Compiled by: Jack Foley
Q. Is it a prerequisite that if a movie has snow in it
you’re going to be in it?
A. My theory on that is that when the directors read
the script and they see snow they somehow conjure an image of
me and cast me. I did Dead Poet’s Society had a bunch of
snow scenes, White Fang, Midnight Clear, Alive, Snow Falling on
Cedars! That’s my own particular niche, no one else can
claim that one.
Q. During the Taking
Lives junket, since you got nominated for an Oscar for a mainstream
police thriller you said you might just keep doing them for a
little while – is this still in that vein?
A. When we did that interview, I think I was already
thinking about this movie, I liked the experience of doing Training
Day and afterwards I was looking for another script that might
Q. Did you see the John Carpenter movie first? And did
you look at Rio Bravo?
A. I’d seen the John Carpenter movie when I was
like 19-years-old, I don’t even remember it that well. I
remember that I liked it and for some reason didn’t feel
inclined to watch it again. I did watch Rio Bravo.
This movie is aspiring to be some kind of modern western in a
way and I like those kind of movies, and my only problem with
not having done so many action movies before is that they tend
not to have very many interesting characters and when I was growing
up they did.
You know Bullitt, Popeye Doyle, even Dirty Harry’s an interesting
guy. It was fun to be in a cop movie that had all these great
characters and because of that we got a really great cast and,
of course, it’s totally different from a Before
Sunset experience but for me it keeps things different.
Q. Could you elaborate on the cast?
A. It’s Fishburne obviously, Jon Leguizamo, Mario
Bello, Drea diMatteo, Gabriel Byrne, Brian Dennehy - it’s
a great group of actors. The director was French and his English
was… well better than my French but not much!
He kind of did a very smart thing, he wanted to hire a bunch of
New York theatre actors for the movie because he knew he wanted
people who could bring a lot to it and we were all flattered by
that and enjoyed working with each other, I’ve known Leguizamo
and Brian Dennehy and Fishburne for a long time, so it was a very
enjoyable movie to make.
Q. There were rumours that John Carpenter stopped by
the set to meet the director, did you meet him at all?
A. I didn’t. He never came by the set, they met
before the movie and they showed him a couple of early cuts, he
was incredibly supportive to Jean-Francois and I think he was
psyched it was getting remade. That movie, the original is a peculiar
film because a lot of people don’t have any idea that it
exists and then the people who love it are fanatical about it
and think it’s some kind of sacrilege to even make this
Q. Because this is a French director do you see it in
any way as a French view of American society?
A. I think that would be overstepping it. The screenwriter
is American and I don’t think that way. I think the movie
is a giant anti-authority movie which it was in the 70s and is
now, which is what is fun about it.
Q. Both Laurence and Denzel have very strong on-screen
presences. Can you compare working with the two of them and also
to what do you owe the luck for having such beautiful leading
ladies in every movie you’ve done?
A. They’re both tremendous and both completely
different men. I’ve always wanted to work with Fishburne,
I think he’s a tremendous actor. That’s the thing
if you’re lucky enough to get to be successful in movies
you get to work with a lot of sexy actresses. Leguizamo and Maria
Bello do such a remarkable job with their roles in the script
– they do the most with the least is what I mean. Andrea
too. It’s been a great luxury of my life to meet so many
Q. Are you writing at the moment?
A. Trying to write a third book. There are two books
I’m trying to write and one of them is going to win. I don’t
know yet, I know the theme but I don’t have anything to
say about it yet. It’ll probably be years before I’m
done with it.
Q. I wanted to ask about
Hurley Burley. Why theatre, why now and are you nervous?
A. I’m always nervous, why theatre? Because always
theatre, theatre’s been my first love. I find it very difficult
to stay a disciplined actor and not do theatre. I try to do one
play a year. Sometimes that turns into 18 months, when I was younger
I ran a theatre company, it’s a great place to push your
own learning process without a lot of financial risk.
When you do a movie, they ask you to do the same thing you’ve
done before because there’s a lot of money at risk and producers
involved they want to know you can do it well. In theatre you’re
given an opportunity to risk more as a performer so that’s
why theatre. That’s why Hurley Burley I felt like doing
something really hard to be honest. I felt like really applying
myself to this part.
Q. There had to be about a dozen Mexican standoffs in
this movie and I wanted to ask how you think you would cope in
a real one?
A. Terrible I’m sure! How many real Mexican standoffs
do you think there have been in the world? I don’t know!
Usually somebody seems to pull the trigger and the others just
run I think.
Q. Do you think that the trend for Hollywood remakes
could have an adverse effect on film history, that people might
not go back and see the original Alfie,
because they saw the new one and didn't like it that much?
A. It's never had an adverse effect on fiction, like
a bad film of Slaughterhouse Five doesn't negatively affect the
legacy of Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse Five. A good adaptation
often enhances a book's reputation. With regards to remakes of
other film, I don't know.
Cinema's always been self-referential. Another obvious example
is all the Shakespeare movies - there can be another one, it doesn’t
really matter, a good work is still a good work.
I don't think that Alfie will affect the Alfie. Cinema's such
a young art form. It's only a hundred years old! Imagine if fiction
was only a hundred years old – what they thought about fiction
a hundred years in, or painting, or something. Who knows where
we'll go with it. The other thing is 200 years from now; they
might really like the Jude Law Alfie and really can't stand the
other one. It’s like It’s a Wonderful Life wasn’t
a hit and now it’s a hit.
Q. Do you feel somewhat vindicated that Before Sunset’s
now viewed as number 4 for all critics in the country? Do you
feel proud about that? And also can you end the debate about whether
it’s an adapted or original screenplay because a lot of
people can’t figure out where to place it.
A. It's definitely an original screenplay. The only reason
why there would be any confusion is because it’s a sequel.
So its characters are based on another screenplay but the irony
of that is Julie and I created those characters too. To my mind
it’s an original screenplay.
There was nothing and we wrote it, and it could have been anything
happens it’s nine years later. It's nice that people remembered
the movie and liked the movie. With that movie the word vindicated
is way too strong. I was so happy to have gotten to make it. I
saw the whole thing as such a victory.
We wanted to make that movie for nine years I felt so happy to
have made it. There was no disappointment, I never expected it
to perform at the box office, and it’s a movie about two
So then to be on the critics’ list is very rewarding, mostly
because I think it's very good for the legacy of the film. It
gives it a good chance people will be watching it on DVD and people
will find it. It's very helpful that journalists are keeping it
in the collective conscious.
Q. Have changes in your life brought about changes in
A. Yeah, you learn things in life and you apply them
to everything. I think when I was 25 I wouldn’t have been
interested in making this movie I would have been too preoccupied
figuring out who I was. I didn’t want to do anything that
was perceived as simply a commercial venture. And my taste has
expanded as I’ve grown up. And if I was 22 the part would
have been really stupid. The way this is like the 70s action movie
is your protagonist does not behave like a hero all the time,
he has problems that make it infinitely more interesting, infinitely.
If you’re in the arts, your life is what you work with,
that’s why it’s important to read a lot, learn a lot,
live a lot. My children affect me… I feel friends of mine
say after Training Day there was a change in my work and I chalk
a lot of that to development, my daughter, turning 30, all these
things affect you.
Last year, that was one of the hardest periods of my life but
I’m glad to be through it.