At the Entertainment Media Show in London, FlanInfo was lucky enough to have a representative who sat with Joe Flanigan through several questions that finally made up for an exclusive interview. The discussion covered his most recent project, the next one, how was it working with Jean Claude Van Damme, how does the industry go and how he sees his profession. All in all we’ve got some interesting insights about what makes the actor Joe Flanigan tick.
Part 1: (Jump to Part 2)
FlanInfo: When have you finished shooting 6 Bullets?
JF: We finished 5 days ago, in Bucharest, and I’ll be going back to Los Angeles on Monday. We’ll be still doing some ADR, looping as we call it, we’ll be probably doing a lot of that, actually, as there were some challenges out here.
FlanInfo: When will the movie be on the market?
JF: Early 2012, more likely in the spring. But I don’t know, we’ve just finished, you never know these things. They are trying for a theatrical release, it’s the same group of people working with Van Damme, but you never quite know how it will turn out until you’re almost there.
FlanInfo: Did you learn any new moves from your stunt trainer?
JF: I’ve learnt a lot! A lot!
FlanInfo: Could you take care of yourself in a dark alley?
JF: Absolutely, but I’d still prefer a gun.
FlanInfo: How’s the shoulder?
JF: It’s getting better, but definitely it’s a long road to recovery. You see this? (pointing to his right elbow, swollen and looking quite painful) I hit it during a stunt, still hasn’t gone down, and it was bigger (pointing towards the length of the forearm).
FlanInfo: Was 6 Bullets a good project?
JF: I would say it was a really great experience. Basically, the way I do these things now, it’s based on the role. I look at the role. Do I like the role? Is that a role that I want to play? And then the second question would be who else is in it, and who else is supporting the movie? I used to not look to things that way, I used to go for the most interesting project as a whole, but I don’t think that’s the right approach, as an actor.
This character was really interesting, as he’s the ex-world champion mixed martial artist who’s trying to stage a come-back and he brings his wife and daughter to Moldova to talk with this promoter and stage a come-back fight. And his daughter gets kidnapped and there’s a prostitution ring. Then I get Van Damme to help me get her back and I team up with him in the end and we get to kill a lot of people. Act macho! It was fun.
FlanInfo: What was it different working in Romania as opposed to US or Ireland? Working habits, maybe longer hours on set?
JF: No, the hours weren’t longer at all, and Romania turned out being much better than I thought. I was really geared up for something rustic and undeveloped in terms of filmmaking and it turned out to be reasonably well sophisticated and we were able to get all sorts of things done. For one day of shooting in the US we could shoot for 6 days in Romania, just to give you an idea about the cost.
FlanInfo: They shoot a lot nowadays there, Nicholas Cage, Gerard Depardieu…
JF: They’re doing a really big project right now, called ‘The Hatfields and McCoys’ that Kevin Costner’s doing for the History channel, some of the actors were there with me in the hotel, I’ve got to know some of those guys, it was very cool. They’ll be there until Christmas.
FlanInfo: Did you go to the Enescu classic music festival that was on just across your hotel?
JF: I didn’t have to, because the festival came to me. I had this incredibly nice hotel room on the fifth floor that had its own patio and the doors opened up right to the plaza. They had every night live music, it was incredible, for about three weeks. And I met these lovely ladies who worked at the festival, they were at the hotel a lot with the musicians, and they’ve got me tickets to anything I wanted, the only problem was I couldn’t take advantage of them, I didn’t have the time. But it didn’t make a difference; I came home, forgot all about the reasons I was there, stayed on the patio maybe with a cigar and listen to Mozart, it was pretty cool. So, to be honest with you, the experience turned out to be really enjoyable, I had fun. The only thing that was tough was being away from my wife and kids for that long. But it was a good group of people, it was a good role and hopefully the film turns out well.
FlanInfo: Do you have a lot of screentime?
JF: It’s definitely the biggest part outside of Van Damme’s and I think it’s an even more interesting role than his. I’d rather play the role I play than his role. I have a big spectrum of things happening to me. The lady who plays my wife did a really good job, she’s an English actress.
We stop again as Joe signs some more and chats with a young fan and his parents (young fan as in 7-8 years old young!). Joe takes his time talking to him and finds out he couldn’t remember his birthday “I sometimes forget when my birthday is, but you know what, if you don’t know when your birthday is, you don’t know when to expect for your presents. You’d better write it down!”
JF: That’s another thing: how many shows have 6 years olds and 86 years olds fans? Not that many. Shows usually cater to young, or old, or something like a niche, teenage girls or middle age women or whatever. Having a show that has an audience covering such a broad part of the spectrum is interesting.
Very brief audio file of the following two questions: JCVD_MH
FlanInfo: How was it working with Van Damme?
JF: I really enjoyed working with Jean Claude. I find him to be personable, very charming, nothing but a gentleman. He’s a great martial artist. I really had a good time. And it’s kind of cool, as an actor, if you can say that you’ve worked with certain icons, you know?
