Forest Whitaker talks Repossession Mambo, Street Kings, Where The Wild Things Are, Patriots and Better Angels

     February 10, 2008

On Friday I attended the press junket for the new Sony thriller “Vantage Point.” With the huge cast of actors in the film, I managed to get a lot of great quotes about a ton of upcoming movies. In case you missed what I’ve already posted, here’s a link to what Matthew Fox said about “Lost” and “Speed Racer.” Here’s what Dennis Quaid said about “G.I. Joe.” And here’s what William Hurt said about “The Incredible Hulk and a bit on a Nelson Mandela movie.

And if you thought I was done with the selected quotes, you’d be mistaken. As now I’ve got what Forest Whitaker said about all of his upcoming projects, and it’s a lot of info.

As one might expect from a recent Oscar winner, he’s extremely busy. In fact, while some people might only have one movie on the horizon, Forest has 5. So while I’ll be posting a complete transcript in the coming days, I wanted to get what he said about all of his upcoming projects up immediately.

If you’re curious, he talks about “Repossession Mambo,” “Street Kings,” “Where The Wild Things Are,” “Patriots” and “Better Angels – the next film he’ll direct.” Since you probably haven’t heard about “Patriots,” it’s the next film he’ll star in and it’s the true story of a basketball coach in New Orleans during and right after Hurricane Katrina.

Forest provides a lot of info on all the movies, so enjoy the selected quotes. As always, click here to listen to the interview as an MP3.

Question: Are you still doing Repossession Mambo with Jude Law?

Forest Whitaker: I finished it.

Q: Oh, really? When was that last week or…?

Forest: Last fall.

Q: Oh, I was going to say not that far.

Forest: It was a long process. We finished it and we finished up…mostly we were in Toronto and we finished up in Miami.

Q: Can you tell a little more about it? What do you play in that?

Forest: I play a repossession guy. The movie kind of deals with healthcare in a weird way because me and Jude are best friends and it’s about the breakup of our relationship. We repossess body parts that people have bought to sustain their life, you know and so then all of a sudden he gets a break of conscience because of a health crisis in his own life and I have to get him straight.

Q: What about this…I don’t know if it’s still called The Night Watchman?

Forest: It’s called Street Kings. It’s coming out in April.

Q: Can you tell us a little bit about that?

Forest: It’s about police corruption in Los Angeles. I play the head of sort of the crime family of the police, I’m the head of the…I’m the cop who runs all of that and Keanu plays my enforcer. It’s about him sort of his eyes opening up to what it is that I’ve had him doing for the last number of years as I’ve sort of protected him and groomed him and moved him along. It’s a very intense piece. I just saw it a couple of days ago. I really like the movie. It’s a really powerful movie.

Q: Is it based on the Rampart scandal?

Forest: Somewhat. It definitely is like the sort of Rampart type police.

Q: Did you get help from the LAPD on that?

Forest: There were advisors who had left the force who were working on the movie.

Q: Why did they leave the force exactly?

Forest: It wasn’t because of corruption. Some of them were like life-time cops and stuff that were working—really strong with Keanu too just to give their advise and talk to you about it and they even show you pictures. Sometimes there were cops that would actually show us pictures of them doing really brutal things actually to like people they were interrogating and stuff. It’s like they had almost like trophies for themselves.

Q: Since you’re talking a little bit about other projects, can I ask you about “Where the Wild Things Are” and what the experience was like working with Spike Jones?

Forest: I loved working with Spike. That was different because what happened….we rehearsed the piece for like quite a few months before…in the beginning we rehearsed it and then they put a camera on each one of us and followed us. So they’d be like 8 cameras following all the actors as we were going through the scenes and stuff, so as Wild Things if there was like a foam tree or something I mean you’d use a foam tree, you’d use like bread—you’d have bread fights instead of rock fights. They were filming all of that and then when they went to Australia to actually film the puppets or whatever, the people studied our movements and studied our gestures and stuff and imitated us going through our movements and stuff and then the facial stuff they got because even like when we recorded, he would be recording our faces and stuff and they were going to try to implement that in CG into the characters faces.

Q: I heard you had a hell of a cast working with those foam things when you guys were rehearsing. Could you talk about working with all those other people and I also heard some of the Jackass guys were working with you?

Forest: Not really. We started off first we went up to a mountain near Spike’s house and we had like dodge ball fights, you know. We’d be on teams and then when we went into…he kind of rented out this entire space inside of there they built this sort of foam world and we just started getting closer and doing improv’s and figuring out how we’d lay on each other and move around each other and then slowly he decided to start filming us doing it. We’d reenact everything from drawing in the sand to as I say like the fights we’d have amongst each other and stuff.

Q: When you have an experience that’s that sort of left of center, how does that impact you when you go back into approaching the rest of your career? Does it change? Do you look for more like of those kinds of experiences?

Forest: I had a great time working on it. It was kind of crazy, you know, I mean I played Ira. He’s kind of like the biggest Wild Thing as far as physical size and stuff and so they got this giant padded stomach for me and I’d be moving around and figuring out how he talks and stuff so it was like playing a character in any movie, going through rehearsals and stuff and then they shot us.

Q: But you don’t play dodge ball on every movie, right?

Forest: I guess we would if we were…because we’re playing in the movie we’re playing we’re having rock fights, so it’s just rehearsing us figuring out how to be on teams and how to like…how we’d be chasing, how we’d be hiding from each other, the way we’d be talking to each other and so then we he actually shot it, they just got these big barrels of bread—like rolls—and then we were just throwing rolls at each other and fighting and doing stuff like that.

Q: So are you filming anything right now or do you have anything coming up?

Forest: I’m going to do this movie called Patriots in April, which is a true story about a coach in New Orleans during and right after Katrina, about the displacement of all of his players and them trying to find their lives and stuff and ultimately this coach who brings them all back together and wins the championship.

Q: Who’s in it with you?

Forest: They haven’t cast the rest of the movie. We start April 15th.

Q: What type of team?

Forest: Basketball. Yeah, it’s a true story.

Q: It is a true story? Did you say it’s a true story?

Forest: Yeah.

Q: Oh, so you’re playing somebody again who…have you talked to the person or have you….

Forest: I haven’t started my work yet.

Q: Forest, you keep coming back to this theme of challenges in your work, made me curious if there’s anything as an actor or director that you’ve wanted to tackle and just haven’t gotten an opportunity to so far?

Forest: I don’t really have anything like the specific thing. I think directing wise, I mean I do want to play around with more visceral kind of film, like a really emotionally aggressive visceral film that has to say something about human condition. I think the one I’m hopefully going to do next is called “Better Angels” I don’t know if the script will turn out. It deals with that. It deals with a journalist who goes into a place to interview a man who’s like a mysiac character who’s fighting the country with a team of children soldiers and it’s about this journalist deciding when he needs to step in and stuff.

Q: Would you act in it as well or do you think you’ll just direct it and not…?

Forest: Um, it depends on how the script turns. But I mean, I’ve always in the past not wanted to…I’ve never acted in anything I have done but I think I’ll feel more comfortable directing now I mean inside the film as well.

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