Buffalo Soldiers is probably the funniest movie I've seen this year.
Oh, cool! Great! Yay!
Oh, good, yeah! I think so, too, man. Every time I see it, I just laugh. From the very beginning. I think it's one of those movies that's funnier the more you see it. I remember when they were testing it for an audience in New York and it seemed like it took them about 25 minutes for them to get that it was ok to laugh. They didn't know what kind of movie it was. Because, you know, there are no trailers or anything. They just got them off the street and said, "You wanna see this movie?" So they didn't really know what to expect. But once they started laughing, yeah. But I laugh from the very first frame.
This is not really a safe movie in times like these.
We've done some tests since September 11. One woman said that she grew up on an army base in Germany and the reality was actually much worse. But she didn't think that people should see that. And I was just... like, Why?
But you know, most films you see about the American army are about heroism...
Courage and bravery?
Be all you can be!
You can see that, too. That's the beauty of this movie. It isn't the only movie forever. You can watch Saving Private Ryan and When We Were Soldiers if you want to. If you want to think about courageous soldiers and bravery, do that. But if you want to have a laugh, then look at how things can get turned inside out, how these great bodies get turned on their heads, like in Buffalo Soldiers.
Do you believe that mankind is inherently aggressive?
Whew. Ah, man. Part of me says, yes. You know, my first instinct is to say, yes, and then, that makes me kind of sad, and I go, like, even if that is the truth, I don't want to project that. Maybe we should just say, no. But there is a part of me that says, yeah. It seems almost undeniable in light of historical facts and all the wars that we've seen. I don't know that I believe in world peace or that actually ever being a reality.
I want to. I fantasize, I dream of that. But there's a part of me that feels: no. I think that maybe we can find ways to resolve our conflicts, hopefully without killing millions of people and destroying the world. But I don't know. It kind of doesn't look really good, at least right now. But I suppose maybe more than ever in times like now, perhaps we should believe or at least search and yearn for peaceful solutions. Instead of going, well, we've always been at war and we always will be, so fuck it. We should oppose it.
Is it important to laugh about these dark sides of life?
I think that some people find that cathartic and others don't. I couldn't speak for anyone else.
It seems from my perspective that the sense of self-irony in America is gone. Everything's so earnest now.
You're absolutely right. And it will probably be that way for a while because there's a process that people have to go through. It's like an individual who goes through a loss. Say they lose their parent. A month later, you might be their friend and say, "Come on, man, let's go! Let's just stop thinking about it." And that person has a different process.
It might be insensitive, you're right.
No, I think it's just up to you. Up to whatever your experience is. If your heart isn't connected to that experience, I don't think you should be attacked for that.
You are from a family of several siblings, one more talented than the other, all in the arts. How do you explain that?
Yeah. I was just talking to Gregor last night and he was playing a guitar. And I was like, "I didn't know you could play a guitar." And he was like [Australian accent], "Yeah, actually I don't. Well, I did, but my sister's really good, and I was thinking, if she's that good, it would take me ten years to get there." The point is that his sister plays music, his brother's a drummer and does some kind of film work, so... I don't know what that is, but it seems that we were always very active as kids. We didn't grow up with television. We didn't have video games. Everything was imagination for us. Everything was playing games, creating characters, doing skits. I think that's where it came from. But then there's some stuff which is just inexplicable. My sister's voice at five years old. My brother's guitar playing. It just seemed like a gift.
I don't know that it is a gift, but it's certainly nice being in a family that's expressive. And vibrant.
You're being dealt with now as one of Hollywood's most talented young actors. What kind of label would you make for yourself?
Just actor. I just want be: Actor. I hate labels. I like "actor" because it's really kind of vague. To me, that leaves a lot of room to play around. That's what I want.
What is filmmaking all about to you?
I don't really know what it's all about, but I'm still learning about it. It's still effecting my life in different ways. You can ask me that again when I'm 70 and I've had a full experience. I'm still kind of racking up experiences. I can't even tell you what my drive is. I know that the process of actually making a film is really rewarding. When you set out -- and I'm not even talking about the film as a whole, I'm talking about one moment, one scene, one line -- if you say one line the exact way that you wanted to, it's... I can't tell you that feeling. It's the most beautiful, amazing experience.
Like hitting at some truth?
Well, I don't even know that it's that. It just feels great. I don't know how you say that you're finding some truth when you have a line like, "That's a heavy mother!" But I suppose acting and filmmaking is all theory until you have to put it to the test. If you feel that you're proving your theory right, that's a great feeling. Like: I've done the work, I have this idea, this theory for this character, and now, I've done the work, and here's the result of this test. Do you see it? Do you see this? And that's all you can do. Or at least all I can do.
How important is your family to you?
I never would have said we were really, really close, I just would have said, "Family." Because I just assumed that that's what family is. It wasn't until I was older and I went out and met friends who never talked to their father or never talked to their brother, that I went, like, "You're kidding me!" Or there's, "Yeah, I talk to them occasionally; haven't seen them for a year, though." I'm like, "What? How could you not see your brother or your sister for a year?" It's not we put a lot of work into it or consciously make the effort to try and see each other. We're always just kind of around each other and want to be. My family's really prominent in my life.
You travel a lot. In what way has that effected your life?
I'm really comfortable in virtually any situation. Growing up, I had so many different experiences that were extremes. Living on the estate of somebody who was ridiculously wealthy, who had a 14-room mansion...
How'd that happen?
My dad was a landscaper. He used to take care of this guy's house, basically. We had the maid's quarters. So, I had that experience and then I knew the complete opposite from my own personal experience. And then just traveling around and meeting people. We used to go and sing in retirement homes. So I feel like I have the ability to understand a lot of different sorts of people. I don't feel set in my ways. I feel like I've integrated all these different experiences, which is probably why I'm an actor and why I enjoy doing this. To continue with different experiences and learn from them. Or just experience them, maybe not even learn anything. At least it's a laugh. Actually, that's a Colin Farrell line [Irish accent]. "It's a fuckin' laugh!"
Gregor says you're a very funny person. What do you laugh about?
It changes. Doesn't everybody have a different sense of humor? Do you have one particular sense of humor?
Well, I'd say I like to laugh about dark, tragic things, not to make fun of it, but because that's the way life is.
Right. But you'd also laugh at a well-made slapstick comedy.
Meet the Parents or something like that. I think that it's the same thing. I probably lean more towards slapstick comedy, you know? I loved the Stooges growing up and old Woody Allen. I really like that, but I do also enjoy films like Buffalo Soldiers and that particular type of humor. And it's enjoyable to play that kind of humor.
How do you approach an anti-hero. He's not the good guy, he's not the bad guy. How do you go about that?
It was something Gregor and I talked about a lot. It's such a difficult balance because you don't want to cater to an audience and you want to be true to the character. Yet you also know that if your protagonist is totally unsympathetic and nobody cares about him, then nobody is going to sit through the movie. So you have to find for yourself what is enjoyable about him. How can I experience this to where there's always a little twinkle in his eye, to give an indication that it's ok to have a laugh with this. It's a difficult balance, but you don't go it alone. You have your director. He's the one who's really establishing the tone of the overall film. I could be doing one thing and it would match the film as a whole and it wouldn't work. You're never certain. I took it scene by scene. You have to think, Ok, that last bit was probably really pretty funny, so we can afford to be more serious and somber in this moment because we know were going to come out with a laugh... You start strategizing on when you feel you need to kick in some sense of humor and when you don't. And it's important to know when the situation is working for you and you don't have to engineer the humor, when it's built into the moment. It's situational humor.