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INT: Matt Dillon

It seemed that Matt Dillon’s entire filmography was running on cable in the early 80s. I knew Matt as the guy in all the S.E. Hinton movies: THE OUTSIDERS, TEX , RUMBLE FISH. At any given time it seemed that I could flip the channel and see him in LITTLE DARLINGS or OVER THE EDGE. Who could forget the classic moment in THE OUTSIDERS where he says “Let’s do it for Johnny, man. Let’s do it for Johnny!” Actually, even as a little kid that line made me laugh, even though it was supposed to be serious.

Throughout the years, Dillon has continued to act, never becoming a major star, but never going into the wilderness either. Now, on the heels of his performance in the acclaimed drama CRASH, comes Dillon’s first family film, HERBIE: FULLY LOADED. In the film Dillon plays Trip Murphy, a vain NASCAR champion, who is out to destroy Herbie at any cost. Dillon is hilarious in the film, practically stealing the show. I was laughing so much at his performance that I’m pretty sure the people around me were staring to wonder what the hell was wrong with me.

Dillon met up with us in Los Angeles recently to talk about HERBIE, co-star Lindsay Lohan, and the unlikely role that he has in the upcoming film FACTOTUM. I can’t tell you how much I wanted to ask him to give me a line reading of “Let’s do it for Johnny!” But, fearing that I would look like a jackass, I kept my request to myself.

MATT DILLON

So was this a guilty pleasure?

Well that’s a good question. You know, I was in the middle of doing this film FACTOTUM, Charles Bukowski, the whole other end of the spectrum. Playing a drunken poet, totally adult thematic stuff, let’s just say that. And then I got the call, that they’d like me to play this guy, this bad guy, the sort of antagonist in HERBIE. And I was like “HERBIE? You know, I remember HERBIE!” So then I was at first going “I don’t think so”. And then they sent me the script, and I then I was even more like I don’t think so after I read it. Then they said no, we’re gonna do a rewrite on it. We really wanna make the character…we wanna make it smarter, funnier.

When I read the rewrite I laughed out loud. I found myself laughing. I said alright, I’m going to go have some fun, do this Disney movie.

Was it easy for you to play the antagonist?

It was really a kind of a fun thing to do. It was a lot of fun. He’s such a conceited, narcissistic character you know? The first draft was not well conceived. I mean, I thought I could see where the story was kind of a commercial, fun ride, the kids will love it. And then they said we’re gonna work on it. I said I’ll believe it when I see, because that’s happened before. So I still hadn’t committed. Then I read the rewrite and it had really changed a lot. I thought it was funnier. I had fun. I was laughing out loud. I said this is a comedic turn for me.

Is it a different mindset on a big movie than CRASH?

Yeah, it’s different in a lot of ways. First of all, you know, the accommodations are a lot better for one thing. When we were doing FACTOTUM, right before I left, at first they actually tried, and I was being a sport about, they were saying, we’re not gonna use trailers on this movie. And I’m like, with all these locations? You guys better provide something, They tried doing that for three days, and that didn’t work out. It’s just funny. Making independent films is a really nice feeling. There really is, there’s something intimate about it. People are really doing it; you know…they’re not doing it for the money that’s for sure. That’s really nice. But then it’s really nice to do a film that’s got…they have the time to shoot it and it’s a bigger production. It’s nice. I like to work in both areas.

You have some hairy car stunts in CRASH and this movie.

In CRASH I didn’t really have any collisions. But we had a really big set piece with that. With HERBIE, sometimes…I haven’t seen the completed film. But I remember there’s the first race, which I thought was really fun.

I didn’t really do much of it, you know. I did take one of those stock cars out on the track in Irwindale. You do not want to be in the passenger seat. Because at first, you know you gotta get schooled on it. I don’t get car sick but…once you’re driving you don’t feel that at all. You know, they really strap you in, that was something that took a little getting used to. You’re really strapped in there. It was a little claustrophobic. A lot of it was done, obviously, on greenscreen. I look over and Herbie’s upside down going along side me. I thought it was fun.

