Subject of Seattle film talks about the movie that almost destroyed him
It derailed his life and he was eating out of foodbanks
for three years.
Grant Cogswell is the subject of “Grassroots,”
opening this weekend at the Harvard Exit in Seattle.
His campaign inspired the as-told-by-tale by campaign
manager Phil Campbell’s book, “Zioncheck for President: A
True Story of Idealism and Madness in American Politics,”
that then became a movie.
Cogswell wasn’t involved in much of the film. He said he
probably would have only been humored if he had made many
suggestions to the filmmakers, including director Steven
Gyllenhaal. But, this wasn’t the poet-writer-former
candidate for city council’s first foray into film.
The film failed. “Cthulhu” was, according to Variety, the
lowest performing film from the lowest performing
distributor when it came out. Cogswell had invested all of
his own personal assets in the film, and the assets of
many others. The project, which was filmed in Seattle and
along the Oregon coast, cost $1 million to make. But it
looked like it only cost a quarter of that.
“You need to do something for 20 years before you’re good
at it,” said Cogswell. While the lighting and
cinematography were splendid, it was the directing, the
writing, and the acting that were the problems.
The folks that were excited enough about the Seattle film
believed that Cogswell and his co-writer and the director
knew what they were doing. Were relationships irrevocably
damaged by the film – the need for money and the ultimate
realization that the movie wouldn’t make a dime? “Moving
on,” Cogswell replied.
While the cash was flowing in 2005, by the time the movie
was released, the economy was in the toilet.
Cogswell had sold his condo in anticipation that his film
would be good enough to at least recoup the money spent,
but just two years later, he was pushing all of his
possessions in a shopping cart across the San Fernando
Valley. He would ultimately sell that for $7.
“I was basically homeless, but I never slept outside.” He
bounced from place to place, from couch to couch, and ate
most of his meals at food banks.
Then, with only $1,000 in his pocket and a backpack, he
moved to Mexico City in 2009.
He owns the metropolis’ only independent English language
bookstore. He loves the city, his girlfriend, and his job.
He also loves the climate.
Are there regrets? “If you can regret anything? Of
course.” He asked Luke, “Are you sorry you’re who you are?
Are you sorry you’re where you are?”
He’s happy in Mexico City, he has one book out, “Dream of
the Cold War: Poems 1998-2008,” and another one on the
way, that will include the story of “Cthulhu.” So maybe
Cogswell’s life will eventually appear on the silver
screen when a Hollywood director decides they want to turn
the making of “Cthulhu” into a movie.
Listen to Luke’s full interview with Grant Cogswell on