Thursday, July 13, 2006

Donal Logue: Not Just Jimmy the Cabdriver (Q & A)

Edward/ Eddie Burns has another flick coming out called The Groomsman in a week or so. I got into the rounds with most of the principals in the cast (Brittany Murphy couldn't make it); here's a transcript from the session at Le Meridien over on La Cienega earlier this week...

Q: So how was it making this film?
Donal Logue: It was a lot of fun -- I'll tell you, I'll say it was like [shooting] one hour or one camera television which is basically about shooting a lot of pages per day and always being busy acting as opposed to [for instance] a friend of mine did the movie Hollow Man and you'll be on it for twelve months. [The director] would shoot some tiny technical thing for three days and it just drives your brain insane; you don't get to just do scenes and actually, physically, get out there and act. In the Groomsmen a lot of the scenes are single shot scenes, or wider [angles]; theres a big scene with me and John Leguizamo when I come out of a strip joint and it's all played in one [shot]. So, it feels like doing bits of a play as opposed to like what movie making is sometimes where you're doing small, finite little bits and pieces that you don't get a sense of how you're running through these scenes, you know? Like an athlete, you don't get a chance to stretch it out at all, so that's what I think was really enjoyable on that side of it and then there's the group of people you work with -- we were all pretty tight. Can you imagine if you're on a set with Leguizamo and Matt Lilliard it would be kind of mellow because Jay's [Mohr] moreso out of his mind. [laughs] It's like a big group of pretty goof-bally people -- it was fun to be around.

Q: So what did you guys do between takes?

DL: Listen to Jay -- a lot. I worked [Jay Mohr] on Jerry Maguire...Matt, I didn't know well at all, Eddie [Burns] I knew well and Leguizamo's a great guy -- we just had a really good time. The crew was very cool -- I'd worked on Purple Violets, that's another movie that Eddie had directed, with the same group of [crew] people.

Q: Since you know Eddie so well, did you get to play around with the script at all?
DL: Oh yeah, he's really open about that, I mean it generally gets back to what it is -- he's incredibly easygoing in that manner. Not to say that if it wasn't taken in a direction that he wasn't comfortable with [that] he wouldn't step in, it's just that he creates an environment -- and I think this is the greatest thing about Ed as a director -- he creates an environment in which you feel very comfortable to try just, whatever. And the danger is if you're on a set with some kind of megalomaniacal director who's very angry and controlling about these tiny moments and this-and-that there's a point in which people [close up]; if they're afraid of screwing up and getting jumped on about it, they just kind of shut down and try to do the middle road -- you're afraid to try and be funny, even if it's not funny you're just like 'I don't want to get called out about something.' So, this a place where it's: 'go for it, if it doesn't work, I'll tell you. It's fine. If you feel comfortable and you think you can own it, go for it.' I really think that a lot of good writers who are confident -- I would say that Woody Allen does stuff like this. Or, interestingly enough, say Larry David, you know, clearly, Larry David has a fantastic mind and grasp of cmedic dialogue but on Curb your Enthusiasm he just casts a bunch of people that he knows can riff really well. He's not in that Neil Simon school of like 'whoah, there's a comma there!' You know he doesn't have to be like that, not to say that those guy like [David] Mamet's that way but he's really, specifically -- I respect that -- like if you're doing a David Mamet [project] you have to adhere to that because he is the master of the rhythm of his language. On the other side of things, like the Woody Allen/ Eddie Burns/ Larry David [approach] I like working that way, especially. So, you could mess around and try different sorts of things but basically it came back around to what was in the script.

Q: Would you do a Mamet?

DL: Yeah, sure...I love David Mamet, in fact, his younger brother younger brother Tony was really one of my best friends -- I remember I met Tony in England. I remember before I met Tony there was a pompous theater reviewer -- there was some class we were taking -- and he was talking about American theater versus British theater. Basically, intellectual theater versus visceral, guerilla theater of the Americans. You know, how could you say that Shephard or Mamet isn't intellectual in its own way? And then we were all introducing ourselves in this class and this guy said 'I am Tony Mamet' and I felt like...we became really good friends and I met David through Tony. Especially when you're a young theater actor, college era, the people who the people who are your heroes are completely different. It's like Spielberg doesn't exist in that world -- it's like Shephard and Mamet and Pinter and those are the guys who are like godheads but, yeah, that would be great to work with David Mamet.

Q: You looked disheveled and big in the Groomsmen -- did you do that for the role?

