D'Onfrio plays Jack Horne, a trapper and former Indian scalper who's really handy with a hatchet. He is also one of the most distinct, and likable, members of the posse -- all of which comes in handy once the shooting starts. And there is lots of shooting.
Moviefone recently chatted with the actor, where he revealed his process for coming up with Jack's unique characterization and how playing cowboys brought the cast closer together.
Moviefone: How much of your characterization was in the script and how much did you contribute?
Vincent D'Onofrio: I contributed a lot. When you work with a director like Antoine Fuqua, he wants you to come in and take it off the page and turn it into something, so that's what I did. The religious stuff and the voice, things like that were basically what I brought to it -- with Antoine's support and the writers supporting me as well.How did you come up with that unusually high-pitched voice for Jack Horne?
I met a guy like that once who was very big and burly and seemingly dangerous, and then he had a very high-pitched voice. I immediately liked him and I thought that was so interesting, so I knew that I would use it eventually.
Did you develop a camaraderie on set with the rest of the seven?
All of us guys got along immediately. It took about six hours for us all to hit it off. And then every day that went by, with all the shooting, riding, and grooming our horses -- all that stuff -- and living in Baton Rouge [during the shoot]. We got to know each other really well and that translates into the film. We all felt very comfortable with sticking our nose in each other's business and sorting things out on set. There was no ego, there was just this kind of attitude of trying to make it as interesting as possible and have fun doing it.
You've worked with Ethan Hawke several times before this, including "The Newton Boys".
Mmm hmm. Yeah, Ethan's a good friend of mine. He's not just a colleague, he's a friend in life.
And you worked with Chris Pratt on "Jurassic World."
Yeah, Chris and I get along great. He's also a friend.So the scene in the bar where you and Chris rib each other, was any of that improvised?
Most of it was improvised, yeah.
What was the "cowboy boot camp" for the movie like?
It wasn't really cowboy boot camp, it was more like we had access to all of our stuff and to wranglers and our horses and guns and people who knew guns really well. We were just taking advantage of that. There wasn't really anything set up, other than Antoine and the producers wanted us to know that it was all there. Me and Martin took advantage of the horses a lot. Both of us ride really well now. We were both decent riders when we got there, but nothing like we can ride now. The teachers were so amazing.
Your character and Martin Sensmeier's are initially at odds – you play an Indian scalper and he's a Native American! But, by the end, you've really bonded.
I think that happened in Fuqua's eyes through my relationship with Martin in real life. Martin and I became close on the movie and it was so nice to meet a young Native-American man. The stories he had to tell me about his family and his parents and his siblings and their lives, it's amazing stuff. I think Fuqua might have seen that and brought our characters together a little more in the story because of that.
As a veteran actor, do you tend to pass on industry advice to newcomers like him? Or do you steer clear of that?
As long as I get to know them and if they're in any way looking up to me, I make sure that I give them as much as I can. I first make sure they understand that we're totally equals and that there's no mystery behind what we do and then I share whatever they learn. I do it all the time. Martin's going to stay over at our house on Monday. And I talk to Chris maybe once a week ever since "Jurassic World."
Were you a fan of the 1960 "Magnificent Seven"?
Only because I liked Steve McQueen. So everything he was in, I watched. I just loved the guy, he was so charismatic.
Did you talk about the original film and the differences in your version during filming?
I'd like to say we talked about it a lot, but I don't ever remember talking about it at all, to tell you the truth. Fuqua never spoke to us about it. We watched the 1960 "Magnificent Seven" together, but we also watched "Seven Samurai" and "The Wild Bunch." Never on set was it ever brought up or did we ever talk about it amongst themselves.
What is your favorite western?
I guess "The Searchers," which was the first time I realized that there was a dark side to the whole thing. I remember John Wayne's character and I remember thinking, "Wow, he's not very nice" and that kind of freaked me out a little bit. I think that's the first time as a boy that I realized there was another side to the whole western story.
What was your favorite day on set?
I had a couple of good days. I think my favorite was when we were in New Mexico, at the end. We shot about three weeks in New Mexico and there were days when we were just riding out in the mountains and it was so beautiful. It was like a band of brothers. Really awesome. The days went by too quickly. We'd just be on our horses all day, it was amazing stuff. I'll never forget those days.