Giovanni Ribisi starring opposite Halle Berry in the thriller
From a young age, Giovanni Ribisi has been starring in these roles that are just captivating. From a small cameo in the first season of Married With Children to an amazing performance in The Other Sister, he always seems to grab an audience.
In Perfect Stranger, he plays opposite Halle Berry as her former co-worker, who just wants to be more; he plays it so creepy, you wait for something to happen every time he's on screen. And director James Foley plays this haunting music just to entice the audience.
In the film, Halle and Giovanni help find the killer of her best friend; they hack into the ad agency of Bruce Willis. But when the clues start mounting up, questions go unanswered.
We spoke to Giovanni about the role; here's what he had to say:
Your character eats eggs with chopsticks; have you ever done that before?
Giovanni Ribisi: No, that was one of those things; the character was written as being this guy who was sort of frumpy and introverted and overweight and the classic computer geek. I wanted to go the complete opposite direction and try to make him witty and charming and really winning over Halle's character or just thinking that he can. That was just part of that; I didn't know it was going to be that obvious at the time. I guess this is one of those times when people use the word 'quirky' and Giovanni Ribisi in the same sentence.
Are you a computer geek?
Giovanni Ribisi: There was a point after I did Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, I saw movies being made more in that way and I have aspirations of making movies myself one day so yeah, I went to school for it for a little while but then, no. In this way, the computer hacker thing, that's just on another level; I had three or four weeks to get ready for the film so it was just about concentrating on the character and all the different masks the characters have and the relationships they have with each other.
What made you fall in love with the character of Miles?
Giovanni Ribisi: I don't know; it was just this conversation I had with James Foley. This guy is like a character actor but he wants to be a leading man and he wants to get the girl and he fails and it's just tragic. I think anybody, to a greater or lesser degree has felt that infatuation or that obsession with somebody. And, the story, generally, as a whole isn't good versus evil or black and white; everybody is a human being and it's about how far people will go to get what they want or to cover something up and I think that that's interesting.
Could you relate to the obsessive nature of this character?
Giovanni Ribisi: Yeah, maybe this is really narcissistic, but if you can't then you're really not living life; I think it's also about power and who she is. Who is she, she's famous, she's got money and a really nice apartment.
What was it like working with Halle Berry?
Giovanni Ribisi: For me what blew me away about her is how fearless she is; she's so f*cking committed to what she does. This is a movie where we were shying away from being parochial and she was just so willing to try things and just there. It created this environment to make you - because I do things that some people might get offended by in the movie and she was just right there with it. It's not like acting with somebody who is just naturalistic and dead, it's somebody who wants to go to the movies, that's inspiring.
Did you have any say in designing his secret room?
Giovanni Ribisi: No, I made suggestions; they asked questions but ultimately, that guy is great. He did the H2A office; he's incredible.
What was your reaction when you saw it - especially the Halle shrine?
Giovanni Ribisi: That was actually a thing that came out of the rehearsal process, talking about that room; it's so thematic to the movie as far as the hidden aspects of people's lives. Nowadays, it's really predominant; there's that expression, you find one out point and keep pulling the string on it and, sooner or later, you'll find a Sherman tank. It's like how deep can you go? People are living their lives sometimes, on their computer screen, carrying on relationships with other people and that's one of the themes of the film.
Growing up in front of the camera, you've seen this business change; did you think the business would be like it is?
Giovanni Ribisi: No, I had no idea; I was a different person back then. I was into acting earlier on and I begged my mother to do it and she finally acquiesced and I started doing TV. Then, I quit for a little while and someone said 'Oh, you don't know who Marlon Brando is? You've gotta go see Streetcar Named Desire and I was blown away by that and that's when I started studying. I feel like that's when I became an actor; it's completely different, I don't know if it's just me and my own subjective viewpoint. But I don't feel like actors are as committed as they were when I was coming up in the '90's or in the '70's; you hear about people bleeding for these characters and really seeing that it's possible to be effective with a performance, to effect somebody. I think that probably speaks to what our process is and conversations we had in rehearsals about music industry and movie industry as being somewhat parochial nowadays. How can that be because anything's possible and nobody's shocked anymore but really listen to the way they mixed a Jimi Hendrix record for instance. It's massive, or a Beatles record and the amount of experimentation that was going on back then. Some of the sh*t that was going on back in the '50's or the '70's, nobody had ever seen; it was mind-blowing. They were taking chances; one of the things that Bruce Willis said to me in the rehearsal process was 'this should be a four million dollar movie.' He was really passionate - meaning we have to be in the trenches on this and really push the envelope; I think we at least made the attempt.
What do you look for in a project now?
Giovanni Ribisi: I think dimension; also what rings my bell at that moment - something that's mainly going to be a challenge at this point. I think you have to do things that you're scared to death of; there's definitely something I'm looking at right now that I shouldn't talk about but I can't f*cking sleep about it and I haven't really signed on. I think that is what keeps you awake as far as being an artist and creative and pushes you.
Do you think all the secrets in this movie were exposed?
Giovanni Ribisi: I have thousands of secrets that nobody knows, I don't know; that's part of what this genre is. Part of it is who done it; my character's definitely suspect. Really, I don't know if anybody is necessarily guilty in this movie; if you look at the context of their lives and what they're really trying to do, they're trying to survive and get on. It's through the medium of the internet and secrets; everybody has secrets.
Do you build your character's backstory in your head when you do something like this role?
Giovanni Ribisi: Yeah, that's important because you are seated in something and, when you say something you are coming from a place. Even if it's that little extra tinge of confidence, I'll do it for that; it's also fun, it's fun to imagine. Part of the whole game of it is evolving and fleshing out and consummating the character as much as you can.
Were you curious about the mechanics of what your character was doing?
Giovanni Ribisi: At that time, no; there's also like triage in the sense of given the amount of time you have, it's important to prioritize and, yeah, there was a little bit of that but what excited me and what I concentrated on more was the behavioral attributes and the way he related to Halle's character.
Are you hard on yourself as an actor? Can you watch yourself on screen?
Giovanni Ribisi: It depends on what I've had for breakfast but, I don't know; sometimes, then with this, I felt at ease. I felt like I was watching a movie and that's a nod towards the director as well. But, other times, for instance, Saving Private Ryan, I saw the movie more or less at the premiere because I was nervous about it and I don't even remember it. There was all the lights and so much going on at that moment that you can't really concentrate. It was ten years ago that that movie was made and then I saw it like last week on TV, I was like 'Oh yeah, I was in that' and it's a great movie. I'm really proud of that; it brought back all the memories so I think I need a little bit of time.
You can check out Giovanni, Halle and Bruce in Perfect Stranger, in theaters April 13th; it's rated R.