Monday, August 14, 2000

August 14, 2000

Archived update from Cigarettes & Coffee, run by Greg Mariotti & CJ Wallis from 1999-2005

I've discovered a great interview with John C. Reilly conducted in early 1997 for the release of Hard Eight. It's the first interview with John during that era on the site & it's a good one. There's also newly added hard to find reviews of the film by Bob Strauss (L.A. Daily News), Michael Medved (NY Post), Stephen Holden (NY Times) & J. Hoberman (Village Voice). You can check them out in the Hard Eight Critical Response section.
NBC will be showing the Ben Affleck/Fiona Apple Saturday Night Live rerun on Saturday, August 26th. This episode featured the PTA written & directed MTV FANatic short. For more info on the short, check out the Short Films section of the site

The Odds on Hard Eight
Actor John C. Reilly talks about how a little naiveté will go a long way
The title of the film "Hard Eight" is taken from a bet on a particular roll of the dice in craps; a "hard eight" is rolling double fours. In this film, a roll of the dice is also a metaphor for life.
"Hard Eight" is set entirely in casinos, restaurants and hotels, transmitting a feeling of transience that is reflected in the rootlessness of the characters. It opens in a coffee house where an aging, gentlemanly looking gambler named Sydney (Philip Baker Hall) meets young, down-and-out John (John C. Reilly). Sydney takes John under his wing - among other things, helping him arrange his mother's funeral - and two years later, they're together in Reno. There, Sydney befriends Clementine (Gwyneth Paltrow), a cocktail waitress and fledgling prostitute. Meanwhile, John is hanging out with Jimmy (Samuel L. Jackson), a fast-talking security guard who just doesn't get along with Sydney.
Reilly said his own life has some similarities to that of John, the character he plays. Reilly's father died just prior to shooting the film, and Reilly's best friend is a man in his 50s. Reilly also admits to going through a stage in his life like that of his unworldly, trusting alter ego.
"I still am kind of a naive person," he said. "But you know, a little bit of naiveté is good. [Filmmakers] keep seeming to cast me in these parts where I'm incredibly naive or innocent. I think I'm a pretty savvy customer. . . . It's probably because I usually take people at face value. I think it's positive, though, to be kind of naive. It makes it a lot easier to get out of bed in the morning, anyway!"
Although Reilly has had small parts in "Hoffa," "What's Eating Gilbert Grape," "The River Wild" and "Dolores Claiborne," John in "Hard Eight" is his first major role.
"Hard Eight" is also the feature film debut of writer-director Paul Thomas Anderson. Reilly met Anderson at the Sundance Filmmaker's Lab, a forum where first-time writer-directors work with professional actors and technicians. At this time, Anderson was "getting his [directing] feet wet," Reilly said.
"We'd take little trips up to Reno and Vegas, Paul and I," he said. "We'd have different read-throughs and rehearsals. Paul just loves to get me going, improvising one thing or another. Paul has a knack for capturing the little interesting details in people's behavior. He would take something I did and go, 'Oh that's great, that's great, what you just did,' and he would put it into the script. So I had to be careful, after a while, what I did in front of Paul."
After having worked with high-profile directors such as Woody Allen ("Shadows and Fog") and Brian DePalma ("Casualties of War"), Reilly described working with first-timer Anderson as "different in a good way."
"He's got a real freshness and energy," he said. "Part of that comes with it being his first time. He's a natural at directing. He has a real intuitive sense of the actors, and he's a very sensitive person. When it comes to emotional stuff he could sense what's going on. He could tell when he wanted to do another take - what to say, which is rare. Most importantly, he's a good audience. There has to be one person somewhere in that crowd or behind the camera who's really engaged in what you're doing and is really excited and listening, and Paul is definitely that. He loves to watch actors act."
Reilly has just wrapped up a role in Anderson's second film, "Boogie Nights," which is about the adult film industry.
In "Hard Eight," Reilly co-stars with seasoned actors like Jackson and Hall, as well as Paltrow, who plays his love interest.
"Gwyneth is a really fun person to be with," Reilly said. "She has so much energy and she's a very quick wit. She's one of those people [that] if you say something stupid, she'll nail you."
Although Paltrow has recently received much media attention for her role in "Emma" (among other things), she was a relative unknown when "Hard Eight" began filming. Of the seven films she had completed, only one had been released.
"At the time that we shot the movie it was a really exciting time for her [because] she was really just starting to come into her own," Reilly said. "The only film of hers that had been released at that point was, I think, 'Flesh and Bone.' So she was really just kind of exploding onto the scene at that point."
Reilly felt that the role of Clementine is one of the few Paltrow has had that is equal to her talents.
"A lot of people would get caught up in that stuff - the publicity, all the attention - but she, at the bottom of it all, is a really good actress and knows why she's in the business to begin with," he said. "And all this other stuff, this publicity and everything, I think just serves that purpose . . . that her acting is what it's all about."
Because he was the only bankable cast member at the time, Samuel L. Jackson helped the film obtain financing. Reilly described Jackson as a great storyteller.
"We traded back and forth location horror stories from making movies," he said. "He's just a very positive, easygoing person [and a] very funny actor."
Jackson's character, Jimmy, is a flashy gangster type who precipitates the film's explosiveness, and not only because his character is the only one who owns any firearms.
Knowledgeable, distinguished and well-spoken, John's mentor, Sydney, is the polar opposite of Jimmy. Sydney is played by Hall, a veteran of many television and film roles, including one in Robert Altman's "Secret Honor."
Reilly described Hall the person as very similar to Sydney the character: "After a while, he and I developed a relationship similar to the one we have in the movie. Philip is like the eye of the storm. When the shit is hitting the fan, Philip is the one calm person in all of it. It was like all these people running around trying to pull this miracle off, and Philip really relaxed people. He's a very wise person."
Given that "Hard Eight" is a writer-director's debut and features few high-profile stars, one could consider it a miracle that the film ever got off the ground. But Reilly disagreed that "Hard Eight" is a special case.
"Every film's a miracle," he said. "Every turn there's a million things that could go wrong, from the very beginning of the film to the very end."



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