Compiled by: Jack Foley
Q. Who’s the more daunting co-star, Dakota Fanning
or Meryl Streep?
A. Dakota Fanning! I mean I didn’t get to really
work with Meryl, you know I was an extra in one of her scenes!
But obviously her track record speaks for itself.
I was really impressed with Dakota, not only her acting skills,
but she’s such a mature young girl and very humble, her
parents have done a wonderful job with her.
The toughest part for me was actually keeping my distance early
on in the scenes where we’re not supposed to be so friendly.
And I think Tony had said to her ‘Denzel – he’s
very concentrated’, and she said ‘yes, I know –
acting! I won’t talk to him either, don’t worry about
it!’ She’s really just straight ahead and I’m
convinced she’s 40 years old!
Q. Are your choices of dark, complex characters down
to your new standing in Hollywood – or do you now just know
a good role from a bad one?
A. I think a part of it is Training Day, I think Tony
had an idea of me doing this film I would imagine because of Training
Day, and as I said earlier, even then he was like ‘well
you know you gotta be heavy, you gotta be dark’, I’m
like, ‘what, you want me to cut your throat, to show you
I can do the part?’
Training Day wasn’t a stretch, that was the easiest part
I’ve done in a long time, the other roles were the acting.
Q. You’re playing desperate characters in both
Manchurian Candidate and Man of Fire – any parallels between
the two characters?
A. Yeah, thank you, I’ll use that. I didn’t
think of it that way, that they’re both desperate, I think
in the case of Man on Fire he
was ready to give up.
He wasn’t desperate, he was depressed and this little girl
wakes him up and teaches him to love and to live again.
Definitely the case in Manchurian Candidate, he was desperate
once he found out. Here’s a man who doesn’t know what’s
wrong with him.
I did a lot of research about mood disorders and bi-polar disorders,
and things like that, because he doesn’t know what’s
wrong with him, and he’s been told that it’s post-traumatic
stress disorder, Gulf War Syndrome or something like that.
But in the story that he tells, he’s not congruous with
his dreams. So once he finds out that something’s awry and
something really is going on, he doesn’t know who to trust,
then yes, I think that he becomes quite desperate, if not manic.
Q. Are there any roles you’ve
passed on in your career that you wished you hadn’t?
A. Se7en. Not seven films,
the movie Se7en – I turned that down, the role that Brad
Pitt did, man!
The lead in The Passion of the
Christ – no! I’m kidding, it’s a joke, I’ll
be hearing about that now! I said Mel – no way I’ll
do that man, nobody’s gonna see it, it’s not interesting.
And of course you can see that I was right!
One other one actually that was a hit this Summer was I,
Robot, they asked me to do that one.
But I was like man, if they don’t get these robots right…!
I think actually it wasn’t quite as simple as that, it was
I, Robot or Manchurian Candidate, and I chose to do Manchurian
Q. No regrets?
A. I’m pleased with what I’ve done.
Q. How much of a kick do you get from working with Streep
and Walken? Does it raise your game?
A. Absolutely, it raises your game. Like I said, in the
case of Meryl, I don’t have anything to do in the film with
I will admit that when we sat down to read the screenplay, I was
sitting next to her, I was a bit nervous. You know: “The
Dingoes got my baby.”
She’s brilliant, I mean what can you say that hasn’t
been said about Meryl Streep? Had I been smarter, I would have
suggested that we write a scene, just make something up. You know
maybe I go visit her and ask her what’s going on or something,
anything – I didn’t think about that. But hopefully
I’ll get an opportunity one day.
Q. The Manchurian Candidate features brainwashing –
has anything strange ever happened to you?
A. Oh, you mean me in life? When I was a young child
I thought I saw an angel. I woke up one night and it kinda looked
like my sister, and that sounds funny but I saw wings, and I walked
over to the door and opened the door so some light could come
into the room and it sort of faded away.
It’s a true story. And I asked my mother about it and she
said, 'well it’s probably your Guardian Angel', and I was
like ‘yeah, right Ma!’
But I’ve always felt protected, it’s as real as you
are in front of me now, that’s the god’s honest truth.
Q. Has your Guardian Angel helped you make good career
A. Yes, absolutely and in fact some of the most difficult
scenes I’ve done in films and some that people remember,
like in Glory, being whipped, I didn’t prepare. I didn’t
need to do anything but pray.
I said a prayer, I went out onto the set, I said I didn’t
know what I needed to do in this particular scene, I just would
pray and think about all the slaves that came before me, and it
came to me as I walked out on the set that I’m in charge,
that my character was in charge.
That he had been through this before, that it was nothing new
for him, and that it had nothing to do with the person that was
even whipping me, since the character that Matthew played, or
if you ever see the film again, all I do is look at him ‘is
this what you want to do to me?’
I actually spit at him, and I say ‘do it, bring it’
and I took the thing off and then he hit me and I went ‘Oh
But it’s the truth, sometimes it’s just fate, it’s
not science, I don’t try to figure it out. Even what I said
about roles coming my way, some people may think that’s
crazy, but that’s the way it’s worked alright for