Interview with Chris in Los Angeles
Marina del Rey, Los Angeles, CA – Oct 06, 2008
In October 2008, Anne (DomesticElephant), Deb (Sisterdebmac) and Tina (TeeJay) went to LA together and met up with Chris for an afternoon. We first went out to lunch and later sat down to interview him for the website, which we also audio-recorded. Below you can read the transcription of the interview. The audio files can be found in the Media Interviews section of the site (MP3 format).
Deb: This one is just something I’ve been curious about for a long time. Seems like most everything you do deals with these really sort of heavy subject matters, you know excluding the comedy of course, you know, God, sex, death. Are those the kind of things that you’re really interested in, or is that just kind of a coincidence?
Chris: I think it’s just kinda coincidence, but you know, I mean, what interests me in films is probably just, uh… yeah, I think that’s all coincidence. Like, I mean the thing is just luckily I’ve somehow in my career I’ve been fortunate enough to… the things that I do end up doing, you know, a lot of them turn out to be about this cool stuff. You know, um, realistically, you know, it’s like I didn’t say to myself, you know I wanna do a movie with The Rock about aliens. You know, I like aliens and UFOs, so I’m gonna do one of those. So like, it just happens to work out like that. So like, yeah, you know, specifically, as an actor, I think you know, the position I’m in, I’m not in a position to be choosing exactly what I want my movie to be about, you know? You can just kind of choose, you know, if you wanna do a specific movie or not and that’s it, so, yeah, so…
Deb: But then you do like the drama, or the heavier things, though…
Chris: Yeah, I always like the heavier stuff a lot, you know. There was a while where it was like comedy was a nice balance, because I’d just throw so much of my energy and time into something so dramatic that you know, when I was done I was exhausted. And I was just like, “Oh my God, you know what would be great right now is to be paid to do some jokes.”
Chris: Yeah, and so that became something, but you know I still uh… yeah, drama’s the real stuff that I really enjoy.
Deb: What was the hardest thing that you worked on those terms, as far as what it took out of you?
Chris: Um… oh, everything. And it gets worse each time.
Chris: When I’m doing a new project, I’m more tired getting out of it and uh, I’d say the last really hard thing was probably The Invisible, was pretty difficult. And uh, you know, Alpha Dog, all of them really. Each one is its own kind of battle.
Deb: So what happens when the director says, “Cut”? Are you able to just walk away from the heavy stuff?
Chris: No, not at all. It’s the trick to acting, they say it takes twice the amount of energy to get out of something that it does to get in. ‘Cause getting in is like the process of discovery, so you’re just going along with it and you’re like, “Oh yeah, it feels cool, that feels cool, this feels cool,.” And then getting out of it is a whole other process in itself and it’s really difficult, I must say. That’s the one thing I try to spend more time concentrating on, figuring out how to get out of it.
I heard this famous story about Al Pacino, who, like, won’t leave his trailer until he’s gotten out of the character. So sometimes it’ll be five minutes, sometimes it’ll be five hours. But he’ll just do, like, some guy I met who was his assistant on some movie and uh, kinda would just have to wait there for however long. He [Pacino] would just like come outside turn and around four times, knock four times (Chris knocks on the table), count to four and then like go back inside and come back out again, turn around, stomp his feet four times, knock four times, come back. And finally one of these days he would turn around, stop and go, “All right, I’m ready to go.”
Chris: So like everybody’s got their weird, crazy thing that they, you know, that they gotta do to get out of stuff. And I, uh, yeah, I’ve figured out little things for myself, but not, I haven’t mastered that process by any means.
Deb: Is that the hardest thing for you?
Chris: Yeah, it’s always the hardest thing, is letting go of stuff, you know. Cause you’re pretending to be… you know, you’re taking on these other attributes, and these uh, facets of characters and you’re expected to live with them and show them, be honest with them. And then… then you gotta home and talk to your friends and be with your family and, and you know, or whoever, do whatever, just be by yourself and read a book, you now whatever it would be that you’re gonna do, and expect not to have those things? And it’s really difficult. Yes, so when we were talking about earlier, you know with the Vietnam War stuff, you know it’s like, you know with the whole My Lai Massacre was people who were trained to do something, and they end up full-on becoming murderers because they’re trained to kill people. It’s like if you’re training yourself to be a sad person, you’re gonna go home sad, you know? And if you train yourself to feel guilty about something, you’re gonna go feel guilty when you’re back at home. So, you know, so letting go of that stuff is a lot of work.
