LIVING THE MOMENT. Award-winning actor Matt Dillon walks down memory lane and opens up about a couple of exciting new projects to Ronald Liem.
Not many people in the movie industry can call Hollywood home. Matt Dillon is an exception. The American actor, who carved out a name for himself in a string of hit movies in the ‘80s and ‘90s, never stops seeking new roles to play, constantly pushing the limits of what he can achieve through acting. Straight after finishing the premiere of “Bad Country” earlier this year, a movie in which he plays alongside veteran thespian Willem Defoe, Dillon quickly jumped into another demanding role, portraying an addled secret service agent in the exciting new TV thriller “Wayward Pines” by talented director M. Night Shyamalan.
Sweater by Marc Jacobs
Off camera, Dillon is as intriguing as the characters he plays. Possessing a mysterious coolness matched with a candid persona, he wholeheartedly invests in a conversation, the same way as he does in his roles. He holds nothing back. Often displaying that trademark smirk after finishing long setences, he revels in the human reaction, keenly observing the effect his words have had on the person sitting across from him. But nothing excites him as much as movies, a topic in which his shrewd attention to detail and criticial thought process find a seemingly ideal home. It is through cinema that Matt Dillon loves to experience life however outside of this, he is just like anyone of us, someone who is trying to find out the truth, live in the moment and be happy.
Ronald Liem: Good day Matt, thank you for taking the time to speak with DA MAN. How are you? Where are you at the moment?
Matt Dillon: Hey there! Happy to be here. I’m currently in New York, not shooting right at this moment, just taking some time out to relax.
RL: We’ve heard that you’re a big fan of Asia, is this true?
MD: Yes, it is. Back in 2001, I got to spend a lot of time in Cambodia and the capital Phnom Penh when I was shooting “City of Ghosts,” a film I wrote and directed. I had a really excellent time shooting on location. I always feel so rejuvenated when I come back from trips in that part of the world I don’t know why.
RL: Have you ever made it as far as Indonesia?
MD: I have, yes, but only to Bali. However there are so many other places I want to explore in your country. For example, I’d really like to visit Yogyakarta and the surrounding temples of Borobodur and Prambanan. My sister-in-law is actually Chinese-Indonesian, so there’s a link there.
RL: When you began your career in the 1980s, New York magazine famously branded you, Tom Cruise and a group of other actors and actresses as Hollywood’s “Brat Pack.” What is it like to look back on the start of your career with all these great talents as your peers?
MD: (Laughs) To be honest with you though I did work with the actors you mentioned, I think I just got lumped in with them because I was also on screen at the time. I don’t think anyone really considered me part of the original “Brat Pack.” For one thing, I was much more of a New York-based actor and identified a lot more with that. A lot of actors in that group were the cast of “The Outsiders” and it was a big deal when that movie got made. I think it was because at that time, Francis Ford Coppola had this amazingly miserable quality about him, which translated so well on screen. He had made what were considered to be the some of the greatest movies of all time such as “The Godfather,” which had such a profound impact. In that film, they also had some fantastic actors from the generation above us, such as Marlon Brando and Al Pacino. So this was a real pull for me, to work with the same director they had. It spelled opportunity for me because he didn’t make a lot of movies, so the fact that he was making that book into a movie was hugely significant. And the funny thing is that I was one of the youngest actors in that group, yet I was more established and so was seen as being older as a result.
Outfit by Calvin Klein
RL: How has the acting profession changed since you started?
MD: Honestly, back in the ‘80s and ‘90s I think actors felt more pressure to only do really “good” movies, much more so than they do today. With the greater commercialization of the industry, I believe the criteria for some actors has changed. Now people seem to be so preoccupied with celebrity, while it’s always been there, the focus is so much stronger now. Technology and social media has definitley contributed to this, as it’s so much easier to gain access to other people’s lives and so much easier for people to broadcast. While this can have a lot of positive effects, often it ends up encouraging people to weigh in on subjects they aren’t adept in, which often just gets them in trouble! We’re in the barbaric stages of modern technology right now.
“The center of the universe is a very crowded place; people are so caught up in their own world”
RL: Moving forward, you starred in the movie “Drugstore Cowboy” by Gus Van Sant which addressed the taboo subject of drug use. How did you find this experience?
