A Conversation with Actor/Writer/Architect and Entrepreneur:
James Wilder

The Open Universe of Life


16/06/2015- Song River
Link: (Vents Magazine)   

Influences ranging from travel, the arts, street performing all led to opportunities being opened for, actor/designer/artist James Wilder, but his perception grew as a young person when he picked up and read a book that led him to take control of his own destiny. His world was an open view and it set the groundwork to create a spirited soul who truly sees the universe in its purest form. The divining rod of faith carried the rich tapestries of living from San Francisco to Paris and all points in between, forming in truth an artist of highest degree.


Song River: Looking back over your early life James, what was your early family life-like, and education? Your life almost seems to be that of a gypsy.


James Wilder: Well, it may seem like that, as I was an only child. My mother was Parisian, and my father was Italian. My mother spoke 6 or 7 languages and she came to the United States when she was about 29. My father was raised here in the states, by a father who didn’t speak any English, so I received a great bit of European sensibility and was pretty much living in the San Francisco area. Which to me, in my opinion San Francisco and New Orleans are probably two of the most European type hubs or cities. So it was all during this 'post Haight-Ashbury' period and San Francisco had this gypsy left-wing 'Kerouac' feel to it. (paused) You know all kinds of different things going on at the same time?


During this time, when I was still young, I was going to an accelerated learning institution. It was an all boys catholic school over in Pacific Heights and they were teaching calculus, trigonometry and reading old English and I felt it was sort of excess in this area without practical application. So, I took my own off shoot and started reading other books. One of the big books that influenced me was, “Rich Dad, Poor Dad” I felt that it really mixed Zen and Capitalism into a nice hybrid. Since money is certainly a part of our palette, we need to understand it.


Then growing up in San Francisco, the arts were really revered. People thought it was cool, and got behind it. So, I went down to Fisherman's Wharf area and started this one man show of fire-eater, juggler, chains escapes, (grinned) started that around the age of ten. Some of the people I was working around were people like A Whitney Brown who went on to do SNL, and Harry Anderson who had the show, Night Court... so it was really a cool hipster group of performers.

An American in Paris


Soon, I was doing a lot of political satire, and by the time I was fourteen I was performing at the Moulin Rouge. So really this all gave me a real mixture of entertainment, and my parents took me around the world, and this gave me such a huge sense. Actually most people I surround myself are not in the entertainment industry, but it is with those who have traveled, as they have lived it by all they've experienced. I feel my upbringing really influenced me as an actor it has helped me, because it aided me into stepping others skin. Having lived all over the world in Africa and so on, from a very young age you want to blend in I learned. You don't want to be seen as an American tourist, you want to assimilate very quickly. With both parents speaking various languages it helped me slip into the language fold very quickly. I had just started as an actor/gypsy very, very young. So, when I started it professionally it just seemed more like an extension of what I was already doing.


SR: Some children wistfully will say they wished they could have lived in one place during their growing up years, but you sound like you actually really loved the traveling.


JW: As an only child, I am not someone who misses something I never really had. It's really when you are alone that you have to keep moving, and finding things to be interested in. You have to get out of that safety net. I was very familiar to doing that. I found traveling alone to be a simple denominator too, I think people are generally friendly in nature, as we are pack animals, so when they see two people they see a group, a group of two. But when they see someone alone, they approach you, and lean forward. Especially when you’re very young, people want to make sure your alright. But I was always going to a city with a purpose.


SR: When you look at an 'empty' space, what is it you see? How has your world travels influenced what you see?


JW: I think I see it with no comparison. Meaning I don’t see it in the context of comparing it to the 'Jones' house. Traveling even across the narrow section of the Sahara Desert by camel and across the Atlantic by boat led me to this quote that seems to kind of attached itself to me: “A successful artist will never be a starving artist.” Since I was raised in an educational system that was advanced learning, and the context of that was to go to a university. I think it was the absorption of material, however I think the material I was being forced to absorb was useless. That said it was training me to go through a rigorous understanding. For instance house boat living, when people live on a houseboat their space is extremely limited and so in limited space people have to be really clever in the space usage and multi purpose, so I see it in an artistic multi use space and make it multi purpose. For example: this folds down, this pops out... etc... Designing my first show traveling van gave me this wherewithal to turn small spaces into practical spaces with colorful expressionism. Giving it the 'wow!' factor, but very practical too. Building the lifestyle projects is me creating my 'orchard' to speak of where I can draw upon regularly and the making of movies then has become something to choose from, and it is not a have to. Then you aren’t doing projects either that you don’t want to do either.


SR: Would you say James that you are as judicious with all aspects of your life, or are there certain sections of it you cast the 'whatever' to the wind?

"Three Holes and a Smoking Gun" Fires



JW: I think people have different takes on the meaning of judicious. Let me tell you like this, I do these artistic living spaces and retreats for artists and design them. (paused) This is a great source of financial income. (paused) How at times people can be is something (paused) for example: here it had been awhile since I did a film project, since my father had passed away and I needed to take care of my mom, so I took a break. People began saying things like, “its too bad your career ended.” It was like a double-edged thing... I was still getting the offers, but I didn’t have to go to work on an acting job like they might have to, I was enjoying my life and doing what I wanted. So, eventually along came this project “Three Holes and a Smoking Gun” and at the same time another film project, which we didn’t end up doing where the writer/director was stuck on doing it his way or the highway. I had to re-think how I was looking at this particular project, and I decided I had to let it go. Eventually you know you made the right decision and I am so happy, I had made that decision with that particular film project, because I took the best road, and “Three Holes and a Smoking Gun,” certainly came out for the better.


SR: How is today's generation when it comes to how they are looking at things?


JW: I was invited to speak to a group of students. And I was told they were of the 'boomerang generation' and I had to think how to motivate them. As life is not always coming to you, especially if you sit there and not move, just playing video games...


SR: What attracted you to “Three Holes and a Smoking Gun?”


JW: I think it was a part that was Sam Shepard “True West.” If I could make it work, it would be a home run for all of us. This is the perfect project to hit a home run or strike out and live with it.


SR: You are a very believable actor, as you take on your characters completely. Actors such as Anthony Hopkins are capable of such.


JW: I do think acting is a committed communication. You have to communicate the pattern of language so people can understand. It's not forced, but it's pushing the communication through to the other person. Hopkins is a genius at this, he lasers it right at you.


SR: What might be next for you?


JW: Right now I am doing work on another lifestyle space. As well, I am thinking of looking at another project that might be more commercial. You have to mix those things that are independent with things that are of a commercial mix, this way you can bring in the things you like to the spotlight to the iconic works.


I think ultimately though the thing to do in life is to get out there and get busy... start living life. You have to find out what things work for you and what doesn't. Even if you can't sell what you like working at, at least its something you love and that is perfect to you.  

Trailer for "Three Holes and a Smoking Gun"

Directed by: 

Hilarion Banks

Writing Credits  

Scott Fivelson


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