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  actor interview - Ryan Phillippe

The Way of the Gun: syndicated interview with Ryan Phillippe

What appealed to you about The Way of the Gun?

"I think the fact that these guys are complicated, they're not caricatures. There's a sense of reality to them, in as much as there's very little communication, this unspoken bond so that you feel like they have a history. They're directly focussed on the task at hand, and nothing else. Me and Benicio don't even say each other's names in the movie. That's kind of interesting, because you do get a sense of a past, but it's unspoken which I think legitimises it. They don't sit around talking about stuff they've done, but you know they'd done lots of stuff together. Also it's not apparent in this story that one is the boss and the other is the lackey. We didn't want it to seem like Benicio is the older brother kind of thing, we wanted to make it like these guys were equals, and that they play the same game together."

There is an originality to the way so many elements are handled - like the chase as you and Benicio kidnap the pregnant Juliette Lewis, isn't there?

"I love that chase. That's what great about the director, Chris McQuarrie. Benicio was really involved in shaping the story with Chris, they started working on it long before I was involved. It's a great script, and as soon as I finished the script I immediately re-read it. It's complicated enough that once I knew the story I wanted to find out the things you don't pick up on when you see it for the first time."

There is a real feeling of authenticity to it all, isn't there?

"It was important to Chris to convey the idea that these were highly professional characters. There's not a lot of BS in the movie in regard to the gunplay and the shootouts. Everything is realistic, we change the magazines in our guns every single time, there are no unaccounted bullets, every single bullet shot in the movie is accounted for. Chris was so detailed in his approach to these scenes, in creating this lifestyle and trying to make it honest and real, more so than we tend to see in most action based movies."

Did it feel at times like you were playing a larger than life game of cops 'n' robbers?

"There were times when it did, and that was fun. But I'm not particularly comfortable around guns. I could get into it in a sense, because you have to for the character, and there is some sort of power to it in a sick kind of way. But we wanted to look like we could do what we had to do, so we trained with a Navy SEAL and a SWAT team member, and we were on the range all the time, working to make it as realistic as we possibly could."

Who was better with the guns, you or Benicio?

"I was better with the shotgun, he was better with the handgun."

There's a real Butch and Sundance thing going on in the story, is that a film you particularly admire?

"I'm a huge fan of Paul Newman's, he was one of the reasons I wanted to be an actor. From Cool Hand Luke primarily, but Butch Cassidy... also and The Sting."

The Way of the Gun is a step up for you in the sense that you're playing an older character than we've been used to seeing.

"I've played my age in some smaller films, but you're right, this is much more an adult sort of role. That was one of the reasons I wanted to do it. It's rare to find a script as good as this, especially when you're younger. Unless you magically get into this class of actor who gets to work with all the best people, so when something is this interesting it offers a unique opportunity."

Yet Chris was reluctant to cast you at first, wasn't he?

"I had some conversations with him, and once he got to know me a little better he changed his mind. I told him my ideas for the character, about putting on this weight and doing this voice, and wanting to look a certain way. He was really into it. But at first he was thinking of casting guys much older than me, and quite different from me."

Was there anything that posed a particular challenge while making the film?

"We were pretty much excited to do all of it, so none of it seemed too terrible. Getting into the guns and learning how to use them properly was difficult at first, but beyond that nothing was too much of a problem."

There's a great bond between you and Benicio on screen, did that extend away from the cameras too?

"Me and Benicio got to be really great friends. I admire the guy, and he was a pleasure to work with. I think he's an original. We've got some other stuff that we're working on together right now, like this animated project of a children's story that he heard growing up."

James Caan is good too, was it intimidating working with someone of his stature?

"At first his persona is intimidating, he carries so much history with him in terms of the work he's done. But he's a pretty warm person too, so it doesn't take long get comfortable with him. He's got a lot of great stories. He's great with those, he'd indulge any of our questions. He'd tell us anything we wanted to know about The Godfather or John Wayne or stuff like that."

Does he reflect on the fact that he's now the John Wayne/Marlon Brando elder statesman on set?

"I think he recognises that, because he ends up working with so many of his son Scott's friends."

Your big scene towards the end, which is in the movie trailer, has you jumping into a dried out well and landing on a load of broken glass. That wasn't painful was it?

"It wasn't because they have this candy glass which is really breakable, it doesn't pierce your skin or anything. But whenever I watch that scene I love to hear people scream or groan at it. I love that response."

The Way of the Gun is released on rental video and DVD by Momentum Pictures on 25 June 2001

DOWSE Guide to the Movies is compiled by Tony Lee editor of Pigasus Press
You can order videos and DVD releases reviewed on these pages at Blackstar

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