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Tribute’s Bonnie Laufer has a candid interview with actor Joshua Jackson about his latest film and life after Dawson’s Creek.
B.L. Is it now written into your contracts that for any role you play you must be having an affair or relationship with an older woman?
J.J. (laughing) I don’t know how I developed this theme in my work life but I’m not going to stop it hopefully! It’s quite all right with me.
B.L. In your latest film, The Safety of Objects you hook up with Patricia Clarkson, who is such a versatile and amazing actress.
J.J. She’s awesome and gorgeous. I think that she has got to be one of the hardest working actors in showbiz. This year alone she’s had about five movies come out, which is pretty damned impressive.
B.L. This is a really fascinating movie that makes you think about a lot of things after it’s over. How did this script come to you, because it’s awfully different than what we’ve seen you in before?
J.J. Rose (Troche), the director, actually brought it to me and I think that I was just her choice. I believe that I was the last member of the cast to be put into place. The major attraction to me was being able to work with Glenn Close. Once I actually read the script, realizing that I was going to have an affair with Patricia Clarkson was not so bad either. It gave me an opportunity to be in the company of actors who I really respect and are really good at their job, and to test my skill against theirs.
B.L. So what was it like for you to get into a room with someone like Glenn Close who plays your mom? What do you learn from someone like her?
J.J. Everybody has a different methodology of doing things and what you learn from her in specifics is she’s just a pro. She comes in and she’s graceful and elegant and she knows exactly what it is she wants to do, and she’s open to ideas and willing to try things out. But she is a very strong actress so she comes in and knows what she’s doing. You better damn well be prepared if you are going to be in a scene with her because if you’re not, you’ll just disappear.
B.L. When you read the script and you realized that for more than half of the movie you are going to be in a coma requiring you to just lay there without moving a muscle, what were you thinking?
J.J. First off I was in on the joke that some of my best work is in a coma (laughing). But, the opportunity to work with these women overwhelmed the fact that for the vast majority of my work I would be flat on my back. That part’s not really acting, it’s just more technical stuff of how you hold your hands and things like that. For me, the two scenes that I get to do in the beginning of the film and the two scenes that I got to do with Patricia were the reasons why I wanted to come up.
B.L. This film was at the Toronto Film Festival two years ago but it’s taken until now to be released. Is that frustrating for you as an actor to have it sit on the shelf for so long?
J.J. Yes, if it was for any other reason other than the fact that the movie premiered on September 10th, 2001 and then on September 11th obviously we all know what happened and New York was attacked. So, it’s frustrating but I’m not upset about it because it was just spectacularly bad timing and the world was focused on other things, as well it should have been. The Safety of Objects, which I think is a good movie, was not the most pressing concern on everybody’s minds on the afternoon of September 11th. What’s frustrating is in the reality of independent film as opposed to studio films, if there is a hiccup in the releasing of a film it just gets lost because there are always a new slate of films coming out and there isn’t a huge company saying “Here’s 10 million dollars to go and promote the film and we’ll just release it six months down the line.” So it’s taken this long for everybody involved to get the film back into people’s minds. That’s frustrating, but it’s just the nature of the beast.
B.L. There is so much going on in the film, from dealing with relationships to having material objects. Did it mean anything to you?
J.J. The first and most immediate thing that I took out of it was a pressing desire to tell the people that I am closest to in my life that I love them. You watch this and you realize that it is very important to be living in the day as opposed to being distracted by external forces or focusing your energies on things that don’t actually matter that much to you but are, just easy work, just wasting your time. I also think that because it’s a disjointed narrative, there are four different stories going on, I personally connected most with Dermot Mulroney’s character and what he was going through even though that’s a man’s life about 10 years after from where I am now. I have no wife or kids, but I understood implicitly what he was going through, waking up one morning and going, “How did I get here? Where did I take the three left turns to get back right here, I don’t understand?” We all do that, we all have those moments in our lives and of course we dramatize it in the movie, but I connected with that. I think that everybody will find someone in the movie with whom they can connect that will make personal sense to them. I hope.
