In May, Tough Guys Don’t Dance is screened (outside the competition) at the Cannes Film Festival. On 16 September, it premieres in New York. Reviews are mixed; it wins an Independent Spirit Award for best film, and also a Golden Raspberry Award for worst director.

Norman Mailer (1986)

Ryan O'Neil and Eddie Bonetti (1986)

in Days | 45 Words


Comments. In Two Weeks in the Midday Sun: A Cannes Notebook, by Roger Ebert, passim. Kansas City, Mo.: Andrews and McMeel. Rpt: Ebert’s memoir includes comments by Mailer from 86.35 (partial); 88.6 (partial). See 87.5.



“The Electronic Mailer.” Article-interview by Peter O. Whitmer. In Aquarius Revisited: Seven Who Created the Sixties Counterculture That Changed America: William Burroughs, Allen Ginsberg, Ken Kesey, Timothy Leary, Norman Mailer, Tom Robbins, Hunter S. Thompson, by Peter O. Whitmer, 55-65. New York: Macmillan, 10 October. Whitmer’s piece is based on an 80s interview with Mailer focusing on “The White Negro” (57.1). Along the way, Mailer provides opinions on Hunter Thompson, William Burroughs, Allen Ginsberg, James Dean, Ken Kesey and Robert Lindner.


“Mailer’s Minuet: ‘Tough Guys’ Two Left Feet.” Article-interview by Karen Jaehne. Film Comment 23 (November-December), 11-17. Mailer says more on filmmaking, and says it well, in this interview than in any other, and dissipates, to some extent, Jaehne’s initial skepticism about his abilities. He also discusses his resistance to “categories” which are “just critics’ attempt to bring order to a complex aesthetic universe.” “Forms,” he says should “be explored, not obeyed.” Tom Luddy, Wings Hauser and Frances Fisher are also quoted. See 84.17, 1986 and 1987 entries.



“Why Norman Mailer Won’t Dance.” Article-interview by Brandon Judell. Advocate, 27 October, 54-55. The writer for this LGBT magazine asks why so many of the characters in his novel and film, Tough Guys Don’t Dance seem to be antigay. Mailer says: “I hate the kind of general liberality that we have now in films where you can’t say anything bad about any nationality, any group.” He added that “none of my characters ever represent my point of view by themselves.” See 84.17, 1986 and 1987 entries.

Why Norman Mailer Won’t Dance


“No Longer Such a Tough Guy, Norman Mailer Frets over His Shaky Career as a Filmmaker.” Article-interview by Alan Richman. People Weekly, 5 October, 40-42. Mailer says little new about his film in this piece, but he does discuss the writing life: “I’m not morbid, but anything I do could be the last thing. I’ve become more serious naturally. It’s a biological process.” The first weekend gross for Tough Guys Don’t Dance is reported: “a disappointing $421,390.” The film went on to make a profit. See 84.17, 1986 and 1987 entries.


“Norman Mailer Takes Over ‘Tough Guys.’” Article–interview by Vernon Scott. UPI wire story, Arkansas Gazette, 4 October, 10G. The most notable remarks by Mailer in this piece concerns screenplay writing, and the agony novelists endure when a poor job of translating their work into a film occurs: “To be crude about it, it’s like someone making love to your woman. Or to put it in a more elevated fashion, it’s like having someone else raise your child.” He also notes that he was given final cut on the film, and so bears all responsibility for it. See 84.17, 1986 and 1987 entries.


“Words and Pictures: A Conversation with Norman Mailer about Directing the Movie of His Own Novel, Tough Guys Don’t Dance [87.17].” Article by unidentified writer. Vanity Fair, October, 68, 72, 76. Mailer reveals here that Warren Beatty was his first choice to play Tim Madden in his film. He also speaks at length on the director’s relationship to his crew, comparing making a film with being in the army. See 1986 and 1987 entries.


“His Brilliant (New) Career?” Article-interview by Daphne Merkin. Photographs by Adam Bartos. American Film, October, 42-49. In this insider piece, which captures the mood of the shoot better than any other, Merkin gets comments on the set of Tough Guys Don’t Dance, not only from Mailer, but from set designer Armin Ganz, the mixer, Drew Kunin, the makeup artist, Don, the costume designer, Michael Kaplan, and actors Lawrence Tierney, Ryan O’Neal, Debra Sandlund and Frances Fisher. She also reveals that the film used six interior sets, 59 locales, and had a crew of 97. See 84.17, 1986 and 1987 entries.


“Norman Mailer’s ‘Extreme’ Situations.” Article-interview. Information provided by Luaine Lee of Knight-Ridder newspapers; by Candice Burk-Block, in a dispatch of the New York Times Syndication Sales Corp.; and by Barbara Bright of Reuter News Service. St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 30 September, 1, 4. Expansion of material in 87.23, including Mailer’s comments on good and evil: “My idea of an awful person is one who is 35 percent good and 65 percent evil. A hero is perhaps a reverse percentage. I’m fascinated by the good that is in evil people.” See 84.17, 1986 and 1987 entries.