The actor talks about his latest role in the Lindsay Lohan starrer,
Herbie: Fully Loaded
He started his career as a rebel, so he's used to playing the bad guy in his films. Only now, Matt Dillon plays the villian Disney style in the newest 'Herbie' movie, Herbie: Fully Loaded. He plays one of the biggest names in the NASCAR world, Trip Murphy, and the rival driver to Lindsay Lohan's character. I had a chance to talk with Matt about acting with a car, as well as Lindsay Lohan. He also dishes a little dirt on possibly working with his brother, Kevin, on his show "Entourage." Here's how the interview went:
So was as this a guilty pleasure?
Matt Dillon: Well, that's a good question. You know, I was in the middle of doing this film, Factotum, this Charles Bukowski, the whole other end of the spectrum, you know, playing a drunken poet, it's totally adult thematic stuff. Let's just say that. And then I got the call that they'd like me to play this guy's bad guy, the sort of the antagonist, in "Herbie." And I was like 'Herbie?' You know, I remember 'Herbie' and so then I was at first going, "I don't think so," and then they sent me the script and then I was even more like "I don't think so," after I read it. But they said, "No, we're gonna do a re-write. We really want to make the character, we want to make it smarter and funnier." And you know, when I read the re-write, I laughed out loud, you know? I found myself laughing and said, "All right, I'm gonna go have some fun and do this teen movie."
How was playing a role like this?
Matt Dillon: He was, I mean it really was a kind of fun thing to do. You know, it was a lot of fun. You know, he's kind of, he's such a conceited, narcissistic character you know, and that was yeah, that's what I mean when I read the first draft. I thought it was like not well conceived, I mean, I thought that I could see where the story was, it's a commercial fun ride, the kids'll love it but the character wasn't [well written] and then they said they we're gonna work on it. And I said, "I'll believe it when I see it because that's happened before." So I still hadn't committed, and then I read the rewrite and it really had changed a lot, and I thought it was, I thought it was funnier. I had fun. I was laughing out loud so all right, you know, this is a comedic turn for me.
Was this a different mindset going from Crash, such a dark and different film to a film to this?
Matt Dillon: Yeah, it's different in a lot of ways. First of all, you know, the accommodations are a lot better for one thing. In fact when we were doing Factotum right before I left, at first they actually tried, and I was being a sport about it, they were saying, "We're not gonna use trailers on this movie." 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 so, so, you know, It's just funny, you know, making independent films is a really nice feeling. It really is. There's something intimate about it and people are really doing it, you know, they're not doing it for the money, that's for sure, and that's really nice. But then it's really nice to do a film, that's got, you know, that they have the time to shoot and, you know, there's a bigger budget. It's nice. I like to work in both areas.
You had some pretty hairy car stunts in both these movies, in Crash and in 'Herbie.' Is there a preference?
Matt Dillon: Well, in Crash I didn't really have any - I didn't have any collisions. I mean, we had a really big set piece with that and, and you know it's funny with 'Herbie' sometimes I was like, I didn't - I haven't seen any, you know, the completed film but I remember this; the first race which I thought was really fun. It really looked like an old movie, you know? Like one of those old movies and you know I didn't really do much of it. I mean I did take one of those stock cars out on the track, out in Irwindale and you did not want to be in the passenger seat because at first you've gotta get schooled on it. I don't get car sick, but you definitely, but once you're driving, you don't feel that at all. They really strap you in. That was something that took a little getting used to. I mean you're really, really strapped in there. It's a little claustrophobic. But as far as, I mean a lot of it was done on obviously, on green screen, and jeez, that's a lot of, you know, 'Herbie,' and I look over and Herbie's upside down going alongside me. Um, yeah, I thought it was fun, you know, um, there was some, you now, funny stuff. I liked doing the scene with the commercial, you know, doing the endorsement. I liked it, the comedic aspects of it and what is also kind of like you talk about a guilty pleasure. I mean like what I really enjoyed which was a kick for me was like now I was just down in Puerto Rico for this event for the Water Keepers, it's an environmental group that Robert Kennedy has. And he's got like 11 kids and there were all these kids around and I told them I was coming, that I had to do press for Herbie and all the little kids were like, "I want to see Herbie, Where's Herbie," you know, and my nieces and nephews were all like they've seen me on TV and they can finally see me in a movie, where I'm not like a, you know, a drug addict, alcoholic, having a menage a trois with two high school students.
Were you able to leave your role in Crash at the end of the day?
Matt Dillon: Yeah, well you know, I mean, I'm really, I mean to do that film obviously doing the scene where I pull over Thandie Newton and Terrence [Howard] out of the car, that was pretty extreme – didn't feel too comfortable. I remember feeling a little strange, just playing that guy. But you know, it's a character, you know, and I'm not, I don't have some sort of pathological thing where I have to go home, you know and I can't get out of the character and start assaulting people. So I really can do that. I can get into it, I work from the inside out, so I mean all that stuff that I play is personal, you know, I always go to the personal place first. I definitely work from the inside out, but, you know, as far as leaving it home, I always can. I can always leave it home.