Deb: Are you a Method guy?
Chris: I don’t know, I never really s—, I never read a book on the Method, I’ve never studied. I don’t even know if Method is… I don’t know what. I don’t know. I, honestly, I, you know… I’ve never taken acting classes. I took a scene study class for the first time this year. I only went a couple of times and then it wasn’t for me anymore, you know, but um… so I don’t know, I’ve been, you know, grown up, since I was four years old acting. So I figured everything out on my own. My parents never told me what to do so I just I got my own thing that I do. I don’t really call it anything, so…
Deb: Well, that works for you, so that doesn’t…
Deb: After the last interview, when we talked to you, you talked about some of the books you’d been reading. It seemed as though you were on a kind of searching sort of spiritual path.
Chris: Yeah, I have been.
Deb: And I was just curious about that. And a lot of people are, probably because of your involvement in Joan, like, uh, what religion were you raised in and how do you see your spiritual path these days?
Chris: Whoa! Uh, I was raised Catholic, and then like Methodist. I went to church for a long time. And then, I, uh, I started having these big questions in my head about a lot of stuff and I was just like I don’t understand this and that and this and that. So I started going to the priest and I’d be like, “Hey, man, what about…?” you know, and I’d ask him some questions and uh, and then it made me completely uninterested in religion. So I stopped going to church and uh, I haven’t been to church in a long time, and uh, you know my spirituality sort of comes from uh… You know, I take a very strong stance, honestly, against an organized religion in a sense.
Deb: Yeah, I’m right there with you.
Chris: Yeah, you know, and I think the foundation of any religion is a really great thing and I think it really is great for people to have, um, you know for themselves and what that creates for people, and the warmth and happiness it can create for people… I just think that it’s… it’s, uh, it could definitely, it definitely does the opposite in a lot of cases too. You know, I think organized religion makes people, it’s just trying to make… I won’t put any judgment on anybody else, but for me, it was making me feel like I was doing things wrong and like I didn’t understand and I was always confused and I was always like, “Whoa, that doesn’t make sense.” And I was just, it was messing with my head and it wasn’t making— point it, it wasn’t making me happy, you know so I had to go find something that made me happy, you know, which was like, you know, sort of whatever spirituality I’ve adopted at the time, which is like, you know I meditate all the time, and um, I read my books. And um, you know I find small answers in small things that happen to me in my life, and big answers in big things and uh, that’s it, you know. Kind of uh… I say to myself constantly and consistently that I think we are exactly, I think I am exactly where I wanna be and the person I wanna be, I just don’t know it yet. You know, I think the perspective constantly changes. I think once you go through something and you get out of it, you look back and you say, “Oh! I see why that was good and why that meant anything.” So whatever you’re going through, or whatever I’m going through in my life, whatever happens, at the time it might feel like shit, and it might feel really hard. But then you always come out and you’re always like, “All right, I’m alive and I feel good now and this is it.” So while I go through things, my spirituality seems to be like embracing, you know embrace it. Embrace everything that happens.
Deb: Stay open.
Chris: Yeah, stay open, and like let— you know, if it hurts it hurts and that sucks, you know. You gotta feel it. And if it’s really good, you know, feel that too. You know and like, uh, everybody’s… You know, a good friend of mine, this guy he said to me, you know, one time, really cool, he was like, “You know, you’re not that special, and I’m not that special.” And he was like, “People are not that special.” And I was like, I didn’t like hearing that, you know, because I, I think I’m special. And I think I know people that are special, I know a lot. But the truth is like everybody goes through the same stuff, man. You know, and everybody does that. You know and everybody gets hurt. And everybody feels great, everybody’s on top of the world. Everybody, you know, makes mistakes and then accomplishes stuff. So I don’t know, the way the world works, and all those big questions when it comes to religion and spirituality, I don’t know I just don’t, you know. When I’m doing some things I know when it seems to makes sense and when it doesn’t, you know and it’s never consistent.
Deb: What are you reading these days?
