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Character Actor John C. Reilly On Working with Paul Thomas Anderson.

Character actor John C. Reilly. He's starred In all three of director/writer Paul Thomas Anderson's films. He played a small-time gambler In "Hard Eight," a porn star In "Boogie Nights," and a police officer In the new "Magnolia." Reilly has also worked with directors Brian DePalma ("Casualties of War") and Terrence Malik ("The Thin Red Line"). Reilly got his start In Chicago at the Goodman School of Drama and worked with the Steppenwolf theatre. He's also starring In the film version of "The Perfect Storm" later this year.

43:45

Other segments from the episode on January 13, 2000

Fresh Air with Terry Gross, January 13, 2000: Interview with John C. Reilly; Review of Leon Kirchner's album "Leon Kirchner: Historical Recordings."

Transcript

Show: FRESH AIR
Date: JANUARY 13, 2000
Time: 12:00
Tran: 011301np.217
Type: FEATURE
Head: John C. Reilly Discusses His Film Career
Sect: Entertainment
Time: 12:06

This is a rush transcript. This copy may not
be in its final form and may be updated.

BARBARA BOGAEV, GUEST HOST: From WHYY in Philadelphia, this is FRESH AIR.

I'm Barbara Bogaev, in for Terry Gross.

On today's FRESH AIR, character actor John C. Reilly. In the new film "Magnolia," he plays a guileless L.A. police officer. Much of the character was based on the cop video improvisations he did with director-writer Paul Thomas Anderson years ago after they completed "Hard Eight."

We'll talk with Reilly about working with Anderson in "Hard Eight" and "Boogie Nights," and his other work in Brian DePalma's "Casualties of War" and Terrence Malik's "The Thin Red Line."

Also, classical music critic Lloyd Schwartz reviews a new set of historical recordings of the music of composer Leon Kirschner.

That's all coming up on FRESH AIR.

First, the news.

(NEWS BREAK)

BOGAEV: This is FRESH AIR. I'm Barbara Bogaev.

Terry Gross is nursing a cold. But before she lost her voice, she had a conversation with actor John C. Reilly. Reilly is part of the ensemble cast that stars in Paul Thomas Anderson's new movie, "Magnolia." The film is about 24 hours in the lives of several characters in L.A. whose stories overlap and finally interconnect.

Reilly's worked with Brian DePalma, Terrence Malik, and Lasse Hallstrom in films such as "Casualties of War," "Thin Red Line," and "What's Eating Gilbert Grape?" But he's had a special association with Paul Thomas Anderson. They met through a Sundance Institute workshop where Anderson was developing his first feature, "Hard Eight," and have worked together ever since.

In "Hard Eight," Reilly played a small-time Reno gambler, and he was the porn star Reid Rothschild in "Boogie Nights." In "Magnolia," Reilly plays a lonely and earnest Los Angeles police officer, Jim Kurring. In this scene, he's checking out a reported disturbance.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP, "MAGNOLIA")

JOHN C. REILLY, ACTOR: Hello.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS: (inaudible) that every time I turn around (inaudible). What? What? What? What? What now?

REILLY: Whoa, slow down, slow down.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS: You can't just come in here.

REILLY: Ma'am, door was open, ma'am, I got a call.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS: Yes, you're not allowed to just come in here.

REILLY: Calm down.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS: I am calm.

REILLY: Calm down. OK, I got a call to this apartment, report of a disturbance.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS: There's no disturbance.

REILLY: OK. I got a call to a disturbance. Your door was open, and I just want to see what's going on.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS: Yes, but there's no disturbance.

REILLY: OK, well, then, you got nothing to worry about.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS: You don't tell me, I know my rights. Just come right in? You can't just -- uh-uh!

REILLY: All right, ma'am, do you want to test me? All right, you want to tell me about the law book? We can do that. You push me far enough, I will take you to jail. OK? Now calm yourself down.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS: I am calm!

REILLY: No, you are not calm, you're screaming at me. You understand?

Now, I got a call of a disturbance, and I'm going to check it out. That is what I'm going to do. Now, are you alone in here?

UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS: I ain't got to answer none of your questions.

REILLY: No, you don't. But I'm going to ask you one more time. Are you alone in here?

UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS: What does it look like?

REILLY: There's no one else in here?

UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS: You in here.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

(BEGIN AUDIOTAPE)

TERRY GROSS, HOST: John C. Reilly, welcome to FRESH AIR.

REILLY: Thanks, Terry. Good to be here.

GROSS: How did your character come about? I know that you had shot videos based on the TV series "Cops" earlier with Paul Thomas Anderson. So what's the connection between those two?

REILLY: Well, it was this summer when we were both kind of floundering, and we were just going a little bit stir-crazy. It was after we'd already shot "Hard Eight," but Paul was having a large difficulty with the studio that paid for it. And they basically had taken the movie away from him for a short time, and it was before he got the money to do "Boogie Nights."

So we were just -- I wasn't working and he was going crazy because of the studio, and for -- just out of my frustration, I just -- I had a beard, and I shaved off the beard. And I thought, What's the craziest thing I can do? And I grew this mustache, which I thought was really funny, and just -- just one of these weird actor hair experiments that we all do.

And Paul took one look at it, he was, like, Oh, my God, we have to do our version of "Cops"! You know, I'm going to get you a uniform, and you're going to come over here -- which was something we did, actually, pretty frequently even before we did "Hard Eight," was, I would just hang out with him, and he would say, All right, just go. And he'd give me some topic or something and I'd make up some character, and -- just to make each other laugh, basically.

