Welcome to Random Roles, wherein we talk to actors about the characters who defined their careers. The catch: They don’t know beforehand what roles we’ll ask them to talk about.
The actor: Alan Tudyk has been that guy in seemingly dozens of films—the hilarious character who doesn’t necessarily add to the plot, but still feels like an indispensable part of the movie. He cleaned floors in Wonder Boys and taunted knights in A Knight’s Tale early in his career, and brought piracy to Dodgeball and flamboyance to Transformers more recently. He even took a turn with Disney, voice-acting in its last animated film, Frozen. But he’s best known for his character in Joss Whedon’s Firefly, where he played Hoban “Wash” Washburne, the Hawaiian-shirt clad pilot of the Serenity. Now Tudyk is playing another memorable supporting part in IFC Midnight’s Premature, which debuted at SXSW.
Premature (2014)—“Jack Roth”
I’m playing a college recruiter who is interviewing the lead [John Karna]. The day keeps starting over—it’s kind of like Groundhog Day, with premature ejaculation starting the day for him. Every time that happens, his day starts over. The day begins after he wakes up with a stain in his bed. This seems so gross—it’s a very sweet movie! It has charm, surprisingly.
He has this interview that he’s been planning his whole high school career—to go to the college that his dad went to, that his dad’s dad went to. And I’m the recruiter. But I’m not a great recruiter, because I’m emotionally distraught. My wife had passed away 10 months prior, and I can’t let it go. I’m having issues with it on this particular day, and anything he says, anything that happens in the interview, reminds me of her. I spend pretty much the whole interview trying not to cry, and I’m bawling. I cry a lot. So when his day starts over, and he keeps meeting me, he tries different ways to not touch off all the emotional storm that he knows is there. But it never works. My character is just too upset. And then I come back at the end, and I help him.
It’s an interesting character. It’s a character that could really just serve as a character to provide laughs for the movie. But he ends up being instrumental and helping him toward the end of the movie. It’s a neat role.
The A.V. Club: A tragic figure in a movie that’s about premature ejaculation.
AT: [Laughs.] There’s a lot of heart in my character, but it was a lot of fun. The wife dies from an illness, but it really doesn’t matter how she died; it’s just that she’s dead. And so when we shot it, Dan Beers, who directed it, he would yell out, “Now she’s dead from a car accident.” “Now she’s dead from a squirrel attack.” “Now she’s dead from…” during the scene where I was explaining what happened to my wife. We just kept redoing different versions of how she died.
Dodgeball (2004)—“Steve The Pirate”
AVC: That talent for improvisation has gotten you a few roles, right?
AT: Dodgeball, yes. I was told it was an improv I did. We did very little improv—I mean, Steve mainly says “garr.” Most lines I have in that movie are just well-placed “garrs.” But at the callback, they were pairing us all together and putting different people with different people. Vince Vaughn was there, and Ben Stiller was there. It was in the scene where we’re all trying to come up with a way to make the money—in the movie, someone suggests that we sell our blood and semen, but not mixed together. [Laughs.] And my suggestion was to harvest oil from whales. I kept changing it every time, but I think it was the harvesting oil from whales that got it—which seems ridiculous.
I have to say, I hesitate to improv in auditions, even now. I went to Juilliard, where they taught us about auditioning. There was a great class that taught us about using the text that you have. Mainly we’re talking about Chekhov and crap like that. Not that Chekhov is crap, but in Chekhov’s and Shakespeare’s more classical works, you look down to the punctuation about what the intent of the author was. Like, taking a comma and making something of it. A comma in the text is your roadmap to how to play the character—your instruction on how to play the character—and it’s like a little detective story, going through it. When you read it through several times, you find different things.