There was funny stuff. I liked doing the scene with the commercial, he’s doing the endorsements. I like the comedic aspects of it. What I really enjoyed, which was a kick for me, I was just down in Puerto Rico for this event for the Water Keepers, which is an environmental group that Robert Kennedy has. And he’s got like 11 kids, and there are all these kids around and I told them I was coming, that I have to do press for HERBIE. And all the little kids were like “I wanna see HERBIE. Where’s HERBIE?” And my nieces and nephews are all like, you know, they’ve seen me on tv. They can finally see me in a movie, where I’m not a drug addict, an alcoholic, or having a ménage a trios with 2 high school students, you know.

Talk about your experience on CRASH.

To do that film, obviously the scene where I pull over Thandie Newton and Terrence Howard in the car, that was pretty extreme. I didn’t feel too comfortable; I remember feeling a little strange, just playing that guy. You know, it’s a character. I don’t have some pathological thing where I have to go home, I can’t get out of the character, and I start assaulting people or something. I really can do it, I can get into it. I work from the inside out. So all that stuff I play is personal. I always go to the personal place first.

As far as leaving it home, I can always leave it home. What was uncomfortable about CRASH was really to watch that scene. At the premiere I actually felt so uncomfortable that I didn’t want to sit through the rest of it. For me. The character has redemption in the end, which is one of the things that I liked about the film. Not just him, but that’s consistent throughout the film. It’s really smart in that way.

You worked with Nicole Kidman, who has BEWITCHED coming out around the same time as HERBIE.

First of all, I think Nicole is one of the most talented, versatile actresses out there. She works very hard, and really prolific too. She makes the most of a good situation, works with the best directors. She doesn’t shy away, she goes to work. Ad she’s good, she’s very versatile. I just had dinner with her actually. I hadn’t seen her in a while. She’s fun. She’s doing a comedy. She goes back and forth.

Is she a natural for that role?

BEWITCHED…is she a natural? That’s a trick question! (LAUGHS)

Will you do more directing?

I wanna direct again. I’m in the middle of writing a screenplay. It’s kind of a true crime story that refuses to be contained. I’m having a hard time compressing it down to what would be a typical film length. But it’s not two movies. Right now it’s like one and half movies is the problem. There’s a lot of good stuff in it, I just have to figure out what the story is and cut away the rest to shape the script. So that’s what I’m doing right now.

What happened with the release of CITY OF GHOSTS?

I know, it hasn’t opened in a number of major markets. I’m disappointed with that, I’ll be perfectly honest with you. I’m really disappointed with that. Nothing seems to work by the designs that we have. I was thinking people will understand that I’ve been out of the spotlight for three years and haven’t done a movie for a while, once they see CITY OF GHOSTS. They’ll know that I took on this big ambitious project and it’s gonna be worthwhile, which I honestly thought it was. I wouldn’t say that it was flushed down the toilet. But I don’t think…it didn’t get a healthy push from them. Listen, I’m being a little diplomatic in a way because I was a little not happy with certain aspects of it. I didn’t have a really strong producer. I had producers that were good at number crunching. But they weren’t with me to…I was doing a little bit of that on my own.

You weren’t the only person whose film had a troubled MGM release.

MGM did not have the great reputation for that. I’ll say this about…MGM/UA. They gave me a shot to do my first picture. They didn’t interfere and they were fair with me. So in that way I have to tip my hat to those people. A lot of that was new to me, the marketing stuff, that part of it. I learned a lot on that. I’d rather have that, I’d rather have at least a picture that came out. It was at least the vision that I had, the film that I wanted ultimately to make. Other people have horrible things, where their film is disfigured in such a way it doesn’t matter if it comes out. We can’t really control it. I mean, CRASH, in some ways, I showed up and did the best I could and had nothing to do with the results of it. That I have to tip my hat to Paul Haggis the filmmaker and the smart marketing that was done by Lions Gate and everyone involved, the cast, I’m gonna give credit to the creative people who made the film.

