In Parker, Taylor Hackford’s new action thriller, Michael Chiklis plays Melander, the head of a crew of career criminals with ties to the Chicago Mob, who gives Jason Statham’s character a run for his money. The intelligent and dynamic actor who won critical acclaim for his work in The Shield is a dangerous, smart and worthy opponent. He’s joined by newcomer Micah Hauptman as Hardwicke, the fourth member of the gang and the weak link in the chain, who hopes to use his family’s mafia connections to fence their loot. Opening January 25th, the film also features Jennifer Lopez, Wendell Pierce, Clifton Collins, Jr. and Nick Nolte.
At the recent press day, Chiklis and Hauptman talked about their characters, getting to know each other at the start of the shoot, the attraction of working with veteran director Hackford, their action scenes with Lopez, collaborating with experienced action actors, the trust factor when you play at make believe for a living, the challenges of shooting in hot and humid Louisiana, and the fun and perils of taking in the best of New Orleans. Chiklis also discussed his new film, Pawn, and a possible Shield movie. Hauptman revealed his upcoming movie, Destined, with Omar Epps and Mekhi Phifer. Hit the jump to read more.
Michael Chiklis: (laughs) No! Why do you ask?
It’s like okay, Michael Chiklis, self-respecting man, putting on a wet suit and an old fashioned moment with the little head gear on top of it. It’s so fun watching it, but it’s like, oh my God!
Chiklis: Well, the clown suit is a riot, too.
Micah Hauptman: It’s less fun being in one than watching somebody in one.
Chiklis: (laughs) Yeah. I don’t know what to say about that one.
Is that your first time in a clown suit? What was it like doing the clown full on?
Chiklis: You know you’ve been around for a long time when you actually have to think about this.
Any miming classes back in school?
Chiklis: That’s just what the world needs — more mimes. (laughs) No, I think that was my first time on film in a clown suit, or in a wet suit for that matter. It certainly wasn’t the most comfortable gig. That week that we spent in the SUV in the bayou in 111 degree heat and 100 percent humidity sucked.
Hauptman: With no air conditioner.
Chiklis: I mean, in terms of comfort, it was horrible, but we knew the sequence was going to be good. That sort of drives you forward when you know what you’re working on is going to be fun. You’ll go through all manner of discomfort to get the shot.
Chiklis: Yeah, initially, for sure, absolutely. He’s one of those guys, talking about checking off a box, he’s a bucket list director and it’s a big franchise. This is a tried and true genre directed by a guy who’s famous for character work. This could take a genre picture and lift it and elevate it. That was my thinking. I haven’t seen the film yet, but I look forward to seeing it tonight. I know I had a real wonderful experience with this guy (referring to Micah) and with Wendell Pierce and Clifton Collins, Jr. The four of us got together with Taylor the very first night in New Orleans. We had a wonderful dinner at a great restaurant. That was the other danger, by the way. We were in New Orleans and I put on something like 15 pounds. Plus Wendell Pierce is like the mayor.
Hauptman: He’s the king.
Chiklis: He’s a local and everybody loves him, Tremé. He took us to every haunt and every jazz club and every amazing food purveyor. We just ate everything.
Hauptman: He’s also one of the biggest advocates of rebuilding the city. It’s unbelievable.
Chiklis: He’s an amazing dude. He really is. Love, love, love, we love Wendell Pierce. That was as much of a part of this experience as anything else – our hangouts, because we’d work for two of three days and then be off for a week — in New Orleans.
Was that dangerous?
Chiklis: (laughs) It was fun, man. We had fun. I sat in with Mayfield. I sat in and played drums with Irving Mayfield.
Wow, that’s cool.
Chiklis: Yes, that was cool.
Hauptman: It was incredible. I think I’m probably the only person that actually auditioned for the movie. Everyone else met and it was offered, and I think my role is a role that generally in a movie like this would get offered, so it’s the biggest and most exciting thing I’ve ever done. Before getting there, there’s anxiety about what it’s going to be like with everyone else, and then when I arrived, the first night I was there, we all had dinner. That’s what Michael is talking about. Michael and I ended up walking randomly off the elevator together basically and we walked to dinner together that night.
Chiklis: Yeah, and it was a long walk. It was a couple of miles.
Hauptman: (laughs) Longer than we thought it was going to be.
Chiklis: So we got a chance to talk which was great. Did we get a little lost too for a minute?
Hauptman: I think we did.
Chiklis: We got a little fucked up and then we finally found the place. It was great though. We ended up talking. We got very philosophical right off the bat, if I recall correctly. We were talking about family and outlook and work and the balance.
Hauptman: It was incredible. That put me at ease. I went home that night and called my fiancée and said, “Michael is the greatest guy ever.” Truly though, what he was saying, talking philosophically about family and how important that is in this industry, I think for a lot of people it’s a hard industry probably to maintain that balance of family, and Michael is somebody who has done it really wonderfully and beautifully.
Chiklis: Don’t take anything for granted.