What was uncomfortable about Crash, I mean, was to watch that scene, I mean, you know, at the premiere. I actually felt so uncomfortable I actually didn't want to sit through the rest of the premiere. It's just in that scene, I mean the character has redemption at the end - which is one of the things that I liked about the film, not just him, but that's consistent throughout the film - that, you know, it really, it's really smart that way, the script and stuff and, so just to answer your question about, you know, that was the hardest part to actually watch.
You've had a chance to work with Nicole Kidman, could you say a few words about her and what she means to Hollywood and what you think of her being cast in this role in Bewitched?
Matt Dillon: Well, first of all, I think Nicole is one of the most talented, versatile actresses out there. She works very hard. And uh, and really prolific, too. She seems to work, you know, she seems to work with really, you know, she makes, she makes the most of a good situation with the very best directors. She doesn't shy away. She goes to work, and she's good. She's very versatile. And I just had dinner with her, a bunch of people - it's good too, I hadn't seen her in awhile. I really liked to work with her. And, you know, she's fun. I mean she's doing a comedy, she goes back and forth. I admire that.
Is she a natural for that role?
Matt Dillon:Bewitched? Ha ha ha, is she a natural? That's a trick question.
Do you want to direct again?
Matt Dillon: Yeah, yeah, I do. I want to direct again. I'm in the middle of writing a screen play. 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 like a typical film length. But it's not like, it's not two movies. It's like right now it's like one and a half movies is the problem. It's just that there's a lot of good stuff in it and I just have to figure out what the story is and, you know, cut away the rest and shave the script so that's what I'm doing right now.
In the movie you had a slight funny jab towards Jeff Gordon. Are you actually friends?
Matt Dillon: You know, I met Jeff Gordon. I met Jeff Gordon long before that movie. Great guy, really great guy. Unbelievably, I don't follow NASCAR, but that guy's like Pele or Michael Jordan or something. He wins. He wins, period. And he's like, he's a nice guy. I think when I say is there a jab at Jeff Gordon? Yeah, I think, yeah, because that's in the film. But Jeff knows that that's a joke. I think that guy's amazing, and he's a really nice guy. So in a funny way, Trip Murphy is Jeff Gordon if Jeff Gordon was a conceited idiot.
Talk a bit more about what attracts you to projects. What are you working on now?
Matt Dillon: Well I did Factotum. We shot it in Minnesota right in the summer before we did 'Herbie.' We did 'Herbie' last fall and the way it came about for me was sort of out of the blue. Again, it's sort of like one of those things. Sometimes it just sort of 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, every one of his novels and his short stories when I was in my early twenties and I loved his work. I didn't read his poetry. At the time I wasn't interested in poetry. I was a big fan of his work. I never imagined I would be playing in a film so when the director approached me about doing it, I was like "you sure you got the right actor?" I mean I'm not really a Bukowski type, and he said, "Well remember, it's Chinaski who's the alter-ego of Bukowski. And we're not looking," I said, "Listen I cannot do an impersonation. I'm not gonna do that. I'm not gonna attempt to do an impersonation of Charles Bukowski." And he said, "That's not what we're looking for." And I said, "Well, ok, I can do this." And then of course once I started to prepare for the film it was all Bukowski because it is him, ultimately it is auto-biographical. It was nice. I spoke to Linda Bukowski, his wife, and you know the first thing I thought was well, I would think that people would respond that I'm not physically, I don't physically appear, I'm not, I don't have, I don't look like Bukowski or Hank, you know? 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. Like beauty was not interesting to him. Clothing was boring. Those things did not matter to him. I think it was more. He was a deep guy and so I really liked doing it. I thought that was like another one of those prizes, you know, like doing a Charles Bukowski adaptation. I never imagined I would do it although I was a fan of his work, and to play Hank, that was, that was a lot of fun. And it's the same thing with 'Herbie.' I mean like I never imagined I would be doing a Herbie movie. And it's not a remake as much as it's a sequel. You know, it's fun to do that. That's the great thing about being an actor, you know, you can just jump to different jobs.
Talk a little bit about what Lindsay was like.
Matt Dillon: Lindsay, I liked her. I thought she was, I like her, I like her. She's got a really natural quality and kind of there's a great kind of energy that she has. And I liked working with her. I hope that there's some kind of like chemistry there, but I really liked working with her.
Is she misunderstood by the press?
Matt Dillon: You know, I think she's like, 18, 19, I don't know what she is...
Matt Dillon: Well how many 18 year olds are under that kind of scrutiny, you know what I mean?
Well, you were so...
Matt Dillon: Yeah, and I was. No I wasn't in the same way, because I was, I stayed... Yeah of course I was a famous actor, but I somehow stayed under the radar. I don't know. Well, in a way, you know, but I was certainly out there living, living life. I was no angel, believe me. And so I think, look she's a kid, she's doing what she's doin', that's what kids do man. They learn. And I mean when I say kid, she's young. I don't mean kid, she's a young person - she's a young person. She's at that age and so I think she is misunderstood. But just because, I don't know if she's misunderstood, I mean I don't know, don't follow, I don't read, I don't read, you know, all the magazines and stuff, stories bout her, but I would imagine from what I gather, you know, I liked her, I think she's good people, I liked working with her....
