Vincent D'Onofrio talks Kill the Irishman

Vincent D'Onofrio talks Kill the Irishman, his rapport with the remarkable cast, his upcoming directorial debut, Law & Order: Criminal Intent's final season, and more.

Vincent D'Onofrio has always been an actor I have admired for the diversity of roles he picks, and how he often disappears within his characters. His breakthrough year was 1987 where he appeared as the memorable Private Pyle in Full Metal Jacket and in a much different but equally memorable turn as "Thor" in Adventures In Babysitting. He hasn't stopped working since, with an impressive filmography ranging from obscure indie's like the fantastic film The Salton Sea, sci-fi blockbusters like Men In Black and comedies like The Break-Up. Not only that, but he continued to rack up film credits even while starring on the hit NBC/USA Network drama Law & Order: Criminal Intent.

Vincent D'Onofrio's latest movie is Kill the Irishman, which tells the fantastic true story of Danny Greene (Ray Stevenson) and his rise from union leader to Cleveland crime kingpin and public enemy #1 to the Italian mafia. Vincent D'Onofrio plays John Nardi, a mobster who develops a unique partnership with Danny Greene throughout the years.

I recently had the chance to speak with Vincent D'Onofrio over the phone about his role in Kill the Irishman, which will be released on Blu-ray and DVD on June 14. Take a look at what he had to say below.

In going through your work, it seems that you pick a lot of roles that you haven't done before. Can you talk about what drew you to John Nardi?

Vincent D'Onofrio: I liked Nardi because, in my eyes, he was not the typical mob guy. Jonathan Hensleigh, the director, gave me the opportunity to play him a certain way. There weren't a lot of facts and research around that I could get a hold of for John Nardi. I was allowed to invent a lot of it, but I liked the aspect of him being more of an accountant, in my eyes, than a gangster. I had him dressed that way and behave like that, as if he's almost unaware of any danger that he's in in the business that he did.

It seemed that you went through a bit of work on the dialect. It's very subtle, almost like you didn't want to go too over the top with the standard mafia dialect.

Vincent D'Onofrio: Well, I knew there would be a lot of gangsters, a lot of actors coming in and playing gangsters in the movie. It's tough. We all have our favorite mob films, and our favorite iconic mob characters we've seen. As an actor, you want to do something different than people have seen before, or at least try. It requires a bit of thought, and that was my task, to come up with a guy that people would be interested in. They haven't seen this kind of guy before.

I thought it was cool that Danny Greene, essentially, brought down the whole mob. Was this a story you were at all familiar with before signing on?

Vincent D'Onofrio: No, I had never heard the story of Danny Greene before. I was really intrigued when Jonathan brought it to my attention, and I started to research it, to see exactly what was going on. It was fascinating.

Were there any family members or anyone else connected to John who you were able to talk to?

Vincent D'Onofrio: No, I didn't do any of that. I just kind of went in and did the part.

There is such a wonderful cast here. I was wondering who was on board before you came on? Was that part of the draw to join this as well?

Vincent D'Onofrio: It was Ray and Jonathan Hensleigh directing. I always liked Ray, ever since he did Rome. I always wanted to meet him, just to congratulate him for his part in Rome. When Jonathan called me and asked me to read for Kill the Irishman, I was thrilled that Ray was playing Danny Greene.

I loved both of your performances, and, basically, everyone else's performances as well. Can you talk about your time on the set with Ray and the rapport you built?

Vincent D'Onofrio:Ray and I got along great. We have friends in common and we just had never met before, but we immediately hit it off. He's great to work with when the camera is rolling, and he's great off set. All the guys there were good guys, all the guys who played his underlings. Chris (Walken), I've known for awhile, and he's just a great guy. I had never met Tony Lo Bianco before, and he's just an absolute sweetheart of a man. It was nice to be there and, I know this must sound boring, but it was really a fun set to be on (Laughs).

No, I can see that. With all these great actors on the set, it must have been awesome.

Vincent D'Onofrio: Yeah. Val (Kilmer) and I had worked together before. When you have been around a long time, and you know actors you respect, who you feel are really great actors like Val and Chris, to meet them and to know that they're not jerks and that they're great guys, it's really great. It makes you feel good about what you do for a living.

I absolutely love The Salton Sea. I was kind of sad that you and Val didn't have any scenes together in this.

Vincent D'Onofrio: Yeah, that's unfortunate, but I'm sure, in the future, we will.

Jonathan Hensleigh has only directed a few films before, but he has a very unique style. Can you talk a bit about his work and style as a director?

Vincent D'Onofrio: Jonathan and I hit it off from the very start, from the first phone call. It continued to be like that throughout the shoot and even after. I just had drinks with him the other night. He's such a great guy, and I'm sure we'll work together again. He's a very good director, a very hands-on director with the actors. He allows the actors a lot of freedom and he's the kind of director you want to work for. He really is, and he's a great guy, outside of his job. He's just a great guy too. Our relationship is still great.

You recently made your directorial debut with Don't Go Into the Woods. Is there anything you can say about that?

Vincent D'Onofrio: We sold it to Tribeca Films and it's coming out around Christmas. We're going into pre-production for my next one, but I'm just producing that. It's something I developed and wrote with some friends of mine. That one goes into pre-production in September or October. That one's called Mall. We have Chelsea Handler, Eric Bogosian, myself, and we're going to be doing some casting in L.A. in a week or so, for the rest of the cast.

Cool. Is there anything you can say about the story of Mall?

Vincent D'Onofrio: It's a very dark, coming-of-age film, from the point-of-view of a kid who just graduated high school. It all surrounds around this neighborhood, and it's basically a social comment on violence. It should be good. We'll see. I'm also going off to do Jennifer Lynch's next film called Rabbit. I'm just starting to think about films right now and I'm just hanging out with my kids. I just came off a five-month shoot for Law & Order: Criminal Intent. I'm kind of half thinking about work and half not. We'll see.

Is there anything you can say about the final season? I know a lot of fans were thrilled when yourself and Kathryn Erbe came back.

Vincent D'Onofrio: Yeah, it went really well. We did eight really good episodes.

Is it going to be a shocking finale, or will it wrap things up nicely?

Vincent D'Onofrio: I think some of it will be very interesting for the fans, but nobody dies or anything like that.

Sadly, Kill the Irishman didn't get a huge theatrical release, but it's such a great story, I think it will have a good run on DVD. What would you like to say to anyone who might be curious about the movie about why they should grab the DVD on the 14th?

Vincent D'Onofrio: I really think this is perfect for home viewing. It's a really entertaining film. I do think it's kind of a guy film. I know that when I have time at home, and I want to be entertained, this is the kind of film that I look for. I can just have fun watching.

Excellent. Thank you so much for your time, Vincent, and best of luck with your new projects.

Vincent D'Onofrio: Thanks, man.

You can watch the incredibly talented Vincent D'Onofrio as John Nardi when Kill the Irishman hits the shelves on Blu-ray and DVD on June 14.