Constantine. John Constantine. Asshole.
|Occupation:||Con man, joker, thief... Magus.|
|Distinguishing Feature:||Cigarettes and lung cancer|
|What He Taught Us:||When he tells you to move a car, you move it.|
John Constantine, Hellblazer
I'm the one who steps from the shadow, all trenchcoat and cigarette and arrogance, ready to deal with the madness.
Oh, I've got it all sewn up. I can save you. If it takes the last drop of your blood, I'll drive your demons away. I'll kick them in the bollocks and spit on them when they're down, and then I'll be gone back into the darkness, leaving only a nod and a wink and a wisecrack.
I walk my path alone...
Who would want to walk with me?
(by Hellblazer writer Garth Ennis)
Hellblazer, Issue #57
Ultimately, John's an anti-hero. Everything that happens to him usually has some tragic result, or, if he helps someone else, the price of such help lands in the lap of John himself. We love to see him stumble through life without enough hope to change him but just enough to so he will continue on the same vein: alone, and in desperate need of attention he won't admit of needing.
Francis Lawrence, director
Constantine has a hardboiled detective edge and a punk Sid Vicious attitude; he smokes, he drinks and is sarcastic and wry. He's not a blond Englishman but the heart of the character, the attitude and the period he invokes is intact, as this was the most important thing for me to maintain.
I've read a few of the comics, and I really like the character of Constantine. I like his ambivalence, his vitality, his darkness and his anger - I really like his anger - but also his kind of underlying grace, his underlying love for humanity. And I love him as a figure who is sort of the ultimate [example] of the existential 'God is dead' [argument]. Hellblazer literalizes a kind of Heaven and Hell and that type of Catholic background, and Constantine's saying, 'The nine deities, the nine devils, all of you get out of here. Just leave us alone.' He's the ultimate man without all of the other kinds of entities. I love the dialogue, because he finds out something else in his quest. He finds out something about himself and his humanity. He is full of doubts. He doesn't win. He has to lose his life. Neo was a very vulnerable character. With Constantine, there's an element of greatness, although [in this movie] the great Constantine is kind of faded.
Constantine can see things and has knowledge about the way the world works that is distressing to him, and he tried to get a way out. He committed suicide, and now he's trying to find his way into heaven, into the Lord's grace. He's a man who is trying to find his place in the world and come to terms with his life and circumstances of it.
He has practical magic. He can cast out demons; he has certain powers that he can use. It has a hard-boiled side to it, there's a mystery afoot. He's definitely less of a trickster and more of a magician. And a con man? Yeah, he's trying to buy his way into heaven. Is he doing what he's doing because he's altruistic or is he doing what he's doing so he can hustle? You don't know. There's a bit of a con man in there. He's sort of a mid-way person, between Heaven and Hell. He deals in icons. And he's a bit of a thief.
When I read the script and then familiarized myself with the work, I saw that what was important was really the essence of Constantine. That kind of hard-edged, hard-boiled, world-weary, cynical, fatalistic, nihilistic, self-interested [guy] with a heart. He's getting thrown, choked, stomped on, punched and hit. He brushes himself off and keeps going, which is great.
As an actor, it's fun to play someone who is wounded but fighting. I like his never-give-up attitude and I like his humor, kind of gallows humor. He's a hustler. He has an insight into the workings of the world and he just hates it. He hates the hypocrisy. He's also not the nicest guy in the world.
He's trapped, trying to be free and deal with the consequences of what's happened to him and who he is. I was just trying to find mine and his coming together. I didn't do anything external except look at the architecture of the comic and how Constantine expresses himself, he looks out of the side of his eyes a lot, or has his head cocked sideways with a kind of "what are you doing?" look on his face. And the way he looks at the world, he can see things that other people can't and this guy is very alone. The "friends" he does have are dying every time he gets in contact with them. So it's hard for him to be intimate with anybody. I think he is a lone wolf character.
He's a reluctant hero. He's a heroic anti-hero. I think of him as a hero because he's fighting against all odds. I like that he just doesn't quit, he's just like "fuck you all!" One of the lines in the film is: "God has a plan for all of us. I had to die, twice, just to figure that out. Some people like it, some people don't." That, to me, is how I think of Constantine. He's a man who is trying to find his place in the world and come to terms with his life and the circumstances of it. "Some people like it and some people don't" - he's kind of ambivalent. Constantine has been dealt a hand in life he didn't ask for. And he comes to terms with it. He's jaded and cynical, but hopeful, you know? He's seen it all.
