Walter Mencken 6:15 p.m., Feb. 28
Interview: Robert Forster has risen!
I fell in love with Robert Forster through his characters many years ago. Meeting Bob when he passed through town for a Cinema Society of San Diego screening of Diamond Men several years ago only confirmed my fervancy.
The Olympus Has Fallen interview availability roster included Gerard Butler, Aaron Eckhart, Angela Bassett, Rick Yune, Dylan Mc Dermott, Melissa Leo, and director Antoine Fuqua.
What names were they withholding? Morgan Freeman would sooner grant an interview to the Shelter Island Penny Saver than The Big Screen, but wait a minute. Robert Forster? Now we’re talking!
It was Thursday in San Diego and the press junket was just days away. I had two hours to submit my interview request, sight unseen. In the name of not being a branded sexist pig who only wants to interview hotties like Maggie Grace or the cast of For a Good Time, Call..., I decided to do my female readers a service and speak with reigning heartthrob, Jerry Butler. (I’m a big fan of For Your Precious Love.)
Instead of throwing you gals a bone, I was boned! I spent a good portion of my Saturday morning waiting for Butler to do it, but it wasn’t meant to be.
Weeks passed and I doggedly pursued the local rep. How often do I like a big, effects-driven roller coaster ride of a movie? Butler was off the table, but two days ago an email arrived announcing that Melissa Leo was available.
Don’t get me wrong, Ms. Leo is an outstanding actress, but her role in Olympus is one of the few thankless ones and part of my goal is to promote the movie.
You don’t ask, you don’t get: what about Robert Forster?
She’d kill me for mentioning her name (that’s what you get for being nice to me), so thank you, INSERT PUBLICIST'S NAME HERE, for working so hard to make this happen. This one demanded a quick turnover, so what follows pertains strictly to Olympus Has Fallen. Mr. Forster and I have exchanged contact info. Give me a month or so to revisit Jackie Brown, Reflections in a Golden Eye, Diamond Men, Alligator, Original Gangsters, Mulholland Drive and a few other favorites and we’ll regroup for an interview that will do his career the justice it so richly deserves.
As much as I would have loved an interview with Mr. Butler, I hope you'll agree that Robert Forster was a definite trade-up.
Scott Marks: How did you get involved with Olympus Has Fallen?
Robert Forster: This is the fourth picture I’ve done for (producer) Avi Lerner. We go back not quite twenty years...before Jackie Brown. The last bad guy I played before Jackie Brown...I had a thirteen year run of bad guys that ended with American Perfekt. It actually ended with Jackie Brown, that was the first good guy I did.
It was a tiny little movie, one of the best in my career. That was for Avi Lerner. Avi has hired me one after another, maybe four times over this period. He always comes through with something and I’m always delighted. Working for the same guy for a few times gives you the feeling that somebody does like you. It’s one of the big pluses in a career, knowing that someone is out there looking for something to put you in. That’s how I got involved in this. I got a call from my agent saying Avi wants to hire you again, and here we go.
SM: General Edward Clegg is easily the most colorful character in the piece. How much of what was in the script made it to the finished product and how much can be credited to ‘the Forster touch?’
RF: The real Forster touch in this is by way of Antoine Fuqua. Is that how you say his first name, Antoine?
SM: It’s the ‘Fuckyou’ for a last name that always trips me up.
RF (Laughing): Yeah. I can tell you this: this guy is one of the great directors. He is great because her gives actors that little bit of flexibility that they need to articulate words and ideas and to say them honestly from themselves. Things can be written on the page that are perfectly good to say, and you say them. Occasionally you run across a phrase where you say, “you know what, I would like to make this a little stronger” and everytime Antoine would say, “Go ahead.”
That’s how the line “I have the toughest fucking guys in the world” came about. That was not a line, that was just a bump response to the other guy. It came out of my mouth and Antoine asked me to do the line again. So we reshot it. Antoine Fuqua is really a great director. He gives the actor a small chance...a chance, never mind small chance, a chance to articulate his ideas and the material as written with a little bit of flexibility.
It’s not something we always get. You don’t get it in television. Television dialog has become so refined that nobody wants you to touch a comma. So I credit Fuqua with being a fabulous actor’s director and with having made the movie -- which was good on paper -- better and better with subtle touches that only this guy could deliver. That’s why the picture is so human. You start with the first story of the President losing his wife. That’s your jumping off point. The relationships between the principal characters are all beautifully set up within the first five minutes.
SM: Politically and aesthetically speaking, I should hate Olympus Has Fallen: it’s one CG explosion after the next, it’s pro-war, the script provides terrorists with a blueprint on how to overthrow the White House, but a good movie is a good movie and I had a ball watching this. What are your thoughts regarding the film’s political stance?
RF: The world is a dangerous place and if you don’t imagine that there are guys out there looking to opportune themselves against this country, think again. It’s a reality. Whether or not it’s the White House, they’re looking to take a shot somewhere. It’ll probably be a lot softer target, something that will really, really put us in an awful mental condition.
When somebody attacks your child, for instance, or something that can’t be easily protected, it’s a horror. These guys in this movie take a shot at the most heavily defended structure in the world. I’m sure there are guys in our military asking themselves in what ways are we failing to protect this because in some ways we can be vulnerable. All these things are reality and the world is a very unsafe place.
Olympus Has Fallen is currently in wide release. Click for showtimes (and my four star review).