Chris: Oh, everything, everything. Just got done with that Hubert Sully, Jr. book. I’ve got some— I read a lot of poetry, Ginsberg, Pablo Neruda, um, Whitman, Walt Whitman, uh… I’m still a huge Rilke guy and uh, Rilke and uh, is just my man. I like that guy a lot, and uh, what else do I read? I’ve read so many bizarre books. I read Communion by Whitley Strieber, and I read this great book, South Of The Border, West Of The Sun by this Japanese guy, Murikami. I think it’s Hideo Murikami, I forget his first name [it’s Haruki], but uh that was a great book, and I’m reading a ton of Bret Easton Ellis, and a ton of… uh, who else am I reading? Recently was, Charles Bukowski, uh, I read all of Salinger’s books this year for the first time. And um, yeah, so all those people.
Deb: Cool. What music are you listening to?
Chris: Um, a ton of new stuff too, all contemporary stuff, like all the stuff I can find on iTunes that’s like come out in the last couple of years. Um, Bon Iver’s been my person recently which is B-o-n I-v-e-r [thanks for the spelling tip, Chris!], just so good. And um, Bobbie Gentry is this old this old classic, Baby Huey, and uh, the… what else do I listen to? I love Radiohead and TV On The Radio, and Sigur Ros [could’ve used a spelling hint on that one, whew!], which is this Icelandic band—
Deb: Wow, really?
Chris: Yeah, yeah, they’re so good—
Deb: Because we have this huge fan in Iceland who’s gonna love that!
Deb: Oh, yeah.
Chris: Oh, well I bet they’d know exactly who Sigur Ros is.
Chris: Um, I just saw ’em perform for the first time ever like uh, the day before my birthday, for my birthday a friend of mine gave me a ticket and uh…
Chris: Yeah, it was fantastic, yeah, so…
Deb: Wow. That’s great. Who or what inspires you these days?
Chris: Um, my friends have been really inspirational, and my brothers have been really inspirational, and uh, um, you know, I’ve just uh, yeah, I have some great books I’ve been reading. I don’t know, a lot of stuff inspires me. You know what inspires me? There was a movie, I know this guy, that he was in, they made it for $12,000. And it’s called In Search Of A Midnight Kiss, and I still haven’t seen it, but they went and made this little thing and this guy wrote it in two weeks and they filmed it in two weeks and they put it together and then it went all over the world and started playing, and it’s this great thing. And that was like super-inspiring. And I was like, “Yeah, you guys just did it, you just made a movie.” So in whatever’s leaning towards that, uh, just like goin’ out and doing something, being motivated to just like… paint a picture, and don’t say I can’t paint, screw it! I’ll paint a picture. That’s inspiring to me. Yeah, paint a picture, man. Yeah, write something down. I’ve been writing lots of letters to people, as much as possible. Just because, you know I think uh, they… can be very inspiring for people. I think that, you know a lot of times you go a lot of your life without saying a lot of stuff to people that you think about in your head. You think that maybe they know ’cause you’re thinking about it all the time. You think about the person, you’re like, “I think that person is so smart.” And every time you think about ’em, you’re like, “That person’s so smart,” and then the day that you tell them, “Did I ever tell you that I think that you’re such a smart person?” They’re like, “Really?” Like they had no idea, so I kinda realized that recently, so I just try to tell it to people close to me.
Deb: That’s beautiful.
Deb: What a great idea. I did that a couple of times with my mom when I was younger ’cause she kinda just needed a boost and so I would write her a letter.
Chris: Yeah, they’re powerful. You forget, ’cause it’s all e-mails now.
Tina: Yeah. Yeah, yeah.
Chris: And text messages.
Chris: You know everything, it’s just so easy to communicate that you forget that like something as simple as a letter even if it’s just a paragraph long, just to tell somebody like, “Hey, you’re awesome and you’re really cool and I really like hangin’ out with you. That’s all I wanna say.” And those people, literally just the fact that it’s a piece of paper?
Deb: Right, exactly.
Chris: They’re like, wow, it’s a little more effort and time than usually goes into things.
Deb: My best friend is really big on that.
Deb: Every few years she’ll write me a really long letter and just say, “You know I coulda said this over email, but—”
Deb: It’s just great to have it on paper.
Chris: Yeah, yeah. It really is, yeah.