So we -- he got me a cop uniform and we started driving around the Valley around his house. And we -- for a while, it was just me doing these long monologues in the car, you know, a la "Cops." And then eventually we were, like, Well, we got to get someone else involved here. So we'd call up actor friends like Philip Seymour Hoffman or Jennifer Jason Leigh or a few other people, and we'd call them on the cell phone and say, All right, we're going to be there in 10 minutes. Someone called the police because your music was up too loud. Just go with it when we get there.

And they'd, you know, invariably say, What? Paul, what are you talking about? What? The cops, what? Just go with it, we'll be there in 10 minutes.

And so Paul would then film me all -- driving all the way over, I'd be describing what the disturbance involved, and, you know, where we were going, and, you know, just like they do on "Cops." And then I'd get out of the car. He'd follow me to the door. And then we'd just start these improvisations with whoever it was that we'd called.

And it inevitably led to, you know, foot chases through back yards...

GROSS: (laughs)

REILLY: ... you know, this -- the funniest stuff on "Cops" that we found really entertaining, like falling over fences and dropping things and reaching in people's pockets saying, Is anything going to stick me in here? Anything going to stick me? You know, for some reason that became, like, a mantra during these improvisations. Anything going to stick me?

You know, it was purely for our own entertainment, though, these tapes we made. And then we kind of put them away, and then "Boogie Nights" kicked into high gear, and, you know, Paul resolved all the issues with "Hard Eight."

And then I guess it -- when Paul sat down to -- was looking for inspiration to write "Magnolia," he liked that character so much that he just, I guess, looked at the tapes and took a lot of what I'd been making up in monologues and stuff and sort of synthesized it into the script.

And he added a lot of things to it that weren't there in the original improvisations. Like, he just gave him a lot more spiritual depth and made him a little less goofy.

GROSS: Even though your character was based on these videos that were based on "Cops" that you improvised earlier on, did you feel that for this movie you had to put in more, you know, realism and you had to, like, travel with real LAPD officers to see what the life was actually like?

REILLY: Yes, I did that. I did. I -- once I read the script, I realized, like, I have to really do justice to this man and this way of life. And so I went out with some local -- in North Hollywood, where the story takes place, I went out with a couple police officers and rode with them. And I have to tell you, there was -- it really sobered me up.

I mean, that first time, I remember the first call I went on with the police officer was a domestic disturbance in the Valley. And there was this 14-year-old girl who had an infant baby who -- she was accused by her mother of hitting the baby, and then she got into a fist fight with the mother, and the...

And here I was in the middle of it, I was just standing in these people's apartment with these police officers. And I immediately felt like I was going to start crying. As soon as I walked through the doorway, I just was overcome with emotion. And I just realized from that moment, like, this is not an easy life. These -- you know, despite the bad rep that the LAPD has right now, this is still not an easy life. It's, like, the pressures of this job are just incredible.

And part of that is echoed in one of those monologues I have in the car where I say, "It's always bad news. It's never good news. No one ever calls you to say, you know" -- I don't say this next part in the movie, but no one ever calls to say, you know, Come over and see, our baby just took her first steps, or, you know, Come over, we just made a great pie. You know, it's always some horrible situation that you have to deal with.

And I really felt for those guys, you know, riding around in those cars you don't get that -- You know, I've always been paranoid of the police, you know, growing up in Chicago. My license plates were always expired, and I always had something going on that made me really afraid of the police, because you see that image of that car that -- this authority figure, and you see the uniform and this -- you know, these lights. And it's just this imposing facade.

And then as soon as you get inside that car, not as a suspect but as, you know, someone riding along with the police officer, you just -- you're struck by how vulnerable they are.

I don't know, I was just -- I was really moved by that way of life, and I wanted to do justice to what those guys go through as human beings every day, you know?

GROSS: How did you meet Paul Thomas Anderson? You've been in each of his three movies, "Hard Eight," "Boogie Nights," and now "Magnolia."

REILLY: Well, Paul did a short called "Cigarettes and Coffee" that was at the Sundance Film Festival. And they -- as a result of that short, they invited him to be part of this thing they have there in the summer called the New Filmmakers Workshop. And what it is, it's sort of a mentor program for aspiring filmmakers. And you go there with a script that you'd like to work on, and they hire professional actors to do a few scenes with you, and you film them on video.

And when they asked Paul who they wanted to -- who he wanted to play this part of John in "Hard Eight," which is the script we were working on, my name was one of the first names they read, and he, like, That's it, that guy! You know, he was already practically like a stalker of mine at that point.

You know, not many people probably aware of this, but I'd done already a dozen movies before "Hard Eight," so, you know...

GROSS: But they weren't leading roles.

REILLY: No, they were mostly supporting roles. And I was pretty known within the entertainment industry, you know, the people who -- the casting directors and people like that. But I didn't have too many people who were aware of every single little thing I had done and who could quote lines from movies that I was in. And Paul was that person. And I was just -- I couldn't believe it.

And then I read the script, and it was -- he's such a natural. I mean, from the very -- I met him when he was, I think, 23 or 24 years old, and he was just writing this incredibly mature, well-written material. I mean, this -- for me, like, the hallmark of a good script to me is how quickly I read it. And I just whipped through "Hard Eight." It was -- I was just blown away, and I couldn't -- Paul didn't have an agent, he didn't have any kind of -- he was just this kid, like, Oh, I'm trying to make this movie.

And he was very good to me and Philip Baker Hall. I mean, once the script did get out, after this New Filmmakers Workshop, a lot of people wanted to insert this movie star or that movie star. And, you know, his writing was recognized as very good.

