Welcome to Random Roles, wherein we talk to actors about the characters who defined their careers. The catch: They don’t know beforehand what roles we’ll ask them to talk about.
The actor: Robert Patrick is one of many actors who readily credits Roger Corman for providing his big break, but it was one of Corman’s protégés—James Cameron—who helped Patrick earn cinematic immortality. After playing the T-1000 in 1991’s Terminator 2: Judgment Day, Patrick used his newfound fame to build a formidable, diverse filmography, including roles in Double Dragon, Striptease, and Cop Land. More recently, Patrick has split his time between motion pictures and television, earning acclaim for his work on The Sopranos, The X-Files, and The Unit. He can currently be seen as a regular on the new ABC drama Last Resort.
Last Resort (2012-present)—“Master Chief Joseph Prosser”
Robert Patrick: He’s a true American. He’s the highest-ranking enlisted man on the boat, he’s a patriot, and… there you go.
The A.V. Club: How did you find your way into the series? Was it an audition, or was your presence specifically requested?
RP: I found my way into it because I worked with Shawn Ryan for four seasons on The Unit—he was the co-creator with Eric Haney and David Mamet—and I read the pilot and thought it was fantastic. I don’t know if you’re aware of this, but I have a great affinity for the men and women of the armed forces, and any time I can portray one of the branches of the service, I take great pride in that. So I read the script and thought it was fantastic, and I emailed Shawn and said, “Think there’s a role in there for me?” And he said, “Yep, looks like it.” So here we are.
AVC: When pilot season rolls around, are you usually keeping your eyes open for a possible series, or do you prefer film work?
RP: I just prefer work. [Laughs.] I’m an actor, man. Shit, I’ve got five films in the can coming out this year, and I just go from role to role and look for the best thing I can do, the best part, material I respond to. I’ve had a really good run this year, and this series… I’ve always been a big fan of Shawn’s writing. That’s really kind of how I go. I had several opportunities for different television shows. I’m not gonna tell you the ones I passed on, but there were a couple of pilots that did get picked up that would’ve been opportunities for me. But we ended up agreeing on the conditions on Last Resort, and here we are.
AVC: What’s your status on the series? Are you a regular, or is this a recurring role?
RP: You know, I don’t want to get into the schematics of how it worked out, but although it was always a regular role, there was a question of whether… [Hesitates.] Ah, I don’t know how to word it. Anyway, we’ve all agreed that I’m a regular now. So it all worked out.
True Blood (2012)—“Jackson Herveaux”
RP: Now I do have a recurring role on that one. I had a lot of fun with that, and hopefully… I want to continue that character next year, so we’ll see. Hopefully that’ll work out with my filming schedule.
Tales From The Crypt (1992)—“Lothar”
RP: Oh, yeah! A rock ’n’ roll DJ. Terrific director on that [Peter Medak]. So, what, you want my word association on that? Joel Silver, Alan Schechter, Demon Knight, Filter. How’s that? Everything’s connected. It’s all tied in. You’ll figure it out. [Laughs.] Is that too much word association? Do you need more than that?
AVC: We can work with that.
[Joel Silver was an executive producer on Tales From The Crypt, where he worked with Alan Schechter, who went on to produce Patrick in Double Dragon. Silver also produced the Tales From The Crypt theatrical release, Demon Knight, the soundtrack of which featured “Hey Man, Nice Shot,” by Filter, whose frontman is Richard Patrick, Robert’s brother.— Ed.]
RP: Man, I hope I’m not being graded on this. It was a terrific experience; I’ll say that. I had a lot of fun.
AVC: Plus you got to work with Twiggy.
RP: Apparently I did. Although I can’t say I remember whether I actually had a scene with her.
AVC: Well, either way, not a lot of people can say that they’ve co-starred with Twiggy and Zelda Rubenstein in the same project.
RP: Oh my gosh. Now you’ve got me trying to remember working on it. Problem is, what I’m remembering might just be my imagination. [Laughs.] We better move on.
