Swimming to Cambodia

1987 film by Jonathan Demme

Swimming to Cambodia is a 1987 film in which Spalding Gray tells about his participation in the film, The Killing Fields and the background story about the troubles of Cambodia.

Directed by Jonathan Demme. Written by Spalding Gray.

Spalding Gray

  • This bombing went on for five years. The Supreme Court never passed any judgment on it and the military speaks with pride today that five years of the bombing of Cambodia killed 16,000 of the so-called enemy. That's 25% killed, and there's a military ruling that says you cannot kill more than 10% of the enemy without causing irreversible, psychological damage. So, five years of bombing, a diet of bark, bugs, lizards and leaves up in the Cambodian jungles, uh, an education in Paris environs in a strict Maoist doctrine with a touch of Rousseau, and other things that we will probably never know about in our lifetime -- including, perhaps, an invisible cloud of evil that circles the Earth and lands at random in places like Iran, Beirut, Germany, Cambodia, America -- set the Khymer Rouge out to carry out the worst auto-homeo genocide in modern history.
  • What a fantastic land it was, how it was Shangri-La before it was colonized... Thailand was a Nordic country compared to Cambodia, and they're right next to each other. And he said 90% of the land was owned by the people; it was earth, it was dirt, but it was THEIRS, and it was good. And-and they knew how to have a good time. They knew how to have a good time. They knew how to have a good time getting born, a good time growing up, a good time going through puberty, a good time falling in love, a good time staying in love, a good time getting married, a good time staying married, a good time having children, a good time raising children, a good time growing old, a good time dying... they even knew how to have a good time on NEW YEAR'S EVE! I couldn't believe it!
  • [as "Jack Daniels"] Waterproof, man? Waterproof? You ask why waterproof? I'll tell you why waterproof! When my ship sinks, in an ocean, any ocean, anywhere, I'm still chained down there in that waterproof chamber. I press that green button, it activates that rocket, it goes up out of its waterproof silo, up, up, up, UP! I get a fucking erection, man, every time I think about firing a rocket at those Russians! We're gonna win! We're gonna win! We're gonna WIN this fucking war! Boy, I like the Navy, man. I get to travel everywhere. I've been to India, been to Africa, been to Sweden. I fucking didn't like Africa, man. I don't know why. Black women just don't turn me on.
  • [as "Jack Daniels"] The Russians are stupid people, they're backwards. You know on their ships, they don't even have electrical intercoms? They still speak through tubes? [as himself] Suddenly, I had this enormous fondness for the Russian navy, for all of Mother Russia. The thought of these men like innocent children speaking through empty toilet paper rolls, empty paper towel rolls, where you can still hear doubt, confusion, brotherly love, ambivalence, all those human tones, coming through the tube.
  • I can't even look at a weather map anymore! It's too big! That's why I moved to Manhattan - I wanted to move to an island OFF THE COAST of America!
  • [On dealing with the annoying upstairs neighbor] Renee is not practicing Buddhist tolerance. She's walking up and down... she's got STEAM screaming out of her navel. And there are people say we should start a collection to hire a vigilante to off this woman, to kill her, and I find I'm not saying "no"? That's how New York has changed me? I'm willing to put money into the pot? Renee? Renee's father was in the Jewish Mafia. She knows the language. She grew up in the streets of New York. She calls her up and goes, "BET YA WANNA DIE, RIGHT, BITCH? CUNT, I'LL BEAT YOUR FUCKING FACE IN WITH A BASEBALL BAT! BITCH! CUNT! DIE! DIE! DIE!" [he slams the "phone" down hard] Music goes louder. Renee figures the woman's a masochist and is getting off on the language.
  • Then out comes the banana! And she takes a few lame shots like the Russian rockets that are going to sputter and pop and land in our cornfields. And for the finale she aims her vagina down the main isle like a great cannon, loads it with a very ripe banana and thoomp fires it! Almost hits me in the eye, almost hits an Australian housewife in the head, hits the back wall and sticks! And slowly it inches its way down until it, pomp, lands... and is devoured instantly by an army of giant roaches.
  • [as Athol Fugard] Spalding! The sea's a lovely lady when you play in her. But if you play with her, she's a BITCH! Play in the sea, yes, but never play with her. You're lucky to be here! You're lucky to be ALIVE!
  • So I did it. I got in the car for the final ride to the airport. And as I was riding, I felt like I was going to the gallows. I couldn't believe it. Why was I doing this? Why did I feel, mainly, why did I feel so inflated. I'd been there eight weeks, I'd worked eight days. Was waiting that difficult? I felt all puffed up, but on the way, I felt, my God, I will never see a little piece of heaven like this again. This is the end. And as I was riding, I said a silent benediction, a silent farewell to all that I had had and would miss. Farewell, to the fantastic breakfasts, free every morning. You walked down and there they are waiting on you with the papaya, mango, and pineapple like I'd never tasted before. Farewell, to the Thai maids with the king-sized cotton sheets and the big king-sized beds. Farewell, to the lunches. Fresh meat flown in from America, daily. Roast potatoes, green beans and roast lamb, at 110 degrees under a circus tent, according to British Equity. Farewell to the drivers with the tinted glasses and the Mercedes with the tinted windows. Farewell to the cakes, and teas and ices every day exactly at four o'clock. Farewell to those beautiful smiling people. Farewell to that single, fresh rose in a vase on my bureau in the hotel every day. And just as I was climbing into that first-class seat, and wrapping myself in a blanket, just as I was adjusting the pillow from behind my head, and having a sip of that champagne, and just as I was adjusting and bringing down my Thai purple sleep mask, I had an inkling, I had a flash. I suddenly thought I knew what it was that had killed Marilyn Monroe.
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