CS Interview: Bruce Dern Talks Freaks, Plus an Exclusive Clip!
Well Go USA provided ComingSoon.net with the chance to interview two-time Oscar Nominee/acting legend Bruce Dern (Nebraska, Coming Home) about his role in this week’s sci-fi horror thriller Freaks, starring Emile Hirsch (Into the Wild) and Amanda Crew. Check out the fun interview below, along with an exclusive clip from the film!
Kept locked inside the house by her father, 7-year-old Chloe lives in fear and fascination of the outside world, where Abnormals create a constant threat – or so she believes. When a mysterious stranger offers her a glimpse of what’s really happening outside, Chloe soon finds that while the truth isn’t so simple, the danger is very real.
The film stars Lexy Kolker as Chloe, Emile Hirsch as Dad, Academy Award-nominated veteran actor Bruce Dern (Coming Home, Nebraska) as Mr. Snowcone, Amanda Crew (Charlie St. Cloud) as Mary, Grace Park (Battlestar Galactica, A Million Little Things) as Agent Ray, Aleks Paunovic (Vendetta) as Robert Kraigen, Michelle Harrison as Nancy Reed and Ava Telek as Harper Reed.
Freaks is co-directed and co-written by by Zach Lipovsky and Adam Stein, who are also serving as producers along with Jordan Barber and Mitchell Waxman.
The film arrives in theaters nationwide on Friday, September 13.
ComingSoon.net: In your career you’ve done a few sci-fi/horror pictures, but not too many. I’m wondering what attracts you to a smaller genre film like “Freaks”?
Bruce Dern: Well, actually, I’ve done three. I forget one. When I did the little piece I did for Quentin in “Django,” I walked into my dressing room and on my dressing room table was a big toy model of a thing called the Zanti.
CS: Yeah, from “Outer Limits”.
Dern: Yeah, “The Outer Limits”. So he had a Zanti there for me because I was in that, so that was my first science fiction thing. The second one was “Silent Running” and the third one was “Freaks”. And that’s got to be just about 60 years apart, 58 years apart. And it’s a wonderful. I’m not a big science fiction guy, but when they push the envelope, I’m a big science fiction guy. You know the movie five directors made where each one directed a movie within the movie? What’s it called? Joe Dante was one and John Landis was one.
CS: Oh, “Amazon Women on the Moon”.
Dern: Yeah, right, right, right. In Joe’s particularly, he’s got Allan Arkush walking down the street with his arm around a dinosaur. And the dinosaur is 12 stories high, and the guy’s just 5’11”. And he’s saying, look, now, you don’t have to do a whole lot in a scene. It’s very simple. I’m not going to do it two times because we can’t rebuild the buildings. So all I need you to do is just walk down the street, destroy three or four buildings and eat seven or eight people. And it was just the camaraderie between the two of them. I mean, I thought, god, that would be fun if you could get into that kind of genre. And I remembered “The Day The Earth Stood Still”. I saw that when I was in grade school, I think, or high school. And that got me, you know, “Close Encounters” and things like that. But the thing about this movie that sets “Freaks” up is they did this for very little money, and yet the material, when they sent it to me… The reason the movie works is because what’s in the material is not science fiction. It’s the conversational dialogue and the relationship of the family, so to speak, and what’s going on with the people. In other words, they don’t really dwell on the science fiction as much as they could have or would have. And I think one of the great quotes about today’s movie making… We all did a movie about 12 years ago now called “A Decade Under the Influence”. It’s all about the movies of the 70s, the four actors, four directors, four writers and four producers. And I was one of the actors. And at the end of it, Marty Scorsese comes out as one of the directors and kind of the narrator. And he’s the last one on. They come back to us again and again throughout the movie. And Marty said, “You know, the one thing that blows me away more than anything else,” and we made this in 2006… Ted Demme, Jonathan Demme’s brother directed it.
CS: Right. That was one of the last ones he did, right?
Dern: Yeah, right, right. He died about four months later playing basketball. So anyway, Marty said, “You know, I’m absolutely blown away by the wizardry and the technology of big directors that doing these films today, like Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson” and the three or four of the other guys and so forth and so on. And he said, “Not only the wizardry, but the propensity to make money fast.” And he said, “I just don’t know how to make a movie like that. I wouldn’t know how to do that.” But despite all of that wizardry and ability to make $100 million in a weekend and so forth and so on, at the end of the day, with all those movies, I miss the people. And I mean, “Hugo”, you’d call that science fiction, wouldn’t you?
CS: Yeah, YA science fiction/fantasy.
Dern: He’s not afraid of the genre. It’s just that what amazes me are people today, particularly these guys, Zach and Adam. They’re young, but they’re still trying to push the envelope. They’re trying to find their way of doing things. And Quentin’s new movie, he did very well when he set out to do this movie that’s out now, that it was important for him to show the Manson murders in a house. He could not afford to do that. He’d done it already a number of times in other ways. So he does it and masterfully, and then puts the title on it, which covers “Once Upon a Time”. I love that.
