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James Schamus in The Onion

Posted August 31, 2009

James Schamus in The Onion Image

Writing in the A.V. Club section of The Onion (that the part that isn’t necessarily parody), Sam Adams talks to James Schamus about his relationship with Ang Lee, writing Taking Woodstock, and more. As Adams points out in his intro: “If you wanted to trace the evolution of American independent film from a struggling cottage industry to a high-rent Hollywood annex, you could hardly pick a better figure to follow than James Schamus.” True that. And while Schamus got into the groovy spirit of Woodstock in adapting Elliot Tiber’s memoir, his own experience of 1969 was something quite different:

JS: I grew up in L.A. We were in North Hollywood, up in the Hollywood Hills. And I was under lockdown along with my friends, the whole neighborhood, because Sharon Tate and the LaBiancas had just been murdered the week before—a few blocks, actually, from where we lived. These were what we thought were random killings by some hippie cult. So while we were watching on TV the news reports of Woodstock and this incredible hippie peace, love and music, there’s blood on the walls that says, “Pig, die pig” a few blocks down the hill. So those two events really coincided for me. In the script we had a scene that was shot, but we just dropped it for pacing, where there was a nod to the Tate murders. At that point, no one knew about the Manson family. That didn’t happen until October.