The paparazzi weren't as intrusive back when you were that age.
Matt Dillon: Yeah, I think it's particularly unfair these days especially when I see some of the things where they're judging women on their weight and all this kind of stuff. Like 'oh how much weight did she lose?' 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?
Matt Dillon: I like doing comedy, I like doing drama. Naturally I like to do, I like doing dramas, I like conflict, and when I do a comedy, you know, I've found that, like romantic comedy is the trickiest one, because often it's neither: it's not romantic and it's not funny. So like, I like a comedy that's biting. It's biting humor or really quirky humor. And that's what I liked about this character. I get to poke fun at myself, poke fun at the character sort of like... I mean a lot of his undoing is not because of Herbie, not because of Lindsay's character, it's to do with his own ego. I like it that that's his own undoing. He becomes obsessed, his manager, everybody's telling him, leave it alone, you're still number one, leave it alone, Trip. And he's like determined. He's got to take it down. It's only that the Volkswagen beat him. He just can't believe this, he can't come to grips with this.
Justin Long was telling us that between takes you talked to the car...
Matt Dillon: Justin, Justin has a tendency to embellish. I understand he's been doing impersonations.
Well, granted that that may have been embellished, could you tell us about acting opposite 'Herbie?'
Matt Dillon: I didn't really act opposite 'Herbie' so much as like I just played it the way a guy, I mean we've seen people kicking cars before, you know, and I think, you know, imagine if that car kicked back, you know, maybe we wouldn't. So for me, like why I mentioned to you that I was concerned about the re-write, you know, the script came in my agent said there's one scene I don't think you're gonna go for. I said what's that and he said it's the scene when 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. But yeah, it was fun. I mean it was funny. I mean I didn't act like cuz there was lots of kind of physical humor that I got to play, you know. And the fact that he gets so rattled. I mean there is something so funny about people, how even, I mean even that, I mean even though it's about a car that has these extra powers or it's 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 comical about that, about automobiles.
Ever want to act with your brother?
Matt Dillon: I hope so. We tried to do it. I actually had, in the draft of City of Ghosts there was a whole section of the movie that got cut out of the script because it was never gonna be, I had to make decisions, and then there was that, and that was gonna be him doing me a solid. But we wanna do something together, and you know, so we're looking for stuff. We have had a couple things but they weren't [right]. That's the thing. You want it to be the right thing. You don't want to just do something just [to work together]. But I would love to work. We'd have a lot of fun.
Are you signed up for anything else?
Matt Dillon: I'm just gonna work. I'm working on this re-write and I'm reading a lot of stuff. I'm reading a lot of, you know, you've gotta get through the scripts. I'm not signed up to do anything right now, so you guys, you gotta, anybody got a job for me?
What are you gonna do during the down time?
Matt Dillon: No, it's not really down time. That's the good thing I think, about where I'm at now in my life, is that I kinda keep moving. I have a project, a script I told you I'm in the middle of re-writing, so that's what I'm doing. So in fact it's kind of a blessing that I'm not just going right to something because I need to get back into this script.
So it's go, go, go, all about work, no play time...
Matt Dillon: Oh, no, I have a great time, are you kidding, I love to.
Tell us a little about that...
Matt Dillon: Well no, I mean, like for New Years this year I went down to Brazil, you know, I like to travel and I love absorbing other cultures.
Where do you like to visit?
Matt Dillon: I've always liked Southeast Asia a lot. It's a wonderful place, an easy place. People are great, there's a lot of history and culture, and I like the serenity of Buddhism there. It's very beautiful. I find that to be a very nice place to visit. Beautiful, and I, there's something got under my skin going there. But there's a lot of places I'd like to go. There's certain things I'm doing I don't want to talk too much about. There's one thing I might be doing, it's involved with a not-for-profit thing, I don't want to go into that, yet, I can't, I really shouldn't, there's no reason to.
What do you think of your brother's show?
Matt Dillon: It's funny. I mean it's pretty accurate, you know?
Is there any similarity in your relationship?
Matt Dillon: No, I know that people have said that. I don't think so because remember, it's also created by Mark Wahlberg. He had a relationship like that with his brother. I don't, I don't, no, there's no, there's no similarity there.
You mentioned that you didn't really see yourself doing a movie like 'Herbie?' So what sort of roles do you see yourself doing? Is there one in particular you'd like to do?
Matt Dillon: Well, no. Yes and no. I don't know. There's certain things that I haven't been offered that somebody else did and I'm not gonna mention that or go into that or dwell on that. It happens to every actor, you know? I mean, I'm always interested in doing different types of things. And like I said, what's great about being an actor, and, you know, is that eventually you do things you never imagined you'd do, like doing Factotum and then doing 'Herbie.' I never imagined I would do either of those two things. You just end up going there where if it's worthwhile and it's something that you think you can enjoy doing, you do it.
You can catch Matt's G-rated one on one race with Lindsay in Herbie: Fully Loaded when it hits theaters June 22.