Compiled by: Jack Foley
Q: Have things changed a lot since you won the Oscar?
A: For the most part, yeah, they have. I’ve been
fortunate to achieve a level of success with my work that will
help me to do more and it makes me realise that I’d like
to have more creative involvement. I’ve felt that way for
many years, but it’s becoming easier to make that happen.
Not that the choices become easier. It’s interesting, there
are more options but that doesn’t mean that there’s
more great material out there. When something like The Jacket
comes along, well, it kind of leaps out at you.
Q: The Jacket is not an easy film to define, which is
not a criticism, but it’s hard to describe, it’s a
thriller, a love story…
A: I know! And I really liked that about it. I find this
movie to be something that is very difficult to put a label on,
you know, exactly what genre is it?
And I’ve been thinking a lot about the way we need to categorise
things. I’ve had it myself. I’ve had that where they
have compared me to Al Pacino – which is very nice, he’s
an actor I admire and I appreciate the comparison – but
really, I’d rather be thought of as the first Adrien Brody
rather than the new Al Pacino.
Q: You’ve said in the past that you hope to learn
from each film you make. What did you learn from The Jacket?
A: I learned that no matter what you achieve and what
you attain in life, if you don’t have your health, mentally
or physically, you don’t have much. Most of us take that
for granted and I have a better understanding of what it might
be like to be subjected to that kind of oppression from one of
the big systems devised to keep you down. I think The Jacket is
very relevant, especially today, we experience a lot of oppressive
forces and we are powerless to a certain extent.
Q: John Maybury, the director, was saying that the film
could be seen in a different light because of the way that Iraqi
prisoners have been treated in Abu Ghraib. Would you agree with
A: Yes, of course. And it’s about how the captors
sometimes feel justified in using certain methods, like in The
Jacket this is actually coming from a physician and that’s
It is a very contemporary situation and relevant to what we are
seeing now with soldiers involved in the conflict in Iraq. I think
this has turned into a real war and an ongoing dilemma and I don’t
think that people necessarily saw it coming like that.
Q: Starks is an interesting role to play, because in
a way he has no past…
A: That’s right. He is a man with no connection
to his past, which is an interesting thing for an actor because
it’s a completely clean slate and normally you are defined
by the character’s ethnicity, or race, or religious beliefs,
or opinions and this character is free from that.
Q: When you are bundled up in a straight jacket and placed
in the morgue drawer, it’s very frightening to watch. What
was it like to film?
A: Those situations are very challenging, emotionally
and psychologically, to find yourself in a confined space like
that. I thought it would be interesting – it was very painful
and I kind of encouraged that pain.
I spent time in the isolation tank, lots of time, and I would
let them leave me in the jacket, leave me in the drawer for a
while, you know like ‘set up your shot and get back to me..’
A: Partly because I can deal with the discomfort of that
and it helps and I’m strong enough to kind of take it and
come out of it. It helps me be connected and if I feel connected
then there’s a better chance that the audience will feel
Q: What was it like filming in Glasgow?
A: Well, we were filming in a mental institution the
whole time and we would shoot from very early in the morning until
quite late at night, so it was dark when I got there and dark
when I left [laughs].
It would be rainy and dark and then spending all day in a building
that had been a functioning mental institution since World War
I – and it definitely comes across, some of the energy of
that, it’s just very apparent.
And I’d go home in the darkness so I kind of lived in that
realm. I worked out profusely. I did like this jailhouse workout
routine because I felt like that was the only thing that this
guy, John Starks, would do to be sane.
Even though he is malnourished and put through the ringer, he
has to stay focused and burn off some of his anxiety. So I didn’t
go to the gym or anything. I did push ups and sit ups and crunches
and whatever I thought he would be able to do in a cell.
Q: What do you do with your time off?
A: I haven’t had a break for a long time, to be
honest. I really would like to give myself that but I have obligations.
Q: OK, but what do you do when you have some rare free
A: I like to make music. I haven’t had much time
to do it [laughs] but I do. It’s a wonderful outlet for
creativity, it’s almost a form of meditation. I’m
very much into driving muscle cars, I’m into racing cars
but I don’t have the time to do that very often. But if
I had some time off, that’s what I’d be doing [laughs].
Q: Does working that much take a toll on personal relationships?
A: Yes but it comes in waves. I’m not complaining
about this because it’s what I’ve worked towards and
there are moments when we are all going to be overwhelmed by things
and when we have a lot to accomplish.
When I’m done with work, I have lots of down time so it’s
kind of learning how to balance it. In all honesty, I would be
happy to get more sleep and take nice vacations but I’m
sure everybody would. And I’m inspired by the work and inspired
by overcoming the obstacles.
Q: And those personal relationships can flourish later?
A: Well, it’s give and take. I have less time for
me. And that implies less time for a lot of things that are important
to me. But mainly that’s because I’m shooting an epic
film (King Kong) in another country and normally there’s
a little less pressure.
There are things I have to accomplish here in the States but it’s
difficult to do that from New Zealand – my personal life,
catching up with my friends who I haven’t seen for four
months. But you know, it’s good to have these problems,
to be busy with this kind of work.
I’ve been bored and that’s no good either. The trick,
eventually, is balance. But I think that comes with age too. When
you can sit back and say ‘well, this is more important for
me now, having a family..’ and taking that time.
But right now, I’m very passionate about work and being
creatively involved so I don’t look on it as too much of
a burden, I like the responsibility and I make sure I have time
for my girlfriend and my pet dog…