A Writer Gets Grilled By His 18-Year-Old Self In 'Later That Same Life'
In 1977, an 18-year-old Peter "Stoney" Emshwiller filmed himself asking questions meant for his future self. Emshwiller tells NPR's Ari Shapiro, "I was going through what I think a lot of 18-year-olds go through — where you're leaving high school and you're about to start sort of your real life — and felt like I wanted to ask somebody who knows. And of course there isn't anybody, but I decided to pretend there was and sit down and talk to a blank wall asking every question I could think of and responding to every answer I thought I might get back."
Thirty-eight years later, the writer and voice actor sat down to answer his young self's questions. The result is Later That Same Life, a film cut together to look like one seamless interview.
On watching the 1977 footage for the first time in years
The biggest thing that surprised me is, back then, I had very, very bad self-image. I thought of myself as hideous. I grew a horrible, scruffy beard trying to cover up my acne. And I looked at the footage of myself, and I thought, "You're adorable!" It was eye-opening.
On feeling like he'd let his 18-year-old self down
I was sure I was going to be distinguished and gray and have these little beautiful wrinkles, but the idea that, you know, I'd sit down across from my future self and he would be, you know, Jabba the Hutt and look like a mutant beached whale . ... Oh, the editing process was horrible because I would be sitting there having to look at myself — I'm at that age and weight where I avoid reflective surfaces as much as possible. So having to sit for hours and look at this footage of myself was torture. ... And it wasn't just, of course, my appearance. It was that I was facing the disappointment.
It felt real. ... Why did I think I was really in the room with my 18-year-old self? And it dawned on me: Well, because he's still there inside me. He was in the room.
On feeling like he was actually talking to his 18-year-old self
Even though it was, you know, 38 years apart and it was artificially created, it felt real. ... There was a moment where I got a friend of mine to put a jacket on that looked a little like what I wore back then and I had a moment where I said to my younger self, "Everything's going to be OK. Do you want a hug?" And I had this friend come over and hug me. And it's completely artificial — you know, the guy doesn't even look like me, didn't have a beard — but I burst into tears because it felt like I was really hugging 18-year-old me. Why did I think I was really in the room with my 18-year-old self? And it dawned on me: Well, because he's still there inside me. He was in the room.
On why he decided to answer his younger self's questions all these years later
There [are] two reasons I think I did it. One is I needed him to be OK with how I led his life. But honestly, I might never have decided to go back to this project if I hadn't had a little bit of a health scare. ... I was in the hospital with tubes coming out of me and I thought, "I gotta finish this movie."
Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.