22 May 2009 - 10:04 AM  UPDATED 26 Feb 2014 - 4:07 PM

John Lurie – Fishing With John

The concept seemed simple: grab a buddy (Jim Jarmusch, Tom Waits, Dennis Hopper and Matt Dillon), go fishing in an exotic locale, and film it. But as actor, writer, director and musician JOHN LURIE discovered with his wonderfully unusual and entertaining TV series FISHING WITH JOHN, nothing is that easy. BY FILMINK'S ERIN FREE

How did you come up with the concept? Was it a tough sell to get it on TV?
“The whole thing fell into place rather easily. I was threatening to make a fishing show for a year or two, but I wasn't really serious about it. If I went fishing with someone like Willem Dafoe, I would videotape it and claim that the trip was business related, so I could take my vacations off my taxes. Someone saw the tapes and presented it to a Japanese company and we made the pilot. It all got very difficult and ugly later, but the initial thing just floated into place.”

Aside from some of the guys obviously being pals, how did you decide on who you would go fishing with?
“It all seemed kind of obvious. Willem and I had actually been fishing many times. The only one that was in question was Matt Dillon. I didn't know him so well, but the Japanese wanted him badly. I wanted to go with Flea [from The Red Hot Chili Peppers], who is a close friend of mine. We have actually been fishing in the Congo and Australia, but the Japanese kept asking very nicely about Matt Dillon.”

Was there any major arm-twisting involved in getting any of the guys out there?
“Not really. Tom seemed quite nervous about the whole situation. Right before we got in the boat, he took me aside and wanted to know exactly what we were going to do. But his nervousness was more based on the filming than the boating experience. When we arrived in the jungle in Costa Rica after taking these rickety little planes, and Matt Dillon realised where we were – how completely far away from anything remotely civilised we were – his face lit up like a little kid. I wish more than anything that we had that arrival moment on film.”

Were you worried about animal rights activists getting on your back about Tom Waits stuffing that fish down his pants?
“No, but to be honest, in the Jarmusch episode we actually caught five sharks. I edited it down to one for dramatic effect. After we released it, one of the sharks vomited up its whole stomach lining and just lay there on the surface. I felt horrible about it and though it is infinitely more dramatic to catch Tarpon or Marlin, I decided after that, that we wouldn't fish for anything that could not be eaten.”

You\'ve jokingly said that most of the guys never talked to you again after the series. Is there any truth in that? Were any of them traumatised by their experience? Matt Dillon seemed a little uncomfortable…
“I wasn't joking.”

Narrator Robb Webb – who delivers a pitch-perfect, ultra-serious, National Geographic-style voiceover – is a brilliant part of the show. How did you hook up with him?
“I listened to hundreds of tapes of voiceover guys. Robb Webb was the very first tape. He was expensive, so I listened to many more, but Robb was the voice. He was perfect.
I wish I had known because you can't imagine how painful it is to listen to one hundred voiceover audition tapes.”

Cheese seemed to be a constant motif throughout the show: you survive on a diet of cheese and crackers while ice fishing with Willem Dafoe; Tom Waits talks of catching “cheese fish” as a kid; and Jim Jarmusch tries to bait a shark with a piece of cheese. Was that intentional?
“It is a standard in American humour to turn to cheese when things are not going well.”

Did you ever consider doing another series?
“I wanted to do a show called John Lurie: Consumer Advocate, so I could get even with my dry cleaner for ruining my suit.”

Is there anyone else you'd like to go fishing with?
“Bill Clinton, some basketball players that you probably wouldn't know, J.D Salinger, Fidel Castro…”

And is there someone that you\'d absolutely HATE the idea of being stuck on a boat with?
“Yes, of course, but I thought that that actually might be great because they would be stuck in a boat with me also. So I could be out in a boat with Donald Trump and I could rip his idiot little brain to shreds.”