Alex Pettyfer is freaking out. He’s just discovered he can shoot light from his hands and it looks like he has flashlights shooting out from inside his skin. He’s sitting in a small janitor closet in a High School hallway and I’m standing very close to director D.J. Caruso (Eagle Eye, Disturbia). We’re all looking at the monitors. Timothy Olyphant, who plays Pettyfer’s guardian, walks into the closet shortly after Pettyfer and he’s telling him to relax. As Olyphant gets him to calm down, the light emitting from his hands starts to dim until it finally goes away. While the effect is being done practically, it looks real on the monitor. I’m impressed. I watch take after take of Olyphant and Pettyfer trying to get it right. For more on what it was like to be on the set of I Am Number Four, click here.
Anyway, while on set I was able to interview Timothy Olyphant. He talked about why he wanted to get involved in the project, who he plays, and he also talked about his hit FX show Justified and Gore Verbinski’s animated movie Rango. Hit the jump for more:
While I usually post one interview with an actor from a set visit…I’ve actually got two of them with Timothy Olyphant. They were both done the same night because the visiting group of online reporters got to set at different times and he spoke to us twice. Since I didn’t want to pull select quotes from each one, I posted both of them below.
Finally, if you missed the teaser trailer for I Am Number Four, I’d watch it before reading the interview.
Question: What is your character like, obviously he is a mentor to John.
How long have you guys been on earth.
Olyphant: I am not sure.
Since the character is John’s guardian, obviously the rest of the cast are younger, teenage cast do you find yourself as an actor being sort of like a mentor to them.
Olyphant: I have been around for a while so I know my way around set, but my relationship has really been with Alex, he’s a great guy, I am having a great time, I love working with DJ. He’s great and also Guillermo Navarro who is just unbelievable. I am really enjoying watching the two of them work and being a part of that collaboration.
Obviously there is a lot of action in this movie, have you seen a lot of action?
Olyphant: Most of it is shot in little pieces but I haven’t really seen anything.
Kevin Durand is obviously a big force to be reckoned with is there a big face off between you guys.
Olyphant: I can’t tell you that. He is really great though – I have liked his work for a while so it is nice to have him be a part of this thing.
I have heard that he, aside from being tall, they have him on stilts?
Olyphant: Those guys are big and he is already quite imposing as it is. The bad guys are scary.
The bad guys are a different race of aliens right, they are not just an opposing force on your planet.
Are they moving to Earth just because you guys are there.
Olyphant: They are here to wipe out these young kids who all possess these abilities to turn the tide.
Talk about working with D J, I am a fan of “Disturbia” and “Eagle Eye”, he has got a really unique eye, is he a really good actor’s director?
Olyphant: He’s been great, he is a lovely guy, I really like him, there is a great vibe on set, he creates a really nice environment to work in, extremely collaboration and I have really enjoyed our back and forth in terms of fleshing out his character and scene by scene, the dialogue with him has been really great.
Have you had a chance to read the book yet?
So you are just going by the script.
Olyphant: Yes, the script and many conversations with DJ.
Have there been any hints from D J or the writers about subtleties of your character that may be in the book that may not be obvious in the movie?
Olyphant: Basically the process was when he was getting me to, when I read it I had a very specific take on what I would like to do with it, I had that conversation with DJ and we were on the same page about what I was talking about and we just kept poking around in that area, we talked about the book a little bit in terms of the source material and what was to important to honor, because I am not in the know in terms of the novel on occasion if I have an idea, it occurs to me that we have a source material that I don’t know if I am going in that direction. If I have an idea that goes outside of what’s on the page and I say “you know I know it’s not in the script but here is what I would like to do. I also need to ask and how does that relate to the book and obviously even though I haven’t read the book, others have and I am in a position to be able to ask the questions.
Obviously D J brought you on the project, what was it that drew you to Henri?
Olyphant: There was something fun there, I thought there was something fun to play. I liked the relationship between Henri and John. It seemed like it, I was just very fond of that relationship.
Because he is his guardian and he is protecting him, is it a father son relationship or more like a brother?
Olyphant: It’s a little big of all of those things you know. All those things wrapped up into one, there is a father son relationship, there is – although it is not easy because I don’t think Henri is that accessible to John as John would like, there is also a bit of a coach, teacher student that kind of thing, which I really like as well, it is like a father/coach situation which is a tough situation when your Dad is your coach, but that is the fun of it.
Olyphant: No John is my assignment. Each one of them has someone like me, like a Henri that is there to try to protect them and get them to a position where they can survive.
Do we see you when you have been on Earth for a period of time.
Olyphant: Our story picks up in the middle – it’s not an origin story. We are in the thick of it.
As John’s protector are you able to help him develop his powers, learn about his powers.
Olyphant: That’s right, if and when they come, I am there to help him with that and mentor him with that and help him understand it. That is basically it, essentially it is about parenting. You are basically trying to get this kid in a position where he can survive on his own. Like any good parent you are trying to get the kid in a position where he is stronger and more powerful, and able to achieve things that you couldn’t.
Do you have kids of your own? Do you find yourself bringing that into the story?
Olyphant: I find myself bringing everything that is at my disposal into all my roles. This one is no different.