Tina: I remember that when I was a teen I used to write these 10-page letters.
Deb: Yeah. (laughs)
Tina: You know to pen pals.
Chris: Totally, yeah.
Deb: Oh, the days of pen pals… (laughs)
Chris: Oh, God, yeah.
Deb: I had one in Germany when I was about 20 or so.
Tina: Oh wow, OK.
Deb: Um, what’s the best advice you’ve ever been given as an actor and what advice would you give to other actors?
Chris. Whoa… Um, I don’t know what the best advice— Cause advice has to work in circumstance, it’s gotta be like… a specific scene, yeah, you know. I mean I’ve got specific things that have happened that are like, uh… you know some advice I got one time, this one guy told me was like, “You know, you just gotta be… I gotta let you know,” he was like, uh, he was an agent of mine, he had said to me, “It’s possible for an actor to spread himself too thin.” He was like, you know, “To you know do so many parts simultaneously, just keep going back-to-back-to-back-to back, and you spread yourself so thin that like you forget to keep living. You forget to, like, enjoy your life or go through what you gotta go through cause you’re like on the set acting all the time. And that makes people lose their specialness, their quality about them, and why people like to watch them. They lose that because there’s just too much work. And, you know, you just see the person too often and they’re not… you lose your balance of life.” And uh, so that was probably some of the best advice I ever got. So you know there’s times where I’m like yeah, I just need to not be doing some work, and I need to go, like, travel somewhere, or, like, just be with my family, or whatever, yeah, so… Yeah, so that’s my thing.
Deb: Do you give Sean advice?
Chris: I do. I give him lots of advice, and uh, I try to. But he’s, he’s a big boy now, so he’s… he knows what he’s doing. More so than I do, actually.
Deb: Aww, no. You think you guys will ever get a chance to do something together again?
Chris: I hope so. I think so. I mean, hopefully this TV show thing, we’re gonna have him on there. And then we’re gonna just, you know, do that web show for the Internet. We’re gonna do one of those together too.
Deb: Do you know when that’s gonna happen?
Chris: I don’t know. We, we— It’s… the hard part is we came up with it last year and then now, finally the deal’s done. But it’s like, it’s been so long that now we’re like, “Do we really wanna do that anymore?” And we’re like, “Nah, let’s come up with a different thing.” But then that takes a whole other process so… Right now, it’s like he’s got a bunch of auditions. I think he’s gonna be doing like two movies back to back, really soon. He just got one and the other one looks really good. So like, we’ve all got our own stuff going on. So we’ll see that when the opportunity fits, it’ll fit, you know?
Deb: What’s Eric doing these days?
Chris: Um, hangin’ out. Eric’s hangin’ out. Um, he uh, he was working at Starbucks for a long time and chillin’, taking care of— he’s got a really great girlfriend who he’s been with for a long time.
Deb: Yeah, she’s beautiful.
Chris: Yeah. So, um, the two of them are just hang out together.
Deb: But he’s happy…?
Chris: Yeah, yeah, oh yeah, like super happy, super content, just like uh, finding him, it’s always just like, “How are you doin?” “Good.” “No, really? Nothing bad happens to you at all?” “No, I’m good though. Promise.” “All right, cool, so…” (shrugs)
Deb: He looked great in the last pictures we saw.
Deb: Had this really long hair.
Chris: Yeah, yeah, he cut it now. Shaved it off.
Deb: Did he?
Deb: That’s cute… You did some theatre work when you were a kid. Is that something you’d like to get back into?
Chris: Oh yeah. It definitely is. It is hard in LA, there’s no theatre. I flew to New York a couple of times this last year to specifically go audition for a couple of plays. But, um, that’s also like a whole other thing to get into, that’s really hard to get into, so…
Deb: You just have to create your own things, or…
Chris: Well, it’s, you know, people that live in New York and stuff— the theatre in New York is like, you’ve pretty much be like a famous actor to get like a really great part. Um, and if you’re just auditioning, you know, they don’t… the people don’t know me over there. You know gotta really be in that circuit, and circulating within that, you know to I think really get a shot. Either that or you just go up and kill the audition and then they’re like, “Oh my God, it’s the perfect thing.” But um, yeah, I’d definitely love to do a play, we’ll just see what happens.
