John Malkovich On Set Interview RED

     July 14, 2010

If Red turns out like I expect, John Malkovich is going to steal the show.  That’s because Malkovich plays a retired CIA assassin named Marvin Boggs and for 11 years he was given LSD on a daily basis.  Let’s just say it’s left him a bit messed up.  But even though his character is not normal by most people’s definition, he’s still sharp as a tact, and perhaps by the end of the movie, he’ll save a lot of people’s lives…

But backing up a second, back in April I got to visit the set of Red while the production was shooting in New Orleans.  While on set I got to participate in a small roundtable interview with Malkovich where he discussed what it was like making Red, how the project had changed, all the other projects he’s working on, and we also talked about a pink pig.  Trust me, when Summit starts to releases more images on the pink pig…you’ll start to understand.

But more than anything, what makes this such a great interview is the fact that Malkovich rarely does in depth interviews, so if you’re a fan of this awesome actor, hit the jump to either read or listen to what he had to say:

Finally, before getting to the interview, you should watch the trailer for RED because it looks awesome and a lot of fun.

Here’s the full transcript.  Click here to listen to the audio from the interview.  Red gets released October 15.

Can you talk a little bit about your character and how much fun you’re having with Bruce [Willis]?

John Malkovich: The character as – all four of us, Bruce and Helen Mirren, Morgan Freeman is a retired CIA assassin and mine’s a kind of survivalist type that lives in a swamp and is a little bit wacked and it’s really been fun. I’ve loved it.  Like, the cast, the actors, very much get along with the director and the cinematographer, whose father I’ve worked with for a couple of times. I’ve known her since she was quite young.

Was this the first time you and Bruce had met before?

Malkovich: We’d met a couple of times over the years, but never worked together before. We sort of started out about exactly the same time in New York in the early ‘80s, so I met him once or twice then and a couple times passing through.

We were told this is kind of a buddy/road movie. Was there any male bonding while you prepared?

Malkovich: There was a lot of drinking. (laughs) But I’m not in the starting five of that group…

With Jonah Hex and almost doing Spider-Man 4, have you been consciously selecting more action-oriented material?

Malkovich: No, that’s the way they’ve come in. I’ve done a couple of fashion lines and an opera in Vienna, directing a play in Mexico, and then we’re producing a movie that starts shooting in then days in SoHo.

Can you say what the movie is?

Malkovich: It’s called Jeff Who Lives at Home.

How’d you get involved with that?

Malkovich: Through our production company, Mr. Mudd, and it’s something that Jason Reitman developed. We did Juno with him and he asked us to produce it with his company.

I’m curious about the medallion you’re wearing—

Malkovich: Yes, so I am. (laughs)

Can you tell people what they are and what is the motivation for having them?

Malkovich: This is Mexican Olympics. I thought maybe Marvin could have done some event there but I’m not really sure what, and this one is Russian.

Does your character get a lot of backstory in the film?

Malkovich: They don’t any of them has tons of back-story in the film, except for Bruce’s character. Frank’s a little more but not sort of scads about his past life.

Can you talk about the pig? The little stuffed animal you have with you?

Malkovich: I’m not really clear why it’s a pig and as opposed to like a duffle bag. He carries weapons in it and at some point, when they find out that they’re being followed — that they are targets for something that happened many, many years ago — my character says, “I’m gettin’ the pig.” I’m not really sure why, but that’s a really good idea. A sort of call to arms.

How much was added to the character after you came on?

Malkovich: Anybody doing something brings something to it. It’s not for me to say if it’s “growth”. Just by the nature of everyone has a different take on the material. Some people would…we’ve all done films where you have major questions about the material or perhaps about the structure or about how that character is manifested within a structure. Or how that character…or the dialogue used. But this, I really haven’t changed much of anything, unless I was asked to. This is the script I pretty much got verbatim, for me.

Have you read the comic book?

Malkovich: I’ve looked at it. But no, I’ve just looked at the script.

What did you think of your character?

Malkovich: I thought my character was pretty clear in the script. Maybe sort of…where was he from originally? I maybe had a slightly different first impression from the script.

We’re all looking forward to seeing Helen Mirren fire very large guns…

Malkovich: As opposed to having them. (laughs) Yeah, no kidding that kind of touches all the bases.

Were you on set for any of that stuff and can you talk about working with Helen?

Malkovich: She’s fantastic Helen, very pro, very funny, a lot of fun to be around. I mean she probably secretly enjoyed squeezing off a few rounds. (laughs)

If most of your action work with weapons or have you had much hand to hand combat training?  Do you have any personal fight scenes yourself?

Malkovich: No, not really.  It’s mostly with weapons.

Your character apparently had some LSD experiments done on him. Did you do any research into your role with LSD?

Malkovich: I was around in those days, but no. Every kid on the floor of my dorm did. I was never much of a drug-taker.

Can you talk about how you got involved with clothing and designing?

Malkovich: Well, I design costumes because I started with the theater in Chicago, but somehow a few lines just sort of fell to me to do it. And I studied it in school and I always liked it. Around 2001, and Italian man asked me to do a line and I did that for five years and stopped it for the old artistic differences. Then some other Italians asked me to start again a year, year and a half ago.

Can you talk about the scene you were shooting earlier today?