I saw the “Crazies” and was a big fan of it, it is obviously open ended – are you guys working on a sequel together
Olyphant: No no plans
Talking about Breck Eisner, he is working on the “Escape from New York” remake. There are talks that he might be bringing you in to play Snake Plissken, is there any truth in that.
Olyphant: You know Breck and I are good friends and I would hope and trust that I would get the chance to work with him again, and hopefully frequently, I really have a great deal of respect for him as a director and as a person and I really value our relationship and the creative collaboration we had on the “Crazies” I hope is just beginning, it felt like we had just scratched the surface on that film, and we talk often and I think that we are without question both looking for something to do together.
Do you think that you will try to find something else or is “Escape From New York” something that is quite likely.
Olyphant: I hope and trust he feels the same way I do, that we are hoping to find something to do together, what that is I don’t know, but I look forward to it.
Great success for “Justified” on FX, when do you start working on Season 2?
Olyphant: I think the writers will convene fairly soon which means I will be beginning to work on it in that regard behind the scenes, but we won’t start shooting until after labor day.
Do you think it will be longer?
Olyphant: I hope not.
You started with film, then you moved into television so is your television your hiatus from movies or is it the other way, because a lot of times you are in a series you can only shoot movies when you are in a hiatus.
Olyphant: That show only took 5 months to shoot and we wrapped that show a couple of months ago and we don’t go back to shooting until September. I don’t think of it in either or those terms, I just think of it as though I know, assuming the sky doesn’t fall, that some time after labor day I have a job.
Other than that, do you have any other things coming up.
Olyphant: Nothing that I will be starting, I have things coming out, but I don’t have anything that I am planning on shooting between now and the second season of “Justified.”
Question: You were a late addition, how did you get involved in the project. What led you to being back in high school.
Olyphant: The good people, who ever makes these decisions at DreamWorks offered it to me. I read it and I thought it was a fun part, had a talk with D J on the phone and we were off on running.
Your show has done extremely well .
Olyphant: I like to work, I was looking for a job.
What kind of research did you do for the character. Did they give you some kind of bio, did you follow it?
Olyphant: DJ and I have been engaged in a dialogue, a collaboration from the jump, most of the choices that were made were based on the script and the conversations between D J and I.
I am curious, what I really like about your work as an actor I am curious about how prepared you are and is your process the same on all your projects?
Olyphant: It is more or less the same, we are playing the same game so I think the only thing that changes is the tone of the material and the world that you are playing in. and then its like, it also depends on, then it’s different things, “Justified” was a much different animal and my commitment to it was so thorough and big and committed, because I had the opportunity to be invested to it in a way. In this I am a supporting player, and I approach the job accordingly, it’s not my movie, and it’s not my story and I am here to support the overall thing and you have to figure out how you can best do that. With the “Crazies,” and “Justified” that’s an opportunity to not only work on the character but on the whole piece does that make sense.
D J has done a lot of action, you have done a lot of action this movie has some action. How involved is your character in the action in the film.
Olyphant: A little bit.
Olyphant: It depends. Most of what we are doing here, from what I’ve seen I don’t know that it requires too much additional training, but its great, the stuff that I have seen is really great, not to take anything away from it. But most of it is all within, I don’t think I will have be spending too many of my off days working on it.
To switch gears, I just saw a phenomenal trailer for “Rango” and I was told you were the voice of the West is that accurate?
Olyphant: I am the voice of the Spirit of the West, that’s true and I am just thrilled to be a part of it.
The trailer to me looked unbelievable.
Olyphant: I had the same reaction as you, it is just looked amazing.
One of my writers just interviewed Gore, and he was saying that a lot of people did on that project did this crazy, like Johnny did this live action recording process, this very unique way of doing this project. Can you talk about it.
Olyphant: No I don’t think I can, I can tell that I went in and we did it, I have a very small part to play. it didn’t take more than a day, but it was very enjoyable. It was a kick to do.
When you saw the trailer was that the first time you saw the final footage yourself.
Olyphant: Seeing the footage at that stage of development, when I was with Gore and when we met and when we recorded he showed me stuff, but it was not as far along as what you see there in the trailer.
Olyphant: No I come and go. I have been coming and going, I was here the first week of shooting, it’s a come and go situation.
If you don’t mind can you talk a little bit about your character.
Olyphant: His name is Henri and he is basically I play Alex Pettyfer’s character John Smith I am his guardian, my job is to keep him alive
From what I understand there are 6 or 9 people and they are placed all around the planet. So your character is based in the same town.
Olyphant: No I am his guardian, I go wherever he goes, I am there to care for him and to protect him and to train him and to help him survive and get to a place where he is strong enough to survive him on his own.
You are filming here in Pittsburgh, for people who have never been here is there something you can recommend.
Olyphant: They have a wonderful baseball stadium and a young team, it lovely that has been my favorite experience. that has been my favorite day out at the park.
I am going to jump into “Justified” for a second, obviously when you sign on to any show you never really know what is going to happen. Were you surprised at the critical and commercial success of the show.
Olyphant: I thought we had a good show.
What is it like working with Alex.
Olyphant: He is a good kid, I like working with Alex.
I Am Number Four gets released February 18, 2011. I’d imagine the full trailer will be released very soon.
For more coverage from our set visit: