I'm sure I don't have to explain why Alec Baldwin didn't show up at last week's roundtables for Brooklyn Rules, the 1980s mob drama that opened Friday, in which he plays a ruthless Gambino enforcer, but most of the principal cast as well as the director were on hand to discuss the film. Rules stars Freddie Prinze Jr. as a Brooklyn bum who is trying to look out for his two best friends in the neighborhood while courting Mena Suvari's character, an uptown girl who is worried about getting close to a guy who might have mob connections. The film was shot over two and a half years ago but a bad distribution deal kept it sitting on the shelf until things could be worked out for a limited release. Thanks to an actor showing up forty-five minutes late at another junket nearby, Cinematical's intrepid reporter (me) missed the first few interviewees for Rules -- director Michael Corrente was apparently a hoot -- but I was able to sneak into the roundtable room just in time for Prinze and Suvari. Below is a sampling of the numerous questions asked by all the assembled journalists and the answers, so enjoy.

Freddie Prinze Jr.

The film depends a lot on the chemistry of the three friends -- how did you work on establishing that?

FPJ: Michael was very smart -- the director, Michael -- in the regard that, during the rehearsal process, he'd start a conversation casually. He'd start a conversation casually, and be like ... this is the way Michael talks not me ... "Who's the first broad you nailed?" So I would begin to discuss the first woman that I slept with, and you'd start talking about how horrible you were, and it was like ten seconds long and she was like 'what?' and it was really embarrassing ... and then the other guys would start to chime in, and they'd crack jokes on you. Then you'd find out that it was even less with them, and ha ha ha, and then Michael would say "Now read the scene right now!" and we'd just go right into the scene with that same type of energy and that same type of vibe. That really developed a lot of the dialogue and the pace that was required for the scenes that we were gonna do. As far as chemistry, we just lucked out.

Scott and I were confined to a trailer that, I kid you not, was smaller than this table, and he would just chain-smoke and I had a really bad habit of chewing tobacco, and so the door had to be closed because it was cold and so the smoke's in there and we'd watch that one scene in True Romance with Christopher Walken, and we'd do our Walken impressions. His was much better, but my Roger Rabbit was better. And we would watch movies, and Scott and I, we just got along. I guess some of it was that he has a father in this business, I had a father in this, and the sons coming up a chip on their shoulder and then a few years later, 'I don't have a chip on my shoulder, you can just get f*cked!' and then after that it's more like 'I have a chip but I'm dealing with it ...' We both were sort of at the same age, emotionally, so it was very easy for the two of us to bond. Jerry and Mena had the nicer half of the trailer, where they had their own rooms, and it's just hard not to get along with Jerry. I don't know anyone who doesn't like him.

p>Kathleen Turner said 'a movie is a marriage with a guaranteed divorce,' and I've really fought against that for the thirteen years I've been doing this, and she was right as rain. It was so rejected, the amount of love I would put out there, and this is the first film ever where we're still friends ... Jerry and I just played golf. I shot like a 122 and he shot like a 126, and I beat his ass, as bad as I am. We were drunk by the twelfth hole, but we just had a good time. And I speak with Michael all the time, and Terry sent me a picture of his baby. Like, I've never had that. I had it on my show, that's TV and film is very different. It's never worked, ever, and it's not from a lack of effort, it's just never worked. I don't know why.

Do people still relate to you as a kid onscreen, you think?

FPJ: It depends on who I'm with. When you have as much success as I did doing that thing -- playing that guy that ever mother wishes their daughter would date, and she's busy dating a guy who rides a motorcycle -- it's hard for them to invest in anything else. So it's funny -- I pitched myself for this movie years ago, when Griffin Dunne was attached to direct, and he just wasn't having it. He was the audience that wasn't hearing how I grew up. I couldn't even get a meeting with this guy. Fortunately, they got rid of that guy. Their financing fell through. Years later, when Michael was involved, I did get to meet and I remember sitting in that room. It was him and Terry and Rachel Rothman who produced it, and I'm making this passion play and I'm telling them 'I can relate to this guy' and I don't trust them enough to tell them all the reasons why, but I'm saying it was much as I can so they know I'm reaching out. I said 'if you let me read scenes ... I'm not afraid of auditions. If you put my work up against every other guy that comes in here and read, I'm gonna beat em'. It wasn't me being arrogant, I just knew I was supposed to play this part.

