The actor talks about his role in the Paul Thomas Anderson film, Daniel Day-Lewis and G.I. Joe.
Kevin J. O'Connor is not a household name quite yet, but after his wonderful supporting turn in Paul Thomas Anderson's award-winning film, There Will Be Blood, he just might be soon. I had the chance to speak with the actor, who portrays Daniel Day-Lewis' "brother" Henry Brands, over the phone. Here's what he had to say.
How did you first learn of the project and what attracted you to the character Henry Brands?
Kevin J. O'Connor: Well I got the script and I sent in the audition on tape right away. What attracted me was the people involved, Daniel Day-Lewis and Paul Thomas Anderson, obviously, and the character. When I read the character, I thought 'I like this guy,' the way they explain this character, it was even vaguer than the other characters, I thought, and I found it interesting. This guy shows up out of nowhere and it's sort of frightening. You take a left turn from the movie and you get this other character and story and you want to make sure that it still blends in with the rest of the film... but you're in the hands of Mr. Anderson and Mr. Day-Lewis.
Since this is a period piece, did you do any research on the period and what other things did you do to prepare for the role?
Kevin J. O'Connor: I've been saying this a lot lately, usually I don't promote this, but I had lost some weight for it. I knew this guy and Paul wanted people not on the fat side. He wanted thinner and this guy, I think he probably hadn't eaten in a few days, many days. He's just trying to get the best coat, the cleanest shoes he can, that he's able to, to show up to that guy's house.
Daniel Day-Lewis just gave a towering performance in this. Could you or everyone else on the set get a sense early on that this was Oscar-worthy right away?
Kevin J. O'Connor: You know what? I guess I wasn't looking at it that way, but I thought, 'Wow. This is such an interesting character.' Since I have scenes with him, I don't get a chance to just watch him, in a sense of just sitting back. I'm with him, like most of the actors, were with Daniel Plainview, so we'd sort of do anything to please him (Laughs).
Do you have any favorite stories from the set from Paul or Daniel?
Kevin J. O'Connor: Yeah. Dillon Freasier, the boy, he lights the bed on fire. You remember, my bed?
Kevin J. O'Connor: I was a little nervous about it because I was in the bed with the flames around me, and sleeping, so I had to jump over the flames, so it was a little tense. After they did it three times, you know the thing would burn and they'd have to get a new set, a new cottage. So we were worried and waiting to do it again and after it was over, Dillon Freasier said, 'Can't we do it again? Just one more time?' That was one of my favorite memories.
Paul Anderson's films are so unique in so many ways. How is his approach to filming on the set different than other director's you've worked with?
Kevin J. O'Connor: Well, what's great about Paul, if someone told him, 'You don't have the time,' Paul, from my memory, somehow makes the time. It's great. It's great for us. I don't know if it's great for every studio person, but it's great for us. He wants what he wants. I don't know what that is when I'm doing it, but he's gonna get it. He wants what he wants, and he's gonna get it. It's not like, 'Umm, that was OK enough. Let's move on.'
When I saw this in the theater, I was really shocked that Paul Dano wasn't up for an Oscar for Supporting Actor because I thought he did just a wonderful job in this. How was he like to work with?
Kevin J. O'Connor: Oh, I don't do anything with Paul. We're all with Daniel, but I think Paul was great. He's a young guy and he's very very smart. He's a very intelligent guy and I like him a lot. There's not many supporting actors. People will be surprised when they see the film because they see the boy, they see Ciarin Hinds, they see Paul Dano, who is almost the second lead in the film, and me. There's not a whole lot of characters. When people see it, they think there'll be a ton of characters and it's Daniel Plainview you're following. It's his adventure.
Like a one-man show, pretty much.
Kevin J. O'Connor: Yeah, and with Henry, it's a simple, quiet, introverted man and you want to make it believeable. It's not about flashiness in his performance. I didn't want it to be like that. If it is, the whole thing is blown. You have to tell yourself that this is quiet and it's about listening, this character. To make his next move and so Daniel doesn't spot him out. You have to be sort of thoughtful about it and that was good for me once I got into that. I just tried to stay there.
I thought you did a wonderful job in the movie. It wasn't a character I was really expecting to see and when everything was fleshed out, it was really quite nice. I really enjoyed it.
Kevin J. O'Connor: Oh good. Yeah, it's fun because then you get to see what other people did in the film, because I'm only with Daniel and sitting with Daniel. I mean, talk about an acting partner. Geez. He's the best.
The film was so serious in tone, there wasn't a lot of lighter moments in the film itself. On the set itself, did it have that kind of a serious tone or was a little bit lighter between takes?
Kevin J. O'Connor: You know, it wasn't lighter, it was very quiet. It was very concentrated, which was great. It's not overly serious, but just very quiet. People were trying to think and doing what they were doing. It was great.
I didn't see any future projects listed for you. Is there anything that you have your eye on in the future that you can maybe tell us about?
Kevin J. O'Connor: I'm waiting on something, Brian, so I don't wanna say it and blow it. I'll be like, 'God, I told him that.'
It's not G.I. Joe is it?
Kevin J. O'Connor: Everybody asks me that. I did a few days on that. I have like two seconds in that movie, a little cameo thing. It's just, literally, a brief little thing. I've worked with Stephen (Sommers) before and he asked me to jump on and I said, 'OK' and I just did a few days.
Yeah, I'm definitely looking forward to that. I grew up on G.I. Joe. I was curious to see if you were in that at all.
Kevin J. O'Connor: Yeah. I'm not anyone that you would know, believe me. I'm not any one of those characters. He just wanted a few faces in there that have been in his films before like me.
Finally, There Will Be Blood was widely critically acclaimed, but it wasn't really released that wide theatrically. Now that it's coming to DVD and it's available to a widespread audience, do you think this will appeal to the masses of America as much as it appealed to the critics?
Kevin J. O'Connor: That's an interesting question. I've ran into several people that I might have pre-guessed that this might not have been the movie that they would love, and a lot of them liked it a lot. That's hard for me to say because I'm fooled all the time by what people like and what they don't like, but that's a good question. Do you know what I mean?
Oh yeah. I write for a movie website and I get fooled all the time too. I'll see the box office for some of these movies that I wouldn't think would do good at all and they'll make $30 million on opening weekend.
Kevin J. O'Connor: Right. Because we know that sometimes things make a lot of money that aren't always the best movies. Sometimes you're just shocked. Wasn't it The Golden Compass that didn't make much here but was just a gigantic success overseas? It is interesting. Some things are easy. Kids movies, horror movies the first weekend, but then other things it's always a shock when you see what's doing.
Well that's about all I have for you Kevin. Thank you so much for your time today.
Kevin J. O'Connor: Hey, no problem. Nice talking to you, Brian.
There Will Be Blood spills onto the DVD shelves on April 8.
Dont't forget to also check out: There Will Be Blood