SuperHeroHype Visits the Red Set

John Malkovich is one of the most prominent actors of his generation and he has appeared in over 70 movies in the last 25 years. SuperHeroHype got the rare opportunity to talk to Mr. Malkovich on the set of Red.

Q: Can you talk a little bit about your character and how much fun you’re having with Bruce Willis?
John Malkovich:
All four of us, Bruce and Helen Mirren, Morgan Freeman is a retired CIA assassin and mine’s a kind of survivalist type that lives in a swamp and it’s a little bit whacked. I’ve loved it. It’s really been fun. Like, the cast, the actors very much get along with the director and the cinematographer, whose father I’ve worked with for a couple of times, I’ve known her since she was quite young.

Q: Describe how well you and Bruce knew each other going into the project.
Malkovich:
We’ve met a couple of times over the years, but never worked together before. We sort of started out about exactly the same time in New York in the early ‘80s, so I met him once or twice then and a couple times passing through. 

Q: This is kind of a road movie, a buddy movie. Was there any male bonding while you prepared?
Malkovich:
There was a lot of drinking. But I’m not in the starting five of that group…

Q: What’s been going on between shooting "Jonah Hex" and "Red"?
Malkovich:
Oh, I’ve done a couple of fashion lines and an opera, directing a play in Mexico, and we’re producing a movie that starts shooting in 10 days in SoHo. 

Q: What’s that?
Malkovich:
It’s called "Jeff Who Lives at Home."

Q: How’d you get involved with that?
Malkovich:
Through our production company, Mr. Mudd, and it’s something that Jason Reitman developed. We did "Juno" with him and he asked us to produce it. 

Q: Does your character get a lot of backstory in the film?
Malkovich:
They don’t… not anyone has tons of backstory in the film, except for Bruce’s character. Frank’s a little more but not sort of scads about his past life.

Q: Can you talk about the pig? The stuffed animal?
Malkovich:
I’m not really clear why it’s a pig and not, like, a duffle bag. He carries weapons and at some point, when they find out that they’re being followed–that they are targets for something that happened many, many years ago–my character says, "I’m gettin’ the pig." I’m not really sure why, but that’s a really good idea. A sort of call to arms.

Q: Have you read the comic book?
Malkovich:
I’ve looked at it. But no, I’ve just looked at the script.

Q: What did you think of your character?
Malkovich:
I thought my character was pretty clear in the script. Maybe sort of, where was he from originally? I maybe had a slightly different–not a different idea–a first impression from the script.

Q: We’re all looking forward to seeing Helen Mirren fire very large guns.
Malkovich:
As opposed to having them. Yeah, no kidding that kind of touches all the bases.

Q: Were you on set for any of those scenes?
Malkovich:
She’s fantastic Helen, very pro, very funny, a lot of fun to be around. I mean she probably secretly enjoyed squeezing off a few rounds.

Q: Had you had much hand-to-hand combat training?
Malkovich:
No, not really.

Q: Can you talk about your work in fashion and costumes?
Malkovich:
I design costumes. I started with the theater in Chicago, but somehow a few lines just sort of fell to me to do it. I studied it in school and I always liked it. Around 2001 somebody asked me to do a line in Milan. I did that for five years and stopped it for the old artistic differences. Then some other Italians asked me a year, year and a half ago. 

Q: Can you talk about the scene you were shooting earlier today?
Malkovich:
In the script, there’s a New York Times reporter who’s been killed and I get a list of names that she has and they’re trying to find the link between Frank and Marvin, who are the only two people on the list, while the other people have been killed. So we go to meet this air cargo pilot, who’s on the list. And at that point I think we’re the only people still alive. I’d seen this woman at the bus station, who was firing at us. I tell Frank, "I’m gonna blow her head off," and she says that she works for Coldwell Banker and has nothing to do with it. She shows up a little bit later with the whole RPG thing.

Q: Sometimes there are instances where people think you’re crazy in the film, but at least by the end of the film you’re reprieved. Can you talk about that aspect of your character?
Malkovich:
Sometimes it happens quite quickly. He’s a little bit whacked out, but often correct about his peers and his statements often prove accurate.

Q: Why don’t the other people take you seriously when you say things like someone’s following you?
Malkovich:
Because I carry a pig around. And he lives in a car.

Q: What was your reaction to that? The set with the car.
Malkovich:
It’s fantastic. Weapons and cans of beans? What else could you want?

Q: Your character is kind of paranoid, a conspiracy theorist. Do you believe in conspiracy theories?
Malkovich:
Not so much. I have never met that many people so clever to be able to pull off the various conspiracies in the world. I think the world is a lot more chaotic than that. More accidental.

Q: As a kid did you always want to be an actor?
Malkovich:
No, and it never occurred to me to be an actor.

Q: What did you want to be when you were kid?
Malkovich:
I was pretty heavy, I guess I always wanted to do eating contests.

Q: And you let go of that dream?
Malkovich:
Yes. But of course I thought too I could be a baseball pitcher or a football player.

Q: Were you given a lot of creative freedom with your lines?
Malkovich:
I don’t think [director] Robert [Schwentke] would mind so much. But I like the script. Unless there were changes that call for different phraseology, or different dialogue. I didn’t really see the need. I like the way it is.

Q: Can you talk about working in Vienna on the opera?
Malkovich:
I’ve only worked there twice… this is an opera that I do with the Viennese, baroque orchestra conductor and a very bright, very gifted Viennese opera director who has also directed movies [and] has a fantastic background in the classical music. We do a piece together which we played in Vienna last summer, which went very well, and then hooked up to tour a lot in Europe this summer kind of everywhere for a month and a half or so. In Vienna, I was always attracted to it a lot as a kid. I don’t know why because I don’t have Austrian blood or any kind of personal history with it, but I think because I was always really interested in what happened there near the end of the 19th and in early 20th centuries, so much of what we consider the modern world sort of came from that from painting to music to psychiatry, great essays, Karl Krauss, playwrights and I’d been many times but always loved it. It’s very beautiful. There’s always something interesting to see, even the design, the arts and crafts, the architecture.

Click ‘Next’ to read our interview with Mary-Louise Parker!