But Paul stuck by us. He insisted for years, literally -- it took us a couple years to get "Hard Eight" made. And it -- we really didn't get the money until Sam Jackson signed onto the project. You know, ironically enough, Gwyneth Paltrow was pretty much unknown at that point. So (inaudible)...

GROSS: Yes, she plays the woman who becomes your wife in the film.

REILLY: Right, yes, yes. She...

GROSS: So -- let me play a scene from "Hard Eight," which was your first leading role and your first role in a Paul Thomas Anderson film. And you played a young man who's lost all of his money gambling, and you're really down on your luck. And you meet an older man named Sidney, who's played by Philip Baker Hall. And Sidney becomes your mentor and teaches you how to win in the casinos and how to get the house to give you all the freebies and amenities.

REILLY: Right. I should note that "Sidney" was the original title of the movie, that -- the studio that paid for it forced Paul to change it to "Hard Eight."

GROSS: Right.

REILLY: Which I'm sure he'd want me to mention.

GROSS: Well, here's a scene from early in the film, where -- when you first met Sidney. And he's offering you advice, but all you care about is making back the money that you need.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP, "HARD EIGHT")

PHILIP MICHAEL HALL, ACTOR: I tell you what. You come with me back to Vegas, I'll loan you $50, I'll show you what you did wrong.

REILLY: Why? What are you, man? You -- you think you're St. Francis or something?

HALL: No. I don't think I'm St. Francis.

REILLY: I -- look, are you looking for a fag? Because I'm not some boy hooker, if that's what you're after.

HALL: I'm not looking for a hooker, John. I'm offering you a ride. I'm offering to teach you something.

REILLY: Yeah, well, tell me something right now that don't (bleep-bleep), OK?

HALL: I understand that. And this is the last time I'll ask. You want my help?

REILLY: I'll (bleep) you up if you (bleep) with me. I know three types of karate, OK? Jiu-jitsu, aikido, and regular karate.

HALL: OK.

REILLY: All right. OK, you give me a ride, two, you give me fifty bucks, and C, I sit in the back. And believe me, if you pull anything, I'll (bleep) you up.

HALL: (inaudible).

(END AUDIO CLIP)

GROSS: I wonder what it was like to work opposite Philip Baker Hall. He's such an interesting kind of hard-boiled presence in this and has such an interesting voice, as do you. I'm always listening to voices, as someone who works in radio.

REILLY: Right.

GROSS: But tell me a little bit about the chemistry between you and him and working opposite him.

REILLY: Philip, I -- is just an incredible person. I mean, if you get a chance to speak with him someday, just get him to tell you a few stories about his own life, apart from his work as an actor. He's just had a really fascinating road. But I really can't -- my best friend in real life is a man who's close to 60 years old, so I already had -- I mean, Paul wrote this script, and it was almost like he had ESP or something. He couldn't have known these things about my personal life that resonated in the script.

And so when I met Philip, and we were working on this, I could relate to the friendship that they had in the movie and how they relied on each other and how much love there was between these two guys. And Philip is just such a -- he's such a solid presence, you know. And there was many scenes in "Hard Eight" where my character's all over the place. There's that scene in the motel room where -- it was very emotional. It took us all night to shoot it. And I felt like I was at my wits' end.

And I was -- I remember just with tears coming out of my eyes, trying to film it, at one point saying, "Can I do this again, Philip? Can I do it again?" "Yes, John, yes, absolutely, absolutely, you can." And just him telling you that, with that voice of his, it was just so reassuring and...

But, you know, Paul has said this many times, but he's just this treasure. He's an American treasure. And how he got by all of us for so long without being recognized is incredible. But luckily now he's just -- he's working, like -- I don't know, he's got some incredible number of movies coming out already.

(END AUDIO TAPE)

BOGAEV: Actor John C. Reilly. More after this break.

This is FRESH AIR.

(BREAK)

(BEGIN AUDIO TAPE)

GROSS: John C. Reilly is my guest. He's starring in the new movie "Magnolia." He also starred in "Hard Eight" and co-starred in "Boogie Nights."

Let me play a scene from "Boogie Nights." And in this, you play Reid Rothschild, the guy who becomes Dirk Digler's best buddy when he enters the adult film world. And this is -- Dirk Digler is the Mark Wahlberg character. So you're already in the adult film world when Mark Wahlberg enters the picture.

And this is the scene where you first meet. You're -- it's poolside at Burt Reynolds' place, and, you know, Burt Reynolds plays the porn producer. And you're mixing drinks, and...

REILLY: Director, Burt's the director.

GROSS: The director, I mean, yes.

REILLY: Yes.

GROSS: And you're mixing drinks, and asking friendly but competitive questions (laughs) to Dirk Digler.

REILLY: Right.

(BEGIN AUDIO TAPE, "BOOGIE NIGHTS")

REILLY: Where do you work out?

MARK WAHLBERG, ACTOR: Taurus (ph), wherever.

REILLY: Hey, you ever go to Vince's out here? Oh, no. I would have seen you. I'm there every day.

WAHLBERG: I've always wanted to work out at Vince's.

REILLY: Cool. Here. Taste that. (inaudible), right? Hey, did you ever see that movie "Star Wars"?

WAHLBERG: Oh, about four times.

REILLY: People tell me I look like Han Solo.

WAHLBERG: Really?

REILLY: Pretty bench.

WAHLBERG: No, you tell first (ph).

REILLY: I asked you first.

WAHLBERG: Same time.

REILLY: That's cool. Are you ready?

WAHLBERG: Ready.

REILLY AND WAHLBERG: One, two, three...

WAHLBERG: You didn't say anything.

REILLY: Well, neither did you.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

GROSS: Now, were you familiar with the adult film world when you made "Boogie Nights"?

REILLY: Well, you know, I don't want to incriminate myself, but, yes, I was somewhat familiar with it. I certainly got a lot more familiar with it as a result of working on the movie.

GROSS: That's great, it was, like, permission to watch all this stuff...

REILLY: Exactly.

GROSS: ... (inaudible) otherwise really embarrassed (inaudible).

REILLY: Yes, and I'm married, so it was, like, this -- Honey, I have to do some research, you know. But it's funny, after a while, it's, like -- Paul and I both feel this way now. It's, like, I don't need to see another porno movie in my life. It's, like, after you go through that and you see the lives of people and what -- One -- it's just kind of, like, it spoils it for you. You can see the fantasy that they're trying to create, and you can see right through it, and you can tell what's going on on the people's faces. And, I don't know, it just becomes a sort of sad charade.

GROSS: Was it ever uncomfortable on the set because of the nudity and sex scenes, even though these scenes were largely satires of pornography? (inaudible) still people had to, you know, do it without their clothes on and everything. So -- yes.

REILLY: Well, they play as satires, but some of those scenes were just directly lifted from actual porn movies. But -- sorry, I've lost the...

GROSS: Oh, if it was ever embarrassing on the set, because...

REILLY: Embarrassing...

GROSS: ... of the nudity and sex.

REILLY: Right. Well, you know, like, it -- after awhile, it's, like...

GROSS: Or uncomfortable. Maybe "embarrassing" is the wrong word.

REILLY: Yes, maybe at the beginning. I certainly had a lot of fears about it, you know, I was, like, Oh, I got to lose weight and get in shape, and, you know, all this stuff. And so I did that, and I had all this -- you know, I was all worked up about it. And then when you actually get in there -- I mean, I was ready to do anything. I actually didn't have to fully expose myself, but I was completely ready and willing.

Because after a while, you get -- I quickly understood what it was like -- or what it must be like for people that work in the porn world. It's, like, once you know the cameraman and once you know the prop person and you spend a month or so with them, and you know the other actors, you create this kind of insulated little family. And you don't -- you know, the nor -- it's not like being in public nude or something. It's very private, and you feel very safe.

So you're willing to just do whatever it takes. So, yes, I was willing to do pretty much anything at that point.

GROSS: Now, in "Boogie Nights," you and Mark Wahlberg also make these kind of adult action films under the names -- well, the characters' names are Brock Landers and Chest Rockwell. You're Chest Rockwell. (laughs)

REILLY: Right. People still come up to me, drunken men between the age of 25 and 40, still come up to me and go, Chest! You rock! Just hilarious.

GROSS: Well, it must have been fun to do these mock adult action films, in which you karate-chop your opponents and high-five your...

REILLY: Oh, yes.

GROSS: ... partner.

REILLY: Yes...

GROSS: And act kind of badly, like a lot of, you know, cheap, amateurish movies.

REILLY: That was really difficult, actually. I mean, I used to -- I remember when we were doing the movie, I was just fascinated with Julianne Moore's technique for doing that dialogue. She just made it seem so vacant and so -- I couldn't figure out what she was doing. And I used to ask her every day, like, Listen, you have to tell me what's going through your head when you're doing that dialogue, because I have to do some of it.

And she's, like, "Well, I'll tell you, John, what I basically do is, I just try to get clear everything out of my mind except remembering the next words to say."

GROSS: (laughs)

REILLY: Like, no kind of actor intention stuff and no -- you know, none of the normal kind of naturalistic acting things that we do, just simply memorization and saying the words as simply -- and just remembering them, basically, was what she said. I thought that was brilliant.

GROSS: So this was her approach to acting within the movies-within-the-movie, when she was doing one of the porn films.

REILLY: Right, yes, exactly.

GROSS: And she's supposed to be a bad actress. Yes, that's great.

REILLY: Exactly.

GROSS: (inaudible)...

REILLY: Yes, Mark Wahlberg and I had a great time doing those little action sequences. I mean, Mark was, like -- every -- in the takes that exist in the movie are pretty much the only takes where Mark what -- didn't break into laughter at some point. Because, you know, you're just walking together with these high-heeled shoes on, these leisure suits. It's just -- it was a pretty big...

GROSS: Platform shoes, yes.

REILLY: Yes, exactly, platforms.

(END AUDIO TAPE)

BOGAEV: John C. Reilly. He's featured in Paul Thomas Anderson's new movie, "Magnolia." We'll continue Terry's interview with him in the second half of our show.

I'm Barbara Bogaev, and this is FRESH AIR.

(BREAK)

BOGAEV: This is FRESH AIR. I'm Barbara Bogaev, in for Terry Gross.

Let's continue with Terry's interview with actor John C. Reilly. He's featured in Paul Thomas Anderson's new film, "Magnolia," and has starred in Anderson's previous movies, "Hard Eight" and "Boogie Nights."

Reilly is also known for his supporting roles in such films as "Casualties of War," "The Thin Red Line," and "Days of Thunder."

(BEGIN AUDIO TAPE)

GROSS: Tell us something about the neighborhood you grew up in and your family when you were growing up.

REILLY: I grew up on the southwest side of Chicago in a neighborhood called Marquette Park, which is very working class, sort of ethnic. You know, Chicago is made up of this sort of patchwork of ethnic neighborhoods, and the predominant ethnic groups when I lived there were Irish, Lithuanian, some Polish. And that's my background. My father is Irish-American and my mother's Lithuanian-American. And I come from a family of six kids.

