Interviews for Burning Bright

Burning Bright was released on DVD in the UK on September 6 and a few interviews showed up in the past month that I never got around to posting. Here they are, finally (hit the links to read the rest):

Good Film Guide: What first attracted you to Burning Bright?

Garret: They just approached me, and I thought it was a cool concept. It’s very bizarre, and I thought I’d like to see if I could help make it work.

Good Film Guide: And getting to work with Meat Loaf must have been a bonus?

Garret: That was really cool, but it was actually a reshoot done later in L.A., something that we added to help clarify the story. It was only a one day shoot, one very long day. He’s very down to earth though, and it was great hearing all his stories about musical theatre, because he started there first and then went on to rock music, I always thought he’d done it the other way round.

Garret Dillahunt,Meat Loaf,Burning Bright

Good Film Guide: So how long was the shoot altogether?

Garret: Five weeks in total I think, but for me it was only three or four days… I was working on another project at the same time and this fit in nicely, it was five days at most for me.

Good Film Guide: And what was it like working with a real tiger?

Garret: I wish we did more more of that; and I liked the fact that they used real ones; there’s real old school special effects on this movie; they’d have the tiger in the house and have it chase around a green chicken which they could edit out later, then we’d go in on an empty set, film our pieces, and they would meld the two together, seamlessly I think. [Good Film Guide]

Looking at your two outings in the horror genre – Krug in the remake of The Last House on the Left, and your character in Burning Bright – you seem to be getting a reputation for playing bastards, really evil characters…

Oh yeah, absolutely! They’re bad guys that’s for sure.

Is that something you look for in a script? Or is it just how things have happened?

I like change and I’m looking to play lots of different characters and different types of characters, both good and bad. In the case of Last House [on the Left], I really wanted to do a horror film, to try a different genre than I usually do. It’s a lot different from say, the character I played in No Country for Old Men or Jesse James, or more sympathetic characters. I wanted to see if I could pull off a new interpretation of Krug, which was difficult – there’s some things I’d like to differently in that, but there’s some things I’m really proud of and I think we made a good film for the most part.

As for Burning Bright, I like the complexity of the guy, I think if he had won the lottery or something, we wouldn’t have a movie because he wouldn’t have considered killing his children for the insurance.

Just to go back to Last House… Now the furore around remaking such a classic has died down, the film seemed to have been hailed as one of the better remakes in recent years. Is that something you’ve heard from fans etc.?

I like to think [it is]. But it’s certaintly a polarising film. There’s people who will never see the film, they love the original and think it should not have been remade – they have a case. To my shame, I guess, I was not even aware of the original and didn’t even know about it until I was offered a part in the remake and started doing research. I even spoke with David Hess a bit to make sure it was alright – turns out he’s a really cool guy and liked him a lot.

But we knew that the Vietnam-related scenes in the original wouldn’t quite translate into today, but I think it’s interesting, and the audience reaction is kind of telling, in the original there’s a very thin line between the good guys and the bad guys and that had to lead you into this feeling of horror. But in the new version there’s a real glee in the vengeance – a righteous American sense of justice, the “eye for an eye” [concept] is very much alive and well in the US. It’s almost like a sense of self-realisation, as you catch yourself cheering at these people’s demise, wanting it to be even worse.

It’s a polarising fim, but all horror films are. As it stands our film seems to be one of the better reviewed horror films in a while. I could have done without the last scene personally, but it had to be put in.

What about your future projects? I know Winter’s Bone is getting good reviews out festival screenings. But what else have you got lined up?

I have a couple of films at Toronto [International Film Festival] next month which I’m excited to go see. John Sayles’ new movie, Amigo, about the Philippine-American war; and another indie film called Oliver Sherman, about soldiers returning home from Afghanistan, that I think is really good. And I’m on a series that starts shooting Monday called Raising Hope, it’s a comedy by the people behind My Name Is Earl – I play a young grandfather, basically a not-very-skilled parent.

Talking of TV, you’ve guest starred on one of my favourite shows, Burn Notice. What was it like working with that crew?

I just did my second [episode] which aired here in the States last night. Florida’s really hot, that’s the worst thing about it, but it’s a tight run ship. I just kinda ship in, do a few scenes and ship out, it’s a great job to have. I really like Matt Nix, the creator of the show, a lot, and I like that they decided to keep [my character] Simon alive so he can come back every once in a while because he’s a fun character. [Blogomatic 3000]

Garret Dillahunt,Burning Bright

FS: That was one of the things that I mentioned in my review. That it would have been really easy for that character to have been a by-the-numbers wicked step-father. But I thought what you did was clever, in that you side stepped that and did something quite interesting. I even found myself empathising with your character a little bit, even though he’s doing something so terrible.

