Interview Date: 02/14/2011
Run Date: 02/23/2011
Mimi Rogers is decidedly best known for her work as an actress, but over the past several years, she and her husband, Chris Ciaffa, have found equally honest employment behind the camera, serving as producers on several films made for television. In 2010, however, Rogers and Ciaffa produced their first theatrical release, and it was a doozy: “Unstoppable,” directed by Tony Scott and starring Denzel Washington and Chris Pine.
Bullz-Eye was fortunate enough to chat with Rogers in conjunction with “Unstoppable” hitting DVD, and although the conversation was woefully short (we got the “last question” announcement just before hitting the 10-minute mar), we still managed to slip in a few questions about her acting work, touching on “The Rapture,” “Desperate Hours,” and her short-lived and highly underrated TV series, “The Loop.”
Mimi Rogers: Hi, Will!
Bullz-Eye: Hello, Mimi! It’s a pleasure to speak with you.
MR: Yes, you, too!
BE: I really loved “Unstoppable.” It’s just a really great action flick.
MR: Well, thank you! I feel the same way, and I’m incredibly proud of this movie.
BE: So my understanding is that, prior to this, you had not really done a great deal of feature film production. Is that correct?
MR: Well, actually, my husband and I have a company, and we’ve been producing for about 12 years. We did about six movies for Showtime, and we did something for ESPN, so we’ve actually done quite a bit. In terms of a big feature film, though, this is the first one that we’ve had make it to the screen.
BE: What were the differences between working with television production and feature film production?
MR: Millions and millions and millions of dollars. (Laughs) And having a three-month schedule as opposed to a three-week schedule. And having Tony Scott as a director. You know, we’ve worked with a number of incredibly talented and remarkable actors in our films. We’ve had Holly Hunter and Stellan Skarsgård (“Harlan County War”), Gena Rowlands (“Charms for the Easy Life”), and Kirsten Dunst (“The Devil’s Arithmetic”). But in those films and in those situations, we were always doing the scrabble-through with a low budget, making every penny count, and we’d come out with products that we were incredibly happy with, but when you’re on a 29-day schedule, you’re just running as fast as you can all the time. To have the luxury of the schedule and the budget to do this film…not to say that it wasn’t having to run 24/7, because what Tony Scott was able to accomplish in terms of physical production, he literally did things that had never been done before, so there was a huge amount of pressure to get everything accomplished, even with a realistic schedule and budget. I’ll say any day of the week, this movie happened, this movie made it, this movie is brilliant because of Tony Scott.
BE: How hands-on are you as a producer? Are you in the thick of it and on the set whenever the opportunity presents itself?
MR: Well, here’s the deal: when Tony Scott comes on to direct your picture, you step back gracefully. (Laughs) Tony doesn’t need anybody looking over his shoulder. Tony doesn’t need a producer telling him what to do or overseeing what he does or monitoring him on a close level. So we are very hands-on as producers as the situation dictates. Certainly, when it comes to developing, pitching, putting this thing together, we were on it every second and every step of the way. But as I said, when Tony Scott takes the helm, you know your place. You know what’s needed of you. And, really, what’s needed of you at that point is just to get out of the way.
BE: Were you actually onset for the filming, though?
MR: Yes, I was. Absolutely.
BE: In general, what’s it like for you to be on the other side of the camera, as it were?
MR: You know, it’s incredibly exciting and interesting…and, at times, really frustrating. (Laughs) But, ultimately, it’s really great. This business is great. There’s a different skill set that you bring to the table as an actor than as a producer. I’ve often likened being a producer to being a parent: you’re in charge, you have to pay for everything, everybody comes to you with their problems, and nobody says “thanks.”
BE: As the father of a 5-year-old, I can appreciate that.
MR: Yeah, and I have a 16-year-old and a 9-year-old, so I can guarantee you it’s true. (Laughs) But that really is the way it is. The other analogy I use is that, when you’re a producer, you’re like the farmer who buys the seed, takes and plants the seed, watches it grow, fertilizes it, takes care of it…you’re in the whole process. When you’re an actor, you kind of come into the field when the crop is already there.
BE: I wanted to ask you about a few of your acting roles as well. First of all, I see you’re going to be in “Balls to the Wall” with Christopher McDonald, who I know was also on the episodes of “My Boys” that you did.
MR: I know! I love Chris McDonald.
