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Vantage Point - Matthew Fox interview

Matthew Fox in Vantage Point

Interview by Rob Carnevale

MATTHEW Fox talks about playing a Secret Service agent in political thriller Vantage Point, the joy of working with William Hurt in particular, and his forthcoming role in Speed Racer.

He also talks about his continued commitment to Lost, discovering its secrets and what life might be like once the show has finished.

Q. Why have you got a stack of batteries in your hands?
Matthew Fox: Well, I listen to music constantly and the batteries for my headset just shut down last night, so I had to get some new batteries. I asked for one and I got this many.

Q. What are you listening to?
Matthew Fox: Right now, I’m listening to a lot of The National, Band of Horses, the new Radiohead is really good. I’m loving that.

Q. Did you share any musical preferences with your Vantage Point co-star Dennis Quaid?
Matthew Fox: No, we didn’t. We were so focused on the work. We hung out a bit. But there were a lot of us down there, so it was cool. It was amazing to work with this cast. In fact, one of the first films I remember going to see in the theatre when I was younger that just made an impression on me was Body Heat – so for me, all this time later, to find myself playing a Secret Service agent on the lead team in protection of the President, played by William Hurt, was really cool.

Q. Did you have any reservations about being in an ensemble cast rather than being the star of the movie after a massive TV show like Lost?
Matthew Fox: No, I don’t ever think about that at all. The role is never the first way into a project for me. It’s always about the whole project, the entirety of the film and its potential. The director is probably the biggest piece of the pie of all the elements that vaguely come together in some way towards you feeling compelled to pursue the project, or accept an offer. Then, the role comes after the director sort of says: “This is how I’d like you to serve the story.” It’s about that time when you get to work on bringing yourself to it the best you can.

Q. What form did the script take when it was presented to you?
Matthew Fox: It was one of those reads that was difficult. It was well executed and very original, and has this theme of perspective running though it, which I personally find pretty fascinating. I think about it a lot in my life, just how different things can look to different parties, depending on who they are and where they’re standing and how they want to perceive it. But the actual structure of the script was pretty straight through. It began with the event and then the re-telling of the event through these different perspectives.

You also knew that it was the kind of project that post [production] was going to be a very intense experience, because there’s almost an infinite amount of ways that you could end up structuring the film. I saw the movie about 10 days ago and was really happy with how it all turned out. I think [director] Pete Travis is just a really smart, very dedicated director. I loved the movie he did before, Omagh. I remember the first time meeting him thinking he was just somebody I really wanted to work with and felt that he was going to make a really cool film out of it.

Q. How did you enjoy the Secret Service boot camp?
Matthew Fox: We had consultants on the film, so it was really more like a daily basis thing for me, having somebody there. It was always very important to Pete and Dennis and I, and everybody who was playing Secret Service roles, to make sure that we got the logistics of how that would go down. We choreographed those sequences the same way that they would choreograph them. And it’s very choreographed, and very specific. So, we had somebody there to ask questions of all the time, all the way from where weapons were carried, the way communications were handled, and the positional reference of people around the President.

Dennis, Pete and I really wanted to spend some time talking about what the history between these two guys might be, so that we could make some of the things that happen later in the film a little more powerful. It’s an action thriller, it’s a really intense ride, but we wanted to find the opportunities within that to try to make things heavier towards the end.

Q. How does your commitment to a long-running TV series affect your ability to pick and choose film roles?
Matthew Fox: There are times when it’s frustrating because Lost does take up a big chunk of the year for me, but at the same time Lost is a big reason why I’m getting all these opportunities. So, I’m grateful to what the global success of the show has done for me personally, and it’s definitely a big reason why I’m getting the opportunity to work with directors of this calibre, on these kind of films with these kind of casts. Sometimes there are opportunities that I can’t be a part of, and I wish I could, but then I’m also very well aware that the very thing that’s sort of helping fuel that had got to be my number one priority.

Q. Do you have the clout to suggest they delay a couple of weeks’ shooting on Lost so that you can do a movie?
Matthew Fox: Well yeah, they’ve done that. We shot Speed Racer last summer in Berlin with the Wachowski brothers, and there was a three-week overlap between the Speed Racer schedule and the Lost schedule. Touchstone and Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse and everybody over at Lost really wanted me to have the opportunity to be a part of the film, and they restructured the shooting of the year so that I could come back two weeks later than everybody else, which I’m very grateful for.

