Timothy Olyphant may be best known as Seth Bullock in the acclaimed, but now cancelled, TV series “Deadwood”, but the young actor is already gearing up for quite the big screen career. Currently the romantic lead opposite Jennifer Garner in the much delayed “Catch & Release”, he is also starring in the new untitled Kimberly Peirce project and the cyber terrorist pitted against Bruce Willis in this summer’s much anticipated “Live Free or Die Hard”. Olyphant talks about all of these plus those “Deadwood” movie rumours, to Paul Fischer.
Question: Can you talk about “Deadwood” and rumors of the two movies?
Olyphant: I know what you know. I read the trades now because I want to know what’s happening. I’ve heard they’re gonna do them. That’s all I can tell you. I couldn’t be more proud of that show and my involvement in it. It was one of the greatest experiences creatively and personally. Just recently, the fact that the Screen Actors Guild gave us that ensemble nomination, the most lovely thing about that was the excuse to call all those folks up. McShane called me in the morning. I talked to Dayton Callie. Later that afternoon, I talked to Anna (Gunn). It was just great to be able to pick up the phone and hear those people’s voices again. And David Milch, I try to think positively that I might have soaked a little bit of that up, that I might somehow take some of that brilliance with me to other jobs. It was unbelievable what it was like. Unbelievable in that, consistently, every day I showed up on that set he did something that I was just wowed by, that I didn’t see coming. The one hesitation I had, the idea of doing a series was ‘how long will it go and when will it get boring? At what point will it no longer have much to offer?’ And, that point never came. It was really quite something.
Question: Would you want to do the longer films?
Olyphant: I think it’s quite pointless to entertain that idea because, until there is something in front of me to make a decision about, I think that it’s better, for my mind-set, that I’m moving forward. I think, until that phone call comes, it’s sort of pointless to get too hung up on that.
Question: You are working a lot lately.
Olyphant: I feel very blessed and fortunate. The fact is, over a number of years now, I’ve been able to work rather consistently and also, I’ve been lucky to be able to play quite a diverse group of characters. The fact that that continues really means the world to me because it’s what’s fun about the profession; going from one thing to the next and being able to do things that I find surprising, that I find, humm, it’s not something that I thought might have been in the repertoire kind of thing. It makes the job so much fun. I think, at the same time, higher profile jobs and I imagine, my private life gets a little less private when you do something. I hope I’m at a place in my life where that’s not too disruptive.
Question: Was it easy to say yes to Die Hard?
Olyphant: Yeah, it was easy. That offer came in and it seemed like a no-brainer. One, you know what you’re signing up for and it’s probably gonna be a good time. And, I’ve never played that substantial a role in such a classic, great American popcorn movie. Then, it becomes a personal thing. It shoots here in L.A. I literally work for just a few weeks; seems like fun.
Question: How different is your villain character in Die Hard from Alan Rickman’s in the first Die Hard who was so in your face?
Olyphant: His is gonna be much better. That’s a little guess. It really is quite different. I just started this week so we’re kind of feeling it out. But, it’s a cyber-terrorist plot based on this article that was in “Wired” magazine a few years ago saying that as horrific and sad as it was seeing a building come down, the real threat to the country was cyber-terrorism; if somebody were to hack into that infra-structure, they could cripple the country in a matter of days. This character is a guy who used to work for the government and warned them of this possibility and is now carrying it out. So, in its own right, it’s a different character, a different villain. There’s something that feels a little bit more unstable about a person who would do that kind of a thing. The ouch doesn’t really match the pinch. It was a guy whose career was ruined and is now saying ‘I told you so’.
Question: Have you been blown up or beat up yet?
Olyphant: Not yet. But, I have a sneaky suspicion.
Question: And you’re with Kevin Smith again.
Olyphant: Yeah. I went first day and there’s Kevin. Disappointed.. no!
Question: I hear he writes his own dialogue.
Olyphant: He was throwing things out there on Die Hard and not just for his character. Kevin’s funny.
Question: How is it to interact with him? You’re a more straightforward actor.
