Saturday, September 01, 2007

Peter Fonda & Ben Foster Get Mean: 3:10 to Yuma (Q&A)

As stated in an earlier post, I got to participate in roundtables with some of the cast of James Mangold's forthcoming western remake of 3:10 to Yuma over at the Regent Beverly Wilshire last week...I posted the session with Russell Crowe and Christian Bale already......and now I will throw on what went down with Peter Fonda and Ben Foster (pictured below)...Peter came in first and we all got rolling and Foster came in a bit later...I don't know if you remember Ben from Six Feet Under or X-Men...but when you see him in Yuma, you'll know who was in command every time the cameras were on Charlie Prince, the hard-ass he plays in the film...he rocked that did Peter but for different reasons...check it...

Q: So which was it that made you go for the role in this film, the genre or the character?

Peter Fonda: First genre, then character. I'd seen the original 3:10 to Yuma and I didn't have to audition for the part-- I had to prove myself. Which, I guess, is a form of an audition. And I knew a great deal about westerns. I knew that Jim Mangold had not shot a western before but, also, I felt that Cop Land had a bit of a western rhythm to it. For me, a western is a wonderful way of telling a story about us now, without letting anybody know you're doing it. So, getting into that saddle was great because I got to be a part of that-- I did have to prove to Mangold that I wasn't too laconic. [laughs] ...but I still got to play it down and back. And I believe when you're playing a character that's, underneath, low and slow and less intense, you can create more danger with it. And my character, although not in the original motion picture, [helps develop] the character of Ben Wade very well. And, you know, I play the stone-cold killer, so I'm on the same side of the coin [as Ben Wade] but different coins. So, saddling up, I can ride like the wind-- I hate (acting on) horses, no problem, I love westerns. Motorcycles, well, Easy Rider was a western but the motorcycle I rode was more like a phallic symbol-- a horse really doesn't get there...what a horse does to a cowboy is put him right on the ground. A motorcycle does too, bike riding on the road-- it was a pleasure to saddle up for Jim Mangold, director that I really appreciated, and thought I would appreciate, whose work I really appreciated and now I appreciate it more. He was a man of great integrity on the set and, uh--- does that cover the question? [laughs]

Q: You mentioned that a western speaks to how we are now. Could you expound a little bit more on that?

PF:'s easy to address these character conflicts, whether its conflicted stuff inside one character or conflicts between two different characters without telling you that you're looking at what's happening today. Now, there's mayhem in the streets today, in Iraq. I mean there, mayhem in the streets of Baghdad, isn't there? So, in a way, we're looking at people who are stone-cold killers, the man who just joined me, Ben Foster, a stone-cold killer [introducing Foster who walks in and takes a seat beside Fonda]...serial killers, I think we've got some over there on both sides of that coin but, that way, we discuss these ethics and problems in today's view and yet with yesterday's viewpoint. And that awares an audience that that's happening which is taken up with the story. But it's entertaining, its later on that you think "that does apply" [to what's going on in the world today]...Ben's heard me say that westerns and science fiction films, really good ones, can also discuss the present but in a disguised way, that truly discusses what's going on in an hour of our lives.

Q: You've directed a couple of westerns, why do you think the genre's fallen out of favor with the wider audience that it once held? Because its tough to even get them off the ground today.

PF: You know what, I don't think westerns have necessarily fallen out of favor with the audiences. I don't think that the filmakers are delivering as good a western as possible. But then you look at Unforgiven, you know, what a cool wester that was...Dances with Wolves...It's not as dead as you think but the big studios don't talk about them because they don't know how to sell them. And they make them, unfortunately, I think for the film makers, for a lesser budget which means you have to do more, for less.

Q: Would you agree also that the calibre of actors that were around when westerns were in the heyday aren't really around as much? We don't have a lot of Waynes or Jimmy Stewarts.