MD: “Drugstore Cowboy” was definitely an important movie for me. I think I was 19 at the time, and it’s funny looking back at it. I remember I had to wear a pair of fake Gucci shoes and crazy clothes that the character got from a Salvation Army store. When we were making the film, there was a very strong anti-drug movement in America. So, to make a movie that was dealing with characters who were taking drugs and not moralize the issue in a preachy way was quite a thing. It would also inspire subsequent movies to treat the drugs issue more realistically.
RL: You’ve played a number of diverse roles over the course of your career, from a hard man to a comedic character in movies with Cameron Diaz and Lindsay Lohan. What made you seek these out?
MD: Well, I like doing comedy, but I wouldn’t say I’m really considered a comedic actor, so I don’t get offered that many! While I used to be very selective, there are times now when I just want to get back to work. For me, it’s always been more about the characters that I gravitate toward, then the director and then the script. If I can get three of those, it really is the dream. Though it has taken some time, I’ve also come to accept that I’m not actually responsible for the outcome of a movie. The only thing I’m responsible for is my work, the role I am playing. As a young actor, I felt completely responsible for so many different aspects of a movie, and it was totally unrealistic.
Outfit by Calvin Klein
RL: Currently, you’re working with M. Night Shyamalan in his new TV thriller series “Wayward Pines.” Can you tell us a bit about the show?
MD: Well, importantly, this isn’t really a TV series but more of a one-off, ten-part show. Without giving too much away, I play a secret service agent that goes to investigate the disappearance of two of his colleagues in the middle of Idaho. On the way there, he gets into a very serious car accident and when he wakes up, he doesn’t have much recollection of what happened. While staying in hospital, he gets a sense that this seemingly normal town is not as it seems. He is also being obstructed in different ways from contacting his family and employers outside. So, as a trained agent, he decides to begin a further investigation of his own. The more places he visits within the town, the more he believes that something is being covered up. Eventually, you realize that time and place is not at all what it seems. The show is coming out this winter. It’s very much in the classic Shyamalan style, so his fans won’t be disappointed. He is an excellent storyteller.
“I try to stay in the moment… This is the secret to living a happy life”
RL: What’s next after you wrap up “Wayward Pines”?
MD: Well, I’m currently finishing up a documentary about Cuban music. Specifically, it’s about a guy whose name was El Gran Fellove, a Cuban scat singer who moved to Mexico City. It deals with the influence of American music on Cuban music, specifcally the “feeling movement” which was inspired by people listening to old American jazz records in Cuba. It’s really exciting as music is very important to me. I play congas with some Puerto Rican and Cuban guys here in New York, so that helps me stay connected, even though I’m not particularly good!
RL: Looking back over your threedecade career, what do you regard as your biggest achievement?
MD: I regard writing and directing “City of Ghosts” as a particularly big deal for me personally. But then, there are those career surprises like the movie “Factotum,” in which I played a fictional alter ego of Charles Bukowski. Bukowski was a Skid Row alcoholic poet from Los Angeles and while I loved his books because they were so funny, I never thought I would play his alter ego. Predictably, it’s a pretty out-there picture with some very debauched stuff going on. There are some scenes that I can’t believe I pulled off! Otherwise, I look at movies I’ve done like “Herbie: Fully Loaded,” a comedy I never thought I’d do that I really enjoyed, so what can I tell you! Someone once told me that “Crash” was going to win Best Picture and while I knew it was a good movie, I never thought it would win. So basically, it’s these surprises in my career that I really treasure.
RL: Last but not least, any words to live by?
MD: I try not to worry about things I have no control of and I try to stay in the moment. I really think this is the secret to living a happy life. I remember I was talking to some crazy guy in a coffee shop in Los Angeles and he said, “Never try to own anyone, and never bet your ass on someone else’s opinion.” And I said to him, “What do you mean by that last one?” He replied, “Everybody is going to have their own opinions, but you can’t allow them to dominate your own life. Live your own life, nobody else’s, and be responsible for your own happiness.” A friend of mine used to say, “The center of the universe is a very crowded place; people are so caught up in their own world.” So, I believe we have to constantly remind ourselves to do what we can to make it slightly better.
“Live your own life, nobody else’s, and be responsible for your own happiness”
Photographer: Mitchell Nguyen Mccormack
Stylist: William Graper
Grooming: Asia Geiger @ The Celestine Agency
Styling Assistant: Claudia Torres
Location: Yotel New York (yotelnewyork.com)
Special thanks to Jennifer Williams
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