Olyphant: I try not to interact with him too much because it ends up on a blog. And, how do you know if I’m straightforward or not straightforward.
Question: Because of the way you speak and the way you approach your roles, and because the director told us that Kevin was this way in this movie. [laughter] But what’s it like being around someone like that?
Olyphant: It’s all the same. I really think it’s all the same. At the end of the day, you read enough to know that everybody’s going about it in their own ways but it comes down to you’re doing some very simple actions that help the story. My job’s the same. I have a sense, hopefully, of what the scene’s about and what I’m trying to do and, other than that, you make yourself available to what is going on around you. It’s like a boxing metaphor. You have a sense of what you’re trying to accomplish but, once you get in the ring, you don’t want to be so stuck in that because, if the other guys does something that you weren’t expecting, it might be a good idea to come up with another plan. I think that’s all it is. I don’t find working with Kevin any different than working with anybody else. In a way, all it does is force you to listen more because you don’t know what he’s going to say. And that’s not a bad thing.
Question: How does the delay in releasing Catch & Release effect you?
Olyphant: Catch and previously unreleased? [laughter]. I imagine there’s some sort of ripple effect career-wise. Movies come out and raise a certain amount of interest and stuff but, for the most part, I’ve gone about my professional life and it feels more or less the same. At the end of the day, if there’s any type of anxiousness for it to get out there, part of the thing about this kind of a job is you’re telling a story and you want an audience. That’s the only thing. You kind of look forward to it but it’s not theater. The beauty of theater is that intimacy and that thing of I do this and you respond and we’re all kind of taking part in this. The only disappointment of anything being held for a long time is you’re waiting for that thing to bounce back.
Question: Was working with Jennifer different than you expected?
Olyphant: No. I’ve known her for a long time. I knew her years ago in New York when she and I were both just first starting and it was very refreshing to see that, more or less, she was the same girl I knew then. She’s just a lovely person. She’s a real pro. She knows everybody’s name. She’s on time. She’s one of those people that, despite being a major star, she’s one of the guys. And I really appreciate that a great deal because, for me, this was an opportunity to play a role I’d not played with a big star and she made me feel very relaxed and at home.
Question: What was the attraction to that role for you?
Olyphant: Well, it was an opportunity to play a leading man, a romantic lead. But, it was also an opportunity to play a great character. As more opportunities come to me, anyone that goes to movies or watches television knows that oftentimes, the lead roles are the most boring. You try to find the ones that are as fun or as rich as possible. Susannah writes really, really well. It was a fun character because, any of these roles, the comedic ones or Bullock or whatever, if you can find something that allows the character to be surprising, where you don’t quite see the moment coming, or you’re not quite sure what the character is going to do next, for a conventional leading man role, this had a lot of those moments.
Question: What’s going on with Hitman.
Olyphant: I don’t know.
Question: Are you still attached to it?
Olyphant: I don’t think I’ve ever been officially attached to it contrary to the internet. It sounds fun. It sounds pretty cool. I’ve seen the pictures. I’ve never played the game but it looks cool. Lord knows what I’d look like when this hair comes off. It’s a major concern.
Question: There’s not a good history of video games being successful movies.
Olyphant: That’s a good point. I think you start with the script and ask yourself who is going to tell that story and, if I’m not mistaken you’ve got Luc Besson right now whose done very good movies in that genre; La Femme Nikita. I remember walking around for weeks just saying ‘La Femme Nikita’. That was just such a good movie. Gosh, that was great and then The Professionals, I just watched The Professionals again two weeks ago. It’s a good movie. I haven’t seen the long version. I hear that’s unbelievable where he goes and kills people with her? I haven’t seen it. It’s such a great sweet story. You know what I mean? It’s a metaphor for parenthood in this warped way. You’re trying to teach your children how to survive without you. It’s really quite something.
Question: So they’ve approached you but you haven’t officially signed on?
Olyphant: There’s been conversation.
Question: What else is coming up for you? Do you know what you’re doing after Die Hard?
