In many ways, the character you’re playing in LAST HOUSE, especially in the way he was played by David Hess in the original, marked a turning point in the way evil was depicted on screen, and the evil that men do. Where is the starting point for you in bringing a character like that to life?
Garret Dillahunt: I guess it’s different for every part. Some you kind of know. Sometimes you’re like, “I’ve met this guy.” I’ve certainly never met this guy. I did read a lot. I got one of the Amazon Kindle things, which I thought I would hate, but I really love, and I packed it with 15 or 20 books I thought would be of interest, about serial killers and spree killers. There’s one in particular, and I can’t remember which one it was now, that kind of detailed a whole bunch of different killers. I think I was looking for little clue to explain why he was the way he was. I do think he’s a spree killer, not a serial killer–I learned the difference in that. Do you remember Andrew Cunanan?
The guy who died in Florida, sure.
GD: Yeah, the guy who killer Versace. I never would have thought that I’d find a lot for my guy in him, but I did, because there was this one story, really horrible. I guess I didn’t really know about all of the other people he’d killed on his way to Florida. There was one in particular that was a home invasion–I think he needed a new car–and he must have surprised someone at home. It was an older gentleman who had a military background, and they said he killed him so viciously and it was odd because that kind of cruelty is usually reserved for people that know the victim.
Did having worked with her before help at all in staging that horrific rape scene?
GD: It was helpful. But it was both, I think. Because you don’t want to do that to your friend, and I considered her my friend. I kept saying how nervous I was and that I was more nervous that she was, and she misunderstood my nerves. It wasn’t that I was nervous that I could do it; I was nervous that she wouldn’t like me after I did. Because I like her. She was 15 when we worked together the first time, and she was 19 or 20 now, and I like her and feel protective of her. So in the end, I think that it was helpful. That scene has to be about her. She’s going to go to a real dark place all day long, and I’m going to grind her in the dirt. There’s no room for joking around between takes. Let’s just be focused and not to this 100 times. We’ll do a good job, and between takes, I’ll help her up and put a blanket around her and make sure she’s safe. I think we made it the least weird we could. She was real nice to me and grateful.
That’s especially good to hear because, if you believe the stories, the actress to played the role in the original essentially lost her mind because of those scenes.
GD: Yeah, there are different philosophies about how to act. I personally don’t think it should be psychologically damaging. There’s no money in that. [laughs] That’s not acting. I prefer a little more craft than that. I don’t see why I would be needed if I actually had to become that thing.
I’m also a fan of “The Sarah Connor Chronicles,” so I have to ask about John Henry. There’s so much being made about how the shift to Fridays is a bad sign for the show’s future and the rating, and they’re kind of missing the point that the show has never been better, especially those scenes with you and Shirley Manson.
GD: I guess I like to be different with each character if I can, and I’ve been fortunate to have some options that way. Krug was certainly a departure from the last thing I did. And since I got to do something like four characters to play on “Terminator“–John Henry, Cromartie, George Laszlo, and that Beastwizard character–I just wanted John Henry to be very different. I thought, he’s going to be so much smarter because he’d plugged into this supercomputer, and he seems interested and curious in humans, so it seemed like a great opportunity to explore human emotions and learning and what I don’t know at times. And I like Shirley a lot, really fun, very well read and articulate, and everything just sounds cool with a Scottish accent.
So where does John Henry go from here. Does he finally get to leave that room?
GD: He does get to leave the room. I wish it had been a little earlier, but I will eventually get to leave that room. There are big fingers crossed for next season where I’ll be going, but I don’t know; we’ll see where that goes.
Is there still more learning to do for that character?
GD: I don’t even know what episode we’re on. I play with lots of toys. Later I get in a fight, a computer fight, that is quite traumatic for him. He loses his innocence a little bit. I’m sorry I’m being so vague.
Speaking of being in a separate story from the main plot, you and Tommy Lee Jones had your own little movie going on in NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN.
GD: Javier [Bardem] was talking about how wild it was that we won this ensemble award at the SAG Awards and we barely got to work with each other. Each of us had our own movie. That’s not really what ensemble means but it was interesting. I never crossed paths with Javier or Josh [Brolin].
Being a part of that film had to mean so much to you…
GD: Yeah, I was just happy to be a part of it. I’m a big fan of Cormac McCarthy’s work, and I was determined to be in every Cormac McCarthy movie there every was. So far two! It was actually “Deadwood” that made me just want to do stuff I was proud of.
And with “Deadwood,” they loved you so much, they couldn’t let you go even after your character died.
GD: I know. Thank God, right? That’s my niche. I’m dying for a niche.
Who do you play in THE ROAD?
GD: Well, it’s weird because it’s really about The Boy and The Man. No one has names in the book. Viggo Mortensen plays The Man, and Kodi Smit plays The Boy. I play The Gang Member. We all had two days if we’re not Kodi or Viggo, and it’s a great group of people who are willing to do that. Robert Duvall is in it, Charlize Theron, Guy Pearce is great. Molly Parker from “Deadwood” is in it as well. It was just cool to be a part of. I’m a big fan of THE PROPOSITION.
I sat down with Viggo in October right after they’d announced that THE ROAD was not coming out at the end of last year as originally intended. He just really wanted to see it because he hadn’t at that time.
GD: I think it deserves awards. I’m sure he’s seen it by now. I saw a screening here about three weeks ago, here in L.A. I think it’s pretty beautiful. If you’re a fan of the book, you’ll be a fan of the movie.
Aside from THE ROAD, what is next for you?
GD: I’m filming a movie right now called WINTER’S BONE, based on a book of the same name by this guy named Daniel Woodrell. He wrote the book RIDE WITH THE DEVIL was based on. Do you remember that?
The Ang Lee film?
GD: I think that film is kind of underrated. I like that. Same author, but it’s a little more contemporary. It’s about hillbillies cooking meth in the Ozarks. I’m a sheriff in that one, back to playing good guys again. I’m not always bad guys.
Well, you did play Jesus.
GD: Can’t get much better than that. You played him, you can play as many bad guys as you want.
Why do you think guys like [“Deadwood” creator] David Milch or [“Terminator” creator] Josh Friedman or Wes Craven see you as the bad guy? Are you giving off some vibe?
GD: I don’t know. I just like interesting role and good stories. And often, the villain is the most interesting role. Maybe they understand that no one is just good and just bad. It’s always surprising.
You tend to alter your facial hair for each part, does that inform you into the character’s state of mind in any way?
GD: [laughs] I guess I do. I don’t know if it specifically it does, but it is like any other part of your costume. I need the right shoes. I remember reading about Michael Caine. If his feet aren’t in a short, he’s going to wear his old comfy tennis shoes, even if he’s wearing a suit or something. That’s the kind of thing that throws me off completely. I need my heavy boots on for Krug. [Ain’t It Cool News]