year, which did very well. It’s a Zombie picture like “Night of the Living Dead,” but done in an artsy way. Before he made that movie he said in Hollywood it’s really hard to get just regular independent movies made anymore. They want genre. So we both said, well, let’s go back to the horror genre and find what is at its philosophical center. He picked “Night of the Living Dead” to remake and he calls it “28 Days Later,” which I think he did a really great job on. Then I did “Trespassing.” Now he’s doing another one, and I’m doing one that’s like “Omega Man,” which is an end the world movie. But it’s done as if it’s really happening, not campy at all. These people were in a bunker and they come out, they survive. The philosophy behind the movie becomes what is the social instinct of mankind. It’s a group of college teachers, actually, in Boulder, Colorado who survive an asteroid; there’s nobody at fault. They emerge and end up fighting with survivalists who have radiation sickness and are going crazy. At first the professors’ whole ideology is to start society new without violence. It ends up that this is the first war of the new civilization. That’s human nature: territorialism. That’s what I was talking about in “SLC Punk,” which was about territorialism in economics.
Q.: What’s the budget on “Ashes”?
Merendino: It’s a 15 million dollar picture. I have to build a new Denver Colorado; the planet’s pretty much flooded, so it’s half in water, half out of water. The buildings are crumbled and there’s ash, so it’s going to cost some money.
Q.: Apocalyptic scenarios are philosophically interesting since they throw people into a Hobbesian state of nature.
Merendino: Sure, if you do it right. The first scene of this movie is quick; they’re in a bunker and you see that something very bad just happened. Then it goes to black and says “six months after the apocalypse.” Society is a clean slate. What do people do with a clean slate? That way you can explore and put in what you think human beings might really be at their core. It’s not pure philosophy – like philosophy of language – but it’s rudimentary, like early Greek thinking: what is human nature. It’s as much as you can get away with in story telling; you can’t tackle something like the ontological or cosmological arguments for the existence of God.
Q.: Can you say anything about your plans with MTV for an animated series?
Merendino: About six months ago I got a version of Maya, the computer graphics program, and have been learning how to use it. Joking around I did a little three-minute short of “SLC Punk” that’s really irreverent – more so than the movie. And now we will make it into a series like “South Park,” only it’s 3-D, like Shrek.
Q.: Who will be involved with this?
Merendino: I’m the producer, head writer, and director. Matthew Lillard is going to be on board as executive producer as well. I’m also going to hire a staff of animators and writers. MTV is allowing me to say whatever I want to say, and there really are no restrictions; they told me, in their words, “put us in jail.” I said OK. I don’t think I’ll be topical, but topical in a George Carlin way, broader. I don’t want to talk about the war in Iraq, but refer to war in general. I don’t like to date things.
Q.: When is that going to come out?
Merendino: Probably right before the election. They said that they hope to get at least two or three on the air before the election, because they figure I’m going to slam Bush. I told them I think my first episode is going to be “MTV Sucks,” and they thought that was a great idea. But I do want to have George Bush actually be in the show on one of them. I think the characters should have a whole rally saying they want to vote for George Bush. So the local Republican Party gets into these guys, and it turns on itself and it becomes obvious that they’re not into George Bush. Their point is that as long as that he’s in office the quicker that anarchy is going to come, because it’s all going to fall apart. I’ll probably make my old argument that the corporations run the country anyway, not the presidents.
Q.: How many projects can you juggle at one time? That alone sounds like it would consume your entire year.
Merendino: I can do a few. It depends on how many people are helping me, and as long as I have the money, I throw it at everybody to help me out. I’ll have a studio here at my house. I do my own music, and we can pretty much jam it out. With “SLC Punk”, I wrote that movie in three days, and we shot it in four weeks, so it doesn’t take that long to make.
Q.: When you do the music, do you play the instruments?
Merendino: Not on “SLC Punk”; we used old punk tunes there. But yes, I compose the music and can play several instruments. I’m really a guitarist, but for the horror movie, I needed strings. I can play a little violin, but not well enough. So I’ll get a good violin player or cellist to come in and play different parts.
Q.: Have you turned down many movie scripts?
Merendino: I think about eight in the past five years, just because I felt like the movies that they wanted me to do were so – I don’t know. A lot of times I wonder if they knew what to do with me. Sometimes they thought maybe I’d do good teen movies, and I’m not going to do anything like that. Then they thought maybe horror, but the horror movies that they have are so bad. Pretty much now everyone expects me to generate my own material, so that’s what I do.
Q.: Do actors approach you to be in your films?
Merendino: Right after “SLC Punk” Brad Pitt wouldn’t leave me alone. Every day he’d come over, and he really wanted me to do some picture, any picture. At first it was a script that I wrote that I’m probably going to make next year called “Theodore and the Impenetrable Suit of Armor.” It’s about a guy who thinks he’s an existentialist but really isn’t. Brad really wanted to do it, and I said you’re way too old. This guy’s got to be around 23, he can’t be 37. So we tried to figure out something else, and he kept throwing all these movies at me, like “The Mexican,” because he gets final approval. I said there was no way I could direct that film. It’s horrible, and I didn’t understand why he even wanted to do it. He keeps looking for something, and Johnny Depp does too. I can’t just do anything; it’s got to be good.
