The chameleonic character actor talks about the upcoming films on his growing film slate
If you couldn't tell from the /exclusive-clifton-collins-jr-delves-into-southland/first part of my interview with Clifton Collins Jr., (or the interview before that), I'm a pretty damn big fan of the guy, and his work. The guy is a workaholic, a terrific actor and one of the honest-to-God nicest dudes I've met during my tenure in Hollywood. I know it sounds like I'm on his payroll or something, but it's quite rare out here to meet such a genuine guy in the biz and it's great to see him have the kind of amazing year he's had so far... a year that isn't even close to being over. After talking about his new small-screen gig on Southland, we started to talk about all the new films he has coming out before year's end, and the new music video that he directed which was just recently released - "Betty Jean" by The Soul of John Black (CLICK HERE to check out the new video on iTunes). Take a look at what Clifton Collins Jr. had to say about all of his upcoming big-screen projects.
I have to say that the Boondock Saints II: All Saints Day trailer was really amazing and I'm really pumped for that. So I'm just curious if you have seen the final cut of that yet?
Clifton Collins Jr.: I saw a fat cut. I saw the Troy Duffy fat cut, but then the studio came in and tightened it up, cleaned up some spots. The fat cut that I saw was pretty amazing, so this new cut is ridiculous, from what I've heard from quite a few people. I'm really tempted to call Troy and go, 'Yo dude, let's just watch it.' But I'm doing my best to hold down to wait 'till midnight, Christmas Eve to open my presents, wait until the premiere. I already saw the fat version and I saw pieces of the tighter version and I got really excited. This is definitely one of those films that I'm excited about, not about just being a Saint but more importantly for my friend Troy. I'm just so proud of him, just to get back in the saddle, bigger, stronger, faster, like the Bionic Man, he's back. He's got so many great ideas and so many different screenplays that it's ridiculous.
So do you expect a flood of development from him after this hits theaters?
Clifton Collins Jr.: There's been a flood of development, but it's all been on ice. I've read some of the stuff he's already written, from medieval comedies to, you name it, to big high-concept action films.
You just got done filming The Experiment remake and I love the original film, so can you talk about your experiences filming that in Iowa?
Clifton Collins Jr.: Yeah man. You know, Iowa is a different place. Lots of corn, really delicious corn and great barbeque ribs. It was great. I got to work with two old friends, both Forest (Whitaker) and Adrien (Brody) and it's just fun. There are some scenes that Forest did that I wasn't in, that I just showed up to set to watch him do his thing and he's so f*&%ing amazing in this thing. He has these moments where you're just like, 'Wow.' If you haven't had the chance to watch Forest do theater, this is that chance. Adrien has this incredible arc, he goes through this big dramatic change. It was just a blast, man. I really enjoyed working, and there's this new cat, named Ethan Cohn, who plays our celly, me and Adrien's celly. You probably haven't heard of him, but he's really incredible in it. Jason Lew does a great job too. There are quite a few young shining stars in it.
So how is this film different from the original? The original (Das Experiment) was quite an amazing film and it was loosely based off the Stanford Prison Experiment of the 70s.
Clifton Collins Jr.: Sure. I love the original, but it is different, though. There is some new character development, especially in my character, Nix. I play an Aryan brotherhood cat and that was fun for me too, to do a lot of research on that world. I talked to my convict friends and pulled character traits and stuff like that. I was talking to Paul Scheuring and he hopes to bring a certain truthfulness to him and that was fun for me.
You also just debuted another music video that you directed, "Betty Jean" by The Soul of John Black, so how was working on that new video?
Clifton Collins Jr.: Yeah, I love black exploitation films like Shaft. The Soul of John Black are progressive blues artists so it's just fun jamming with them. It's my favorite video with them and this is, by far, one of my favorites. Just the color palates and just being able to shoot at Les Deux, which is an old landmark, and I used the Alto-Nido hotel. I like to incorporate real elements, which is what I did for Chicken Fried, for the Zack Brown Band.
That's great. So do you have any other music video collaborations you're working on right now?
Clifton Collins Jr.: Yeah. I'm working on one that I'm incredibly passionate about right now. I don't even want to speak out of turn, because I've got to get it signed off by a bunch of different people, but I'm revamping the whole format, I'm hoping. If this flies like I want to, it's going to be a whole new bag of tricks. Jamie Johnson is somebody who Zack Brown introduced me to, and was nominated for four CMA's this year. They're both incredible musicians and lyricists. They still tell stories and that's one of the things that I really love about the country music world. It makes it fun to make a treatment or come up with an idea or be inspired by a song to tell a story. Don't get me wrong, the hip-hop world is fun and all this other stuff. You know, I was talking to Regina King, you go to those old-school cats with the hip-hop, the old L.L. Cool J or Eric B. and Rakim, all them old-school cats, they were still telling stories in those hip-hop days and today it's kind of like hip-hop is kind of like pop-country. There's an audience for it, but where's the real heart in it? There are people like Jamie and Zack who write these lyrics that will move you to tears or get you to stomp your feet, some foot-stomping tunes. I've got to tell you, it's a real honor to get the opportunity to work with these guys and I look forward to a bunch more. The stuff that I'm attempting to pull off on The High Cost of Living will be something revamped that we haven't seen in awhile.
With all this music-video directing, has there been anything you're eyeing up as far as featuring directing, or is that further down the road for you?