But when it comes to films and comedies, I feel like they don’t really want to see what’s on the page anymore. Improv has taken such a prominent place in comedy today. A lot of Judd Apatow’s movies have so much improv in them, and audiences love it, or like it, or, I think, kind of expect it. Audiences will sit through one joke being done several times with different punchlines. A good example is Bridesmaids: When Kristen Wiig is driving by in that car and she keeps driving by, doing a one-up of each one, one-up, one-up—you could sit there and watch her do that all day. For a second, it’s divorced from the reality of the movie, but audiences will go there with you.
So with auditioning, I find that it’s important to be prepared to play around. You show that you know the role beyond the text—that you can inhabit it if they change the writing, which often happens.
AVC: Do they have improv at Juilliard?
AT: Not really, though I was in an improv troupe in Dallas called “Rubber Chickens.” [Laughs.] We did improv when I was [at Juilliard]; they may have changed it. They were very serious improvs. There was nothing funny.
It was so bizarre. It was a very hard lesson to learn for me. This might be an annoying story, but it’s telling of how the improv was. First-year acting, the whole class sits around in a circle and the teacher—John Stix, he’s no longer alive, God bless him—puts a boot in the middle of the circle, one of those that zip up the sides, like a Beatle boot. And he says, “Okay, everybody. What I want you to do: One at a time, go to the boot. Experience it. Have an experience with the boot. And then return to the outside of the circle. Everybody just sort of take it on your own initiative to do this.”
So this girl goes out to the boot. Holds it. Cries a little bit. And then goes back to the outside of the circle. He’s like: “Good, very nice, very nice.” What the fuck was that? So I’m like, I’ve got this. Screw it. I go into the middle of the circle, I pick up the boot, and I make some stupid joke about “my kangaroo getting out and passing all the wallabies and—oh there he is!” And I take the boot like a boomerang, and I throw it across the room and I just look. “Oh missed him. It’ll come back. Any minute it’ll be back. Oh, that was a long throw.” And the teacher goes “Stop. No. No. Sit down. Just sit down.” And I sat down, and I’m like: What did I do? At least it made sense. It was even kind of funny!
Then more people come out and lie with the boot, and roll around on it, and cry. More crying. And they’re all very good, very good. So I tried it again. I put the boot behind me and I started talking to a girl that isn’t there—talking about our inappropriate love, and her overbearing boyfriend, and what I really think about her boyfriend. I’m insulting him and insulting him. And then I lean back and put my hand on the boot and go, “Oh my dear God.” The idea was that he was standing behind me.
And I got told to “sit down” and “no, that wasn’t it”—that I was trying to make it something as opposed to just let the boot tell me what it was. On an acting level, I understand now, I believe, what was going on there, what was expected of me. But that’s a different kind of acting. Since I’ve left that school, I’ve gone closer toward the old boomerang guy, and what I walked in there with. I don’t even know what that is—a different kind of improvisation that looks for what’s funny in things, and exploiting situations for that, and relationships for that. That’s what improv is; that’s what most people know improv to be. But on a basic acting level, it can be done completely differently, and I had to learn a different way early on—and then unlearn it.
42 (2013)—“Ben Chapman”
AVC: It sounds like your bent was toward comedy right from the start, and maybe this improv class was looking for something with more pathos. But some of your roles have been pretty dramatic—like your role in 42 playing Ben Chapman, a racist baseball player. That’s a little bit more experiencing the boot than bringing something to it.
AT: That was definitely one of the more dramatic roles that I’ve portrayed, certainly in movies. When I would practice, or when I would rehearse it alone, working on the role—I wouldn’t exactly cry. I wasn’t sitting around crying. But yelling hate speech and speaking violently like that—it’s upsetting. My eyes would tear up and leak a little bit. And I was like—I can’t do that. That’s not good. This guy wouldn’t be so emotional about it. It would be very casual for him to be saying all these things.
I remembered a time that I saw a video online of a street fight between two guys, and it was so violent and so disturbing that it gave me a similar feeling, that this thing is just violence. So I’d watch five or six fights online of people. It was best if it was somebody who didn’t want to fight, and they were just being pulled into it and getting really hurt, with people around going, “Get in!” That is awful to me. It is very hard to watch. It’s upsetting and disturbing, as I’m sure it would be for a lot of people.