B.L. You have a few scenes with Timothy Olyphant who is also very good in the film. I recently interviewed him for Dreamcatcher and I have to say that guy is crazy! I could not get a straight answer out of him.
J.J. Sounds like Tim.
B.L. What was it like to work with him? He’s a bit of a nutcase!
J.J. But he’s a fun nutcase. He’s ‘nutcase good’ instead of ‘nutcase bad.’ I have a tendency to keep a set loose myself so the scenes we had between the two of us, there was a lot of joking and I think we drove the director to a bit of distraction. They didn’t put us together too much so we couldn’t distract other people. Plus, when Glenn Close is on set there is only so much cutting up you can do. “Come on everybody, we’ll be respectful now because she’s there.”
B.L. How did you enjoy working with a female director?
J.J. Regardless of Rose being female, since she adapted the book herself and was so intimately involved with the material to probably an unhealthy degree for her personal life, she had this encyclopaedic knowledge of all things Safety of Objects. You could have conversations and arguments and if you brought up a valid point she was more than willing to accept it, but generally speaking she had a frame of reference from the second paragraph on the 230th page and the 18th chapter and she would say, “No, you are specifically doing this because X Y and Z needs to happen.” That was really comfortable as an actor because you know that there is a safety net because the boss is in charge. I think that this is mostly a female-driven movie so I think that was probably why she was attracted to it in the beginning. I don’t mind working for women, nobody’s tougher than my mom so I’m not scared.
B.L. The Safety of Objects is mostly about having an object that is very important to certain people in the film. Did you ever have something when you were younger that if you had lost or ruined that you would have felt that your whole life was over?
J.J. I did have a blankie and I also had a stuffed tiger, called “Tigey” because let’s face it, you’re very literal as a child. I was pretty damned attached to that stuffed tiger but eventually I grew out of it. Now that I think of it, I believe my mom still has that stuffed tiger. My blankie however, I understand it now, but she gave away my blankie. I had to pass it on like a hand-me-down, which I get. You should absolutely pass things on and reuse them but damn it, it was my blankie and boy was I bitter when I saw it in that kid’s crib. (yells) “What is that? That’s mine!”
B.L. If you look at the film roles that you’ve chosen since you started on Dawson’s Creek, you probably were thinking “Oh great, I’m going to get stereotyped into playing Pacey-like characters for the rest of my life,” but you really haven’t at all.
J.J. Knock on wood.
B.L. It’s great that you’ve had the opportunity to play some pretty different roles.
J.J. Personally, that’s the fun of my job. I don’t want to keep on doing the same things over and over again because it gets boring. Professionally, I am of the firm opinion that if you are good and if you continue to try and grow, and you will inevitably fail sometimes. If you are trying new things every once in a while one of them is not going to work, and you may not be good at something that you thought you’d be good at. I would rather fail spectacularly than succeed at mediocrity and keep on doing the same things. Whether you like the movies I’ve been in or you don’t like them, I always feel like you are seeing that I’m getting to do something different. So, I think that cream rises and if you keep on learning and keep on growing and keep on challenging yourself you can’t be pigeon-holed because the external perception, there is nothing I can do about that but I’m not pigeon-holing myself. I consider my abilities a bit more diverse than just playing a guy on a TV show.
B.L. Good for you, that’s a healthy attitude.
J.J. The beauty of being on a TV show on the other hand has been great. Everyone should be so lucky to get typecast on a show for six years. It allowed me the opportunity to do independent films and other projects. Choose is an interesting word because the difference in my career before Dawson’s Creek and after Dawson’s Creek was any job that I got before the show, I had to take. If I wasn’t working, I was just an out-of-work actor and there was no safety net for me. Afterwards, now I can afford the luxury of not having to take every job that comes my way, which is really a beautiful thing.
B.L. How can I sit here and talk to you without mentioning Dawson’s Creek?
J.J. Bring it on.
B.L. Last week was the finale of a six-year run. I don’t think that there wasn’t a person in North America who either didn’t have their VCR running or were sitting there watching, glued to their TVs for the two hours.
J.J. Yeah, it was a pretty big deal.
