EXCLUSIVE: Matthew Modine Discusses THE DARK KNIGHT RISES & JESUS WAS A COMMIE
Veteran actor Matthew Modine (Full Metal Jacket) talks to us about Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight Rises, and his highly acclaimed short film Jesus Was A Commie.
Eric Roberts recently made this comment:
"What do you get out of a Batman movie? You get entertainment, that's true. But what do you get to take home with you in your heart or your mind? It's questionable for me. When a movie costs that much, so many movies don't get made that can educate, enlighten, move, comfort. Batman didn't do any of those things that I named, for me, anyway, even though I enjoyed watching it."
Would you say that Eric's comments make an apt indictment of the approach movie studios make toward selecting the promotions of films?
This of course is his opinion. Eric is a very interesting actor. Always has been. Has every movie he’s made educated, enlightened, moved, and or comforted people? I don’t know, I haven’t seen all of his films.
Is it fair to say that there can still be a level of artistry within big budget film such as The Dark Knight Rises?
Of course there is. Throughout Hollywood's history they have used “Big Budget” as a marketing tool. I’m sure it began in the circus. The “biggest tent” the “biggest elephant.” People like spectacle. Spectacle is its own artistry. Not a lot of people master it. Picasso mastered it. Barnum and Bailey mastered it.
Have you ever auditioned or been up for a part in a comic book movie prior to The Dark Knight Rises?
I met with the director, Louis Leterrier when he was casting THE HULK. It was a good script and I think its an interesting character study.
Some leaked set photos show you in possession of a pair of pink panties. Is it fair to say these are props, or is this something aside from the film?
Yes, It’s fair to say the pretty pink panties are props. They are interesting references, for me, to a line in Full Metal Jacket and a scene from Vision Quest.
In past interviews, you've gone so far as to call Christopher Nolan a "genius." In your mind, what qualities does he possess that separates him from other directors?
This may not mean anything to anyone reading this: Christopher doesn’t have chairs on the set. No director's chair. He also doesn’t have a “video village” meaning an area for everyone to sit (because there are no chairs) and watch the playback of scenes. Nolan stands beside the camera and listens and watches and when necessary give very specific directions. He also hires terrific artists to work beside him. He casts his crew with the same care he does his actors.
You've also compared Nolan to Kubrick. You said they both had a penchant for asking their actors the "right question." What is an example of the "right" type of question that Nolan asked of you?
Well, at this time, that would be telling too much.
While filming The Dark Knight Rises you were involved in scenes that included a large number of extras. As a professional does this type of scene present you with any type of security or safety concerns?
Contrary to what some imagine, film sets are very dangerous places. It’s wonderful when you work on a film of this scale and see so much care taken by the assistants to the director and the producers to insure that there are no accidents. With so many moving parts it is almost inevitable that there be some accident, but we all work to prevent them.
In preparing for the role, did you read any Batman comic books?
I am a fan of Batman. I have been since a boy. I like that he is a man. No magic powers, super powers, unearthly powers. Just a broken man hiding his fears behind a mask. And then, because he is insanely rich, he has all those awesome toys!
If you were to compare your role in The Dark Knight Rises to a character you previously portrayed on film, which one would it be?
Nope. This is totally new to me.
This is your first film acting with Joseph Gordon-Levitt. What is your professional opinion of his performance? Would you say he had a particularly difficult character to play?
First let me say that I really find Joseph to be a real talent. He has demonstrated his ability and craftsmanship for two decades and he’s still a young man. He is a professional and that kind of guy never lets you see him sweat. He shows up loaded for bear.
Click the image below to watch the film. Password - jwac2012
What were some of the challenges that you encountered while making "Jesus Was A Commie?"
Adapting my article from the Finch Quarterly into a screenplay. Once I got the words and ideas right I was comfortable with the visual story telling. I had to get the words right because you are talking about such sensitive subjects and people are so frightful of some words and ideas. Putting the two words, Jesus and Communist in the same sentence was sure to make people panic.