And, yes, I was sort of heading -- you know, you sort of -- you either got out of my neighborhood, or you became juvenile delinquent. That was kind of the two paths you could take. And I was quickly heading down the juvenile delinquent path, you know, shoplifting and vandalizing, whatever, you know, you'd get into. It's just boredom, really, is the reason kids get into that stuff, I think.

But then I met this guy, this friend of mine named Jim Lapasona (ph), who's just this crazy Italian kid who I met who I thought was really funny. And one day I said, I said, "What are you doing after school?" And he said, "Oh, I'm going over to the field house to go to drama." "What? What?" I didn't even know what the word "drama" meant at that point.

I think he said DRAM-ma. We used to call it "dramma," actually. And I was, like, "What is that?" And he said, "Oh, it's just -- it's a class, you go and, you know, do -- play theater games and do plays. You want to come?" And I said, "Well, all right, sure." And I went by there one day, and, like, that was it, from then on -- I was about 8 or 9 years old then.

I've been doing -- I've been acting ever since. And so I did plays at this field house across the street, or in the park across from my house. And then I did all kinds of musicals when I was in high school. I went to a boys' Catholic high school, and so I did musicals there. And then I also went over to the girls' Catholic high schools, who were always looking for -- whatever, male bodies, to play the male roles in all these musicals they were doing.

It was almost 100 percent musicals on the -- where I lived. That was just -- that's what people wanted to see. So I didn't really get into drama until I went to acting school for college.

GROSS: OK, were you Nathan Detroit or Sky Masterson in "Guys and Dolls"? Because I figure you had to do "Guys and Dolls."

REILLY: That is, like, the holy grail for me (inaudible). That's the one musical that I haven't done, and it's my favorite...

GROSS: You haven't done it?

REILLY: ... musical. That -- I went to see that musical on Broadway for my bachelor party. That was my bachelor party, going to see -- me and my best friend went to see "Guys and Dolls" on Broadway with Peter Gallagher. Yes, that was -- that's a fantastic musical. I would love -- I'd love to do that one sometime.

I keep telling Paul, like, "That's the next thing we should do is a big musical." And he keeps kind of -- he says, "Yes," he gets into it sometimes, and then he hears that so-and-so is doing a musical, I think Lars Montrier (ph) is doing a musical, and a -- you know, he's just sort of dancing around the concept. But I keep telling him, "No, come on, big Busby Berkley, like, film musical."

GROSS: Absolutely. So you got interested in acting, started doing these productions at the field house in your neighborhood.

REILLY: Yes, in Marquette Park. Jim Moore (ph)...

GROSS: Did musicals in high school. Your first film role was "Casualties of War." How did you get cast in a movie? How did you get the (inaudible)...

REILLY: Well, actually, we've skipped an important chapter, which is...

GROSS: OK.

REILLY: ... after high school, I went to this conservatory of acting called the Goodman School of Drama, is what it was called at the time in Chicago. It's now called the Theater School at DePaul University. And it was, like, an 8:00 in the morning till 10:00 at night theater studies, period, like, for four years, and that's all I did.

And I had sort of this big breakthrough with acting. And that's when I really decided -- like, after about my third year there I decided, like, All right, this is going to be my life's vocation. This is what I'm going to do.

Because I was never one of these kids who was, like, Oh, I want to be the world's greatest actor, you know. It was just always something that I found fun to do, and I just kept doing it. I was always trying to keep my other avenues open. But, yes, I met this guy Patrick Murphy, who's -- who is still my best friend to this day. He was my first serious acting professor in school.

And he got me involved in improvisation, and a lot of my technique and a lot of the stuff that I do best now is a result of meeting Patrick Murphy.

GROSS: So how'd you do "Casualties of War"? How did you (inaudible)?

REILLY: Yes, and then I got out of acting school, and, you know, I got an agent in Chicago and tried to -- I got into the theater scene a little bit. I did some work with Steppenwolf Theater and then did a little bit of work with a company called the Organic Theater Company in Chicago. And I sent off this videotape audition to Brian DePalma, who was casting "Casualties of War" at the time, and I was given this sort of day player role off the videotape.

And at that point, I'd never left the Midwest. I'd never been on an airplane. I'd never been in a film. All these things were happening to me for the first time. So I got on this plane. It was just amazing. And I went to Thailand, where we're shooting "Casualties of War," which is the opposite side of the earth from Chicago. It was as far away from home as I possibly could have been.

And then there were some cast changes once I got over there. And I was given this sort of cameo part. And they said, Go back to -- you know, they bumped me up from this -- basically, this guy gets his arm blown off, to this somewhat larger role. And they said that the role doesn't film for a couple months, so go back to Chicago.

And I stopped in Los Angeles on the way back, because I'd met this girl in Thailand who I really liked, and who I ended up marrying, and I'm still married to today. But I stopped in L.A. to hang out with her, and one night I had this dream that my agent called and said, "You're going -- you have to go back to Thailand. You're having a different part in the movie."

And sure enough, it was just one of those rare things that happen. I woke up that morning and I get -- the agent called and said, "You have to go back to Thailand immediately." I went from Los Angeles to Miami to London to New Delhi to Bangkok...

GROSS: (laughs)

REILLY: ... got off the plane at Bangkok, then took this little flight to this small island called Phuket. Then I was picked up at the airport, without stopping, without sleeping -- or I slept on the plane a little bit. But I didn't know what role they wanted me to play. And I still had not filmed anything in the movie yet. It was just rehearsal that I'd done previously.

And so I got into the car, and here's this producer, Art Linson, who I to this day credit with giving me my break. He turns -- you know, it's a classic Hollywood moment. He's got a cigar in his mouth, we're in this Jaguar. He turns around from the front seat and says, "How you doing? You're the new Hatcher." Which was, like, the fourth lead in the movie.

