Compiled by: Jack Foley
Q I know the screen writer wrote the character with you in
mind and said he was not sure if you had another movie, but I
gather that you agreed very quickly after you'd read the script?
A. Very quickly. I know they were writing it for me and I
kept telling my agent to get back to them. I knew it had to be
a Western and when I read it and I'd say within two or three hours
I called back and I said: "I'm in, if you want me."
Q What was it about the script that attracted you?
A. Always the part first. I knew I understood that kind of
guy, back to the days on my uncle's ranch when I was a kid in
I was always around these cattle men and cowboys. The Western
is ours. You have Shakespeare, but the Western is ours, and I
knew I could play that guy, and they wrote it for me, and it just
was a wonderful reaction I had to the part and to the script because
everybody wants to do Westerns.
Q. But not many of them are made these days?
A. Its kind of a sporadic thing, I think. When it comes along,
everybody loves them, and then they don't, and they say well will
they come again. So not a lot, not a lot.
Q. Now I gather that you might have never got into the movie
because there was an accident on the way?
A. Well that was two months before. Yeah, I got bucked off
a horse, and I broke six ribs. Because the horses 100 years ago
were between 12 and 14 hands. They were small.
I had a beautiful roan quarter horse that was broken well, but
when he got back to my farm, in Virginia, he started bucking one
day, and because a small horse has a fast action, I was on the
ground so hard and so fast that I was just like, out of it, and
for six weeks I was trying not to sneeze!
I mended in time and I even took my physical examination still
with the broken ribs for insurance purposes for Canada, but thank
goodness it happened two months before, or I couldn't have done
the movie. It was a bit of a red flag at first.
Q. And were you nervous about getting back on a horse again?
Q. A touch. Fifteen years ago - no. When I was in Lonesone
Dove, I was riding two or three hours a day, but they have very
good cowboys and very good ranchers in Western Canada, and they
picked me out a nice horse - 'The Blues Brothers', so you know,
it was OK.
Q. In the course of your career you've worked with many fine
actors and great directors. I wonder how Kevin Costner compares
in both those capacities?
A. As a director?
Q. And as an actor
A. Well, he's a professional actor and, as a director, he
has a vision and he comes in with his vision and then we step
up and do we do.
He's like any other director, really. It's not that unique that
he's an actor. Usually, it seems like there's uniqueness when
they are actors and become directors, but he's like many other
He has a vision and you come in and you fit in. He definitely
had a tack on this Western he wants to do, and that's kind of
his genre to direct. They are original, but still imitations of
films I feel that went before, rather than the true West, but
he knows how to do that well.
Q. His character often defers to your character on screen.
I wonder if the positions were reversed, in reality, or how that
worked? Did he allow you a lot of latitude to develop things in
the way you saw fit?
A. Some. Not anymore than other people. Not deferment wise.
It was a collaborative thing, though.
Q. Do you not a favourite Western yourself?
A. Yes. My favourite was the one I was in, Lonesome Dove,
the mini-series. Let the English play Hamlet and King Lear and
I'll play Augustus McRae. That was my Hamlet.
Q. Apart from one in which you yourself have appeared, are
there particular types of Western that appeal to you?
A. The ones that ring truest to their era, that represent
the good horsemen, the good workers, the good range men. True
to life - those are the ones I like the best, the ones that represent
life itself the best.
Q. It's a very colourful character you play in this film.
It reminds me of Lucky Ned Pepper all those years ago in True
Grit. Was it in any way comparable to doing a film like this with
Costner to working on a traditional John Wayne all those years
A. Somewhat. But, once again, my favourite was Lonesome Dove,
and I think that was my best work.
Lucky Ned Pepper - that was very difficult working with that kind
of director in those days, when if you looked at the ground they'd
cut and say 'what are you looking at?'
So it was not that easy a film to do (True Grit) although it was
wonderful working with John Wayne.
But I feel I am a better actor than I was then, and whatever I
can bring to either part from what I learned as a boy on my uncle's
ranch in Northern Montana.
By the way, the best cowboy my uncle ever had was a Scottish imigrant.
So I learned a lot from those days.
Hopefully, now I can carry a sense of that wisdom, that these
kinds of characters have on to the screen, better than I could
when I was a younger actor, kind of fighting with an old school
director who wanted a proscenium so to speak.
Q. I remember when we did a press conference with you some
years ago on The Apostle, and you talked about your love of the
tango. You've done a movie about the tango since we last saw you.
Can you tell us a bit about that and will we see it over here
in the UK?
A. Well I don't know if it has been distributed. The Assassination
Tango. It's a small film.
We went to Argentina and my way of working is, I would like to
think, a little bit like Kenneth Loach's, who I admire very much
as a director.
I'd rather take a tango dancer and make them an actor, than take
an actor and make them a tango dancer, cause the Argentines are
wonderful natural actors.
So I just roll the camera and use subtitles, because they were
wonderful actors, so we improvised some and we found a way of
working, because once you get non-actor to a certain level, they'll
put the professional actor on notice I feel and be just as pure.
That's the way I like to work as a director. We didn't really
work that way in this movie, like that on the western, but the
films that I've done I like to work that way.
Q. You mentioned earlier about Westerns coming in and out
of favour and genres coming round again. There are three in fairly
quick concession. Open Range, The Missing
and The Alamo. I just wondered if
there was something in the air if you like that prompts a revival
of a genre like this?
A. I think people will always welcome the Western. I have
a modern day Western and a period Western that I want to do in
the near future, so there's always room. The Alamo is a historic
thing. Once again, its our genre. So there's always room for the
Western. I think The Missing, this year, was well done by Ron
Howard. I think it was one of his best films so there's always
Q. What was it like to work with Michael Jetta?
A. Fine. He was very polite and very professional and very
nice to work with. Very pleasant.
Q. Despite your enthusiasm for acting, do we get the impression
that maybe somewhere tucked within you, is the desire to have
perhaps have lived in the time of the Western?
A. Well I always say that if we lived 100 years ago, it would
be difficult to get from 6am to 6pm with no electricity, no lights,
no coffee, so no I don't think I would have wanted to live then.
I like living when I do now, but I have respect for the past and
the West and after the Civil War, all of those returning veterans
from the confederacy, they had no homes, so they went west and
all those cowboys came from the cavalry, particularly from the
South, and naturally they got into the life of being a cowboy.
Had I lived then, maybe so, or maybe if a weren't an actor now
I'd be a rancher. My uncle always said I could have been a rancher
had I chosen to be that.
Q. It's rare that we are treated to an extraordinarily accurate
depiction of gun fighting as we did in this movie. Can you tell
us something about shooting that sequence? The complexity, the
A. Yeah, they worked on that for over three weeks, I believe.
They tried to make it as realistic as possible, and, as I say,
we spent the better part of three weeks on that.
Not every day, but Kevin choreographed it and tried to make it
as realistic as possible, and it was clumsy at times, and bloody
here and there, but it was well thought out, with good stunt men,
and regular actors. It was a well thought out process and pretty
interesting I thought, the final result of that gun battle.
Q. A recent poll voted your 'I love the smell of Napalm in
the morning' speech as the most memorable speech in film history.
Do you get asked to repeat it at various occasions?
A. Yes Sir. And whenever they come up to me, it's like only
they know and I know the line. No one else in the world knows
When I was doing research for The Apostle, all the preachers would
say, 'oh, I heard he had a great line that I love the smell of
gasoline in the morning'.
He missed the whole point but people do come up to me and yes
it's a pretty famous line.