It’s quite the diverse year for Matt Dillon, first as a racist cop in Crash, and now, in Disney’s family comedy Herbie Fully Loaded. But that’s what is fun about being an actor, as Dillon explained to Garth Franklin.
Question: IS A MOVIE LIKE THIS A GUILTY PLEASURE?
Dillon: Well, that’s a good question. You know, I was in the middle of doing this film, Factotum, as Charles Bukowski, a whole other end of the spectrum (laughter), playing a drunken poet, you know, totally adult thematic stuff, and then I got the call that they’d like me to play this bad guy, sort of the antagonist in Herbie. HERBIE? You know, I remember Herbie. So I was at first going, I don’t think so, and then they sent me the script and I was even more like that – I don’t think so. But they said, no, we’re going to do a rewrite on it. we’re really going to do – we really want to make the character – we really want to make it smarter and funnier and… and when I read the rewrite, I laughed out loud. I found myself laughing. I said – all right, I’m going to have some fun and do this Disney movie.
Question: WAS IT EASY FOR YOU TO PLAY?
Dillon: It really was a fun thing to do. It was a lot of fun. He’s such a conceited narcissistic character. The first draft, I thought it was not well conceived. And I thought I could see where the story was a kind of commercial fun ride, the kids will love it, but the character wasn’t. And then they said, we’re going to work on it, and I said, I’ll believe it when I see it… so I still hadn’t committed and then I read the rewrite and it really had changed a lot. I thought it was funny. I had fun. I was laughing out loud, so I said all right – this is a comedic turn for me.
Question: IS IT DIFFERENT FROM GOING FROM CRASH TO A BIG COMMERCIAL FILM LIKE THIS?
Dillon: It’s different in a lot of ways. First of all the accommodations are a lot better, for one thing. in fact, when we were doing Factotum, right before I left, they actually tried it – I was being a squirt about it – they were saying, we’re not going to use trailers on this movie. I’m like – with all these locations? You guys had better provide something. They tried doing that for three days, and that didn’t work out, so it’s just funny – making independent films, there’s a really nice feeling. There really is, there’s something intimate about it, and people are really doing it – they’re not doing it for the money, that’s for sure, and that’s really nice. But then it’s really nice to do a film where they have the time to shoot it and it’s a bigger project . it’s nice. I like to work in both areas.
Question: YOU HAVE SOME PRETTY SCARY CAR STUNTS IN BOTH THESE MOVIES – IN CRASH AND HERBIE.
Dillon: Crash – I didn’t have any collisions. (But) we had a really big setpiece with that, and you know it’s funny with Herbie. I haven’t seen the completed film, but I remember there was the first race which I thought was really fun – it really looked like an old movie… and I didn’t do much of it, you know. I did take one of those stock cars out on the track, out in Erwindale. And you did not want to be in the passenger seat, because at first you just – you gotta get schooled on it, and it’s just – you know, I don’t get car sick, but once you’re driving you don’t feel that at all. And they really strap you in. That was something that took a little getting used to. You’re really strapped in there. It’s a little claustrophobic. . . a lot of it was done obviously on green screen… I look over and Herbie’s upside down, going alongside me.
Yeah, I thought was fun. Funny stuff. I liked doing the scene with the commercial, doing the endorsements – I liked the comedic aspects of it.
You know what is also – you talk about a guilty pleasure. What I really enjoyed, which was a kick for me, was like now – I was just down in Puerto Rico for this event for the Waterkeepers which is an environmental group – Robert Kennedy – and he’s got a lot of kids… and I told them I was coming to do press for Herbie, and all the little kids went – I want to see Herbie! Where’s Herbie? And my nieces and nephews are all like – you know – they’ve seen me on TV – they now finally see me in a movie. Not like joy rides, alcohol, menage a trois with two high school students.
Question: THIS ROLE YOU WERE ABLE TO LEAVE AT THE END OF THE DAY. WERE YOU ABLE TO LEAVE YOUR ROLE IN CRASH AT THE END OF THE DAY?
Dillon: To do that film, obviously doing that scene where I pull over Thandie Newton… that was pretty extreme. Didn’t feel too comfortable – I remember feeling a little strange, just playing that guy, but it’s a character, and I don’t have some kind of pathological thing where I had to go home and can’t get out of the character, and start assaulting people or something. So I really can do that. I get into it, I work from the inside out, so all that stuff that I play is personal. I always go to the personal place first. I definitely work from the inside out. But as far as leaving it home – I can always… what was uncomfortable about Crash for me was really to watch that scene. At the premiere I felt so uncomfortable, I actually didn’t want to sit through the rest – for me, just in that scene. I mean the character has redemption at the end, which is one of the things I liked about the film. Not just him, but that’s consistent throughout the film, but it’s really smart in that way. The script and stuff. So just to answer your question about – that was the hardest part – to actually watch it.
