Movie Reviews: Interview with Benicio Del Toro
Recently Matt Saha and other members of the press sat down with Benicio Del Toro in New York City’s Essex House Hotel to talk about "The Hunted," war, laziness, Jack, and one or two other things.
Press: How did it feel doing a movie ("The Hunted") with your character having only a page and half of dialogue?
Del Toro: (Pause) I love it. Lets you play. This movie is different. It’s a chase. So much fighting. There is no dialogue in fighting unless you are Muhammad Ali. It is a challenge. Billy (Director William Friedkin) is into reducing dialogue when it is redundant or fatty.
Press: What was Friedkin like?
Del Toro: Old school, like one of those basketball coaches that expect 120%, and might get emotional like Bobby Knight. He wants to win. Kind of like a military guy, but not in a bad way.
Press: What grabbed you about the role?
Del Toro: The first thing was the director and the physicality of it.
Press: It’s been reported that you broke your wrist during the filming. How?
Del Toro: One of the scenes diving and getting into a knife fight. I fell on Tommy (Lee Jones) and we fell…he on top of me.
Press: It’s a little known fact that Tommy Lee Jones broke Will Smith’s rib on Men in Black.
Del Toro: Yeah, when you work with Tommy bring a gun.
Press: What was the knife fight training like?
Del Toro: Was cool. There is a fighter’s logic behind the fighting sequences. We learned a knife fighting technique from the Philippines called Sayoc Kali.
Press: Tommy Lee Jones has said about this film that it was upsetting to learn how to kill. Was it upsetting to you?
Del Toro: Yes. But I don’t think it is in human nature to kill. One of the things I read was that during World War I when people were being charged at a lot of people just shot in the air even though they themselves were being shot at. It is hard to kill.
Press: You play a soldier here, so what do you think about all the current war talk?
Del Toro: I don’t think war is a solution to what’s going on now. Some wars were necessary like WWII, but what’s going on right now I am not clear on that.
Press: Could you be in the military?
Del Toro: I don’t think I could be a foot soldier. I don’t know if I take orders too good. I’m a little lazy.
Press: What actors did you like growing up?
Del Toro: When I was a kid it was Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff, the monster guys. Later on Richard Gere, Eddie Murphy and Robert DeNiro, of course.
Press: Was it a charge playing the opposite side of the law from "Traffic"?
Del Toro: Yes (smiles).
Press: What turns Hallam into such a rogue killing machine?
Del Toro: He is trained to do it in war, so he is desensitized to it. His character is very complicated. Were they hunters or FBI Agents? We never know who they were. I was rooting for him. Innocent until proven guilty, man.
Press: Did you enjoy making this film?
Del Toro: Yes I enjoyed it, but I’d rather not be working. When you work there are all kinds of deadlines and pressures. I do like to work, but I like to do one thing and then something else -- rest.
Press: Really? Some actors are terrified about not working and are worried about getting that next part, but you are obviously not like that?
Del Toro: Uh-huh. If I don’t get a job, I go whew. They will deal with it. When I used to audition and I didn’t get it, sometimes I would be bummed, but many times I would go “Thank God, I don’t know what I would have done with that role." When you get the role, some actors would be like cool, now I can relax, but I would go Wow, now the work begins. I couldn’t relax when I got the job. Sometimes when I am acting on film, I can’t sleep well if I don’t know what I am going to do the next day or what the scene’s about.
Press: What do you do in your leisure time?
Del Toro: I like to read, listen to music. Been in Memphis now (making a film with Sean Penn) listening to blues down there. Muddy Waters and early Elvis on Sun Records is great stuff.
Press: How have your choices changed since the Oscar?
Del Toro: The formula is pretty much the same. Try to judge next movie based on the story and the people involved in it.
Press: Whom are you rooting for in this year’s Oscars?
Del Toro: They are all great, but I have some friends in there. Ed Harris, Jack Nicholson. Daniel Day-Lewis is such a great actor -- I have been a fan of his for a long time. But I am a Jack man. Hard to tell, huh? (laughs).
Check out Matt's interview with Tom Brown, Jr, the survival specialist who consulted on "The Hunted."