A conversation with Steven Zaillian

www.anistudio.com

I was at this bakery shop on Kenneth Village in Glendale, CA ordering coffee latte when I noticed the person sitting on the table next to the door is about to get up. I asked if he was leaving so I could take his table when he turned his face to me with a welcoming smile only to tell me to feel free to use the table. I looked into his face and shouted : “Oh! are you Steven Zaillian?”  To which he replied positive. A week earlier I was working on an animation project about Armenian filmmakers and for that I had to work through several images of him and if it wasn’t for that I wouldn’t even know how does he look. I was so happy to come across him that I even forgot the name of my favorite movie he had written and directed. I said: “You are one of my favorite screenplay writers but more than that I’m a big fan of… er (At this point I forgot the name of the movie “Searching for Bobby Fischer”) so I went like “Er…er… the Bobby Fischer movie.”  He noded and corrected me “Searching for Bobby Fischer” and I was like Tarantino in Desperado, “Yeah that one too!” but no I’m kidding, I said “Yes,sorry I’m too excited and my memory fades away when this happens.” Then he asked me how do I know his face because I guess he assumed screenplay writers are not really the celebrity type and I explained the whole animation thing. Then at that time I was suddenly haunted by the thought that “What if he is not Armenian?” so I checked it right away and he said “Half-Armenian” to which I, with my entire stupidity replied “Well I guess your good looks must be coming from the other half.” AH MY GOD!!, Even now that I write about it I feel so stupid to joke about something like that with an Oscar winner who has films like Schindler’s List, The Girl with Dragon Tattoo and Gangs of New York as his writing credits. He looked at me with a wry smile and I guess thought to himself “Who is this jackass?” but please understand that his face as you can see in the photo was soooo not Armenian (No big nose, no unibrows, fair skin and sort of light eyes) that it made me pop out something I thought might be funny. Anyway he told me about what he was working on and seemed pretty impressed that I was working on my thesis film at UCLA. We shook hands and I told him that I feel so proud to call him a fellow Armenian. He smiled again, but later I started thinking about why do I have to emphesize so much on his ethnicity instead of simply having a conversation about film. Is it just us Armenians who do this or every other race and nation would have done the same. Would a Serbian do something similar if he had came across Emir Kusturica in an LA bar? Probably yes, but because he is not American. Would a black dude do the same seeing Steven McQueen in a shop in Pasadena? I guess they wouldn’t merely discuss film in it’s general sense and not race in specific but I’d really love to hear any thoughts about this so feel free to post a comment and share ideas.

The superficial inner asshole in me urged to take a photo with him and so I asked my buddy Vahag who was with me to take a snap.

The superficial inner asshole in me urged to take a photo with him and so I asked my buddy Vahag who was with me to take a snap.

 

Armen
Armen
Did you know up until recently asking to share biographical information was some of kind of an invasion of privacy? Who changed that norm and why?

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