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INT: Giovanni Ribisi

When I think of Giovanni Ribisi, the first thing that comes to mind is Phoebe’s corky cute brother on the hit TV show "Friends". He’s not your conventional pretty boy actor but he has a unique “boyish” charm that makes him absolutely adorable and endearing. With an artsy chameleon quality to transform into challenging characters, Ribisi wears his next impressive guise as a strange, rough looking, jacked-up weirdo obsessed with serial killers to partake in the ensemble cast of multi dimensional characters in the upcoming gloomy drama THE DEAD GIRL.

With rousing and extraordinary performances in films like THE GIFT, THE OTHER SISTER and BOILER ROOM, in THE DEAD GIRL, Ribisi’s unusual character Rudi becomes a source of strength and rescue for Toni Collette’s character, who is emotionally imprisoned and in fear of breaking away from her mother’s abusive control. Director Karen Moncrieff who previously made her debut with the acclaimed BLUE CAR, creates and blends a formidable palate of conflicted characters living and struggling with divergent burdens. Rudy’s one of the puzzle pieces of the five colliding stories connecting and unveiling the mysterious murder of THE DEAD GIRL. Check out what the animated Ribisi had to say when I had the recent pleasure of interviewing him.

Giovanni Ribisi

We’ve never seen you in a role like this one before. What about the character in Dead Girl attracted you to the script?

Yeah, I think it was the whole thing. The script and sort of poetic existential nature of this one event where there’s five different view points on it. It was that and also this guy who is sort of…I don’t know, it was a challenge and it’s hard to explain. I just sort of had this affinity for it and also it was of course working with this acting royalty, Toni Colette.

What was she like to work with?

She was great because it was a situation where you know it’s four days on a movie and you’re like risqué and there’s a whole thing and you’re like ‘hi I’m Giovanni’ and she’ like ‘hi I’m Toni’, alright let’s get naked! But she was totally open and just available for that and it was great. I w as actually the squeamish one and Karen (Moncrieff) was like no I want you to…words that I really can’t say right now, but yeah.

Did that really work for you?

Yeah I think so, possibly. That was the thing. I think that the guy as well…this is one of the main things for me as well is that it wasn’t a movie about good versus evil. As much as it was about human beings. It sort of touches on the concept of ethics where ethics is not that, it’s not morality- it’s about survival and it’s about ethics being a personal thing. And I think that ultimately on the surface this guy would be chastising. He would be an outsider and not something you would want your ddaughter to hang out with. But for her, he’s perfect and he’s like this liberating element and what she (needs) in her life.

Do you think they lived happily ever after?

Oh I think it was the grassy road and then walking hand in hand with the sunset (laughs).

Do you think that he knows from what he sees on TV, that he’s going to be this liberating guy in her life?

Yeah and that was something we had conversations about. And at the same time, it was also conversations about pulling the wool over people’s eyes into thinking that this could be the guy. So you have this extreme pulls with the character.

But then it would have been too obvious.

Yeah, I just think that it was the thing just working with Toni. I always love those things where you spend two months preparing for them, and then it’s like three days of working.

Did you step up the Pilates or something?

Hello!!! Yeah I mean I have this rule that right when you know you’re doing something or even before you start working on tit and we had a lot of time. The movie was actually to be made a year before but the Karen (Moncrieff) was pregnant and the whole thing with that it got postponed. Generally I try to exercise and keep myself in a sort of in a neutral way physically- just sort of either direction, whether it’ putting on weight or losing weight- whatever you imagine. It’s like one of those things where you have an arbitrary concept of the guy and then you’re like ‘ok, you have to f*cking execute that’. You have to do that. Is it possible, that kind of thing?

What was your workout regime like?

It was intense. I still run a lot, a fight a lot and I surf. So those three elements are what make me healthy but then it’s in the diet and everything.

How was it different working with Karen (Moncrieff), the director than with anyone else?

