If you think you know exactly what to expect from a movie starring Dwayne Johnson, better known all over the world by his wrestling name "The Rock," then you haven't seen Snitch, the new crime thriller by Ric Roman Waugh (Felon) which has Johnson playing John Matthews, an everyman father who gets involved in dangerous cartel drug deals in order to get his son out of jail.
That concept may sound outlandish or something we might only see in a Hollywood action movie, but in fact it's based on a real story that showed what's so wrong with the federal mandatory minimum laws where people could get thrown into jail for decades unless they're ready to play ball and lead the Drug Enforcement Agency to bigger fish.
ComingSoon.net attended the New York junket for the movie a couple of weeks back. Unfortunately, it was the same day as the snowstorm dubbed "Nemo"--hey, we didn't name it--and Johnson's flight didn't make it to town so we interviewed him over a complex Skype-based contraption rather than being in the same room together.
In the video interview below, we didn't have a ton of time, but we basically asked Johnson three questions and he had a lot to say in response. First, we talked about how much we both loved Waugh's previous film Felon and how when Ric called Johnson for the part, he was blown away by the script he was sent. We asked Dwayne about playing a more toned-down everyman father role and whether he had to go against his usual instincts to play John Matthews. He talked about the preparation he did and how he really had great faith in Ric as a director in order to tackle such a different role. Lastly, he talked about his decision to go back to wrestling in the last few years--Johnson is currently the WWE World Champion for the first time in ten years--despite having four movies coming out in the next four months.
Jon Bernthal & Barry Pepper
Next, we have two of Johnson's supporting cast members who play key roles in John Matthews' quest to save his son.
Jon Bernthal has been appearing in movies and television for many years, but he only recently broke out and got attention playing Shane on AMC's "The Walking Dead." In Snitch he plays Daniel Cruz, a former convict who is trying to go straight by working for Matthews, but when his boss learns of Daniel's background, he turns to him to get help making contact with a local druglord, played by Michael Kenneth Williams from "The Wire."
Barry Pepper is going into 20 years as an actor and he's appeared in a wide range of movies including Saving Private Ryan, Enemy of the State, Tommy Lee Jones' The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada (for which he was nominated for an Independent Spirit Award) and the popular television movie "61*." Pepper plays DEA Agent Billy Cooper, who tracks Matthews' efforts to set up a drug deal in order to take down higher ups on the drug ladder.
We spoke to both actors about the preparation that went into developing and playing their characters, working with director Ric Roman Waugh to create authenticity and more.
As an added bonus, we also asked them both about their high-profile upcoming projects, Bernthal appearing in Martin Scorsese's The Wolf of Wall Street and Grudge Match opposite Sylvester Stallone and Robert De Niro, Pepper in Gore Verbinski's The Lone Ranger opposite Johnny Depp.
"Absolutely mindblowing," Bernthal said about his experience working with Scorsese and Leonardo DicCaprio. "Again, another great wonderful great director who values freedom and brings everybody to the table—him and Leo both. They just come to the table and they invite you to be as creative as you can be and it was such a wonderful experience. I just started working with Mr. De Niro and I pinch myself every day."
Bernthal won't be staying away from television for long as he's already signed to reteam with former "The Walking Dead" showrunner Frank Darabont on a new show. "We have a new show. It was called ‘L.A. Noire,' now I think it might be called ‘Lost Angeles.' It's about L.A. in the '40s, Mickey Cohen, Bugsy Siegel and it's very much that world and it will come on next year. As soon as I wrap this movie I'm going into the episodes of that."
When we asked Pepper about doing another Western--he appeared in the Coens' True Grit--he told us why he liked the genre. "I really like the period and it's probably one of my favorite genres, that period of America plus the whole costume drama." We also asked him whether the movie is historically accurate since it looks like such a crazy action movie, to which he told us, "Oh, absolutely. I mean, you have to ground it in the authenticity of the period or else it doesn't work. I think that Gore went to great lengths to build very authentic towns and sequences in the film that are absolutely based in historical authenticity and then that allows you room to play and bring really eccentric characters to the table, but the backdrop and what is actually happening in the storyline is all very factual and authentic to what is taking place in history."