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Blood Work interviews

08.06.2002

Last Lunes the folks at Warner Brothers held the press interviews for the new Clint Eastwood thriller BLOOD WORK at the L’ Ermitage hotel in Beverly Hills. First things first, I now know the answer to the age-old question “What would happen if you threw a party and nobody came?” The answer: Get what you can, which in this case meant a few interesting quotes and, more importantly, more than your fair share of appetizers and drinks. Those treats helped ease the pain and fill the void that resulted from Clint and Angelica Huston (she’s also in the film) being absent from the festivities.

Regardless, I still had fun as always, chatting it up with the cast members that were there…Paul Rodriguez, Wanda DeJesus and Jeff Daniels. All three were great. Sure, it would’ve made my day to see Clint in person, but oh well. Maybe at the premiere…or during my next vacation up to Carmel. Anyway, here are some snippets from my meetings with the three actors...

PAUL RODRIGUEZ

First in line was Paul Rodriguez, the stand-up comedian turned actor of TORTILLA SOUP, BORN IN EAST L.A., D.C. CAB, and RAT RACE fame. He plays Arrango in the flick, the bad cop to Clint’s good cop. And I don’t mean he’s the next coming of Harvey Keitel in BAD LIEUTENANT. Paul’s more like the comedic edge of the film…and it’s at Clint’s expense.

When he came in, I must say my first impression of the guy was that he’s a down-to-earth antithesis of the classic “Hollywood Headcase,” and throughout the interview he never gave me any reason to think otherwise. He talked about the role of Hispanic culture in the film, how he got the gig, and drinking shots of tequila with Dirty Harry at Hog’s Breath, a bar in Carmel, CA. He hinted that he beat out some big shot Hispanic actors(cough, cough, Del Toro) for the part, and said also that he’s close to his 50th birthday. Man. He also gave us a little bit of insight into the frustrations of Hollywood, saying that he shot several weeks in Africa for ALI, yet not one single scene of his was in the final cut. Here’s some more from Paul...

Are you this mean in real life…I mean, compared to your character in the movie?
That was the hardest thing to do….to be upset with someone who you’re in awe of. And then I found out what he paid me, and could have paid me, and that made me upset. But, he was an easy guy to play. I know a lot of guys like that. I’m not like that, but my friends are like that…..And here in L.A., there’s a plethora of cops like that around….But I pretty much told Clint it’s hard to get mad at you, man. I mean, he took me out on his plane, and he took me golfing. And I don’t think he does that with everyone he works with.

Ok, so, when you’re sitting in a bar with Clint Eastwood, what are you guys drinking?
We’re drinking beer…and tequila. Him too. Don Julio….It’s so funny. Clint has a language all his own. I call it “Clinglish.” It’s kind of like a Ronald Reagan mixed with a Bea Arthur.

How do you like acting?
I like it. But I never really pursued this career. I see myself as a standup. My hero is George Carlin. The man’s not really known for a lot of tv or films, but you’d be hard-pressed to buy a ticket for one of his shows. So, I see myself as a standup’s standup. And if the movie’s come, they come. But I’m still selling them out in Las Vegas and wherever I go. There’s no danger of me getting an Academy Award here. And that’s not what I’m out for…A lot of my friends say “How do you do it? You’re lucky, Paul.” You know what, they’re right. If you ever have a choice of having talent or luck, always choose luck, because talent is so abundant and so common in this town. You got to understand that Los Angeles absorbs talent, not only from America but from all over the world. They come here and they have their hopes and their dreams, they want to be the next so and so, and I never wanted any of that. I just wanted to be the first Paul Rodriguez...I see so many stars and starlets who go to these clubs and sit around and feel frustrated with this dream, and they’ll never make it. And it’s not because they’re not talented. It’s because they’re not lucky. And I’ve always been lucky. I’ve had tons of luck. I’m afraid to play the lottery, ‘cuz I don’t know what I’d do with all that money.

Did you read the script first, or the book? And did you think it’d be hard to translate it into a film?
I was on a plane once, when we had already been shooting for a couple weeks, and I saw a woman on a plane reading the book. And I said I was in the movie. And she asked what part I played and I said Arrango, and she said “Oh, yeah. So you’re the asshole.” And I said yep. Before that, I had no idea it was a book….But I didn’t get too much out of the book, or out of the movie. I don’t read too deep into this stuff.

What was it like working with Clint?
You know what it’s like going from a hot sauna to a really cold, cold pool? You know, you see the extremes of each. That’s what happened to me on this film. I went from Michael Mann in Africa, who did 22 takes in the blink of an eye, to Clint Eastwood who does three takes, tops. He basically said filmmaking is a lot like baseball: if you can’t get it in three strikes, maybe you shouldn’t be in the big leagues.

