INT: Ryan Phillippe
Ryan Phillippe has been known more for being Reese Witherspoons
husband than for his acting. This week, he hopes to turn that around
with a lead role in Clint Eastwoods latest film, the
week, Ryan stopped by the Four Seasons in
More than anybody else in this film, the character youre playing is the most connected to the author. Did you feel real pressure in playing this guy?
Yeah, there was definitely an element of that, just the responsibility that comes along with playing someone who I feel was really a pretty great person, and had gone through these experiences. But in a lot of ways it makes my job that much easier, a lot of the work is done for me, this man existed, I can see pictures of him and know how he smiled and talked to his son, and find out how he dealt with people, and read the book and know what was important to him during this battle, it really does a lot of the work for me.
Then its just about making sure that Im prepared enough to replicate his ability with his equipment and the first aid stuff that I really took a lot of time to make sure I got right. But I loved playing someone who I think its great, it feels very special and then when his son was on set and some of the moments I had to that end were just pretty amazing. His wife was there in Chicago when we were shooting. Its pretty cool, it makes it all that much more important.
You come from a military family, right?
Yeah, not to the extent that I wasnt like an army brat kind of thing, but my grandfathers both fought in World War II, my grandfather was on the ground in Germany and my other grandfather was in the Philippines, my dad served in the Navy during Vietnam, my uncles were in Vietnam on the ground, so to pay tribute and to kind of tell a story having to do particularly with World War II, the greatest generation, the men of that time, and children of the depression who then were put into this situation, were responsible for the shape of the world in a lot of ways. That was huge for me.
How did you get this role, where were you when you heard that you got it and what was your first encounter with Mr. Eastwood?
I read that he had optioned this book in the newspaper and I immediately went out and bought it and read it within the next two days, and just thought to myself if there was one thing I could do in it, be involved with it in any capacity, the smallest role, I wouldnt have cared, I just wanted to be a part of it if at all possible. It was the first job in my life Ive ever pursued the way I did this one. Id never written a letter to a director before in my life, and I did on this film.
I went in many times, they didnt want to cast initially people my age, Clint had thought he wanted 19, 20 year olds, the age these guys were, so they so me for the Mike Strank, the Barry Pepper role, and they read me a bunch of times, and then it just got further and further down the line, and it was like, ah, they really wanted me to play Doc, and I just couldnt believe it. I was in my office in Venice when I got the call from my agent, and I literally dropped to my knees, I literally was just praising God, it was one of the better professional moments of my life to get that phone call.
And I had never met him up until that point, because he doesnt read actors. Phyllis Huffman, whos an incredible lady and largely responsible for my getting this job, she passed away after the film was made, but he trusts her implicitly, shes also a friend of his and so her word is really important to him, so I had never met him until we were getting on the Warner Brothers jet to fly to D.C. for our first day, and Adam and Jesse and I were all sitting on the plane just like, Oh, were going to meet him, whats he going to be like? His car pulls up and he gets out and its Clint Eastwood.
Then youre on a private plane with him, sitting like a little boy in the front, looking back at him. And then it takes awhile to get over the fact that youre working with this legend. Then it does and then you find yourself having beers and talking politics with him, because he does really become so hes so easy to be around, hes funny, and he treats people decently.
Your character is set apart from the rest because he has to watch out for everybody else. Did you try to really get into that?
Definitely. I mean, theres something so primal when theyre calling I really thought, these men are wounded and theyre calling out Corpsman, its very much you could substitute, Mommy, or Daddy, in its place, because its just a desperate basic need that they find themselves having when theyre wounded on a battlefield, these are young boys. Yeah, and to know that you cant save everyone, you cant get to everyone, and what a frustration that is.
And hes also set apart I think because hes not a Marine, and hes not carrying an automatic weapon, he doesnt have grenades on him, his job is to preserve life for his unit and his country, and not take it, and I liked having that perspective. I liked how unique that felt to me, to be someone whos out there in just as much peril, if not more because there was a point made about the Japanese snipers who were told to take out the corpsmen because if he dies that means probably another ten marines will die, and also what it does to the morale of the men to see their father-figure, the caretaker, die. So they were in a lot of danger.
What was the trickiest scene to shoot?
Its hard to say, any of the stuff that I did medical, when I did first aid, and I was working with a lot of props, because you only usually do one take, theres a lot of pressure on just making sure that stuffs accurate and getting it right, so those scenes, the scenes where I had to different medical stuff were probably the ones I was most anxious about just because I wanted it to be right and knew we wouldnt do it too many times, and I wanted to impress the boss.
Did Clint give you pats on the back? Is he very demonstrative?
Here and there. No, I mean, hes not, and I like that, I hate when youre on a film set and after every take you go, Oh that was great, that was amazing, he doesnt do any of that. Hell say, (impersonates Eastwood) Thats enough of that. And hes right, and I far prefer that. But I do remember when we did the flag raising, and no one else had ever seen any of us rehearse it, but wed gotten together on our own and studied the tape, and made sure we knew what the physicality was, and when we did it the first time he came over and addressed the group of us, and he said, Im proud of you. That was pretty cool.
Was there archive footage of your character? How did you try to make it accurate?
I very much tried to make it accurate, I had pictures of him, a lot of pictures John Bradley, no audio recordings, Id asked and looked for that but they really couldnt find anything until he was a lot older, and it wouldnt have made as much sense. But I kind of knew somewhat the accent from the area that he lived it, and the book was really helpful, but I didnt have any video of him or anything. I had a lot of pictures, and I put them up all over my trailer and used those pictures and what I could take from the look in his eyes, and that sort of thing, to inspire me every day and keep me grounded and focused on him.
What was it like to shoot in Iceland?
Iceland is just one really diverse landscape, its really wildly diverse, but Reykjavik, the Icelandic people party hard on Friday and Saturday, til sun up and through the night. Yeah, wed blow off a lot of steam, we were doing really physical work, carrying forty pounds of equipment when we were doing the war stuff, we werent treated like actors, we carried our own stuff, we were responsible for each other, yeah, we would definitely when you have a bunch of young guys, particularly young actors on a location with disposable money and that sort of thing, we had a good time.
I hear even though you were shooting in the summer it got really cold?
Yeah it did. Nothing unbearable really, as it would be if you were there in wintertime, but it was that was actually a great move on their part, because theres only a few places in the world that have black sand beaches like Iwo did, and Hawaii would have been one of them, but it would have been such the wrong way to go, because it would have felt like a vacation, here we felt removed and isolated, and on foreign soil and it was just the right way to do it.
Questions? Comments? Manifestos? Send them to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
CLICK IMAGE TO OPEN GALLERY & SEE MORE PICS...