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Director Todd Solondz avoids controversy in 'Dark Horse'

Jordan Gelbner and Selma Blair in

Jordan Gelbner and Selma Blair in "Dark Horse" (Jojo Whilden) Credit: Jordan Gelbner and Selma Blair in "Dark Horse" (Jojo Whilden)

Writer/director Todd Solondz has made a name for himself with controversial films that tackle tough topics such as pedophilia, bullying, abuse and abortion.

By Solondz's standards, his latest film, "Dark Horse," is pretty tame. It's about 30-something man-child Abe (relative unknown Jordan Gelber), who lives with his parents (played by Christopher Walken and Mia Farrow), works for his dad, collects action figures and laments that he's now too old to be on "American Idol."

At a wedding, he meets Miranda (Selma Blair), with whom he starts a relationship. But she's got her own dysfunctions and things spiral down from there.

amNewYork spoke with Solondz, 52, who is also an adjunct professor at NYU's Tisch School of the Arts, about the film.

What inspired "Dark Horse"? In very simple terms, I wanted to do a boy-meets-girl movie and see what comes of that. And this is what happened. I wasn't consciously trying to make a commentary or provide an alternative to the [Judd] Apatow template. ... This movie is funny in some sense, but it's also very poignant for me. It's a story of a guy who's clinging to his youth, who can't let go of it.

Do you cling to your youth? I'm not sentimental or nostalgic for my youth. I'm so happy that I'm older. I would never want to have to relive it. In the best of all possible worlds, whatever age you are is a happy age to be.

Compared to your previous films, this one is tame. Was that on purpose? It was deliberate. I realized that so much of my work had been associated with all sorts of "controversial subject matter."...I didn't want the audience to be distracted by the volatility of certain kinds of subject matters, [so they could] focus on a more solely character dynamic.

How did you arrive at your lead Jordan? He had auditioned on an earlier movie of mine, and then I'd seen him in a play of Mike Leigh's a few years ago. He made an impression on me and I thought how suitable he'd be for this part I was writing. I didn't know that I'd be able to cast an unknown. And so I was very, very happy that, provided I could come up with names for the main supporting parts, then I'd be OK. So I was very fortunate.

How's teaching going? It's a very pleasurable job. I could be doing more remunerative work, doing director for hire or writer for hire, but this is much more fun. 

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