But if I watched five or six of them, it stopped upsetting me. It would just kind of put a knot in my stomach, and then I could do it without crying. So I would do that. I was not only in a bad mood for being part of the world of hate speech—taking part in that type of violence, verbal violence—but also because I was watching it online. I was in a bad, bad mood for days.
AVC: Are you happy with how that role came out? What led you to it?
AT: [Hesitates.] Most of it. I’m not the best person to ask about my work. In any given movie, there will be a few moments I like. There’s certain things that I get, just like, ugh—I can see myself working, and it’s not enjoyable to me.
But I would absolutely choose something like that again. What led me to choose it was the director—Brian Helgeland, who wrote and directed it, is the same guy who did A Knight’s Tale. They couldn’t be more different. But talk about doing different things: A Knight’s Tale, and then he also wrote L.A. Confidential, and he wrote Mystic River. He won an Oscar for L.A. Confidential for doing the adaptation. So he’s brilliant at writing, and he was directing again for the first time in a long time, and he asked me to come in. It was something like: “Alan, I’d give this role to you if I could, but the powers that be don’t believe that you’re the right guy for this role. You do more comedy than drama. Though, come in, would you?”
So he said come in. I did it. Eventually I get a call and he’s like, “Could you come back in and just basically do the same thing you did but try to be less of a regular guy?” One of the audition scenes was [Ben Chapman] talking to reporters, where I’m just entertaining reporters, going “Hey, man. This isn’t my fault. This is free speech. He wants us to treat him like every other player. That’s how we treat players.” He doesn’t seem like an evil villain. He’s not gnashing his teeth at all times. And producers wanted to see more gnashing.
So I went back in, and I did it and I left. I didn’t hear anything for a couple weeks. I was like, damn, that didn’t work. I went on and did a play—a little clown play in New York. [Laughs.] I produced a clown play in New York—an off-, off-, off-, off-, off-Broadway called That Beautiful Laugh. I was in New York doing a clown play, and I got a call from Brian saying, “You still want to do the movie?” And I was like, “Hell, yeah.” They had given it to some guy who was much more the type of guy who, when you see him, you go, that guy scares me. He’s just an intense, burly dude. But he had gotten another job and had to choose. And so at that point, Brian was like, “Can I please now do what I want?” And they said, “Absolutely.” So I thank whoever that was.
AVC: You were a second-string racist.
AT: I was a second-string racist because I didn’t look bigoted enough on the surface. But we got there, I think. It was quite an experience. Chadwick Boseman, who played Jackie Robinson—he was brilliant, and quite a trooper, because I had to improv some of that stuff that I was saying to him. The director said to surprise him by coming up with stuff that wasn’t in the script. Chad had read the script, but the other stuff he just wasn’t expecting—in his head, he was like: Hold on a second. If that isn’t in the script, this is coming from him. Afterward he gave me a hug—he was like, thanks. But in the moment, he was like, you motherfucker. I could see it in his eyes. It was a very interesting job. And, yeah, I really like how it turned out.
AVC: Was A Knight’s Tale the first time you worked with Brian Helgeland?
AT: Absolutely. That was just a job that came along. When I read the script, I remember the first page where it says “1462, Fields in England”—we weren’t in England. We were someplace else. It just sets up this medieval thing, this whole medieval world—and then it says, “The first notes of Queen’s ‘We Will Rock You’ are heard.” And I went: “What is that?” You read scripts and everything sets the scene the same way—but that was definitely not like anything I read before.
AVC: Did you audition for other roles or was Wat your choice?
AT: I auditioned for Wat. It was Wat. Wat was my guy.
AVC: It must have been a fun experience, shooting that film. Paul Bettany was a relative unknown, and Heath Ledger was trying to break out of his teen-heartthrob thing.
