Capone does a double take talking to Dominic Cooper about THE DEVIL'S DOUBLE, CAPTAIN AMERICA, and ABRAHAM LINCOLN: VAMPIRE HUNTER!!!
Hey everyone. Capone in Chicago here.
Actor Dominic Cooper has done some solid work over the years in everything from a small role in "Band of Brothers" to THE HISTORY BOYS, STARTER FOR 10, THE DUTCHESS, AN EDUCATION, TAMARA DREWE, and most recently as Howard Stark in CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER. But for many of his roles (especially in MAMMA MIA!), he's been able to make significant jumps in his career based largely on his good looks.
In my estimation, THE DEVIL'S DOUBLE changes all of that for Cooper. In it, he plays two roles, one is Latif Yahia of a morally functional member of the Iraqi military and the other is Uday Hussein, a maniac, sexual deviant, and tormenter of his people. And at many points during the film, he must play Latif pretending to be Uday, since one is the other man's body double. It's a troubling, swirling film with this extraordinary set of performances at its center.
I had a chance to sit down with Cooper at Comic-Con recently, and unlike many Comic-Con interviews, I actually got to see the film we were there to talk about a couple days before our talk. Usually at Comic-Con, you interview actors and directors about work you haven't even seen footage from, let alone the finished film. Cooper was a genuinely nice guy who shed a lot of light on the characters he played and how he managed to get through playing Uday unscathed. Please enjoy Dominic Coooper…
Capone: So, holy crap, what an awesome movie. We saw it two days ago, just before the Con kicked into full gear.
Dominic Cooper: Oh cool. I’m glad.
Capone: I knew what it was about, but I didn’t know it was going to be quite so propulsive. It never lets up.
DC: Yeah, I know. [Laughs]
Capone: And it might be some of the best double-acting effects that I’ve ever seen too, it’s sort of seamless.
DC: It was made so chaotically, as well.
Capone: Yeah, tell me just about creating the personalities. First of all, this is a true-ish story?
DC: [Laughs] It is. Latif Yahia’s book about his life when he was thrown into that, pulled from the frontline to go and meet with Saddam and his son, who he remembers from school, this is all… Who knows what’s true and what’s not true and actually it doesn’t really matter, because you go, “This is such an incredible story, let’s take it, use what we need from it, have as much artistic license as possible, and make it into a gangster film.” It never set out to be a kind of historically accurate, descriptive detailed account of them or that time or that regime. But I was just kind of blown away by the story of being put in that position. It begs so many questions about how this man had to become an actor, there’s almost three characters in that the third is Latif trying to impersonate Uday, and the story itself and meeting the man, Latif…
Capone: You did meet him then?
DC: Yeah, I met him and spent some time with him at the beginning, but then I think once Lee [Tamahori, the director] and myself felt in the same way that it shouldn’t be a representation of that man, which gave me a massive amount of freedom. It also gave me the ability to be much more diverse with the characterizations, because the main thing was I had to separate, because the moment the audience doesn’t know who they are watching, it becomes blurred and it wouldn't work, and I hope that that’s what has been achieved.
Capone: I think you definitely did. Tell me about when you put in those teeth and you look at yourself in the mirror, does that inform you? Is that what does it?
DC: Yeah, the teeth were incredible.
Capone: And that awful voice.
DC: I went back to really basic ideas when I worked with Lee, which was “Let’s make them physically very different.” One guy takes up a very huge amount of space in rooms, he doesn’t care what anyone thinks and he’s in charge of everyone, and no one says a word against him. The other man is a solider, much more still, considerate, voyeuristic, listens, takes everything in. His pace is totally different.
Capone: He has a morality too.
DC: Yeah and has a morality. Then the voice kind of came as well, and I was like “How about one has a high register and one has a baritone voice?” If this was accurate, that’s not true of either of the men.
Capone: I was going to ask, is there any basis for Uday's voice sounding like that?
Capone: But it’s more cartoonish.
DC: It’s more cartoonish, and the laugh, the laugh was incredible for me, an incredible realization, because it was done in a scene… It came out of me in a scene that wasn’t meant to be in the film, which was the boxing scene which led into a shower scene. Now before that, the scene was supposed to be of them racing Porsches together, they were racing Porsches through the desert and competing. It was a great scene, I loved it, almost the reason I did the movie [laughs]. But they were boxing and then in the shower scene afterwards, suddenly this cackle came out, and I thought “That’s him, I’ve certainly got an idea of who he was.” Also his ability to laugh, so he has humor through this sick rampage of killing.
Capone: It's like a hyena laugh, like that’s what it is that makes perfect sense. He’s that kind of instinctual, predatory animal.