Malkovich: In the script, there’s a New York Times reporter who’s been killed and I get a list of names that she had and they’re trying to ascertain what the link between Frank and Marvin, who are the only two people in our group who are on the list, while the other people have been killed. So we go to meet this air cargo pilot, who’s on the list and I think at that point is the only other one still alive. I’d seen this woman at the bus station, who’s firing at us. I tell Frank “I’m gonna blow her head off!” and she says that she’s working for Coldwell Banker and has nothing to do with it and here she shows up a little bit later with the whole RPG thing.

In this film you’re making a lot of statements like “They’re watching us,” or “That helicopter is following us,” and everyone thinks you’re crazy and perhaps towards the end you’re redeemed.

Malkovich: Sometimes it happens quite quickly. He’s a little bit wacked out, but often correct about his peers, and his statements often prove accurate.

And why don’t the other people take you seriously when you say stuff like someone’s following you.

Malkovich: Because he carries a pig around and lives in a car. (laughs)

What was your reaction to the car, because we’ve heard a lot about the design.

Malkovich: It’s fantastic. Weapons and cans of beans? What else do you need?

Your character is kind of paranoid, a conspiracy theorist. Do you believe in conspiracy theories?

Malkovich: Not so much. I have never met that many people so clever  as to be able to pull off all the conspiracies in the world. I think the world is a lot more chaotic than that. More accidental.

As a kid did you always want to be an actor or did you want to be a CIA operative?

Malkovich: No, neither. It never occurred to me to be an actor.

What did you want to be when you were kid?

Malkovich: I was pretty heavy, so I guess I could’ve done well in those eating contests. (laughs)

You let go of that dream?

Malkovich: Yes. But I probably would’ve wanted to have been a baseball pitcher or a football player.

Were you given a lot of creative freedom with your lines?

Malkovich: I don’t think Robert would mind so much. But I like the script. Unless there were changes that call for different phraseology or different dialogue entirely, I didn’t really see the need. I like the way it is.

I’m a big fan of Michael Bay and he’s announced that you’re in Transformers 3.  How did you get involved with that?

Malkovich: I spoke with him last week. Lorenzo and Mark at Summit are producing. They approached me about it. I’d seen the first one, which I liked and thought it was funny. I like working with them very much. They’re very good producers, they’re very hands-on, always around, really get their hands dirty which is not so normal.

Are you into popcorn movies?

Malkovich: Sure.  I was never a fanatical movie person. There are many popular films I absolutely love like anyone else. Having said that, I don’t have time to go to the movies very much. I work a lot of different things, I’m always busy. But I’m always happy to see a popular movie.

Were you disappointed about the Spider-Man thing?

Malkovich: Yes, because I like Sam and I like Tobey and all that stuff and the producers — two of whom who I’ve met before — and because I’d been offered the first one. I came to like them all.

Was the part for the Vulture?

Malkovich: Yes. But I think a lot of the people who follow that genre…I’m not sure, I never really spoke with Sam about this, I’m not sure if they made him…if the fanboy base approved of that character as an adversary for him to some extent, or maybe the studio, or maybe that was totally unrelated as to why it fell apart.

I can tell you from the fan perspective from people online they were very excited to see you joining the franchise and play the Vulture.

MALKOVICH: I heard various things about it.  Yeahm it was a drag ‘cuz I like Sam, and he’s offered me a couple things and it hasn’t worked out.

You mentioned Vienna.  Can you talk about working there and what you love about that city?

Malkovich: Well, I’ve only worked there twice.  Once for a rather long period and one not so long.  But this is an opera that I do with the Viennese, baroque orchestra conductor and a very bright, very gifted Viennese opera director who has also directed movies, et cetera, but has a fantastic background in the classical music. We do a piece together which we played in Vienna last summer, which went very well, and then hooked up to tour a lot in Europe this summer, kind of everywhere for a month and a half or so. In Vienna, I like very much.  I was always attracted to it a lot as a kid. I don’t know why, because I don’t have Austrian blood or any kind of personal history there, but I think because I was always really interested in what happened there near the end of the 19th and in early 20th centuries, so much of what we consider the modern world sort of came from there. From painting to music to psychiatry to great essays by people like Karl Kraus, playwrights et cetera. And I’d been many times but always loved it, it’s very beautiful, and  always something interesting to see, even the design, the arts and crafts, the architecture, et cetera.  It always appealed to me.

We spoke to Karl Urban about the weapons training and how in your down time they would go to the shooting range.  Did you participate in any of that?

Malkovich: No, my son, I have an 18 year old, and he kept menacing me to come, so I was always waiting for him. I haven’t shot a lot of guns in my life.

Is that something you look forward to: like violence in films?

Malkovich: No, not particularly, but you know, “Shoot ‘em up” is a part of movies. I don’t have anything against it, but I’ve never owned a gun, and I don’t particularly plan on taking any pot shots at anyone in the near future. And they’re all difference so even if you’ve shot an AK before, there’s Egyptian, there’s Russian, there’s Bulgarian, there’s Romanian, and they’re all slightly different.  So you always have to practice loading and unloading, cleaning the chamber, et cetera, et cetera.

For more Red coverage:

Bruce Willis On Set Interview RED

Mary-Louise Parker On Set Interview RED

Karl Urban On Set Interview RED

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