Vincent D’Onofrio Talks Netflix’s ‘El Camino Christmas’ & the Return of Wilson Fisk on ‘Daredevil’
From director David E. Talbert (Almost Christmas, Baggage Claim), the Netflix feature film El Camino Christmas follows Eric Roth (Luke Grimes), as he goes on a journey to find the father that he never knew. When his search takes him to the remote desert town of El Camino, Nevada, he’s mistaken for a drug dealer and the local law enforcement (played by Vincent D’Onofrio and Dax Shepard) ends up trapping him in a liquor store where he’s stuck with a group of locals, one of which turns out to be his father.
During this 1-on-1 phone interview with Collider, actor Vincent D’Onofrio talked about why he wanted to get involved with El Camino Christmas, feeling like he could bring something to this role, the fun they had improvising, what he enjoyed about working with director David E. Talbert, and why this could be a fun movie to watch at the holidays. He also talked about returning to Wilson Fisk for Daredevil Season 3, how Kingpin has new goals now, and that what they’re shooting now is “very much in the history of Fisk and Daredevil,” along with the process of developing and directing a Western, called The Kid, which he’s currently in post-production on.
Collider: What made you want to do El Camino Christmas?
VINCENT D’ONOFRIO: With it being (writer) Ted Melfi’s, and I think he’s a really talented guy, and the introduction to David [Talbert], the director, I thought that I could do something with the part. I thought I could bring some kind of weirdness to it. They really let me expand on it and do all kinds of stuff. They let me bring the songs into it. I just liked it because I saw, the way that it was written, that it could be something I could have fun with.
This film has a pretty great cast, with Dax Shepard, Kurtwood Smith and Tim Allen. Did you have any particularly fun or funny moments on set, with any of them?
D’ONOFRIO: Improvising with the cast, inside the liquor store, was fun. Basically, I’m bleeding out through the whole thing, but there were distractions. I got to know Tim [Allen] a bit. I had never met him before. Everybody in that room were very nice people and good conversationalists. Also, Dax Shepard is one of my close friends, and it’s always fun to be around him ‘cause he’s a very funny guy. We improvised a lot, said some funny stuff, and cracked each other up. I would improvise something in almost every scene that we did, but some of it was just too outrageous.
Did this film change or evolve much, from the first time you read it, or is the finished film pretty close to what you first read?
D’ONOFRIO: I would say that it’s pretty close to the script. It does change a lot because of what each actor brought to their part, but other than that, the storyline is the same. It’s a difficult answer to give because, at times, it’s significantly different because of who they hired to play the part, but as far as the story itself, it’s pretty close to the script.
How did you find working and collaborating with David E. Talbert? What was he like, as a director?
D’ONOFRIO: He’s very cool and smart. He knows what he wants and he’s really personable on set. You get to know him pretty well and trust him. He’s got a way with actors because he has a very nice temperament. He’s very easy to understand. He doesn’t complicate things. He comes from the theater, so he understands story really well, which always helps a lot, in a director. Some directors are all about camera, and that’s great too, but some are more about story and it’s always more personable when they are because you talk more about story points than you do about shots or performances. Every director is different and they all have their good qualities.
As people are checking out what’s on Netflix, over the holidays, what makes El Camino Christmas a fun alternative to traditional Christmas movies?
D’ONOFRIO: I think it would be nice to watch with all of the other Christmas movies you usually watch. It’s different. It’s not what you would imagine a Christmas movie to be, but at the same time, it has Christmas-y things about it, especially the songs. I think it would be a good addition to everybody’s list of Christmas movies. Our favorite holiday movies are It’s a Wonderful Life and A Christmas Carol. We watch the classics on Christmas, or in and around Christmas.
We know that Wilson Fisk is returning for Season 3 of Daredevil. How long ago did you learn that you’d be a part of Season 3?
D’ONOFRIO: I can answer part of that question. They’re all very secretive over there. I have a standing agreement with Jeph Loeb. We made a deal, before the first season, that I could come in and out of the show. We made an agreement that we would give each other a head’s up, throughout the years, so they’d know my availability. So, we picked a particular amount of time that he would give me the heads up on, if they needed me to come in. That particular amount of time, I won’t tell you, but that’s the agreement that we have.
How are you feeling about the scripts that you’ve read, and how do they compare to what you’ve done previously on the show?
D’ONOFRIO: It’s hard to top the first season, with Steven DeKnight’s writing, but Erik Oleson (the new showrunner) is a very good writer. I’ve shot some pretty cool scenes, so far. It’s different, but it’s very Fisk. It’s still very emotional. The character is evolving. His whole deal is based on emotion, so we’re taking him down that role further.