AT: We were in Prague for a little over five months. We were shooting six-day weeks. When I was doing 42 Brian mentioned something about the six-day weeks. And I was like, “We were shooting six days a week?” And he was like, “Yeah, you don’t remember we only had one day off a week?” We went out every night then. The six-day week didn’t seem to stop us. We’d work on a medieval movie during the day, and then we’d go out at night in a medieval town, and it all blended together and made for an experience I really haven’t had since. We were just this pack of guys roaming around.
AVC: That sounds like a study abroad semester—you’re theoretically working, but really you’re kind of just partying.
AT: Yeah! Because you could say certain things were probably research. If we got into a fight in a bar—that’s character work! I was seeing what it would be like to get into fights. I’m not saying we got into fights. But if we did… we won them.
AVC: You’re often playing these guys that are on the fringes—either yelling insults or taking people’s weed or yelling “garr!” Is that type of role you’re looking for?
AT: That’s just something that came along. The first play I ever did, in 1996, which got me my start, seems like the appropriate first job. It was a play written by Alan Zweibel, who was one of the first writers for Saturday Night Live, and he was good friends with Gilda Radner. He wrote this book called Bunny Bunny: Gilda Radner – A Sort Of Love Story. It was a story of Gilda Radner and Alan Zweibel and their friendship throughout the years, and Bruno Kirby played Alan Zweibel. And Paula Cale played Gilda. And I played everybody else in the play. I had like 20 roles, and they were all very small. Some of them were larger than others. They would have longer scenes. But it became a device of the play that I would come on as a French waiter [Assumes French accent.] serving them some foods while they were having a dinner, and then I would run offstage and change and I’d come back on and I was [Adopts feminine voice.] Gilda’s big-boned friend Judy whose boyfriend just left her. Wigs and dresses and then a big fat suit, because I’m the guy named Blue, [Adopts surfer voice.] who lost his thumbs in a wave accident and I make my own furniture, and it just went on and on throughout the play.
AVC: That sounds perfect for you.
AT: It was a really great job. I workshopped that thing from its very beginnings on the East Coast while I was still at school. I sort of stumbled into it in a summer reading, and they held on to me throughout the process. Paul Giamatti read it at one point. The play did okay, but it really got my foot in the door. I won the Clarence Derwent. It’s an acting award they give out every year to two people, one female and one male, for their New York stage debut. I won it that year for the male, and Allison Janney won it that year for the female. Very good company.
Oddball (2014)—“Bradley Slater”
Star And The Forces of Evil (2014)—“Ludo”
AVC: You do the theater thing. You do the television thing. You do the film thing. And now voice-acting has become a big part of your career, too.
AT: Yeah. I’ve noticed that. [Laughs.] I’ve noticed that I’m doing a lot of that. I just did this little film in Australia called Oddball, and there was a little girl in it named Coco [Coco Jack Gillies]. She looked at my IMDB, and what did she say? “It was weird.” All the different things I had done. We looked over it together, and she was pointing out what was weird about it—that I do a lot of kids’ cartoons and stuff.
I hadn’t really realized how much voiceover I had done, because you’ll do an hour on something and you immediately forget about it. Frozen is the exception, and Wreck-It Ralph, definitely. I was involved with that for two, three years—from the first reading. But you do a lot of video games, stuff like that. That’s what I’m doing after this. I’m doing a video game. And then tomorrow I’m doing a kids cartoon called Star And The Forces Of Evil, for which I am [Assumes sinister voice.] the forces of evil! A little bitty monster with a beak who is terrible at being evil. He’s a lot of fun. It hasn’t come out. I think it’s a Nickelodeon show. Is it Disney or Nickelodeon? …I don’t know what I do. [It is Disney —ed.]
AVC: What do you like about voice work?
