Alex Cox, director of Repo Man, joins CU-Boulder's film studies faculty this fall
Alex Cox, who wrote and directed cult favorites like Repo Man and Sid & Nancy, is joining CU-Boulder's film studies faculty this fall and will teach screenwriting and film production, as the Daily Camera reported. Cox, who grew up England, studied film at UCLA, then lived in Mexico and Spain before spending the last two decades in Oregon. We caught up with Cox and talked to him about his approach to teaching, Straight to Hell Returns , Repo Man, Joe Strummer, Spaghetti Westerns and a documentary he's working on about Dennis Hopper's 1971 film The Last Movie.
Westword: I'm definitely excited to hear you're coming out to Boulder to teach film. How did you get the gig?
Alex Cox: I had the impression that Boulder was a good place, and I was always keeping my eye out to see what they were doing. I discovered through the means of the Chronicle of Higher Education online that they were looking for an assistant professor/film artist. And I thought, "That sounds like a very interesting position." I don't think there are many jobs like that. So I applied, and they actually hired me. So how about that?
WW: Are you looking forward to coming out here?
AC: Yes, I am. I haven't spent that much time at all in Colorado. I've been to touristy places like Mesa Verde and Durango, but I've never spent time there. I have a friend in Telluride as well, so I've been to Telluride, but that's about it, so it's all going to be new. Very new experience.
WW: How long have you been in Oregon?
AC: Nearly twenty years. My wife came here twenty years ago and I followed her a year later.
WW: Were you living in Los Angeles before then?
AC: Before that, I lived in Spain for a while in a place called Tabernas in the desert in Spain. Before that I lived in Mexico City, and before that I lived in Los Angeles in the late-'70s and early-'80s. That's where I met my wife and that's where I went to film school.
WW: Speaking of film school, what are some of things that you'd like to pass on to film students that you've learned over the last few decades?
AC: I think the most useful thing I can do is approach it like I would approach directing a film, which is really to create the nicest and the most creative environment in which the actors and crew people can then do their work. So I guess in the same way with the students in the screenwriting and the production programs my job is to create an environment in which they will do their best work. And that's it. I'm just the environment creator and they have to be creative. My job is to create the interesting, supportive environment and give some structure, perhaps. And I guess ride people and make them hit deadlines and that kind of thing.
But really, I'm quite open to it. And it's interesting because I've seen the films my colleagues have done and some of them have been very specific and the things filmmakers could or could not do, and I think I'd be apt to say you can really do anything you want as long as you can do it. As long as it's in your capacity and as long as it's not going to be awful. But even if it's going to be awful it doesn't really matter, does it? I mean, who's to say something's awful?
WW: Would you say that's the road you've taken? Just kind of do your own thing?
AC: It definitively was when I was a student. When I was a student I was really just aching to get my hands on the equipment. I really wouldn't have to go to any classes, I just wanted to get a hold of the equipment and start making films. But funny enough, when I was at UCLA, some of the most useful classes I went to were critical studies, which at the time I thought, "Oh, God, this is something you have to do in order to get into production." But really, to actually learn kind of in-depth understanding of films and how they came about and know something about films outside your own immediate country or your own immediate language is an extraordinary benefit. That's what so nice about film is that it's like an international art form and there are so many different approaches to it.
WW: Were there any films you saw early on that really resonated with you?
AC: I saw all kinds of great films. On television in England we saw some really classic films like Seven Samurai and Citizen Cane, and all the films that were viewed as the classics a generation ago. Then I was a total consumer of movies. I went to the cinema a lot. I just love going to the movies. The Wild Bunch, 2001, O Lucky Man!... some amazing films. So I just got totally inspired by it and wanted to make films myself.