The Unit (2006-2009)—“Colonel Tom Ryan”
RP: Ryan was a very heroic man, but a flawed man, like most heroes. I mean, he did have an affair with one of his men’s wives. [Laughs.] But he was an ambitious guy. He was a smart guy, a good leader, he cared about his men, and he really believed in his country and what he was doing. I loved that role. My grandfather’s a career soldier—he was a lieutenant colonel—so it was a real honor, especially, to portray a lieutenant colonel during wartime, while we were at war in Iraq. There was a great duty and responsibility to portray it right. It was a great experience.
AVC: David Mamet has such a collective of players who work with him regularly and speak his language, as it were.
RP: Well, he does, but I was there from the pilot, so being there from the beginning… In fact, although Tom Ryan was part of the pilot, he was originally conceived to be a character that was going to be killed in the first season. But they were so happy with him that they decided to keep him. And personally, that was a wonderful victory for me that I could stay on as a regular, particularly since we got four seasons out of it. See, the thing about TV is that you can plan and project what you want to have happen, but it doesn’t necessarily turn out that way. I ended up being there for the whole run, and I felt like it was a great arc for the guy.
Mamet’s dialogue is incredible. I had so much fun learning it and performing it, and David is one of the greatest guys I’ve gotten to work with. He’s just an amazing talent, and to have him direct you and to work with him… It’s just a great experience. Plus, his wife [Rebecca Pidgeon] ended up being my wife on the show.
Trouble With The Curve (2012)—“Vince”
Identity Thief (2012)—“Skiptracer”
RP: I’m not very funny, I know. I wish I was giving you more humor. But I did do a comedy earlier this year, Identity Theft, with Melissa McCarthy and Jason Bateman. We shot that in Atlanta, and that was a fun experience. Melissa is unbelievable, and so is Jason. He’s a friend of mine, so it was great to work with him. I shot that after I shot Trouble With The Curve, but both of them were shot in Atlanta, which is my hometown. That’s where I was born. Clint Eastwood’s one of my heroes, and I worked with him on Flags Of Our Fathers as a director, but to actually be in a movie with him, working together as actors rather than the actor-director relationship, is just fantastic. I actually play his boss, the general manager of the Atlanta Braves. I listen to his point of view—he’s all old-school—and I respect it, but I’ve got the younger point of view, which is all computers and technology. But, yeah, that was awesome working with him, and a wonderful experience, man. Clint’s great. He and I got a funny case of the giggles at one point, and we were blowing some takes, which is unusual for him.
AVC: We talked to Ed Lauter a few months ago, and he praised the experience of working with Eastwood on the film as well.
RP: Oh, Ed is great! Ed and I didn’t have any scenes together, but I know ol’ Ed, and he’s a great guy. Rob Lorenz was the director, who’s Clint’s longtime producer and assistant director, and Rob did a terrific job. It was those Malpaso [Productions] guys, so it was great working with the same guys that I’d worked with on Flags Of My Fathers. Clint’s got such a family-oriented kind of group that he works with from film to film. I haven’t seen the picture yet. Rob called me up and asked me if I was in L.A., because he was going to show me the movie, but being down here in Hawaii for Last Resort, I haven’t had the chance. I’m flying back to L.A. next week to do re-shoots for Gangster Squad, so I’m hoping to find the time then.
Gangster Squad (2013)—“Max Kennard”
RP: You probably already know this, but because of the idiot in Colorado who went into the theater and killed those poor people… We had a trailer for the film that had a scene that took place in Grauman’s Chinese Theater, which was a big action sequence in our movie, and we had to scrap the trailer, they had to reposition the movie and put it out later. And we’ve got to go and shoot a whole new sequence. I think it’s admirable that Warner Bros. is doing that, but… well, anyway.
AVC: Aside from those recent developments, how was the experience of filming Gangster Squad?