DL: Yeah, I slimmed down. I get into shape, I get out of shape...It was good for the character. I just did this movie called Almost Heaven where the guy had to really let himself go and it was kind of weird. When I let myself go I just really look fat, I really look heavy. You know, I let myself go in a Phillip Seymour Hoffman kind of way but when I think people want you to look like you've let yourself go in Hollywood, I think they want you to look like you're in incredibly good shape but you just haven't shaved for two days, you know? [laughs] So, it's a weird thing -- you want to stay more on what's real. It's not a really flattering place to be but I think [actually putting on weight] feels more real to who these [characters] are. Like you go back to your hometown and you see the guys -- I just turned 40 -- and you see the guys who were absolutely the superstar athletes and they look like 'are they 40 or are they 60 now?' You go to your friend's house and you see his dad on the couch after work and there's a bowl of ice cream on his massive tummy. And you're looking through his old high school yearbook and you see he was the captain of the football team and you're like 'whoah!' That's kind of like the vibe...

Q: So did you decide to drop the weight after those gigs?

DL: You know what, that was so long ago -- when did we film that? That was like a year ago because I did some other jobs. I went up, I went down [in size]; I just dropping weight a couple of months ago because I was going to run this marathon for charity. The difference between how I look now and how I look in this pilot of this new TV show that I'm doing is so friggin' radical...

Q: Did you run the marathon?

DL: No, it's coming in November -- I don't know if I can do it or not, I kind of hurt my knee but...I'm going to have to think of why between episodes 1 and 2 -- that this guy got Ben-Gay Fever or something...

Q: Are you doing something with the new Blade series at all?

DL: No, I'm not doing anything with Blade, I'm doing a new TV series The Nights of Prosperity for ABC where I play a janitor who is so sick of his life that he decides to rob a celebrity -- who's Mick Jagger. I'm watching E! Television and I see Mick Jagger talking about his 50 million dollar pad and I get together a group of fellow goof balls and it's with Worldwide Pants [David Letterman's production company] and the guys who did Ed created it (Rob Burnett and John Beckerman), so...

Q: Is Mick in the show?

DL: Yeah, Mick's in it --

Q: Have you met him yet?

DL: No, his part of it is only me watching him on the television. There didn't need to be any interaction, they were on tour in the far East -- it was when Keith fell -- actually, in, we shot Mick's part in New Zealand.

Q: Is it a take on MTV's Jimmie the Cabdriver guy?

DL: It's not dissimilar in a weird way. Like, I met Letterman and Rob Burnett and that group through the cabdriver because they were going to produce the movie [based on that character] way back when, back in the mid-90s, so we've always been friends. I did the pilot for Ed but I did the pilot for Grounded for Life at the same time and ended up doing Grounded for Life...we've alway's wanted to work together, so, you know...I like those characters, though. I like those guys who are really, heart breakingly -- they're sweet but they're really heart breaking guys and we wanted to make a comedy about: what if the guys that everybody just blows off -- and are jerks too -- who are just mopping the floors or driving you around in a cab and shining shoes and doing that stuff, what if they were like 'screw it, we want ours'...if they had a secret little group together that was plotting to get you? That's what it's about.

Q: Did the fact that you turned 40 a year ago draw you to the role in the Groomsmen at all?

DL: I did a lot of films last year, almost ten and The Groomsmen and the Almost Heaven movie, where a guy does turn 40 and I just totally lost it. Clearly, it really spoke to me about this place in my life and this stage of my life, like I'm different from Jimbo [Groomsmen] in the sense that I have children and that's clearly what he's struggling with and his inability to have children. But I also have a lot of friends who have gone and are going through through that kind of stuff. It feels weird, there are different times in your life, like someone told me a long time ago when I was in England -- in drama school and stuff -- that 'when you're in your 40s and 50s, you'll fall into your place as an actor' because whatever your mind and your spirit is, your station and your body and everything will catch up and you'll be who you'll be and it's kind of true. There are actors who will come into their own later and it feels nice not just being [told] 'God dude, you're way too old to play the college guy' -- like you're caught in between all these weird things; you can finally just be. You start to enter the stage of who you are which is almost like a middle-aged man and still kind of young in some ways and you get to play the issues that are salient to your life. It always feels weird, I didn't see it but I always felt like: would Anthony Hopkins really be like some dynamic 70 year old CIA blackbelt -- I don't know? [laughs] You know, when he plays who he is, at his stage in life, it's like there's no one hitting harder but when you get taken out of you Archimedian point it feels like an akward place to be.

Q: So, when you turned 40 did you have any of the issues that Jimbo had or was it just on screen?

DL: Yeah, just on screen -- I mean, I have my own stuff which everybody deals with but no real crisis.