GD: Yeah. He’s just stupid, you know? He’s sad and lonely and broke and stupid. He makes a really horrible decision about how he’s going to get some money and it’s a shame.

FS: Speaking of the horrible decision (where he buys a tiger from Meat Loaf) what was it like to work with Meat Loaf?

GD: He’s great, he’s a little teddy bear! He’s real sweet and we talked about… ‘cause I grew up listening to Bat Out Of Hell and thought this is cooool, you know, in my little farming community. So I was a little tongue-tied at first, but he’s a real warm person and no spring chicken anymore either! So we talked about the old days and it was fun.

FS: Oh cool. How close did you actually ever get to the tiger? Was it tame or…

GD: I’m so glad everyone’s asking this question! It must look really good! Because we were never on set at the same time! Never. I saw them in their truck outside, lounging in their cage, but that was the closest we ever got.

Tiger,Burning Bright

FS: Talking about remakes… You played Krug in the Last House remake and I was wondering… if you could play any part in a remake of anything, what would that be?

GD: Aw jeez… You know, and I think this’ll be greeted with even more derision than Last House was – I’d love to be Josey Wales. I love a good western.

FS: Wow, what a cool choice! I know lots of people are really against the idea of remakes, which you just touched on there, but what’s your opinion on them?

GD: Well, I guess it depends. It’s a tough call, I feel the same way about favourite novels being turned into movies and sometimes they don’t hold up. It’s like listening to a cover of a great song, why not just listen to the original? It’s much better. But in the case of Last House, it brought a lot of attention to the original. To people that weren’t even aware of it. So I don’t think it was an awful thing even for fans of the original. I thought, having a European director, we brought kind of an art house feel to it, for the most part. You know the last scene we shot was the microwave scene and we all fought against it the entire time. You know some people love it, some people hate it, but we thought we’d made a better movie than that. It was kind of a remnant from an earlier version of the script.

FS: My last question has to be a Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles question. I was a massive fan. What was it like getting to play one character, yet so many variations of him, within the same show?

GD: Well, I think I’ve been lucky since Deadwood, where I got to play two characters in the same show. Well in Terminator I was the Cromartie guy and the guy that Cromartie stole his body from – the asshole B actor. Then they showed some of that actor’s old films so I got to be in Beast Wizard, which was hilarious.

FS: Oh god, I’d forgotten about Beast Wizard – that was awesome!

GD: That cracked me up, and then John Henry. So I got to play four characters in that thing and I was just so… You know that just makes you feel good, when they trust you that much.

FS: Really quickly, I don’t suppose there’s the slightest chance of there ever being a one-off TV movie or something to finish the amazing ending of Series 2?

GD: I haven’t heard anything about that. I was excited too. You know John Henry would be loose, and in the future and a resistance fighter with everyone – which I thought would be a lot of fun. [FilmShaft]

Do you feel you’re doing good now?

I am happy. I’m certainly a bit of a reminiscer, if that’s a word. I have to work a lot but I’m really happy now. I love the movies I get to do. I’ve got two movies I’m very proud of at the Toronto film festival and I’m producing another, and we’re getting close with it I think. I like having those projects to work towards. I met John Sayles at Toronto and he’s a personal hero of mine in the way he lives his life and making the projects he wants to make. The film I’m trying to produce is just with a few folks. It’s a civil war tale about an Arkansas traveller and I’m just so proud of it, it’s some of the most fun I’ve ever had on a set. We’ve only set 10 minutes of it, but it’s achieved its purpose, and it’s some of the finest times I’ve had as a professional.

There seems to be a real vein of elemental Americana in many of the films you’ve appeared in. They seem to be quintessentially ‘about’ the notion of America. I’m thinking of No Country for Old Men, The Road, The Assassination of Jesse James and to an extent Burning Bright as well.

Most of those films are based on books that I was a huge fan of. I collect books. I don’t get caught up around other actors or showbiz people, but I do get real girly around authors that I’m a fan of. That’s probably because I’m a failed writer myself. I get real tongue tied and shuffly and stone-kicky. And most of those films you recited; Jesse James, No Country and The Road, they are some of my favourite authors. I planned to make Jesse James myself one day and I thought I’d be Jesse James. I thought no-one knew about this book, but of course everyone knew, and Brad Pitt owned the rights. [Little White Lies]