Boondock Saints II: An Interview with Clifton Collins Jr

I was thrilled to have had the opportunity to speak with the very talented and gracious Clifton Collins Jr. recently, as I am a huge fan of his work in both independent and larger scale films.  He is currently starring in The Boondock Saints II: All Saints Day, which opens in wider release this week!

The Boondock Saints debuted in 1999 and garnered an enormous cult following on DVD. Ten years later, writer/director Troy Duffy reunited almost all of the original cast for quite an intense and entertaining sequel. Duffy added Collins and Julie Benz (Dexter) into the mix for the second round, both of whom brought a necessary infusion of levity to the film. 

Jo: I recently watched you and Troy Duffy co-host a segment on Current TV, and it is obvious that the two of you share a great rapport and history. Did he write the role of Romeo in Boondock Saints II specifically for you? What was your experience working on this film?

CCJ:  Troy is incredibly loyal. He did write it for me, and in fact he had to take out some of the jokes that were between us in real life. The whole movie is full of inside jokes, and it was like a family event. I like to rehearse, but Troy is a rogue spirit; he knows what he wants, so you get it and move on. 

Collins and Star Trek director J.J. Abrams have been friends for some time now, and Abrams actually wrote a role for Collins on Alias after seeing him in Traffic

Jo: What was it like to be a part of the incredibly successful, revamped Star Trek franchise?

CCJ: It was awesome. When J.J. called and offered me the role, I asked…what the f*ck is a Romulan? He described the role as a space pirate. A good chunk of the cast were not Trekkies at the time. But I realized the grandeur of it all on the set, and it was an honor to work with icons like Leonard Nimoy. The features on the Blu-ray are so beautiful – they will make you cry. 

Emmy nominated for the mini-series Thief, Collins is a gifted actor and chameleon; he has the unique ability to physically transform from role to role. From an enthusiastic, mulleted murderer in Boondock Saints II to a tattooed, bald headed Romulan in Star Trek, to a gay hit man in Traffic, his range is impressive. In my opinion, his portrayal of haunted serial killer Perry Smith in Capote was sensational and worthy of a Best Supporting Actor nomination. 

Jo: Which role has been the most challenging, in terms of diving into a character entirely?

CCJ: Psychologically, it was Capote. I had to live with Smith every day. I went really, really deep and had a few breakdowns during that one. And for Rampage: The Hillside Strangler, I read biographies (about serial killer Kenneth Bianchi), which made me nauseous and sick; I was mentally twisted.

Jo: You’ve played such diverse characters in each of your films. What type of research do you undertake for each role?

CCJ: For Sunshine Cleaning, I talked to a physical therapist about what someone goes through as an amputee. They filmed me two ways; one with my arm held out wearing a green sleeve, and the other with my arm tied tightly behind my back…which was excruciating but I didn’t let it show on screen. I actually had the most fun with hair and wardrobe on this film. Having Emily Blunt and Amy Adams on either side was quite a reward as well. 

Jo: Your career thus far has been a great balance of both comedic and dramatic roles. Do you prefer one over the other?

CCJ: It depends, and it is case by case. It’s great to mix it up, and both have rewards. I love getting dramatic and also laughing it up. 

Jo: You’ve had the opportunity to work with some incredible actors. Which co-stars have inspired you?

CCJ: I’ve been really blessed. Samuel L. Jackson taught me so much on 187. He has been a father figure and mentor to me. He helped get my grandfather (Pedro Gonzalez Gonzalez, a frequent co-star of John Wayne’s) a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. John Wayne had even tried to help make that happen, and it finally did last year.  

Collins revealed some very interesting tidbits from behind the scenes on some of his films. For example, he auditioned for and really wanted the role of Francisco Flores in Traffic, but the producers had another character in mind for him. John Leguizamo was tapped to play Flores, but had to give it up when Moulin Rouge filming overlapped. Thus, Collins took over and delivered a scene-stealing performance that is easily my favorite of his career thus far. 

His talent and interests expand beyond film and television. Collins recently directed the music videos “Betty Jean” for The Soul of John Black and “The High Cost of Living” for Jamey Johnson

addition to Boondock Saints II, Collins is in the upcoming film Brothers with Tobey Maguire and Jake Gyllenhaal. Catch him in the Mike Judge comedy Extract when it is released on DVD & Blu-ray next month; click here to see Collins preview which appendage his character parts with. And don’t forget to tune into Southland when it returns on its new network (TNT) on January 12, because Collins has just been cast as Regina King’s new partner. 

You’ve heard the term ‘actor’s actor’ used many times before, but I truly believe that Clifton Collins Jr. fits that description. He is humble, hilarious and appreciative; this is a man who respects his craft. I would like to thank him for taking the time to speak with me about Boondock Saints II and his career, and for being one of the most polite, entertaining people I’ve ever had the pleasure of interviewing. 

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The Blu-ray Way

I am sitting on the precipice of an exciting upgrade. In a few short weeks, we will be abandoning our standard DVD player for Blu-ray. Although we own several hundred DVDs, I look forward to adding newer releases to my collection in Blu-ray!  I was a bit concerned but inquired on Twitter, and apparently when you play standard DVDs on a Blu-ray player, they “upconvert” and play at a higher resolution. 

I am encouraged by programs like DVD 2 BLU, which Warner Brothers just unveiled. They are offering consumers the opportunity to upgrade Warner Brothers films on DVD to Blu-ray for a very reasonable fee. This is merely a glimpse of the future of home entertainment, and as a pop culture sponge, it is about time that I hopped on the bandwagon. 

To me, the only real downfall at this point is that I am unable to play a Blu-ray disc on my Mac. I re-watch a great deal of TV on DVD on my laptop, but will not be able to do so with Season 5 of Lost (which I pre-ordered on Blu-ray; it will be released on 12/8/09).  Of course I am hoping that by the time a 6-season Lost box set comes out in the next year or two…Apple will have joined the Blu-ray party.

I have no plans to replace every single DVD on my shelf, but the following films on Blu-ray certainly top my holiday wish list:

  • The Dark Knight
  • Gattaca
  • Inglourious Basterds
  • The Lord of the Rings trilogy
  • The Matrix trilogy
  • Star Trek (2009)
  • V for Vendetta

Which movies do you highly recommend on Blu-ray? 

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North By Northwest

One of AFI’s Top 100 films of all time, North By Northwest is a more than a classic. It was the fourth and final time that Cary Grant collaborated with Alfred Hitchcock, and is easily the most beloved action suspense movie of his impressive oeuvre. 

Watching the 50th Anniversary Edition of newly remastered and restored North By Northwest, which was just released last week on DVD and Blu-ray, I am reminded that they simply do not make films today of that caliber. From the pace to the iconic cinematography (the train, crop plane and Mount Rushmore scenes in particular), this is a beautifully crafted piece of cinematic history. 

I highly recommend that you pick up a copy for yourself or as a holiday gift for a fellow film fan. In addition to screenwriter commentary, there are over 3 hours of special features including two new documentaries, The Master’s Touch: Hitchcock’s Signature Style and North By Northwest: One for the Ages.

As an ad man who stumbles into a spy vs. spy world in North By Northwest, Cary Grant has George Clooney’s looks and charm, combined with Don Draper’s style (Mad Men). Co-starring Eva Marie Saint (On the Waterfront) and James Mason (20,000 Leagues Under the Sea), this is a can’t-miss thriller. 

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