Q: So what do you think your millieu is as an actor, is it stage or TV or the big screen? Do you prefer the smaller films or do you want the big blockbusters?

DL: I don't know if -- it's funny, like I watched Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest last night with my kids which was a fun romp or whatever but it felt like, plotwise, it was a little heavy and didn't make a lot of sense. There wasn't a scene in there, as an actor, that I wished I could've been in compared to every scene that was in the Groomsmen; it's like the adventure is the star -- I mean you have one-liners here and there. But there's not really, like, 'scenes,' you know, acting scenes? It's weird and any actor in it, if they don't cop to it, they're lying. Wherever the best stuff is...then again, everybody would be a liar if they were like 'look, if you were getting offered big roles in studio pictures, you wouldn't do those as well.' I mean, I love guys like Paul Giamatti, I think they have such great balance in their careers and they'll do wack stuff and comedic stuff -- he's just impassioned and committed in everything he does which, I guess, is the best thing to do. And I'm not snobbish about -- like, I'm doing a half hour TV show which I think is going to be fantastic and I have a lot of fun doing. Ghost Rider was a lot of fun, doing this big, crazy movie with Nick Cage and things like the Groomsmen but definitely the Groomsmen. To be able to do a really good scene with someone like John Leguizamo is, I think, what you shoot for as an actor -- a situation you would hope to be in if you ever started acting. I think doing stuff like the Groomsmen is my favorite.

Q: It seems like you've been working a ton lately, were you ready for Grounded for Life to run it's course so that you could get off of that daily grind schedule?

DL: You know, I loved it but mostly I loved who I worked with. I loved Kevin Corgan and the writers and the whole cast and stuff -- as a character actor it drives you crazy because I had come from a world where I was playing so many different parts all the time into something very steady, as a father. It was really fantastic to have two little boys who would go to school across the street (from the set) and it's weird because I got my wish in one way. I left there and went and did Just Like Heaven and the Ghost Rider and then nine other movies. But then it's been hard traveling and bouncing around with the kids, so, it's a real trade-off. And hopefully, even though I'll be in New York, there'll be more stability with this new Nights of Prosperity gig that I'm doing for ABC.

Q: Which of your past roles or which film are you most recognized for in the general public?

DL: That so hard, I guess Grounded for Life among a certain group of people; ER among a certain group of people -- like more middle-aged women will be really into ER, more kids would be into Grounded for Life. Younger people would be into Blade -- it just varies a lot, it's interesting, though. That MTV cab driver sometimes people remember.

Q: How did you come up with Jimmy the Cab driver, anyway?

DL: You know, we all went to school in Boston and I used to joke around like I was a Bostonian and we were in New York at a flea market and there were these glasses on a table and they were just so goofy that he was just found. And then we decided to drive around in a car and just record me waxing on about different stuff and that's how he came to be.

Q: So you had a group of guys that you hung out with just like Jimbo, then?

DL: Yeah, absolutely. Most of my friends have been in my tight group of friends since freshmen year in college. This guy, Clay Tarver is a screenwriter and a guy named Bill Wolf and Jessie Parish who's also a director -- two of whom I came up with the cab driver. We all went to Harvard together and then we all ridiculously decided that we would not go to law school but we would try to do, like, bands and different things -- I roadied for a lot of these guys but we've all been through it together; marriages, divorce or kids or trying to have kids. It's nice having a group of people that you march through stuff with -- sometimes you float away and sometimes you get closer through things...And as you go through those rites of passage that everybody has to contend with in life: difficulties in their career or relationships or parents getting older. This weird changing of the guard where you take care of those who used to take care of you and now you have people to take care of.

Q: In Tao of Steve, you were in the forefront of everything, a principal character but in a lot of your other movies you've been more or less in the background, a side player. Do you prefer being a character actor or would you rather shoot for more leading roles?

DL: It depends on the gig. I mean, I liked the Groomsmen a lot because it feels like a real ensemble. Everybody has their weight to their role. I did a couple of leads last year's fun to have the ball all the time and time to take time in a movie where you don't have to just be the buddy or the this or the that. But I think a balance of the two would be the best because there are guy who their thing is that they're always leading guys and they're always going to be leading guys but then they play themselves. It's like, whoever they are [in a role] they're just themselves as that person -- that wouldn't be as interesting in a way. I think I've been pretty lucky in that regard and weirdly enough, most of the guys I did The Groomsmen with, Lilliard, John Leguizamo and Jay Mohr, everybody takes turns at having the part of the lead or being a character actor.

The Groomsmen opens in Los Angeles and New York on July 14th.


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