The Movie Jonathan Levine Has 'Seen A Million Times'

Feb 3, 2013
Originally published on February 3, 2013 4:16 pm

The weekends on All Things Considered series Movies I've Seen A Million Times features filmmakers, actors, writers and directors talking about the movies that they never get tired of watching.

The movie that writer-director Jonathan Levine, whose credits include The Wackness, 50/50 and Warm Bodies — currently playing in theaters — could watch a million times is Hal Ashby's Coming Home.


Interview Highlights

On why Coming Home is one of his favorite Hal Ashby films

"I've been a huge fan of Hal Ashby forever, and I think the distinctive thing about Coming Home is the love story, and how kind of emotionally real it is, and how these two characters just fit each other, and, you know, allow each other to see their kind of vulnerabilities. And it's great because it's a love story that is not really that cheesy either. It's a love story that really makes you think about what it means to be in love."

On why he loves the last song used in the movie

"The way Coming Home uses music in general is incredible, but the final song that really kind of crescendos all of the emotion that the whole movie has kind of been building to is this song called "Once I Was" by Tim Buckley. Jon Voight, who's giving a speech at a high school about kind of the downside going to war, he gives this amazing, amazing speech that like, no matter how many times I watch it, and I try not to cry, it just gets you."

On the movie's ending

"I don't really want to give away the ending, but it's just this incredibly powerful, emotional moment and then it just goes to black and it just leaves you kind of devastated. Not necessarily sad, you're just spent, but so thankful for having been through this experience with these characters."

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Transcript

LAURA SULLIVAN, HOST:

On this show, we've been asking filmmakers about movies they never get tired of watching - including this one, from the director of "50/50."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "OUT OF TIME")

ROLLING STONES: (Singing) You don't know what's going on...

JONATHAN LEVINE: Hi, my name is Jonathan Levine. I'm a writer and director. And the movie I've seen a million times is "Coming Home," directed by Hal Ashby and starring Jon Voight, Jane Fonda and Bruce Dern.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "OUT OF TIME")

ROLLING STONES: (Singing) You're out of touch, my baby...

LEVINE: I first saw "Coming Home" just about 10 years ago, I think. I was watching it with my girlfriend. I had seen a lot of other Hal Ashby films but "Coming Home," for some reason, I had kind of - never seen. And we watched it one day, and just both ended up in convulsive tears by the end.

(SOUNDBITE OF WEAPONS FIRING)

LEVINE: It's about a guy named Luke, played by Jon Voight, who's like, a former high school football player - like, really good-looking guy; who goes to Vietnam and comes back wounded, paralyzed from the waist down.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "COMING HOME")

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Hey, mister. Can you walk?

JON VOIGHT: (as Luke Martin) No, I can't walk. That's why I'm in this chair.

LEVINE: And then meets a character named Sally, played by Jane Fonda, whose own husband is about to go off to Vietnam. And when he goes off, she decides to start volunteering at the local VA kind of hospital, and they sort of fall in love against the backdrop of the Vietnam War.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "COMING HOME")

VOIGHT: (as Luke Martin) (Laughing) Bender, you changed your hair.

JANE FONDA: (as Sally Hyde) You like it?

VOIGHT: (as John Martin) Yeah. It's very nice.

LEVINE: I've been a huge fan of Hal Ashby forever. And I think that the distinctive thing about "Coming Home" is the love story, and how - kind of emotionally real it is, and how these two characters allow each other to see their - kind of vulnerabilities. And it's great because it's a love story that's not really that cheesy, either. It's a love story that really makes you think about what it means to be in love.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "COMING HOME")

FONDA: (as Sally Hyde) Would you like to come over for dinner? I'm a good cook.

LEVINE: There's like, several amazing scenes in the movie. Jane Fonda has Jon Voight over to her house, and they have this great conversation where he talks about how, in his dreams, he can walk; like, he doesn't have the chair.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "COMING HOME")

VOIGHT: (as Luke Martin) It's funny. People look at me, they see something else. But they don't see who I am, you know?

FONDA: (as Sally Hyde) I think people have a real hard time seeing who other people really are.

LEVINE: And then he says, you know, "95 percent of my time..."

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, COMING HOME)

VOIGHT: (as Luke Martin) I spend 95 percent of my time, at the hospital, thinking about making love with you.

LEVINE: He just goes right out there and says it, and it just makes explicit this kind of tension that's been brewing for the entire first - like, 30 minutes of the movie.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "COMING HOME")

FONDA: (as Sally Hyde) I've never been unfaithful to my husband.

LEVINE: The way "Coming Home" uses music, in general, is incredible. But the final song - that really kind of crescendos all the emotion that the whole movie has kind of been building toward - is this song "Once I Was," by Tim Buckley.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "ONCE I WAS")

TIM BUCKLEY: (Singing) Once I was a soldier...

LEVINE: Jon Voight, who's giving a speech at a high school about - kind of the downside of going to war...

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "COMING HOME")

VOIGHT: (as Luke Martin) And I know some of you guys are going to look at the uniformed man, and you're going to remember all the films, and you're going to think about the glory of other wars and...

LEVINE: He gives this amazing - amazing - speech that like, no matter how many times I watch it, and I try not to cry, it just gets you. I don't really want to give away the ending, but it's just this incredibly powerful, emotional moment. And it just leaves you kind of devastated. Not necessarily sad; you're just spent, but so thankful for having been through this experience with these characters.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "ONCE I WAS")

BUCKLEY: (Singing) Sometimes, I wonder...

SULLIVAN: That's director Jonathan Levine, talking about the movie that he could watch a million times, Hal Ashby's "Coming Home." Levine's new film, "Warm Bodies," is in theaters now. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.