Paterson: Jarmusch on Writing and Casting his (Great) Film

PATERSON, which world premiered at the Cannes Film Fest (in Main Competition), is one of Jim Jarmusch’s  very best films, deceptively simply yet truly complex, dealing with routine lives in lyrical, even poetic manner.


It is also one of few scripts Jarmusch has written where he didn’t have actors in mind for the lead roles before he wrote it.  There is one exception: Masatoshi Nagase, who plays the Japanese poet and was previously in Jarmusch’s Mystery Train.

Adam Driver: Reactor

“I was so lucky to have Adam and Golshifteh, because parts of them are like their characters in a way,” says Jarmusch. “Adam isn’t an analytical actor, which I love. He doesn’t like to overthink things, he likes to react, and that’s a lot like Paterson.

Golshifteh is so radiant and energized and warm and intelligent—and Laura’s like that too.” Jarmusch encouraged the actors to improvise, but they preferred not to change the words. “When we would improvise it was usually grunts or ‘yeahs’ or ‘rights’ or things like that,” says Driver. “That kind of thing was always funny to us for some reason.”


Masatoshi Nagase

One actor Jarmusch did have in mind when he wrote the script was Masatoshi Nagase, who plays the Japanese poet who encounters Paterson when he comes to town on a pilgrimage to the site of William Carlos Williams’s poem.

Nagase made a different kind of pilgrimage, to Memphis, in Jarmusch’s MYSTERY TRAIN.

More about Pause than Dialogue

“The two of them were incredible together in that scene,” says Jarmusch. “It’s almost like the poet knows everything about Paterson’s situation—but how could he? He can’t, but somehow he does. It’s more about the pauses than the dialogue—how they look at each other, how they stop between things. It’s like poetry when it’s more about the white spaces in between the lines than the lines themselves.”


There is similar white space within PATERSON itself for the audience to fill. Although it is a simple movie, it is built on unusually dense layers of images, sounds and music.  It’s up to the audience to witness and process those elements, should they care to. “I think for it to be successful, you have to participate in it,” says Friedberg. “The film itself is a poem.”

Jarmusch hopes that the film will encourage the audience to follow Paterson’s lead, and become a little more aware of their surroundings while they are watching it, or at least, settle into its quiet. “For many people daily life has become so hurried, harried, anxious, overcomplicated, distracted, impersonal, brutal, overly carnal, that some of us welcome a film that is calm, measured, gentle, and quietly funny,” says Padgett. “




PATERSON takes us away, which is a nice place to be.” Says actress Farahani, who plays the loyal and loving wife: “When I finished watching Paterson, it was like I came out of a meditation retreat. It created so much amazing energy and desire for living a better life.

I think PATERSON is a spiritual movie without saying a word about spirituality. True happiness is not out there: it’s just inside.”