Has prison changed Kingpin’s mind-set, or does he have the same goals and focuses as before?
D’ONOFRIO: There are new focuses and new goals. That’s all I can say. If it was up to me, I would go on and on and on about it because it’s so interesting, but it’s so important to them, for us to keep our mouths shut.
With all of the roles that you’ve played, over the years, and with all of the characters in the Marvel universe, how cool is it to hear how much people love Wilson Fisk, as a stand-out character?
D’ONOFRIO: It’s very cool. I love the idea that I get to play him. I wanted to do the right thing, and I want to keep doing it. I remember the first season and how all of the Daredevil and Fisk fans were talking about it. It’s a big deal to them, and that really inspired me. It really brought my enthusiasm up, a lot. Their interest and their enthusiasm helps me do the best I can. I can only say that we’re doing things that are just going to blow the fans away. We’ve already shot some things that are just going to be neat for the fans. There’s some awesome things that are very much in the history of Fisk and Daredevil, that people have been waiting for. We’ve already put some of that stuff in the can, and there’s a lot more to do. I think they’re gonna be very happy.
You’ve also directed The Kid, which you’re editing now. How is that coming along?
D’ONOFRIO: So far, so good. It was a bit daunting to shoot a Western in 21 days, but we did it and we all enjoyed it. I got some incredible performances from Dane DeHaan, Ethan Hawke and Jake Schur, who plays the lead in it. The movie is from his point of view, and he’s a 13-year-old. Ethan and Dane play Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid. I’m editing it, so it’s a difficult question to answer. My main goal is to just make a good story, so that’s what I’m trying to do. All I can ask for is for you to wish me luck that it will work. But, it was a great experience. If my job was to just shoot it and not worry about it afterwards, I’d be extremely happy, but I’ve gotta keep making the movie. So, we’re cutting away and it looks good. We’ll see.
How challenging was the casting, especially when you’re looking for a younger actor as your lead?
D’ONOFRIO: I met Jake very early on. I was looking at a lot of kids, and I was looking in all the wrong places. He was right under my nose, the whole time. One of the most bright and shining things about the film, even with Ethan and Dane’s great performances, is going to be Jake’s performance. He’s pretty magnificent in the movie. So, it wasn’t that difficult. It was a lot easier than I thought it was gonna be ‘cause I found him almost immediately.
What was it about this specific story that made you want to tell it?
D’ONOFRIO: It’s a story that I thought of, from the beginning to the end, and the structure of it and the way it would be told. And then, I hired Andrew Lanham. We got together when I was shooting The Judge, a couple years ago, in Boston. He stayed at the hotel that I was staying at, and we talked about it for a few days. And then, he went off and wrote it, and brought it back and we kept developing it. We got it together and it worked. It’s a story that I thought of, when I laid my head on the pillow one night, and I just dreamed about it. It’s a pretty awesome story. It’s a very emotional story about a kid in the Wild West. It has aspects of these iconic characters character, like Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid, but it’s all from the point of view of a young man. When you first meet him, he’s going through an extremely dramatic situation. It’s a tragic beginning, and he goes on this journey. When I was trying to figure out how to shoot it, I remembered David Lean’s Oliver Twist, which is a beautiful film, so I watched it. It was inspiring in the way that it’s really epic, but it’s not like Lawrence of Arabia. It’s done with shots and sets, in a very distinct way. The story itself is so epic and it’s all from the point of view of this young man. I considered it the spirit animal of our film, and all of the actors did, as well. It’s hard to talk about a movie when you’re in the middle of cutting it because it could turn out to be nonsense. I’m happy that I have my acting career. If this is successful, I’d like to develop and make another one, but I can’t see myself directing stuff, just for the sake of directing. If my acting career goes away, then I’ll start directing things that I didn’t write, but if this one works, hopefully I’ll get to do another idea.
Do you have an aim for when you’ll have it done?
D’ONOFRIO: I know the financiers have an idea for when it should be done. We’re cutting away, and I have a few months. We’ve got a little while still with the cut. We’ll go further into post, and do sound design and the score, and then we’ll do special effects. There are very few. When you’re around horses, you can’t use real blanks in the guns, so we have to put in some stuff, and there are certain effects that we did. Matthew Lloyd shot it, and he’s amazing. I met him on the first season of Daredevil. He’s one of the young cinematographers that everybody wants to use because he’s just simply amazing, so he’ll get ahold of it and do his magic with the picture. It has potential. Everybody really loves it. Now, all I have to do is not screw it up.
El Camino Christmas is available to stream at Netflix.