AT: The great thing about voice-acting is it isn’t animated yet. And so once you find the role and you’re within the scene, if you come up with an idea, you can go with it very easily. It’s all in your head. They’ve set the scene, but you’re imagining it. A good example is in Frozen. I had these two big henchmen with me, but they didn’t tell me until halfway through. There’s a scene where I say, “Go find the princess. If you find her, you know what to do.” And they’re like, “Yeah, you have these two big henchmen.” I’m like “Oh, I do?” “Yeah, they’re always with you.” “Well, they don’t say anything.” They go “Oh, no. They’re just quiet, stoic.”
And so from then on, I would always talk to them, run all these lines to them. [Adopts Duke’s voice.] “You know what to do, right? You do know. Don’t look at me with those vacant eyes. Well, just nod if you do know what to do. Well, okay, so you do and you don’t. Well, you tell him what we’re supposed to do. Get out of here.” Or: “Follow me. Out of my way. Honestly, you’re like a house.” I would bump into them. I would complain about what they’re doing. “Don’t yawn. That’s rude.” Because they can do or say anything. You’re in charge of it, so you can just go and go and go—if they like it, which they obviously didn’t, because I asked about it. I was like, “I love all my henchmen bullshit,” and they’re like, “Your character can’t be too funny because we have to believe him to be the villain.” He’s the villain for a portion of the movie until the real villain reveals himself. And so if he’s too funny then it’s just confusing. At least that’s the excuse they gave me. Maybe they’re just like: “What do we tell him? He really thinks this crap is good.” You never know. For me, it’s fun, playing all that stuff and coming up with ideas. It’s a blast.
AVC: It goes back to the improv thing, too. There’s this big sandbox in your head and you get to play with whatever’s there.
AT: Except in animation, you usually are recording on your own. Not always, but oftentimes, you’re recording on your own. You’re in charge. If you’re in an improv scene with somebody, you have to play off of one another, but if it’s just you, you can move all the characters around and change what they’re doing. As long as you don’t change them saying anything, you can change what they’re doing and their location in the scene, even what’s in the scene. If you’re leaning on a piece of furniture that they haven’t drawn yet, but now you suddenly have an idea—it would be funny if there was something there for you to lean on. You can do anything your brain comes up with, which is pretty fun. It’s a lot of fun, actually.
AVC: Given that Joss Whedon had a far more specific idea of what he wanted out of your character, what was it like playing Wash on Firefly and Serenity? The role moved you from the funny guy on the side, which you do very well, to a little bit of a romantic hero.
AT: Yeah, that was fun. The role of Wash is the closest to me, how I am in life.
AVC: Well, that’s going to be very exciting for your fans.
AT: He’s a smartass! He’s a smartass who wants to live his life, enjoy his wife, and in the situation where everybody’s saying, “Let’s go in and kill him,” I’m the guy going, “Why is killing even on the table? Can’t we do this without the destruction? Because that seems to be unnecessary.” I would be that guy. Not a huge fan of violence, wars, and stuff like that. Sort of a smartass pacifist. [Laughs.] That’s kind of how I’ve lived my life up until this point. I could just flip on that, but in that way, I was very much like Wash. I don’t know how I was a romantic. I did have a very sexy wife, which gave me cred. Gina Torres is a beautiful woman, and so I was like, why is she with him? There must be something I can’t see.
AVC: Wash’s death scene in Serenity is an epic moment—it seems clear that Joss Whedon wanted to give you a really wonderful end.
AT: Yeah. Definitely. He set that up to have the biggest effect on the audience. It was a very heroic last flight. Sadly, a leaf on the wind—I just thought about this the other day—a leaf on the wind is dead. A leaf, if it’s not on the tree…
AVC: That’s a downer.
AT: [Laughs.] Yeah, I know. I was at a comic convention when I realized it. I go to those conventions. I was at one in Philadelphia last weekend.
AVC: How do you feel about being an object of geek fandom affection?
