Home Theater Forum recently had the great pleasure of speaking with up-and-coming actor John Magaro, star of Not Fade Away,
about landing the key role in Soprano's creator David Chase's personal directorial debut, gaining an appreciation for music, and how veteran actors have helped shape his craft.
HTF:Thanks for speaking with us today. So Not Fade Away
is not the kind of film you would have expected from the mind of David Chase given how brutal he's shown his writing can be with the Sopranos
, but how proud are you of the film? John:I'm really proud of the film. We had a really great time working on it. It was an amazing cast and crew that David assembled. We became very close over the course of it and spent a lot of time before we even started shooting, learning how to become a band with each other, so it helped us develop a friendship right away. It was a blast on set and getting to spend time with such talented people is what you wish for when you're doing these things.
HTF:So are you musically inclined or did you have to come up to speed? John:Oh this opened me up to a new world. When I was a kid I played piano for about a year, and I was told by my piano teacher to give it up - he didn't think I had the passion for learning piano. And that was something that I always regretted that I never really continued doing. But fortunately with this, I got the chance to learn the drums, got to work on singing, and since then I've been actively trying to play drums and pick up the guitar a little bit and keep after the music. HTF:So James Gandolfini is a really great actor and always seems very imposing on screen, even when he's playing a teddy-bear character, so how do you find working with him and how did the, the father/son dynamic of the characters work with you as actors?
John:Well Jim is definitely an intimidating guy, and since many of us know him as Tony Soprano, I think gives you a sense of possible fear when you meet him. But he's such a generous actor, and getting the chance to share those scenes with him was one of my favorite parts of shooting Not Fade Away.
In the dinner dinner scene where we got to shoot over the course of a day, we really were having fun and working that scene out I think it really paid off in the final product. But yeah, I felt very lucky to have the chance to share those moments with him. HTF:So how much of Doug's characters struggles did you share with your pursuit of acting? Did you even have to sail against any creative winds in your pursuit of acting as he did for his love of music? John:Yeah, I mean I think, not just artists, but everyone can kind of relate to those struggles that you go through. I mean, throughout life, but especially in your post-high school, early 20s and getting started points in your life. It certainly goes the same way with acting. It's a tough road and there's a lot of ups and downs, and there's moments of success and then there's moments of being lost and not knowing what to do next. So that hit really close to home for me, and was one of the parts of Douglas that I definitely related to. HTF:You were born in the '80s, were a teen in the '90s, so how did you go about preparing yourself to become a young man of the '60s? John:I started growing my hair out (laughs). Having long hair helps put you in the mindset of the mid and late '60s. We were fortunate to be surrounded by the work of our production designer who put together an incredible world for us, and our costume designer put together these perfect '60s' costumes for us to wear. But besides that, my parents are baby-boomers, so I grew up hearing a lot of stories about the '60s from them, and listening to a lot of '60s' music as a kid. And fortunately for us, David wrote a story that I think can translate, as far as the human experience goes, to someone who grew up in the '80s, '90s or today. HTF:So the clothes and the music may be different between the decades, but the experiences that one goes through are, are pretty much the same. John:Yeah, especially the experience of being a young man and trying to find your way, and find out what it takes to be a grown man. HTF:And you've got to work with some great actors, Terrance Howard and Jodie Foster in The Brave One
, and you're in the film with Tom Hanks about the Somali pirates coming up, so what are you learning from these people who have been in this business for some time? John:I've been really fortunate to work with some people who I've followed as a kid, and who've in a lot of ways inspired me to do what I do. The main thing I think I have been learning from them, besides different ways to go about doing this, is to enjoy it. Because it is a struggle, especially when you're a young actor, at times. So when you have these opportunities to work on something you really care about, to really be able to savor it and enjoy the moments that you get to spend with these other wonderfully creative people.
HTF:So talk about working with David Chase. I know that this film in many ways is a fictionalized autobiography of days strumming around in a band, so how difficult was it knowing that you were representing at least in some way, through some prism, a portion of his life. And then talk about working with him, with his script and with hisdirecting style. John:Well, getting him to admit to the truthful, or the real elements that came from his life, was kind of a task, and it took the whole shoot for him to even to open up much about it. I don't think he ever wanted us to feel pressure that we were playing people from his life, but I felt like I was playing, maybe a version of him. So that's kinda scary, but I guess that's sort of the liberty of doing this as well. You want to do the best you can with that and do justice to their experiences. And David, as a person when you first meet him, can be a little intimidating as well. He keeps his cards pretty close to his chest when you first meet him. But the more you get to know him, you realize what a caring and generous director he is, and how much he actually trusts his actors. He really loved all the cast, and gave us a freedom to explore the material, coming in with suggestions and made it a nice, collaborative process. HTF:Not Fade Away
has got fantastic production design. You really are transported back several decades, and the cinematography has a really crisp eye, so it's clear that there's a lot of talent going behind the camera. Does being around a set and a crew that really know their stuff, give you any inspiration to get behind the camera yourself one day, or to write something, or is acting your absolute interest? John:That's certainly a dream of mine for the future. And again, each time you go to work with these talented people who you look up to, it helps inspire you motivate you more to explore other aspects of film. Working on a set is the best school you can have. I think for learning how to make film, and learning if you really want to pursue maybe writing or directing or other facets of making film, it's great. But yes, that's a dream that I think is a little ways away from me, but it definitely is a dream. HTF:Last question - and I'm always fascinated to hear the answer to this, but what is drawing you out to the theatre these days? Or what's the film that's coming out this summer or is out right now that you're dying to see? John:I like being surprised when I go to see a film. And what usually happens to make me really respond to something is a story that hits me, that I find some sort of relation to that is honest, or shines some sort of light on my own experiences, or people I know. Experiences they've been through that touches me on a deeper level, or more human level than I ever expected it to. HTF:Hmm. Good answer. Well thank you John. It was a pleasure speaking with you, and best of luck for the future. John:Yeah, you too.