People who know Matthew Fox primarily know him as either Charlie Salinger from “Party of Five” or more notably as Dr. Jack Shephard on ABC’s hit show “Lost,” and while he did talk “Lost” and a little bit more on his future Matthew is going to see his first major starring role in a feature film come to life December 22 in the Warner Bros. release We Are Marshall, a film set in 1970 recounting the story of the tragedy that befell the Marshall football team following a game in North Carolina when 75 members of the team and coaching staff were killed in a plane crash. This is the story of what happened next and Matthew plays an emotional role as Red Dawson, one of the assistant coaches that did not get on the plane the night of the crash. After the tragic occurrence, he was approached by the school to act as head coach of the team, but decided against coming back. Coach Lengyel, played by Matthew McConaughey, convinces Dawson to return for a year to help rebuild the team as assistant coach.
Fox was a college football player for Columbia University where he played wide receiver and he said while he knows the game, it was the first time he ever approached it from a coaching perspective, which, in his words, “Made me feel a little old.” However, it wasn’t his past as a football player, it was the time he spent with Red that really helped him out, “I really documented Red well enough and I felt like I had a good idea of what kind of coach he had been as well, and how important the game was to him and how important the people in the game were to him.”
Fox’s schedule between “Lost” and his next feature film Vantage Point are keeping him busy and when he was offered the opportunity to meet Red Dawson he was unfortunately stuck on set in Hawaii filming “Lost” and could not leave. Taking this into consideration he asked if Red would mind flying out to spend a few days with him, and even though Red has not flown much since “that day” he took Matthew up on his offer. “He would come to the set with me on ‘Lost.’ I was working, and if I wasn’t, we just spent a lot of time together, spent time with my family, and we got to know each other. I thought that was absolutely crucial to have some time with him and to ask him about that year and what it was like and what some of his memories were of it. I anticipated him being reticent to talk about it. He hasn’t been really open about that. He’s not that kind of man. He sort of carries all this internally and so, it was just an amazing experience. The specifics of that are I think, you know, pretty private to him, and so I wouldn’t want to go into those, but he certainly was open with me. It was difficult. We had some tough moments and he’s just an amazing man and we’ve become very, very good friends.”
Getting his own character down was one thing, but this production had a whole lot of other factors to consider since this is an event that only happened 36 years ago and Matthew was aware of the pressure. “I’ve never felt as much pressure,” he said, “in a good way. When it’s based on a true event and you’re playing a man that you care deeply about ,getting it right and doing him justice and honoring his life, there’s an enormous amount of pressure if you’re coming at it from a place of responsibility and I felt that, I mean, I – all I care about – and the one person in the world that I care the most about feeling good about this movie and feeling good about my portrayal in this movie is Red Dawson so – yeah.”
We Are Marshall does not only feature Matthew Fox in his first major film role it also marks the return of McG to the director’s chair, a place he has not been on a feature film since 2003’s Charlie Angel’s: Full Throttle. Matthew was not aware of the Marshall story and outside of his experiences with Red the rest came from the script written by Jamie Linden and McG. “I immediately asked McG for all of his research materials and he sent me just gobs and gobs of stuff that he had collected over his preparation. I went through that as much as I could just to get caught up on the facts and really get to know the story and what happened.
“McG, I cannot say enough good things about him,” he said, “I would work with him again in a heartbeat. It was my first big movie. It couldn’t have been a more amazing experience and McG was an enormous part of that and making it that special. He was so passionate about the story and just did a phenomenal job of creating an environment that had a great energy. I think that, obviously, it being based on a true story and being us shooting in Huntington, West Virginia to start – there was just something about it that had a great energy going into it and the entire process just continued that way. We totally trusted him.”
From working with McG Matthew moves from the dramatic to the thrilling as he will play alongside Dennis Quaid as secret service agents in Vantage Point for director Pete Travis. The thriller is set to be released October 5, 2007 and Matthew tells us it was actually the movie he expected to film during his first break from “Lost,” but due to a production misstep it got moved and was filmed during his second hiatus, “I was really excited. I just think it’s a really, really smart, intense and incredible thriller,” he said.
The film chronicles an attempt to assassinate the U.S. president in Madrid and is told from five points of view, unfolding in 15-minute increments. When he compares Vantage Point to We Are Marshall he grades it on a sense of intensity, “Playing Red Dawson was very, very emotional. I’m playing Red, my friend, you know, there was that added sort of intensity to it. The Vantage Point experience was intense in a different way and I can’t really talk about that too much. I’ll give it away…”
However he wasn’t getting away that easily, when asked whether he trained with actual secret service agents for the role and he admits getting secret service agents to talk about their job is difficult they did get a few pointers, “Getting that opportunity was great and Pete really pushed for that to happen and then we had some research materials as well that we studied,” he continued, “We [also] had people on the set all the time that were sort of consultants to make sure that what we were doing jives with reality.”
Leaving reality behind we dive next into “Lost” a show that has captured the attention of millions and is now in its third season on ABC, and considering the success and Matthew’s upcoming movie career you have to wonder whether or not he dreads picking up his next script only to see that Jack Shephard gets killed off. “I think that’s always an element it,” he said, “I don’t worry about it too much. I feel really fortunate to be a part of this project and I do from an objective point of view understand that that is an element of the show that’s important. You can’t create this island in which life is always in the balance and then not, you know, you to have people perish. I think that’s just part of the show.”
He says he understands, but the thought still remains, “Yeah, that’s always in the back of my mind but I don’t dread it too much. You know, if that happens to Jack, I really feel – I have an enormous amount of faith in Damon Lindelof and J.J. [Abrams] and Carlton [Cuse] that if that time comes for Jack Shephard it’s because that’s what is meant to happen in the story and I have faith that they’re on top of that.”
Where does the story go from here though? Matthew tells us that while audience members may be missing some of the earlier dynamics of the original cast as new members of the cast arrive it is only because they are “looking at the story more from the other’s perspective than our original survivors’ perspective,” he said. “I think that’s a really amazing thing that the show is doing. Because Jack is now part of those others as being held, in captivity there, I’ve gotten to work with these new actors and create completely new relationships and dynamics and that’s been really exciting for me. It has created some more time off for me because I’m doing all of my work essentially in one set and so I have two or three days where I’m working 14-hour days, and then I will have a week of time-off while they’re doing other stories and that’s been incredibly nice for me.”
He continued, “I worked on two films over my hiatus. I worked six days a week all the way through and so getting back to ‘Lost’ was [exciting], but at the same time getting this much time-off has been a real relief. It’s been nice.”
Well, if his films do well and he doesn’t get killed off “Lost” I don’t see him getting a whole lot of time-off. You can catch “Lost” on ABC on Wednesdays at 9/8 Central, Vantage Point October 2007 and don’t forget We Are Marshall December 22 when it hits theaters everywhere. For more on Matthew Fox and links to his projects here on RopeofSilicon click here.