Question: HOW ABOUT SOME MORE DIRECTING?
Dillon: Yeah, I do. I want to direct again. I’m in the middle of writing a screenplay. It’s kind of a true crime story that refuses to be contained. I’m having a hard time compressing it down to what would be like a typical film length. But it’s not two movies. Right now, it’s like one and a half movies. It’s just that there’s a lot of good stuff in it. I just have to figure out what the story is, cut away the rest to shape the script, so that’s what I’m doing right now.
Question: CITY OF GHOSTS WAS THE LAST TIME I TALKED TO YOU. I WAS HORRIFIED AT THE WAY IT WAS TREATED. DID YOU KNOW MGM WAS GOING TO FLUSH IT DOWN THE TOILET? IT NEVER REALLY OPENED IN CANADA.
Dillon: No, I know. I didn’t open in a number of big markets, and I’m disappointed with that. I’ll be perfectly honest with you. I’m really disappointed with that, because I think it’s – I was – nothing seems to work by the designs that we have. I wasn’t thinking – people will understand that I’ve been out of the spotlight for three years and hadn’t done a movie for a while – once they see City Of Ghosts, they’ll know that I took on this big ambitious project and that’s going to be worthwhile, which I felt honestly that it was. And I thought that people would go Ah!, and it really was I think – I wouldn’t say that it was flushed down the toilet, but I don’t think there was a kind of – it didn’t get a healthy push from there. It got a very – I mean I’m being a little diplomatic in a way because I was not happy with certain aspects of it. it didn’t have a really strong producer. I had producers that were good at number crunching, but they weren’t with me to the – so I was doing a little bit of that on my own, you know…
Question: YOU WEREN’T THE ONLY PERSON WHO WAS TREATED THAT WAY BY MGM.
Dillon: Yeah, MGM did not have a great reputation for that, but I’ll say this about Chris McGurk and the people at MGM which was that they gave me a shot to do my first picture. They didn’t interfere and they were fair with me. In that way, I have to tip my hat to those people. A lot of that was new to me – marketing stuff, that part of it. I learned a lot on that, but listen – I’d rather have that, I’d rather have a picture, at least a picture that came out, that was at least the vision that I had, the film that I wanted to ultimately make, and other people have horrible things where their film is disfigured in such a way that it doesn’t matter if it comes out and gets a big – you know, we can’t really control it. I mean, Crash – in some ways, I showed up and did the best I could, and I had nothing to do with the results of it. At that I had to tip my hat to Paul Haggis, the filmmaker, and the smart marketing that was done by Lion’s Gate and everybody involved – and no, the cast. I’m going to give credit to the creative people who made the film… so I just felt I showed up and did the best I could, and that’s all you can do as an actor – do your part – and the results were terrific. Everyone really – people responded to the film in a very emotional way, and that’s really great. When you can get a film that does that and it’s great.
I was just talking to Angela about Herbie and she was just telling me it’s great – the kids really respond, they really respond to this film. There’s nothing like that, if you’re sitting in the theatre and you can feel that. you don’t always get that – some of the more interesting films that we see and we like – the audience doesn’t seem to get as involved. The serious filmgoers are hooked and it finds its audience that way. But just to hear people reacting to a film that way is very… and it’s really interesting the audience that that movie has – you just feel it with the people that come up to you – a very wide range.
Question: TALK ABOUT THE BUKOWSKI FILM.
Dillon: We did Factotum. We shot it in Minnesota, right in the summer before we did Herbie. We did Herbie last fall. The way it came about for me was sort of out of the blue. Again, it was sort of one of those things. Sometimes, it just sort of happens, in such an effortless way, the way something comes together. I was a big Bukowski fan when I was younger. I read all of his books – just about everyone of his novels and his short stories when I was in my early twenties, and I loved his work. I didn’t read his poetry at the time – I wasn’t interested in poetry… I was a big fan of his work. I never imagined I would be playing him in a film, so when the director approached me about doing him, it was like – are you sure you’ve got the right actor? I’m not really a Bukowski type. And he said – well, remember it’s Czarnowksi who’s really the alter ego of Bukowski.
