Pusher - Richard Coyle DVD interview
Compiled by Jack Foley
SHEFFIELD-born actor Richard Coyle, 38, trained at Bristol’s prestigious Old Vic Theatre before graduating in the mid-90s, when he almost immediately found work as a successful television actor.
Coyle’s breakthrough came in 2000 with the role of the romantically inept Jeff Murdock in the BBC relationship comedy series Coupling. He has since combined TV with the stage and film. The last 12 months have seen him finding bigger roles in projects as diverse as Madonna’s WE, a semi-historical drama in which he plays an abusive husband, and Jon Wright’s Grabbers, a horror film in which he plays an alcoholic cop who is confronted by man-eating monsters in a remote Irish town.
In Luis Prieto’s Pusher, a remake of Nicolas Winding Refn’s 1996 Danish crime thriller, Coyle stars as Frank, a drug-dealer who find his once-carefree life unravelling after a cocaine deal goes wrong.
Q. How would you describe Frank?
Richard Coyle: Frank is a mid-level drug dealer on a one-way trip to hell, I guess. I see him as quite a decent guy – a noble guy caught in the wrong profession – and he’s trying desperately to get out.
Q. What kind of research did you do for the role?
Richard Coyle: Well, I don’t know how much research you can do apart from hanging out with drug dealers and taking drugs! [Laughs] No, I didn’t take any drugs, and I’m not condoning taking drugs in any way, shape or form. No, it was basically just the material. I see it as a story about a man, and the drugs are kind of irrelevant. It’s about a man fighting for his soul.
Q. What were your first thoughts when you were approached? Did you have any reservations?
Richard Coyle: No. I loved the role immediately. It’s one of those roles that just makes you go, “Wow!” My only concern was the schedule. There wasn’t a lot of free time; I’m in every scene – it’s brutal. I’d just done two movies back to back, and I was worried about getting ready for it, because I knew I’d have to be pretty fit. I mean, I keep myself physically fit anyway, so that wasn’t really the problem. It was more about getting my head around it, and having enough time to get what I needed to get, mentally. It’s quite a big journey. Frank’s story is a big spiral – it spirals out of control, and it would have been quite hard to keep tabs on that without enough time to stop and think about it.
Q. You’re nearly at the end of filming now – how do you feel?
Richard Coyle: I’m feeling drained. We’ve been shooting six-day weeks and there’s no day off, because Saturday is a recovery day after a night-shoot, always, and then you’re back in on Sunday morning. So it’s been hard to switch off. A day off here and there would have helped, but it’s also the nature of the film as well. The character is just a swirl of emotion and aggression, and that starts to take its toll.
Q. Have you been watching the rushes, to see how the movie’s going?
Richard Coyle: I don’t really like to watch myself very much, even afterwards. I kind of feel that when I’ve finished shooting, that’s my job done, really. It’s not my business what happens to it next. I just do what I do and that’s what I love: doing it.
Q. What’s it been like working with Agyness Deyn?
Richard Coyle: It’s been amazing. I think she’s a real natural talent, because, being a model, she’s used to being in front of a camera and playing a character for the lens, so she slotted in very naturally. The thing that surprised me most about her is that her instincts are brilliant. She really knows her way around the camera, she never tries to do too much. She’s always doing what is necessary, without over-embellishing anything or trying to play a scene in a way that’s not true.
Q. How would you describe your character’s relationship with her character, Flo?
Richard Coyle: The way I see it, we’re in love, but if the circumstances were different we would be together. And because of those circumstance we’re not, and we can’t be together. That’s the tragedy, that’s the thing that’s the most poignant about their relationship – for one reason or another, they can’t be together. Much as they’d like to be. There’s kind of a yearning for each, a yearning for a soulmate, like a safe haven in a storm. But they’re not able to embrace that.
Q. Were you familiar with the original Pusher?
Richard Coyle: No, I didn’t watch it. I wasn’t told not to, I just chose not to. I had a chat with Luis, the director, and I realised he was trying to do something different. So, I didn’t think it would help me that much. I wanted to create my own Frank. I’m sure there are certain bases that need to be touched, but I’m sort of trusting Luis to fill me in on them and point me in the right direction.
Q. What did you do to find the character?
Richard Coyle: It was just in the script, really. And some of it I was making up as I went along, trying to take it scene by scene and day by day.
Q. So, what music have you been listening to for Pusher?
Richard Coyle: Normally, what I do before a job starts is that I go through the script and I choose songs that I think will help. It’s a moveable feast, and it always changes, but I get a general idea. For this film, there’s a band called Health from LA. I’ve been listening to a lot of that kind of thing. It’s like a wall of noise, an angry, violent wall of noise, and it helps me get worked up. Or I’ll find other things. For example, in the last film I did, which was a monster movie called Grabbers, for the first few scenes – which were quite desolate, because I was playing a bit of a lost soul – I was using Bon Iver. But I’ve been using Health for this one; quite violent beats. Apart from music, I do a lot of running on the spot, like a maniac. I get some very funny looks on the street! All that kind of thing. Running up and down the stairs, anything to get my blood pumping. It’s a good way to go into the scene.
Q. Do you have any empathy for Frank?
Richard Coyle: I do. But I never like to judge the character. I just have to leave my feelings of pity, or fear, about a character – whatever I feel towards the character, I try to leave to one side. It’s good to have them, but it doesn’t help me. I can’t act those things. I just to play the character as truthfully as I can. But … [Pauses] How do I feel about Frank? I feel like he’s very tragic and I feel very sorry for him. A lot of what he does is reprehensible, but I understand it. I don’t want to just create a psycho who’s just losing the plot. I’m trying to portray him as a man who’s stuck in a real, real rut, who’s just lashing out. Because, as you do, he’s lashing out at the people closest to him, I think. He’s got so much rage and such desperation to get out of the situation he’s in. I don’t know about the original film – because, as I said, I haven’t seen it – but as for my Frank, I feel like he’s a man that’s elsewhere. He’s somewhere else. He’s not always there. In his eyes, he’s not present. He was a dreamer once upon a time, but he’s got stuck in something he didn’t want to get stuck in, and he’s at an age where he’s started thinking: “I’ve got to stop this, otherwise this will be my life.”
Q. Is it easy to switch off from being him?
Richard Coyle: No. I get home and I feel kind of wired and full of this helpless, frustrated rage! [Laughs] I want to beat things up, so I just go home and hit pillows with golf clubs for about an hour, and then I’m wrecked.
Q. The original Pusher was the start of a trilogy. Do you see this story continuing?
Richard Coyle: I’m sure it could, I guess. There’s quite an ambiguous ending for Frank. It’s not quite crystal clear what’s going to happen to him, although it’s pretty obvious.
Q. You’ve also made a lot of comedies. Is it important for you, as an actor, to mix things up?
Richard Coyle: Yes, very much. I’ve never wanted to get stuck doing one thing, which is why I left Coupling when I did, because I just didn’t want to be a TV sitcom actor. It was a great experience, it launched me, and I’m very, very grateful for it, but I never just wanted to be that. There was so much I wanted to achieve and do. And there’s so much I might still do.
Q. So which do you prefer: comedy or drama?
Richard Coyle: Well, comedy is generally easier. It’s not easier to do, it’s much harder, but it doesn’t churn you up in the same way that something like Pusher does. [Laughs] You don’t get churned up about knob gags!
Pusher is out on on Blu-ray, DVD and to download on February 11, 2013, from Momentum Pictures.