Roundtable Interview: Sam Rockwell and Christopher Walken Talk Seven Psychopaths and More
Last week Dread Central had the opportunity to catch up with two of the seven "psychos" - Christopher Walken and Sam Rockwell - from CBS Films' upcoming darkly comedic flick Seven Psychopaths.
Written and directed by Martin McDonagh, Seven Psychopaths also stars Colin Farrell, Woody Harrelson, Abbie Cornish, Olga Kurylenko and Tom Waits. The film follows a struggling Hollywood writer (Farrell) who gets mixed up in his friends' crazy scheme after they kidnap the beloved Shih-Tzu belonging to a murderous gangster (Harrelson) who will stop at nothing to get his precious pooch back.
Check out the highlights from our roundtable interview with the always entertaining Walken and Rockwell, and look for Seven Psychopaths in theaters everywhere on October 12th!
Question: Well, you guys have both worked with so many directors throughout your careers; what did you see from Martin's sensibilities that suited you well in working with him?
Christopher Walken: I don't know; that would be more of a question for this guy (Sam). But no, I like him very much, and they say casting is some big percentage of movies and I think that's true. If the casting is right, then you don't have to work as hard because whatever you are is what they're looking for.
So I don’t know; I know there's something about my personality that's suited for this movie. Just something about Martin's taste I guess.
Question: On the subject of casting, Mr. Walken, were you always offered the role that you took in Seven Psychopaths or did you look at some of the other roles, too?
Christopher Walken: Nah, there was really one role I could play; I'm much older than the rest of them. I suppose I could have played the Tom (Waits) part - maybe - but it's better with him.
Reporter: Or even Woody's (Harrelson) part--
Sam Rockwell: (to Walken) Yeah, that's the part you'd usually be playing; that's why it's genius that it's not you in the movie.
Christopher Walken: Yeah, if I was THAT old and THAT crazy about my dog, well…geez (laughs), this movie would have ended up an entirely different animal I think.
Question: Sam, can you talk about your character and his relationship with Colin in the film? A lot of the comedic moments in the film come from the relationship between you guys; what was the approach you both took in fleshing out these characters?
Sam Rockwell: Colin and I had met each other ten years previous, but we didn’t really know each other all that well. Chris and I already knew each other from a play that we did together so he wanted Colin and I to bond so the three of us (Sam, Colin and Martin) all went to Joshua Tree and rented a house there. At one point, we stopped at a rest stop and Colin picked out the bear hat, the one I wear in the movie- he found it and put it on my head so he told me to eat Cheetos and chocolate milk. That might even be in the movie (laughs).
But yeah, I had always thought that while working on it; we were just talking about how Chris was part of the original stage production of "Hurlyburly," the part that Sean Penn plays in the movie. It was the relationship between that character and Chazz Palminteri's is very similar to the relationship between Billy and Marty in this movie; the out-of-work actor and the struggling writer who are sort of co-dependent on each other.
Question: We were talking to Martin about your (Christopher) unusual pronunciation of the word 'hallucinogens' in the film and he wasn't quite sure if that was how you would normally say it or that was purposeful on your part?
Christopher Walken: Oh- you mean "hal-you-cin-o-gens." (laughs) I mean, I come from a time where that's the correct way to say that word.
Sam Rockwell: You mean British? (laughs)
Question: You both are known for creating such memorable characters, what for you did you find memorable about these characters in particular?
Sam Rockwell: Wait, can you say that again?
Question: You both are known for playing memorable characters-
Sam Rockwell: Okay, good; I just wanted to hear that part again (laughs). No but seriously- thank you.
Christopher Walken: I know what you're saying; I always get told that by a lot of people who have seen it, but we're all kind of in the business in this movie so I'll be interested to see how regular audiences react. You know, I had to go to the dentist two mornings ago, and when I walked in, the dentist says to me, "Looking forward to October 12th." I said, "What? What's happening then?" (laughs) I knew the movie was opening in October, but then he says to me, "You know, your movie is opening," and I said, "Oh yeah, right."
So when him and his family go and see the movie, that's when I can get an impression about this movie. When I'm on the road making a movie in another city, on my day off I always go to the movies. Always.
