Writer and Producer of “Crash” Speaks to UVM, Breaking Race Down

Bobby Moresco, the co-writer and producer of the racially-charged film, Crash, visited UVM’s Ira Allen Chapel on Thursday to discuss the controversial Academy Award-winning screenplay. Casually clad in jeans, tennis shoes and a fresh-from-the-bookstore UVM sweatshirt, Moresco looked more like a big kid than a successful Hollywood producer. His informal attire would compliment his unorthodoxly informal writing approach though, of which he told the audience, “Don’t ever write a movie this way.” Moresco was referring to the fourteen-hour days he and co-writer and director Paul Haggis endured while writing the film. Don’t feel too bad for the duo though, it only took them two weeks to complete the socio-political success. “We soaked ourselves up in the world then wrote the first scene,” Moresco said when asked by an audience member about the recipe for such a though-provoking story. “We just took it from there.” The world in which Moresco and Haggis soaked themselves was Los Angeles-a city that they felt represented a dense mix of race and ethnicity, and an ideal setting for their story in which a cast of racially diverse strangers crash into one another (via fender benders and random social interactions) affecting each other’s lives in unexpected ways. The film begins and ends with a car crash scene and Moresco says that in a place like L.A. where people essentially live in their cars, chance crashes like theses are some of the only occasions when different races will interact. But if there is a real meaning behind Crash, Moresco was adamant in denying an intentional one. Rather, he says that his job as a screenwriter is to pose questions to an audience and let them decide for themselves what it means. “We didn’t try to write a ‘message movie,'” Moresco explains modestly. “I wanted to write something about the human condition; how fear drives otherwise good people. If there’s a message in it for you, that’s fine.” The Academy got the message, and so did millions of moviegoers worldwide, that the dynamics of race politics create a supple plane for attention-grabbing stories like Crash, perhaps because every one can relate to the nuances of racial interaction, especially within the diverse landscape of American cities. Such interactions generate the spine of the movie, as characters are developed around interracial and intercultural exchanges. Moresco says that he wanted to create characters that are tested in tough situations in order to reveal who they really are. “I wanted to test people to see what lies beneath,” Moresco says, echoing the film’s tagline: “You think you know who you are. You have no idea.” An example of this character development, Moresco says, is Matt Dillon’s character, the corrupt white police Officer Ryan, who is tested in the climax of the movie when he saves a black women, who he had previously sexually molested out of racist sentiment, from a burning car. Putting Dillon’s character in this situation, Moresco says, allows audiences the opportunity to see the multifaceted complexities of racial interaction within the human condition. When asked if he’s ever had a crash experience, Moresco responded, with a faint Hispanic accent, that growing up on 51st and Tenth in the predominately Irish neighborhood of Hell’s Kitchen, New York, he saw “racial ugliness” at the age of five. Since then, Moresco says he has encountered racists and corrupt cops, and so he must have thought critically of his experiences. Perhaps it was these experiences that pushed Moresco to mortgage his house in order to get Crash produced. If his goal was to pose thought-provoking questions about racial interaction, Moresco was successful. Crash nudged viewers to think critically about the dynamics of race and ethnicity which we often gloss over in everyday-life interactions, and the opportunity to hear such ideas straight from the source made his visit to UVM an invaluable experience for any one who attended. In Moresco’s own words, “This movie was nuts.”