Olyphant: No. I don’t’ know what I’m doing after that.
Question: Is it different for you working with someone who is both a writer and director?
Olyphant: No. It’s always great when there’s clearly one person in charge. It’s fantastic. Arguably, David Milch was both writer and director. It doesn’t mean anything if the writer and the director are the same person and that person sucks. But, it’s always great to have one person tell you a story.
Question: Can you talk about being a competitive actor, having been a swimmer in competition?
Olyphant: I remember when I first started coming to grips with the fact that, unlike swimming, the fastest person didn’t always win. That was a tricky thing to wrap your head around. In sport, the winner is clearly the winner and in this job, in terms of getting jobs, you can be the guy that they said blew everybody away but not the one that we’re going with. People are opening and closing doors and that’s out of your control. That’s a lesson in life. You can’t do anything about it so you have to disregard it and move on.
Question: In particular scenes?
Olyphant: In scenes, particularly I’ve not thought about it. I enjoy the job a great deal. One of the things I enjoy about it is that collaborative experience so to speak. I enjoy the relationships. I enjoy the creative atmosphere that is sort of social in a way. I’ve been listening to David Lynch and the ideas are everywhere. There’s something fun about being on a set and not just the relationship with the director and other actors, but the crew and all of it. It’s true. The ideas are everywhere. There are things informing you all the time. There are things to work off of all the time. I remember one of my first good experiences on a film set. I had done some plays and television and I did this one small part in a movie and I just couldn’t figure out what was fun about it. The experiences were very vapid and not inspiring at all but I did this one day on A Life Less Ordinary with Holly Hunter and we were in the middle of a take on her coverage and a breeze kicked up and she stopped and turned her face into the breeze and her hair blew back and I thought, ‘is she ruining her take? This is the craziest thing ever’. Then it occurred to me that she was just working off of what she was given and she was just dialed into the experience and the moment and it was the first time that I thought, ‘ahha. You can go on a film set and you can aspire to do something really creative’. It was the first time that nothing about it was manufactured. It was really quite beautiful. She seemed totally unaware of herself. That’s where you want to be.
Question: What can you tell me about the Kimberly Peirce film?
Olyphant: It’s called Stop Loss with Ryan Phillippe and Channing Tatum and it’s about these soldiers that come back and think they’re finished with their tour of duty and they’re called back to the crisis in the Middle East. I play a Lieutenant Colonel who is essentially the guy who is saying ‘look, you’ve got to go back and there’s nothing we can do about it’. I’m sort of his last effort…oh, he goes to a senator after me to try to fight it.. Ryan.
Question: How did you get involved with the radio show on 103.1?
Olyphant: I was a big fan of that station. It’s one of the great radio stations here in L.A. I had some friends in common. I went in to do some publicity for “Deadwood” and thought I’d love to do something on the show. The next day I called in the sports and that was seven months ago.
Question: Do you write all your stuff?
Olyphant: I just read the paper [laughs]. I wake up in the morning and lay out the sports page in front of me and pick up the phone. I call them or they call me and I tell them what’s in front of me. And, other than that I could also just tell them that my brother scored a 270 this weekend at the golf course. It’s great. I really enjoy doing it. Joe Escalante is a class act.
I’m a big fan so it’s been great. It’s Indie 103.1 it’s an alternative rock/punk station. I do sports and David Lynch does the weather and I’m not joking. It’s Monday through Friday. It’s online.
Question: I can’t imagine David Lynch committing to any kind of weather thing.
Olyphant: He does it every day on his website and so, it’s an extension of what he’s been doing for I think two years now. Every day, he gets up and does the weather for Los Angeles. I really think there’s real genius to it. I think what he’s doing is quite interesting. Big fan.
Question: Your character is a big city guy visiting a smaller town. Are you a big city guy or small town guy?
Olyphant: I never really thought about it. My wife and I have lived everywhere from a little tiny beach town to New York and L.A. and we look back and realize, ‘you know, we were always pretty happy’ so you just create your own community. I’ve been really lucky that way.