B.L. First of all, what was it like being on set with that cast knowing that this was it? You were never going to all work together again?
J.J. Because Kevin (Williamson, the show’s creator) came back and wrote the two-hour special at the end and because…(breaks off)… With a lot of TV shows their last episode is not very good, or it doesn’t feel like there is an end to the story. In my opinion, the show had been in decline for the last two years. Once they were out of high school they just lost their reason for being. But we got Kevin back and the immediate difference in the quality of the script was night and day. The heart and soul of the show was that these were a bunch of kids growing up together, and sure they fought but there was love. They actively wanted to be a part of each other’s lives. That didn’t exist for the last couple of years. It got slightly too ironic for my taste, and a little bitter actually. But you immediately see how much caring there is between these characters, which I think is a great pay off. There were also a lot of winks at the first season from the first couple of episodes for those who have stuck it out, and the feeling of being on set, once we got that script and it was good was “Okay, excellent. Instead of just being happy with the experience that we are all going to take out of it we can actually send a little love note to fans that have been watching the show for so long.” It was like a little postcard saying “Thank you for keeping us on the air” and we can be really proud of the last episode that we put on which was so fantastic and such a gift from Kevin to us. I do think that the last episode was really good. I think that Michelle was out of her mind good, I mean just tear your heart out… GOD she was good in the last episode. UH! The feeling on set was true accomplishment and a deep understanding: no matter how long any of us work, cast members, crew members, we are never going to be in a situation like that again just simply because none of us will be 18, young and on a TV show. You never ever have the same crew for 6 years; you never have the same cast for 6 years — it just doesn’t happen. People come and go and things change, so that was a once in a lifetime experience and having a good episode at the end of it all allowed us a proper way to say goodbye so we could all go and have pride in the craftsmanship of what we do.
B.L. There must have been a ton of tears on that set.
J.J. There were some tears, but that’s what caught me off guard. I thought that it was going to be more maudlin than it was. Ultimately it was a lot of smiles; there was a lot of “My god, look what we built.” We produced 132 hours of television, a huge amount. We worked for six years in North Carolina. I have been at the weddings of guys that I worked with. There have been divorces, there have been babies, there have been deaths. I mean, we lived life down there and we all built this together. There was much more of that sense of “Look at what we did. This is something that we can be proud of.”
B.L. Are you happy that Joey and Pacey ended up together?
J.J. Just personally, of course!! I mean all the rest of it aside; you got to get the girl (laughs). You can kick me around as much as you want for six years but I got to get the girl.
B.L. So let’s move on. You’re finished with Dawson’s Creek so now you can pursue this movie career of yours. So what’s next? I read that you are going to be in The Cinderella Story.
J.J. You know what… that IMDB website is playing a cruel joke on me. I am NOT going to be in that movie. That’s with Hilary Duff, right?
B.L. Yeah, its kind of Cinderella meets Clueless type of story.
J.J. This kind of thing happens to me all the time.
B.L. That sucks.
J.J. Last year, they posted that I was in Dirty Dancing 2; thankfully it’s been pulled off. The local paper in Wilmington, The Star News published it so all the guys on set gave me such a hassle. “Hey, it’s the dirty dancer!!” “Guys, I am not going to Cuba to film Dirty Dancing 2, I promise you!” Nobody is paying me to dance, I can guarantee you. Then there was another one where I was in one of the Chucky movies, Chucky 15 I think. There is somebody at the IMDB that has a good sense of humor. Plus, there’s another actor named Jonathan Jackson who is very good, and we always get mixed up a lot.
B.L. One movie I know you have done for sure is I Love Your Work directed by Adam Goldberg.
J.J. Yes, I did do that one and that was fun. It was the same sort of experience as The Safety of Objects. The actors aren’t quite as established as Glenn Close and Patricia Clarkson, but a great cast. It was a smaller movie that was certainly not a payday but everybody there wanted to be there. It’s an interesting story: Adam Goldberg, whom I think is a really good actor, wrote and created this with Giovanni Ribisi, so to see him get to put something on screen is fun work for me. When you are doing a smaller role it’s play time, because you get to maximize the little pieces that you are in as opposed to telling one whole story. If I was as broad in a lead role as I am in character bits, the movie would seem very strange and I would seem like a very strange guy. But you can really play with those tiny little bits because it doesn’t seem too wild.