RP: It was awesome. I love [director] Ruben Fleischer, and the character that I play, Max Kennard, is probably the closest to me that I’ve ever gotten up on film. Or at least how I see myself, anyway. [Laughs.] I had so much fun playing that part. He’s a guy from Texas that’s a quick-draw specialist who’s brought into Josh Brolin’s crew because of his talent with a handgun. Josh Brolin’s wife, [played by] Mireille Enos, is the one that picks me to be a part of his team, and I’m kind of designated as the guy to… I’m always there watching the boys, watching their backs. It was just a great experience getting to work with [Ryan] Gosling, Sean [Penn], Josh, Michael Pena, Anthony Mackie, and Giovanni Ribisi. Just an amazing bunch of guys on there.
Lovelace (2012)—“John J. Boreman”
RP: Getting to work with Amanda Seyfried and Sharon Stone… Sharon and I are her parents, and there’s some scenes in there that are just every daddy’s nightmare, you know, your daughter growing up to go into porn. There’s a scene where I’ve seen Deep Throat, and she calls me and I tell her that I saw the movie, and… It’s a pretty good scene. Amanda is an incredible talent. I think people are really going to be blown away with what she does in the movie. I think they did a really good job with telling the story, too.
Am I boring you to death yet? I hope not. [Laughs.] Come on! Hit me with something hard!
Behind Enemy Lines (1987)—“Johnny Ransom”
Eye Of The Eagle (1987)—“Johnny Ransom”
RP: [Narrating.] Robert Patrick. Young boy. Outlaw. Comes to Hollywood, wants to get into the movie business, has no connections whatsoever, lives in his car and claws his way into the business. How’s he do it? He gets an audition for Roger Corman Studios; he does a movie called Warlords From Hell, and that director recommends him to Cirio Santiago, the prolific Filipino director of action-genre exploitation films of the ’80s, back when there was a vacuum, and they needed to create VHS tapes and were churning out movies. And with that, Robert Patrick gets thrown in front of a camera to play Johnny Ransom. [Laughs.]
It was a Vietnam story. Johnny Ransom was the predecessor of Max Kennard, Tom Ryan, and even the role I’m playing on Last Resort. It all started with Johnny Ransom. I’m not shitting ya! Watch the movie, you’ll see what I’m talking about. If you can stomach it. But hey, listen, I went after Eye Of The Eagle. Back then, I was just trying to get a break in the business. I didn’t even have a fricking agent, man. And just to get in there and actually be running around doing action films… Hell, I thought I’d made it.
AVC: You’ve said you spent some time as a bartender during your early years as an actor. Were you filming these movies by day and tending bar at night?
RP: Well, when I got to Hollywood… After living in your car for a while, you want to try and find a place to live, and I had a guardian angel. I saw an ad in the paper, a furnished apartment for rent, and I was getting kind of desperate. I didn’t have any local references, I couldn’t get a job because I didn’t have a local address… There were so many things that I almost fell through the cracks. But this lady recognized the Southern twang in my voice, and she said, “You sound like a good boy. Why don’t you come over here and let me meet you?” So I went over there and met her, and she said, “All right, I’m gonna rent you this apartment. And not only am I gonna rent you this apartment, but… What do you do?” I said, “Well, I’m an actor.” She said, “So you’re a waiter.” I said, “Yes, ma’am, I can wait tables.” She said, “All right, let me help you out.” She got me an application for a job right up the street that I could walk to, ’cause by that time, I think my car had kind of blown up, and I needed a new engine. I got a job waiting tables and bartending, and, yeah, that’s what I did to make ends meet. To pay the rent, I painted houses, I did all sorts of stuff. But who knew that while I was doing those movies in the Philippines, there was a young filmmaker named James Cameron who had also worked with Roger Corman, and that in a couple of years, our paths would cross and we’d change each other’s lives?
Die Hard 2 (1990)—“O’Reilly”
Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)—“T-1000”
RP: I was doing a David Mamet play—not for him, but it was one of his—called The Shawl at a non-equity theater at the Santa Monica pier. I had done Die Hard 2 by this point. Renny Harlin had cast me and… I don’t know how interesting this is for you, but I had finally gotten into the Screen Actors Guild, and by virtue of getting into the Screen Actors Guild—after doing, like, seven pictures for Roger Corman—I got an agent. And the agent set me up for my first audition, and that audition was Die Hard 2. I’d never been on a studio lot before in my life, and it was the Fox lot, but I auditioned for Renny and he cast me on the spot. Right after I did that, I said, “I gotta do some theater,” and I jumped onboard this David Mamet play. And while I was doing that play and bartending and waiting some tables, I got the audition for Terminator 2. And it changed my life. Sounds so easy, doesn’t it? [Laughs.] But there was a lot of suffering there, buddy.