And I was just -- I couldn't believe it. It was just really surreal experience. So he -- I said, "Where are we going? I'm tired. Can I go to the hotel?" He said, "Oh, no, we're going to the set. We're going to -- we're just going to talk to Brian for a little bit, and then we'll let you go home."

So we get to the set. I go through makeup and hair and I get the costume. And the next thing you know, I'm filming a scene for the first time in my life in this movie. It was just this incredible adventure. And that pretty much kicked off, you know, my entrance into the film world.

And I haven't stopped working, luckily, since then.

GROSS: Well, you shot another film in the jungle. You were in Terrence Malik's film "The Thin Red Line."

REILLY: "The Thin Red Line," many, many years later, yes.

GROSS: And I think you were supposed to be a pretty major part in it, but a lot of people got edited out or had a lot of their parts edited out. And you were one of those people who were in the film a lot for a lot shorter time than I think you ever expected. What was your reaction when you actually saw the cut and saw how little of your role was actually used?

REILLY: I have to say honestly I was really disappointed. You know, I love Terry. Terry Malik is, I feel, is a genius, and you work with him, you realize you're spending time with someone who's a rare, rare person. And so I felt just very lucky to have spent those five months with him. But it was five months, and it was far away from home in Australia, and I missed my wife, and I -- it was just a -- it was a really difficult experience.

And I gave a -- you know, it was Terry Malik, so all of us were, like, giving our 110 percent every day, trying to just really, you know, help him create something special. And then when he got back -- and of course Terry then responded to that. He responded to how much people were giving him, and he would just film things, and he was always giving new scenes and writing things up. And he wrote, you know, a few different new scenes for me right on the spot, and I was so flattered, and Oh, my God, this is amazing, you know.

And I got back, and I got this phone call from Terry before I actually saw the movie. And he said, "You know, John, we -- I had a little trouble. I wish I could have made a five-hour cut. But certain parts of the picture became, like, ice floes, they just separated from the main. And I had to pare it down. And I just wanted to let you know."

And, you know, he -- so he tried to warn me a little bit. But even that, I mean, I was pretty stunned. I still enjoyed the movie, and I still think it's a real masterpiece, and I'm really proud of it. And there's a scene in that movie that I just think is some of my best work, the scene in this medical tent with Sean Penn that -- it just -- I could feel it that day, like, this is something special and rare. And I'm really proud that that scene stayed in the movie.

(END AUDIO TAPE)

BOGAEV: John C. Reilly. He'll be back after the break.

This is FRESH AIR.

(BREAK)

(BEGIN AUDIO TAPE)

GROSS: My guest is John C. Reilly, and he stars in the new movie "Magnolia." He also starred in "Boogie Nights" and "Hard Eight." And he's starring in the forthcoming film, "The Perfect Storm."

You did an interview with Paul Thomas Anderson that was published in a movie magazine, and in that interview, you describe one of the movies you worked on earlier in your career, "Days of Thunder," as representing in its own way the decadence of Hollywood at its most extreme. (laughs)

REILLY: Yes, that was, like, the pinnacle of that '80s kind of, you know, Coke (ph) and champagne sort of -- I mean, I didn't -- I was sort of a babe in the woods. It was, like, my third movie or something. I just couldn't believe what I was seeing, you know, like, you know, people -- we were staying in some Ramada Inn in, like, North Carolina. And one of the producers had them tear out three walls out of the -- out of -- to create this massive suite on the top of this Ramada Inn. It was, like, What are you doing? We're in North Carolina. Who cares? We'll be gone in two weeks.

Yes, I don't know, it was sort of a -- it was a little bit of a fall from grace for me to realize, like, just how crazy it could get, you know. I was coming from this actor's background, you know, it's all about the work. And suddenly I was in -- it was a different animal. Those kind of movies are a whole different breed.

GROSS: Did you want to experience more of that, or were you glad to go from there to -- well, when I think of a contrast between, say, "Hard Eight" and "Days of Thunder," "Hard Eight" is like a first film by an independent director, really low budget. This was long after you'd made "Days of Thunder."

REILLY: Well, the lesson that that movie taught me was -- no, I have to say, it didn't make -- it didn't inspire me to want to do more movies like that, because ultimately -- I enjoy acting. And in movies like that, you don't really get that much of an opportunity, especially if you're playing a supporting role. You don't get that much of an opportunity to act.

And one of the reasons I took that movie was so that I could work with Robert Duvall. And instead of having this -- I mean, I had a really wonderful personal interaction with Robert, and I spent a lot of time with him. And that was great. Getting to know him was wonderful. But what I was really looking forward to was our work together.

And then when I realized, like, Wait, he's just as miserable as I am, and neither of us are really getting to do what we do best. We're just kind of, you know, we're making a popcorn movie, which has value, and I love to go see movies, you know, I love to see movies like that and -- You know, they have their place.

But at this point, life's a little too short to spend that much of your time in service of something that you really, truly don't have your heart in. But that said, it's still incredibly tempting. You're surrounded by it all the time. You know, it's, like, sometimes, like, I've turned down -- I mean, I could have been a millionaire many, many times over by now from the money that gets offered from those movies.

So, you know, a certain -- you -- it's this balance. You have to -- you have to -- it's this balancing act. You have to -- you know, you do things like, you know, a play at the Actors' Gang here in Los Angeles, you know, for a couple months, and then you have to make some money somehow for your family or whatever.

So I think I've managed over the years, with a couple exceptions, I've managed to choose studio movies that have something to offer to me in them, you know, something that's going to challenge me and, you know, allow me to do something new.

