Interview: Richard Jenkins

How do you describe Richard Jenkins’ career? This is a man who has appeared in virtually everything, worked with virtually everyone. If the name is not familiar to you, it is only because he is rarely the leading man. But I assure you, you have seen plenty of his films!

Since his film debut in the television movie Feasting with Panthers (1974), he has steadily been working in film. Some of his earlier film credits include Hannah and Her Sisters (1986), The Witches of Eastwick (1987), How to Make an American Quilt (1995), Snow Falling On Cedars (1999), North Country (2005). He is also an occasional collaborator with the director siblings the Farrelly brothers, who have worked with Jenkins in There’s Something About Mary (1998), Me, Myself, & Irene (2000), Outside Providence (1999), and Say It Isn’t So (2001). He has also worked frequently with the Coen Brothers: The Man Who Wasn’t There (2001), Intolerable Cruelty (2003), The Visitor (2007), and Burn After Reading (2008).

He is best known for being the father on “Six Feet Under”, and has recently starred in “Let Me In” and the upcoming “Cabin in the Woods”. I was briefly able to chat with Richard on January 6, 2011 about his latest horror flicks and working with Johnny Depp. Here’s what he had to say.

GS: Preparing for “Let Me In”, I know you read the book. Which aspects of your character didn’t make the cut for the film?

RJ: Well, I don’t run down Main Street naked. And I don’t turn into a vampire…

GS: The more taboo elements, such as the child molestation were left out… did this affect the interpretation of your character?

RJ: You go to work with what is printed on the page. That’s what is going to be the movie. So, playing the character, I did not play a child molester. It’s not in the screenplay. So, no, elements of the book did not affect the character as presented in the script, which was my source material. Everywhere you look, there are clues that tell you who this guy is, but that (the child molestation) wasn’t there.

GS: When describing “Let the Right One In”, your word for it is “human”. That is not a common way to describe a horror film — could you elaborate?

RJ: Well, it’s about… I forgot when I was watching it sometimes that one of these two kids is a vampire. And then when you remember that, it’s very sad. It’s a bout loneliness and friendship. There were times when I was watching it that I forgot who she was. And the candy scene is one of the most sweetest things. It’s just two kids, and the fact that was willing to try the candy was just heartbreaking. It’s a what a kid does, even what a 200-year old kid does. You know you shouldn’t eat candy, but you do it anyway because your friend asks you to and you want to be part of the group. I just think it’s fantastic. It’s complicated, very complicated… it’s not a slasher film.

GS: The film has a very elaborate makeup job for your character… is it safe to say this is the most you’ve ever done?

RJ: Oh yeah. Usually for movies it takes about 7 hours to make me presentable. (laughs) No, that was the most… but I didn’t have to do it too much, I think only two days. I’ve turned parts down because it was going to be every day for 3 or 4 hours in makeup and I said no thanks. I’m not the most patient person in the makeup chair. But this was only two days. I still had to get the molds made, you know, go to the shop and get the prosthetic molds made so they can build the mask. And it looked great, I thought. It’s the best I ever looked.

GS: Can you comment on working with Chloe Moretz?

RJ: Yeah, she’s just amazing. I sat behind her at the screening and she was hysterical, really getting into it. She’s really sweet. And smart. And so is Kodi. You get kids in this position, at that age, they’re special kids. There’s something going on there that is out of the ordinary, beyond their years. And yet, when they yell “cut”, they have fun and run around. It’s incredible. The nuance and emotional complexity is just amazing.

GS: “Cabin in the Woods” has been caught up in MGM’s financial mess. What should we expect to see when it finally debuts?

RJ: The unexpected. You’re not supposed to know what it is. I think that’s really what Drew (Goddard) and Joss Whedon want. It’s a take on the horror movie genre.

GS: Does MGM’s mess affect you, or are you in the clear?

RJ: Well, no, I’m not quite sure what you mean.

GS: To put it bluntly, did you get paid?

RJ: I got paid, yeah. (laughs) Hopefully MGM’s problems get corrected and the film gets released. I hope. I haven’t seen it, but it was sure fun to make, and it deserves to be out there. And it will be. Joss is amazing. This whole group, really. Drew Goddard, Joss Whedon, Matt Reeves… they’re all friends. Drew and Matt are really close friends — they made “Cloverfield”. It’s really fun for an old guy like me to come into this world, and they’re all so talented.

GS: You appear with Johnny Depp in the upcoming “Rum Diary”. Compare Depp’s on-screen personae to his real-world persona, if you could.

RJ: He’s very sweet, very gentle, very funny. His best friends were Hunter Thompson and Marlon Brando — that tells you what he’s like. He’s a special guy.

GS: Any dirt you can share on David Hasselhoff?

RJ: If there’s any dirt on David Hasselhoff, he will tell you.

GS: You’ve never met the man?

RJ: I have not met him, no. Why do you want dirt on David Hasselhoff? Have you found any out?

GS: Not too much.

RJ: I didn’t think so. It’s all on YouTube, isn’t it? (laughs) You’re looking in the wrong place.

GS: Thanks for taking time out for me today, Richard.

RJ: My pleasure.

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