I was telling Sarah this when I read the script -- my wife believes in destiny and fate, and I don't -- and she was like 'It's destiny! You're meant to play this role!' And I was like, 'I don't know about that, but I'm f*cking getting this part.' So I went in and I read and I was fortunate enough that I communicated what Terry was wanting to see and what Michael and Rachel were wanting to see and I got the part, and because they took that chance on me, I was willing to do things that many a therapists has tried to pull out of me and failed. I beat em' all. That my wife has tried to pull out of me and I got her too. I re-lived some of that and it was awful and horrible and I didn't feel good, but Michael created the safest environment possible to go through something like that again, which is ... for Scott too. People think Scott has had this sheltered life because he's James Caan's kid -- no. It's just perspective. His environment was different, but it's all about perspective. So it was difficult, but it was something I saw on the screen and I realized that I had never been proud of a movie before. I've said that I've been proud of movies, and I wasn't lying, I was just wrong. I realized what pride was.

We saw it in Tribeca and Sarah and I were walking home and she was kind of choked up and wasn't ready for that scene with Jerry, and just really loved it and she was like 'I've never loved you more in a movie' and I said 'I've never been proud.' I guess. All of a sudden all these things started coming. The feeling was so good. With a film like this, you don't know if its gonna get distribution, you don't know if anyone is ever gonna see it. It's a small movie, and I didn't care. I didn't care. Everything since that screening with like ten people, has been great. Everything's been great.

You and Sarah both recently worked with Alec Baldwin -- did you compare notes?

FPJ: I loved him to death, and I'm not shying away from questions about Alec but I will say that I love him to death. I know a lot of actors that aren't as good as Alec and a lot of actors that aren't at the stature that Alec is at that have never bothered to come to rehearsal, ever, because they got better shit to do. Alec was there every day. I'm a big believer in rehearsal. I give all my rehearsals for free, always have, always will. I try to give two weeks, most people, I'm surprised are happy with one. I'm always the first guy on set and the last guy to leave, and this guy beat me there every day. I would strategically leave early, but he's just been there. He was me, and he knows all my tricks and how I'm gonna get there early, and he's just schooling me. But I loved him.

I've had the pleasure of working with Peter Falk and Ving Rhames and Alec Baldwin and these guys whose work I respect very, very much, and I let them know in a subtle way that I'm willing to be a student if they're willing to be a teacher. And he so wants to be ... I use the word arrogant in the best way possible. He is arrogant enough to be a teacher, and I think you do have to have arrogance to be willing to shape and mold a mind, and he really was willing to do that, and it was near as good as the experience was with Peter Falk. The only reason it wasn't was because I spent more time with Peter. I only had a few scenes with Alec in this ... I would work with this guy any day of the week, any time he wanted, whether it was acting, directing, whether he wrote it ... I don't care. I respect Alec.

We were told about a scene you shot in the rain on the roof with Mena -- maybe talk about the working conditions, and how it affected chemistry.

FPJ: It was funny, Mena and I had a different kind of chemistry than I've ever had with anyone else. There was something comfortable right away. Usually when I step forward to a girl, they step backwards, and that's kind of the natural ebb and flow to a scene. And I stepped forward to Mena and she stepped forward to me and I kind of like, stepped backwards. There was just this comfort level -- the first scene we had to do together was a scene in bed. She just nuzzled right in and fit perfectly right into my chest and we just kind of looked at each other and did the scene and the scene became much quieter than it was in rehearsals, and she looked like Bridgette Bardot, like possessing her. It was weird, we had this wonderful chemistry, and then the last scene we did together was on the roof, and so we already had this comfort and protection and all you want to do is hold her and keep her warm ... when we did that scene, even though it was in the rain, a couple of lines changed and some of the attitudes changed, but there was just this comfort level that I haven't ever had ... and I've had chemistry with other actresses before. I've only not had chemistry once, and it was zero chemistry ... but other than that, I've always had it. I don't want to say it was better, but it was.

Mena Suvari

Talk about how you got involved in this project, originally.

