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INT: Michael Vartan

May. 12, 2005by: JoBlo

Actor Michael Vartan is best known for playing Agent Vaughn in the acclaimed TV spy drama "Alias". This week he switches gears as he stars alongside Jennifer Lopez and Jane Fonda in the romantic comedy MONSTER-IN-LAW, opening this Friday. Though he’s most famous for his TV work, French-born Vartan is no stranger to the big screen. Previous credits include roles in NEVER BEEN KISSED, ONE HOUR PHOTO and THE PALLBEARER. It was on the latter film's set that he first met producer J.J. Abrams, the man who would later give him is big break with "Alias".

Vartan stopped by the Four Seasons in Beverly Hills last week to talk about his experience making MONSTER-IN-LAW. Though I’d rather eat glass than spend ten minutes in a room with Jane Fonda and Jennifer Lopez, Vartan had nothing but good things to say about his co-stars. He’s a better man than I. Check it out.

MICHAEL VARTAN

What attracted you to the project?

To be perfectly honest, it was Jane (Fonda) and Jennifer (Lopez). I read the script and it was one of the few romantic comedies that I’ve read that I actually laughed. Cause a lot of times, romantic comedies are sweet and funny, but they’re never good until they hire fun actors to sort of bring the characters to life. This script was actually really funny, but ultimately it was the opportunity to work with Jane and Jennifer. Who could turn that down? I would have dressed up in a cucumber suit if they wanted me to.

Did you have to jump through hoops to get the role?

Not really. The director, Robert (Luketic) was a big promoter of mine. I met Jennifer to make sure that we didn’t hate each other…it was a pretty smooth and non-stressful situation – except when I got the part, I thought, “Oh shit! I’m gonna have to work with Jane and Jennifer now.” (laughs)

Were you surprised at the amount of paparazzi that surrounded Jennifer Lopez?

I think she’s so used to it now that…I was surprised at how calm she is about it. I guess she just understands it’s part of, you know, it’s the flipside of being that famous. There were a couple of times, thought – they were so aggressive, I thought, “Are these guys kidding?” Of course people want to know and everyone digs into everyone’s private life, whatever. But there were times where I really felt like going over and just knocking a guy out.

What were they doing?

She was getting into her car and they were literally smashing themselves against the car with their lenses. And there were L.A. police on motorcycles there and they acted as if the cops weren’t even there, trying to get past them. It was just like, “What the fuck are you guys doing? For a picture?” Well, I guess if it sells for a quarter million, I have a couple of snapshots. (laughs) No. But like I said, she’s used to it. But the thing that really impressed me about her was, when you get to know her on a personal lever, how down-to-earth she is. I don’t know how she is in press conferences or interviews – if I was her, I wouldn’t tell anyone anything because there’s been so much crap written about her and misquotes and invented stuff. I was lucky to get to know her as a person, and I’m here to tell you that she’s wonderful.

What was it like working with your director, Robert Luketic?

Great guy. To me, one of the qualities of a director is someone who can have a vision for his movie and direct the movie and direct the actors – and all actors are so different. Whether it’s me, Jane or Jennifer, we all have our different way that we like to be talked to. For instance, I like line readings. Just tell me exactly how you want me to say the line. I’m not offended; let’s just get it on. Other people like to be more in the character. Robert was very good at finding how everyone liked to be talked to and he was very good at sort of being the chess master, and doing that with such a fun atmosphere on the set. Granted, we weren’t shooting an intense drama. It was easy to have a good time. Between takes we could kind of relax and laugh. To me that’s the most important quality a director can have is if he’s a nice guy, he’s already won half the battle, because the whole set enjoys going to work and it creates a good atmosphere.

Was it important for you to play a character that’s different from the one you play on Alias?

Yeah. Again, this movie was a great opportunity for me – it’s the biggest film I’ve been a part of – and working with Jane and Jennifer, plus the exposure. But ultimately, the parts that I want to play are much darker and the kind of roles that I guess people don’t really see me as being right for me – yet, hopefully. But we all have a dark side and Vaughn--

He has a dark side.

No. It’s TV. There are no dark moments TV, unless it’s on HBO and you can say “fuck.” (laughs) It’s true. I’ve noticed – it’s amazing how much that one word truly affects things. And you wouldn’t think about it and you wouldn’t think it’s a big deal, cause it’s just one little four-letter word that is bleeped every time we say it. But it has a huge impact on the reality of scenes sometimes. Cause I know that when we’re doing scenes on Alias and someone’s mad at someone, “Damnit Sidney!” It’s just not the same.

So you say “F*ck” on the DVD blooper reel.

Are you kidding? That’s all I say on the blooper reel. (laughs) I usually say that word when I’m in the middle of a take that I don’t like and I don’t want them to use, so I just say “f*ck” and they have to cut. That’s how you protect yourself.

How important is it for you to keep one foot in the small screen and one in the big screen?

It’s not important at all. I will go where the wind takes me. I’ve been very lucky to be on a show that somehow has a cool factor, just based on the guest stars we’ve been lucky enough to work with. Cause you never really know…we make the show and we like it, but you don’t know if people like it or they don’t. The ratings are weird – it’s such an archaic system anyway – but when you get people like Angela Bassett and Ethan Hawke and Ricky Gervais, these people must like the show. There’s gotta be some sort of cool factor about the show for these people to want to do it. I know that if I’d just won a Golden Globe, I wouldn’t go on…well, I won’t say, but there are certain shows you know that as an actor who’s just won a Golden Globe or been nominated for an Oscar, you wouldn’t (do). So that’s really flattering. But to get back to your question, which I haven’t answered at all, if it’s good, it’s good. I think the crossover now – it happens all the time, whereas 10-15 years ago you were either a TV actor or a film actor.

Are you surprised at how successful "Alias" has been?

That’s the great thing and sort of the downfall of the show is that – not that there’s a downfall – but it’s so hard to maintain that. I mean the pilot, to this day is one of the best hours of television that I’ve ever seen. It was just so new and so different and that role was so fantastic. And Jennifer (Garner) just out of the box found that character immediately. It’s hard to maintain that. Last year – season three – was the toughest on all of us.

Questions? Comments? Manifestos? Send them to me at thomasleupp@joblo.com.

Source: JoBlo.com

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