AVC: So you went from getting killed by Bruce Willis to getting killed by Arnold Schwarzenegger. Not bad.
RP: That’s not bad at all. I got off to a pretty good start.
AVC: What was required of you to play the T-1000? The film’s special effects were state-of-the-art, but it was still early days with a lot of the technology Cameron was using.
RP: Yeah, and to be a part of something where all that stuff was in its infancy… It’s quite a thing to have been involved with. There was a lot of guessing, a lot of trying to understand what was in Jim Cameron’s mind and how we were going to be able to tie it all together. There was also realizing that I was the face of the villain, that it all started with my portrayal, but that my portrayal and the effects of Stan Winston and Dennis Muren at Industrial Light & Magic all had to be consistent, because they all had to be tied together. So we made very specific, simple choices, and we stuck to them. And I think that and the fact that I was a complete unknown to the world is what pulled that role along. So I’ve always said that it was one-quarter what I did, one-quarter what Industrial Light & Magic did, one-quarter Stan Winston and his boys, and then the vision of Jim Cameron. We all pulled it off together, and I’m real proud that I’m part of it. The way I moved, all the movement and everything, that was my stuff. I came up with that in the audition. I did an audition in front of Steve Quale [special projects supervisor], who’s gone on to be a director now, and he filmed it and showed it to Jim, and my physicality is what caught Jim’s attention, the way I looked, and the presence and all that. I met with Jim and read the script, and—boom! —we shot the movie.
AVC: You also nailed the icy stare.
RP: That is a big part of it. It really is. In my mind, I kept images of the way an eagle looks, and I kind of gave myself a little head tilt downward, which gave me that forward movement and always made me look like I was moving or in pursuit. I used shark imagery, too. And cats. Predators, basically. I tried to keep that in my mind the whole time when I was working.
Wayne’s World (1992)—“T-1000”
AVC: How did you come to reprise the role of the T-1000 in Wayne’s World?
RP: Well, that’s Penelope Spheeris. She and the guys thought it would be funny if I was the guy pulling Mike Myers over. And, by God, they were right, because when we were shooting Wayne’s World, T2 was still in theaters, and I think they realized it was going to be an icon for that generation. It was great to do. I was a little bit heavier in that part. I’d lost a lot of weight for T2, and was real thin for that. I remember working with Mike Myers, though. It was one of the first films he’d ever done. I was the veteran at that point. [Laughs.] I’d done a couple of movies by then. I think literally T2 was, like, my eighth or ninth movie, if you count all the Roger Corman movies.
AVC: By law, I believe you are required to count them.
RP: Well, hell, let’s count ’em, then. [Laughs.] They’re legit!
Within The Rock (1996)—producer
RP: Let me just say something right now: My love for Roger Corman is here. [Pounds heart.] Whenever I see him, I remind him, “If it wasn’t for you, I don’t know how a guy like me would ever get in the business.” And I mean that. Because when you don’t have connections, and you don’t have a way in, you’ve got to find your way in. Roger broke a lot of people into the business, and to be one of those gives me a great honor. My pedigree is what it is. People ask me, “Where did you learn to do what you do?” And I learned it in the Roger Corman Film School.
AVC: That seems to be a recurring theme with actors this season. William Forsythe said something along the same lines, talking about Corman using footage he’d bought on the cheap to flesh out films.
