You’ve never said it was named after Springfield, Oregon, before, have you?
I don’t want to ruin it for people, you know? Whenever people say it’s Springfield, Ohio, or Springfield, Massachusetts, or Springfield, wherever, I always go, “Yup, that’s right.”
You’re on record as loving your hometown. Is it all love or is there a little love-hate?
I loved growing up in Portland, but I also took it for granted. Now, I look back and realize how idyllic a place it was. My family lived on a long, windy road on a little dead-end street called Evergreen Terrace—also the name of the street the Simpsons live on—and in order to visit any friends I had to walk at least a mile through the woods to get to their house.
But when I say idyllic, I mean the external circumstances of my childhood were pretty pleasant. That does not take into account that I was bored out of mind from the first day of first grade. Also, I was bullied. If you use certain words that can only be gotten by reading a book or two, that somehow enrages a certain kind of lug. When I was in fourth grade, these older kids surrounded me one day, and they told me they were going to beat me up after school. Knowing I was going to get beat up, I smashed one kid in the face as hard as I could, and then I got beaten up. The next day, all the kids were brought in to the school office, and they all had to apologize to me, and I just hated their guts.
Would you like to call them out by name now?
No. But maybe they are characters named after themselves on “The Simpsons.”
What did “home” mean to you growing up?
Home growing up meant certain rituals that seem to be lost these days, which is about a family being in the same place at the same time. At dinner we all sat down for dinner together. Unless I committed some type of infraction, and then I had to eat at the top of the basement stairs.
What do you think of Portland then and Portland now?
One thing that hasn’t changed is that people in Portland are in complete denial about how much it rains there.
Do you plan on moving back someday?
Yes. The only reason to live in Los Angeles, where I’ve been since the late ’70s, is if you have something to do with the entertainment industry. Everything you can experience in Los Angeles, you can have a much better version of in Portland—including, very basically, the air you breathe.
Does your mom still live in your childhood home? If not, when was the last time you visited it?
I visited my childhood home about two years ago. I was snapping a picture of it, and the owner came out and invited me in. It was pretty much as I remember it, except what was incredibly spacious to a little toddler now seemed so much smaller. The guy let me go down to my favorite place of terror, which was the basement. My father had a place where he developed film called “the dark room,” but to me that was all it was—the dark room. It was the scariest place in the house, and it gave me a lot of nightmares. I had to go back down and look at the dark room, and I realized that it was just a dusty—dark—cobwebbed little room in the corner of the basement.
What did your father do before he became a filmmaker?
He grew up on a Mennonite farm in Kansas, speaking only German until he went to school. My father then ended up as a bomber pilot flying a B-17 during World War II. After the war, he was a surfer, filmmaker and ardent amateur basketball player. He perfected a basketball shot that he could shoot—without looking—over his head and consistently make from the top of the key. He made that shot for 30 years.