Do you think your film would have gained as much awareness if it didn't have such an incendiary title?
Does it bother you that some people have formed an opinion about the film based on the title alone?
Yes. But it doesn’t surprise me. I knew this would happen. I expected it. So if you know and expect it, its not really a surprise.
For me, the highlight of the film was when you used the imagery of the vast universe to drill home the point that we should be working together. What is your favorite moment in the film?
I like that moment a lot too. I was a boy when I saw the live shots of the earth from the moon. For some of us, it was very profound. For others it was kind of like “We did it!” and then their next sentence was “What’s for dinner? Pass the peas.” For me, after seeing earth from the moon, life would never be the same. I felt sad because I witnessed how much effort and energy it took to get to the moon. The next closet planet, Mars, was so far away and didn’t appear to offer any hope for life or reasonable possibility of traveling to. So that left our gorgeous blue ball all alone in an enormous field of empty space. All our problems were ours, man made, and there wasn’t a tooth fairy of a magical person up in the sky that was going to solve the problems we create and generate. It was up to each of us to strive to real humanity and peaceful solution to these problems we made and make.
What is your end goal for this film?
For every filmmaker the answer is the same. To reach an audience. To create something relevant. To have the people leave the theatre asking more questions about themselves than when the entered the theatre.
What inspired you to make the film?
I’m tired of wars. I’m tired of people killing and using their beliefs or faiths as a justification for killing. If this is all faith and governments can offer, more of the same, solving problems by murdering and enslaving the human spirit, then I want a revolution. It’s time to turn the tables over and look for a new way forward that doesn’t subjugate the mind and create impoverished unfair societies.
Communism as a word usually has a negative connotation. Were you attempting to strip the negative stigma attached to this word?
Well, not strip it, but expose it to an honest light. Communism is an idea. A utopian ideal. It doesn’t work and I’ll let your readers decide why. I am neither pro or anti communist. I am neither pro or anti capitalism. What I am is pro-integrity. Integrity is what is missing from the political and religious equation today.
You took a role in Transporter 2 that could've been the usual boring, neglectful, workaholic dad, and infused it with a level of emotional sincerity that is usually reserved for character-driven films. How is it that you brought so much depth to the character? Is it hard not to fall into a stereotype, with a role like that?
Because it was written as a stereotype doesn’t mean you have to play it as such. Which can be difficult in a film where the audience expects cliche and stereotype.
In the movie Vision Quest, there is a fantastic scene in which your character tries to prove himself to his wrestling coach. He does this by pulling himself up a wall, peg by peg, until he finally reaches the top. Did you yourself perform this feat, or was this a trick of the camera?
Yes. The camera doesn’t lie. In this case anyway. I trained so hard and worked so long to master that peg board, which was actually two pegboards stacked one on top another. When the time came for me to climb it, I was so pumped and full of adrenaline, that I actually climbed it and it looked too easy. The director, Harold Becker, realized that he’d have to beat me down and so he kept filming, take after take, until I reached a point of absolute exhaustion.
You've recently written that Kubrick was much more improvisational than most people realize. Is there a scene from Full Metal Jacket that stands out as a testament to this fact?
I kept a diary while making the film which was published as a limited edition book. Because there were only 20,000 copies of the hand made, metal cover book, I was asked if I would make it into a app. I agreed under the conditions that this Full Metal Jacket Diary App be something that Stanley Kubrick would be proud of. The app is going to be amazing. You can learn more about the app, and even purchase prints from the book at www.fullmetaljacketdiary.com.
The Dark Knight Rises hits theaters July 20th 2012 and stars Christian Bale as Bruce Wayne/Batman, Michael Caine as Alfred Pennyworth, Gary Oldman as Jim Gordon, Tom Hardy as Bane, Anne Hathaway as Selina Kyle, Joseph Gordon-Levitt as John Blake and Marion Cotillard as Miranda Tate.
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