Bill Pullman Q&A: “I harvest fruit all year round. I can grow anything”

The actor talks exotic fruit, YouTube and living in a hotel in Warsaw.

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Bill Pullman was born in 1953 in New York. He made his debut in “Ruthless People” and has also starred in “Spaceballs”, “Sleepless in Seattle” and “Independence Day”.

What’s your earliest memory?

Bundled up in winter clothing and trying to sled. Trying to keep up with my older brothers and sisters with all those heavy clothes on.

Who was your childhood hero?

My brother and I used to improve the woods in our place in the country. There was a very charismatic forester named Art Flick. He used to write for Field & Stream, a hunting magazine. He had deep forest-blue uniform and worn-in boots.

What was the last book you couldn’t put down?

Jim Robbins’s The Wonder of Birds. My father loved the outdoors. Nature was a good meeting ground to share in our family.

Which political figure do you look up to?

Ralph Yarborough, an unsung but instrumental Texan Democrat. He was involved in civil rights. He established the Endangered Species Act and set aside large parts of wilderness when America didn’t care.

What would be your Mastermind specialist subject?

Exotic fruits – I have an orchard in LA. I harvest fruit all year round. I can grow anything. My most exotic? The jaboticaba fruit or the concord grape.

In which time and place, other than your own, would you like to live? 

New Amsterdam when New York was being settled: an interesting melting pot.

What TV show could you not live without?

YouTube allows me to see snippets of old things, like Sergeant Preston of the Yukon: Royal Canadian mountain police dishing out justice in a Canadian way.

Who would paint your portrait?

My brother, James Pullman, is a painter. If someone in the family is an artist, what can they say about you?

What’s your theme tune?

With films I get attached to, I usually find a song. Something of the chord structure of the character I’m playing.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?

Instead of a piece of wisdom, I see advice as an affirmation. I remember a teacher who said, “You’re going to do well in what you decide to do.” That affirmation, from a person I respected, changed me.

What’s currently bugging you?

Vocal fry. I hear it and feel as if I’m speaking like that and need to take better breaths.

What single thing would make your life better?

I’m living in a hotel in Warsaw at the moment. It has blackout curtains; I sleep longer than I have ever slept.

When were you happiest?

When my kids and I harvest fruit we step away from the world we’re living in. Doing a simple activity brings a sense of ease.

If you weren’t an actor, what would you be?

I was involved in founding a non-profit: organising pop-up kitchens to make things with fruits. There was a point when I thought: I could quit acting and just do this.

Are we all doomed?

The happiest countries are usually Scandinavian. Why? They don’t expect to be happy. They see the glass half empty. We might better think we’re all doomed than pump ourselves with a lot of optimism. Then we won’t be doomed. 

Bill Pullman’s latest film, “The Ballad of Lefty Brown”, is out now on DVD

This article appears in the 11 May 2018 issue of the New Statesman, Israel vs Iran