The visionary himself. Don’t look too closely!
Photo: Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images
In Rich Cohen’s (note the initials) fawning Vanity Fair profile of Nic Pizzolatto, he asks whether the “uncompromising auteur” can “do it all again?” The answer for Cohen is self-evident: Yes, yes, a thousand times yes! Pizzolatto is totally the guy in your MFA program, only now he’s made it. Cohen first met Pizzolatto at DePauw University, where they talked about God (what else?), and then in the writer’s room of Magic City, where he was “clearly on the rise.” Cohen calls himself a supplicant and compares Pizzolatto to everyone from a John Steinbeck character to Orson Welles. Get a room, guys.
1. “He was a young professor at work on his first novel, seemingly just another member of the academic multitude, but there was something different about him, something edgy and strange you noticed right away. He registered as bigger than his moderate size, powerful, with a wicked grin. He had an old-fashioned intensity.”
2. “He was 37 but somehow ageless. He could’ve stepped out of a novel by Steinbeck. The writer as crusader, chronicler of love and depravity. His shirt was rumpled, his hair mussed, his manner that of a man who’d just hiked along the railroad tracks or rolled out from under a box. He is fine-featured, with fierce eyes a little too small for his face. It gives him the aura of a bear or some other species of dangerous animal.”
3. “When I was a boy and dreamed of literature, this is how I imagined a writer — a kind of outlaw, always ready to fight or go on a spree.”
4. “I stood outside his trailer like a supplicant, surrounded by handlers, as anxious as a pilgrim.”
5. “When I first met Nic, in Indiana, I thought he was in my life. I now realized I’d been in his life. I was just another one of the technicians at ground control, watching the rocket make its way from launchpad to deep space — corduroy-coat-wearing professor to writers’-room hack to Orson Welles — in three blips across the radar screen.”
6. “But by tossing out that first season and beginning again, Nic has a chance to finally undo the early error of [F. Scott] Fitzgerald and the rest.”
7. “But watching Nic on the set, you realize he has two personas: the guy in the room, churning out pages, and the guy in the action, with cameramen and actors, more akin to a bandleader, or wizard, working levers that send puppets across the scrim.”
8. “Nic was younger than the other Magic City writers, and clearly on the rise. Opinionated but open, a first-class listener. Funny. Occasionally sweet. He made you feel O.K. even when your idea sucked. He seemed perfect for TV, as his thought process unfolded like a show — action and color, dark turns and surprising reveals. His eyes turned hot and visionary as he spoke. He sat back and sneered. His phone flashed. His phone flashed all the time. Big things were happening for him elsewhere. Even so, Nic kept his focus, determined to crack each character. O.K., O.K., but what’s really driving this guy? If you understand what he wants, you’ll understand what he does.”
9. “Here is Nic Pizzolatto, the movie-star whisperer. He’ll do for Vince Vaughn what he did for Matthew McConaughey: bring out what’s been obscured by the kind of movies he’s made.”