Q. How was being directed by the Wachowski brothers?
Matthew Fox: God, it was absolutely fantastic. I can’t say enough about them as creative minds and as people. The movie is going to be so different from anything we’ve seen. Traditional editing is out of the window, the way the movie was shot. I’m really excited for that.

Q. Do you know how Lost is going to end?
Matthew Fox: Now that we know that we’ve got this set number of chapters left, Damon can finally actually plan out how he wants the storyline to go. So yes, I do have some ideas. I have some imagery that he’s mentioned to me. But I can’t tell you because a truck would pull up to this hotel, some guys would jump put with sub machine guns, and they’d jerk me out of here in three seconds flat [laughs].

Q. It must be one of the hazards of Lost, constantly being asked that question all the time?
Matthew Fox: It is but honestly, the audience for Lost is bright and curious and very dedicated and compassionate about the story, and generally they don’t want to know how it’s going to end. They’re smart, they’re going to ask the question but they don’t really want to know. And when I’m reading a really great book, I’m the last person in the world to turn to the end to find out what’s happening. I only let myself read one chapter, because I want to savour the experience of a really good read – and I think that’s the same experience with Lost.

Q. Are you still surprised by the way your character or the story develops in Lost, or can you anticipate their moves?
Matthew Fox: No, I’m always very surprised. Damon and I talk about Jack a lot, and about the story, so there are things I’m prepared for. Last spring he called me pretty far in advance on the flash-forward situation, and obviously he had to fill me in on what that year of Jack’s life was like. I had to close this period of time, from him feeling like he was rescued off the island, towards this future where he’s a mess, he’s suicidal and desperate to go back. That was such a huge surprise to me, and such a good thing for the show, I think, a really smart move on his part. I think it’s really opened up what the show’s going to be for the next three 16-episode seasons.

Q. How do you feel about a future without Lost?
Matthew Fox: This has been an amazing experience for me, so I’m going to really try to savour the next two seasons of shooting the show, and then I think I’ll be ready to move on to different things. I don’t think I’ll do television again. That said, I think some of the best writing is happening on television, so the only reason I’m saying that is that I have more control over what my year looks like by doing films. And I love the contained experience of doing film. You sign on to do this particular story, you spend three or four months really dedicated and focused on that one experience, and then it’s done, and you’re unemployed, and I can dictate how long I stayed unemployed and really nurture the relationships in my life, and then wait for that next thing that starts to build up and feel like I’m compelled to be a part of it. It would just give me more control over what my year looks like, rather than having a six-to-nine month piece of work on one roll. That’s pretty time-consuming.

Q. Do you think your family might miss Lost or be relieved when it’s over, because it’s spilled over into their lives, in terms of location and time commitments?
Matthew Fox: I think that we’re all going to be really excited to move on to the next stages of our lives. My daughter and my little boy have made some really great friends in Hawaii and when we move on, I think that’s going to be a tough moment for them. But we’re also going to be moving on to a place where they’re closer with a lot of family – cousins and other relationships – and I think they’ll make new, really cool friends where we’re heading. We’re not going to stay in Hawaii, I don’t think.

Q. Do you have people suggesting you need to play the good guy when you look at other roles in order to maintain an image?
Matthew Fox: Up to this point, I’ve never really thought at all about some image outside there that is somehow dictating the choices that I make. I just don’t think about it that way. I guess it’s important that the characters you play are likeable. Jack Shepherd could have been a very clichéd, knight-in-shining-armour-type heroic role, which would have been very boring and uninteresting for me to play and for the audience to watch. Damon and I have always wanted to play that guy as a man who’s cast in a clichéd idea of that by this group of people on this island who are desperate for something like that, and he really falls short of it. He’s actually very flawed. The island starts to erode the edges of what was once a compassionate doctor, and it’s leading him down a darker path. That’s interesting to me, and I think to the audience too.

Q. Going back to Body Heat briefly, when you first saw that film how seriously was a career as an actor on your radar?
Matthew Fox: At that time, it wasn’t even a figment of my imagination. That didn’t start happening for me until I was graduating from college. In fact, I was studying economics and got my degree, and I was actually pretty convinced that I was going to work on Wall Street. But then I did one interview and decided that was going to be a disaster for me. So, the idea of acting was like a default, like a fall-off from this other idea that clearly wasn’t going to work out for me. I didn’t start thinking about it until pretty late. But it’s been a ride.

Read our review of Vantage Point

Read our interview with director, Pete Travis