Monday, September 06, 2010

Interview with Richard Jenkins - June 21st, 2008

Promoting: The Visitor
Venue: The Delegate Centre, Edinburgh Film Festival
Interview type: One-on-one

Question (Q): How did you get involved in the film, first of all?

Richard Jenkins (RJ): Tom and I were acquaintances, we didn't know each other well. And I ran into him in a hotel in L.A. and he invited me to dinner, so we went out for dinner, we talked for two hours and got to know each other a little bit. And then, about a year and a half later he called and said, “I wrote this part for you. I had your voice in my head when I wrote it and I want you to read it and tell me if you want to do it.” So I read it and flipped and I said, “Yeah, but nobody's going to give you any money to do it if I'm playing the lead.” He said, “That wasn't my question, my question was do you want to do it – let me worry about the money”. So I said, “Yeah, I do. More than you know.”

Q: It must be pretty amazing when a director writes a part like that with you in mind?

RJ: It was a gift for me, it wasn't something I was expecting or thought that I'd ever do, you know, and here it is. And he asked me to come look at the rough cut of the movie after we shot it and I said, “Tom, I don't want to see it, I don't want to watch myself”. He said, “No, I need you to see this, I want you to see this.” So my wife and I went to New York and sat in a little screen and saw a rough cut and he came in and said, “Well?” And I'm not the most articulate person in the world, but I remember saying, “I've waited my entire professional life to be involved in a project like this.” That's what I think of it. It was a gift.

Q: Tell me about the drumming – did you have to learn the drums for the role?

RJ: I played the drums when I was younger, I played for about five, six years. But I wasn't very good, so I quit, because I wasn't getting any better. But it did help me get into the film. But I didn't practice at all (laughs).

Q: So the drumming was in the script? Tom didn't know you played the drums and was expecting you to learn them?

RJ: Yeah, that's right. Well, it was a pretty simple beat. I could play with speed – I was always a pretty quick drummer, but I used to get lost a lot. I could never get out of my head – it's like what Tarek says, 'Stop thinking, Walter!' I could never stop thinking when I played the drums. But what I did get out of those five years was I was fairly quick and I know he wanted it to be emotional and full of freedom, anger, you know, release, everything.

Q: Tell me about Tom, how was he as a director?

RJ: Oh, he's fantastic. He's incredibly collaborative - really smart, really articulate. He can talk about what his movie is as well as anybody I've ever worked for. And then you get that vision, you start to see where he's going with it, so it's incredibly helpful. And he's an actor himself, so that's very helpful – he treats you the way he likes to be treated as an actor. And he's collaborative, he'll let you do anything, but he also has a sense of what the movie is and if he doesn't think what you're doing is working, he'll let you know. But you never felt like you couldn't screw up. And even though we didn't have a big shooting schedule – it was 28 days – I never felt hurried or rushed. If I was going to do a big role like this, I couldn't have asked for better circumstances to do it in.

Q: Do you have a favourite scene in the film?

RJ: I liked the drum lesson a lot. I like that scene. And I like the scene in the restaurant, when I confess that I don't do anything.

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