If there's any actor who could be comfortable resting on his laurels, it would be Robert Forster. But here he is, at 74, still part of Hollywood's most successful and intriguing properties.
After making his mark early in his career in artistic '60s fare like "Heroes" and "Breaking Bad," franchise films like "Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle" to critically acclaimed dramas like Alexander Payne's "The Descendants."
Most recently, the actor reprised his role as Army Chief of Staff Edward Clegg in "Twin Peaks," with all signs pointing to the rich likelihood that Forster will take on the role of Sheriff Harry S. Truman, which as he reveals is a part he was originally offered but couldn't accept when the show was first conceived over 25 years ago.
Moviefone: With "London Has Fallen," it must be fun to be a part of something that's turning into a pretty cool action franchise -- and you don't have to run and shoot and everything else that Gerard Butler does.
Robert Forster: I never work on the action part. I am safely away in the war room in the White House, which variously we've shot in Shreveport -- we shot one of the pictures there, and the other one we shot in the lovely London. So these are good for me. I'm not involved in the action part. Though the action guys kill themselves to make action movies.
It's been a long time since I have been involved in the action part, where you don't have much chance of getting killed, but you've got a lot of chances of getting bruised up and banged up and nicked up and spending 12 hours a day on a set. Movies are great in general, action movies are especially tough on the guys who do the action, but I have luckily these days become a high-ranking general. They started out my career as a private in "Reflections in a Golden Eye," and now I'm a general.
You've got another man in uniform coming up, this time a cop in uniform, playing for David Lynch in "Twin Peaks." What was exciting about that collaboration, and also maybe a little daunting about stepping into a role that another actor had previously played?
Well now, first of all, I am under compulsion to not speak about that role. I can now say they've announced the fact that I'm in the picture -- and 216 other cast members. What a big cast! David Lynch, what a good guy he is. He wanted to hire me for the original, 25 years ago, for a part, and I was committed to another guy for a pilot that never went. So I didn't do the original "Twin Peaks," which would have been a life-changer. It's a gigantic hit if you remember those years, a phenomenon. But I didn't do that.
But later, he hired me in "Mulholland Drive," which was going to be a television series, but did not [become a series]. Didn't get on the schedule. So he bought the picture apparently and shot some more things and made it into a great movie, "Mulholland Drive." And this time, I got a call from my agents and they said, David Lynch is going to call you. When he called me five minutes later, he said, "I'd like you to come and work with me again." And I said, "Whatever it is David, here I come!"
So whereas I cannot talk about the role, I can tell you that he is one of the great artists in this business, and he does things that ... when he needs something, everybody pulls hard and makes it happen. What else? He's one of those guys who, after a shot, you hear "action," you hear "cut," you hear a few minutes of him rolling around in his mind, and everybody's quiet and waiting to hear what he's going to say. And sometimes he says, "Shoot it again," but sometimes he says, "Okay, we got it. Move on." This is a guy who knows a great shot when he does it, and can move on. It's an art form to know how strong your shot is, and whether or not that's going to fit with your needs.
He's an artist, and there aren't many. Alexander Payne, also. These are good guys and good directors. And Quentin [Tarantino]. Gee, I've worked with some fine directors, going back to John Huston and Robert Mulligan and some good ones. What can I say about that? Working with David was a real joy, and I'm hopeful that I get a chance to live long enough to get a chance to do it again.
At this stage in your incredibly prolific career, what do you look for? Are you happy to just find a job that lets you get out and do your craft? Or are there still some special boxes in your goals that you're hoping to check off?
I wish I had that list and that set of boxes. I have never, ever known what is going to come around the corner. And the first thing I have to do when my agent sends me a script and says, read this and we'll talk about it later, I read it and I have to decide whether I can actually deliver, whatever it is their character requires. If I feel that I can do that, then we continue to talking.
But that's my first job: to find something in the role, or find something in myself and say, I can deliver this. Because the thing you want to do, the thing the actor wants to do is get on the set and deliver. So there are some things that I wouldn't want to take a shot at. And I didn't want to do negative characters. There was a long time when I only did positive characters. Then somewhere in the middle of my career I was broke and I had to take a bad guy and did a bad guy in "The Delta Force," which was a 1984/5 I guess. And I got stuck in bad guys for 13 years. I didn't do a good guy again until "Jackie Brown."
Sometimes you don't know what you're going to get offered. Sometimes you don't get offered what you want. Sometimes the things are out of left field. Sometimes they're fun, and sometimes they're comedy. I love doing comedy. I love getting a laugh. I remember the first time I did a play in Rochester, New York. After my college graduation I said, "God, I don't want to be a lawyer. I want to be an actor. I wonder how you do it."
And I got a part in a local play, "Come Blow Your Horn." And somewhere in the play I invented a laugh, and it was so rewarding and so, what's the word when you're drunk? ... intoxicating ... that I decided that is what I want to do. I want to be an actor. I love getting that laugh. So if you give me a box to check off that says "Gets Laughs," that's the one I want.
And I hope we get to see you working with Quentin again before he...
Before he quits! Before he gets to his tenth picture.
Yeah, before he fulfills this horrible promise he's made. We need more movies from him!
Those are the kinds of promises I hope guys don't actually fulfill.