Deb: Would you do some of these small things out here LA, like some of the other folks are doing?
Chris: Yeah, yeah, I totally would. Yeah, I was really jealous that Michael Welch got to do this play with Aaron. And I told him that. I was like, “You SOBs…”
Chris: “I can’t believe you… I am so jealous right now.” Yeah, yeah, so maybe. We’ll see what happens… I was talking to Aaron about getting this little play together and him and I do it, so…
Deb: You’re writing, right?
Chris: Uhm-hm. I am too, yeah. I’ve got a script that I’m almost done with and uh, I think they’re gonna try to help me get it up off the ground. There’ll be a few really cool actors that are just good friends of mine that’ll do it.
Deb: Anything you can talk about?
Chris: Not yet.
Chris: Not yet. Not gonna let that out of the bag yet. But it’s cool, it’s my brother Sean will be in it. It’s about, you know, like, kids growing up in Los Angeles, basically. But it’s kinda crazy, it’s a really crazy world.
Deb: Before we started the tape, we talked a little bit about Kid Cannabis. Is there anything that you can give us, an update on, what’s going on with that?
Chris: I don’t know. Last time I heard, all is, I heard, uh, the guy directed a movie with Anton Yelchin and Eva Amurri and Justin Chatwin, who are really good friends of mine. And they were all up at the Toronto Film Festival for it and saying, and watching the movie. And so, they’d all called me while they were there, and they were like, “We’re talking to the director and he says that he’s really still trying to get the movie going and blah blah blah.” You know, cause they were asking, what’s he gonna do now? And he was like, “Oh, I’m supposed to be doing this movie”, so you know that guy’s still fightin’ for it. So, I— I, that’s all I know.
Deb: And if it happens, you’re still gonna be in it though, right? Because they changed your status to rumored on IMDb.
Chris: Yeah, I don’t know who’s in charge of all that.
Deb: But you have committed to it.
Chris: Yeah, yeah, I’ve committed to it, totally. I’m committed to it, yeah, so…
Deb: Great. Great, cause we really wanna see that happen.
Chris: Yeah, me too.
Deb: What do you do for fun?
Chris: (funny accent) Um, I read de books, uh…
Chris: And I uh, I write, and I really, I hang out with my friends all the time. Just go to coffee, you know? You know, go to a bar at night, and uh… play ping pong.
Deb: Watch crazy people.
Chris: Watch crazy people, watch Crazy Nana Tu-Tu Feet…
Chris: … eat flowers.
Deb: That was a great story.
Chris: And that’s all.
Deb: Do you have any of your own movies on DVD?
Chris: I do, but only because… I’m an egotistical bastard. No.
Chris: I have a bunch of them because, you gotta— you know I have to put together like demo reels and stuff for myself and so you have to go through it, it’s the stupidest, oh, it’s like the hardest thing to do is that you have to go through and watch all your work, and be like, “Oh, I think this is the best part so can you put that on there for me?” Yeah, so like, yeah.
Deb: (points to Tina) She made one for you.
Chris: Are you serious? Really?
Tina: Yeah, it’s, well, it’s like 42 minutes long.
Chris: Oh wow…
Chris: Yeah, yeah, it’s too long. Yeah, they’re like, “OK, it’s gotta be seven minutes.” “Seven?! I can’t go— we haven’t put one thing on there yet.
Chris: Yeah, it’s usually around ten, but they want you to keep it like 5 or 7 minutes. So I always wind up just putting one scene on there.
Deb: Yeah, cause most of you stuff is kinda slow-build.
Chris: Yeah, and so that’s the hard part of my demo reel, so I don’t ever like it. Yeah, so that’s why I have that stuff, but uh, yeah I’m trying to think, I don’t really have anything. There’s only one thing that I, actually I don’t even own anymore, I don’t know where it is, I lost it. But that I would actually like to have in my DVD collection, which is The Tic Code. I like that movie.
Deb: Is there anything looking back in any of your work that you would’ve done differently if you could go back?
Chris: Yeah, I think so. Um, yeah, there’s definitely a few things I’d definitely change. And a few things I definitely wouldn’t, you know. For a little while, I sorta you know, you come up as an actor and you know, actors are for the most part very romantic about their work. Cause it’s not the coolest thing in the world to be an actor, but it’s, you know, you can really play it up, be like (funny accent), “Aw, this is so beautiful and I can pretend to be Marc Antony in Julius Caesar.”
