Matthew Modine is a card-carrying liberal. The actor actually carries around a card that says as much, with issues on the back that he cares about, such as racial equality and universal suffrage.
Modine is also certain Jesus was a Communist, capitalism is corrupted and Barack Obama is going to get reelected, which is a big reason his short, “Jesus Was a Commie,” has outraged Glenn Beck, conservative radio hosts and religious conservatives across the country.
"I just did a radio interview with a guy from Colorado," he said. "The guy said actors were the scum of the earth. I wanted to say, 'Who the fuck do you think you are? You’re a DJ from Colorado with a talk show; what does that make you? Do you even have a passport? Have you ever been out of the United States?' He was clearly a Christian really offended by the title, really angry. Whenever you say communism in America, people often think you’re speaking of Stalin and Lenin."
“Jesus Was a Commie,” which has won awards from a handful of film festivals, debuted Monday night on ShortsHD as part of a showcase of Modine's shorts and re-airs Nov. 5 — just in time for the election.
TheWrap sat down with the actor-turned-director to discuss the short film, Mitt Romney and, well, Jesus.
"Communism" automatically has a negative connotation.
When the film played in Italy, Germany and Canada, they all said ‘well, of course, Jesus was a communist.’ In America, it’s the catchword for anything that’s evil and bad in the world.
Has most of the attention stemmed from the title?
Yes, and now that you’ve seen the film, you know it has little to do with Jesus or Communism but more to do with the economic problems we face not just in America but in the world. The environmental problems we face in America and the world. The way that politics and this polarity is ripping our country to shreds.
The short raises more philosophical questions than concretely political ones, but you released it ahead of the election. Were you inspired by politics?
I’d never made political films until after 9/11. After the shock of 9/11, I started to wonder, ‘wow, there are people so angry at America and our way of life, our politics, our behavior, that they are willing to have people climb into airplanes and fly airplanes into buildings to retaliate.'
What must our country be doing? During the Bush administration and during that time, you couldn’t question anything about 9/11. There was pure evil in the world that was willing to destroy our way of life. That’s it. They must be exterminated; they must be killed, which is not very Christian.
That began my political awakening.
You said some of it also dates to growing up in Utah.
My dad joined the Mormon church because his mom told him it would be good for business. It was good for business until we started playing X-rated movies — "Midnight Cowboy" was the X-rated movie. The Mormon church came down on us like a lead balloon. My brother Mark came back from Vietnam and got arrested for growing marijuana in his backyard. That got us thrown out of the state of Utah.
Not literally, but it made living there very complicated.
In the film, you touch on everything from capitalism to environmentalism to religion, did you have a specific message?
The goal was to raise questions, to try to see the big picture of where we are as a society and where we are as a culture.
How do you see Americans treated now?
With the Obama administration, it was like there was a black cloud that was sitting on our country that was finally lifted. People around the world really do look to America as a place of opportunity and hope and change. When Obama was elected president, there was great optimism and enthusiasm. It was palpable.
Do you think some of that has waned?
Not at all. While Bush was president, I felt worse than during the Cold War when Reagan was in office. We have another test with Mitt Romney, who I think represents the kind of stubbornness and lack of world vision that the Bush administration demonstrated. Mitt Romney will be terrible for human beings around the world.
So you're hoping this film has an impact on this election?
Most people's reactions will be like Glenn Beck’s.
Are you optimistic for November?
I don’t think there's any question that Barack Obama will win. I don’t think it's even a race.
What did we miss?
I love what David Lynch said about 9/11. I was down there way way too much. I rode my bike down when the plane hit.
They said they needed people to carry stretchers. I was a boy scout; I have my CPR, I know how to tie a tourniquet; I know how to apply pressure to a wound and I know how to carry a stretcher. So I spent way too much time down there. I started to question things and David Lynch said it really well. What I'm asking is, "when did it become un-American to ask questions?