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Criminal - John C Reilly Q&A



Compiled by: Jack Foley

Q. What is it that you look for in a role? What attracted you to this movie?
A.
I look for something different to do – that's the first thing I look for in a role. This role was certainly different than a lot of the people that I've played before.
For whatever reason, every part that I've played has this golden heart at the end of the day, and it was great to play somebody that was – if he has a golden heart, it's pretty tarnished, you know?
It was nice to play a leading role in a film and be given that responsibility and to sort of be the driving force in the movie. It was a lot of fun but it was also a lot of responsibility because I didn't want to let anybody down because there's always pressure.
As an actor, you show up and when the cameras are rolling, it's game time and you have the luxury of time to kind of work it out. No one ever told me that I was the lead of the movie and to start acting like it, it was just more like creative discussions about the scenes, things like that.

Q: How much did you research for this role?
A:
I did a bit of research. I met with police officers, vice policemen here in Los Angeles that deal with people that do this stuff for a living. Um, the actual people who do it are kind of hard to get a hold of (laugh) but in fact there was one guy that the policeman knew, a gypsy, and we were trying to track him down, but he's got a case pending in Portland and he's wanted in Texas and he owes alimony in Florida, or something…this guy had a really complicated life.
Then he started asking for money and we offered him some but then he wanted twice that amount of money. So he was trying to pull us into the typical con web. But yeah, it's different and like I said, some of the reasons I was attracted to the part was that it's different than a lot of the stuff I've done.

Q: Did you learn additional tricks except for those shown in movie?
A:
Yeah, well, I did a movie called Hard Eight where we did a little bit of that stuff before but this was a really compressed time frame when we made this movie.
From the time that they asked me to do it to the time that we finished shooting it was a really tight schedule…28 days shooting. So there wasn't a lot of time to be doing extra credit homework.
It's natural that journalists are interested in the research that actors do for roles but, from my point of view, the best research you can do is reading a well-written script, you know? So I was lucky to have that in this case.

Q: But you had rehearsals?
A:
Yeah, we rehearsed for about a week.

Q: Do you feel sorry for your character?
A:
Sure, I feel sorry for him. You know, despite the fact that this guy is sort of ethically challenged and there are a lot of big differences between us in the way that we conduct ourselves but there are a lot of things we have in common too.
The life of a con man is not that different from the life of an actor in a way. They’re both like small, independent business men who are trying to make a living and work in all these different places, with different people.
Con artists just do it in a much more negative way. He sort of preys on people. An actor also cons people, but I let you know before you come to the theatre and you agree to be conned.

Q: Did you start acting from a very young age? Did you start because of your parents…
A:
No, no one in my family is an actor. I think my grandfather was a bouncer in Vaudeville for a while. He was the guy that stood at the front of the stage and made sure no one ran up on the stage when the girl was flinging her pasties around or whatever.
Yeah, I don't know. I think it was more just a natural channel for my kind of restless mercurial nature as a kid. I was starting to get into a drama class in Chicago and I started doing musicals and honestly, what really attracted me to it was the sense of community.
More so than the adoration of an audience or even the work itself. It was more like feeling like I was normal, you know? Because in sports settings and academic settings, I always felt like an odd ball, but with people doing theatre and stuff, I felt like these are my people.

Q: So did you pack your bags, move to LA and start from here and do odd jobs?
A:
I started in Chicago, doing theatre professionally when I got out of acting school. And then I was cast in my first film while I still lived in Chicago. In fact, I did my first three films while still living in Chicago.
I was travelling a lot and going on location, but I was just really lucky – I got cast off a video tape that I sent from Chicago to Brian De Palma for Casualties of War which was my first film and they cast me from that video tape as a tiny part in the film.
I originally was going to play this guy who gets injured in the first battle scene of the movie. And then during the course of rehearsal, they decided to change the cast around a little bit and they ended up giving me one of the leads of the movie.
It was a complete collision of, what do they say – luck is when preparation meets opportunity?
It was really one of those situations. I was really a theatre actor and I didn't even see a future for myself in movies. That seemed like too much to ask for. I would have been happy doing that for the rest of my life and then Hollywood came knocking and one thing led to another.

Q: Are you still doing theatre?
A:
Yeah, I do theatre a lot. If it works out, I'm gonna do two plays on Broadway next year.

Q: When you saw the movie finished, was it what you expected?
A:
Yeah, well, every time I watch a movie that I'm in, I get a splitting headache. I don't know why but even with this film, I had to tell myself that I wasn’t going to get a headache this time, it's gonna be okay. And by the end of it, my head was throbbing again.
I think that has to do with the first time you see a film that you're in it seems like a scrapbook of your life out of order – nothing makes sense and the story seems out of order, even though it is in order. It's because you shot it in a different order.
You know, our last day of shooting is the opening scene of the movie. So that's always a jarring experience, but then what heals those feelings and what makes it okay is when you see it with an audience and you hear the laughter and the surprise and you can start to see it through the eyes of someone who is not on the inside of the movie like you are.

Q: How was it working with Diego Luna?
A:
It was great. He's one of the most charming people you'll ever meet. We have that weird thing called chemistry. I don't know why, I wish I could understand what it is that creates chemistry because I would create it every time with everyone that I work with.
But I just immediately felt affection for him. He has this look about him which my character Richard, in the movie, really uses as a tool against people. You just want to hug him or you want to save him or something, like an orphan. He has this kind of forlorn sweetness to him. And it's true of him in real life.

Q: What do you think about the film?
A:
I love it. One of my biggest hopes for this movie is that we did for LA what the original film, Nine Queens, did for Argentina. You know, capture that place at that time and what it really feels like to be on the streets of LA.

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