JEFF DANIELS

Then came Jeff Daniels, a Michigan native, who plays Buddy Noone, Clint’s next-door neighbor in the movie. As I had heard from the other reporters ahead of time, he takes a little prodding. He’s a little casual and a little too relaxed. But once he got going, we were off. Of course I had plenty I wanted to discuss. I mean, we’re talking about a guy who was given a lead role in the master’s PURPLE ROSE OF CAIRO, and led other classics like DUMB AND DUMBER, TERMS OF ENDEARMENT, ARACHNOPHOBIA, and SOMETHING WILD. He’s the man, man. But it wasn’t easy getting him to admit it. What he did admit was interesting…He recently produced a couple films with his production company Purple Rose Films. He also recently finished shooting GODS AND GENERALS, a prequel to GETTYSBURG. Based on what he said, the production for that film was a nightmare. They shot a lot of the scenes in rural Virginia at the same time the 9/11 attacks took place. Needless to say, the production was halted, and the film and its importance was put in perspective. Here’s more from JD…

What drew you to this part?
Clint Eastwood. He’s still passionate about the filmmaking process. He loves making a movie. He loves picking the camera angles and choosing the lens. He loves getting there and figuring out how to do it. And it could not be that. I hope I’m still passionate at that age. I just basically took the notepad and pencil and started taking notes.

Are you more into producing now?
I was for a couple films. But those films need to make some money. They’re indie films, and we’re releasing them on video and dvd nationally soon.

What company’s releasing the films?
A video distribution company called Monarch. They’re out of Nashville. Good people, and they like the movies, so we’ll see how it goes.

What’s your take on this film and your role?
My take is that I don’t want to give anything away. But, as in the book, which is different from the movie, I’m the comic relief. I’m the sidekick…But it was fun for me to play against whatever the plot may indicate.

How did you get the part from Clint?
Our agents talked. But Clint had gone to other guys, one guy in particular, and he said no, but thank you very much. And then Clint called. I was the number two choice. He asked “Would Jeff do it?”, and I said yes, in a minute.

Not a very good negotiating stance.
No. Definitely not. That cost me some money. In fact I paid him…No, but seriously, it was done over a weekend. And then he called. I mean, I asked if I was going to speak with him ahead of time, and they said yes. They said he’ll call you Friday. So my whole house was alerted that Clint Eastwood was going to call the house. And the rest is history.

I have to know what your experience with Clint was like in comparison to Woody Allen.
Well Woody shoots, there are guys that shoot a lot more film than Woody. But Clint wants it to happen for the first time in front of the camera. And once you know that, and you’re told that early, you say oh, I get it. So, you do all your homework, and you get your lines ahead of time, and you just fling it. When they roll, you react to Clint, and that’s it. The first few movies I did, I went back to the hotel and thought about all the things I wished I’d done. But it took me a while to realize that if you’re just open to what’s going on, and you react, you’ll be fine.

WANDA DEJESUS

Last in the room was Wanda DeJesus, who plays Graciella Rivers, a woman who’s lost her sister to murder, in the film. To be honest, it was the first time I’d ever seen her in a movie, or at least remembered it, yet her resume is fairly solid….GHOSTS OF MARS, FLAWLESS, THE INSIDER. But this one I won’t forget. Besides the scene where her and Clint get busy, if you know what I mean, she’s one of the hotter middle-aged actresses out there. Sure, she’s a little on the melodramatic side, both on the camera and in our little hotel suite, but she seemed cool…for the most part. Here’s more from Wanda….

Who was the best on-camera kiss you ever had?
I never kiss and tell.

Had you met Clint before this? If not, what was the first encounter?
I hadn’t met him before. My first meeting with him was on the set, amazingly enough. Clint doesn’t audition. He just picks a project, and has in mind a short list of people he wants to consider for the film. I was on one of those lists. He had seen the body of work that I had done and agreed that I would be a good choice. And when I got on the set, it was one of the most difficult days of the shooting, in the grocery store as we’re looking over where my sister was shot. So we really focused into the work on the first day. But as time went on, there was more of a banter and understanding between Clint and me.

Is it tough not having any input on your character from the director ahead of time?
Well, that’s why I’ve studied acting. But, there’s a novel and screenplay. I read both, and my job is to fill in the blanks. I came in ready to fill in the blanks. Clint is not a director who likes to talk anything to death. It’s more about showing him what you’re going to do. And I love that freedom because if you’re a trained actor, not just a movie actor, you’re coming in with a lot of stuff, and you’re going to try lots of stuff.

Is it a norm to go into a film without meeting a costar or the director?
It’s happened. I’ve met people I’m going to work with for the first time on a set. But you come in with your work, and ideas, and go from there. Sure a lot of people feel more comfortable meeting ahead of time, but I’ve been in more situations than not where I’m meeting them on the set for the first time.

What’s coming up for you?
I’m doing a PBS Masterpiece theater titled ALMOST A WOMAN, airing September 15th. It’s based on another novel with the same name. It’s an interesting one because PBS has never done this before. It’s a piece that starts off in Spanish, and as the family assimilates more of the Spanglish comes in and the subtitles disappear.

So, there you have it. Again, I want to thank the friendly folks at Warner Brothers. Helpful as always.

To criticize me, email joblo@joblo.com. To stroke my ego, email me at johngunn@joblo.com.

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