GROSS: You're co-starring in "The Perfect Storm," which is scheduled to open sometime fairly soon, I think.

REILLY: In the summer, I think the end of June, yes.

GROSS: OK. So tell us something about what the storm sequences were like.

REILLY: Oh, my God. That movie, it just about killed me. You know, I always say this, like, whenever I finish a hard job, I say, That was the hardest thing I've ever done. I should just stop saying that, because they just keep getting harder and harder.

But, yes, the storm sequences, for the most part the storm sequences were filmed on a sound stage in Burbank at Warner Brothers. And they created this -- they dug this massive water tank, like 1.4 million gallons of water or something in it, with this enormous hydraulic gimbal that this -- what, it was 100,000-pound replica of a fishing boat on top of it, and it would move in all these different directions, and these huge -- they look like elevator shafts, but they're filled with water, and then they pull out the bottom -- they pull out this hatch at the bottom and these thousands of gallons of water come rushing out like a tidal wave and smack right into you, you know.

That and they had a -- like -- they look like jet engines for fans. I mean, the things could literally blow you over.

GROSS: Is it ever frustrating that so much of movies in which there are special effects are about the drama of the special effects as opposed to an opportunity for you to, you know, really act a lot? I'm not saying one is exclusive of the other, but I'm sure when you're getting pelted with water...

REILLY: Well, certainly...

GROSS: ... you know, that (laughs) a lot of the attention is being paid to the special effects.

REILLY: Yes, well, on those days -- it's actually kind -- some days it's a relief. Some days you go in to work and it's a relief that, oh, I don't have to dig deep into my soul and cry and think about things that really make me upset. Some days it's a relief, like, Oh, all I have to do is go Aaargh! you know, and, you know, take some water in the face. Some days -- sometimes that's a relief. And sometimes it gets tedious.

But actually "The Perfect Storm" -- you know how I was saying before how you have to strike a balance and try to choose movies that, you know, not only will pay you but will also give you something to do. And that movie really -- despite all the action sequences, it's -- it does have a lot of heart to it, and it's a true story of these guys that disappeared in the middle of the ocean that were just real working-class guys who were trying to make a living catching swordfish, and they got caught in the worst storm in recorded weather.

So in the story, my character has a -- he's divorced from his wife, and he has a little boy, and sort of the -- there's a lot of -- there's a lot of emotion going on every time he goes out to sea, it's a big deal. He has -- misses his boy. And each person -- Mark Wahlberg's character, who I'm reteamed with in this one, funny enough, we just -- we used to tease each other all the time when we're making it, Chest and Brock on the high seas.

GROSS: (laughs)

REILLY: You know, Come on, man, we got to catch some drug smugglers comin' in the harbor. You know, it was pretty funny. But we're very different in the movie. We (inaudible) -- you almost wouldn't even recognize us.

GROSS: You're about to do the Sam Shepard play "True West"...

REILLY: Right.

GROSS: ... in New York with Philip Seymour Hoffman, who you've been in a minimum of three movies with. You probably know each other pretty well. It -- will that be helpful in doing this drama together, about two brothers?

REILLY: Yes, the fact that Phil and I know each other is going to be really helpful to us, because we're -- actually, what we're doing with the play is, it's the story of two brothers, and in a way, Shepard wrote the play, I think, as two sides of his own personality, or two sides of one man's personality battling each other.

And with the director, Matthew Warchus, who directed "Art" on Broadway, what he wants to do with the production is have us alternate roles. So we're going to switch. I mean, I mean, the play is demanding enough.

GROSS: That's twice the number of lines to learn.

REILLY: Yes, so, but we basically -- both of us have to memorize the entire play. Not only that, but there's the whole aspect of, well, now, I'm doing this performance, but tomorrow night you're going to be doing it, so I thought it was really important that I do the play with someone who was already a friend, because this (inaudible) -- we're going to have to have a lot of understanding with each other and a lot of support.

It can't be the -- you know, the stereotypical actor competition with each other, it has -- we have to be really supportive. And I met Matthew when he was casting the play, and I think that he liked me immediately for what I was doing, and he could see that I would be able to play both roles. But he asked me who should play my brother, and, I mean, the first name out of my mouth was Phil Hoffman, because he's just -- I mean, there's -- I just love Phil. I love -- I love the way -- to watch him work.

GROSS: John C. Reilly, thanks so much for talking with us.

REILLY: Well, thank you, Terry, it was a pleasure.

(END AUDIO TAPE)

BOGAEV: John C. Reilly. He's in the new film "Magnolia." He opens in "True West" at Circle in the Square on March 2.

Coming up, Lloyd Schwartz on the music of Leon Kirschner.

This is FRESH AIR.

(BREAK)

TO PURCHASE AN AUDIOTAPE OF THIS PIECE, PLEASE CALL 877-21FRESH
Dateline: Barbara Bogaev, Philadelphia, Terry Gross, Philadelphia
Guest: John C. Reilly
High: Character actor John C. Reilly has starred in all three of director/writer Paul Thomas Anderson's films. He played a small-time gambler In "Hard Eight," a porn star In "Boogie Nights," and a police officer In the new "Magnolia." Reilly has also worked with directors Brian DePalma in "Casualties of War" and Terrence Malik in "The Thin Red Line." Reilly got his start in Chicago at the Goodman School of Drama and worked with the Steppenwolf Theatre. He's also starring in the film version of "The Perfect Storm" later this year.
Spec: Entertainment; Movie Industry; Television and Radio

Please note, this is not the final feed of record
Copy: Content and programming copyright 2000 WHYY, Inc. All rights reserved. Transcribed by FDCH, Inc. under license from WHYY, Inc. Formatting copyright 2000 FDCH, Inc. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to WHYY, Inc. This transcript may not be reproduced in whole or in part without prior written permission.
End-Story: John C. Reilly Discusses His Film Career

Show: FRESH AIR
Date: JANUARY 13, 2000
Time: 12:00
Tran: 011302np.217
Type: FEATURE
Head: Music and Arts Label Releases Two-CD Set of Historic Recordings of Leon Kirschner's Music
Sect: Entertainment
Time: 12:56

This is a rush transcript. This copy may not
be in its final form and may be updated.