VIEWS ON RELIGION
Q.: Do you have any religious beliefs that impact your perspective of the world?
Merendino: I am fundamentally Catholic by virtue of tradition, but the dogmatic parts of the religion that I believe in can fluctuate. I can’t subscribe to believing in nothing – atheism – though I understand why some people do. I have some good friends who are atheists, and we have great conversations. Sometimes I will convince them, sometimes they will convince me. I feel that, in an infinite universe, atheistic no-order is a definite possibility, but it’s only one of billions of possibilities. So, it’s like a crap shoot.
Q.: Your views on God are cited in Stephen Hawking’s book “A Brief History of Time.” How did that happen?
Merendino: When I was 18 years old I went to Vienna for a conference between philosophers and scientists. We were all arguing about Stephen Hawking’s new imaginary timeline, where he fixed physics by saying that we’ll just eliminate the point of singularity – meaning the point right before the big bang when everything was compacted into one single point including space and time. He then suggested that we start physics right after the big bang, so that everything works. Once you have physics, you can’t say anything about the point of singularity, because there is nothing to compare it to. I then asked what if you included God? Everyone sighed because most of them are atheists.
Q.: Can you blame their response?
Merendino: I understand why because scientists had been tortured for thinking outside the box. I always thought that science was a rebellion against religion.
Q.: What then did you say to them?
Merendino: I said, don’t say “God” then, say another element. Think of it like this. I have cognition, I believe, I can think, I can reason. Science has yet to pinpoint what it is that gives me the ability to reason or be aware that I exist. What is it? It’s not energy, we know that; it’s not mass, we know that. They say it’s something, and we all agree on that. But if you could put cognition in the point of singularity right before the big bang – that cognition that exists in human beings – you could then have the point of singularity and have physics work. Just like I can imagine myself outside of myself, and then say all kinds of things physically about myself, so could this thing. If the point of singularity had cognition, it could imagine itself being outside of the point of singularity. Suddenly we could draw all kinds of physical equations over that. And I called that the necessary element: cognition would be in the point of singularity, of the point of singularity, and about the point of singularity.
Q.: How did they respond to your theory?
Merendino: Some agreed, some didn’t. An Austrian scientist said that human cognition just disappears. I then said that he believed in magic because nothing can be added or taken from the universe. In any event, Hawking put it in his book.
Q.: How do you feel about your theory of the “necessary element” now?
Merendino: I dropped all that and now I vacillate. But I can’t get away from that one point. It just doesn’t seem logical that we could eliminate cognition from the universe. If not, then where does it go? And that opens a huge book. When I consider that possibility, it’s hard for me to be completely atheistic. I would have no argument if somebody could say to me, no, it’s just energy, and show me how it works. So far no one can. It’s a little like the cosmological argument.
Q.: What do you think about traditional proofs like the cosmological argument?
Merendino: None of those arguments prove anything because they’re all semantics. Every word in those proofs is loaded with emotional responses that prevent us from analyzing them. The word “God” itself is powerfully emotional. That’s why we have symbolic language: to try to isolate ourselves from such emotional connection.
Q.: A skeptic might say that symbolic language is a misdirected model. It’s based on mathematical-like theorems, and there is a basic presumption that you have to make that this system somehow models the world.
Merendino: It’s interesting if you speak other languages. I learned philosophy and theology in Italian and Latin, which was different because those words didn’t really have that much meaning to me. Objectively I understood what they meant, but emotionally I had no childhood connection to anything that was being said. When sitting down and dissecting the word “existence” in basic logic, I had to understand it first in Italian before even beginning the process of breaking it down.
Q.: What do you think about Gibson’s film “The Passion of the Christ”?
Merendino: “The Passion” is interesting. I don’t agree with it philosophically, but I understand it. I think that it’s propaganda for the holy war that we’re engaged in today, and so it is an important movie. The fact that the movie came out right now suggests that we should look at what Christ went through, and then take up this cause and fight the Arabs. It’s a very subtle propaganda film, but that’s the way Mel is. A lot of people think it’s anti-Semitic, and my response is, look, it’s made in Hollywood by Jews. Of course it is somewhat anti-Semetic because the New Testament is anti-Jewish. Its whole point is to get away from being Jewish. You can’t really tell the story of Jesus Christ without being anti-Semitic in some way or another.
Q.: What do you think Jesus’ message was?
Merendino: Jesus was about economics; he wasn’t about religions. If he ever existed, his message was that the poor get the short end of the stick and the rich the longer end. At the time Jesus was considered a terrorist. They felt that he was one of the people who was going to start a revolution and crush the Roman Empire. I don’t know if he was or not. We don’t even know if he existed. Sometimes I feel that I don’t know if there was a Jesus as much as there was a Paul. Paul was the one who structured so much of the religion, and he was himself part of a revolutionary movement before becoming a Christian. And they do have proof of him being alive. So it feels like he might have invented some person, or maybe he met some of people who knew a really great person. It seems like he might be the Jesus that we’re talking about. Maybe he created that person, putting him together by using the Hercules myth.