Ahoy, squirts! Quint here with the last of my catch-up Cabin in the Woods interviews. If you’re going to go out on one conversation, why shouldn’t that chat be with Richard Jenkins?
I remember first registering Jenkins as a screen presence with his dryly hilarious turn as the bored (and closeted) psychiatrist in There’s Something About Mary and have been a big fan ever since.
We talk a lot about how he was brought into the fold by Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard, how much he loves Drew as a director and how interesting it was to be playing a character like Sitterson, a blue collar guy whose action appear evil, but in reality he’s anything but.
It’s a fun chat, and I even ask him who the hell “Kevin” was. Enjoy!
Quint: Do you remember receiving the script for Cabin in the Woods? Do you remember your initial reaction to reading the script?
Richard Jenkins: I read it once and said, “Yes, I’m in.” I didn’t want it, but my agent called me about it. I thought it would be beyond my age group. But I had done Let Me In, which I loved, but (my agent) said “You should read this. It’s Joss Whedon, you should read it.” So, I did and the next day I was in. It was so clever.
Quint: What I love about the whole “office” aspect of the film is that even in another heady/meta film your character would just be another bad guy because you’re murdering these kids that we’re supposed to care for, but as the movie develops the clearer it becomes that you guys are kind of the unsung heroes of the movie.
Richard Jenkins: Well, we have to save the world every year.
Quint: And you would have gotten away with it too if it wasn’t for these meddling kids!
Richard Jenkins: That never occurred to me, that we were the bad guys. Ever. If you think about it, what their job was, it was incredibly noble. It had to be done. Not like an executioner, it’s not the same. This truly was saving the world.
You know what I loved about it, I have to say… when I think back on it, I loved that first scene when I read it because I loved the way the exposition was put in the movie. All you knew was this guy was trying to put kid locks everywhere in his house. These were two guys that live a life just like everybody else and I just loved that. All the way through. I loved the fact that they had an office pool. I mean, oh my gosh. So smart.
Quint: There’s got to be some sort of release for these guys. Saving the world or not, at the end of the day they still have to know they’re making decisions that are killing people. If you ever talk to guys in the army there is always this dark sense of humor that comes into play. That gallows humor aspect was really smart.
Richard Jenkins: You have to deal with it that way. You do get hardened, you get a little immune to it that’s why there are a couple of moments of watching these kids and being really impressed with their grit and it’s kind of nice.
Quint: Impressed by their grit… and by their boobs.
Richard Jenkins: (laughs) I think they see that every year, but I don’t think it ever gets tiring.
Quint: Talking about that scene in particular, another thing that I really like about this movie is that it would have been so easy to indict the audience of these kinds of films by putting in that voyeuristic aspect, but when it all unfolds it’s quite clear the filmmakers aren’t judging the audience. If they had I think the same audience that loves them now would hate their guts. A lot of the reason why it doesn’t feel that way is your relationship with Bradley’s character. Was there any secret to developing that relationship onscreen?
Richard Jenkins: We hit it off immediately. He’s a hard guy not to like. We had fun immediately. It was a good pairing. It was one of those things where it was a good vibe from the beginning. Drew watches. He’s one of these directors that really watch. He’s not looking for something specific as much as he is just watching what you do and feeding off of that and then he’ll get an idea or something else will come up.
It was great fun and I’d love work with him again. I think he’s got a huge future. No pressure, Drew, about your next project! (laughs) I didn’t mean it like that. I just meant I had a ball working with him. Joss did all the second unit stuff, so Bradley and I and Amy Acker worked with Drew through the whole time. I can’t say how talented I think he is. He’s really got a great future.
Quint: Did he rehearse with you guys much?
Richard Jenkins: No. It’s hard to rehearse until you see all that stuff. No, we didn’t rehearse. We figured it out as we went along, but he knew what the movie was. He knew where he wanted to go, he knew who these guys were. He hired us to bring what we bring. It’s a great way to work. You feel free, but at the same time it’s still the director’s film.
Quint: Did they shoot the stuff with the kids first so that you were able to react off of that?
Richard Jenkins: Yeah, they shot most of the stuff with the kids first so we could see it on the screen. That’s why they did that, so we could watch it.
Quint: That must have made a huge difference for you in your performance.
Richard Jenkins: Well, that scene where that young girl is being thrown on the dock… she hits the wood and bounces about four times and we’re having an office party right in the middle of it. It’s just so smart.
Quint: So, on the dry erase board where your character is keeping track of the office pool there’s a list of monsters and among that list is the name Kevin. Do you know who or what Kevin is?
Richard Jenkins: I think they did and I don’t remember. Did you ask Drew?
Quint: No, I didn’t. I hadn’t developed my borderline obsession with finding out who that is until after that interview.
Richard Jenkins: There was an intern… wasn’t it Kevin the Intern who won the pool? I don’t know why, but I think his name was Kevin. You should have asked Drew! (laughs)
Quint: How did Drew work with you specifically that made you enjoy the process so much?
Richard Jenkins: He’s interested in what you bring. I think that it’s so important for an actor, for me anyway, to be able to relax and find things and let things happen and not feel this pressure to be something specific all the time. It’s uninteresting. He was never precious about his script, about his take on the movie, about our performances. He was always open and some of that great stuff you see in there is because of that. He allows you to do your work. He’s encouraging and about as smart as they come.
And I’ll tell ya’, when I saw the movie the way the two of them put it together is just mind-blowing. You know what you did and you saw what he kept, what he didn’t keep and why he kept it… it was really smart. Gosh, that’s the word I keep going back to, but it’s true. That’s Drew. You know Joss and how smart he is and the two of them together… I mean, hello!
Quint: When you’re doing a genre project, it could easily go too far one way or the other and turn schlocky. I imagine you felt protected as an actor with these guys around who were so mindful of both the story and the genre you were playing in.
Richard Jenkins: I can’t imagine anybody who is as steeped in this genre. Thank goodness for them because I was at sea about it. I mean, I got it, I understood it, but they were making references to stuff and I was like “What? Somebody explain this to me.”
Quint: One of those bits I liked the most was the cutaway to the Japanese division… if you’ve watched any amount of J-horror that was one of the funniest, most right on the nose moments of the movie.
Richard Jenkins: I know! There were a lot of those deals in the movie. Drew and Joss said, “If we could film any movie we could, what would it be?” and in three days they wrote Cabin in the Woods and MGM said, “Okay, let’s make it.” That’s kind of what it was.
Quint: You worked recently with Chris McQuarrie, on Jack Reacher. I’m a big fan of Way of the Gun and am excited he’s finally getting behind the camera again. I’m curious as to what your impressions of him were.
Richard Jenkins: I’d work with him again in a heartbeat. He’s a smart guy. Same thing, he lets you do your work. He watches. He’s not precious, he likes to see what you bring, yet you have to trust the guy. You have to trust when they say, “I don’t think so.” Chris is a smart guy and a lot of fun. As an actor you can’t ask for anything more.
Quint: I think that’s all I’ve got for you today. Thanks so much for taking the time to talk to me.
Richard Jenkins: It was my pleasure, man.
And that wraps up my Cabin in the Woods interviews, thank Christ. So, I’ve got a few more catch up pieces to run from other travels/craziness, but also look for my Frankenweenie interviews with the great Martin Landau and the lovely Winona Ryder.