RP: [Laughs.] Goddamn William Forsythe! I love that motherfucker. Yeah, that’s classic Corman, man. That’s how it goes down. And God bless him for it. In the mid-’90s, while I was doing Striptease, I produced a couple of films with these guys, and… I wasn’t in the movies, but I helped get the money, and we did ’em. One was a story about an asteroid on a collision course with Earth, and a mining team goes up there and sets charges and, you know, tunnels into this thing, and when they do, they hit this sarcophagus which releases this alien that had been kind of jettisoned out into space by some other life form in the universe. And it gets exposed to oxygen, and the thing regenerates and starts killing ’em one by one. It’s a great little movie called Within The Rock. And while we were doing it, we were sitting there going, “God, we got these sets, we got all this stuff…” And I literally said to the guys I was working with, “What would Roger Corman do with this?” And we all agreed that Roger would quickly write another script, go out and find some more money, and then make another movie. So we did. We went out and created another movie called Ravager, which was kind of like Stagecoach set in space, and we shot that movie. It’s a great thing to learn from Roger. But Jim Cameron learned from Roger Corman, too. So many people did. Jim and I were talking while we were making T2, and he said, “Yeah, you know, the acorn doesn’t fall too far from the tree.” And I remembered that. We all walked away with something from Roger that we’re still using in our lives. Come on, man, gimme something else! You’re making it easy on me, baby!
The Real Adventures Of Jonny Quest (1996-1997)—“Roger T. Bannon”
RP: Well! Very interesting. Yeah, I did a voice on that, and I had a great time doing that show. It was some new animation for Hanna-Barbera that was coming out of Japan, and… I’m not quite sure why it didn’t run longer, but I had a great time doing it. I worked with some very talented people. You know, voiceover and animated acting, it’s tricky. It’s a whole different experience. But fun. Did that over at the old Hanna-Barbera studios on Cahuenga Boulevard. And I got to work with George Segal. He was another one of the voices on that. I love doing voiceover and animation. I wish I did more.
Striptease (1996)—“Darrell Grant”
RP: Well, what can I say? Carl Hiaasen, a fantastic Southern writer. Wonderful script. Andy Bergman directing, Mike Lobell producing. Demi Moore, highest paid actress in the world at that time. Burt Reynolds, hero. I worked with Burt twice. He came and did an episode of The X-Files when I took over for David Duchovny. Burt’s a wonderful guy. Ving Rhames, I’ve done several movies with him since. Demi, I had a major crush on her. It was fun to be her ex-husband. Darrell Grant: What an idiot. Oh, my God, what a moron. Playing to my strong suits as a white-trash Southern boy. A redneck. [Laughs.] Say, that’s pretty good. I like this word-association stuff.
The physical comedy… I had a great experience trying to do that, because everybody takes me so seriously. When you’re a complete unknown, and you come out in this movie where you play this cyborg killer and you go against the No. 1 guy at the box office and beat him up pretty bad… It’s fun to not take yourself so seriously and to get to play some extreme comedy. I just wish the movie was more successful.
The Sopranos (2000)—“David Scatino”
RP: That was a very, very daunting experience, to fly into New York and get in there and work with those guys. My acting coach and I worked our butts off getting in there, so I felt good about what I was doing, and it definitely paid off. Everybody in Hollywood watched The Sopranos, so it was good for me to be seen on that show and show what I could do. [James] Gandolfini is one of the greatest actors I’ve ever worked with. Edie Falco, tremendous. A great experience.
You know, outside of the early experience you mentioned on Tales From The Crypt, that was my only other real TV experience at that point. And to be quite honest with you, if you look at my career, I started to realize I was working in film all the time, and some of the films I was doing, well, they were just god-awful. I kept trying to elevate the projects, and I took everything as seriously as I could from a craft point of view, but the projects were failing me. It was like, “All right, I’m making a living as an actor, which I have to do, but some of the stuff I’m doing… God, it’s just horrible!” And I’m sure Bill Forsythe would say the same thing about some of the stuff he’s done. [Laughs.] But, you know, every actor’s got their stuff, is what I’m saying. I’m not throwing Bill under the bus. We’re working, we have to work, this is how we make our living, but sometimes you realize what you’re doing… [Trails off.]