Hauptman: Just to trust yourself and show up and allow yourself to make mistakes, and you can always correct them ultimately. And those things like I was just talking about like family. This is an incredible industry and there are so many wonderful things about it, but hopefully you don’t just define yourself by the industry, and you have other things in your life to define yourself that are much more important and larger. We’re all so lucky and fortunate to have a job and to be working and to be able to play at make believe for a living. But there’s a world out there that is so much greater than that.
Chiklis: It makes you work better.
Micah, is it intimidating when you read the script and you know you have to show up to do a scene where you’re going to slap Jennifer? What was that like?
Hauptman: Pre-getting there, yeah, I talked about that a lot, for so many reasons and probably insurance policies alone. Jennifer was so amazing and so graceful and so committed to the work and being there with all of us.
Chiklis: So Jenny from the block, she was. She was very cool about all of it.
Hauptman: She wanted to go everywhere and go there and it was never…
You mean really do the action?
Hauptman: Yeah, she didn’t have a stunt double. She was really committed to the work and wanted to be there. So that again put me in as much ease as I could be with it. And Mike Massa, the stunt coordinator, was really amazing. I spent a lot of time with him talking through all of it and how to go about it. So I felt comfortable.
Chiklis: Think about it. This is his first big movie and he’s got to abuse Jennifer Lopez.
Chiklis: Yeah, it’s terrifying.
Hauptman: I’d think about going to my hotel room and not wake up.
Chiklis: It’d just be like oh my God. I felt for you the entire time. But I was so happy to see her just be so … I’m an established guy and I came up to her and I said, “I’m sorry” and she said, “Why?” and I was like, “For what I’m about to do to you because I’m just going to throw at you.” And she’s like, “No, that’s okay.” She’s like all Jenny about it. She was very cool, and I was happy to see the way she handled Micah.
Hauptman: She was like, “Bring it on.”
Chiklis: That gave him permission. That’s a big deal because there’s nothing worse, and he’s a gentleman. Chivalry isn’t dead. It just smells funny. And here’s a gentleman dealing with this situation. Don’t quote me. It’s Frank Zappa. That quote, I stole it.
Hauptman: (laughs) It’s yours now.
Chiklis: I thought that was a funny line. In any case, it can be hard. It’s amazing how being an actor is a lot about trust. It’s a big trust exercise where we give each other permission to play, and when someone sort of breaks that trust, on either side of it, it can be absolutely devastating to the process, to the outcome of the film or the play or whatever you’re doing. I can point to a million examples in my career where people have derailed a situation because they broke that trust, whether they did that pretentious actor thing where they were so into it that they hit you with a sword.
Hauptman: And sliced you open. Method.
Chiklis: I call it Metha-done. Methadone acting. That’s mine. You can quote me.
Can you talk about what each of you have coming up next? Michael, I know you have Pawn with Ray Liotta?
Chiklis: Yeah. It’s a little movie I produced as a result of this movie (referring to Parker). I’ve been thinking an awful lot about the second half of my career. I’m facing 50 and it makes me contemplative about the place that I am in my life and I’m thinking about the second half. One thing that’s very important to me is the building of my production company. I was talking to Brad Luff, who is one of the executive producers on this film, during the making of Parker, and we got to know each other and we really bonded during the process. He has a lot of the same desires and ambitions in that way. He said, “Why don’t we make a movie together?” and I was like, “Okay.” I was looking for someone on the executive side to partner with me in my production company, and he said, “No, I have a script and it’s financed. It’s little. It’s a tiny little movie, but if you respond to it, maybe we can just put it together on the quick.” This was late September right at the end of the shooting of this. I read the script. It needed work, but by December 2nd we were shooting it, and we made this cool little movie. I pulled together a pretty impressive cast with Forest Whitaker, Ray Liotta, Common, Nikki Reed, Stephen Lang, myself, Max Beesley. I mean, it’s a scale movie. It’s a little movie. All things considered, it’s a cool little film. A lot of bang for the buck considering it was a 15-day shoot. You have to compare apples to apples. You know what I mean? Parker was a $30 million dollar, two-month shoot. Pawn was a $2.1 million dollar, 15-day shoot. Just to give you some perspective, we shot the pilot for Vegas in 16 days. That’s a 45-minute pilot. So, you know, (shouting) “Run! Go! Run!” It was an impressive cast and some really nice performances.
Do you think a Shield movie would ever happen at this point or did the series end so nicely that you wouldn’t want to touch it again?
Chiklis: Hell no, I’d love to do it. Ask Fox, please. This is the single most asked question of me. It’s only since 2008 and I’m gonna say over ten thousand times asked. So, forgive me if I want to strangle you right now. I’m kidding. I’m teasing obviously, but it’s just that Shawn (Ryan) has a phenomenal idea to move forward with it, but part of it is our availability. We’re both very busy. Part of it is Fox and changes over there. We’ll see. It’s possible, but I don’t know.
Micah, can you talk about Less Than Kind?
Hauptman: Less Than Kind is on hold. I’m here for pilot season and then I have a movie in April that I’m doing that’s called Destined with Omar Epps and Mekhi Phifer.
Chiklis: Epps! Give him my best.