Exclusive: Laurence Fishburne on His Career, His Love of Comics, ‘Apocalypse Now’, and More

     December 12, 2018

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Laurence Fishburne is an actor with great authority. Besides his towering presence and deep silken voice, the 57 year-old, probably still best known for playing Morpheus in The Matrix series, took a lot of inspiration from his old man. His love of comic books as he grew up also exerted a huge influence on his playing Bill Foster/Goliath in Marvel’s superhero sequel Ant-Man and the Wasp, and Perry White for the DC Superman movies Man of Steel and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.

Dressed in a caftan in a garden during the Marrakech Film Festival he’s also a very cool dude. He clearly feels comfortable in his own skin and is increasingly exerting his force behind the camera as well.

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Image via Marvel Studios

COLLIDER: You seem very comfortable here in Marrakech.

LAURENCE FISHBURNE: Yeah I’ve been coming here a long time.

Why’s that?

FISHBURNE: I just feel at home. Any time I’m on the African continent I feel great.

You presented Ant-Man and the Wasp at the Festival and spoke of your love of comic books. What was the first comic that you read and which had the greatest impression on you as a kid?

FISHBURNE: I read them all, I was a DC guy and I was a Marvel guy. The books cost 10 cents when I started reading them and I couldn’t afford them when they went up to 12 cents. So I took matters into my own hands—I started stealing them. That’s how serious I was about it. I would say between 1967 and 1975 I was an avid reader.

They educated you.

FISHBURNE: Totally. It was great because it encouraged you to read. They used big words sometimes, ha ha! Like with Reed Richards and The Fantastic Four there was scientific jargon involved and there was scientific jargon involved with the X-Men and Doctor Bruce Banner and even in Spider-Man. You learned about things like journalism from Superman.

You played Perry White.

FISHBURNE: Yeah and you knew there were things like secret government agencies! (guffaws)

Are you reading them now?

FISHBURNE: Occasionally I get a chance to read a book or two. I have a great collection. But I’m reading other things now. I just read Cry Like A Man, a memoir by Jason Wilson who lives in Detroit. He has a nonprofit called The Cave of Adullam and puts young boys through a rigorous 12-13 week program initiating them using martial arts and scripture to help turn them into men. My company Cinema Gypsey is going to do a documentary about his work.

You’re involved on so many levels.

FISHBURNE: Yeah, it’s a natural evolution. I mean I’ve been an actor for 40-something years. I started when I was ten.

Your major upcoming project is The Alchemist based on the novel by Brazilian author Paulo Coelho.

FISHBURNE: I’m going to direct, produce and star in it. I’ve been developing it for the last 15-16 years. It looks like I’m finally getting it done in 2019/20. We’ll see. These things are difficult sometimes.

Especially given the project’s history with Harvey Weinstein?

FISHBURNE: There you go. But in the meantime I’ve got The Mule coming out December 14 with Clint Eastwood and Bradley Cooper and I’ve got John Wick 3 coming out next year with Keanu Reeves.

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Image via Warner Bros.

You’re friends with Paulo Coelho and Keanu. Does it help?

FISHBURNE: It does absolutely. Paulo gave me his blessing 20 years at the outset. He was like, “You’re the guy for this.” I have a great relationship with Keanu and we’ve been friends since we started doing The Matrix 20 years ago. He’s one of the smartest cats I know. He’s also singular in that he’s not like anybody else, which I think is the quality that makes him so exceptional. It’s why people like watching him. He continues to grow as an actor because he continues to take risks. He’s always taken risks. I saw the first John Wick film and didn’t know what to expect and I was completely blown away by it. I was like, “Dude, what do I have to do to be in this world?” He said, “Well, we’ve actually been thinking about that.”

What was it like entering the John Wick world?

FISHBURNE: it’s so much fun. It’s impossible but it’s the kind of place you really wish you could run around in because everybody’s a badass motherfucker. Who doesn’t want to feel like that?

It’s like being a kid?

FISHBURNE: It’s like playing cops and robbers.

So you were in the second film and now you’re in the first half of the third. Does this mean your Bowery King character gets killed off?

FISHBURNE: Even if I does I couldn’t tell you that, could I?

What is it about playing bad guys that you love so much?

FISHBURNE: I don’t necessarily think of them as bad guys. I try to make it a bit more complex than that. It’s always fun no matter what it is.

You’re a military guy in a lot of movies.

FISHBURNE: Yeah. I guess every actor has a thing they do. We all have our archetypes we’re assigned. Some people have greater range than others and I have a pretty good range. I work as a guy in a suit, I work as a guy in a uniform, I work as a guy in the future and a guy from the past.

In The Mule directed and starring Clint Eastwood you’re a DEA Special Agent.

FISHBURNE: Basically Clint is this guy who is accidentally recruited to become a runner/ drug mule. Bradley Cooper is the DEA agent who’s been assigned to find this person but nobody knows who he is. I’m Bradley’s boss who says, “Go find him!” I’m that guy. I’m Joe the boss.

You’re a character called the Man in Running with The Devil, another drug-themed story.

FISHBURNE: This film is a really cool action thriller that we shot in New Mexico. Jason Sabell wrote and directed it. It’s me, Nicolas Cage and a host of great actors. I’m the Man, he’s the Cook, there’s The Farmer (Clifton Collins Jr.) the Snitch (Adam Goldberg), the Special Agent in Charge (Leslie Bobb), the Boss (Barry Pepper) and others.

Nicolas Cage is having a comeback.

FISHBURNE: It’s great, isn’t it? We love Nicolas.

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Image via Lionsgate

How do you feel about your level of stardom?

FISHBURNE: Oh Gosh it’s wonderful. I’m very lucky to get to do what I do. People enjoy what I do and that’s the goal at the end of the day. The star stuff is that, it’s star stuff. I’m a human being first and I’m an artist and I’m a dad. All those things are equally as important if not more so.

Is it true that your own dad left the family and you were raised by your mother?

FISHBURNE: I was raised by my Mom. My dad and my Mom were never really together together, so I never really lived with my dad. But he was a good guy and he loved me. He wasn’t perfect but he gave me what he could give me. He gave me a great name first and foremost (laughs)! I’ve been able to honor him in little ways both in the work and outside the work. He passed away in 2013 and I basically took care of him in the last five years of his life. That’s just human stuff. That’s what you do.

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