So I went and I did The Sopranos, and I went, “God, why don’t I look at TV? Who am I to think that I’m better than that? Look at some of the stuff you’ve done and then look at the stuff they’re doing on The Sopranos!” And that opened my eyes. And I found [X-Files creator] Chris Carter and The X-Files, and when I was given the chance to go in there and jump in there for David Duchovny, I was like, “Are you kidding me? Abso-fucking-lutely! Let’s do it!”
The X-Files (2000-2002)—“John Doggett”
AVC: Excitement aside, it had to be more than a little intimidating to step into the vacuum left by David Duchovny.
RP: Yes! But very rewarding. The extreme X-Files fans were gunning for me, but I think we turned them around, because the ratings went up. We got two more seasons. Chris Carter was happy. I got to work with Gillian [Anderson], of course. That was a strong leading-man role for me. It worked, I thought, the nobility in the character. I loved playing John Doggett. It’s one of my favorite characters I’ve ever played. The experience of working the grind of TV, of going in, punching the clock, getting in front of the camera and working every day, working 80 hours a week… It was an intense experience. But very rewarding. There’s nothing like it. I mean, I love to act, so to be able to do it with a $2 to $4 million budget per episode… You’re making a little movie each week. What a wonderful experience, you know? So yeah, I loved that one.
AVC: Do you have a favorite episode from your run on the show?
RP: It was one Michelle MacLaren directed, the first episode she ever directed [“John Doe”]. John Doggett is a Marine, and he wakes up and doesn’t know where he’s at, and he’s in some part of Mexico, but doesn’t know how he got there, which is, uh, daunting. [Laughs.] There was also another episode where my real-life wife [Barbara Patrick] played my ex-wife [“Release”], and we’re dealing with the death of our son, and you get some of the dark backstory of John Doggett. I’ve got to tell you, the X-Files fans are intense, but I have fans from those X-Files days that are still fans of mine. Like I was saying, I was led to The X-Files because I was looking for some great writing on television, and Chris Carter and Frank Spotnitz and Vince Gilligan and John Shiban… It was an incredible writing team. Of course, Vince has gone on to do Breaking Bad, and Chris… He’s just a class act all the way around.
Flags Of Our Fathers (2006)—“Colonel Chandler Johnson”
RP: Iwo Jima. Again, you can go back to my grandfather, a career soldier who fought in four wars. World War II was one of them. The significance of that photo and how it was used back in the day… When we didn’t have a budget for war, we had to go out and sell bonds to finance the war in those days of America at its finest. The pride of that guy, Chandler Johnson, known as the Marine’s Marine… I wish there was more for me to do in the film, to be honest with you. Telling that story is a big story, and the point of view that Clint used to tell it was a great point of view, but personally, I wish… It wasn’t about Chandler Johnson, but he was a magnificent man. He died on Iwo Jima. He was quite a guy. I just wish there was more I could’ve done to be a part of that story, but I was very proud of the part that I did. I love this country and the men and women of the armed forces. Without getting into politics or anything, we have great freedoms in our country, and our way of life is one that’s the envy of just about every country out there. And freedom is not… [Hesitates.] I don’t want to sound like I’m spouting off, but freedom is not a birthright. It’s something that’s fought for. And a lot of blood has been shed for that. It’s not something to take lightly, you know? Sorry, man, I got heavy. Didn’t mean to get heavy on you.
Balls Of Fury (2007)—“Sergeant Pete Daytona”
RP: Oh my God! That’s a great one! Again, another role that I wish there was more to it. I mean, it was fun playing that. I never saw the movie, so I don’t know how it turned out, but I had a lot of fun with those guys. I’m enjoying comedy, you know? I love to try and get in there and do stuff. That guy was like Bobby Duvall, a real Great Santini kind of dad. Except from a hysterical point of view.
Walk The Line (2005)—“Ray Cash”
RP: James Mangold, I think, is one of the greatest directors of my generation. We work together very well. He gets a great performance out of me. As far as Walk The Line, he approached me because I had worked with Joaquin Phoenix on Ladder 49, asking, “How was your relationship with Joaquin? How do you work with him? What do you think about being his father? What do you think of Johnny Cash?” Johnny Cash is one of my heroes, so I have plenty of admiration for him and an understanding of the relationship with his father, who was an alcoholic, but a practical man, very pragmatic, who doesn’t understand the way of the artist. With the loss of his son, he puts the blame on his other son, and the other son feels guilt about being alive. Being from the South, understanding how that works, helped.
