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Jim Carroll's Comments on The Basketball Diaries Film

Following a reading at Bowling Green State University in Ohio on 2/20/96, Carroll answered the question, "What do you think of the film?" He replied:

I thought it was well made. I thought the performances were fantastic. I thought Leonardo was wonderful; I couldn't have asked for a better actor. I thought the whole cast was great. Unfortunately, the director had no idea what my book was about. . . . Some of the stuff worked and stuff. . . .

Personally, my favorite pieces were the voice-overs which were straight from the book. But I think that, you know, as a separate movie with Leonardo it was kind of interesting, but it's just like . . . this guy was a techno freak, the director, and, you know, he went a little over the top.

And then the ending was much more ambiguous [originally]. . . . They changed it and re-shot it in L.A., so I didn't know about that [until] I saw [the final version of the film]. And so I said, "You're not gonna like make it fucked up and preachy and stuff," and they said, "No, no!" That's what they did!

Actually I came up with an idea, and I thought directorially, in a directorial sense, it had great symbolism and visual impact. It was after the poetry reading, when he read a different piece than that one, which made it much more like a Narcotics Anonymous meeting than a poetry reading. And uh, and they do that, that's why they put "STAGE DOOR" right there where he's walking in. And so after that, he's walking down the street, reading another piece about how . . . he thinks he's going to be . . . he wants to play ball. The basketball is in his left hand, but he still thinks about dope all the time . . . switch hands . . . but then, you know, like, "I gotta think about writing." And [swish sound] switch hands . . . "But, I haven't, you know, still . . . burned myself out yet" (swish sound) switch hands. . . . It's like a little devil and angel on his shoulder, you know. But he's just going down the street bouncing the ball, you know, thinking about it. And that's, you know, close to the image in the book where the guy's just looking out the window, but you know, Hollywood has to tie everything up so there has to be a . . . nimbus around his head. . . . [Ironically:] which actually did happen to me . . . at my first reading . . . the Holy Ghost did descend [makes halo sign over his head] . . .

Carroll also told me that he personally participated in an alternate ending to the film in which his own character, Franky Pinewater, confronts Jim before the poetry reading. (In the final cut of the film, it is Pedro who tempts Jim with a bag of heroin.)

Carroll also discusses the film in his Interview with BG24 News.


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