Fifty-odd films. Youre one of the hardest-working actors in Hollywood...
Weirdly, I don’t do that many films. I mean, I started when I was 17, so I can have big stretches where I don’t make a film. Two years, sometimes.
I guess if I could get my films going, the ones that I’m writing and developing – if I could get disciplined enough, if I could get my game going – I’d work more.
Currently I get one of mine done every two or three years.
Scorsese says he does one for the studio, one for himself. Do you do Con Air so you can later do Max?
Yeah. As an actor, I have three separate careers that I try to leverage off each other. There’s the stuff that I write and produce, ready for me to then appear in as an actor.
There’s the purely artistic things that I get to do as an actor. And then there’s the ‘movie star’, and it’s the movie star thing that helps to finance the other two.
So yeah, I absolutely do that: one for them, one for me.
It seems that your heart is more in movies like Being John Malkovich and Eight Men Out rather than Pushing Tin or Americas Sweethearts...
Absolutely. I enjoyed doing America’s Sweethearts and the director, Joe Roth, is a friend of mine.
He’s a great, great guy and a great director – he made – and he also runs studios. He ran Disney and he now runs Revolution.
Mostly I wanted to work with him ’cos I like him a lot and I’m also really loyal: he financed High Fidelity and Grosse Pointe Blank , y’know?
But if he wasn’t involved, it’s not something I would have rushed to do.
Looking back at your career, you seem drawn to playing shades of grey. Is this a conscious decision?
I’ve never thought the hero/villain thing is conducive to good acting.
There are certainly good guys and bad guys in myths, and it’s fine to play those kind of characters if the movie is about something else, like action, or to have archetypes in the great old westerns. But there’s not a great deal of complexity to them.
If you look at people, they’re filled with good and bad; even the worst guy has instincts to be true, to seek redemption.
I’ve seen a couple of bar fights and I’ve seen the regret flash into eyes right away. Human beings are endlessly fascinating, so I always yearn for more.
Isnt there a speck of duality in there? Which parts of you poke through? You seem to be someone whos prone to examining things intently...
Yeah. I’ve probably used that to comic effect because I can think too much and get lost in my own head. I think I’ve always been like that.
Actors should embody someone who is real, meaning their own qualities should come out. Good actors can access themselves – possibilities, possible versions of what they could become.
Like all actors, I really just reveal my shadow every time I work. And the shadow is all the pain, shame, anger and rage, the creativity and sexuality.
Is acting therapeutic?
Art, by definition, is therapeutic. Anybody who’s creative… I mean, when you go back and write this up, just the act of you thinking and writing and creating will be healing.
What would you be like if you couldn’t create? I just do it on a level that’s very public.
Arent all creative people messed up, assaulted by demons?
Yeah. A good friend of mine said, “If you wanna be an actor, you have to have a problem. If you wanna be a good actor, you have to deal with your problem!”