Chris: And you know, so I definitely let that get carried out of hand at times, and definitely been like, you know, um, you know it’s caused arguments between me and people I’ve worked with, you know, and it’s started like fires in me and, you know, made me really upset about things. (exaggerating pretension) “You can’t film it like that! Because if you film it like that, then nobody will be able to tell that I—”
Chris: Whatever it is and so I think part of growing up is squashing those ideals too. And uh, making things fit better, being more realistic with yourself. So, uh, actually, I don’t know if I’d change anything.
Deb: You are who you are and you got there for a reason.
Deb: What’s the craziest thing you’ve done lately?
Chris: Uh, this summer, for my dad’s birthday, I took him and my brothers and a bunch of friends of ours and we all went to this place called Monkey Canyon here in Los Angeles. It’s sort of this hideaway spot that, um, people don’t know about. I don’t even know if it’s called Monkey Canyon really. It’s just what me and my friends call it. And you go around this crazy hike and it’s so steep that really people have built all these ropes and wires and stuff that you gotta kinda like lead yourself down this mountain with. And you end up in this ridge with this big, huge stream in the middle. And the stream sometimes literally disappears and it’s just rocks and you kinda see water underneath them. Or then it opens up to this huge pond and you gotta kinda jump off this big rock into the pond. And then eventually, you come to this huge waterfall place, and uh, we went to the water fall. And there’s a forty foot jump, and then there’s like a ninety foot jump. And I went there once, like 6 years ago and I went off the forty foot jump and I was like, “You have to be a madman to jump off the ninety foot one.”
Chris: So I went and my dad even jumped off the forty foot one, everybody did, except for my brother Eric because he’s really scared of heights and he wouldn’t do it. But everybody jumped of this thing, and I got my good friend, Jon Foster, he was like, “We gotta do the ninety foot jump.” And I was like, “No way!”
Chris: He’s like, “Let’s just go look.” So we climb all the way up there and you get up there and now you’ve got, you know there’s probably about fifty people there, hanging out there. Now you got fifty people screaming at you, being like, “Jump! Come on! Jump!” And some guy called me a name because I wasn’t gonna jump, I was gonna turn around. And they guys like, he called me this name and I was just like, “Who said that?”
Chris: I should probably shut up, but I was just like, “Now, I gotta jump it.” So I jumped off a ninety foot cliff.
Chris: Yeah, it was the scariest— It was so terrifying.
Chris: I honestly can’t believe I did that.
Deb: You gonna do it again?
Chris: No, once is totally fine. I can say I did it, I’ve got the memory of it, now I’m good, yeah.
Deb: Anybody get a picture?
Chris: Yeah, yeah, a friend of mine got a couple of pictures of me and my friend Jon jumping, so it was good.
Deb: Jon did it too?
Chris: Yeah, Jon did it too. He went first.
Deb: Yeah, he’s terrific. I had seen him before, but I didn’t realize he was Ben’s brother until, you know, like I said we only recently found out that you were friends with them and I saw his picture and I was like I’d seen him in TV shows and movies.
Chris: Yeah, he’s all over the place.
Deb: He’s great… Audiobooks, would you ever narrate, read an audiobook?
Chris: I would love to. Yeah.
Deb: We would love to have you do that some time.
Chris: I’d love to, but I mean, I think usually— I don’t know how that works. I think the author usually like has to ask somebody specifically to do that. I don’t know, I’ve had some friends who’ve done it. But it’s like the author will call them and say they saw you in this thing and your voice is really cool…
Deb: Well, you have a beautiful voice and you’re very articulate so I think you’d be incredible at it.
Chris: Aw, thank you. Maybe one day, we’ll see.
Deb: We can hope.
Chris: Yeah, we can hope. Rock-n-roll.
Tina: You could write a book.
Deb: Yeah, write it first.
Chris: Yeah, that’d be awesome, yeah, write my own.
Deb: Well, we’re done and uh we really appreciate you answering some questions for us, I know it took a little longer than we probably expected.
Deb: It was terrific, so um we can get on with the [birthday] presents now, right?
Tina: Yeah, your reward.
….. The End