Sam Rockwell: He saw Puss in Boots while we were making this. (laughs)
Christopher Walken: I did, I did! I liked it. But I love going to the movies- you get a ticket, you sit there, and to me it's very interesting to be around people who aren't personally invested in you in any way. They're just going to the movies.
Sam Rockwell: What's memorable for me- I mean, I hate to be 'Mister Whatever' but they experience that we had during the play and with Colin, Woody and everybody on the film it was such a great experience. We took our jobs very seriously but we also had a lot of fun; that memory, that's what is really memorable for me.
But you know, who knows? Of course we want the movie to be a smash hit, but who knows what's going to happen? I have memories of films that nobody ever saw that I was very proud of, and those are still great memories. It would be great if people saw this movie; it's a cool movie.
Question: Were there any movies in particular that inspired you with this role, this performance?
Sam Rockwell: I think there were; I actually watched Colin in In Bruges a couple of times because I thought the rhythms and the characters were similar. There's tons of stuff that this guy (Colin) has done throughout his career; you know, I'm like Spider-Man, stealing things from actors to put in the web arsenal (laughs). They become like spider webs, ready at any moment.
I did watch that documentary Grizzly Man; I thought watching that guy was helpful to watch. Also, Kathy Bates in Misery- I watched that because her obsession with James Caan...
Christopher Walken: Grizzly Man- that guy was crazy.
Sam Rockwell: Oh yeah, when he talks to the park rangers (laughs). With bananas or something like that...
Christopher Walken: Disturbing.
Sam Rockwell: But yeah, I actually found that helpful for when I did the play with Martin because my character in that was a nerdier version of Billy. He was a hotel clerk and his character was a bit more like Woody's character here.
Christopher Walken: You know, there was this desk clerk once where when you'd take the elevator, you'd come to find out that he would go up the stairs and get off on your floor while you're on the way up. Then he'd follow you down the hall to your room- I just remember that guy so vividly and he reminded me of that character in the play.
Sam Rockwell: Oh yeah; that character, again, was more like Woody's character or like Ralph Fiennes in In Bruges. The gasoline, the whole thing- and a suitcase of cut-off hands.
Christopher Walken: I said to Martin once in rehearsal, "How did you ever come to write a play about a guy who goes around with a suitcase filled with cut-off hands?" and he said, "You know, I was just sitting there one day and thought to myself, 'I wonder what it would be like for a guy who went all over the place with a suitcase filled with hands.'" It's as simple as that.
Question: What did you guys find to be the most surprising aspect of the script?
Christopher Walken: The whole thing is surprising; whenever you read a script that has big chunks of intelligent and juicy dialogue, you know- that's pretty unusual. I have a lot of trouble with scripts, I have a lot of trouble imagining things while I'm reading them. Sometimes if you're lucky before you start shooting the actors will sit around a table and they read the script out loud. For me, that's a big moment because no matter how many times I read a script before I get there, I can't see it. But the moment that I get there, that's when I finally can see it.
Obviously, this was a terrific script but I couldn't imagine it.
Question: Mr. Walken, you just mentioned those juicy bits of dialogue; is that something specifically you seek out? So many of your performances have these really great dialogues.
Christopher Walken: You always look for good stuff. What I meant when I said that was that very few scripts have that kind of focus on what people are saying. Movies can be a lot of things, but they're usually not about dialogue; you know, the kind of dialogue that tells you where you are and where you're going.
But you don't get really smart, fun stuff to say all that often.
Sam Rockwell: Fun stuff to say? Yeah, but I think good material seeks him (Christopher) out because he's so good at those monologues. Like Biloxi Blues, True Romance, Pulp Fiction with the watch shoved up the... (laughs). Man, he's great at that.
Christopher Walken: Yeah, but there aren't a lot of screenwriters who do that.
Sam Rockwell: Oh I know they don't do that, but when you have a specialty, and you're good at that, so they find you. That's no accident.
Christopher Walken: Yeah, I suppose that's true, but I've also made four studio movie musicals over the years, and these days they just don't make those kinds of movies now. If you're an actor and you can tap dance a little bit, you can be in that movie.
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