She is an actor herself and she’s an extremely intelligent person which is sort to needless to say because of the script and you have that evidence there. She’s sensitive in really this maternal way for the whole process of acting and its’ easy to criticizer that. People don’t get it and they want the drama, and acting, and need to be acting, the whole thing. But no, I think it’s a really sensitive thing. It’s you-you’re the person who’s going to be chastised, your being, you’re sort of psychology. She really demanded a rehearsal process even when she had a baby that was less than a year old. That was the difference, and also it was her second film and it’s not like working with someone who’s done 16 films and they’re like ‘whatever, just come to work and be on time’ kind of thing.

Did Karen have you do anything different to prepare for this movie at all?

No, it was just conversations and the script at hand. I also have so many times seen a director’s first movie and it’s not really representative of their whole body of work. At the first moment for me it’s just a learning thing. More often than not you see people go from here to there from their first or second film.

Can you talk about the rehearsal practice and the three months before the 4 days what you did other than physically to prepare yourself for the role?

It just sort of reading it over and over, and reading it and understanding, fitting the words in your mouth. There was a little bit of a dialect there and so I was just working on that. And then sort of just trying to...ultimately it comes down to having that confidence and that confidence of expression and communication and that’s it. Robert Duvall said to me, ‘you start at one point, you go all over the f*cking world reading on things and then go oh I’ve got it and then you realize you’re right back at the first point where you started’. But the difference is the confidence behind that first decision.

What else made you want to do this movie and once you saw the whole prism put together, what did you thing about it?

I think for me it’s that thing of the concept of ethics. I’m responsible for my acting and hopefully what an actor does in my opinion-there are so many concept sand why people act and what they want to do and why they want to express themselves- but ultimately I want to have and experience, so an audience member will hopefully have an experience. It’s not pretentious or anything, it’s very simple. As far as the story and the expression of the story, its’ exactly that.

It’s something that denounces good versus evil and all of that. It basically says this is human. In a way you can interpret the film as (man-hating), where it’s like all the men are f*cked up, demonized assholes. And the women are the martyrs and all. But I don’t think so. I think it’s actually really embracing all of that and saying this is just human beings and this is life and this is life as we know it and f*cking wake up to it. It’s again; ethics to me is a personal thing. It's a thing that’s based on survival as opposed to good versus evil.

Were you familiar with Karen’s first film, Blue Car?

Yeah, I saw it afterwards.

Are you working on anything next?

I did. Everything is sort of reversing itself ‘because that was the last in a succession of four films that I did. So those are just coming out. There’s the Dead Girl, there’s one called The Gardener of Eden, there’s one called The Dog Problem, then there’s one called The Perfect Stranger.

Are you planning on writing and directing yourself? It seems inevitable.

Yeah I do. I’m working on something right now but it’s just a matter of consummating that. Like that’s the most precious time where the clock is not ticking and that’s where its’ such a shame that so many people just want to issue what could very well be a replacement for toilet paper guys (just joking)!

After your ex con role in My Name is Earl, do you find yourself believing a little bit more in karma now?

I don’t know. I think it’s more of an existential thing. That’s just a thing where I grew up with Jason (Lee). Jason and I were roommates. He’s like my surrogate brother in a way.

Is it weird to act with people who you are that close with?

No, not at all. It’s so fast doing television and you’re having so much fun that you sort of forget what you do.

What are you more comfortable in working with, Television or movies?

Right now it depends on your life how hungry you are for something and what you want to do. Yes and if the opportunity comes up to do bigger roles. There are so many different elements. There’s a thing where I like to lie to myself and go ‘oh I don’t think about that’ so I sort of follow that suit. Yes but to some degree I do think about the star role but it’s really about the story and not the starring role.

The good thing about not taking the lead role is that you don’t get typed cast. Which director’s did you feel were benchmarks for you?

Usually it’s the director’s that have experience with acting, like Adam Goldberg, Karen (Moncrieff), or my friend Scott Caan. There’s definitely been a Sam Raimi and David Lynch that have been so cool because they are not coming from anything concerning the actor’s studio. They’re painters. David Lynch is a painter and photographer or Tony Scott is the same thing-he went to school and studied art. So it’s a whole different thing. You realize how different being a director is to a medium of that compared to acting. They are completely different and in two different worlds. And then they just come together like that.

Do you find Tony Scott may be more interested in how shot looks than someone like Karen?

