Kyle Chandler is one of those actors whose mere presence in a movie elevates it a few degrees.
While most will probably remember him from his two beloved TV ventures (CBS's supernatural-y drama "Early Edition," where he played a man gifted with a rundown of the next day's events, and "Friday Night Lights," as a high school football coach in small town Texas), but in the last couple of years, he's had an amazing string of big screen performances. Last year he starred in two Best Picture Oscar nominees, one of which ("Argo") ended up taking home the top prize.
And this year the streak has continued, first as a politician who is murdered for his honesty in thriller "Broken City," then as an alcoholic father in the festival favorite "The Spectacular Now" and now, spectacularly, as a dogged FBI agent who is hot on the heels of Leonard DiCaprio's white collar criminal in Martin Scorsese's latest masterpiece, "The Wolf of Wall Street."
We got to chat with Chandler to talk about how he got the role, why he was overcome with anxiety on his first day of filming, and what makes him such a convincing authority figure.
Moviefone: How did this project come to you? Did you get summoned?
Kyle Chandler: Summoned to the lair of Martin Scorsese....
Actually, that's how it happened.
Oh, really? Tell me about that.
I went out for a meeting with him and he described what the project was and what the character was that he was interested in me looking at. And we talked for a while. As an actor you always want to go, "Well, do I have the part or what?" So I walked out the door and I don't know when it was that I found out the part... But it went on from there.
Was it always a dream to work with him?
Yeah, on my top ten list of directors to work with, my top four lines are Martin Scorsese. I don't know what to say about it. Do you expect me to say what a lousy experience and what a hack the guy is?
Scorsese is an amazing film historian, too.
Yes. Martin Scorsese is a great storyteller. He loves to hear a story as much as he loves to tell a story. He is so knowledgeable. I was afraid, him being the cinephile that he is, that I was going to get questions on films and I would have to put my tail between my legs. But his stories are incredible and his reasoning for setting up the camera and if you ask a question, you'll get an answer unlike anything you've known before. He's so knowledgeable. I'm sorry. I talked way too long. You can't put any of that in. You're my last interview, so I'm pacing back and forth.
It'll be okay.
So, you're in one of the most memorable sequences in the movie, which is when you go visit Leo on his yacht. What was it like shooting that?
We rehearsed a little bit the day before and the day of we went out there early, got on the boat. And it's my first day shooting. So I'm sitting on the boat, talking to Martin Scorsese, meeting the crew, figuring out what I'm doing and I've got my wardrobe on and all of that. And I'm waiting for Leonardo DiCaprio, who I had never met and didn't know to come along, so I can shoot my first scene in a Martin Scorsese. And you know how I felt?
No. How did you feel?
Like I wanted to jump off that boat and drown myself, I was so nervous. I mean wow.
But then things got better, I hope.
Truth be told, Martin and Leo and the whole crew, it was such a relaxing set. Obviously, I joke about being tense and, of course, I was -- if you're not nervous something is wrong. But once we started working, it was so much fun. You're playing. It's like the first day of rehearsal of a play. Everyone knows their character and knows the material and now you're going to work that material and see how much fun you can have and what you can create. And that was all there -- it was, Let's see what we can build today. And it was just a ride; it was fun. There was no pressure. It was nothing but -- let's bring out all your skills, and let's play with them. It was incredible.
There's been a lot of talk about how Scorsese had to wrangle an even longer cut into this version. Was there anything from your character that he had to cut that you wish had been included?
Actually, there's a scene with me and a bullet and no clothes on. I can't go into any further detail, but I wish it was in the movie.
Is that true?
No! Of course not!
How do you interpret the last sequence with your character?
That is so strange. I get that question all day long. And I never expected. You know, when you come to do these press junkets, I get nervous because I never know what they're going to ask me. And they started asking me that question. So I've started saying, "Well, what do you think that he's thinking?" And I've gotten every different answer on the spectrum. So I'll be damned if I'm going to give you any answer at all.
You've been a football coach and a CIA guy and now an FBI agent. What makes you a perfect figure of authority?
I think it has something to do with the intensity of my brown eyes, mixed in with my arched eyebrows and a good, strong chin. After that, rounded out with a wonderful physique and a voice that could purr the hair off of a kitty cat. No. I don't know.
"The Wolf of Wall Street" opens Christmas day.