There are consequences where he's not the nicest guy. He makes a sacrifice in the end, so hopefully there is something redeeming about him. But he's a hard man to love. I don't know if he's immoral. But it's something that he's negotiating with. He's complicated. As a hero, he's flawed. He's damned to hell, trapped, dying, cursed and doesn't like the way the world works. He doesn't always do the right thing the right way, but that's okay. Because of this, we can follow his journey and relate to him.
I love his wry sense of humor about the awfulness of the world, having to deal with that day in and day out and dealing what it's turned him into. He's kind of like a warrior in this world of shit, just trying to deal with everything. This is a guy who committed suicide to get out of this world and now he's trying to find his way into Heaven. There's a lot on this guy's plate. He's struggling with his own nature and he's struggling to find a better life. I like his fatalistic, cynical, pretentious side. Even if, deep down, he's a generous guy.
He's got a wonderful sense of humor. Even though he's destined to spend the rest of his life in hell, he's not afraid to insult the devil. I like his inner anger. He hates what's happening to him. It reminded me of my high school years...
I really love playing him. Again, his humor, his energy, his anger, his ambivalence and the fact that he's trapped. He's hustling for his life, he's dying in the movie - dying of cancer - so he has a clock. He's at a point where he's thinking, "I've got to get into heaven, what do I have to do because I'm not going back to hell." In the story he commmitted suicide when he was a kid, so he's damned and he's trying to get his way out but he doesn't know how.
He has a line where he's talking to Gabriel and Gabriel says "you don't believe," and Constantine asks, "What does God want from me?" Gabriel responds, "Faith and belief," and Constantine says "I believe, for Christ's sake!" and Gabriel says, "No, you know." So he's trapped and he's just trying to do what he can do. I just cast a demon out of a little girl, who am I doing that for? He's saying, "Come on, I'm helping you out, can't you help me out?" He's not getting the help.
He commits suicide when he was a young man, he's gone to Hell already, he's come back. For him, there's no religiosity, for him it's like the rules of the world; it's like Heaven and Hell, you can make these choices and this is the game that they are playing and we're stuck in it, and how that impacts whether you are a better person or worse person, that is an aspect, a dialogue of religiosity, for a part like being the birth of compassion, the birth of love. And if you have the love of self and the love for others, that gets you to Heaven or Nirvana or a crossover. All of those aspects, there is a part of that in this story. There is a sacrifice of self, but at the same time, you know, John Constantine is out for himself.
And the character itself is so beautiful. I mean it's a wonderful role for an actor. There's a lot to do. He's a guy who's been dealing with issues of heaven and hell and the kind of rules of the way life and the world works. And he's not quite happy with the way the world works. I could relate.
I really like the character. I like John Constantine. I like him. I dig playing him so much. I'd hang around with him.
John is a hardened world-weary exorcist who sees the world through cynical eyes and takes orders from none but himself, armed with his own personal moral code, stubborn to the point of personal detriment.
He hates the system and how everything works. At the same time he knows that he can't do anything to change it, and this helplessness fuels his anger even more. Fortunately for him, the world is rife with evil halfling creature things for him to kill and/or send to Hell.
John is pretty sure that the world doesn't like him, for the simple reason that he doesn't like it and assumes that the feeling is mutual. Somewhere inside he feels vulnerable, hates that, and protects himself from it by going on the offensive.
He is defiant of authority - even if said authority happens to be God or something - and does not wish to be told how to live his life, even if stubbornly going his own way is going to hurt him. He would still rather do that than have to bend to someone else's will.
John thinks of most people as inferior individuals who know nothing, and who would probably go insane if they knew half the things he did. He takes some sadistic pride in this.
He doesn't just think that life sucks; he knows it.
John's life (and death) experiences, as well as what he has seen, have hardened him. He sees everything as some kind of sick joke. He is not a cruel man, but has long since closed off his heart to the thought of redemption and a greater good. Even the God - which he does believe in - seems a manipulative force involved in a game of oneupmanship with the devil.
He mistrusts 'goodness' when he sees it, as he has no reason to believe it exists. His callous treatment of Angela is both a wake up call for her (in his opinion) and gives him a perverse sense of comfort - i.e. the fate that awaits him, awaits all 'sinners'.
Again - there is a period of re-awakening (a theme in Keanu's films??) - where he begins to feel for Angela and her twin's plight. Also, the loss of the few people who could ever consider as friends makes him re-evaluate his motives - his fight becomes more about doing the right thing than simply avoiding Lou's clutches.
John has always been noble, although he would not view it that way. He had no choice in whether he could 'see' or not, so he would not consider anything he does as a result of this as a personal characteristic. His sacrifice at the end is something he has always been capable of, he just hadn't seen anything worthy of such a sacrifice until that very moment.