BE: I can’t recall: had you worked with him prior to “My Boys”?
MR: Yes, actually, Chris and I played married folk in a film that Thora Birch was the star of and that Franco Amurri directed, called “Monkey Trouble.”
BE: Oh, sure, I remember that!
MR: Well, if you have a 5-year-old, you should rent it again. (Laughs) I think Thora was 11 when we made that movie, and Chris and I ended up having way, way too much time while the monkey misbehaved and wasn’t getting his takes right, so we ended up bonding in a hilarious, juvenile way. (Laughs) He’s one of my favorite people.
BE: I was a big fan of “The Loop.” I thought was a very underrated series, particularly the first season.
MR: Thank you! Yes, particularly in the first season, it was actually…well, I didn’t write it, so I can say it: I thought it was a comic masterpiece and incredibly subversive, yet it wasn’t duly appreciated or recognized.
BE: I talked to Philip Baker Hall a few years ago, and when we talked about “The Loop,” he was still upset about the way the show had been handled when Fox switched presidents of entertainment, and the new one just kind of shunted it off to the side .
MR: Yeah, it was disappointing, because those opportunities are so rare. You can’t help but be left with a little bit of “ah, what might’ve been…”
BE: Given that you’re doing work behind the camera as well, would you still be open to another full-time television gig if the opportunity presented itself?
MR: Oh, yeah! As an actress, I’m still out there beating the bushes all the time! It’s not the most pleasant time to be an actress of a certain age. Everybody says it’s getting better or it’s going to get better, but…it’s not getting better. It doesn’t get better. I think for actors who are women, aging in Hollywood is still an incredibly difficult process because, you know, you reach a point where you’re kind of at the peak of your skills just at a time when the opportunities are extremely limited. But you know what? You just go out there and keeping banging away!
BE: What would you say is your favorite project that you’ve worked on over the years that didn’t get the love you thought it deserved?
MR: Oh, probably “The Door in the Floor.” I mean, Jeff Bridges should’ve gotten an Oscar for that film, and I thought that the movie was heartbreakingly beautiful and just so well done on every level. Even though I’m a member of the Academy, I was really quite infuriated that it was not sort of paid attention to at all. Have you seen it?
BE: I have. Actually, I was just going to say how odd it is to have seen such a different side of Tod Williams as director of “Paranormal Activity 2,” knowing that he was the writer and director of “The Door in the Floor.”
MR: Yeah, he did a truly masterful job on that film.
BE: Thanks to the beauty of Netflix, I was able to revisit a couple of your earlier films. I went back and checked out “Desperate Hours” again.
MR: Yeah, it’s interesting, huh?
BE: It is. The cast is amazing, considering how far so many of them have come since then. And it’s definitely an interesting take on the original film, to say the least, but it’s an enjoyable one, I think.
MR: Yeah, I mean, (Michael) Cimino was in an interesting frame of mind, needless to say, while we made the film, and he and Mickey (Rourke) had an interesting relationship… (Laughs) …along with Dino DeLaurentis. And Anthony (Hopkins), another one of my all-time favorite people and actors in the world, was, towards the end of shooting, doing phone lines for “Silence of the Lambs,” which he was going to be heading into next. And he was one of those just remarkable spirits, who was, like, “I’m so happy to be here, I’m so happy to be acting, I’m so happy to have a job…let’s just do this!” And I think a lot of the film is really well done and really interesting. I think there are a couple of moments that are…weird. But overall I think that the film is really, really interesting.
BE: I have to wrap up with “The Rapture.” I’m sure it wasn’t a surprise that it received such a decidedly hate-it-or-love-it reception, but were you happy with the way the film turned out?
MR: Oh, yeah. I was thrilled. And the critical and audience response was actually really wonderful. We had our world premiere at the Telluride Film Festival, and Roger Ebert was in the audience, and it was terrifying that he was there, but it was also kind of great. He loved the movie, and Michael (Tolkin) and I ended up having a three-hour dinner with him, and it’s still one of the greatest film and theology conversations that I think I’ve ever had.
BE: It’s a heavy film, but it’s an interesting one as well.
MR: Yeah, that’s my favorite work that I’ve ever done.
BE: Well, I wish we had more time to talk, but it’s been a pleasure talking to you. Like I said, I loved the film, so I’m looking forward to your future production endeavors!MR: Well, thank you so much! It was great talking to you!