This week we are joined by legendary actor Robert Forster. Robert has been a working actor for decades, appearing in a classic film like Medium Cool, the iconic John Huston’s Reflections in a Golden Eye, 80’s action classic Delta Force (love me a good 80’s action flix) and Disney’s The Black Hole (one of my favorite films growing up).
He was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor in 1997 for Quentin Tarantino’s Jackie Brown, which he credits with reviving his career. Since then Robert has been on fire in the second half of his career, appearing in The Descendants, Like Mike; Mulholland Drive; Me, Myself, & Irene; Lucky Number Slevin and Firewall, just to name a few.
I also have to mention his runs on NBC’s HEROS (I have high hopes for the reboot) and arguably the GREATEST TELEVISION SHOW EVER WRITTEN Breaking Bad. He just nails those last two episodes as Walt’s relocation/make me disappear guy. Just amazing. As you can tell I’m a big fan of Robert’s.
I had the honor of working with Robert on one of my films, Red Princess Blues. He supplied some remarkable narration that set up my film perfectly. He was easily one of the most professional and talented actors I have ever worked with; a professional of the greatest caliber.
In our interview, he dishes out amazing advice to young actors, directors and human beings alike. He even tells us his favorite Quentin Tarantino on the set direction he got on the set of Jackie Brown; worth it’s waiting in gold.
Alex Ferrari 0:05
Today I'm really excited about the show guys, we have Oscar nominee and legendary actor Robert Forster. On the show today, you might know him from Quentin Tarantino's Jackie Brown where he was when he got the Oscar nomination. And more recently, he's done films like the descendants of Olympus Has Fallen, Mulholland Drive, and then Delta Force back in the day and the classic Disney's black hole, which I saw when I was growing up as a kid, it was a real thrill and privilege to work with him on one of my films, red princess blues, where he came in to do some video for me, he was amazing. So I decided to sit down with him and do a real quick interview after our session. And he threw a lot of gems out there for actors, for directors, and even disclosed his favorite direction that Quentin Tarantino Tarantino gave him while shooting Jackie Brown, which was wonderful. So sit back, relax and enjoy the interview.
So over the years, when you look at projects, what attracts you to to the film?
Robert Forster 2:03
You know, basically, it's a job in hand, somebody hands you something and says this needs to be done. Once you realize that you can deliver the goods, you say yes. And then you go in there, and you get a chance to hit the ball over the fence if possible. And sometimes you do. And this is a great day. That's what actors lives are composed of a string of interesting days where you get a chance to be creative.
So out of all the projects you've done of all the films you've been what's been the most memorable or rewarding for you.
Robert Forster 2:38
Boy, that's a hard one because they're all pretty good. Like I say, when I was young, my mother sent me a book called White hyacinths at the beginning of the book, it said, If I had bought two loaves of bread, I would sell one of them to buy white highest and to feed my soul. Now from that I understood that life had a spiritual component and that you had to feed it, the end of the book, which is a series of essays about work and delivering your best and other such you know, lofty things. At the end of the book, the very last thing that said was, and the reward which life holds out for work, is not ease or rest or immunity from work, but increased capacity, greater difficulty and more work. And I thought, Oh, God, I hope not. I was a pretty, pretty lazy guy when I was young and was hoping that I could get through, you know, easy in life. Then I became an actor and I realized how important a day's work is to an actor. So when he asked me what was most memorable, the last thing I did was pretty memorable, which is this you know, you spent I spent some hours I looked at it last night, I read it a couple of days ago, I spent an hour here today just looking it over and reading it and asking myself now what can you get out of this, that that was meant, and then bring your audience into a little a little, a little life a little, a little story, bring them to somewhere else? And then you go in there and like right now and you take a few shots at it and and you know, it's not magic. You put down what the guy said and and it generally works.
So what advice would you offer aspiring actors.
Robert Forster 4:28
Never forget that there are this many of us. And this many jobs, it's not a mystery. It's very, very hard to get work. But when you do get work and you do have a creative job to put your energies to, it's one of the great things and when you don't have that in the day, you put your best energy to whatever else is in the day because it's a day of infinite number of possibilities of doing good or less good if you choose to. But when you do do your best, I remind that actors, you get that reward, they always tell you, you're going to get reward of self respect, reward of satisfaction. And if you were looking for what constitutes the good constitutes good life, self respect and satisfaction are big components in that. So whether or not you're dealing with something that's creative, or whether you make something creative out of going to get the groceries, you are in charge. And that's what I remind actors, whether or not you have something to work on, you got a whole day's full of things to make better.
What, um, of all the directors you've worked with, and you've worked with some incredible ones. What do you like in a good director? What do you want in a good director as an actor?
Robert Forster 5:43
A guy who knows a good take when he sees one? And can say, Yep, that's good. Now, you know, once you know, somebody recognizes a good one, you know, you're not dealing with somebody who is just shooting it, and shooting and shooting and shooting and just to see what somebody else will tell them is any good. That's what this like being a cook, you want to cook to have a good taster to know what tastes good, he doesn't have to ask somebody else. And they have to ask the the the the customer or the waiter? Does it taste any good? No, the chef is supposed to know whether it tastes any good. That's what you're hoping for, in a director, somebody who can recognize a good take and say, Good one, let's move on. Especially if you don't have much time, which young directors rarely do older directors with lots of money can take it, you know, at times if they want to. But young guys got to be able to find a good one and move on.
What advice would you give to younger?