BARBARA BOGAEV, GUEST HOST: Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Leon Kirschner was born in Brooklyn and grew up in Los Angeles, where he met and studied with Arnold Schoenberg. Last year, Kirschner turned 80, and to commemorate the occasion, the Music and Arts label has released a two-CD set of historic recordings of his music.

Classical music critic Lloyd Schwartz tells us why he considers Leon Kirschner a major musical figure.

(AUDIO CLIP, EXCERPT, LEON KIRSCHNER'S PIANO SONATA, LEON FLEISCHER)

LLOYD SCHWARTZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC CRITIC: The history of American music is a history of mavericks, composers who don't fit neatly into any category -- Charles Ives, Carl Ruggles, Henry Cowell, Ruth Crawford, John Cage, Elliot Carter.

Not least among these is Leon Kirschner, as you can hear from the marvelous recordings made between the early '50s and the mid-'70s that are finally in print again. These are powerful and compelling pieces, and in definitive performances. Leon Fleischer, for example, plays the earliest work on the disk, Kirschner's sensational piano sonata from 1948.

They reveal both the broad range and singular consistency of Kirschner's approach, the way he gathers in the work of his ancestors and teachers, especially Schoenberg, yet always speaks with his own voice.

His music -- turbulent, roiling, questing, and questioning -- seems in a state of perpetual argument with the world, or with music itself, sometimes angry, sometimes knotted up inside, occasionally finding a momentary resting place, but never complacent.

Like a great jazz musician, Kirschner seems to be in a state of continual improvisation. Yet there's also a sense of inevitability, even fate.

Kirschner says the slow movement of his piano concerto was inspired by Beethoven. You can hear the connection, but you'd never confuse the two. Kirschner himself is the soloist in this visceral yet touching performance with Dmitri Metropoulos (ph) and the New York Philharmonic, recorded in 1956.

(AUDIO CLIP, EXCERPT, LEON KIRSCHNER'S PIANO CONCERTO, LEON KIRSCHNER WITH DMITRI METROPOULOS AND THE NEW YORK PHILHARMONIC)

SCHWARTZ: One of the biggest disappointments in Kirschner's career must surely have been the failure of his most ambitious work, "Lilly (ph)," an opera he adapted from Saul Bellow's novel "Henderson, the Rain King." Kirschner spent nearly 20 years bringing it to fruition, but the world premier production at the New York City Opera, though not the music itself, received notoriously bad reviews, and "Lilly" has never been restaged.

In 1973, four years before he completed the opera, Kirschner produced a concert suite of scenes from it, two that take place in the jungle with the tribal queen Matalba (ph), who is in love with Henderson, and sections with monologues spoken by Henderson and sung by his wife, Lilly.

The central soprano roles, Matalba and Lilly, are both sung by the radiant Diana Hoagland (ph), and the chamber orchestra conducted by Kirschner himself at the keyboard, consists of such instrumental luminaries as clarinetist Richard Stolzman (ph), flutist Paul Dunkel (ph), violinist James Buzzwell (ph), cellist Lawrence Loesser (ph), and pianist Lorin Hollander on celeste.

Here they all are -- with some electronics, too -- accompanying Matalba's exotic incantation to Henderson.

(AUDIO CLIP, EXCERPT, LEON KIRSCHNER'S "LILLY," DIANA HOAGLAND)

SCHWARTZ: It's great to have all these Kirschner recordings back in print. I especially hope the selection from "Lilly" will inspire some enterprising opera company to produce the complete opera again, and this time get it right.

BOGAEV: Lloyd Schwartz is classical music editor of "The Boston Phoenix." He reviewed "Leon Kirschner: Historic Recordings" on the Music and Arts label.

FRESH AIR's interviews and reviews are produced by Phyllis Myers, Naomi Person, Amy Salit, and Joan Toohey Wesman, with Monique Nazareth, Ann Marie Baldonado, and Patty Leswing.

For Terry Gross, I'm Barbara Bogaev.

(AUDIO CLIP, EXCERPT, LEON KIRSCHNER'S "LILLY")

TO PURCHASE AN AUDIOTAPE OF THIS PIECE, PLEASE CALL 877-21FRESH
Dateline: Barbara Bogaev, Philadelphia, Lloyd Schwartz
Guest:
High: Classical music critic Lloyd Schwartz reviews "Leon Kirchner: Historical Recordings," featuring the music of Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Leon Kirchner, who turns 81 this year.
Spec: Music Industry; Entertainment; Leon Kirchner

Please note, this is not the final feed of record
Copy: Content and programming copyright 2000 WHYY, Inc. All rights reserved. Transcribed by FDCH, Inc. under license from WHYY, Inc. Formatting copyright 2000 FDCH, Inc. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to WHYY, Inc. This transcript may not be reproduced in whole or in part without prior written permission.
End-Story: Music and Arts Label Releases Two-CD Set of Historic Recordings of Leon Kirschner's Music
Transcripts are created on a rush deadline, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of Fresh Air interviews and reviews are the audio recordings of each segment.

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