DC: Yeah, exactly. And the teeth were amazing, because they changed the shape of my mouth and therefore changed… That immediately made me inhabit him, and often I hear actors say “The moment I put the shoes on I felt like I was in his shoes.” That sounds a bit ridiculous, but fair enough. But it was really that moment for me when I realized what other actors had said in the past.
Capone: Yeah, is it sort of secretly or maybe not so secretly every actor’s fantasy to act against himself or herself? Is that kind of like the actor’s ultimate ego trip?
DC: [laughs] Probably, but no it’s not good. In fact if you’re an actor, it’s bad in every way, because you don’t have the ability to respond and react to someone else, which is the beauty of acting really and developing a scene, and a scene sort of evolving and creating while you are in the space together, so I didn’t have that.
Capone: So Lee didn’t have somebody else there?
DC: He did, but that was sometimes more unhelpful. I could have that, but actually it wasn’t good, because what his job description was was to impersonate what I had already done, so I would film as Uday, and then he would watch that performance and then he would impersonate me. Not impersonate I should say, but trying to do it as neutrally as possible, and it would be more off putting that if I just remembered my performance and had an ear piece with the dialogue, that was kind of occasionally more useful.
Capone: You actually have a movie that came out today, by the way.
DC: [laughs] Oh yeah, of course.
Capone: Can you talk just a little bit as you’re the third actor in three movies to play Howard Stark. Your character is kind of the catalyst for this whole Marvel universe.
DC: Yeah, I felt so privileged to be part of it really, and I went through the auditioning process and everything and I met the guys, and it’s very wonderful when you speak to anyone who’s that passionate about the job that they do and it’s completely absorbing. I don’t come from that background, I didn’t grow up with comics, I don’t know much about them. So I felt terribly guilty about how I just didn’t, and yet when you talked to them, that passion for the comics and their knowledge of every character and what happened where is really wonderful and really incredible.
Capone: And just slightly terrifying.
DC: And slightly terrifying yeah, but I loved it. It’s a very, very different process from THE DEVIL’S DOUBLE, couldn’t have been more different from a job.
Capone: Then you obviously have a very key role in ABRAHAM LINCOLN: VAMPIRE HUNTER, tell me about that character, because you play a vampire.
DC: It’s good, he became more and more confused actually, that vampire, because he’s out to help and to teach and to train. It becomes more and more apparent that it’s actually more about revenge for him, and I love the whole idea of that show, and the name is so ludicrous and yet I was compelled to read it thinking “What?” Then the combination of the story, the action, and the history of Lincoln, the mind of Tim Burton who’s producing, and vampires. It’s a fantastic kind of combination, I think.
Capone: And you are also in MY WEEK WITH MARILYN with Michelle Williams. Who do you play in that?
DC: I play Milton Greene who was her photographer and confidante and became kind of her business manager. He was the first guy to set up a limited company under her name to try to stop the studio system from taking her money basically. Actually, he turned out to be a bit of a bad egg as well. It’s a really incredible story of just a snapshot of her life, and I’m quite intrigued by her as an icon, because people of my generation and younger know that image of her and who she is, but actually a majority of them don’t know any of her work, and to find out who the real Marilyn was is incredible and Michelle is absolutely incredible.
Capone: When I saw the photo they released, I thought it was just a Marilyn Monroe picture.
DC: Yeah, she’s going to be wonderful.
Capone: I saw a couple of people here that you’ve worked with. Carey Mulligan [from AN EDUCATION] was here with DRIVE, which is an awesome movie
DC: Yeah, I'm really excited to see that.
Capone: And Rupert Wyatt [who directed Cooper in THE ESCAPIST] is here with PLANET OF THE APES.
DC: Rupert’s here? How’s PLANET OF THE APES?
Capone: I haven’t seen the film yet, but the footage I’ve seen is incredible. So do you have anything else coming up beyond the things we discussed?
DC: That’s the last stuff, and then yeah I’ve just got to find a job.
Capone: You do seem like the hardest workingman in show business right now.
DC: Yeah, I don’t know.
Capone: Back to DEVIL’S DOUBLE, were you hesitant to take a role of someone just like Uday? Just to even inhabit a person like him?
DC: Sometimes. The more I researched him and the more I found out about him the more… I was so horrified by the man himself and the thought of looking through his eyes for that amount of time, it was a bit daunting. But the relief of being able to play Latif alongside it I think was a really healthy option, because just being that manic all of the time would have probably sent me over the edge.
Capone: The scenes where he’s grabbing up kids off the street. I’ve never seen anything like that before in a film like this.
DC: Yeah, it’s awful, horrible.
Capone: Or the wedding scene. I mean, there are so many horrific moments to choose from. I just wonder, does that take its toll?