AT: I think that sci-fi fans are the greatest. And sci-fi conventions have a rare atmosphere that—well, from the outside looking in, and I was guilty of this too, I looked at them as all these crazy people dressing up so crazy. And everybody focuses on the costumes and what people call “cosplay”—weird word to me, but still. People focus on that and how strange it is, and there are still people who have the old idea of geeks living in their mothers’ basements and things like that.
But when you go to them—in the conventions, it doesn’t matter who you are. Geek, not-geek, attractive, unattractive, none of it matters. It’s what you want to be. Nobody judges you over what you want to be. There’s little to no judgment. Where else in the world is there little or no judgment with how you want to be perceived, how you want to be? There are people wearing superhero outfits that maybe don’t have superhero bodies, and people accept them as superheroes. Now, how badass is that? For me, that’s beautiful.
Initially, when I started going to these things, I thought that the fans would be somewhat odd—but really they’re the most beautiful part of the convention. It’s the people who run them—who are basically figuring out ways to extract money from them—who are the weird, bizarre freaks. They’re the ones who you can’t trust. But everybody else, as a fan, you can pretty much trust them.
Some people will say: Do you feel uncomfortable in those places where fans feel unsafe or, you know, fanatical? But I don’t know—I feel safer there than most places. That’s been my experience. That’s definitely Firefly fans. I don’t know about those other things that people come to. Other fans, they might just be out of their minds, but Firefly fans are very considerate people.
AVC: Are you still hoping to work with Joss Whedon at some point, if not on “Firefly,” on something else?
AT: I sure would like to. He’s good at what he does.
AVC: He’s a big movie-director star now.
AT: And there’s a reason that he is. He’s always been able to capture that humor—the humor within action. Not stale humor like in Terminator. “I’ll be back.” It’s like—oh my God. He’s going to be back because he’s coming in with a truck or something or whatever he did. Whereas [Whedon] intertwines humor with the action and the drama really well. That’s what was great about Firefly. At least for me, what I liked about Firefly was it was funny. It was really funny while it was still existing as a one-hour acting drama.
AVC: There are actors who have played roles and become cult hits that get anxious or frustrated with fandom. Probably the best example is Alec Guinness, who famously would try to get people to not watch Star Wars because he didn’t like the movies very much. How does it feel, knowing that this is the role that people know you by and are probably going to remember you by?
AT: Some sci-fi actors—I think this is predominately in science-fiction television—get pigeonholed in their roles. You’re famous enough as that one thing that people don’t want to see you as anything else—can’t see you as anything else. But you’re still kind of famous, so what do you do? I wonder that. What do they do? And you definitely see them at the conventions. There are people there who did something 30 years ago and that’s still their thing. That’s their one thing.
AVC: The Star Trek phenomenon.
AT: Yeah. Nobody wanted to see Leonard Nimoy play the stepfather in something.
AVC: All of your co-stars from that have gone on to have very different and interesting careers.
AT: Although, so far, I haven’t seen Summer Glau. I don’t know what Summer Glau wants or does. She might say, “I don’t want to do anything but science fiction.” But it’s what she does. That will be her thing, whether she wants it or not, I think. You can get what I have heard called—possibly by Joss Whedon—“the sci-fi ghetto.” You get actors who get in the sci-fi ghetto. Look at the people from Buffy. They get kind of trapped.
I don’t feel it, luckily. I’ve never felt trapped by it. And I think that times are changing. Look at Morena Baccarin, who is on Homeland. And science fiction is huge right now. Definitely in movies—it’s as much of a sure thing as you can have in movies. They tend to deliver, and definitely with Joss Whedon on board. I’ve been lucky enough to be able to still do things like 42 and things that aren’t Wash or Wash-like. I wasn’t pigeonholed.
