In The Majestic your character, Peter Appleton, comes down with a severe case of amnesia. Do you personally have any moments of your own life that you wish you could forget? ^ Oh, sure but I can’t tell you. That’s dark stuff.
In the past you’ve worked with a lot of great up and coming actors, like Cameron Diaz and Courteney Cox Arquette. At this stage in your career, however, you have begun working more with Hollywood legends, like Tommy Lee Jones in “Batman Forever” and now Martin Landau in The Majestic. Can you talk about what it was like for you working with Martin Landau? ^ Martin Landau, I felt, was the genius stroke of casting to me because he reminds me so much of my father in certain ways. I used to look at my father and watch him tell a story and sit back and say ‘God, he’s a cartoon.’ Martin can be so subtle and at the other end can be the most insane maniac that you’ve ever seen in your life. He can choose anything. He has a lot of weapons and that was wonderful to be around.
Anyone who knows even the littlest things about you knows that your father was one of — if not THE — most important person in your life. What did your dad teach you that you still carry with you after all these years? ^ Right from the beginning I used to look up to my dad as more energy than anything. It was an energy that I wanted. He walked into a room and people felt like they’ve known him for 50 years after only 5 minutes and THAT’S what I’ve always been after.
Can you elaborate on what you said a minute ago, which is somewhat surprising, that you are in a bit of a state of flux in your own mind and in your own career now? Looking at you it doesn’t seem to be the case. Why is that? ^ That I’m in a state of flux? I’m always in a state of flux. Always.
You’re not happy, you’re not sad? ^ I’m everything. That’s all. Aren’t you? Everything?
You mentioned Bill Murray earlier and I would throw in Robin Williams and Steve Martin as well when mentioning great comedic actors. They all tend to make their mark, so what are you trying to tell us? ^ I don’t know. It’s from one film to the next I never know why I’m doing it until a few weeks in. I pick it because something tells me I should do it. Then generally a few weeks down the line, I go, ‘oh, that’s why I’m doing this. Oh, interesting.’ I always look at the project, and what the project needs and what that story needs. “Ace Ventura” was a good acting choice because that’s what that project needed. If you had gone at that in a naturalistic way people would have gone ‘give me a break, it’s a pet detective.’ The reason they came was because they saw right from the poster that I didn’t give a damn and that it wasn’t important. It was a time to come in and be carefree. I always look at the individual project, what it needs to be and what it needs and transform myself into that and learn what I have to learn. That’s the great thing about it. You are always something different.
How do the events on September 11 effect you, being a Canadian citizen? Does it still effect you even though you technically aren’t an American? ^ Absolutely. I’ve always felt growing up that America was a big brother protecting us in the school yard. Also a lot of the things that I loved and I loved to watch was influenced by or were American. That’s part of the reason why when the disaster happened I wanted to get so involved because you don’t get opportunities very often in this world to let people know what they did for you. And to me, this country defined me. This country allowed my dreams to come true and I’ve been treated like I’m one of the gang.
You have been living in California for quite a few years now and you are still a Canadian citizen. Would you ever adopt US citizenship? ^ Yeah, I’m working on that.
Dual citizenship or just U.S.? ^ I will have dual.
Could you elaborate a little bit of where you are in the application process and why it’s important to you to become an American citizen? ^ Canada’s my home and I love Canada. Great people, fantastic people. It was a tremendous place to grow up. But I love this country. This is a great country. To me it’s the best place to be. To me you can make it anywhere in the world but if you come here and you get the acceptance here that’s somehow like everybody says, ‘okay, America decided that was good.’ But also I like the ingenuity of this country. I like the terror of not knowing really what the hell’s going to happen to you when you get old.
That’s a reason to become an American? ^ No, you really have to create something for yourself in this country because otherwise you’re going to be a burden to somebody. I don’t know. It’s an ingenuous place and also a place full of dreams.
Tell me about your next projects. I hear there is one that will reunite you with “Batman Forever” co-star Nicole Kidman? ^ I believe in March we are going to start filming that. “Dog Years” with Nicole Kidman and it’s really a sweet project. Gary Ross is directing and writing. He did Pleasantville, which I loved. I thought it really had a good soul. It’s a dangerous territory in the romantic comedy thing. You are taking some huge risks there.
What about that Howard Hughes movie? ^ Oh, the Howard Hughes – well, Howard Hughes is somebody I’m interested in. We’re not very far along on that so I can’t really speak about it very much because it’s a jinx.
What exactly interests you in Howard Hughes? ^ Because in certain ways I probably am him. I identify with certain things. I want to find out what made him go where he went. I want to find out what his hole was. What his chasm was that needed to be filled that never could be. It’s “Citizen Kane” to me with characters. It’s what are they missing, what are they trying to fill up with their behavior. It’s ‘rosebud.’ Everybody is trying to find ‘rosebud,’ the thing they are missing but it’s in the fire. You have to let it go. It’s amazing. The people who don’t let that go and realize they are never going to get that don’t go on– they don’t grow up.
Have you let your ‘rosebud’ go? ^ Probably not. For me it’s probably being seen. A lot of magic and a lot of sleight of hand has been created because I felt I had to. I felt that that would convince everyone I was magical. That has to come from a place of need of some kind. It’s need or addiction, one of the two.
Are you doing “Spotless Mind?” ^ “Spotless Mind” is something that is a possibility. It could be happening. I don’t want to comment completely because you never know with these things, but it’s something I love. I love the script and Kaufman is brilliant.
Would you ever do another wacky comedy? ^ Sure. I think half of the great stories ever told are comedies, so I can’t cut myself off from a part of myself. That’s a part of me and always will be. When I walked into the “Entertainment Tonight” interview, generally they film me walking in because crazy things happen or whatever. They asked ahead of time this time, ‘Should we film him walking in?’ I said, ‘Well, you can if you want but it’s going to make me probably bounce off the walls because I feel on the spot, and generally what I do when I’m on the spot is bounce off the walls.’ That’s just how I deal.
Would it be okay if that wacky comedy were “Ace Ventura 3?” ^ I can’t go back and do stuff I’ve done. The frickin’ world could end tomorrow. I don’t want to be putting the old hair back on.
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