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The Fretts on Film Interview: John Goodman

October 26, 2012

You can’t keep John Goodman down! The beloved character actor steals scenes in two dramas that should figure in this year’s Oscar race, Argo and Flight. I talked to him about these films as well as his upcoming reunions with his old pals Billy Crystal on Monsters University and the Coen Brothers on Inside Llewyn Davis.

You had worked with Denzel Washington before on the 1998 cop drama Fallen, and you had to establish a pretty powerful connection to him in a relatively small amount of time in Flight. Did it help that you had worked together before?

Yeah, it always helps for me just to get over the initial nervousness and shock of working with someone of that stature. It just made it easier. We could jump right into what was supposed to be a really close friendship.

Director Robert Zemeckis refers to your character, somewhat jokingly, as the devil. Did you have that in mind when you were playing him?

Yeah. And Don Cheadle’s character, too. They had me walk in to a great Rolling Stones song (“Sympathy for the Devil”), so I guess if the devil is a really mediocre enabler, than yeah.

You’re in only three scenes in the movie, but you have a large presence as a character. Did you have any qualms about taking such a small role?

No, I didn’t even think about it. The only problem was the hair extensions I had to get put in. I couldn’t take them out for a few months.

Is that why you had them on Community?

Yeah, that’s exactly right. They wrote around it. My character was “going through some things.”

How did you come up with the look for your character?

I just wanted a ponytail. I didn’t want to have that much hair, but it worked. I just wanted the feeling that this guy was trapped in another era and hadn’t progressed.

And that includes the wardrobe as well?

Yep. It’s very comfortable.

This was the first time Robert Zemeckis came back to doing live action after three straight motion-capture films. Did you sense any rustiness on his part?

Absolutely not. Bob said, ‘Movies are movies.’ No matter how you do it—if you use a lens to capture the light or if you create the things yourself, you’re still creating an illusion. And he’s a master storyteller.

What is his style like on the set?

He’s very meticulous, very prepared. He knows what he wants. He’s thought a lot about things beforehand. And he has a lot of tricks up his sleeve. He sets a good table—let’s put it that way.

It sounds like he has a lot in common with Denzel that way.

Yeah, absolutely. They’re both sticklers.

Denzel’s character is flawed to say the least, as is yours. Were you at all concerned about being unsympathetic to the audience? 

No, hell no. It’s a great character to play. It gives you something to work on. A place to struggle to. I like all that ambiguity. You don’t know what’s going to happen with him. He’s very unpredictable.

I know that you’ve also worked with Melissa Leo on Treme, but you didn’t have any scenes together. Did you overlap at all?

No, I didn’t see Melissa, but it’s a pleasure to work with her doing press on this movie, and maybe I’ll see her down on New Orleans when she’s working there.

I miss you on Treme. That was a great character.

I do too. It was great being able to work at home, and I just love that show.

You’ve been busy. I just saw Ben Affleck’s Argo, and it’s also a fantastic movie. I know you were in two Best Picture nomineees last year, The Artist and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. Do you think you’ll go two for two again this year?

I have no idea. I’m pulling out of the prediction game.

You also did Trouble With the Curve recently—what was the experience like working with Clint Eastwood?

It was wonderful. I’ve always liked him growing up. But he’s just another guy that knows exactly what he wants and how to get it. Everything is very easy and cool. He’s cool—that’s what it is. You can’t affect that and you can’t buy it, and he’s got it. 

Have you finished work on the Monsters Inc. prequel, Monsters University?

No, I go back in a couple of weeks and get to work with Billy Crystal again, and that’ll be fun. When I work with Billy, I just kind of follow him around.

And you’re in the Coen Brothers’ next movie as well?

Yeah, Inside Llewyn Davis.

Have you shot that yet?

Yeah, we shot it last March up in a garage in Yonkers.

I know it’s about the folk scene in the ’60s. Do you have a musical role?

(Laughing). I’m supposed to. Well, we couldn’t figure it out. We knew I was a musician—I thought I was a piano player, and Joel thought I was a sax player, and Ethan thought I was a trumpet player. (Laughing). It was never specified.

It sounds like an interesting role. You’ve worked with them quite a bit. Why do you think you guys get along so well that you’ve collaborated so many times?

I just like their sense of humor—they make laugh. And I like the way they write. They put a lot of twists into things. I like the way they write dialogue.

Any chance of a Big Lebowski sequel?

That, I pretty much can say, will never happen.

Really? Just because you couldn’t capture lightning in a bottle twice like that?

There’s just no need for it.

But you’re doing the next Hangover sequel, right?

Yeah, I am. I go back to the set this coming week.

How’s that going?

When I show up, it goes great. They’re clipping along. And those four guys are terrific to work with—a lot of fun.

I bet. Can you tell me anything about how you figure into the storyline?

I know I can say I’m a bad guy, but that’s about all I’m comfortable talking about with right now. I don’t want them to hurt me.

And then you’re also doing The Internship—another big comedy.

Yeah, I can’t remember when I shot that—sometime this summer. But I was only on that movie for a day.

That’s another group of funny guys who have worked together before…

Yeah, Vince [Vaughn] and Owen [Wilson] are terrific.

Well, you’ve certainly been busy—are you looking to work this much or have you just been getting a lot of good offers?

I don’t want to turn anything down. A lot of the time, when you have downtime, you wish you were doing something. And things just happened to go my way this year. It may not happen again, but I’m certainly enjoying it now.

What’s your favorite John Goodman movie? Any Barton Fink fans? Post a comment!

From → Interviews, Posts

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