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Exclusive HTF Interview: Bruce Greenwood (Flight, Star Trek Into Darkness)

Paramount Interview

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#1 of 8 OFFLINE   Neil Middlemiss

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Posted February 04 2013 - 03:41 PM

This morning I had the chance to speak with character actor Bruce Greenwood who stars as Charlie Anderson in Robert Zemeckis' Flight, which makes its debut on Blu-ray on Tuesday, February 5. A native of Canada, Bruce has appeared in numerous films including I, Robot, Capote, Double Jeopardy and in J.J. Abrams reboot of the Star Trek franchise as the wise Admiral Pike. 


 

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Although he remained an un-crackable safe regarding the plot of the upcoming Star Trek sequel, Star Trek Into Darkness, he was able to give a relatively concrete answer as to whether any of the cast from the Star Trek reboot could find themselves wielding lightsabers in the near future.[/center]


 

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HTF: So I got the chance to watch Flight for the first time yesterday, and wow, what a great film.

Bruce Greenwood:   I'm so glad, thanks.

HTF: Just a brilliant piece of filmmaking and what a wonderful screenplay by John Gatins.  Talk about getting that script and your first reaction to it?

Bruce Greenwood:   Well, that's what drew me to it originally.  I heard that Denzel was doing this movie with Bob Zemeckis and that was interesting enough, and then heard that the script was exceptional.  So I got a hold of it and just ripped through it.  I couldn't believe I read 140 pages as quickly as I did, I was so desperate to get to the next page, but when I went back and spent a little more time with it, the, the more you read it, the more you appreciate the duality of it and the moral ambiguity that suffuses the whole screenplay. So I campaigned a little bit for the role and ended up being invited on.

HTF: So how did you go about playing the character of Charlie?  I noticed that you donned an accent.

Bruce Greenwood:   It was described in the first iteration of the screenplay that he was a Texan.  So I just went with that and it seemed to fit.

HTF: And when you first came on screen I immediately thought of Sully Sullenberger, with the moustache [the pilot who miraculously landed a plane on the Hudson River].  Was there any intention for your look for the character to recall Sullenberger?

Bruce Greenwood:   Well, when I first went in for Bob [Zemeckis] I had a moustache that was a holdover from another production that I'd sort of wanted to annoy my wife with (laughs). I'd just come back to town and she's not a big fan of moustaches.  So when I went to see Bob for the first time I had it.  I asked the casting director, who is a friend of mine, if he thought Bob could see past the moustache, assuming that he wouldn't want to use it. She said ‘oh, I'm sure he can’. A couple of months later, I was already on to another project and had shaved the moustache off and Bob called to say ‘hey, I'd like you to do it’ and that he’d like me to maintain the moustache for it, so we had to recreate it.

HTF: Interesting. So what was it like working with Robert Zemeckis?  I mean this is his first live action film in 12 years and this was your first time working with him?

Bruce Greenwood:   It was great. He had the strength of this tremendously strong script and a cast of actors that were equally gifted.  So it's one of those things where he put them all in a room and he watched them start to toil and bubble. Bob would let us go for a while and then he'd come in and suggest this or that, but basically he was just giving little markers, little guides, and then the scene would drift in one direction or another. In some cases he'd come in after something very specific, but it was kind of an organic evolution of seeing the scene work.  He watched it take place and came in and doctored it a little here and there.[/center]





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HTF: So talk about working with Denzel as he got into his character.  You have a few really great scenes with him.  Of particular note is when he comes to you because he has nowhere else to go and your reaction to him, and then of course, the funny and tragic scene when you walk into the hotel room find him not exactly in the best state for the hearing.

Bruce Greenwood:   Face down by the toilet is yeah (laughs) – not exactly in the best of condition.

HTF: Exactly.

Bruce Greenwood:   That was one of the luxuries of this role, getting the chance to play this guy who's doing the best he can given this sort of slightly ethical ambiguity, to bring Denzel back from the brink and then when it doesn't work, he gets to really unload on him. The whole part was beautifully written that way, and then [Don] Cheadle and I got a chance to have a little fun in that room. There was a lot of stuff that we had done, a lot of stuff that was written that didn't end up in the movie 'cause they had to drive the story a little harder. But we spent a lot of time messing around in that hotel room with various inventions, which was a lot of fun.

HTF: So you talk about the moral ambiguity of a number of the characters in Flight, and that's something that you've played with before. You’ve played bad when you were not exactly a pleasant gentleman in Double Jeopardy, and you’ve played a great, inspiring and heroic figure as Christopher Pike in the recent Star Trek films, and you played JFK in Thirteen Days, and you played the CEO character in I, Robot where we weren't sure if you were the bad guy or not throughout the whole thing.  So how do you get into the character of someone who is morally ambiguous and then how do you separate how you would personally react to certain situations, when your character is asked to do the opposite?

Bruce Greenwood:   I think that's a particularly interesting question given this screenplay because it's the sort of thing where you ask yourself if you had a friend who's in absolutely dire straits and there's a chance that you can pull him out of those dire straits, but the tradeoff is that say, 5 or 7,000 people lose their livelihoods because an airline will disintegrate if you tell the truth. What do you do first?  Do you do everything you can to put your friend on the path to straight and narrow and to sobriety, even given the understanding the airline will cease to exist, or do you tell yourself that you’ll encourage him to sidestep the truth for a moment and then we'll work on his sobriety. What's the right thing?  Is there a good choice? And the answer is different.  It might be different for me than it is for you.

