As a part of the Constantine junket, I got the chance to sit down with Gavin Rossdale, lead singer of Bush turned actor. In the film he plays the demon Balthazar, and overall seems to have had a great time portraying someone a bit more evil than the pretty boy persona he’s so well known for.
Question: Is it just a coincidence that you and Gwen have gotten into acting at the same time?
Gavin Rossdale: It’s just strange, isn’t it, how you can never plan that? For either of us to get into either of these two films is outstanding in itself so, no, it’s not. You can never plan it. It’s just circumstance. The universe is strange.
Q: It seems that rock stars traditionally have some trouble breaking into the acting business. How have you found it so far, and are there any mistakes that other performers have made that you can avoid?
GR: I think that I always wanted to be a small part of something big with a great director, rather than a big part of something small with a less good director. So it was a case of waiting out until the right thing came along, yet at the same time, the problem is with trying to get into movies, it’s all well and good to be successful in music but you got to get out and have some kind of confidence in you. So the first film that I did, The Game of Their Lives, which is about to come out May 22nd, was a leap of faith for the director and then for Francis to see me and offer me an audition put me in this film. It seems like he was very calculated and took smart risks with this whole project. This film is so incredible on such a huge scope that I have no idea how you begin to rope in all these different elements. It’s a testament to his greatness really.
Q: Did you give any thought to playing the character as a demon versus human or would you have played him exactly the same way if he were a human bad guy?
GR: The easiest part was it began with such great writing. The words really jumped off the page for me. This iconic thing of being an emissary of Satan…what is Satan? He’s the dark force, the evil force we’re familiar with but we’ve never seen. So I was figuring this guy was without conscious, without a care, incredibly greasy and smoothly confident. He’s a salesman trying to get people’s souls and I just tried to imagine someone who enjoyed other people’s pain. It didn’t affect me, maybe give me pleasure. It was that subhuman removed state, that was how it became the idea of being so playful with Keanu’s John Constantine.
Q: Did you enjoy playing the villain?
GR: Yes, but it wasn’t so much that the villain always has the best tunes. There is a lot of meat that goes with villains. For instance, Tilda played Angel Gabriel, I thought that was an amazing performance but it goes back to the writing. If someone writes a good guy then it would be great to play him, as long as it’s a good director. As long as the writing is good, I’m in.
Q: With you’re crossing over, no pun intended, you might say you have an uphill battle to fight. Did you do anything special working with an acting coach or someone you trusted in particular to prepare for this role?
GR: Weirdly no. I didn’t see anyone. For me, actors and performances I’ve loved the most have been so naturalistic in films. That is what I was so happy about when I saw the emergence of Gary Oldman in films, it was like, finally, someone who is English in films that is just relaxed about being there and you think he’s real. As opposed to something slightly more theatrical. For me, it was just sit down and make it real, almost like conversational because in my simplicity I just see acting as dialogue. There’s an exchange of ideas; it’s like a conversation you’re having and you have to take the character and the words and make them real, give them a back-story. There are so many schools of thought that delve deeply into that but at the end of the day it’s about being real, about being connected.
So I did an audition for Francis where I felt confident that this was maybe the way it could work. And Akiva, who co-wrote the screenplay, called my managers and was really happy about how I had taken the words and made them seem real. He was really digging that. That gave me this insane kind of like confidence that I’ve never had. I thought WOW; maybe I’m on to something. Then a week later I got the part. When I got on the set, it never really came up and I was patently the least experienced person on the whole film in any department. I was just afforded the respect that I had worked honestly to get that part, here I was and just had to deliver it. Then I was done.
Q: Would you want to do a project with Gwen at some point if the writing was good?
GR: You know, I think we’ve always tried to keep a little distance from that stuff. I’ve helped her a little bit on this record she’s got out now; she’s sung on my record. This is the second record she’s sung on with me, back up stuff. So we do keep it as separate as we can but we’re free so we pull each other into the studio. It would really depend on the material. It would really have to be extraordinary.
Q: How do you like the schedule of acting compared to music?
GR: Brutal, brutal. We do the same hours but begin at 1PM. So it’s the same amount of hours. It’s brutal, just exhausting. I don’t know how Keanu was doing it, doing that 96-day shoot and going off traveling different continents every weekend. I have newfound respect for even the worst films because I know they had to be there to make them (Laughs).
Q: How did you cope with the F/X makeup? Was it claustrophobic or was it fun for you?
GR: I had to be there at 4AM, going back to that, and that’s when you might be getting in from a session in music. I couldn’t complain because I had a team of people around me doing it. I could say well isn’t it bad for all of us and we could all complain about it together but moaning about it seemed ridiculous so I didn’t say anything. There was something about it that really helped. They basically put it on one side of my face and there was something about the constriction of that, wearing a suit and the heat from a suit I’m not used to wearing, literally being straddled by John Constantine and the gravity of John Constantine – some people would kill to be in that position, but I’m not one of them (laughs). This is work. That really helped – that claustrophobic feeling that you referenced, I just thought that was so helpful because what’s so interesting about the character Balthazar is that he feels infallible, he is infallible, he is the guy who hands out the pain to people so the idea that I could be under a situation where suddenly I become a victim is crazy. I’m to decide who is victimized, so there’s are moments in there, without giving away the film to people who haven’t seen it yet, where the tables are turned and it was really powerful to me and it really helped.
