Thomas Jane of “Boogie Nights,” “Deep Blue Sea,” “Hung” and “The Punisher” fame (plus several dozen other major titles) cracks jokes, throws out one liners and shares some surprising insight into his career with DAMAN
Very few actors can claim a filmography as diverse as Thomas Jane. His career started with an Indian romantic comedy titled “Padamati Sandhya Ragam,” had him swimming with sharks in “Deep Blue Sea,” dips into superhero territory with “The Punisher” when the genre was still its infancy, features one of the best twist endings in cinema history with the movie version of Stephen King’s “The Mist,” gets into risqué territory with immensely popular TV series “Hung” and then continued well into 2018 with the upcoming “The Predator” and a new season of sci-fi drama series “The Expanse.”
His interview with DAMAN was also quite … varied, as you will see below. Amid the light banter, jokes and offbeat quips, however, Jane also offered us some unique insights into the world of a world-class actor. All in all, this is certainly one of the most unconventional—in the most positive sense of the word—stories ever told in this magazine.
DAMAN: Hi, Thomas. Awesome to have you with us! How are you doing?
Thomas Jane: I just got back from shooting six weeks of night shoots in Buffalo, New York. Movie called “Crown Vic.” Played an LAPD cop with 25 years on the force. He’s training a young cop, first day on the job. All takes place over one night. Great writing. Gotta tell ya: It’s great to be doing character work again. I’m a character actor; I’ve been saying it for years. Everyone wants to cast me as the strapping young hero, with a girl and a gun, that type of thing. Honestly, it’s exhausting.
DAMAN: In a couple months or so, we’re going to see you in “The Predator.” What can fans expect from this new entry in the franchise?
Thomas Jane: Two words: [director] Shane Black and [writer] Fred Dekker. Punchy dialogue, great characters and freaking aliens. We blow a lot of s–t up, crack wise and shoot guns. There’s a girl in it, too.
DAMAN: You famously accepted the role without reading the script first. Can you tell us why? Both the part about not reading the script and what made you interested in taking up the role and joining the movie…
Thomas Jane: Me and Shane have tried to work together a couple of times in the past, and for one reason or another it just hadn’t worked out. So, when Shane called me about this one, I just asked him to let me know where to be and when to be there. I’ve been a fan of Shane’s since “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang.” I’ve always had a feeling that we would work well together and I was right. He’s got a certain blend of hard-boiled and comedy that’s very hard to hit. No one can do it like Shane Black. Me and Dekker almost worked together too, on an end-of-the-world movie with giant alien spiders, a girl and a gun. Maybe we’ll get to do it one day.
DAMAN: By the way, what is it that you usually look for in potential roles?
Thomas Jane: I look for a tension between opposite forces working inside a character. I look for good writing, great dialogue and a chance to get naked and kill people. Not necessarily at the same time. It doesn’t always work out.
DAMAN: What ended up being the biggest surprise for you as you worked on “The Predator”?
Thomas Jane: It surprised me how tender the Predator’s nipples are. We had to use a special kind of tape over them, because whenever the wind would blow those things got huge. They looked like breakfast sausages. It was really distracting.
DAMAN: The “Predator” film series is quite a beloved franchise with a solid reputation among sci-fi fans. Do you feel that this adds extra pressure for the new “The Predator” to get things right, so to speak?
Thomas Jane: There’s always pressure. Everybody has their own idea about what they want to see. We made sure to not do any of that. I remember it was important to get the Pred into a tutu, for some reason. But pink does not go well with that blue-green skin. Also, certain factions wanted to see the Pred wearing a Michael Myers hockey mask, to bring in the horror crowd. But it looked tiny on that big head. So, fortunately that was scrapped as well. He does have a dog, though. A space dog, I think they call it.
DAMAN: If there’s one thing you’ll always remember from your time on the set of “The Predator,” what would it be?