I showed up, I did the best I could. That’s all you can do as an actor. Do your part. And then the results were terrific. People responded to the film in a very emotional way. That’s really great. When you get a film that does that, that’s great. I was talking to Angela about HERBIE. She was just telling me it’s great, kids really respond to this film. And there’s nothing like that. If you’re in a film and you’re sitting in the theatre and you can feel that. You don’t always get that. Some of the more interesting films we see and we like, the audience doesn’t seem to get as involved. The serious film viewers are hooked in and it finds it’s audience that way.

HERBIE takes a funny jab at Jeff Gordon.

You know I met Jeff Gordon, long before this movie. Great guy, really great guy. I don’t follow NASCAR. But that guy is like Pele, Michael Jordan or something. He wins, he wins period. He’s a nice guy. Is there a jab at Jeff Gordon? Yeah, because that’s in the film. But Jeff Gordon knows that’s a joke. I think that guy’s amazing. And he’s really nice. In a funny way, Trip Murphy is Jeff Gordon if Jeff Gordon was a conceited idiot.

Can you talk about some of the challenges of FACTOTUM?

Well I did FATCOTUM, we shot in Minnesota in the summer before we shot HERBIE. We did HERBIE last Fall. And the way it came about for me was sort of out of the blue. Sort of like one of those things. Sometimes it just sorta happens in such an effortless way, the way something comes together. I was a big Bukowski fan when I was younger. I read all of his books, just about every one of his novels and short stories when I was in my early 20s. And I loved his work. I didn’t read his poetry because at the time I wasn’t interested in poetry. I never imagined that I would be playing him in a film. So when the director approached me about doing it I was like “you sure you got the right actor?” I’m not really a Bukowski type. He said, “well, remember, it’s Chinaski, who’s the alter ego of Bukowski.”

I said “listen, I cannot do an impersonation, I’m not going to do that, I’m not going to attempt to do an impersonation of Charles Bukowski. They said that’s not what we’re looking for. And I said well okay then I can do this.” And then of course once I started to prepare it was all Bukowski, because ultimately it is autobiographical. It was nice. I spoke to Linda Bukowski, his wife. The first thing I thought was like, well I would think that people would respond that I’m not physically…I don’t look like Bukowski, or Hank. And she was immediately like “You’d be a great Hank.”

I think that’s because in the end Bukowski wasn’t interested in material things you know. Beauty was not interesting, clothing was boring. Those things didn’t matter to him. He was a deep guy. I really liked doing it. I thought that was like another one of those surprises. Doing a Charles Bukowski adaptation. I never imagined I would do it, although I was a fan of his work. To play Hank, that was a lot of fun. It’s the same thing with HERBIE. I never imagined I would be doing a HERBIE movie. And it’s not a remake, as much as it is a sequel. It’s fun, it’s fun to do that. That’s the great things about being an actor.

Talk about working with Lindsay [Lohan].

I liked her. She’s got a really natural quality, there’s great natural energy that she has, I liked working with her. I hope that there’s some kind of chemistry there. I really liked working with her.

What is she 18? How many 18 year olds are under that kind of scrutiny?

You were.

No, I wasn’t in the same way. Of course, I was a famous actor. But somehow I stayed under the radar. But I was certainly out living life. I was no angel, believe me. She’s a kid, she’s doing what she’s doing. That’s what kids do. When I say kid, I don’t mean kid, she’s young person, she’s at that age. I don’t read all the magazines and stuff and stories about her. I liked her. I think she’s good people. I liked working with her.

What do you think about her and the paparazzi?