MS: I read the script, and we did the film like three, several years ago, but it worked out where I loved the script and I was a fan of Michael Corrente's and Terence's and I was here for a couple of days and I got the opportunity to meet with him and I told him I loved him and wanted to be a part of it, and it just worked out, and I had worked with Scott before. But it just worked out. Freddie and Michael had been working together for a long time, trying to get this made, and I'm just very happy. We were so passionate about it, and really happy to come together and make it work. There was no drama whatsoever.

Your character and Freddie's character come from such different worlds -- what do you think draws them together?

MS: I think it's just that. With Ellen, she's somewhat well-off and goes to Columbia, and ... she admires him, and starts to like him and I think it's just that. The opposites attract. She's onto him and she sees through that. She sees him for who he really is, and I think she also sees a lot of potential in him and believes in him. I think it's that kind of opposites attract, and it's exciting to her. She knows that he's a little bit more mysterious and possibly dangerous than the guys she's around all the time.

Talk about the big fight scene in the diner.

MS: They did their stunts very well. It looked very good. I'm sure the guys loved it, right? 'Fight! Yeah, get into it!' And us girls are like 'No!" Especially for Ellen, we really had to play that up because that really had to be the moment for her where it's a big slap in the face, because she's going out with these guys and she's never in her life even heard of something like that, so its so alien to her and it really turns her off. It's a big turning point for them, but that's what I mean about them complimenting each other in a way. They can kind of teach one another and grow together.

Are you into mob movies and mob culture yourself?

MS: A little bit, yeah, definitely. I have that interest, just the same as a lot of people do. I'm a huge fan of Sopranos. I don't know why. Everybody's been asking me that all day today. For some reason there's definitely like an American fascination with blood and gore and violence and the mob and power, that sort of thing.

The director seems like a lively guy -- was he like that on set?

MS: He's an animated guy, man. Michael's awesome. That's what you want. You want somebody who is passionate and vivacious. When I worked with Tony Scott, come on ... he's got a megaphone and he's on the set yelling at everybody ... but I loved that. Tony would come up to me when I was working on Domino and he would literally jump up and down and yell at me, trying to get me into this zone, but that's great ... you want somebody who is really in it with you. Michael was really there, and he was passionate about it and he wants it. You want to feel like you're in good hands.

Do you have any other ambitions besides acting?

MS: [Sarcastic] No ...[laughs] I actually did a film called Stuck with Stuart Gordon last year that I produced, so that will be coming out this year. So yeah, I'm open-minded. I'm not pushing anything right now, we'll just see what happens. As far as directing ... I don't want to do something just because I can do it. It would mean more to me if I could really be respected for what I do. I don't want to just take advantage of some opportunity. I'd want to do it right ... With the producing, I like being involved, I like being involved in the process. I think it comes naturally if I'm really passionate about something, so we'll see.

You were on Six Feet Under -- would you want to do more TV in the future?

MS: It would be about the material. That's the thing. I don't want to put too much of a dividing line between TV and studio and independent ... I don't work like that. It's about the material, the content. That's the work that I do. The acting. That's the way I see things. I don't wanna pass on something or judge something based on whether it has money. [TV] is a very different process, you know, and it's seen differently, the same way studio is seen versus independent. But I don't want to justify that viewpoint, because that's what I'm trying to promote -- the creative aspect in this industry. It's not just a business. There needs to be more emphasis put on that, and not just about ... everything's about money now. What movie gets released and put where ... it's losing the craft of it all, the creativity and the reason why we're doing this.

Are you keen to work with your American Beauty director Sam Mendes again?

MS: I would love to. Now I'm getting to a point -- I've been doing this about fourteen years, and you start to work with the same people -- all of that is really fun, it's cool. I'd love to.

Did they cut down your part in Factory Girl?

MS: They took a couple things out, but there were so many cameos in that movie that were taken fully out ... they weren't in the movie. They had me come in and shoot some extra footage that didn't go in there. Richie Berlin wasn't a huge fan of Andy Warhol, so she wasn't so much in the Factory. And I didn't really know what they were doing with it and with the character. Richie never really wanted to talk to me ... I had to dig to do my research. But she talked about how she felt like she was the only one who really cared about Edie, so they tried to play that up in the film and add a couple of things, and then they did a different route with Edie, making it more of a narrative, like when she's talking about it in the hospital, all of that was added later. They just went a different route.