Robert Forster 6:41
Well, you know, know the thing as well as some of your actors are going to know it because the act is going to come in knowing his material pretty well. I never met an actor who didn't work real hard at showing up prepared. Some do I imagine but not many. And so the actor will come in with a with a deep reasonably deep understanding of what he's doing some exercise and and you want to know the material as well as they do. So that you can you know, be helpful to them or at the say and the other extreme is what john Houston said, which is casting is 90% once you cast the right person, all you got to do is step aside, let them figure it out. Because you know, the actor is always trying to make something real out of what's going on and hopefully getting the best they can out of the material. So you got a willing partner in the actor and and when they're good. Do you give them a little little space? And if they're not you shape them up a little bit?
Do you have any interesting memories of working with any of the directors over the years and the films any anecdotes or stories?
Robert Forster 7:58
Well refine it a little little a little bit like the black hole, the black hole, I'm not sure I have any real good insights but that was the longest steady job I ever had six months exactly to the day 26 weeks from seven in the morning till sprint outerspace that would make it Disney studio in a soundstage. So only said my life. So they talked about. Well, sure. I you know, it was a remake of a favorite mine. It was actually a Jules Verne movie called 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, but they put it out in space. So they called the black hole. And I think they're remaking I hear that remake. Hey,
Now I had the great pleasure of job shadowing Quentin Tarantino on the set of Inglorious Basterds to learn from him as an actor. Yeah, what was your experience like working with him on Jackie Brown?
Robert Forster 8:59
Rarely do writers write such good dialogues. So you know, learning dialogue, I take the material and then I close the book and then I try to remember and visualize and internalize the speech. And then I try to say it as though I might be saying that to somebody and dissolve private and quiet when you're all alone, doing your work. And then I would go back to the, to the script to find out how we actually wrote it. And there were so many times when I might just try to voice a thought, because Don't forget, lines got to come out of your mouth away thoughts come out of your mouth. Can't be I remember the line and this is how I want to say it. It's got to be a thought. If you can make it that way and, and he can really articulate a thought on on paper, the way you might actually say it and you know it with little shorthand word couplings and the guy is very, very, very good. So that's one The great things about Quentin, then also he was, you know, helpful and encouraging, and maybe his very best direction that I ever heard him give. And I heard him give it a number of times to a number of people, including me. And he said, occasionally to an actor, just make me believe it. Well, let's remember, that's what the act is got to do make you believe it. So we can't be reciting words, he's got to be making you the other actor. And incidentally, the camera and the audience that may be watching, believe what's going on, if you can make them believe it, you can hold on. That's what's so good about documentary. And what appealed to me about making my work as believable as I could. So that it would be what documentary was, and that is, hold them hold their attention, because they believed, if you watch, you know, documentary, where you think you're being led into a world where they don't recognize they don't realize you're right there. Ah, that can that can hold you. And I've seen some great documentaries. And so that's one of the things I always hope for myself, and that, as I say, Quentin, asked actors to remember, just make me believe it.
Looking back over your career, what? Do you have any regrets? And do you have anything that you're that you're really most proud of? Or anything that you regret over your long career?
Robert Forster 11:28
You know, all regrets, I have very few of those. You make your choices, you do what you do? You know, I would have done things differently if I had the foresight. But but but now you you you make you take your steps and and you go along with them, you never know what would have been if you'd made the other choice. So there's no, there's no making regrets. You just deal with as well as you can with what you've got facing you.
Well, then my final question then sounds off of that. Do you have a philosophy on life? And if so, what what is it?
Robert Forster 12:07
Um, you know, I was born on the 13th of July, which was yesterday. I knew as a young kid, that 13 was a great number. When I was eight or nine, some kids said to me, 13 is bad number. I thought they were full of baloney. He said, Well, yeah, well, take a look the next time you're on an elevator and see if it has a 13th floor. And sure enough, it did not. And from that, I knew that there were people who believed in things that were not true. 13 is a perfectly good number. And they believed and made decisions. And a mistaken belief that of course, we know that is superstition. There are so many so many so many things that people believe that are not true. And so from a young age, I asked myself to try to fathom out what was true. Because if you can make choices based on what is true, then your chances of making good choices and good decisions are improved. And so what is my philosophy on life? See if you can find out what is true by starting with, of course, the big questions which people are welcome to ask themselves at any point. Why am I alive? Where do I go when I die? Is there God? I need to be a man. What's a husband? I think be an artist, what's a father? These are the big questions and they're probably other ones. So in a lifetime, and we know what Socrates, I think, said the unexamined life is not worth living. I heard that early on. And I thought that that is another true thing. So examine your life and keep wondering whether or not you've got a good line in what you're doing. And whenever you can, on a daily basis, deliver the best you can do what you're doing, because that gives you a test set at a while ago that gives you the best shot at the best future you've got coming. It gives you self respect. And there is satisfaction in delivering your best to whatever you're doing right now.
Alex Ferrari 14:28
Hey guys, thanks again for listening to episode number two. We'll have new episodes coming out every few weeks going forward. I hope you got a lot out of that interview. Robert was probably the one of the most professional actors I've ever worked with. I mean, we were doing a short film. And he showed up like it was a quote and Tarantino movie, you know, or you know, $100 million movie, he showed up with his a game and he gave it his all. It doesn't even matter what kind of Prop Magic that is he just came in and did his his thing. And I was so impressed, and so humbled to work with him. So remember to head over to indie film hustle calm for all the latest articles and resources that we're adding there almost every day or every few days. So check that out. And also if you want to stop paying submission fees, to film festivals, head over to filmfestivaltips.com that's FilmFestivaltips.com, and I will see you guys next time. Thanks.
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