PF: You'd be surprised at what we've got going in terms of actors-- its writers and studios that aren't quite sure about the idiom. But I do know what you mean about, "where are the Randolph Scotts, the Joe McRays and the Gary, you know, and John Wayne, a terribly under-rated actor-- he was a great actor, I knew where he had to go [inside] to get his characters. And I like Cooper's idea that if you know what you're doing, then you don't have to act. I thought that was very cool. And the western character is a romantic thing but there can be the good/ bad guy romantic thing and there could be the bad/ bad guy romantic thing. [In 3:10 to Yuma] here, you've got I'm a bad/ bad guy, you think I'm good because I'm a Pinkerton protecting the stage coach, whereas Charlie Prince [Ben Foster] is a really bad/ bad guy [laughs]...take it away Ben...

Q: Ben, the writers said that you added a lot to your role that wasn't on the you think so?

Ben Foster: Well, that's very generous. I completely disagree, I mean, I read the script and Charlie started showing up. And it was just re-reading and re-reading and re-reading and the picture becomes a little clearer. And then I just started isolating what he cared about most and what he was willing to do for that. Preparing for it was as simple as going through archival photographs-- western outlaws seemed, to me, like rock stars. And Arianne Phillips, our amazing costume designer, has a rock 'n roll background, so it was very easy to go down that path. I found a very similar leather jacket from that time in a museum, white leather and that, to me, was sort of a glam rock approach. Next were some [wild life] documentaries on wild cats and [watching] how they deal with their prey and...then just listening to the horse. It's amazing how the environment [that you're shooting in] will teach you about the role. It's not so much about constructing it and developing it and saying "look what I made". It's more like "I don't know what this is but I'm after it's over here. I don't know, I don't want you to go "here's this weirdo actor bullshit" [laughs] But that's what it is.

Q: After you wrapped, did you have a hard time leaving behind the Charlie Prince that had grown inside?

BF: He was a terrible character, man. I've said this before but I certainly don't know exactly what I'm doing, when I'm going in-- you're kind of in the dark, in the swamp and you're finding your way....And when you're done with the job, you definitely track some mud into the house. I mean, I'm not going home with this guy every day, so, yeah, it does take some time...I was happy to not kill anybody for a while.

Fonda: I would watch him all day long [with his pistols], drawing them, putting them away [reholstering], twirling them, cross-drawing them...and it's that kind of practice that makes you feel comfortable with it. Because, as Mangold said, in earlier times it was an extension of your arm. I believe that it's also an extension of your character-- how you use it...or don't use it.

Q: Peter, did you have a particular scene that was your favorite...or the most fun to do?


PF: Wow, you know, I don't think about it as "fun". I think, fulfilling, maybe interesting, and I try to make every day that I go to [location] work for me that way...I would've liked to have been in that last scene in Contention because that was incredibly cool action-- this is me as the audience watching it -- in the back of my mind the film maker's like "hmmm, THAT was tasty" but then, the actor inside goes "I got to play a very tasty character too." So, I can't say one way or the other if it was a "fun" scene or...It was a very difficult shoot. I always bitched about the cold but as soon as I hear "action" -- what cold? As soon as "cut"-- aahhh bitchbitch, moanmoan, bitch. So, there wasn't a "fun" moment for me, work is what I have the pleasure of doing. I get paid for it. How many people go to work loving what they have to do? If there's money in the bank and film in the camera, what time do you want me there? If there's no film in the camera and not a lot of money in the bank-- when you see me, I'll be there. So, that love, that I have, is for the work-- any particular moment or day, some are more fun than others, some are more difficult than others but I always got to work.

Q: Was there a difference for you in the reception you got for doing Ulee's Gold as opposed to, say, how Captain America was received?

PF: Well, you know, what's interesting about Ulee's Gold was that all the press said "what a remarkably understated performance that was" and I was like, "where the hell were they when I did Easy Rider?" [laughs] "what an understated role" Captain America it was like [in stoner voice]: "Wow. Far out, man...that's beautiful. Here, try some of this." [laughs] and then the last line, the most imperative line of the film, which I loved: "you know what Billy? We blew it"-- I threw that away, now that's an understated performance! [laughs] Ulee Jackson, I got to go places with that, I didn't know where it was going to take me but wow, "understated?" Where were they for Easy Rider?

3:10 to Yuma opens nationally on Friday, September 7th.....

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