I haven’t played a lot of Washs. I played Wash, and that was sort of the one, the one that’s the smartass kind-of-close-to-me guy. Whenever you’re introduced to the public first, you really either have to get away from it, or you embrace it and you fill that niche. I was playing extreme roles before I did Firefly. I did the gay German in 28 Days—I was the stoner in that, and a lower-class English in a movie about jousting. I was bouncing from a lot of different things. So the role of Wash, even though it is certainly the thing that I am approached about the most, it’s not the only thing that people see me as because they saw me doing something before.
Whereas Summer Glau, how old was she when she started Firefly? [She was 21. —ed.] So that was the thing that was so exciting—like wow, you do that. So she’s been embraced by the sci-fi community. And she’s in different sci-fi productions that see her talent but then also want to bring that into their production. There’s that. They’re like, we want a hit. Can we get that person from that? They have some sci-fi cred. There’s that as well. God bless it.
28 Days (2000)—“Gerhardt”
Tucker & Dale Vs. Evil (2010)—“Tucker”
Transformers: Dark Of The Moon (2011)—“Dutch”
AVC: Looking at your roles, it’s like a ladder of these distinctive, memorable, and colorful characters. And it seems good for you. Is that true?
AT: Absolutely. I feel very fortunate to be doing a lot of different stuff. I never wanted to get stuck doing the same things. After I did 28 Days, I got a lot of auditions. And a lot of scripts were: “Oh, we’ve got a token gay guy. We have this gay guy we want you to play. We’ve got the gay friend.” And I wouldn’t do any to them. I did it; I’d done it; I don’t want to do it now. I’m not going to become that guy. And it wasn’t just that movie. I had played a gay man onstage for like a year. The first gay man, Adam and Steve. [Laughs.] I was Adam in a Paul Rudnick play called The Most Fabulous Story Ever Told. And so I had been doing a homosexual role for over a year. No more. I’ve been lucky enough to not do too much repeating myself, which is great. There are still things I want to do, but I’m not done, so hopefully I’ll get to do them.
If I had become the token gay guy, I would never have gotten to do Death At A Funeral, which I really loved, or Tucker & Dale Vs. Evil. They would never have cast me.
It’s [Tucker & Dale Vs. Evil] a really good movie. It’s tough to say that about your own movie. I’m in it; you should love it. [Laughs.] But it’s not that. It’s one of those independent movies that, while we were making it, we were like “I don’t think this is going to work. What did we do today?” We were only doing one take of each scene. How is that even smart financially, to just do one? You need a backup! It was Tyler Labine and myself. He’s one of the funniest people I’ve ever worked with.
The character I play is [Assumes Southern accent.] a good ol’ boy from down south, and if I had been pigeonholed as the gay guy I wouldn’t be able to do that.
It all goes back to my Bunny Bunny days, where I got to play 20-something roles in one play. When I get done with one, I’m ready to move on to the next role and I don’t think I’ll ever exhaust the different roles in my lifetime. I can continue to act, although I have repeated myself, but I try not to.
Confession: The same role I did in 28 Days, with Sandra Bullock—I did it in Transformers. His name was Dutch, but I said: He’s the same guy. Not only does he kind of seem like the same guy—he’s the absolute same guy. He’s changed his name. He went through rehab, and he got into the armed forces, he met up with Agent Simmons. He became a contract killer, he’s overthrown governments in the third world. And then he got burned out and decided the only thing that he could do with his life was to devote himself to working with Agent Simmons, who’s played by John Turturro.
So there’s a line in that movie where there’s one scene that I got to do. It was a fun scene, where we’re in a Russian mafia bar-club-hangout, and they pull guns, and I lose it and I pull a bunch of guns. I punch a woman. I knock people out and I escalate the violence extremely, and then I have John—Agent Simmons—saying, “Down, Dutch. Down, Dutch. Breathe, breathe.” And I stop and say [in Dutch’s voice]: “Oh my God. That’s the old me.” And that was an improv commenting on the fact that it’s the old me, who had gone through this whole killing people and contract killer world because before, I was Gerhardt. Anyway, it’s a long way to say I’ve repeated myself, but I hope not too much.