Paxton – who has starring roles in the likes of Aliens, True Lies and Apollo 13, talks of his delight as playing such a strong, villainous character, as well as his joy in teaming up with old friend Mark Wahlberg once again. He also tells us what makes a good blockbuster and whether he intends to step back into the director’s chair himself soon…
So what first attracted you to 2 Guns?
Mark Wahlberg, Denzel Washington and the director Baltasar Kormákur, but when I read the script I thought, I hadn’t had the chance to play a part of such villainy in a long, long time, so God, it was almost too good to be true. I truly had a ball with this character Earl. It just came at a good time for me and I haven’t had a role where I’ve had as much fun as this for a long time. I’ve had some good roles recently, but none of them have really let their hair down and had some fun – and this character, though ambiguous as to who exactly he works for, he is obviously very well connected and has a lot of power at his disposal, and it’s great to play an antagonist like that who has all the parts. As a character he speaks in a poetic way, and he sounded like Tennessee Williams, so I started YouTubing some of his later interviews and I really liked that Louisiana accent, which worked very well. So I had a lot of fun, you know, everything is always fun with an accent like that. It was a lot of fucking fun doing the thing. He’s also a character who is very quotable – I think people know me from certain films and certain parts and I feel like this is a good showing for me, a really classic character for me to have played.
To elaborate on that, you’ve been in some of the most successful movies in the past 30 years – when you’re finished shooting do you know instantly which will go on to gain such acclaim and which won’t?
It depends on the movie. Certainly with Apollo 13, True Lies, Aliens… I knew these would all be hugely successful. One thing I noted very quickly, is that I could tell than both Denzel and Mark had a very good chemistry and that’s something you can’t necessarily act, you just need a good pairing. They say the movie is really a crowd-pleaser, potentially because of their chemistry. It’s kind of a classic western set in a modern day setting with several villains – I’m one of three villain in the piece. I don’t wanna give it all away, but I feel like it has a real shot of success.
It’s interesting that you mentioned the chemistry between Mark and Denzel, because I read that Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson were considered for the roles… How different a film would this have been if they had been cast instead?
You know what, isn’t that amazing? It would be a completely different movie! I’ve directed a few films and when you’re trying to get it together and people’s names get brought up you instantly visualise them in the roles and it always makes for really different movies – because they would be different movies. I’ve known Mark Wahlberg for several years and I’ve produced a film and co-starred in a film with a few years ago called Traveller. I’d seen Mark in a film called Fear and I thought he had so much charisma and I thought he’d be a huge actor – so I called his manager and I said, “I gotta work with Mark.” So he came in and I wanted him to do the movie, which fortunately he ended up doing. The first thing I said to him was “Who’s your favourite actor?” and he said “James Cagney” which I thought was great given it’s from a different generation, but he told me as a boy his dad would come home from working all night and stick old movies on the television and he really enjoyed watching them and became taken by Jimmy Cagney. As for Denzel, gosh, very few actors are on top of the game like he is. I was very excited to be in some scenes with him, he has a great conviction of character and I knew it would be good if he was in it. I can imagine Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn doing it because they’re good actors, but it would just be a completely different film and experience.
Your character is of course a CIA agent, as someone who has played roles on both sides of the law – is there one you enjoy portraying more?
Well to be honest, I never thought that he is CIA, he seems like somebody who has been contacted by someone like the CIA when they want something done. It’s all cloak and daggers stuff and you’re not really sure what to feel, but he has the government behind them. I enjoyed playing the role, it’s a plum part and a theatrical part and a role that I think I shine best in. Whether that be the car salesman in True Lies, I like the idea of doing more character work. I’ve supported Kevin Costner, Denzel and Mark, I’ve just finished supporting Tom Cruise too in a big movie – and now I’m doing a movie where I’m supporting Jon Hamm, so I’m kind of creating a niche for myself as a supporting actor and really enjoying it. It’s where I came from, and it’s a lot of fun to do.
You’ve directed a couple of movies yourself too, and it’s coming up to a decade since you last sat in the director’s chair – have you had any thoughts of returning one day?
I’ve been trying to get back to it ever since. Two years ago I was hired by Legendary to direct the kung-fu television series into a new movie franchise, and we got the script done and most of it storyboarded, but I’m kind of in a holding pattern waiting for the full funding. Then hopefully I’ll be going to China to make kung-fu. I have a few other projects as well that I’m trying to get done – so yeah I’m constantly trying to get some directing going.
Having been a director yourself – what do you see in Baltasar? Because this is just his second Hollywood outing.
Baltasar I can totally relate to because he has been an actor, producer and director and so I’m very much in the same camp as him. He is willing to take chances but he has a very strong will, which you need to sit in the director’s chair.
2 Guns is released on August 16th. You can read our review here.