Actors discuss their roles, working with Emilio, and the relevance of the film.
Christian Slater and Freddy Rodriguez represent two ends of the acting spectrum. Slater, while only 37 is a veteran of 70 films including such classics as Heathers, Pump up the Volume and True Romance. Rodriguez has been around a bit but he's only begun to make his bones in such films Poseidon and the highly anticipated Grind House.
We recently had the chance to sit in on a press junket with them as they discussed their mutual passion for Emilio Estevez's Bobby. This film, which chronicles the intertwining lives of a grand cast of characters present at Los Angeles' Ambassador Hotel in the hours leading up to Robert F. Kennedy's assassination, seems to have struck a chord with everyone involved.
Doing these interviews together do you discover things about each other's performances?
Christian Slater: For me, I was sitting there listening to him talk about the photograph, the recreated photograph, and the moment... just the irony of the fact that at the end of Kennedy's life the person that's holding his head is the person that he would have spoken for. It says basically what Kennedy says at the end of the movie. It doesn't matter who we are, how rich we are, how poor we are, famous or not famous, we all have a short window of time here on the planet and what are we going to do with it?
What's the challenge of playing a character like Timmons?
Christian Slater: For me, I got the call in London, Emilio told me who was involved, what the subject matter was and I signed on prior to reading the script. I came back, took a look at the script and saw this character, Daryl Timmons... I guess what made it possible to play it, and to really sink my teeth into it is that it was enough of a realized character that he had a bit of an arc. There actually was a bridge built between the races by the end. That baseball moment, listening the radio, that's what made it possible for me to be as much of an a*&hole as I could be, in the beginning.
How familiar were you guys with Bobby's story?
Freddy Rodriguez: I wasn't really too familiar with the story. The school I went to, I learned more about his brother at the time. It wasn't until Emilio approached me and I began my own research, that I found out what he was all about and what he stood for. Which was extremely inspiring especially after reading the script. You're just inspired when you learn about somebody like that, and even moreso now that I've seen the film.
Christian Slater: Yeah, I'm with him. I was born in 1969, so I relied on my parents, them telling me stories about the Kennedys. The Kennedys have always represented a certain royal quality, Camelot, and they represent a great deal of integrity and strength and perseverance; faith in the future of America and where we could go. What a tragedy it was that the carpet was pulled out from under our feet.
What's it like working on material that's so relevant to what's going on today in our own political and geopolitical landscape?
Christian Slater: For us, I think, as actors it was easier to stay in the moment. We shot all of our stuff in little sections. There were just little pieces. Probably the most significant moment of making the film was shooting the assassination scene. That was really powerful, we had people that were extras in the crowd that had actually been there on the day. Listening to them, hearing their stories, added to the power of that particular moment.
Freddy Rodriguez: When I was doing the film I was concentrating more on getting it right. You come to work to work, you know? It's not until now that I see the film, I can actually relax and see how relevant it is to what's happening today. During the film, I really didn't think about that.
Christian Slater: That's what blew me away! It was hard to get the whole big picture out of reading the script, and then you sit back and watch it and it kind of comes over you in waves. You see how even the scene he has with Laurence Fishburne is relevant to maybe a scene I have with him later. The White man giving the emancipation. That surprised me, I didn't see that coming when we were making the movie.
What do you think this movie says about today?
Christian Slater: I think it's wonderful that a movie like this can be made. Emilio put something like this together, maybe to serve as a reminder and to hear the words of a ghost, really. To say, "Hey, there was a point in time when we were moving in this direction and it was taken away from us. It is possible. It takes one person to stand up again and speak out and lead the way." Maybe at that time we weren't ready to go in that direction? We needed to get to this point.
9/11 is sort of this generation's Bobby Kennedy assassination. All the veils and things kind of came down and we got exposed to a darker point in the world. I think it was a real turning point for us in which direction we could have gone in.
What did you think of Emilio's approach to the film as opposed to doing a straight up biopic? Or, the JFK approach?
Freddy Rodriguez: It's a different approach. That's the first thing that became appealing for me when I read the script. I remember when it was first being presented to me, the first thing I thought was okay another JFK or Nixon . I was pleasantly surprised when I read it and said, "Wow, this is more about the people that he effected. The ordinary people he effected."
As this film is based on fictional characters how much research did you go back and do?
Christian Slater: As far as research went for me, I talked with some food and beverage people. I went to some hotels. Worked with Julie Weiss who was the wardrobe woman. She was really helpful in shaping and creating the character. For the most part my job was to help Emilio have his vision as realized as it could possibly be, and represent that part of the population that didn't necessarily agree or support the ideas Bobby Kennedy spoke on.
Freddy Rodriguez: My character was loosely inspired by someone who was there. There's an iconic photo of a busboy holding Robert F. Kennedy at the time of his shooting, and that's what my character is kind of loosely inspired by. We didn't really dive into the research of his life, because the character's not really based on his life only inspired by that photo. In terms of research, Emilio put together a really nice package for us before we started the film and it consisted of documentary footage, music, magazines, books of that era.
Christian Slater: A history of the Ambassador Hotel.
What was Emilio like as a director?
Christian Slater: He's great.
Freddy Rodriguez: Yeah. He's an actor. He's aware of what the process is and respectful of that process. He has a way of giving us the space to create on the spot, but at the same time kind of staying true to the page without much confinement.
Christian Slater: He was excited. I think he was in a bit of a daze. He said he was pinching himself everyday with the people who were signing on. We were all humbled by everyone that kept showing up. It was a phonemail experience.
Bobby opens in theaters in New York and Los Angeles on November 17. It goes wider November 23. It is being release by MGM and the Weinstein Company.