Though Robert Patrick may never escape his first breakthrough role as the T-1000 in Terminator 2: Judgment Day, over the last twenty years he’s built a great resume as a character actor. In Gangster Squad he plays a seasoned vet that’s part cowboy, and it’s a part that Patrick was born to play. We got a chance to talk to the actor about his character and some of his previous work while on the set of Gangster Squad. Our interview follows after the jump.
Can you talk about the intrigue with Gangsters in this era for you?
Robert Patrick: My personal fascination? Well, it was still sort of a lawless time and LA was sort of like the old West and Mickey Cohen came in after the prohibition and set up shop… I think the police were corrupt at the time, and it’s just a really sexy time period, to be honest with you. Cars were sexy. Clothes were sexy, women were sexy.
So do you feel like you were playing an Earp brother?
Patrick: Well my guy Max Kennard is the oldest of all the guys, and he was born in the 1800’s and raised in Texas. So he was transplanted to Los Angeles. They had me written in the script as the deadliest cop. I’ve got more kills than any of the other guys, I carry a Colt 45 Peacemaker. So I’m sort of a throwback to an old Western character and LA is very much an Old West town for me. Max is a cowboy yeah. I have a Colt 45 and I do all the quick draw stuff and like I said my guy was from the 1800’s, so he’s very much from that time period.
I heard you have some good gun tricks now that you can do?
Patrick: Yeah Johnny “Rocket Shoes” Dylan trained me how to do the quick draw. We have a cool scene where I shoot a can into the air 6 times and keep it up in the air. This guy’s an expert marksman and has the Texas lawmen mentality. Shoot first, takes names later. But my guy’s trying to redeem himself from some of the things he did in his past.
Did you get to meet any of the family members of your character?
Patrick: No, I don’t know if my guy actually existed. I think my guy is like a combination of guys. Ruben said he did exist, but I don’t think he had a lot of family.
Would you say your character danced on the border of being a good and a bad guy?
Patrick: I think he’s a good guy. He knows what’s right, but he’s not politically correct about it. He’s a lawmen in the old school way. He would have been a Republican. He’d be a pretty conservative Republican.
How was it working with Ruben?
Patrick: Ruben’s fantastic this is his third film, he really knows his stuff, he’s a great guy, he’s very collaborative, he wants ideas. We’re all coming to him with ideas we have for our characters, he’s very open to that, let’s us interporate it. It’s just a great group of guys to be working with, the Gangster Squad itself. Josh is just so well cast as the leader, and Ryan, Anthony, Giovanni, Michael, they’re terrific.
Do you think everyone has good chemistry?
Patrick: I think so yeah. Michael Pena’s my partner and without giving away too much of the story, he kind of weasels his way in to the Gangster Squad. And one of the things I do like about my character is that Michael’s Hispanic, and I’m one of the few cops who would partner up with him. At the time in 1949 it wasn’t… he was not somebody you’d want to partner up with on account of his heritage. And I take him on, and he’s my partner every day and then he sneaks his way in to the Gangster Squad. And Max is that way, he’s the quiet one of all of them, a typical laconic cowboy. But I feel as if, what I’m trying to do with the role is make him the protector for all the guys, he has everyone’s back, and I don’t want to say in a fatherly way but in a protective way he feels responsible for all of them. He’s definitely got Josh’s character’s back, he’s looking out for the leader at all times, so I’m always, my back’s against the wall looking at what the situation is. It’s interesting; I’m having a lot of fun doing it.
Can you talk about working with Sean and with Ryan?
Patrick: I haven’t actually worked with Sean yet; we had the table reading with Sean and everybody. I’m primarily with the Gangster Squad and work a little bit with Nick Nolte. And I have a scene with Sean where he’ll be doing all the talking, so that will be interesting to see. We don’t have too much interaction because he’s the guy we’re really trying to get. So that becomes more of a showdown at the end. That hasn’t been shot yet.
And what about Ryan?
Patrick: Ryan’s definitely a part of the Gangster Squad, he comes in, and he’s a very big part of it. He really helps us because he has a relationship… I don’t want to give too much of the story away… there’s a woman involved and he has a relationship with her and that works to our advantage. It’s always a woman! It’s a film noir you know.
What about working with Ryan?
Patrick: It’s the first time I’ve worked with Ryan. He’s an amazing actor, truly a gifted individual. He’s the real deal. I just saw The Ides of March. That’s an amazing film. So he’s a lot of fun to work with.
Is there anything that you’ve added to your character?
Patrick: Well he has so much, you know, being the quick draw guy, you’ll get to see the gun play with that. Trying to see if there’s anything I added… he’s so well written, my character’s so well written on the page and has great lines all the way through it that are there. Maybe just that I’m hyper aware that I’m trying to protect all the guys, and have their backs, and maybe just the age thing I’m really trying to play that up even more. He’s a little bit more mature than the other ones.