Q: So being physically uncomfortable helped you feel victimized?
GR: Yeah, for sure.
Q: What do you think about the soundtrack?
GR: I think it’s very powerful. I’ve only seen the film once but there’s the rousing Wagnerian score at times and Perfect Circle, who are friends of mine, did a scene for it and did a video. I love that band. I love a Perfect Circle and I love Tool. I’m totally happy they’re doing it.
Q: Would you ever think about doing soundtracks again?
GR: I would love to do soundtracks of course. I was about to say as I stopped myself…I wasn’t asked to do the soundtrack for this film but that was cool because I was doing a different job and I was seen purely as an actor, which is also a great accolade. I’m written songs for films, I’ve performed songs for films, but it’s strange. There doesn’t seem to have the same effect as they used to have. Say five years ago, you did a song for a film and it was a big deal. Now it’s just like I did a song for Terminator but maybe none of you know that. I did a song for XXX because they like the rock music but it’s not as known as how songs used to be.
Q: Are you more reluctant to go on tours for music because you have a wife at home now and maybe a family at some point?
GR: No, I haven’t been on tour for awhile, and now having this record completed, and going on tour, I can’t wait. They’re going to have to drag me home. They’re going to have to send me a really good script or Gwen’s going to have to come out and just spend time with me. I can’t wait to get back out there.
Q: Is this a solo album?
GR: This is a new band called Institute. It’s a record I made with three friends from Brooklyn so I don’t know. I had a huge part in it and they played huge roles in it. I’m the most known out of the four of us so it’s going to be seen or construed as potentially having a solo twist to it because it’s not Bush, but I don’t play drums that well.
Q: Will you be performing any Bush songs with the new band?
GR: That’s a good question. I think about that. I was watching Helmet last night, I went to see them play and I was wondering if I whipped out Little Things That Kill, a big hit that Bush had that always made the crowd go nuts. I was thinking that would be a really good weapon to use and I was questioning how disciplined I could be to not give into that urge. I was thinking last night that people shout out requests and things from the audience like karaoke. (Laughs) I think I’m going to resist that because this band is too good and to stand-alone. I think when I do like what Sting has done and move beyond where he made a lot of Police songs, I think when I’m not in Institute and I’m not in Bush and I’m just playing in really small clubs, then I can probably do a selection of everything. But I don’t know if I’ll still be here when that’s available.
Q: So is Bush finished?
GR: It’s on hold. Nigel, the guitar player, is much more a really good family man and what I’m sure everyone appreciates within the industry of entertainment is the sacrifices you have to. So if you’re going to make something successful, you have to forsake and give up things that people in a stationery job take for granted. But one of the painful things is how life and people, and that obviously includes the young children that you have, is you miss out so much when you go out on tour.
Q: The guys from Brooklyn you mention, who are they and where do they come from?
GR: One is Chris Traynor who played the last few months of Bush and is actually the guitar player in Helmet. Knowing him and working with him gave me the confidence that I had a start point with the band. There’s a bass player who’s in a great band called Rival Schools and he’s coming to join us, and there’s a great drummer called Charlie from local hard core bands in Brooklyn that have never really done great things but he’s a great drummer.
Q: Who is producing it?
GR: Paige Hamilton.
Q: Ah, from Helmet.
Q: Were you familiar with the Hellblazer comics at all before you got involved in this?
GR: No I wasn’t but I obviously as soon as I got asked to join the cast, I was pretty quick to find out. One of the things I really enjoyed was meeting these aficionados who have come along and they have felt there really is a faithful positive rendition of it. It hasn’t lost anything. It’s like indie music. Indie music fans hate corporate rock; hate corporate bands and that kind of stuff. This is kind of similar. I feel that counter culture of the comic book world have been betrayed so much by so many films that they have a right to be nervous and I think they are a bit cool with it.
Q: Is there anything of your performance when looking at the film for the first time that you would have changed?
GR: Yeah, I would have made the camera stay on me a little longer. He kept going right back to the star of the movie, but that’s show biz (laughs).
Q: Is there a release date for the Institute album?
GR: Not exact. I have to mix it now on February 5th, which should take a month and then 3 months to set it up so June, July, I guess. I want it out tomorrow so….
Q: Since Keanu is also a musician was there any jamming on set?
GR: I think he was too busy to jam and my face was all messed up, everything would have come out wrong. We spoke about music a bit and hung out, but I think we’ll save the jamming until nobody needs us anymore and we’ve got time.
Big thanks to Warner Bros. for letting us take part in the junket, and for Mr. Rossdale for taking the time to chat with us. Constantine opens nationwide February 18th, be sure to check out its official site right here!
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