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Matt Dillon talks about playing cops and robbers

01 October 2010

Acting legend Matt Dillon sits down at the Ritz Carlton in Cancun to talk about his new film ‘Takers’. No stranger to Hollywood, Matt has appeared in over thirty films including ‘You, Me and Dupree’ in 2006 with Owen Wilson and Kate Hudson, ‘Old Dogs’ with John Travolta and Robin Williams, the critically acclaimed ‘Crash’ in 2004 with Sandra Bullock and this years ‘Amoured’ alongside Laurence Fishburne and Columbus Short.

He is known for playing decorated officers, who tend to break the law, here he talks about his new role of Jack Welles, a hard-boiled detective on the hunt in ‘Takers’.



If you can tell us about your role in Takers. You play a good guy right?

Matt Dillon: (Laughs) Good guy, bad guy. Cops and robbers. Like when we were kids, playing cops and robbers.  I don’t think it’s quite as simple as good guys versus bad guys, but I play a cop.  He9 9s not perfect, that’s for sure. He’s got his own problems, he’s divorced. He’s very obsessed with his work. He’s a little heavy-handed as a cop, he’s maybe too into it?  There are two storylines that are running in the movie. There are the guys who are going around doing a series of ambitious bank heists.  That’s Paul and those crew guys. And there are the two detectives who are following them and that’s myself and Jay Hernandez. And each of these threads, you know there are other sides and personal stories and that thing with myself and Jay is that we are partners and we’ve been partners for a while, and we have an emotional bond with each other. But we have a different philosophy and looking at life and doing things. He’s a good family man, but there’s kind of a tragic outcome with him that is sort of a surprise that goes against my beliefs. It’s very tragic and it sort of culminates, you know the sort of outcome of his character, our relationship sort of happens at the end.  I think that’s what I liked about it, you know. Listen, it’s a genre movie. I haven’t done a lot of action movies. I like to do things different. When I read it, it reminded me kind of a seventies action movie.  It made sense.  And I had just done Armored which I really liked doing and I really like that film maker, Nimrod Antal – he’s a Hungarian film maker.  He made Vacancy, but before that he made a film which I really liked called Control which he shot in Budapest.


Vacancy with Kate Beckinsale? That was a great movie.

Matt Dillon: Yeah . He’s good and he’s a real good film maker and that movie was with Jean Reno, Laurence Fishburne, those guys. And I liked that. That one was again, a heist picture, but it’s an inside job. What I liked about that character was that he had layers.  We think we know who he is in the beginning and then we find out he’s somebody entirely different, but we know he’s kind of manipulating. The relationship with that story. My character puts together this heist to knock off our own company. It’s an inside job thing. Columbus Short plays a new guy on my team but I’ve known him since he was a kid because his father was my mentor. So I look at him and I’m like, you don’t have to worry, I talk to him like a little brother.  I take care of him. He’s got concerns. His house is being foreclosed on. He’s taking care of his younger brother and I manipulate him, I use all that stuff. I’m constantly manipulating him. And I love that! I like characters like that.  I think you can sense as the audience that that is what he’s doing. He’s playing this kid and he sucks him in. He pulls him in and he’s very controlling in that way, but in the end he feels betrayed by the kid, because the kid gets a case of the morals. When something goes bad and someone gets killed, he’s not willing to see it through. And then he’s willing to sacrifice whatever feelings he has about the kid.  I like the complexity of it. I really liked it and I liked the ensemble cast. Columbus is really good and Jean Reno and Fishburne, it was just a good group of guys. A nice ensemble working together.  And again, for me what I liked about it was the character – there’s no arc, the character doesn’t learn anything or discover anything about himself.  But what we learn about him is big. It’s a really big arc. I think that’s more important that the arc that the audience discovers is more important than the character having some sort of personal spiritual arc himself.  I really liked where that went. I liked working with those actors.


As an accomplished director/filmmaker – do you choose films differently and do you find you can be a backseat director on set sometimes?

Matt Dillon: I think having been a director gives me a perspective that can be helpful.


Is it hard to let go?

Matt Dillon: No because, what I’ve realised as I’ve grown older is that I’m not responsible for every aspect of the movie.  I used to feel like I can’t do this movie. I make decisions on films all the time, like I was responsible for everything about the film.  I’m not, I’m an actor in it.  There’s only so much I can do. I’m not there in the editing room. I’m not responsible for that. As a director I am, and I felt=2 0when I directed I felt responsible for everything and I did. As long as the film in the end wasn’t taken away from me and recut by somebody else, I could take responsibility for that.  But I can’t take responsibility as an actor for an entire film. I can only take responsibility for what I do in my work and so it is a director’s medium. So the best scenario is to work with directors who you really believe in.  But it doesn’t always work out that way.


Has it been easier to be an actor who has directed?

Matt Dillon: Well it’s easier to have that prospective. I am able to say: “Hey, look I like this role. I can have some fun making this film.” It’s grand for me to think that I’m responsible for the outcome of that movie, like I would have any ultimate say on what happens.  It’s ridiculous. So I just have to look at it as will I have fun making it. That’s what I do, I’m an actor.

Do you feel all the hype around the young actors these days? It was different when you started. Do you think the business has changed??Matt Dillon: I don’t spend a lot of time focusing on it to be honest. The business has changed I’ve noticed over the years consistently that there’s less interest in the work from actors.  They seemed to be more concerned with other stuff.  I think that’s going to change. I think that’s one of those ebb and flows. People have been more concerned with the deal and all that stuff.


