I was scared. Going into a room by myself with David Caruso seemed about as appealing as sitting down with Freddy Krueger. Sure, he'd crack a few one-liners, but as soon as I said the wrong thing, he'd be up on that table with his fingers in my throat. It's not my fault; it's the press. They have a way of showing you things that aren't necessarily true. Even though I'd never followed the man's career, ideas had seeped into my ear. I really like David in the movies I've seen him in. His didn't seem to be a threatening presence. Rather, he has the ability to stand out amongst heavyweights like Russell Crowe and Nicholas Cage. A sheer beam of light and energy; He pulls you in and kills off any expectations. Yet, a bad reputation's a hard thing to shake, even after so many years.
The man is trying. He comes in, eager to shake hands. David makes non-stop jokes at his own expense, most of them funny. I give in to his self-effacing charm like I give into that "third item for a dollar" deal at Panda Express. It may be an uneasy bargain, but it sure tastes good in the moment. Anyone who offers you the Chupa-Chup of your choice out of his own personal stash can't be all-bad. He shows me the many Oscars in USA Films' showcase, telling me he owns them all. The publicist rolls her eyes before shoving us into a room full of dirty food trays. This is where the most important people sit.
Mr. Caruso gives me an off-smirk with plenty of edge. I can see it in the eyes; giving Session 9 a bad review is not the smartest move?
O: How've you been?
Caruso: I'm doing pretty good. I'm doing great. Yeah.
O: Are you excited about this movie coming out?
Caruso: I am. I think this is a really different piece. I hope people get to see it, because I've never seen anything like it. It has a totally different feel.
O: Yeah, I thought all the stuff you guys showed of Danvers Hospital was just awesome.
Caruso: Yeah, yeah. We had a really great group of actors, too. It was one of these deals were it was almost an effortless shoot because everyone was so good at their job. I had a good time on it.
O: The press book talks about the Session 9 team's nightly visits to the bar?
Caruso: Yeah, we did that.
O: Any good stories come out of those trips?
Caruso: (laughs) I think just a natural chemistry. You know what it was like? The actors hanging around together after work is probably what it was like for this group of people (Session 9's Hazmat team) in better times. You know what I mean? Before things started getting rough on the company. This is probably what it was like when things were good for them.
O: So, hanging out with these actors every night after work made you more cohesive as a group on film?
Caruso: Absolutely. We walked away from the situation feeling really good about it. I don't want to say that's rare, but I think the reason this picture felt so good was that it was really effortless in the way it was made.
O: Your favorite horror film is Alien?
Caruso: Yeah, my favorite film of this kind is Alien. I think that one [the first Alien film] is good because you have this ensemble cast, and they're basically trapped on this spaceship. They can't get off, and they don't know what has control of them. The thing about Alien that is fascinating, which I think Brad did well in this picture, is that you don't really see the Alien for more than five minutes the entire movie. It's all this implied terror. The same thing is happening in Session 9. There's very little that actually takes place in the world of horror. It's the implication, the threat of something awful. That's good filmmaking.
O: Did you like the other films in the Alien series?
Caruso: I liked the first one the best. The first one was great. Look at the cast they had. It was a pretty heavyweight cast. When he's at the top of his form, Ridley Scott has a really nice hand. He's a really powerful filmmaker.
O: Proof of Life, I really enjoyed your performance in that.
O: Did you instigate the Russell Crowe kidnapping to get the press off the Crowe/Ryan relationship and back onto the subject of the movie?
Caruso: (laughs) You know, I don't even really know what that was about.
O: It's kind of murky to me, too.
Caruso: What were the specifics of that? Who was trying to kidnap him? How did it come about?
O: That was never disclosed: Who was kidnapping him, why, who was doing what? Just that there was a kidnapping conspiracy against him. Was it you?
Caruso: No, it wasn't me. I'll tell you what was weird, though. About a month after we left Ecuador, there was a high profile kidnapping. In Keto, and they had to pay sixteen million dollars to get the person back. Just like in the movie.
O: (Watch me not listen) While you were filming?
Caruso: No, about a month after. Yeah.
O: So, I'm from Movieweb, I have to ask you some movie questions.
Caruso: Right. Go.
O: Which movie are you looking forward to more: American Pie 2 or Jay & Silent Bob Strike Back?
Caruso: (laughs) Uh?What was that second one?
O: Jay & Silent Bob.
Caruso: Oh, I don't know what that one is. What is it?
O: It's the new Kevin Smith film.
Caruso: Oh, okay?Let's see? Those are my choices, huh? I think I'll have to say the second one. I don't think I'll see American Pie.
O: How old is your daughter?
Caruso: She's 17.
O: Is she into those kinds of movies?
Caruso: Not really. What's a movie that she'd probably go and see? I don't know. What's happened this summer? I don't know what we'd see. The two movies that I saw this year that I thought were great were Memento?And then, what I think was even a better picture, was Sexy Beast. Have you seen that one?
O:? No, I haven't gotten a chance to see that yet. I was supposed to go with a certain someone, but she went without me. I've been trying to get over to the 5 and see it, though.
Caruso: You've got to see that movie, it's really good. Go see that movie.
O: I will go see it. It's definitely on my list. Do you think critics were fair to Jade, or do you think they were holding something against you personally?