DC: It does actually. The wedding scene was just… You’re going “How did this man function?” That was the difficulty really for me was to understand… You have to have some emotional connection on some level with the person in which you are playing and you have to know how they function, how they operate. With him, I couldn’t sympathize or understand. There was no reason behind any of his sadistic behavior, he was just repulsive, and so I had to find something that maybe was tangible, something that I could think, “Maybe that’s why he behaved in that way.” If you look at the sons of dictators, there’s a desperation to be noticed, he was never noticed. He was never…
Capone: It’s a contest for them. “Let’s see who can act up the most to get noticed.”
DC: And he loved his mother and he was exposed to torturous scenes when he was four years old. So you can understand for a moment why he became the man that he did, not that it was any excusing it, but at least it was a key for me to look through his eyes.
Capone: I’ve heard some actors say that a lot of times they're looking for roles that scare them a little, that just scare them to think that maybe they can’t do it, and that inspires them to try their best.
DC: I think it’s always the best. The best working actors tend to do the stuff that scares them.
Capone: I can’t imagine you weren’t a little scared to play this guy.
DC: I was never daunted politically,. I wasn’t worried about the repercussions, because that regime is dead and it’s not really a take on that. It’s not opinionated.
Capone: And it’s not a comment on the Iraq people either. Thank you so much for talking to us.
Capone: It was really great to meet you, and great work on this.
DC: Thank you very much.
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Aug. 5, 2011, 12:23 p.m. CST
Aug. 5, 2011, 12:23 p.m. CST
Aug. 5, 2011, 12:24 p.m. CST
Aug. 5, 2011, 12:33 p.m. CST
I think it looks super good. The middle east Scarface.
Aug. 5, 2011, 12:40 p.m. CST
Can they make him into some kind of Doc Savage scientist/adventurer and give him his own flick? He rocks.
Aug. 5, 2011, 1:50 p.m. CST
And where the hell is my Magnus, Robot Fighter movie????
Aug. 5, 2011, 1:50 p.m. CST
Whats more terrifying than a vampire? Easy, Sharks. And who is a greater historical figure than Lincolin? Thats right, bitches...its General George Armstrong Custer! And my concept that will shake the very foundations of all we hold sacred? Its a movie I call "GEN. GEORGE ARMSTRONG CUSTER: GREAT WHITE VAMPIRE SHARK HUNTER! Imagine witnessing the horror of seeing a woman covered head to toe in a 30lb bathing suit that doubles as an evening dress being attacked by a monsterous 30ft Great White Shark! Sure, we know what happens next: It tears her apart, right. (Yawn. Been there, done that.). No, to the horror of the audience, the beast sinks two walrus tusk sized fangs into her neck and begins to suck...her...BLOOD! Before the audience is given time to pass out at the unbelievable horror they are witnessing, a fair haired man in uniform riding on the back of a swimming horse comes to the rescue. My God, is that...GENERAL GEORGE ARMSTRONG CUSTER! He pulls out his terrible wooden sabre and thrusts it into the heart of the beast, exclaiming "Die you son of a bitch" and the shark explodes in a orgy of blood and guts. Thats just a taste, Mr.Hollywood Producer Guy. I'll start the bidding at $120.00.
Aug. 5, 2011, 1:59 p.m. CST
Combining America's finest actor playing his own badass self hunting pound for pound the most ferocious kill in the animal kingdom next to the giant spider.
Aug. 5, 2011, 2:20 p.m. CST
by Cletus Van Damme
Aug. 5, 2011, 3:01 p.m. CST
really looking forward to devils double..could be a classic
Aug. 5, 2011, 3:05 p.m. CST
Aug. 5, 2011, 3:12 p.m. CST
Aug. 5, 2011, 3:42 p.m. CST
by Cletus Van Damme
Aug. 5, 2011, 4:29 p.m. CST
That just made me lol. Of course that may have had something to do with the fact that everytime I hear his name I think of that fucking lol-cat. DIABEETUS
Aug. 6, 2011, 5:48 a.m. CST
...but nobody gives much of a toss when we get a white Uday Hussein (for a second time, no less (cf. Daniel Mays)), even though he was a real person and therefore his ethnicity can't be "changed" as such, while the others are fictional and so their ethnicity "doesn't matter"?
Aug. 6, 2011, 1:47 p.m. CST
by Orbots Commander
....with horror concepts, and inventing a gonzo title, is originally a publishing fad/gimmick, not a Hollywood thing. I think the first ones I saw on shelves were Jane Austen characters paired with....zombies. Hey, I got one: Dr. Benjamin Franklin Frankenstein.
Aug. 6, 2011, 4:07 p.m. CST
by I Max U Mini
Seth Grahame-Smith, who wrote "Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter" is the same author who wrote "Pride and Prejudice and Zombies".
Aug. 6, 2011, 5:45 p.m. CST
not good at all
Aug. 7, 2011, 9:38 p.m. CST
They could even bring him in as Tony if RDJ ever walks away from the role(like Norton did with The Hulk) and it would be almost seamless.
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