Clifton Collins Jr.: It's certainly down the road, but not really that far. I've got to give my second round of notes for this horror-thriller that I'm going to direct in Alaska. Then I got off the phone with a buddy of mine from Chino this morning for a screenplay that we're doing, that I've had the blessings of the powers that be inside the (prison) institutions to tell and it's a story that I got to Sam Jackson. Fortunately I'm on this TV show where they give me enough time to polish these pieces that need to be polished.
That's right. You were talking about that the last time we spoke, that prison piece. You said it was your Oscar baby, I believe.
Clifton Collins Jr.: This is it, this is it.
So will that be going in front of cameras anytime soon? Maybe next year?
Clifton Collins Jr.: That's a good question because I've got two other pieces, this horror-thriller and this other one that my dear friend from Watts is actually writing. It's like a... how would I describe it. It's like In America meets Fresh.
Clifton Collins Jr.: Yeah. My buddy from Watts is developing it and he's an incredible writer. He's an old-school gangster that hides it very well. You'd never know unless you need to know that's where he's from. He helped me tremendously with the Nix character in The Experiment.
I see you're attached to a movie called The Big Bang, so is there anything you can say about that one?
Clifton Collins Jr.: I'm not sure how that's going to pan out. Doing a TV show makes it difficult to do those kinds of projects, so that's probably something I'm going to have to bow out of. But Tony Krantz is an incredibly talented director with an incredible library of films and ideas and he's somebody I'd really like to work with.
Brothers looks like a pretty big award contender, so can you talk about your experience making that and working with Jim Sheridan?
Clifton Collins Jr.: Oh my God, yeah. He works very differently and I just wanted to know the magic of Jim. Have you heard the commentary on In America?
No, I haven't. I'm just not a big fan of commentaries.
Clifton Collins Jr.: Well, I highly recommend it because it's just as engaging, if not more engaging than the actual movie. It's loosely based on his life so he talks about these things and you're like, 'My God, this guy went through some sh*t.' Life is truly stranger than fiction and if some of the stuff he would've put in the movie, you just wouldn't believe it. That's the stuff you get to hear with Jim doing it. I watched In America after working with him, I had already seen it two or three times, but then I put on the commentary and it was like watching a whole new movie all over again. It's truly one of those special, special commentaries. You know, there are some commentaries that you shouldn't really waste your time on, but this one is definitely worth it. But working with Jim, I just wanted to collaborate with him and work with him and that's what he does. He's a big collaborator and he's all about the truth, and the truth of the scene and the honesty in it. Working with Toby (Maguire), he's an old friend and (Jake) Gyllenhaal, who I got to know during the Brokeback and Capote days, you know with doing the Oscar circuits and stuff. That, Sam Shepard and Natalie Portman, who I've had a crush on for I don't know how long. She's beautiful and talented and smart and really precious, truth be told. She's a special girl and it was a dream job. It was hard, emotionally, in a lot of different ways. Brad Renfro passed and I thought about Heath (Ledger) passing, literally minutes before they shot my big close-up when I'm debriefing Toby. It was a tough thing just to keep it together and try to act and to have all this new dialogue that Jim, Toby and myself came up with. But I have high hopes for it. It's an incredible script and it's based off a Danish film, which I've heard is amazing. I haven't had a chance to see it.
Yeah. There hasn't been a whole lot of Oscar buzz for anything this year, really, so that seems like one that could be standing out.
Clifton Collins Jr.: Have they started to talk about it?
Well, it's not that people are starting to talk about it, but when I, myself, have been going through everything, there hasn't been a lot of buzz for award-worthy movies and that just seems like one that would stand out for the Oscars.
Clifton Collins Jr.: Yeah, I really hope so, man. Did you see the trailer?
Clifton Collins Jr.: Pretty powerful, huh?
Yeah, and especially after seeing that, I thought that would be one that would definitely stick out for consideration.
Clifton Collins Jr.: Yeah. You know the saying, from your mouth to God's ears. Everybody put their heart and soul into it and I cried my eyes out on more than one occasion, just doing military research and all this stuff. Yeah, it definitely deserves and we definitely put our heart into it.
So, finally, what would you like to say to just your fans that have been supporting you throughout this amazing year you've had about what we might come to expect from you next?
Clifton Collins Jr.: Man, just thank you for all your support, from all you cats. It's so funny. I was out the other night, walking home from the Zombieland premiere with a buddy of mine and I just had some fans come up to me and they were so gracious with me and, they can be a little fanatical, but they're always so super-cool with me. My buddy was like, 'Man, you've got the coolest fans.' I'm really blessed. I feel really lucky, man. But yeah, go watch "Betty Jean" on iTunes, man. The more help the better. The Soul of John Black is on an independent label, so they don't really have the finances to make the kind of videos that you might want to make, so I'm really ecstatic how it turned out.
There's a pretty good chance that if you turn on the TV or head to a movie before year's end, you'll be seeing Clifton Collins Jr. doing his thing. You can /exclusive-clifton-collins-jr-delves-into-southland/CLICK HERE to read the first part of my interview with Clifton Collins Jr. where we talk about his new gig on Southland and look for Boondock Saints II: All Saints Day, where he plays the new saint, Romeo, in theaters on October 30 and Brothers, where he portrays Major Cavazos, in theaters on December 4.