Ray Liotta talks Snowmen, shooting in Park City, Utah, working with the kids in this movie, The Iceman, and more
I shouldn't have to write any sort of detailed background info paragraph about the legendary Ray Liotta. If you've been following cinema in any capacity in the past 25 years, Ray Liotta's performances should be embedded in your brain somewhere. While he's known for his more rugged characters, the actor definitely likes to mix it up, and his latest film, Snowmen, is a testament to that mentality. Ray Liotta portrays Reggie Kirkfield, a used car salesman known for his flamboyant TV commercials and showmanship. But, at home, he's a much different man, trying to provide for his family while his young son (Bobby Coleman) goes through cancer treatments. I recently had the chance to speak with Ray Liotta over the phone about Snowmen, which arrives in theaters October 21. Here's what he had to say below.
I'm curious about what your process is like in choosing material. You've played a wide array of characters, so I was curious what really sparked your attention when you picked up Snowmen?
Ray Liotta: There are just so many different reasons. Sometimes you just want to work, sometimes, in this particular case, it was just a really, really good script, and I was playing such a nice guy. I've played those kinds of characters before, but I guess the bad ones seem to stand out. In this case, it was just a beautiful movie. It's heartfelt, it can raise questions with kids and families. I just really liked it.
When I was reading through the production notes, it seems this is based on (director) Robert (Kirbyson)'s childhood, although many things were changed. Did you talk to him at all about his background, to get a better feel for the story?
Ray Liotta: No, he just said, in general, that there was a dead guy found in the snow, and a Jamaican who moved across the street, then he just put it all together, I guess. We didn't really talk about it much.
I really enjoyed the commercials and the whole persona you put on as Reggie, this really out-there car dealer. Did they just let you go nuts with this character?
Ray Liotta: Yeah, I just did whatever I wanted. I mean, I had a lot of suggestions... I'm from back east, and there used to be a guy named Crazy Eddie. He used to do all kinds of commercials, it was for electronics equipment. He was just nuts. We took it up another notch or two, but the biggest thing is what is this guy going to do to make money? Especially with the bills that my character had, because of his kid having cancer. So you just have to do whatever you can. Some movies I have to do just to pay the bills. There are some I wish I could just throw away.
You shot this in Park City, Utah. There aren't a lot of movies which are shot there, so can you talk about that experience on the set, and how the community embraced the movie?
Ray Liotta: Oh, yeah. It was beautiful. It was just beautiful. It was obviously in the winter time in the snow, and I like to ski. On weekends, I was able to do that, but it was just beautiful, and we had a great crew. Utah and that area is just beautiful, and it's not built up by any stretch of the imagination. It was a great location.
Can you talk about working with the kids here? I loved all the kids' performance here. What was it like to get to get to work with this new crop of talent?
Ray Liotta: The great thing about working with kids is they just instinctively know that it's pretend, so they're not trying too hard or overacting, at least this group wasn't. It was just plain pretend, and they were very, very committed. With kids being kids, when it was over, whether it was emotional or not, they went about playing the games they were playing or sleigh riding (Laughs). It's a really great lesson that gets reinforced when you work with kids. You realize they you're just playing make-believe.
Towards the end, when we see this amazing amount of snowmen, what's it like to walk on a set like that, to see these rows and rows of snowmen?
Ray Liotta: Well, they used plastic. They built them. Obviously, you never know if it's going to be a hot day, or if there's going to be snow, or whatever, so they built a lot of them. I don't know what material they used, and there were some real snowmen, but obviously, they couldn't take that chance.
This is Robert's first feature. Can you talk about what kind of style he brings to a movie like this, maybe compared to other director's you've worked with?
Ray Liotta: He was polite and enormously confident and talented. You never knew that this was his first movie. He wrote the story, and that's the most important thing. You get the right DP, and the script right, the rest just falls in place. He was really confident, and I think his wife edited the movie too. He was just great, confident, he wrote a really good script, and everything just fell in place.
With all of the action-driven or dramatic characters you've played in the past, do you ever find yourself looking for movies like this, to change up the pace?
Ray Liotta: This one, the producer, his daughter goes to school with my daughter. The first thing they did was cast all the kids, because that was the most important. If they didn't find the right kids, then, you know, it would've been tough to make the movie. Once they did that, from what I heard, somebody at the school suggested me. I hadn't really known (producer) John Shepherd at that time, at school, so we became friendly once we did the movie. He showed me the script, and as soon as I read it, I loved it and wanted to be a part of it. Like I said, I don't usually get those kinds of roles, and the fact that it was in Utah, and a beautiful story, I was happy to do it.
We ran a story a few days ago about a movie you were attached to called The Iceman, because James Franco dropped out. It seems that might not be moving forward now. Is there anything you've heard about the status of that?
Ray Liotta: You know, I have no idea. I know his dad passed away, and he dropped out for personal reasons, so I'm not sure what's happening with that.
There was a great cast assembled and an intriguing true story as well. I was really looking forward to that.
To wrap up, what would you like to say to anyone who's curious about Snowmen, about why they should check it out in theaters on October 21?
Ray Liotta: Well, it's just worth the price of admission. It's just a really, really good movie. Yes, it's a family film, but it's more than just kids being involved. There are a lot of questions that kids will have with it, in terms of what happens when you die. There are a lot of ingredients in this. There's the bullying that's very prevalent, so I think across the board, aside from it being entertaining, it's a pretty poignant movie.
Excellent. That's my time. Thank you so much for talking to me, Ray. It was a real pleasure.
Ray Liotta: Thanks, man.