Tufts E-News --Taking Aim At Hollywood
Withhis acclaimed new film, “The Assassination of Richard Nixon,”screening at Toronto’s film festival, Tufts graduate NielsMueller has set his sights on box office success.Toronto
Medford/Somerville, Mass. [09.13.04] Filmmaker Niels Mueller has come a long way since hisdays of toting his father’s super-8 movie camera aroundhis home in Whitefish Bay, Wisconsin. The hand-built setsare longgone but the Tufts graduate’s passion for film remains strong.His latest film – “The Assassination of Richard Nixon”– won acclaim at Cannes and is currently showing at theToronto film festival, before its release in New York and LosAngeles this winter.
“It’sa tough competition to get in,” Mueller told Greater MilwaukeeToday, referring to the Cannes film festival. “‘Nixon’was one of only a few American films chosen in the category theyscreened, so that was a nice honor, as well.”
The film– which was written and directed by Mueller – is setin 1974 and is based on the true story of a man who attempts tofly an airplane into the White House, after being turned downfor a small-business loan, losing his job and his wife. Sean Pennplays the lead role.
The combinationof Mueller’s direction and Penn’s performance hasmade the film a hit.
“SeanPenn is his generation’s greatest actor, and ‘TheAssassination of Richard Nixon’ may just be his greatestperformance yet,” Mark Urman, head of the company distributingthe film in the U.S., told Indie Wire. “With stunning clarityand control, Penn, Mueller, and a brilliant cast have taken aforgotten incident from America’s past and have turned itinto a strikingly contemporary look at where we could be headedtoday.”
The ideafor the film hit Mueller after he heard about a random fast foodrestaurant shooting in California, reported Greater MilwaukeeToday.
“Iasked myself how a thinking adult could go from point A to B whenit comes to indiscriminate violence,” he told the newspaper.“Fictitiously, I wanted to explore that notion, of somebodylashing out.”
As his filmflourishes abroad, Mueller said that he never planned out hiscareer. Things just seemed to fall into place.
“Idon’t feel all that different from when I left Milwaukee[for college] when I was 18,” he told Greater MilwaukeeToday. “I had an odd continuity and one thing led to another.Tufts provided a really good, broad liberal arts background.”
It also providedMueller with some strong talent for his early projects. As a studentat Tufts, he worked with classmates Oliver Platt and Hank Azariaon film projects - many that were never quite finished. Aftergraduating, he produced a television series that aired on Milwaukeepublic television before finally getting serious about finishinghis work and getting into bigger endeavors.
“Iwas writing half stories,” the Tufts graduate told GreaterMilwaukee Today. “For me, it was inspiration vs. perspiration.I forced myself to get to the end of something.”
He also facedsome opposition from his father, Hans Mueller, who stressed theimportance of a professional career to his children.
“Ithink [Tufts is] where he began taking his writing more seriously,”Hans told Greater Milwaukee Today. “At first, I was a bitdisappointed when he leaned toward film. I think I referred toit as a ‘breadless art.’”
But Niels’talent and aspirations won out.
“Itwas hugely important to fill their expectations,” Nielstold the newspaper. “It sounds like a cliché, butit’s nice to have parents for whom you wish to do your best.Both my parents stressed to me that I go into something professionallythat I’d want to do, something that I was passionate about.”
Perhaps toboth son and parents’ surprise, Mr. and Mrs. Mueller haveactually become “film groupies,” according to theMilwaukee Journal Sentinel. They flew to Cannes where the filmdebuted and then drove to Toronto for the second showing of theirson’s work.
Mueller hasexperienced a handful of film successes leading up to “TheAssasination of Richard Nixon.” He was an associate producerof “Sweet Nothing,” which starred Mira Sorvino andMicahel Imperiolli in 1996 and co-wrote “Tadpole,”which starred Bebe Neuwrith and Sigorney Weaver in 2002. He alsoco-wrote the recently released “13 Going on 30,” whichstarred Mark Ruffalo and Jennifer Garner.
Now Muellercouldn’t be happier as he sees his latest project screenedby V.I.P.s in the industry, at what he calls the “audience-driven”Toronto film festival, according to the Journal Sentinel.
“Iknow there will always be people that won’t understand orappreciate what you do,” Mueller told Greater MilwaukeeToday. “But just getting a film to a place where it is now,that wasn’t a given when I started production. Even thoughthere were tough times making the film, I’m glad I’mdoing something I love.”