Thomas Jane: Fortunately, I don’t remember any of it. Studios are very wary of leaks, spoilers and the like, what with the Internet and Twitter and all that mind-numbing stuff going on lately. So, we were forced to undergo brainwashing procedures—developed by the CIA during the MK-Ultra days—after work each day. I remember my trigger word was “mayonnaise.” The rest is black.
DAMAN: On the TV front, additional seasons of “The Expanse” have been announced a couple of months ago. Will you still be part of the show in season four and beyond?
Thomas Jane: That is secret and confidential. The answer is yes.
DAMAN: Of course, you’re no stranger to sci-fi/superhero/comic book-based movies. What would you say are some of the biggest changes in the genre since then?
Thomas Jane: Pussification. No more hard R superhero stuff, unless it’s that guy with the burnt up face making fart jokes and pissing himself. Different world out here, now.
DAMAN: On that note, any chance of seeing you in another bona fide superhero movie sometime in the near future?
Thomas Jane: I’ve been banned from superhero movies because my muscles are too big. It’s just not believable. Plus, I’ve got a big nose. The mask just looks ridiculous on me.
DAMAN: Besides “The Punisher” back in 2004, movie fans also know you as the lead in popular movies like “The Thin Red Line,” “Deep Blue Sea” and “The Mist” just to name a few. That being said, what do you see as your most memorable or personally significant film?
Thomas Jane: My most significant film is a sex tape I did with the Sisters of Everloving Sorrow, back in my college days. They all wore red habits, and my Johnson was covered with blacklight paint. It won’t be released until the last sister has died, but they were all pretty old even back then. So, I guess you should look out for it. It was called “The Devil Inside Me,” but I think they’re changing it.
DAMAN: And what would you say was the one role or title that really put you on the map?
Thomas Jane: Which map is that? If you mean the “I’ll never work with that f—–g guy again” map, then that would probably be “Die, Die, My Darling,” which only came out in Eastern Europe. I’m still proud of it, though.
DAMAN: You’ve been acting for more than three decades. Do you still feel the same about your chosen profession now as you did when you first started out all those years ago?
Thomas Jane: After “Boogie Nights” people said I was a talented actor but lazy, because I did big studio stuff like “Deep Blue Sea.” But at that time, I was dirt poor, literally living in a cabin in the woods and busking on sidewalks for change. I took the first thing I was offered real money for, and it changed my life. But the truth is, I shouldn’t have been doing leading roles because I was still inexperienced at film acting. I’d done a lot of stage; I was talented but painfully shy. Took a lot of years to learn the craft of acting with a bunch of crew standing around watching you, checking their watches, waiting for lunch. It’s really only since I did “Hung” that I’ve learned how to do the work I knew I was capable of. They say it takes 20 years to get a real handle on acting, which is twice as long as it takes to master other crafts. Whoever “they” are, they were right. Damn them. Wait, what was the question?
DAMAN: You’ve taken on quite a few challenging roles, including those that required tons of preparation—like how you trained with the Navy SEALs before playing the titular hero in “The Punisher.” What are some of the more, shall we say, unexpected or surprising challenges that you’ve ever had to face for a role?
Thomas Jane: Well, making love to all those women in “Hung” was a surprising challenge. Because actually, it turns out that you’re not really supposed to, you know, turn it on when you’re turning it on. It’s all acting, which is a lot different than the movies I was used to. So, I had to learn to not get “excited”—I had to turn it off while turning it on, if that makes sense. Unfortunately, this has bled over into real life. I’ve now got to unlearn how to turn it off when I’m turning it on, and I’m always turning it on when I should be turning it off. It’s a mess. But. these are the sacrifices we make for the art…
DAMAN: All in all, what do you enjoy the most about being an actor?
Thomas Jane: Turning it on.
DAMAN: You’ve acted and directed, provided your voice for video games and animated features, released an album and comic books. What do you want to tackle next?
Thomas Jane: Muskelunge. I also hear steelhead trout is great.
DAMAN: Last question: Other than your career, what is the most important thing for you right now?
Thomas Jane: Sleep. I’ve got to get some.
Photography by MNM
Styling by Azza Arif
Grooming by Anny Kim
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