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Fontaine Motel

A Conversation with Willy Vlautin

Puremusic: What kind of a name is Vlautin? Is that Russian?

Willy Vlautin: It's Croatian.

PM: Wow. Is that any part of you, the Croatian-ness?

WV: No.

PM: No. That's just way back there somewhere.

WV: I wish, man. Because there, the Vlautins are cool as hell. But no, my dad's dad died, and his mom, my grandma, got remarried to a Vlautin. That's how I got the name. But unluckily, I don't have any of their genes. I wouldn't be as fucked up and writing if I did, though.


PM: What kind of a home did you grow up in? And when did music take a hold of you as something that would partially direct your life?

WV: I grew up mostly with just my mom and my brother. And then later on her boyfriend moved in. And for a lot of my childhood it was just my mom, my brother and I. And I guess around 12, 13, I just fell in love with The Jam, with my band jamming the Who. And I was obsessed. And then I heard Rank and File.

PM: With Alejandro, right.

WV: I think I was like 13 or something. And then I was hooked, and I bought a guitar. And until I was maybe 25, I wouldn't go anywhere without by guitar.

PM: Wow.

WV: Yeah, I was pretty funny. Like I wouldn't go over to a friend's house, or go away for a weekend anywhere without my guitar.


WV: I was kind of a fuckin' weirdo. And for having the guitar that much I sure didn't ever really learn how to play it that well. But what are you going to do?

PM: But you bonded with it. Not all of us get to be the super flash guitar players, but we still got to bond with our instruments.

WV: Yeah, that's true. I love it. I broke my arm four months ago or something.

PM: Damn.

WV: And that was the first time since I was that age--over 20 or I guess 25 years--that I hadn't played guitar. I couldn't play for a good month.

PM: That sucks.

WV: Yeah, it does. It was the first time I really kind of stepped back and said, "Regardless of what happens or how good I am or bad I am, I really like it." As I've gotten older I've been better at taking breaks from it.

PM: I just read that Northline is going to be made into a movie. That's so amazing!

WV: Well, it might be.

PM: Might be.

WV: I guess with all that kind of stuff you never know until you actually see it.

PM: Right. Can we talk about any of that?

WV: The woman that bought it, her name is Courtney Hunt. And she did a movie called Frozen River. It was a really, really great movie, I think. And I'm really excited to have her involved.

PM: Can you get Frozen River on Netflix, do you think?

WV: Not yet. It's still in theaters. It's kind of like an indie movie making the rounds right now. It won Sundance.

PM: Really?

WV: Yeah. She's a really cool person. She's the kind of person I wanted the movie to go to, so I feel really lucky.

PM: Holy jeez, you must be so excited. So what's the story? How did she come to the book and get the rights and all that stuff? And did you meet her in the process? Any of that story would be very interesting.

WV: Yeah. I sold the movie rights a while ago to a guy named Jeff Sharp. He's a movie producer. He's done a bunch of cool movies. He did one called Boys Don't Cry, which I really like.

PM: Sure, very big.

WV: And he's a really smart guy. And so he found Courtney, and she'd read the novel and really liked it. And then I think eventually she decided that was the next project she wanted to give a shot at. And so I met her. And yeah, I guess really--I hope it works out, because I feel like that story fits really well with her. She's one of the nicer people I've met. And she understood Allison Johnson and the idea of the story. And I think if anyone could make a decent movie, she could. So we'll just see. She's writing the screenplay right now. So we'll see if it works for her. I sure hope it does, because I think she's got a good heart, and she'll understand where to take the story as far as making it a movie.

PM: You must have thought about who you would like to see play Allison Johnson, right?

WV: I don't. I don't go there at all. One of the main reasons I like Courtney Hunt--I mean, she's a great writer, and her movie is really good, but I thought the casting she picked for her movie Frozen River, I thought was spot on. I think she'll find the right one.

PM: Right.

WV: I don't really follow--I mean, I get crushes on actresses like anybody else, but I don't really follow it. And Hollywood, and that aspect--I'm a big fan of movies, but that's where I'm going to stay.

PM: Right, right. So that probably means, right, that somebody else is knocking on the door about the first novel, Motel Life.

WV: I sold that one a few years ago to a guy named Guillermo Arriaga. He's a screenwriter. He wrote Babel and 21 Grams.

PM: Holy jeez.

WV: Oh, one of his I really like is The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada.

PM: Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah.

WV: That's a cool movie. I really liked it. He's an amazing writer. So he and his partner bought Motel Life, shoot, I guess three years ago, before it came out in the U.S., I think.

PM: So he bought it even before it came out here. Where did he see it?

WV: In Europe. And then he bought it. And I can't say enough good things about Guillermo. He's been really nice to me. I don't know if they'll make a movie with it, but I've enjoyed working with him on it so far. He's a cool guy.

PM: Wow.


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