I think it’s particularly unfair these days. Especially when I see some of the things, the way they’re judging her about her weight, and all that kind of stuff. “Oh how much weight has she lost?” This is like, fostering eating disorders as far as I’m concerned. I don’t think that’s right. I think that is disgusting to tell you the truth. That’s my opinion. I’m disgusted by it, that they treat people this way.

Do you prefer comedy or drama?

I like doing comedy, I like doing drama. Naturally, I like to do…I like doing dramas. I like conflicts. When I do a comedy, I’ve found that romantic comedy is the trickiest one. Often it’s neither. It’s not romantic and it’s not funny. I like a comedy that has, it’s a biting humor. That’s what I liked about this character. I get to poke fun at myself. A lot of his undoing is not because of Herbie or Lindsay’s character. It’s to do with his own ego. I like that it’s his own undoing. He becomes obsessed. His manager, everybody’s telling him “leave it alone, you’re still #1, leave it alone.” And he’s like determined, he’s gotta take it down. That the Volkswagen beat him, he just can’t believe this. He can’t come to grips with this.

Justin said that he saw you talking to the car in between takes.

Justin has a tendency to embellish. I’m don’t mean to throw the guy under the bus. I understand he’s been doing impersonations!

Can you talk about acting opposite Herbie?

I didn’t really act opposite Herbie so much as like, I just played the way a guy…I mean we’ve seen people kicking cars before, and imagine if that car kicked back. So for me, when I mentioned to you I was concerned about the rewrite, you know? The script came in, my agent said there’s one scene I don’t think you’re gonna go for. I said “well what’s that?” He said “it’s the scene where you beat up Herbie, and then Herbie knocks you out. And I read it. And I said “that’s the reason I’m doing the movie!” Because it’s so insane you know? It was fun. It was funny There was lots of kind of physical humor that I got to play. The fact that he gets so rattled. There is something so funny about people how…; even then, even though it’s about a car that has this extra power, or is alive, people get really nuts around cars. They get angry at cars, they get angry at their car, they get angry at people driving in cars. There’s something really common about that.

Will you ever act with your brother?

I hope so. We tried to do it, I actually had in a draft of CITY OF GHOSTS, there was a whole section of the movie that got cut out of the script, because it was never be…you know you had to make decisions. That was that. That was gonna be doing me a solid. We wanna do something together. We’re looking for stuff. We have had a couple things, but they weren’t…that’s the thing. You want it to be the right thing. You don’t wanna just do something just…but I would love to work with him. We would have a lot of fun.

Are you signed for anything right now?

I’m just gonna… I’m working on this rewrite; I’m reading a lot of stuff. You gotta get through the scripts… I’m not signed up to do anything, so you guys…anybody got a job? (room laughs)

What are you going to do with your downtime?

Well it’s not really downtime, that’s the good thing I think about where I’m at now in my life right. I kinda keep moving. I have a project, the script that I told you I’m going to be writing, so that’s what I’m doing. So in fact it’s kind of blessing that I’m not just going right into something because I need to get back into this script.

I love to…like for New Year’s this year I went down to Brazil. I love to travel. And I love absorbing other cultures.

Like where?

I’ve always liked Southeast Asia. It’s a wonderful place. It’s an easy place, the people are great. There’s a lot of history and culture. I liked the serenity of Buddhism there, it’s very beautiful. I find that to be a very nice place to be. Beautiful. There’s something that got under my skin going there. But there’s a lot of places I wanna go.

What do you think of your brother’s show ENTOURAGE?

It’s funny, I mean it’s pretty accurate to, you know…I haven’t seen any…the new season has it started yet?

Tonight.

Tonight! Alright, I better watch that.

Are there any similarities with your relationship?

No, but people have said that. I don’t think so, because remember it was also created by Mark Wahlberg. He had a relationship like that with his brother. But Kevin’s really funny.

HERBIE: FULLY LOADED DOES IT FOR JOHNNY ON JUNE 22

Source: JoBlo.com

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