I think Karen may lean more towards Elia Kazan because he was and actor and part of the actor’s studio, and Tony’s more about the visual and the David Lynch type of thinking. Tony’s acting in his movies is incredible and then you have Karen- this is a beautiful movie, the dead Girl. But yeah I think this is sort of what sort of distinguishes the directors.

Was there something Karen said or did while directing that made you think she’s had experience with acting as well?

Yeah ‘cause she was all of her experiences, as far as what I know about her sort of add up to somebody who can make you, or at least me feel like I’m originating and being responsible (without being on a leash) for what I’m doing but at the same time it’s completely under her control. On a specific level, you [‘re not necessarily denigrating them, but you’re accepting that letting them lure you with what they are doing but then at the same time understand that and push that in the direction where you ultimately want your story to manifest.

Have you ever painted?

Yeah well my mother is a graduate of Berkley and she got a masters degree in fine arts so that runs in my family. I don’t like doing graphics and fine arts as much as collecting art. So yeah.

What do you collect?

My most recent acquisition is Banksias painting and then I love this artist Gottfried Helnwein. He has this landscapes I love personally.

What’s a movie that you did that you think sort of got away without the recognition it may have deserved?

I think possibly this movie that I did called Heaven which was like interesting because at the time Miramax had Gangs of New York come out and the only reason I say that is because I think I literally went f*cking crazy doing that movie because I had to learn another language. And it wasn’t necessarily learning another language, but it was also to start speaking Roman in that language and the dialect of that. There was in certain time that I had to learn that language which was like 12 days or something like that, and I was in a hotel room for seven days straight. And then I remember it wasn’t like it came out in a couple of theaters, it was like ‘when is Heaven coming out?’ and then I looked down and I think it was this sort of a weird coincidence and I remember looking down and it’s like ‘oh it’s out.’ (laughs) ‘What? Ok, damnit.” So it was that kind of thing.

Any plans to see the revival of Suburbia while you’re here?

Yeah I’m leaving tomorrow but I do want to see that. I was actually going to go see it possibly with Rick (Linklater) when it opened but didn’t get a chance to. That would be great. That was an experience that was great for me because that was the only film, because it was my first movie where we rehearsed like a play. We did three weeks of eight hours a day. Then you think that everything else is going to be like that and then they say ‘we’re going to have two weeks of rehearsal’. Ok that’s cool but then the director's never there because he’s thinking about set design, cinematography or whatever it is and so Rick was just adamant about it. And we shot the movie before we shot the movie. We shot it on video at the location.

Do you think about doing theater?

Yes because I’m a native Angelino in the theater and I definitely want to do that. I definitely agree that every actor should try to do Hamlet or something like that. But I went to school where there were like a hundred people in class and it was this ethics class twice a week and the mentally was literally and not figuratively or not like, it is a production. They have stage managers and sets and the whole thing. It was really like sort of doing that for ten years of my life.

When you saw the final completed movie of the Dead Girl, was it what you expected it to be? Was the experience different because you were only in one part of the film?

I have such a hard time being objective about things and so often it’s similar to reading a book and then you go see the movie afterwards and go, ’oh I would have done that differently’ or ‘why didn’t they have that part of the story in there?’, and so its’ that in a way times a billion. So there are so many different things, and I think it’s also what drives people- I don’t know if you’ve ever been drunk at a wedding and really just decided to put on the dance moves and then you see the videotape the next day and want to erase it. That’s sometimes what I can be like.

Are you critical of yourself?

Yeah, but I think anybody is really. It's all proverbial within this industry to be your worst critic, whatever that is. So I don’t know- some people can’t even watch themselves. I’ve been on this kick lately, ‘ok what are my habits?’ I used to watch playback but that will drive a director crazy!! You can watch playback without the sounds. That’s an interesting thing. I was watching a movie n the plane over here with out the sound and that was great. That needs to be done more often for aspiring filmmakers. Visually, in pictures watching a story like that is great.

Would you be interested in doing any voice over work or books on tape?

Absolutely. Yeah, that’s fun. I think people have said there’s too much narration in films, but I don’t mind that. I think it helps that you can add a different layer and subtext. For instance, one of my favorite movies I’ve seen in years is Little Children and that narration’s is great.

Source: JoBlo.com

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