Jim Jarmusch's New Movie Is Stranger Than Paradise, Not to Mention Stranger Than Hollywood

updated 12/10/1984 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 12/10/1984 AT 01:00 AM EST

Jim Jarmusch, 31, has been getting letters from Hollywood agents and producers lately—letters, he says, that begin, "We heard your film was an excellent comedy" and end with offers to "direct something like Porky's IV."

Jarmusch snorts. "It's a function of the number of times your name appears in Variety. Right now I could go out there and set up enough deals to buy a house and a swimming pool," he says. "Some of them haven't even seen the film."

Certainly anybody who had seen the film in question, Stranger Than Paradise, would think twice before offering Jarmusch a piece of the Porky's pie. A loopy, poker-faced tale of two New York deadbeats who take what the ads describe as a "dream vacation to Florida and Cleveland...in the dead of winter," the 90-minute black-and-white movie was the surprise hit of the Cannes and the New York film festivals. Now opening around the country, Paradise continues to get good notices.

The son of a businessman and a journalist, Jarmusch was 17 when he left Akron, Ohio ("My only film experience was the kiddie matinee") to attend Columbia University and become a writer. He got sidetracked by a senior year in Paris during which he fell in love with European cinema. Returning to the U.S., he befriended then-dying director Nicholas Ray (Rebel Without a Cause). "Nick told me, 'If you want to make a film, don't talk about it. Do it.' " Two days after Ray's death in 1979, Jarmusch began shooting his first film, Permanent Vacation.

Today Jarmusch hopes Paradise's revenues (it has just made back its $130,000 production cost) will eventually allow him and his girlfriend, Sara Driver (also a film director), to move out of their "tenement" on Manhattan's Lower East Side. And he is working on new film ideas. "I don't want to be hired to make teenage sex comedies," he says. "But I don't want to make films that are just relegated to the Museum of Modern Art." So far there seems little danger Jarmusch will do either.

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