CS: Well, it’s interesting to me because you mentioned Joe Dante, who you’ve worked with I think three or four times on… not necessarily sci-fi films, but certainly genre films.
Dern: When I got my star on Hollywood Boulevard, he presented it to me.
CS: Oh wow. That’s perfect. Well, you guys worked so well together in “The ‘burbs” and “The Hole,” and it made me wonder…
Dern: Do you know how I met Joe?
Dern: He was the evening movie critic for “The Philadelphia Bulletin”. His first review was “Silent Running” in 1971. And that’s how I met him. And another thing that’s interesting, just as trivia, is that Jon Voight’s father and Joe Dante’s father worked together because they were both golf pros at the same country club. So you put Joe Dante with the kid from “Midnight Cowboy” and “Deliverance” and their dads were just golfers.
CS: Compared to working with a vet like Joe, how is it working with guys like Zach and Adam, who are relatively new? What do you notice are the difference in generations?
Dern: The one thing I miss a lot in the business is there’s not a lot of respect anymore for what went before. All the guys we’re talking about respect the hell out of what went before. When we first came to Hollywood, my age group, we still got to work with the legends. We were lucky. And everybody always says, “Well, why do you call them legends?” Because they were bigger than life. And why? Because we didn’t know a goddamn thing about them outside the screen. And so, they weren’t vulnerable. You can’t be a legend today, you know, until you die, and then some people will make a legend. I guess when America lost its Mozart in Prince, he was just about as legendary as you can get a lifetime, because he did everything. And Mozart did it all, and he died at 25. Oh my god.
CS: Yeah, the candle that burns twice as bright burns half as long. But it’s interesting, I actually just got to meet Francis Coppola out at his vineyard, and I know you and him did a film together and you guys are all part of that new Hollywood scene of the 70s.
Dern: There are directors who can be like this, but not actors, because actors are overexposed. But Francis, and I’ll tell you how I met Francis. I go to work the first day with me and Peter Fonda and Nancy Sinatra on a movie called “The Wild Angels” for Roger Corman. My camera operator was Francis Coppola. The focus puller was Jonathan Demme. It’s called the University of Corman, and we all were blessed to be able to go over there.
CS: Yeah, that’s a rarified era. In your mind, what do you think will ultimately be the legacy of that era, like you and Nicholson and Coppola and Hal Ashby and all those guys?
Dern: Well, we understood three things. We understood, one, it was about survival. Two, you leave your ego at the door and use it on interviews, if you need to, and then to steady yourself. And three, it’s an endurance contest, and you better understand all of us are going into our—I have an advantage now. That’s why I’m excited about the next decade of my life, because I’m 83, and I’m still doing it. And I love that. I love the challenge of people that see me in certain characters before I ever get it. And they send me a script and that makes me want to do it, if it’s about a human fragility, if you will. How do we behave the way we behave? I’m up for that. And a lot of people said, but you can be funny. No, I’m not funny. I do stuff that has funny writing, and if you act it believably and honestly, it can be funny. I mean, “Nebraska”, everybody comes out and says, “Who knew? Bruce Dern with a smile. Who knew?” I said, “I only smiled twice in that whole fucking movie, so I don’t know what you’re talking about.” But it’s like in this. Who would’ve thought that the comic relief for three or four minutes would be Bruce Dern in “Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood”? But it’s there. He writes it. I mean, these guys write it. The other thing, he and Alexander, they’re not back at the monitor. They’re right there standing next to you. And that’s a blessing.
CS: So you have that connection.
Dern: Francis is the same way, and the thing about Francis, if you met him up there by his winery, he makes movies in his backyard. I mean, come on.
CS: I have to ask you about one more film before we’re done. One film you did in the 70’s that I think is so underappreciated is “The Driver”.
Dern: I don’t list him. He’s approachable also, but a little more standoffish on the set, but anytime Walter Hill wants me, I’ll go there. And “The Driver”, no one’s ever done a movie like that ever before or ever since then. That demolishing of the car, and you know who’s very good in that movie? Ryan O’Neal.
CS: Yeah. Oh yeah, very underrated performance. Very subtle and nuanced, especially for an action picture.
Dern: And Isabelle Adjani, too. Not all of us knew who she was, but we were doing that while “The Story of Adele H” came out. But Walter Hill was great. Everybody says, “No, but he makes all these blood thirsty movies and everything else, and there’s no humor.” Excuse me? The guy directed “48 Hours,” so shut the fuck up.
CS: I’ve met Walter. He’s a very sweet guy. But when you’re working on a movie like that, all the traditional noir elements are stripped down to the bone, to the point where you’re literally all playing archetypes. Like you’re “The Detective,” Isabella’s “The Player,” Ryan is just “The Driver.” What was it like to work in haiku like that?
Dern: Well, I love that, and that’s in the material. And people also forget that, because he’s not credited, Walter Hill actually wrote “Alien” as well.
CS: It was a real pleasure to talk to you, sir.
Dern: Thanks for your homework and your preparation. You’re fabulous, and I appreciate it and I want you to know.