NEW YORK STATE OF MIND
The Beastie Boys’ Adam Horovitz Sounds Off on Trump, Neo-Nazis, and ‘Alternative Facts’
The rap legend Ad-Rock opens up about his new Sundance film ‘Golden Exits’—exhibiting his exceptional acting chops—and how Trump is a “sleazeball fuckin’ racist.”
“It’s terrible out there,” mutters Adam Horovitz, motioning to the blizzard outside. “We should be in Hawaii. Whose idea was this?”
He has a point. We’re huddled together on a couch in one of many “studios”—essentially an interview space spruced up to resemble a cozy living room—that line Main Street in Park City, Utah, during the Sundance Film Festival. Outside, the roads have been bombarded with two feet of snow and rising, reducing even the most winter-proofed cars to a drunken stumble. Horovitz is from New York City, so he’s used to this shit. And, as one-third of rap outfit the Beastie Boys, some might say he’s a New York institution. But the hip-hop hell-raiser formerly known as Ad-Rock no longer use[s] the microphone like Picasso use clay. Rather, he’s here braving the thin mountain air and towering snowbanks in service of his latest film.
Gone are the gold chains, baseball caps, and booze-fueled rampages. These days, the greying Horovitz has smoothly transitioned into his second act: as an actor and film composer. The former has been something of a surprise, given the ex-MC’s lame Hollywood flirtation in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, one that included the messy films Lost Angels and Roadside Prophets, along with a plethora of disastrous auditions, often stoned, for the likes of Jodie Foster, Oliver Stone, and Terry Gilliam.
“I was just so bad at it that I stopped acting,” says Horovitz. “And I had another job that did good, so I just kept with that.”
But then, out of nowhere, he popped up as the homebody husband Fletcher in Noah Baumbach’s While We’re Young, and knocked it out of the park. His was a casual and confident performance, effortlessly conveying the lassitude that comes with middle age. Another New York filmmaker, Alex Ross Perry (Listen Up Philip), saw Horovitz’s turn and offered him the lead role of Nick, a lonely archivist trapped in a loveless marriage (to Chloe Sevigny’s Alyssa) and suffocated by nostalgia in the feature Golden Exits. Naomi (Emily Browning), a fetching twenty-something Australian gal, is bold and free in all the ways he is not, and when she arrives to assist him in his tedious task, cataloguing the works of his late father-in-law, his lust for life is awakened.
Horovitz says he agreed to the part because “it really kind of was that I had nothing better to do at the time.” Also, it shot in nearby Brooklyn and only lasted for two weeks (Perry shot the entire film in three). But Horovitz, once again, proves himself to be a gifted actor, nailing Nick’s older-dude-discomfiture and pathetic sense of longing.
“With him, he’s convinced himself that he wants to be in this dark basement and that it’s what he loves to do, but really he wants to be out frolicking or on a beach in the sun,” says Horovitz. “He wants to be running somewhere as opposed to dragging himself doing this thing, and it takes the form of this young woman who’s wild and free. It’s about getting out of the basement of life.”
Perry’s film—and Horovitz’s performance—premiered to positive reviews at the indie film fest, but it’s been surreal for the 50-year-old to be navigating this movie bubble, replete with gifting suites, garish fur coats, and movie stars galore, while the world outside has been taking to the streets to protest the election of President Donald Trump.
“It’s weird as shit. I wasn’t gonna come,” confesses Horovitz, before launching into a sarcastic broadside against Trump mouthpiece Kellyanne Conway. “You know, actually it’s been good because I deal in ‘alternative facts.’ It seems right to me. ‘Alternative facts’ is really one of the better things that’s come out in a long time. ‘Alternative facts?’ It’s brilliant! Really? Alternative facts? There are two different realities? That’s a shitty hardcore band: Alternative Facts. It’s crazy, man. It’s so fucking depressing.”
Horovitz was born in Manhattan and has lived there for most of his life, so he says he’s all too familiar with the “sleazeball fuckin’ racist landlord” that is Donald Trump. But the ex-rapper is still struggling with exactly how a tacky New York billionaire who lived in a Bond villain-esque gold penthouse rode a populist working-class wave into the Oval Office. “I get that there’s a large portion of this country that is looking for some fuckin’ racist, sexist, homophobe like fuckin’ awful white dude that they want to be in charge. OK, I get that there’s a portion of our country that wants that,” he says. “But Trump I don’t get. I can’t wrap my head around it. He is the New York City rich elite. Who got duped by that motherfucker? I don’t get it at all. People look at him—and us New Yorkers—as awful people, so I don’t get it? He’s a fuckin’ scumbag.” “His building in SoHo [the Trump SoHo] is on an African burial ground. He don’t give a fuck. I guess that strikes a chord in people—he don’t give a fuck, they don’t give a fuck, they just want to get theirs,” he adds.
In November, Horovitz and his fellow Beastie Boy Mike D got a nasty taste of Trumpism when Adam Yauch Park, a memorial to their fallen Beastie brother MCA, was defaced with swastikas and a message that read: “Go Trump!” The hateful vandalism prompted Horovitz, who like his fellow Beasties is part-Jewish, to hold a rally at the park where he preached: “Keep your eyes open, stand up for each other. This is homegrown terrorism for real. I reject Donald Trump’s vision for America. New York City, I’m asking you to do the same.”
Reflecting on the episode, Horovitz admits to being shocked by the rise of the “alt-right”—or white supremacists—in this country; a movement that seemed to coincide with the political ascendance of Trump, a nativist who’s been known to share anti-Semitic memes online.
“Alt-right-delete. It’s ridiculous,” he offers. “I don’t think they did [the playground graffiti], I just think it was some kid who thought it was a funny thing to do. But I’ve never seen a swastika on the fuckin’ F train and, on the West 4th Street train station, I’ve seen one four times—just in the last six months. And Trump can’t take fifteen seconds to say, ‘I denounce that shit?’ It’s pathetic.”
Though the Beastie Boys are kaput, and though Horovitz says he has no plans to rap again (“I mean… no, not really,” he tells me), he’s found a musical outlet in scoring films. His first feature film score was for the 2014 documentary No No, about the life of pro baseball pitcher Doc Ellis, who famously pitched a no-hitter while tripping on LSD. He’ll next compose the music for a documentary about Casio keyboards by his pal Greg Poole.
But as far as the acting thing goes, he’s still on the fence. “I dunno! It’s kind of a hassle—like, the hours. Eh,” he says, unleashing that mischievous Beastie Boy grin. “Look, it’s not a real job, that’s for sure. I don’t want to have a real job. No one wants to have a job.”