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Drive Angry 3D – William Fichtner interview

Drive Angry

Interview by Rob Carnevale

WILLIAM Fichtner talks about playing The Accountant, or the Devil’s right-hand man in Drive Angry 3D and why the experience rates as one of his best ever.

He also compares the film’s director, Patrick Lussier, to others he has worked with [including Michael Bay and Ridley Scott] and reflects on what appeals to him about finding roles – whether big or small, on the big screen or on TV.

Q. I imagine Drive Angry was a huge amount of fun for you to film?
William Fichtner: Absolutely right up there tied with something else as the best time I’ve ever had.

Q. And The Accountant must be a great role to play around with?
William Fichtner: Oh, I had a blast. It’s one of those things that the first time I read the script I thought: “That’s really cool!” [Laughs] He’s out there. I mean there’s no reference point for somebody like that. I mean the guy works in hell, so let’s have fun and fill the blank in here! But I also really liked the story. It’s like a ‘70s road movie and it’s tough, it’s gritty, it’s sexy, it’s shot in 3D. But there was also a really good script, really tight, with interesting characters. I mean, take Amber Heard’s Piper as well. She’s such an interesting tough young woman who is going through her own thing, and Nic Cage’s character who is in hell and gets out. And then I’m reading Billy Burke’s character, Jonah, who is freaky and cool in his own way. But The Accountant to me was like: “Wow! Of all the parts in the piece, I absolutely gravitated towards that one!”

Q. He steals the show…
William Fichtner: Well, thank you. I haven’t seen the movie yet. But I’m glad he has that sort of impact.

Q. You seem to get on really well with Nicolas Cage. How was working with him?
William Fichtner: Nic’s a very quiet guy, very intelligent and super-prepared. It was just a joy to be around him. I’d never met him before and it was really, really good.

Q. How was working with Patrick Lussier, the director?
William Fichtner: The best… right up there. It’s hard to describe Patrick. It’s unfair to say that he’s un-Hollywood like because that makes everyone else seem like they are Hollywood-like, but he’s such a focused, good willed human being. He’s filled with so much enthusiasm for that which he’s working on that it’s infectious. It’s great to be around. If you have an idea, he’ll say: “Go run with it.” And he’ll give you ones to add on to your journey. To me, there’s no better relationship to have with a director than something like that.

Q. So how does he compare to previous directors such as Michael Bay [Armageddon], Michael Mann [Heat] and Ridley Scott [Black Hawk Down] that you’ve worked with?
William Fichtner: They’re all really interesting people for me in their own right. I knock on wood that I’ve had a great time working with them. I can honestly say that I can count on less than one hand directors that I’ve been underwhelmed with. I’ve worked with a lot of people. Michael Bay is Michael Bay… he’s loud! But he’s fun to be around. And he’s crystal clear on what he’s looking for. Ridley is one of the best, period, ever! I had five months in Morocco with Ridley Scott and I’d do it again in a heartbeat – he’s just amazing, and a really, really nice gentleman.

And Patrick… every bit as good as anyone else I’ve worked with. I had a sense while working on Drive Angry that Patrick, more so than any other actor or anyone else involved with the project, was the right guy at the right time with the right movie. Everything about it had a real shine around him for this. He exuded it and that was great to be around. So, I love hearing that the film is cool. I mean I’m not surprised. But Patrick had it all before we even rolled that camera the first day. You just had a sense that this was going to be really cool.

William Fichtner in Drive Angry

Q. You’ve got an amazing career behind you. Which films and TV shows do you look back most fondly upon?
William Fichtner: Drive Angry is right up there. I did a film a few years ago called The Amateurs that no one saw. It was released for, like, four and a half minutes. Working on that with those group of guys [Jeff Bridges, Ted Danson, John Hawkes, Tim Blake Nelson]… six little losers in a small town trying to make something of their lives and following their leader, Jeff… I wasn’t sure that I would ever work on something that would be that fulfilling for me personally. Regardless of the box office, or whatever, I really loved that experience. And I felt that way about Drive Angry. Equally.

Q. So, how do you go about picking your projects? You seem to like to divide your time between film and TV [with shows like Invasion, Entourage and Prison Break]…
William Fichtner: You know, you never know. For me, I wish I loved everything that I read. Sometimes I’m more picky and choosy than I really should be because you would get more jobs! But you don’t know what it is. Sometimes you read something and it could be a big part or a small part. It could be one scene and I’ll read it and say: “Wow, I really like that and I really want to do that.”

Q. Such as The Dark Knight?
William Fichtner: Yeah, great example. Or Crash… single scene things where I really try to realise that little piece of the puzzle and be a part of it. But you never know what it is. But I know when I read something and I’m like: “That sucks!” [Laughs]

Q. So, what are you most recognised for? What do you find yourself being approached most for?
William Fichtner: Most people see me at an airport and go: “Hey man, where’d you go to school?” Because they can’t really place me [laughs]… but certain TV things, or The Dark Knight. I did one scene but it was such a big, popular thing. It seems to change over time. I would love it in a year from now, if you asked me that question again, and I could say to you ‘Drive Angry’. I hope this film has that sort of success. Nothing would make me happier than hearing that.

Q. I gather you’re well into cars but didn’t get to drive the main cars in this. You did, however, get to drive a hydrogen tanker…
William Fichtner: Not the cars, no, but when I’m home I drive a 1970 Road Runner. I’m into muscle cars, I really dig it. I have done my whole life. Motor sport is my favourite sport – all of them… Nascar, F1, Indie car, drag racing. I love hot rods. So, I didn’t get to drive hot rods in this but I got the tanker! The tanker is cool.

Q. How was it to handle?
William Fichtner: [Laughs] You know, the day we were working on that scene they set out three hours to train with it. I got in the cab and said: “Really, we’re going to train?” There’s 15 gears, OK so let’s… I got it up to 11th gear doing 60mph and they were like, the stunt co-ordinator said: “You drive this better than me! We’re fine! Let’s go to lunch!” So, it was cool.

Read our review of Drive Angry

Read our interview with Amber Heard