American left-field veteran Jim Jarmusch also has two movies in this year's festival including one about the band which changed his life and gave the world Iggy Pop. He talks to Helen Barlow.

Putting a label on Jim Jarmusch and his films can prove difficult, even for the man himself.

In fact, he hates being categorised, something he has struggled with since his hair started turning white in his teens and he donned those trademark dark sunglasses and clothes that make him look like the king of cool.

"I wore dark clothes because I was obsessed with Hamlet, Roy Orbison and Zorro," the 63-year old explains.

"Then in my 20s when I made Stranger Than Paradise, my first film that got seen, it was in black and white. Someone wrote basically, 'what a pretentious jackass'. But it was very good because it taught me, 'F*** 'em! They don't know me.' I don't give a shit what anyone writes or thinks about me."

Jim Jarmusch is director of the film Gimmey Danger, which stars Iggy the Stooges.
Jim Jarmusch is director of the film Gimmey Danger, which stars Iggy the Stooges.

He says his friend Iggy Pop, 69, is similar. The pair have been close since Pop - born James Osterberg - appeared in Jarmusch's 1995 film Dead Man, alongside Johnny Depp.

"About eight years ago Iggy said, 'They're gonna start making films about me, about The Stooges and about my work. I know how much you love The Stooges so one day you might want to make a film about the band'. I started pretty much the next day."

The resulting documentary, Gimme Danger, debuted at Cannes, as did Jarmusch's latest feature Paterson starring Adam Driver (Girls, Star Wars: The Force Awakens) in a surprisingly passive role as a bus driver who writes poetry.

"Both of these films are about choosing your own path and on some level they celebrate that," Jarmusch says.

He notes how they also take place in industrial settings and feature protagonists with working class ethics - the kinds of people he admires.

Growing up in Akron, Ohio, Jarmusch was not good at sport and was sometimes bullied at school.

"I was very much an outsider, outside of the whole social thing." As a teenager his musical tastes were decidedly underground and his favourite band was The Stooges from nearby industrial Michigan.

"I was attracted to their anarchistic tendencies, to the primal grind of their music and to the animalistic behaviour of their frontman," Jarmusch says of Pop, who started in the late 60s with the band, churning out songs including Search and Destroy, I Wanna Be Your Dog and Gimme Danger.

Iggy and the Stooges star in the documentary Gimme Danger, directed by Jim Jarmusch.
Iggy and the Stooges star in the documentary Gimme Danger, directed by Jim Jarmusch.

"I was living in a middle class suburban neighbourhood and The Stooges opened doors to the possibilities of many things. Their wildness alone was liberating."

Jarmusch spent 20 hours interviewing Pop for the film and says he used the material as a kind of roadmap. Ultimately in what he calls "a love letter to The Stooges" he focused largely on the band, deciding not to speak to the likes of Pop's friend and collaborator David Bowie or to mention their drug-drenched days in Berlin.

Jarmusch discovered many things about his friend and that's what makes the film most interesting. "I didn't know about Iggy's great love for his parents; he never had any conflict with them, so that was very nice, an anti-cliche of a rock musician. I knew his parents lived in a trailer and he was made fun of at school."

Pop is the first to admit the excesses of his life as a hellbent showman, including the lengthy heroin habit Bowie helped him through. He has emerged as one of rock music's true survivors and uses his brain as much as his brawn. He still looks fit as he nears 70 and Jarmusch explains how Pop has been reading works by De Tocqueville, the 19th century French philosopher.

"Iggy's always been like this. I think he's a mutation physically and in his mind. He can remember everything from his childhood and teens. I can't even remember from last week! And he's beaten his brain with drugs."

Certainly Pop is an original and has always wanted it that way.

"He sums up at the very end of the film and says, 'I don't want to be part of this or that. I'm not punk; I'm not alternative. I just want to be me'. And that's how he's always lived."

Jarmusch says Pop is a very generous individual. "When he's on stage he's up there for you. He's giving you something that's ultimately very much about love in a way. He's connecting you so you feel like you're together with all the people."

Paterson is overtly happy and loving in tone as it celebrates a happy relationship, one imagines like that enjoyed by Jarmusch and his film-maker partner Sara Driver, who met on his first film, Permanent Vacation (1980).

"Laura is not a cliched housewife", Jarmusch says of the character, played by Iranian actress Golshifteh Farahani. "She's someone who is very creative while Paterson is a man who drives a bus every day and chooses also to be a poet."

Scene from the film Paterson directed by Jim Jarmusch and stars Adam Driver.
Scene from the film Paterson directed by Jim Jarmusch and stars Adam Driver.

The film pays tribute to the New York school of poets, most prominently William Carlos Williams, who worked as a doctor in Paterson, New Jersey, "a model industrial city" known for its textiles, Jarmusch explains.

"Williams lived in Paterson his whole life. He treated Allen Ginsberg as a child [and mentored him as an adult]. His philosophy as a poet was in observing the small details in daily life."

The casting of Driver was important to Jarmusch because of his personal past.

"I was very struck by the fact that Adam has experience in the military and he's an artist who studied at Juilliard. Again it's breaking any cliche of being either thing, and he's a wonderful actor as well."

Low down


Jim Jarmusch


The Iggy and the Stooges rockumentary, Gimme Danger, and drama, Paterson



for screening times.