Compiled by: Jack Foley
Q: This is a really mean role you took on here, not a very
sympathetic character, why were you interested to play him?
A: I was amazed that nobody had ever delved into the
backdrop of the '92 LA riots. I liked the way this script didn't
go specifically into the riots but into a whole different case
and allowed you to meet people who are part and parcel in creating
a situation that finally explodes. Eldon Perry was a spectacular
character. He was extremely complex and a man dealing with a lot
of modern day realities; the politics of crime, justice, legal
methods. I just really liked it. I thought it was compelling.
Q: You have some historical perspective on the LA riots, what
bought them on? Why did they happen?
A: Well, I think what this movie is about, and it takes an
hour and 50 minutes to tell the tale, is that these riots occurred
because you have criminals doing horrible things and you have
cops trying to stop them. The cops have been hired by society
to do that, but society hired the cops within guidelines and what
many cops find out is that they can't always stop criminals within
So, if you hold hard and fast to the rules, the crime rate goes
through the roof; once you relax the guidelines, and if you're
the individual cop that's going to do that, you bring crime down
but you have society on your back for breaking the rules. It's
a ball that goes back and forth.
What's interesting to me is this is the way it's supposed to work
in modern society or any democracy. Society questions the police
and their methods and the police say: "Do you want the criminals
off the street or not?"
Well cops like Eldon Perry just laugh at it and say: "Well
call me when you need me, I'm just a hired hand, I'm a gun fighter
and I will go and do the job that you won't do. I'll go do it,
but don't then scream at me because you don't like the way I do
I think that makes for an interesting arrangement. You will always
have criminals. People will always do illegal things and you are
always going to have to deal with it.
Q: Doesn't he cross the line somewhere?
A: He crosses the line that you and I have asked him not to
cross and he just looks at us and says: "Alright, I won't
cross the line. But if I don't, then these criminals will be running
through your house in three weeks." So he says, 'you answer
the question' and we do.
When we're told of these methods, we don't approve, we fire them,
crime goes right up through the roof. So we go back out and get
them or we produce people who will and then the crime goes down
and, for a while, everyone's happy until they find out the methods
that are being used and they get up in arms.
Like I said, it's a ball that goes back and forth. It's for us
to answer; you can take the Eldon Perrys off the street easily,
but you then can't take the criminals off the street, so we may
not like the truth of the answer.
Q: Well, let's contrast his approach with Ving Rhames' character's
A: Ving's approach in this movie would be, 'this is not proper,
and it can't be done'.
By exposing that, Ving's character will rise to the top. If he
continues to hold hard and fast to the line it won't be long before
the criminals realise that, the crime rate will go up, then everyone
will be screaming at Ving's character to get something done.
The crime rates are going up, houses are being robbed, people
are being killed, drugs on the street are rapid and worse and
you need to do your job and he's either going to turn to Eldon
Perry to come back or get fired for not doing anything and then
we're back to where we started. Maybe that's just the way it is,
maybe that's the way it is supposed to be.
Q: What effects does Eldon Perry's job have on him?
A: I think that's what the hour and 50 minutes is about. You
watch that, you watch what it does to him. It tears him apart.
He's learned to love it but it has ruined his life.
He's an alcoholic but he is still trying to do his job even if
it destroys the fabric of his being. I think it is an impossible
I played a fireman in Backdraft and I realised this a great job;
everybody loves it when the fire department shows up, and the
firemen are just good people who love their job, but people like
Eldon Perry live in this world where everyone hates them, but
they need him but won't admit that.
So he's not heralded except from within the department and they
realise how good he is at the job. It's a cruel world and there's
no satisfaction. I think it's an impossible job.
Q: A couple of years ago, when there were all these scandals
going on in LA with the police, wasn't it a bunch of Eldon Perrys
that were exposed?
A: Sure and what's happening is, perhaps, that those events
are taking place right now but the scandal hasn't taken place
yet. When the scandal breaks, everyone starts yelling and screaming
for the heads of those kinds of cops because that's what we're
supposed to do.
They get tossed out and, years later, when the crime has gotten
to the point where we have to say we've got to do something about
this, they go and get the old Eldon Perry's, or new Eldon Perry's,
back to calm the city down.
That seems to go up and down, up and down, until it finally gets
to a point where all the stars are lined up and everything explodes.
That seems to happen about every 30 years in major American cities.
Q: I hear it's about every 20 in LA?
A: Yeah, we get about 20. My guess would be somewhere in the
next 20 years it will happen again, that's if history teaches
us or tell us anything. If we don't try to learn from history,
it will happen again.
Q: You read the screenplay a long time before you decided
to make it, what finally persuaded you?
A: We kept working on it and working on it and working on
it and finally, Ron Shelton came on. I thought his take on it
was the exact right one because we felt similarly on the issue.
We didn't want to take the hard edge out of it, but we wanted
to be able to present it in a fashion and with a character so
that you could stay with it, instead of saying finally I hate
him and I can't stand him.
Then it would just have been a condemnation of the police department
and that's not a movie that's worth making.
I don't think it's not true and it shouldn't be made but it doesn't
have any reality that's worth listening to.
But when you end up leaving the movie with questions and dilemmas
in your head, saying at first I hated him, then I felt bad for
him, then I hated him, and then I felt bad for him again, and
then I realized he was in a tight spot, when you get that reaction
out of the central character in this story, and who is generic
to the back drop of the LA riots, then I think you can have something
that is compelling through a complex character and I thought that
was a great opportunity.
Q: Is that your son in the film, the boy who plays your son?
A: No, that's my nephew, my youngest sister's middle son.
We were trying for my son, who's the right age, who looks very
much like me because we wanted, having talked about the character,
people to say, 'oh, that's Eldon's son, oh that's the kid'.
Unfortunately, my son wasn't available because he was playing
hockey and didn't have the time. I said I do have a nephew and
when you see him you'll know he's in the family, so that's what
happened. People ask that question quite often and I'm happy to
tell them because I found that to be very important piece of the
Q: Kurt, we've almost seen you grow up on TV. Every time I
watch TV on the weekends, there you are at a different age and
now it's passing on to the next generation. What is it like to
grow up in front of everyone and now have your kids and Goldie's
kids go follow the same path?
A: Well, my Dad was a ball player and an actor and I was a
ball player and an actor, so I just followed in his footsteps.
I saw his world, I liked it and I liked that he enjoyed it and
I said, well, you know what's not to like here?
I realise with the kids and the world they were seeing, there
was no reason for them not to say, 'this seems like this will
be interesting, fun, challenging and satisfying'. So far two have.
Oliver's doing really well. He's working on the last year of Dawson's
Creek and Katie's life is about to change in a bunch of different
ways, due to the success she's having.
They've been taught that it's about the work. You must make your
life's work about that, its not about what people think of it,
how people evaluate it, or what they might give you for it, or
what they might take away from you, because of it.
It's about the work, just whatever it is let it be, but go to
work every day and remember the reason you like this is because
you enjoy the challenge of it and you want to do well.
So that was all that our kids were ever sort of taught and I think
it's a good lesson to learn. It gives the person the opportunity
of really enjoying life in a very exciting film but it can be
destructive so beware of that, but go for it!