As far as Joaquin, I can’t remember if I called him up or if he was over at my house, because we were already friends, but I said, “Hey, man, I know how hard you’re working on this Johnny Cash project. Would I be a distraction to you playing your father? I don’t want to do anything that would jeopardize your ability to function, but since we have a close relationship, would it work for you for me to be your dad?” “Yes! Let’s do it!” “Okay!”
Cop Land (1997)—“Jack Rucker”
RP: Interesting story. I was in town doing press in New York for Striptease, went out and had drinks at The Oak Room at the Plaza Hotel, and met Peter Berg in there, who was in town getting ready to film Cop Land. He was there with Meryl Poster, an executive from Miramax, and she looked at me and she said, “Have you gone in to meet James Mangold for this role we’re trying to cast for Cop Land?” “No, I haven’t, but I’d love to. I’ve heard all about the script. Everybody wants to get in on that. I’d love to get in on it.” “Would you be willing to go home and read the script tonight and meet with him tomorrow?” “Sure!” Went in to meet Mangold and Cathy Konrad and the other producer, Cary Woods, who had dated my wife before I had dated her. And then we were talking about a house I was building, I was using an architect that Cary was using, and we started talking about that. And James said, “Would you come read for me?” I said, “Absolutely, let’s go do it.” And I went in and read for him, I got that part, and obviously my fondness for James is there, as I told you before, because I went on to do Walk The Line for him and Cathy as well.
Cop Land was a great experience, but I was petrified to do a New York accent, so I came into town, immediately hooked up with the NYPD, and began to go out on… I don’t want to say missions, but I guess they were missions. I went out with the police and followed them around. And they were hell-bent on showing me procedure and everything, but the reality was that I wanted to get the banter and use my ear to get their dialect and feel comfortable talking like them around them and with them. And it turned out to be great preparation for me, because on day one, I was working with [Robert] De Niro and [Harvey] Keitel and Arthur Nascarella, who are all native New Yorkers, and here’s this boy from Atlanta trying to pull off a New York accent. [Laughs.] Which I did, I think. It works.
The Marine (2006)—“Rome”
RP: Well, well. The Marine. What was it? I think it was at a point in my career when I really needed a job, and there it was. [Laughs.] John Cena, good guy. It was a WWE film. Another archetype villain. I wanted to see what I could do within that genre. I had fun with it. I got to do some stuff with the director that he and I kind of concocted that I thought worked. It ended up being one of the most successful films that WWE ever produced. I gave it everything I could, man. That’s all you can do. I committed wholeheartedly. I got to go to Australia and take the family, I remember that. And right after that, I think I went to work for David Mamet on The Unit.
RP: First time I’d ever been to Hawaii in my life. I flew in, and I remember them putting me up in a hotel. I had one scene to do. There was a missing finger, as I recall. I never watched the show, I didn’t know who I was or what I was, but I committed to that part, too, and I think it worked. Hawaii was certainly great. I got to go to Pearl Harbor. They just called me up and said, “Hey, we want you to play this part; it’s one scene, but you’ve got a nice monologue.” So I said, “Sure, what the hell.” And the young man that I had the scene with [Josh Holloway], a terrific guy, it turned out he was from Georgia.
Bridge To Terabithia (2007)—“Jack Aarons”
RP: A fantastic book. It was wonderful to be a father helping tell a young boy’s story. A tearjerker of a movie, with a fantastic scene at the end with Josh Hutcherson, when the father and son come together and the father helps the boy with his grief and his demons. I’m very proud of that. Josh Hutcherson is a terrific young actor. I got to work with a first-time director [Gabor Csupo], it made a lot of money, and besides, everybody needs a family film or two on their résumé, right?
