Compiled by: Martyn Palmer
FOR his latest film, The Hunted, Oscar-winning actor, Benecio
Del Toro, is directed by the legendary William Friedkin (The Exorcist,
The French Connection) and co-stars alongside Tommy Lee Jones
and Connie Nielsen.
Del Toro plays Aaron Hallam, a special forces operative who has
seen and done too much working under cover in Kosovo. He has been
trained by the best survivalist the US army can call upon, LT
Bonham (Tommy Lee Jones) his former mentor and father figure who
has now retired.
Bonham is a man who has never killed himself but has taught countless
others, including Hallam, how to take human life in the most ruthlessly
efficient ways possible.
But when Hallam returns home to the States, the atrocities he
has witnessed have left him unbalanced and he takes refuge in
the woods, taking his 'revenge' on hunters who are out shooting
deer - needlessly in Hallam's eyes.
When the FBI, in the shape of Nielsen, calls Bonham to help them
try and track him down, the former teacher tries to catch his
best ever pupil in a deadly cat and mouse game.
Preparing for The Hunted meant months of intense training for
Del Toro and Jones, including learning hand-to-hand combat, knife
skills and survivalist techniques under the expert guidance of
Tom Brown, a survival expert who works with US special forces
and has published several books on the subject.
Here, Del Toro speaks to Martyn Palmer about the challenges of
taking on the role.
Q. Where did The Hunted fit in with your Oscar? Did you take
this role after you had won the award?
A. No. I accepted this role before I even got nominated.
Q. So what appealed about The Hunted?
A. Working with Friedkin was the first thing. I mean, he's
a director anybody would want to work with. And then when I knew
Tommy Lee Jones was on board that was good, and the script, I
really liked. And we worked on the script to try and make it a
little more grey, we sat down with the writer and came up with
something that we all liked. So all of those things, really.
Q. Is it true that you injured your wrist during a fight scene
with Tommy Lee Jones?
A. Yeah, but it's OK now. I broke my wrist during one of the
stunts. It was near the end of the shoot, but I had to stop and
heal it because we were doing a lot of fighting and you can't
do that with a broken wrist. I guess it delayed filming for three
months or something.
Q. How was the training?
A. It was hard but it was fulfilling, too. And you know, if
it has to be done for a role then it has to be done. That's my
view, there's no choice so you do it. But hey, I would love to
do a movie where I'm asleep the whole time (laughs).
But they had some really good guys there to train us, like Tom
Brown, and another guy (Thomas Kier) who showed us how to handle
knives and they were really good, they knew their stuff and I
think it was important for a role like this that you had to look
like you knew what you were doing.
I mean, Aaron Hallam is a guy who has seen a lot and been in a
lot of tough places, like Kosovo. And he's a knife guy all the
way, which I think is noble by the way. Even in Kosovo, with guns
everywhere, he only fought with a knife.
Q. How did Connie Nielsen cope with all this macho male stuff
A. Oh she's fine. She's a lovely lady and we had a lot of
fun. She's not one to be intimidated by anything like that.
Q. Not only does she praise your acting skills, she also said
that you took a lot of time and trouble to hang out with her son,
Sebastian, and bought him DVDs of your favourite films...
A. Did she say that? She's a nice woman. And a great actress.
And she's got a nice kid, too.
Q. Did you watch any action films to prepare for the role?
A. No, I don't really watch action movies. And I certainly
didn't watch any per se whilst we were doing this. I went home
and watched Tom and Jerry, stuff like that (laughs).
Q. Aaron's a complex character. He's doing the wrong thing
but yet we still feel a little sympathy for him..
A. Yeah. I think so. He's trying to look for help. He's not
just 'hey, I'm crazy deal with it..' He tried to say 'hey, I'm
not feeling well..' So I have some sympathy for him.
Q. Did making The Hunted change your thoughts about the military?
Would you put yourself through that kind of training for real?
A. I would for something I really believed in. I would put
myself through that if I had to, yeah. But I'm not sure if I could
be a soldier because you can't question things. I don't know if
I could because I would probably have questions.
Q. Do you question authority in other ways?
A. Not just for the hell of it, no. I mean, if I'm doing a
movie and I have a question about the script, it's not just because
I want to be a rebel, it's because I don't understand something
and it's important to understand. But it's not just for the hell
of it, I'm not just a rebel.
Q. Have you ever hunted animals yourself?
A. No, I've never hunted. I've never killed an animal. Actually,
I killed an animal by mistake, I ran over a cat.
Q. For Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas you gain weight for
the role of Dr Gonzo and you said, afterwards, that people took
you too seriously in that role. What did you mean?
A. They still do. It's like people forget that actors are
just actors. Like with Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas you gain
the weight and you know, your body hurts and you do the film.
I did it already and I don't need to go through it again. I don't
need to go in that direction again. My career went into the hole
after Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. People in the business might
have taken what they saw literally.
I think people thought 'he got fat, he got weird. His mumbling
increased tenfold.' I was trying to do an interpretation of a
masterpiece of a book and that's what the character was - an animal.
Q. Is that why you turned down the role of Frida Kahlo's husband
in Frida, with Salma Hayek, you didn't
want to put the weight on again?
A. With Frida, I didn't refuse
the role, I didn't say 'I'm not going to do it..' What happened
was Salma called me up and I was actually doing The Hunted.
And first she asked me 'would you gain the weight to do a part
again?' And I said 'I don't think I would do that after Fear and
Loathing in Las Vegas...' So that was it.
Q. Is it true that you are going to play Che Guevara in a
biopic directed by Steven Soderbergh?
A. First of all, the story of Che is very complicated. It's
almost like War and Peace, very complicated.
A couple of writers are working on the script right now and, hopefully,
we'll have a script this year and then we will decide whether
it's good enough to be a movie. But which section of his life
do we concentrate on? That's the thing.
Steven is the producer, not necessarily as the director, and I'm
involved as a producer too, and basically, we want to see if there
is a possibility of doing a story about the man.
Q. So what's next?
A. A film called 21 Grams, with Sean Penn and Naomi Watts.
It's about a guy whose faith is put to the test and he abandons
his faith but might possibly get it back.
I haven't seen the final movie so it's hard to say what the final
product is, but it's about redemption and forgiveness.
I play a guy who had been in prison but is kind of born again
and religious, straightens up and becomes a good civilian and
then his faith is tested.