Film Courage: Bill, if you could pick five books that you would be allowed to read every year and only those five books, what would they be?
Bill Duke, actor/filmmaker/author: Oh, Gosh. I love books, I’m just trying…five? Man…
Film Courage: Sorry, I know that’s limiting.
What is the book I always talk about? [Bill turns to someone off-camera]? 1984 [Author George Orwell]. But the one about the mythology and all the major studio guys read this book, The Hero With A Thousand Faces [Author Joseph Campbell]. That is an incredible book about how all the stories of the world have a certain commonality, what they are. Steven Spielberg used it, [George] Lucas uses it, everybody uses it.The Hero’s Journey, what is the hero’s journey? And there is a commonality of every hero’s journey.
I read a book by Steven Pressfield that I read as often as I can and it’s called The War of Art. It’s a take off of Sun Tzu the Art of War. And it talks about what is it that stops the average person from accomplishing anything they want to accomplish. The book is this thick [indicates a thin book] and the book pisses you off so bad because from the first page you say to yourself “He’s talking about me.”
And he says the father and mother of incompetence is procrastination and the rationalizations we come up with to justify a procrastination. Hours and days of thinking of thinking why we are not doing it and justifying it instead of doing it. He says it’s easier to know the hand that is choking you then to let another hand in. This has been choking me for years. I’m not dead but you’re asking me to put another hand near me? I don’t know this, I know this [imitates himself holding himself back around his neck] because that’s money. It’s a brilliant, brilliant, brilliant book.
Film Courage: Yes and he has a podcast, too?
Bill Duke: He’s brilliant. The books are this thick. But he tells you and shows you accomplishment. What is accomplishment?
That’s four and then my favorite poet is T.S. Eliot’s Four Quartets. It’s the last thing I think before he passed and he talks about how every piece of poetry but before that is meaningless until he just says right now he talks about what he has learned in life and puts it in poem format.
Federico Fellini and Frank Capra are two of my favorite directors of all time. 8 AND A 1/2 every year I watch and sometimes look at the script of MR. SMITH GOES TO WASHINGTON and IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE. The messages, the courage that he had at that time and when he was tortured by McCarthy for saying the things he thinks he said and accusing him of being a communist. But he went on and did it anyway. He has encouraged my career and I can’t remember the name of the director now but the script I could read over and over and over again because it’s so brilliant and the film I could watch over a thousand times because it was so brilliant. It came out about 9 or 10 years ago called RUN LOLA RUN [German thriller film written and directed by Tom Tykwer]. Have you ever seen that one…(Watch the video interview on Youtube here)
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