B.L. So tell me a little bit about the film and who you play.
J.J. It’s a reverse stalker movie. Giovanni Ribisi plays a dissipated Hollywood star that is trying to find his soul again. He meets a young filmmaker played by myself, and his girlfriend, who remind him of when he was just becoming an actor, and he has sort of a psychotic break and starts to replace the filmmaker with himself.
B.L. When do you think we’ll be seeing that one?
J.J. It’s a small movie so it will most probably be a festival film. Maybe we’ll see it at the Toronto Film festival this fall.
B.L. Whatever happened to a movie you made with DJ Qualls called Lonestar State of Mind?
J.J. It got cut into a PG –13 movie and then just disappeared. The film was a black comedy but it was a bit violent and when it got cut down to fit the rating system it just didn’t make any sense. So we’ll probably see it on DVD at some point. It was one of those spectacular failures. We had a fun time making it, but oh well, these things happen.
B.L. So now that you are free from doing a TV series, do you have any immediate plans?
J.J. I don’t know and I’m not really too worried to tell you the truth. I’m very excited about not having to make plans right now. Not having to say, “I’ve got to get all of this done by August because I’ve got to be back at work.”
B.L What a nice feeling.
J.J. It’s fantastic, I’m 24 years old and I feel like I’ve won the lottery. I can go home to Vancouver for a little while and then hopefully I’ll worry about work in the fall but for the time being, just relax.
B.L. Who keeps you grounded?
J.J. I really like what I do for a living and I don’t like a lot of the silliness and the trappings of it all. I like being on set and that’s where my thrills are. I judge my success by my standards. Nothing personal, but you can’t tell me whether or not I’m doing well or not because I judge whether or not I’m happy, so I guess that’s what keeps me grounded.
B.L. Plus you’ve always had a very supportive family.
J.J. Yes, my family too, but not specifically my mom saying, “you’re losing your mind.” My mother’s ethic is “you work to live, you don’t live to work.” So that’s why I’m so happy. I’ve got a great job and I have a great life. (laughs).
B.L. Do you think that you would ever consider doing a TV series again?
J.J. Doing a series is a lot of hard work and the rewards are grandiose. It’s one of the few areas in the world where you are rewarded probably more than you should be. Never say never, but I can’t imagine wanting to do another series regularly in the immediate future. I don’t know that I have the energy for it any more, even at 24. I can’t imagine doing a seventy-hour week at thirty. It damn near killed me at twenty-two. The first portion of the year is always fun, then it starts to slow down for a couple, then in December you go to Christmas and you come back in January. You work your ass off from January to the end of April and you just don’t think you’re going to make it, every year I remember thinking, “I’m just going to die. There is obviously no way physically I am going to be able to finish.” Forget the emotional toll that acting takes, but it’s the marathon aspect of it that is gruelling. So, for the immediate future, no, and that’s the beauty of having worked on a TV series for six years is that financially I don’t have to jump right back into work. But, who knows in the future.
B.L. A personal life question now. Here’s your chance to clear up what happened to you a few months ago at a hockey game, when you got arrested for a drunken brawl.
J.J. It was obviously made into much more of a thing than it was and I don’t like to be paranoid, but out of all the people involved in the scrum, I was the only one who got pulled out and spent the night in jail. I’ve got to do some community service.
B.L. When is that happening?
J.J. I have to volunteer at a youth hockey league. I’m not sure where I’m going to do it. Everybody sort of got the joke, the D.A. got it, the lady who administers the social program and everyone understood that I got the gold star that night. To hear the reports, I almost don’t want to dissipate the myth because according to everything you read I’m a really tough guy; maybe I’ll be a professional boxer in my next incarnation. And even the reports of the security guards in the rink; everyone in the rink had to file a report, and they vary from “didn’t see anything happen” to “dove over three rows of stairs and threw a headlock and punches.” It was ridiculous. It was just one of those things.