Did you feel the film accurately portrayed the lives of expatriate jazz musicians in the late '50s? It just happens that I was living in Paris around that time. What I did was incorporate what I know about Bud Powell and Lester Young and about myself and maybe a hundred other jazz musicians of the same ilk, so the role was not difficult. The most difficult thing was the language -- the way musicians speak, and the attitude -- to make it communicable to an audience, so it wouldn't be too far out. It had to be a balance and still make sense and say something. We had to go over the script every day, about the lines, what they implied and so forth, so I had to stay up all night trying to figure out what would be real and honest and appropriate and fantastic.
Were you at ease about acting for the first time?
Yes, it wasn't really a big problem, playing the part, because actually all of the people involved were friends of mine. And [director Bertrand] Tavernier and [producer Irwin] Winkler were supportive and understanding, to say the least.
Why was the movie a composite dramatization, rather than just about Bud Powell?
For Bud, those last few years were so melancholy, it wouldn't have been very charming. So we made it about Bud, Lester, yours truly, Ben Webster, Kenny Clarke, Art Farmer -- all the expatriate guys.
Were you happy with the result?
Yes. I would like to have heard more music, but the movie was edited very cleverly, because it doesn't bog down. You have to see it three or four times: There are a lot of things in there that are very subtle. Some people didn't even like the movie at first, and then on second viewing [they did]. There was so much of my life in this, I don't mean just Dexter, I'm talking about all my heroes.
Now that you've acted once, would you do a movie that wasn't about a subject so close to your heart?
Yes, [laughter] yes! I really couldn't do ``Round Midnight II.''