JR: What about Donald Sutherland? He’s a pretty venerated actor.
CT: I just got to work with Al Pacino. [Sutherland] may be even more venerated than him, and that’s hard to say. [They’ve both] been doing it longer than I’ve been alive. [And Sutherland] really, really cares. He doesn’t just do a scene and say, “That was good.” No, he goes over to director and takes notes. He wants to make it better every time. And that’s such a good thing for a young actor to see, because you can get really complacent. I don’t think people care as much now. If you make a good trailer, people go see [the] movie. Some of the best movies of the year are never seen, because they might not be commercial. It’s probably a pretty frustrating thing for someone like Donald who loves great movies and great characters and great stories. I think that’s maybe why he’s held on so long. He knows that he can still make something great. He puts in the effort. He doesn’t look for someone else to do it for him.
JR: In terms of distinguishing between the blockbuster and the quality film — as that gap is ever widening — was The Eagle different for you?
CT: You feel more responsible. How do we make it special? It goes back to bridging the gap between something that is realistic and yet still commercial. So many people want an escape. They want to be on whatever the Avatar world was.
CT (chuckling): Pandora, that’s it. Nice memory. They want to go to see what Pandora’s like. They want to know what other races look like. Now more than ever, [they] want to believe that there’s something else out there, an alternate reality, even if it’s in their imagination. I truly believe that history is just as good as sci-fi because it uses your imagination in the same way. You just gotta get people to go, and hopefully we’ve made a good film.
There’s no more mistaking Tatum as we shake hands to end the interview, only a pinching reminder to check my expectations at the door. For those who still only see the fashion-model hunk, look again. There’s an insightful, articulate professional to be found.
Also this week: David Elliott reviews The Eagle