That Modern-Day Renaissance, Movie and Rock 'N' Roll, Matrix Dude
by Earl Dittman
Between making a record with your band Dogstar, you've done four movies in a row - The Replacements, The Watcher, Sweet November and The Gift. You've been a really busy man, haven't you?
"Yeah, I've had the good fortune in the past year to be given the opportunity to act in some really great films. You're right, though, it's been pretty busy, but it's been pretty good. I've had some great experiences. I wouldn't trade it for anything in the world."
At its core, The Replacements is basically about a guy who gets a second chance in his career and in his life. Did you ever need a second chance?
"Sure, of course, both in work and in life. There have been times where I have needed to reassess my existence and decide an a new path. I tend to do that, a lot. But I think that most people do that, too, in terms of retreating. You know, you retreat just to try to either cope or figure out where your life is at."
Where do you retreat to when you want to go in another direction?
"What do I do? Nothing dramatic, I tend to sit on my couch or just stare out the window."
Does making music with Dogstar give you a different perspective on life?
"Yeah, the music part is a great outlet for me. With acting, I'm basically saying someone else's words and performing in someone else's artistic vision. Making music is more me, it comes from inside me and the other guys in the band. Plus, it's exciting and a whole lot of fun."
What's it like when you walk on stage? Do you get a rush?
"Well, it resembles walking out on stage in theater or entering into an wild scene in a movie. It's really exciting and fun, but sometimes it's nerve-racking. Some nights, you walk out and you're relaxed and ready to go. Other nights, you feel like you are going to pass out because you are so nervous."
What do you think of the boy bands that are so popular right now? You know, groups like N'Sync and the Backstreet Boys?
"What do I think of the boy bands? Hmmm... I'm not sure." (laughs)
Do you aspire to be in one?
"I don't know, I don't think I would exactly fit in. (laughs) Honestly, though, it looks they are having fun, and people are having fun with their music."
Are music groupies different from film groupies?
"The difference between movie groupies and rock groupies? That's something that I've never really compared, but I'm sure there's a difference. I'll try and do some research on the subject and get back to you with it."
Do women throw stuff on stage when you guys play?
"On a good day, yeah."
"Underwear, bras... when we get a lot of them, it's a really good day."
After seeing you an the gridiron in The Replacements, I didn't realize you were such a good football player.
"I'm really not, I never played football in my life. You've got to remember that I'm from Canada. (laughs) Did I look convincing on the field? I hope so, because I trained for about, in total, two months. But I paid the price, let me tell you. At night, every single cell in my body ached. I had six ice packs in my freezer. I would sit down on them, wrap them around my arm and both my knees, and sometimes, my feet because they had gotten stepped on. It was brutal."
How was training for football different for what you had to go through for The Matrix?
"You mean, kung-fu versus football? Believe it or not, they were both very different but also very much the same. They both involve coordination, learning the system and physical dedication. At the end of the day, they both have you in pain, it's just different kinds of pain."
OK, then, which was tougher - kung-fu or football camp?
"If I had to put them on the effort scale, I would say the kung-fu camp because it was longer, about four months. And now that I think about it, it was more difficult because it was just less familiar. I grew up throwing balls and playing sports, but a lot of the gestures and movements that one has to do in a kung-fu film, I never really did."
Why do you think that people connected so much with The Matrix?
"Well, I think that because the character in the film, Thomas Anderson, is looking for answers in his life. He's the medium, and I think that it poses good questions about our lives. What are your choices? Do you want to stay in the rabbit hole, do you want to get out? What truth is a good question? Basically, it's about trying to understand one's life and the choices that you make."
When do parts two and three of The Matrix start filming?
"I'm set to begin training - again - in November, and I believe we start filming in the beginning of March or April."
Do you think filming both The Matrix sequels back to back is a good idea?
"Yeah, it makes the whole thing seem bigger. It puts it on a grander scale."
Can you tell me anything about the plot? Like where the story picks up?
"Well, in the second one... wait, I don't know if I am allowed to talk about this?"
Yeah, go ahead, who could it hurt?
"Me! They'll probably hunt me down and torture me. (laughs) I'll tell you a little... You get to Zion in the beginning, and you get to meet the world of Zion. Then, the story unfolds."
"That's all you are getting from me."
If you could master any one skill from The Matrix, what would it be?
"You mean, if I could have a superpower?"
"I would say healing."
"Right, for my sore toe that still hurts me from doing The Replacements." (laughs)
How would you do if you had to battle Jackie Chan in real life?
"He would kick my ass."
What about Jet Li?
"He would kick my ass, too, but I bet that I can run faster than both of them. (laughs) My kung-fu is pretty good, so I'm not a total wuss. I think I could at least put up a good fight."
Is Jet Li going to be with you in The Matrix sequels?
"I'm not sure what's happening there. I know that the directors and writers have met with him, but I haven't gotten a final word. I'd like to work with him, because he's such a great artist."
What was the impetus for doing Sweet November?
"I thought that it was a beautiful story, and I got to work with Charlize Theron again. I absolutely love her. She's gotten more and more fantastic."
And The Gift?
"The Gift is directed by Sam Raimi, and it really gave me a chance to do a role I haven't done before. In it, I play a character named 'Donnie Barksdale' who is married to Hilary Swank, who is a fantastic actress and person. But I'm the ugly engine dragon in the film. I play a wife beater."
Was it difficult doing a dark role like that?
"No, it wasn't hard, because it's pretend. And to realize and explore that part of my psyche was revelatory."
Do you still get the same joy out of acting as you did when you were young?
"Yeah, I do. I love acting, I love acting more and more. So, I'm just grateful that I've had the opportunity to do it."
Is it also good to not be in a place where you don't have to worry about landing another job?
"No, you always have to worry."
Even though you're financially secure now?
"Am I? I don't know."
Well, for The Matrix you must have made a fortune.
"Oh, we're going to talk about money now?"
No, not if you don't want to. Does being that successful make it easier to enjoy the process of acting or does it make it harder in some ways?
"For me, I guess that I don't connect them like that. I work on a part, I look for work, I hopefully realize a part, and make good films. And some of the successes that I've had, I guess, I'm grateful for. But for me, I look at it like, 'I get to act again.' That's what success means to me."
Do you think that you're a workaholic?
"Well, probably just this last year I have been. But I like being a lazy bum, too."
How do you stay so grounded?
"By just reminding myself that I'm just an actor."
Do you ever wish for anonymity again?
"Anonymity? Yeah, of course."
Besides that whole ridiculous story about you marrying David Geffen, what would you say is the funniest thing that you ever read about yourself?
"I remember there was one tabloid story that said I was swimming naked with Sharon Stone at a hotel in L.A., and I was like, 'Wow, I wish that was true.'"
What's next after The Matrix sequels? There's been talk of another Bill & Ted movie. Do you think that you will ever revisit those dudes?
"Alex and I, always spoke about doing another Bill and Ted when we were forty."
It's getting close.
"Hey man, I've got five years to go. (laughs) Slow down there."
Where do you see Bill and Ted at forty?
"We always pictured them at some peripheral Vegas hotel bar with like two guitars - these two drunk and fat guys playing rock and roll."
Where do you see yourself at forty?
"I have no idea, but I hope that I'm just doing well."
Are you doing well now?
"I'm having a great time."