Caruso: You know what? Because there was so much negative attention towards me leaving the TV show, I don't think people gave that movie the fair look it deserved.
O: Do you think they wanted to hate it?
Caruso: I think, in a way, people felt I needed to be dealt with. I was a guy who abandoned a TV show. I didn't care about people. They didn't want to see good things happen to me. I felt really bad about that because of all the people involved with Jade, who I think did a great job on the movie, and Paramount Pictures, kind of got hurt because of the negative press involved with the TV show. It's one of those movies where people still watch it all the time. And they rent the movie. And they see it all over cable. People write me fan letters, and they go, "Why do people hate this movie?"
O: Yeah, I dig it. I think it's a good movie.
Caruso: I think it's my fault. It's definitely my fault because of the negative press concerning the TV show.
O: Do you think the press was rather hard on you during that period of time? Undeservingly?
Caruso: Well, no?I don't know. I think, because I was the first guy to leave a television show that abruptly, people had a view of me that I can understand. If you look at it from an objective standpoint and say, "Here's a guy who's on a TV show, and the TV show got him attention, and now he's abandoning the TV show, why should we root for this guy?" I think I can kind of understand that. You know? Nowadays, people go back and forth between television and film pretty effortlessly. But, as I said to someone I did an interview with one time?they asked, "What do you think happened?" I just said, "It was just too much all at once for me. It was all this overnight success. And then I got a couple of opportunities." Yesterday, Kiss of Death was on television?
O:? That one I haven't seen.
Caruso: You should take a look at it. It's a very surreal movie for me, because of the people who are in it. It was Nicolas Cage, Helen Hunt, Samuel Jackson, Stanley Tucci?
O: Wait a minute?Is that the movie where Nicolas Cage is repairing cars?
Caruso: Yeah. That's me in the movie. I play the guy they try to use to go undercover, to try and get him.
O: Okay. I remember that one.
Caruso: Yeah. You look at that movie and you go, "This is a pretty good movie."
O: That was a good movie. I remember, my old roommate had that one on video and he'd watch it all the time.
Caruso: Wow?It really comes down to the fact that, because I was perceived as a bad guy for leaving the show, I think people were rooting against the movies. That was really unfortunate.
O: That's the feeling I got towards some of the reviews after having seen the film.
Caruso: It was a really unfair thing to have happen to the other people on the two movies. They didn't deserve it. I've always felt bad about that. I don't know, maybe someday they'll?I think it's getting to the point where people are seeing those two movies and they can't really remember the NYPD Blue part of it. They're seeing the movie for what it is. And they're like, "This isn't a bad movie." As opposed to when it came out. When it came out it was on the Ten Worst Movies of the Year list. And I was voted the worst new star. (Laughs) Of 1990.
O: How do you handle something like that? Do you just take it with a grain of salt?
Caruso: It's painful. It effects your livelihood. I mean, I went from starring in a Paramount movie to unemployment for two years. Literally, I couldn't get a job for almost two years. That was hard. I won't kid you about that. If I had it to do over again, I would have done it differently. This is not my excuse, but, because it all happened so fast, and with so much attention, I never had a chance to get my footing. It's not like I was on the show for two seasons and I got offered a movie, I was on the show for four episodes and I was offered a studio movie. That's fast. I went from a guy, kind of a working actor, a supporting player, to magazine covers and being offered the studio pictures really quickly. Nobody was comfortable with it. I wasn't really comfortable with it. In a very short period of time, it was happening and then it was over. It's taken me a long time to get back into the industry. People were not really open to me working, or being a part of the industry. That's why Proof of Life was somewhat significant for me. It?and I knock wood when I say this?it kind of signals that maybe I am somewhat viable in terms of using me in a certain capacity. And it wouldn't bring negative attention onto the picture. I hope that's the case, because it's been a long eight years.
O: Are you finding it easier to get work now?
Caruso: It's not like a ton of work.
O: But it's significant stuff like Session 9 that people are going to see and remember?
Caruso: It's enough where I feel a little bit of hope about, maybe, getting back on my feet at some point. Not to sound too pathetic, but there have been long stretches where I haven't been able to get a job. And people weren't open to it, you know? So, it feels like it's loosening up a little bit. Not a lot, but just enough to participate.
O: That's great, because I really enjoy you as an actor.
Caruso: Oh, cool.
O: It looks like they're going to wrap it up, but I want to ask you one more question about the movie?
O: The five guys in the building? When you guys are working, you seem like you're going so slow. Do you think the Hazmat team would have gotten the job done in one week if things hadn't gone the way they did?
Caruso: I think it's highly unrealistic that we would have finished, but I think we had to say that. We had to bid for the job. When you're in these asbestos suits?number one, because the material you're dealing with is so dangerous, so poisonous, you're going slow and you're careful. The other thing is, these are airtight suits and you're pouring sweat in them, you run out of energy really quickly. So, it is really slow. The observations I made on the real asbestos sites, they were going slow. So, no, I don't think we would have finished? Does that do it?
O: Yeah. I guess that's it.
Caruso: All right, man. I'll talk to you on the next one.
I guess that's my cue to leave. Stay tuned for more with Brad Anderson, David Caruso, and Brendan Sexton III