I said – listen, I cannot do an impersonation. I’m not going to do that. I’m not going to attempt to do an impersonation of Charles Bukowski. He said: that’s not what we’re looking for. And I said – okay, I can do this. And then of course once I started to prepare for the film it was all Bukowski because ultimately it is autobiographical. I spoke to Linda Bukowski, his wife, and the first thing I thought was – well, I would think that people would respond – I’m not physically – I don’t look like Bukowski in any way – or Hank, you know. And she said you’d be a great Hank, and I think that’s because in the end Bukowski wasn’t interested in material things. Beauty was not interesting to him, clothing was boring. Those things didn’t matter to him. I think it was more he was a deep guy. So I really liked doing it. I thought it was like another one of those surprises, you know. Doing a Charles Bukowski adaptation, I never imagined I would do it, although I was a fan of his work. And to play Hank was a lot of fun. It was very good. And it’s the same thing with Herbie – I never imagined I would be doing a Herbie movie. And it’s not a remake as much as a sequel. It’s fun to do that. that’s the great thing about being an actor – to just jump to different things.
Question: CAN YOU TALK ABOUT LINDSAY?
Dillon: Lindsay – I liked her. I thought she was – I like her, I like her, she’s got a really natural quality, and there’s a great kind of energy that she has – and I liked working with her. I hope there’s some kind of chemistry there, but I really liked working with her. She’s 18, 19 – I don’t know what she is. How many 18-year-olds under that kind of scrutiny – you know what I mean?
Question: YOU WERE.
Dillon: Yeah. NO, I wasn’t the same way. Of course I was a famous actor, but somehow I stayed under the radar – in a way. But I was certainly out there living a life. I was no angel believe me. So I think – she’s a kid, she’s doing what she’s doing. That’s what kids do, man. They learn. And when I say kid, I don’t mean a kid. She’s a young person. She’s at that age, so I think she is misunderstood, but – I don’t know if she’s misunderstood. I don’t follow, I don’t read all the magazines and stuff and stories about her. But I would imagine from what I gather – I liked her. I think she’s good people. I liked her.
Question: THE PAPARAZZI WEREN’T AS INTRUSIVE WHEN YOU STARTED.
Dillon: Yeah, I think it’s particularly unfair these days, especially when I see some things – the way they’re judging women on their weight and all this kind of stuff like – oh, how much weight did she lose, how much – this is like fostering eating disorders, as far as I’m concerned. I don’t think that’s right. I think that is disgusting to tell you the truth. That’s my opinion. I’m disgusted by it (to) treat people this way.
Question: WOULD YOU LIKE TO DO COMEDY OR DRAMA?
I like doing comedy. I like doing drama. Naturally, I like to do _ I like doing drama, I like conflicts. And when I do a comedy, you know I’ve found that romantic comedy is the trickiest one, because often it’s neither. It’s not romantic, and it’s not funny. I like a comedy that’s biting humour or really quirky humour, and that’s what I like about this character. I get to poke fun at myself, poke fun character sort of like – I mean a lot of his undoing is not because of Herbie, is not because of Lindsay’s character. It’s to do with his own ego. I liked it that it’s his own undoing. He becomes obsessed. Everybody’s telling him: leave it alone. You’re still Number One. Leave it alone. But he’s determined. He’s got to take (her down??) it’s the only – when the Volkswagen beat him, he just can’t believe this, he can’t come to grips with this.
Question: TALK ABOUT ACTING OPPOSITE HERBIE.
Dillon: I didn’t act opposite Herbie so much as – I just played it the way the guy – I mean we’ve seen people kicking cars before. And imagine if that car kicked back… so for me, when I mentioned to you that I was concerned about the rewrite – the script came in, my agent said, there’s one scene I don’t think you’re going to go for – well what’s that? – it’s the scene where you beat up Herbie and Herbie knocks you out – and I read it, and I said that’s the reason that I’m doing the movie. It’s so insane… it was fun. It was funny. Cause there was lots of kind of physical humour that I got to play. And the fact that he gets so rattled. I mean there is something so funny about people, and even though it’s about a car that has these extra powers or is alive – you know people get really nuts around cars. They get angry at cars. They get angry at their car. They get angry at people driving cars. There’s something really comical about that, you know.
Question: WILL YOU EVER ACT WITH YOUR BROTHER?
Dillon: I hope so. We tried to do it. I actually had in a draft of City of Ghosts a whole section of the movie that got cut out of the script. . . but we want to do something together. We’re looking for stuff. We have a couple of things. That’s the thing. you want it to be the right thing. you don’t want to do something just – but I would love to work – we really would have a lot of fun.
Question: ANYTHING ELSE ON YOUR PLATE?
Dillon: I’m working on this rewrite. I’m reading a lot of stuff. . . You guys got a job for me (laughter). Not really down time. That’s a good thing about where I am at now in my life because I kinda keep moving. I have a script I’m in the middle of rewriting. So in fact it’s kind of a blessing that I’m not going right to something, because I need to get back to producing a script.