FlanInfo: The next project?
JF: I’m going to go to Marseille for that signing at the end of October and then I’m supposed to go straight to Brussels to shoot… Sony is producing a French TV show based on the Heavy Metal comic book, and I believe the French call it Metal Hurlant. I’ll shoot for 7 days roughly, in Brussels. That’s the plan right now, although there are some details I didn’t yet sort out. That takes us to mid November. In American production, there’s not much happening between Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Part 2: (Jump to Part 1)
FlanInfo: How badly do you want to direct? Would you give up acting for the chance of directing?
JF: The beauty is you don’t have to give up one for another. But I absolutely want to direct, and I think it’s a smart direction to go for any actor, because sometimes the most difficult thing for an actor is to take work he doesn’t want to. The amount of experience that you gain after tens of thousands of hours on the set is directly applicable to something like directing. Directing is also very creative. I think there are few directors that handle actors well, that understand how actors think, how they operate. The biggest problems on most sets come from communication issues. People have a hard time explaining what it is they’re looking for.
FlanInfo: Then a better deal would be to direct and produce?
JF: Not necessarily, it depends. Executive producing, that’s essentially just bringing money, and then there’s producing, that could be very exhausting, with all the organizational aspects that don’t totally interest me, although I understand them.
FlanInfo: But producers take decisions, right? They can cut into the creative line of a show, don’t they?
JF: There are overlapping boundaries. If you direct and you can get a producer credit as well, it’s great. A lot of times people do. In television producers tend to have a tremendous amount of power, not so much in films. In films the directors have the power. In fact, in television, unfortunately directors’ importance has been sometimes reduced. They often don’t really want to “direct” the actors too much because the actors have a better sense of their characters, having lived with them for years, so the guest directors tend to be a little timid in directing an actor. As a result, shows get stuck. I always like it when a director shows up and tries to stir the bottle a little, although actors can get prickly when they are challenged to perform in a certain way. And yet sometimes that’s the best way to force the character to stay dynamic.
As you act, the writers would write for you. And vice versa: as they write, you can act for them. Sometimes they see you as something separate of their creation, until they are seeing your feedback and your interpretation of their words. After that they can start writing more effectively for your role. Once you open up new elements of your personality, the writers are given a new set of possibilities. If writers feel stuck with your character, your character kind of dies.
Flaninfo: What about making the step to movies, from TV?
JF: What happens with movies is you need to leave your home for a long period of time. Shooting a movie would generally take up to three months. The other thing is, and I don’t say this smugly at all, I’m not a character actor, I’m a leading man. Leading men, in movies, are Brad Pitt, Matt Damon and it’s almost impossible for me to compete with that type of box office power. I haven’t been given the chance to sell movie tickets like they’ve got. It’s a Catch 22: they want new leading men, but they don’t want to give new leading men a chance because of the risks involved with giving them a chance.
There are so few movies they make these days, that movie stars start making television shows, where they crowd the field quite a bit. Network executives get very seduced ‘hey, let’s make that TV show with Ben Affleck, that’s so cool, maybe he’ll invite us to his house’. So guys like us, who have been traditionally recruited for leading parts in TV shows find it competitive to keep their territory, it’s increasingly difficult. Also movies don’t pay that much. I know, it seems strange, that’s a surprise for a lot of people; unless you’re the star of the movie, it’s a precipitous decline from the leading character to the next actors. So you’re making a lot more money as a regular on a TV show than you’ll ever make on a movie, unless you are a movie star. That’s another thing that out-of-work movie stars have discovered. Television tends to pay the bills better, it’s just it’s less glamorous than movies.
There’s another added element, because there are so many fewer movies being made, a lot of the talents, including writers, are going to TV, making damned good TV shows! I would argue that dollar per dollar TV is producing better entertainment than the movies. If you’re watching shows like Boardwalk Empire or Deadwood a few years ago… those are really, really good TV shows.
FlanInfo: How do you expect your fans to support you to get the perfect next project?
JF: I don’t know, it’s funny, I never think of it that way. I don’t expect anything from my fans other than to enjoy my work. Sure, there are these campaigns… I’d still like to play that Uncharted role.
FlanInfo: So how can we do that?
JF: That project has been up and down, it’s hard to know what’s its status, and you want your campaign at the right time. I truly haven’t seen what people have been doing [campaign-wise], and it’s not from lack of gratitude, but it’s just practically impossible to follow… between work and being married with three kids and five dogs, it’s an impossibility.
I’m not a big fan of spending time on publicity. My biggest fear is to be seen as those guys who are famous for nothing. Without a show actively on the air, there’s only so much presence I want… You won’t find me at Cannes festival or Sundance festival unless I have a movie there, I won’t show up, I’m not a hanger-on. The best thing that I can do to get back to my fans is to create more work, and that’s what I’m trying to do.
FlanInfo: Thank you!