Action Royale

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By TT Bureau
  • Published 28.07.11
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What made you say yes to a film which is a mashup of two such different standalone genres — Western and sci-fi films?

I’ve always wanted to play a cowboy. It’s as simple as that. And I kind of got it. Cowboys & Aliens, as the title suggests, combines two, very distinctive genres and, for me, together they make the perfect action thriller — a gripping story about a band of disparate humans who have to unite to fight an enemy with vastly superior weapons. It’s an alien invasion that happens to be set in the 1870s rather than, say, the 1970s or in the future.

Riding a horse in that hat with the gun and the spurs... Cowboys & Aliens kind of visually deconstructs your 007 image. Was it a conscious choice?

Well yeah, it looks like that but it’s not a conscious choice. I know that once you play a character and if the audience likes you in that role, it kinda lingers around for a while and people tend to recognise you as that character and that’s really flattering in my case… but for me my character changes film to film and in this one I am a cowboy.

Playing an outlaw alongside Harrison Ford must have been an incredible experience. What was it like to be with him on the sets of the film?

You know everybody had said Harrison won’t look at it, he won’t be interested. Everybody was being kind of negative about his involvement but no one had actually bothered to ask him. He was great and it was a privilege to work with him. He’s a really nice, generous, funny man and he’s an actor and he just wants to get it right. A lovely guy.

Are you into graphic novels? Did you read the original Scott Mitchell Rosenberg novel from where the film is adapted?

Yes, I like reading graphic novels and I really liked Rosenberg’s Cowboys & Aliens.

From producers Steven Spielberg and Ron Howard to director Jon Favreau himself, the who’s who is associated with Cowboys & Aliens. Does it have any impact at all on you the actor?

It is always good to work with people of such calibre; you get to learn a lot from them and so did I. The equity of people like Steven Spielberg, Ron Howard, Jon Favreau does help the film to a certain extent but at last it’s the film that the audience will watch, you know, and that has to be good.

Has playing James Bond influenced the choices you have made thereafter, in the kind of films you have done?

I would not like to believe that. As I had said, for me the character changes from film to film... so my previous film character will not have any decision-making business in choosing my role in the next.

In earlier years, the actors who played Bond became synonymous with the character. But you have signed on to play iconic characters old and new like Red Rackham in Tintin and Mikael Blomkvist in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Is Bond today just another character in a long filmography?

Bond is definitely not just another character but the person who has played Bond can still be a Rackham or a Mikael or a Jake (Lonergan, his character in Cowboys & Aliens). I think that it’s the character and the role that makes a name immortal and not the other way round.

When are you coming to India to shoot for Bond 23? Are you excited to get back into 007 mode?

We are working on the schedule for India and yes, it’s always exciting to play James Bond and this time is no different.

Finally, many congratulations on your marriage. Will the Dream House shoot with Rachel Weisz remain your most special ever?

Thanks a lot for your wishes. Yes, Dream House has conquered that special place in our hearts and it will surely go down as the most special shoot ever.

Director’s cut

Cowboys & Aliens can be subtitled the film where the Iron Man maker directs James Bond and Indiana Jones...

Sounds interesting but the promise of the title Cowboys and Aliens was so compelling that the movie rights to Platinum Studios were snatched up before Scott’s graphic novel was even completed. Steven (Spielberg) was very excited about it.

Is it true that your Iron Man, Robert Downey Jr, first told you about Scott Mitchell Rosenberg’s book? Does it seem odd today that he is not part of the project?

I missed him while making the film. Yes, he was initially to star in the film but he had to part ways with the project due to some scheduling problem and I totally understand that.

To what extent has Rosenberg been a collaborator on this one?

There is no extent to his collaboration. Rosenberg is one of the producers on the film and the fact that our film is inspired by his graphic novel with the same name is the biggest (collaboration) of all.

Will this mashup of two such standalone genres — Western and sci-fi — bring the two fan groups or be confusing to the viewer?

No, I am sure the audience will understand what the film is about and it’s very clear from the promo itself. When I first heard of the title Cowboys & Aliens, when the writers did their first draft, I thought “there’s a really cool version of this film to be made if you get it right”. And I read the writers’ first draft of the script and they got it right, they got the balance. They combined the two genres with enough irony and enough humour but the humour was not based on the characters winking at the audience. In trying to make the Western relevant, a lot of times people would sort of joke through it or comment on the genre. With this we play the Western totally straight and all of the fun comes from combining these two disparate elements.

Steven Spielberg is said to have guided you on how to make a Western. How much of his guidance has helped you make Cowboys & Aliens?

Yeah, Steven was a great support while making the film, apart from his role as a producer. He helped us with his tips on Westerns and otherwise. Getting these two contrasting themes together needed a lot of detailing and his suggestions were always helpful.

You have compared Harrison Ford to John Wayne in “having a sense of history with the role”. What does it do for the audiences who know what Ford’s going to do the moment they see him on screen?

John Wayne epitomised rugged masculinity and so does Ford. I really think that he has a sense of history with the role. While he was playing Colonel Dolarhyde, he was only Colonel Dolarhyde born in Arizona Territory. What the audience know already is that he’s going to rock!

You chose not to turn Iron Man 2 into 3D and now you have refused to go 3D with Cowboys & Aliens. Why?

I think that Westerns like Cowboys & Aliens should only be shot on film, which does not lend itself to easy 3D digital conversion. I’d suggest to use the money you save to see it twice.

Why haven’t you made your customary appearance in this movie?

Oh ya… You’ll get to watch Daniel Craig and Harrison Ford together in this film. I’m better outta it.

Given that A.R. Rahman did the music for Couples Retreat, where you acted, are you clued into Bollywood movies? Any plans of shooting in India?

I have heard A.R. Rahman’s music and I think he is brilliant. I have not seen any Bollywood movie as yet but I would love to watch one and if given a chance to shoot in India, then why not?