You mean what they’re doing off screen?

Matt Dillon: Well, that’s a big problem too.

You grew up in an era when they didn’t have the internet or camera phones.
Matt Dillon: Yeah, it’s weird.  But I think it’s too bad… I don’t know. You know they say, they don’t make them like they used to? But whether its buildings or cars or movies, you know? I still think we are making really good films in some areas, I do.


What was the last movie you saw that you loved?

Matt Dillon: The last thing I saw that l loved…. I’m going to need another cup of coffee for that one!



Paul Walker talked about his passion for fishing for about 20 minutes – what is your real passion?

Matt Dillon: I feel passionate when I’m creative.  I was in South Sudan; I’m involved with the Refugees International which is an organization I’m very passionate about.  I avoided joining the board for years, although I did a lot of work for them, because I didn’t want that responsibility. They are a group I’ve been involved with for=2 0years and I joined the board about a year and a half ago. It’s like the best thing I’ve ever done.  I think it’s so important. It gives you a perspective on life. I’m interested in other cultures and civilizations. I like people and so they are the two things that come together and I think doing something like that I learn about myself.  That’s how I find out about myself.  Who I am?  Just be discovering what I like doing and what interests me. I went to the South Sudan in February because we were doing an assessment on returning people. You know what’s been going on with Dufar and there’s a lot of focus on it, but we’re trying to put a little attention back on South Sudan which is the North South conflict; the peace treaty that was signed. It’s a fragile peace and if that war breaks out again then the whole region is unstabalized and it will be a disaster for all of Sudan, including it will grow worse for Dufar. So we were looking at that situation and what was really interesting for me and being there, because a lot of what we were doing….anyway, its if you want to find out more about South Sudan. I shot a ten minute documentary, and you asked about my passion and that’s something I’m passionate about.  When I started editing that film, I really got into it. It’s not a personal film or a film I was making as a filmmaker, so much as an advocacy to try and raise awareness. I really got into it and it gave me the same…… you know I’m having a good day when I bound up the stairs and I’m usually that way when I’m doing something that I feel good about. When I’m creative.  And being there, what I learned about myself that I’m not a passive person. I am somebody who has to get involved.  I like working with the people there. I just didn’t want to find out information. So I’m good when I’m doing something.


Are you still passionate about music?

Matt Dillon: Yeah, I play drums a little bit. Congas. I’m not ready to make a record!

On the internet it says you’re making a Brazilian sex comedy??Matt Dillon: No, there’s no trut h to that at all.  I don’t know how that got out there. It drives me crazy when they write stuff that isn’t true. A friend of mine made that film but that’s not the title. Somebody once said to me you were in Malcolm X… And I looked it up and on IMDB, it says I was in Malcolm X because there’s a guy named Matt Dillon who’s a friend of Spike Lee, who is black…. And I know him from New Orleans from the Jazz fest like fifteen years ago and so people think that I was in that movie.


What has kept you in the business for so long? You have such a huge body of work.

Matt Dillon: I don’t know, you kidding? I wouldn’t give this up! The healthiest thing for me is doing other things, getting outside of your comfort zone and I loved directing. That gives you a new lease on life and a new way of looking at things.


What’s the hardest genre for you to do? You’ve said it’s comedy in the past.

Matt Dillon: No, I was just saying that in general comedy is hard. I am not trying to say that it is especially hard for me. It’s just in general it’s hard. I do a lot of comedy, but I’m not a comedic actor. There are a lot of actors where that’s their thing and so they’re expected to be funny all the time.  I think that’s got to be more difficult.


So you’re more of the straight guy?

Matt Dillon: Well, I wasn’t the straight guy in Something About Mary.  But with Owen Wilson in You, Me and Dupree, I was kind of the straight guy.  That’s harder doing the straight guy in a way, playing a reactive character.



What kind of things do you do to stay in shape?

Matt Dillon: Lately I’ve been moving because I’ve been doing work on my apartment. So I’ve been doing a lot of stairs. I have buns of steel! (Laughs) I’ve been going up and down stairs because I had to move after all these years of being in one spot, and now I’m doing renovations.


You also haven’t aged, what’s your secret? What is the anti-aging cream you are using and not telling us about?

Matt Dillon: (Laughs) You know that’s good because that means that I haven’t aged that much, but you know in fact, if you really look at me I have aged, but maybe I haven’t aged that much which is good.  I don’t know what it is, but I’m lucky that I have my mother’s genes.  She’s very youthful.  Not my dad’s genes!


So what’s on your iPod when you work out at the gym?

Matt Dillon: I was thinking about that yesterday on the plane, I was in Cancun twelve years ago and I think I’ve got the same music, but it’s great music!  It’s changed possibly a little bit, but it’s mostly Afro-Cuban or Brazilian music or I listen to 20s Jazz.


How did you get into that kind of music?

Matt Dillon: I just like music you know? You know what usually helps is when you visit the countries. I got into Brazilian music more when I went there. You start to enjoy the culture and suck up the atmosphere and it enriches the experience. And I go home and all I want to do is listen to the music to bring me back to where I just was.  But I like all music. I love Irish folk music. I just heard some interesting Russian gypsy music. It was fantastic.


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