Elvis (2005)—“Vernon Presley”
RP: Elvis’s daddy? I mean, what can you say? When you get to play Johnny Cash’s daddy, and then they offer you to play Elvis’ daddy, it seems like a no-brainer. Maybe someday I’ll get offered the chance to play Bruce Springsteen’s dad. As T-Bone Burnett says, “Rock ’n’ roll is all about Daddy.”
Double Dragon (1994)—“Koga Shuko”
RP: That was a movie I did that, on paper, I thought could really work. It, uh, didn’t really work that well. [Laughs.] I bought into the premise; I was sold by a very good salesman by the name of Alan Schechter, who unfortunately has gone on to kill himself. Very tragic. Alan was a great guy. He sold me on that movie, and I did it and was paid very handsomely to do it. There’s some funny aspects to that character, and it was a fairly liberating experience to be funny and try to be menacing at the same time. I am proud of my performance. It’s a pretty extreme performance. Yeah, and I got to work with Scott Wolf, Mark Dacascos, and Alyssa Milano. We shot that in Cleveland, which is another city that I lived in in my past, so that was kind of neat. Alan was a great guy. It breaks my heart that he ended up taking his life, because he was a good dude. I knew him from the Joel Silver days. [Silver] got me in to do Tales From The Crypt, and he also was the guy who was instrumental in getting my brother’s music in Demon Knight, which ended up getting my brother a record deal with Warner Bros., which ended up launching his career. Alan was a good guy. I stay in touch with his brother and… I don’t mean to get so dark. I just kind of started talking about it, so…
Alan started working for Joel Silver right around when I was doing T2, and… he was quite something. I thought he was going to go on to become a hell of a producer. I mean, he produced Double Dragon. He did a lot of things that my family benefited from.
AVC: Just one last thing about Double Dragon: You said you’re proud of your performance, but… does that extend to your hair?
RP: [Laughs.] You know, it wasn’t my idea. I’m just putting that out there. It was an idea that the director had. He asked me if I’d do it, and I said, “Okay.” I’m like, “I get it, we’re making a cartoon kind of game, it’s extreme, and it’s an archetype villain.” Within the reality of the movie, I guess it works. Shit, I’m willing to try. I try to be as brave as I can. Sometimes you have a misfire. So… I guess I’ll say it works for that character. It’s not my favorite look, but it worked for the character. I guess. I don’t know. Hey, look, at least I have hair! [Laughs.]
The Faculty (1998)—“Coach Joe Willis”
From Dusk Till Dawn 2: Texas Blood Money (1999)—“Buck”
Spy Kids (2001)—“Mr. Lisp”
RP: Once you start working for Bob and Harvey Weinstein, you’re part of the family, and [The Faculty] was one of those where it was like, “We’d like you to go meet Robert Rodriguez.” So I did. I remember Jon Stewart was going in to meet Robert, too, so Jon and I were out there having a cigarette, back when we both smoked, and we’re sitting there talking about Robert and El Mariachi. Then we went in to meet Robert, and he explained what he was going to do. And then after we did that film, Robert basically just called and said, “Hey, man, I want you to do Spy Kids.” So I said, “Okay,” and I went and did it. [Hesitates.] I feel like I’ve worked with him more than twice, but maybe that’s it.
AVC: Well, you did From Dusk Till Dawn 2. He at least produced that, didn’t he?
RP: Yeah, he did, now that you mention it. And that was another Miramax thing. They kind of put me in that as well. That was actually a great experience. Scott Spiegel directed that. Kind of the way Tarantino helped Robert with his career, I think Tarantino ended up setting it up so that Scott Spiegel could direct that movie. I’ll tell you, doing a movie called Texas Blood Money in South Africa? I found that a little ironic. [Laughs.] But Scott Spiegel was great, and so was working with Bo Hopkins. You know, that’s a leading-man role for me. It was a good role and a good little movie. It wasn’t very big-budget, but it was what it was. It works.
AVC: They both came out the same year, but did you film From Dusk Till Dawn 2 before or after The Faculty?
RP: I don’t know. I think that might’ve been… Man, you know, I don’t know. Shit! You stumped me, buddy! Had to happen eventually, I guess. [Laughs.] Damn. I should’ve gone to IMDB!