I've been sober now for 18 years. With all the drugs, psychedelics and narcotics I did, I was [really] an alcoholic. Honestly, I only used to do cocaine so I could sober up and drink more. My last five years of drinking was a nightmare. I was drinking a half-gallon of rum with a fifth of rum on the side, in case I ran out, 28 beers a day, and three grams of cocaine just to keep me moving around. And I thought I was doing fine because I wasn't crawling around drunk on the floor.
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Every time I go to Europe, I remember that James Dean never saw Europe, but yet I see his face everywhere. There's James Dean, Humphrey Bogart and Marilyn Monroe - windows of the Champs Elysees, discos in the south of Spain, restaurants in Sweden, t-shirts in Moscow. My life was confused and disoriented for years by his passing. My sense of destiny destroyed - the great films he would have directed, the great performances he would have given, the great humanitarian he would have become, and yet, he's the greatest actor and star I have ever known.
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[After Easy Rider] I couldn't get another movie, so I lived in Mexico City for a couple of years. I lived in Paris for a couple of years. I didn't take any photographs, and then I went to Japan and saw a Nikon used. I bought it, and I just started, like an alcoholic. I shot 300 rolls of film. That was the beginning of me starting again...
I made a picture called Super Mario Bros., and my six-year-old son at the time - he's now 18 - he said, 'Dad I think you're probably a pretty good actor, but why did you play that terrible guy King Koopa in Super Mario Bros?' And I said, 'Well Henry, I did that so you could have shoes,' and he said, 'Dad, I don't need shoes that badly.'
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The alcohol was awful. I was a terrible alcoholic. I mean, people used to ask how much drugs I did. I said, 'I only do drugs so I can drink more'. I was doing the coke so I could drink more. I mean, I don't know any other reason. I'd start drinking in the morning. I'd drink all day long.
... I'm sort of a nervous person with the camera, so I will just shoot arbitrarily until I can focus and compose something, and then I make a shot. So generally, in [the] proof sheets, there are only three or four really concentrated efforts to take a photograph. It's not like a professional kind of person who sets it up so every photograph looks really cool.
Jimmy [Dean] was the most talented and original actor I ever saw work. He was also a guerrilla artist who attacked all restrictions on his sensibility. Once he pulled a switchblade and threatened to murder his director. I imitated his style in art and in life. It got me in a lot of trouble.
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