HTF: Right.

Bruce Greenwood:   And I think that's what makes it really interesting.

HTF: And I think it's interesting when art poses the question and you are not able to clearly fall on one side of the issue or the other right away.  Some things are definitive noes in life and definitive yeses, but where you find yourself pondering the question, I think that's when a screenplay's really done its job and the actors have done their job in keeping that question alive in you.

Bruce Greenwood:   Yeah, and the strange thing is you're rooting for Denzel to help himself, right?

HTF: Right.[/center]





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Bruce Greenwood:   And so as soon as you see him at the beginning of the movie, you think, not least because Denzel's such a wonderful character actor, but that even given the sort of unpardonable stuff he's doing, you want him to fix himself, you know.  You may think he may need to go to jail, but you want him to fix himself. And at the same time, if he heals himself, what happens to all those people?  If he tells the truth, what happens to all those people?  So it's one of those things where the audience gets to go along for the same ride, and you may even disagree about what’s right with the people you see the movie with.

HTF: And similarly, John Goodman's character. He’s a bad influence, certainly, but he's one that you enjoy regardless of what it is he's doing. I always find that interesting, and his character softens the picture just a little as the dark humorous relief, but he’s a bad influence that is likeable. I thought he played that role very, very well.

Bruce Greenwood:   Oh Yeah. He did it wonderfully,  and it's supported tremendously by musical choices.

HTF: Yes, and speaking of music, I know that you play the guitar to relax and I typically find those that play instruments or read music tend to have a greater appreciation for the music in films, and not just the songs but the underscore as well. Alan Silvestri did a great job with the score for Flight, and Michael Giacchino is doing the music for the Star Trek Films, so do you find yourself having a greater appreciation for the compositions that go along with your work?

Bruce Greenwood:   You know that's strange.  I'm not one of those people who is able to notice music separately when a movie is happening.  I'm usually so absorbed by watching the storytelling, that the music is, generally speaking, doing exactly what it's intended to do, which is that you don't really hear it specifically as much as feel it, and you feel what it wants you to feel.

HTF: So I would be remiss if I didn't ask about Star Trek.  How different was it working on the sequel.  How much bigger was this film and, finally, if JJ [Abrams] asked you to be in his Star Wars film, would you?[/center]





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Bruce Greenwood:   Well, let me answer backwards.  I think if JJ were to ask any of us to appear in Star Wars, it would be the end of his career (laughs).  I think it's highly unlikely he could sell any of us in cross-pollinating the two worlds, although I am tempted to beg him to allow Pike to walk down a hallway and poke his head into a room where some Star Wars characters are talking and then say ‘oh, sorry, wrong room, and walk out (laughs). As for Star Trek, I have tremendous expectations for it.  We had a lot of fun shooting it.  The world in-, indeed was big, but they created these massive sets.  It seems to me there's less green screen in this one than there was in the first one because they built so much practically, which is wonderful if the actors and the filmmakers can all see it and you're inside it when it's happened.  But then of course, you know I can't tell you anything about it (laughs)

HTF: Sadly.

Bruce Greenwood:   But from what I've seen, which is 19 minutes of it, it's absolutely riveting.

HTF: Well, I'm excited for it!

Bruce Greenwood:   Yeah, me too.

HTF: Congratulations on Flight.  I look forward to the Academy Awards and hopefully either Denzel takes something home or John Gatins takes home the award for the screenplay for the script.

Bruce Greenwood:   Oh, yes indeed.  Thank so much.

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#2 of 8 OFFLINE   Persianimmortal

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Posted February 04 2013 - 08:46 PM

I like your interviewing style Neil, you ask thoughtful questions and get some interesting responses from your subjects :) In the case of Bruce Greenwood, I'll always remember his excellent performance in Thirteen Days. And although I thought Star Trek 2009 was absolutely dreadful, he was actually quite good in it. However I have no interest in Into Darkness despite his role in the film.

#3 of 8 OFFLINE   Mike Williams

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Posted February 05 2013 - 05:54 AM

Oh, Persianimmortal... so YOU'RE the one!!!

#4 of 8 OFFLINE   Johnny Angell

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Posted February 07 2013 - 03:01 AM

It would be distracting to the movie, but the "wrong room" idea would be funny.
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#5 of 8 OFFLINE   Richard V

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Posted February 07 2013 - 03:24 AM

It would be distracting to the movie, but the "wrong room" idea would be funny.
It would be hysterical, but more likely something the Farrelly brothers would do.
See you at the pah-ty, Richter.

#6 of 8 OFFLINE   Chuck Anstey

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Posted February 07 2013 - 03:26 AM

It would be distracting to the movie, but the "wrong room" idea would be funny.
Might be worth a deleted or outtake scene for home release though.

#7 of 8 OFFLINE   Johnny Angell

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Posted February 07 2013 - 05:12 AM

Might be worth a deleted or outtake scene for home release though.
I agree. That's the right spot for it.
Johnny
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#8 of 8 OFFLINE   kingfish

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Posted March 02 2013 - 09:23 AM

i liked bruce greenwood in 13 days.





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