the artist and filmmaker on the beastie boys and his new movie, beginners.

by liza darwin

Whether you realized it or not at the time, you're probably already familiar with the work of Mike Mills. The graphic designer, writer and director has already dabbled in music videos for performers like Moby and Yoko Ono as well as creating cover art for the new Beastie Boys album, Hot Sauce Committee Part 2. Additionally, California native wrote and directed the upcoming autobiographical drama Beginners, starring Ewan McGregor, Melanie Laurent and Christopher Plummer. In between these awesome projects, Mills managed to find time to fill us in on how he does it all.

What made you decide to make a film that was fairly autobiographical? Well, this crazy thing happened when my dad came out. I thought what he was doing was so brave and interesting, and we started this really intense conversation about relationships. Before he passed away, but when he was still sick, I didn't feel like I was done with the conversation yet so I wanted to express it in film.

The film revolves around various sets of relationships, which are a pretty personal thing. Definitely. I thought that this was a story to tell for people. I felt it would be positive to put out into the world. I figured if I wrote really personally, really specifically, really concretely, then I would be able to reach a bigger audience.

Does it feel cathartic in a way to get it out into the public? Since the movie doesn't come out for a few weeks, it's still kind of in limbo until then. In a weird way, it doesn't actually happen until the audience actually sees it- like a play or a live show. I went to Toronto to the premiere, and I was so nervous to see the audience watch it. I was like, “I can't do this anymore…can I go outside?”

Can you watch your own films and distance yourself? I think maybe in five years. But I haven't really watched Thumbsucker [his last film] since it came out. I watch the audience, though, and it's a very rich experience- that's enough.

How did you find the cast? It was a long campaign to get Ewan McGregor and Christopher Plummer…it was like running for president. But in the end, you realize that they're both just really nice people who like their work.

Let's talk the Beastie Boys album cover for Hot Sauce Committee Part 2. How did that come about? I knew them in the ‘90s; I did some single art for them. I was also in this band called Butter 08- they actually opened for my band in Japan! Adam Yaunch [of Beastie Boys] saw the Beginners premiere and was like, “Mike, come out of record cover retirement!” So I did. And then I actually worked on the Santigold single cover this morning.

What type of music are you personally into? I'm actually really diverse when it comes to music. I have a blog where I write about my music taste. But I love anything from Leonard Coen, Joanna Newsome, I'm kind of obsessed with David Bowie and Iggy Pop. I think the Beastie Boys' new record is kind of amazing.

Now that Beginners is complete, are you taking a break? No…never! I'm ready to hit the ground running again.

Watch Beginners when it hits theaters starting June 3.