Ruben often suggests to his actors some films to watch…
Patrick: That’s a great question. OK, so when I got the role Ruben and I were on the phone talking and he really suggest that I watch Clint Eastwood and The Magnificent Seven to really get an idea of what he was trying to do as far as an iconic Western portrayal of Max Kennard. So this Max Kennard has that kind of iconic visual with him, the way he’s dressed, the way he handles himself. And I’ve pretty much got that in my mind when I’m working. I watched a lot of Clint Eastwood’s films, a lot of Westerns, John Wayne, Who Shot Liberty Valance, The Searchers and we had long discussions about that, and that’s what he specifically brought up about the character. A real strong, silent type. It helped me tremendously, it was actually motivating to watch it to see which actor was really gifted with the gun, and the gunplay and the way they handled themselves. You can do a lot with just a look. And there’s a lot of that with Max.
I hear you have some really great action scenes coming up, is there any you’re particularly excited about?
Patrick: Well yeah, actually, the stuff we are doing tomorrow night is looking to be even better than I thought it would be. There’s going to be some quick draw stuff going on with me, I get to shoot a couple of people like that. It’s fun. It’s just fun because my gun is so different to everyone else’s, it’s literally old school. You fan it. It comes out of the holster and you fan it, it’s a single action. So that will be interesting. Maybe the scene where you actually see me do my gunplay stuff for the first time… it’s not really an action scene per se but it’s where you actually see how well he can handle a gun. It’s done very well; it’s set up very well. So hopefully people will see it and think about some of those Westerns I mentioned.
How have you transformed yourself physically?
Patrick: I’ve lost 30 pounds. One of the things I did was when I was watching the films I thought that all the cowboys were super lean, and I’m a little bigger than I should be for this role, so I did that on my own, and leaned up for the role. Just to kind of give that visual of a long lean cowboy. Losing 30 pounds was a shocker, I didn’t know I could do that… all I had to do was change what I was eating.
And you grew a moustache…
Patrick: Yeah the moustache was part of it. And my hat. There was a lot of discussion about my hat, which I’m not wearing tonight so you can’t see it. And I had a long duster they gave me. Mary who did the wardrobe she’s just impeccable she’s amazing. She’s really tremendous. To be honest the whole character came together when I started to put on the clothes that she had picked out for me… and the hat. And Ruben was very hands on about that as well. That was maybe the second time that I met him was at the wardrobe fitting, after I read for the role.
Does your character have a woman in his life?
Patrick: No we don’t really discuss that, and he doesn’t wear a wedding ring. I see him as sort of a loner. There was a lot of backstory that I did that will stay with me, but we gave him a whole history, that I’m keeping to myself. But my guy is hell bent on redemption, and that’s part of the reason why he’s in this whole-heartedly. Once he’s invited to join this group he jumped at the chance and I think he sees this as a way to redeem what he did earlier in his life I don’t think he’s too proud of a lot of things he did.
Do you think he has any issues with them stretching the law a little bit to do what they need to do?
Patrick: No and I think that’s what’s really going to be identifiable for America. I think we’re all… I’m speaking for Americans and this is totally my opinion, but I think we’re all looking for someone who’s going to stand up for what’s right, and I think that’s what’s so empowering about the Gangster Squad. We need more of that. And I think that’s what’s going to be the rally cry for people who see this movie. There’s right and there’s wrong. And we need heroes to stand up and do what’s right.
It seems to me you’ve played a lot of characters on one side of the law or the other, at times both at the same time, like Cop Land…
Patrick: Yeah, Copland was a great movie. In fact their anniversary’s coming up, they’re re-releasing that on Blu Ray. We did CopLand in 1990…
Patrick: 1997! Thank you. You guys are good! They’re doing a Blu-ray release. But getting back to your question…
Do you have a side of the law that you like to play?
Patrick: No, not really. I mean I’m very grateful to be doing this movie though, for the reasons I just mentioned. The characters are interesting. You pick up and do what you want to do based on the character. Sometimes it’s interesting to be on the wrong side of the law. But this is very validating to be on the right side of the law. I always find it very interesting to be heroic characters who are willing to do what a bad guy would. Josh even has a line like that ‘you know we need to be just as tough and mean as they are, it’s the only way we’re going to succeed’ And they’re bad, bad dudes.
Gangster Squad opens January 11.
For more on our Gangster Squad Set Visit:
- 15 Things to Know from Our GANGSTER SQUAD Set Visit
- Josh Brolin Talks GANGSTER SQUAD, Fascination with Gangster Culture, His Character, Working with the Incredible Cast and More During Our Set Visit
- Director Ruben Fleischer Talks GANGSTER SQUAD, Classic Gangster Movies, the Incredible Cast and the Level of Action During Our Set Visit
- Producers Dan Lin and Kevin McCormick Talk Story Origin and the Vibe They Were Going for on the Set of GANGSTER SQUAD
- Giovanni Ribisi Talks Gangster Fascination, 1940s Technology, and His Character Moustache on the Set of GANGSTER SQUAD
- Anthony Mackie Talks the Appeal of the Gangster Genre, African-Americans in Film Noir, and More on the Set of GANGSTER SQUAD