Richard Jenkins is one of those actors that’s always working. While never top billing, he can always be counted on to deliver exceptional work no matter what part he plays. However, over the past few years, it seems like more people are recognizing his talent, as directors such as the Coen Brothers, Adam McKay, the Farrelly Brothers, and now Matt Reeves have cast Jenkins in important parts in their movies. As a big fan of his work, it’s great to see. At any rate, I was able to speak with Jenkins about Let Me In and you can read what he had to say after the jump. We also talked about his other projects.
Finally, by now you’ve probably heard the great buzz on Let Me In, but if you haven’t…Let Me In is one of the best films of the year and absolutely worth your hard earned money. Absolutely recommended.
Richard Jenkins: I had no idea. In fact, when I read the script and agreed to do it, I didn’t know there was another film. Then I read the novel and knew there was a film. Everyone said it was absolutely brilliant so I said “Well, I don’t want to watch it now”. I have seen it since I finished and they are right, it is absolutely brilliant.
It’s a phenomenal film.
Jenkins: Yeah. It’s phenomenal. It is.
How was it for you when approaching this material? Can you talk about working with Matt to find the character?
Jenkins: Yeah. These are trapped people. Not just the boy, but the girl too. I mean they’re trapped in their lives and they can’t get out. Matt wanted an audience to stand in their shoes and within the context of the horrible things that happen to understand and maybe empathize with and feel bad for them. He wanted them to be humans, even the vampire. He wanted them to be complex people.
You guys filmed in New Mexico. How was the shoot for you when you where there?
Jenkins: Cold. It was very cold. It was very cold and very high up. I was in 4 feet of snow and it was tumbling and I’m thinking “God. I’m 63 years old” but it was amazing.
Are you the type of actor that enjoys looking at the dailies to see how things are going?
Jenkins: No. That’s why I haven’t seen the movie yet. I don’t like watching myself, but I will see it. I don’t watch the dailies. You want to just turn in your resignation when you watch the dailies.
Obviously when you do theater work you are very much able to control the nuances of your performance. When you’re doing film work you have a director and an editor who are taking your performance and they can pick any of the ten takes that you have done. How is that for you?
Jenkins: The whole profession is a collaborative effort. Whither is the theater or this. You have to trust. I mean that’s part of the deal. You go in there and you try to work with people that you believe and have faith in. Then you try to understand what they want and hope they make the right decisions. It’s like how they hope you make the right decisions as an actor. I can’t watch myself and be objective and say “Oh, that’s a good take. That isn’t a good take” I can’t even get there. I’m so far from that because you know what was going on in your head while you were doing it. That’s the difference between watching yourself and watching another actor. Sometimes, if I’ve done a movie and then 4 or 5 years later it will be on television and I’ll watch and I’ll go “This movie look familiar.” and then I’ll pop up and go “Oh.” and I’ll watch it and I don’t remember doing it. I mean I remember doing it but I’ll go “That was pretty interesting” or “That’s not”. So I can be a little more subjective then but it’s so hard when you’re fresh off something.
You obliviously worked with young performers and you obviously had a lot of scenes with Chloe. Could you talk a little bit how it was on set and how it was working with younger actors?
Jenkins: You know, it was interesting. Matt really set the tone. It was very quiet. I mean, it was fun, Chloe and Cody had fun and in between takes they were laughing and running. They’re kids and god forbid they shouldn’t have fun. But when we shot it was very quiet and it was very intimate. Really intimate. That’s what he wanted. The kind of intimacy like “Can you even almost hear them?”. You know the whole thing through walls. It was great because I think they felt really comfortable with that vibe that was there on set.
On Step Brothers there’s a lot of improve. On a project like this, how much are you able to sort of improve and find things on the set versus what is scripted?
Jenkins: I didn’t have a lot of dialogue in the movie. I’m not really in the movie that much but things like my equipment, my clothes, saying “What do we do here?”, and just doing a scene without dialogue. We changed things all the time. Once you put a camera there everything changes. You can talk about it in rehearsal or go to dinner and talk about it. Once you put the camera there then you have to really have to start to look and say “What do we have here? Where can we go? What can we find? What’s different than we thought?” and he’s really willing to do this. I think he’s just an amazing director. I do. He’s one of these guys that’s very helpful. We have to move on because of time but he can’t move on until he’s happy and I said “Don’t ever lose that, man. Don’t ever lose that because that’s a great quality to have.”
You wrapped on this film a little while ago. You’re someone that is constantly working so what have you been working on?
Jenkins: I finished this in February or March. I did Hall Pass with the Farrelly Brothers and that’s it. Now I’m doing Friends With Benefits.
Getting into the Farrelly Brothers, what was that experience like for you?
Jenkins: This is my 4th one over there. They’re great. They are more fun than any human should be.
I’m just curious, on that film there is obviously a lot of room for improve on that. What are they like? Have they changed at all? Do they even give you shorter notes or ideas?
Jenkins: It’s not that much improv. I mean they get ideas on the day they are shooting it or you’ll do something, you know? They’re the same guys they’ve been since I first did There’s Something About Mary with them.
Can you speak a little bit about Friends With Benefits?
Jenkins: It’s a romantic comedy. I play Justin Timberlake’s father who has Alzheimer’s. It’s Woody Harrleson, Patricia Clarkson, and I don’t know who else. I just figured out I was going to do it just a little while ago.
I was going to say, do you ever have it with friends and family that when you are working with someone like a Timberlake or even the Farrelly Brothers or whoever it may be that you all of a sudden find out that they want to visit you on set?
Jenkins: No but my family is not from the East. They are in the Midwest. What we are doing is bringing a lot of my family out to the premiere of Eat Pray Love because they’ve never been to a premiere. I have two first cousins that I’m really close to and my wife has an aunt and uncle that she’s very close to and her sister. We’re bringing them all out to New York to go to the premiere. Have some fun, you know?
I believe that Sony is really high up on that film and they just signed another deal with Ryan Murphy. What was your experience like working on Eat Pray Love?
Jenkins: I read the book a long time ago before the movie. I really loved the book and how hard she is on herself. She really was tough on herself. You never know but I just had a ball. I had a great time. Ryan is amazing and Julia Roberts is really fabulous. I loved playing this guy and I got to talk to him once for about an hour, but I just love the character. I loved it when I read the book and I loved getting the chance to play it.
For people who aren’t familiar with the book and character, can you talk a little bit about him?
Jenkins: His name is “Richard from Texas.” That’s what she calls him in the book and that’s all she ever calls him. She met him in an ashram in India and he became her best friend and he was very tough on her. He was hard on her and he made her understand that doing this is not just a lark. You have to put the work in if you want to meditate and you want to find yourself to answer some of these questions. You got to do the work. As he says to her “You want to get to the castle, you got to swim the moat” and they became really close. I asked him once “Man, you were hard on her. How come you were so hard on her?” and he said “because I knew she could take it.”
I’m curious, preparation wise, you’re playing a real person versus fictional characters. How are you as an actor getting ready for each part and how early do you start to prepare for each role?
Jenkins: As soon as you get the script. That’s when you start. Everything is there on the page. That’s where your clues are. It’s hard playing real people because you’re never that guy. I’ve always found it a little disconcerting to play a real person but I loved this guy and how she wrote about him so much. You know, Richard from Texas about a month or a month and a half ago, but thank goodness I got to talk to him. Ryan said “You should talk to this guy. There’s a really great energy about him” and he was right. He was amazing. I’m glad I did.