THIS YEAR AT THE TRIBECA FILM FESTIVAL, NOAH BUSCHEL'S STARK, SENSITIVE TAKE ON THE CLASSIC BOXING DRAMA, GLASS CHIN, MET RAVE REVIEWS, DUE IN NO SMALL PART TO ITS STAR-STUDDED CAST. HERE, TWO MEMBERS TAKE PART IN WHAT ONE CALLS "THE MOST INJURIOUS INTERVIEW I'VE EVER BEEN A PART OF"
No longer Almost famous, Billy Crudup has seen an impressive career of handpicking parts that not only showcase his undeniable talent, but spark his admiration of the craft. Another true "actors' actor," the gifted Yul Vazquez's recent work includes parts in 2013's Runner Runner, Captain Phillips, and Starz's Magic City. Not surprisingly, the costars of Glass Chin are close friends, and when asked to talk about their latest film premiere, it felt only natural that they discuss the experience with each other, on a recorded phone call between Los Angeles and Miami, unsupervised.
YUL VAZQUEZ: Wow, man. Waddup baby?
BILLY CRUDUP: This so professional. I’m so into it.
YV: Just, listen, this was Noah [Buschel]’s idea. And I said, This is so bananas that it could be a lot of fun. And here we are, man! I think so far it’s going well. What do you think, Billy?
BC: Well first impressions, uh…
BC: We’re stumbling through the gates. Why didn’t we do this at a salon?
YV: That would be amazing. I’ll tell you what could’ve been incredible, if I didn’t have to come down here because I told Sammy [Sam Rockwell] that I was doing this and then he wanted to plan this thing. He was like, Why don’t you meet him somewhere at like a rice and beans place?
YV: Rice and beans. I don’t know why. I thought it was maybe a tad racist? But I was like, Cool, rice and beans is good.
BC: So where are you?
YV: I’m in your hometown, my friend. Miami. I’m actually in South Beach with Linda [Larkin].
BC: Well I’m sorry I missed you at the TriBeCa premiere.
YV: Dude, you’re just ridiculous in the movie, I mean everybody knows.
BC: You’re amazing, my friend. And might I mention I also saw Captain Phillips since the last time I’ve spoken to you. You were spectacular in that as well. Now, you were Somalian in that, if I’m not mistaken.
YV: Yeah, I was a Somali pirate in that.
BC: Okay. Okay.
YV: It’s pretty transformational, isn’t it?
BC: Okay. I didn’t think they allowed that anymore, but that’s cool. You know what? I’m also really interested in what sort of questions you prepared for our conversation about Glass Chin. Have you done an interview before, ever?
BC: So you are remarkably ill suited for this task that you allowed Noah to talk you into?
YV: Yes. They could not have picked a worse person for this. I mean, if we’re being painfully honest here.
BC: This is by far the most injurious interview I’ve ever been a part of. Both of our careers. We can mark the time. This is when it ended. Because sometimes you don’t know. That’s the thing about a career, is sometimes it seems ambiguous. It’s sort of like air going out of a tire. But with this, we can remember the nail that we ran over.
YV: I actually think the opposite. I think this will enhance it all. Here we go. First of all, there’s someone coming through, that somebody had a dog. Had a small dog. Maybe an uncle. Um, with first letter, T? Oh wait, I’m sorry. I’m sorry. This is Billy. I thought this was my… Because I also have a medium chat line.
YV: I’m sorry. I got confused. Okay. Here’s my first question for you. So, Noah is such a unique director and I think a unique human would be accurate to say as well. Give me a little bit of the process from when you read [the script for Glass Chin] and…
BC: Well, I mean, you forgot to ask the crucial question, which is How did I come to this project? And this is the first time that I’ve ever had the chance in an interview to say: You. I came to this project through the interviewer for those of, well, this is basically for my mom reading at home. Or maybe Rockwell. Does Rockwell even read?
YV: He is learning.
BC: He’s coming over later today and he’s gonna punch me in the face. So I got this text from you and you said, Do you know this filmmaker? There’s a really cool part in this movie. And I read the first scene and I was like, This is a brilliant character and I would be fascinated to see what he’s after. I had a conversation with Noah that didn’t last very long at all because he said so many clear things. There’s a lot of subtext in it, but what he had to say about the character was very clear to me and I understood that he was after this kind of fundamentalist, for lack of a better word. This guy with a very clear vision of how the world works and therefore a kind of power over people. I don’t have that kind of confidence typically, Yul.
YV: I’m not so sure about that... This is my second time with him and I would never bring something to you that I didn’t think was worth it. People bring stuff to you all the time. They bring stuff to me, and a lot of it is a time suck.
BC: You know what? I’m just gonna pretend that that’s true. Go ahead. Hold on a second, bro. My buzzer is going. There’s a couple of scripts downstairs.
YV: [laughter] But I knew you would love this guy and I mean, you know his dialogue, it’s actually one of the things people have been mentioning in these reviews, and that he’s a cinematic sort of voice that is important. Which leads me to my next question. Because, working on this film was not traditionally how we work. We did these long takes with multiple characters and all the pistols had to fire. Is that something you like doing?
BC: Well there’s no question, you said it: I mean we’ve both been in enough movies to know that that’s a very atypical way of working, so if you’re not prepared for it, I mean naturally you’d be scared shitless. Truthfully, I haven’t had a part quite like this in a while and so I was fascinated by it and was able to spend quite a bit of time working on it myself and preparing for it. [Crudup's character] J.J is somebody who speaks a lot, so it’s easier to prepare in isolation these kinds of parts than something with a lot of dialogue. And Noah never sweats. For a couple of our takes, he was lying on his back with his eyes closed, listening to the audio.
YV: That’s right.
BC: That was fascinating to me. He had the clarity in the set up of what it was going to look like in the frame and it seemed that what he was interested in was the truthfulness and the narrative, which he felt like he could access best through his hearing. For somebody who’s in charge of a visual arc—but it’s true, there can be that recognition of artfulness, that comes from just hearing the voice.
YV: Well here’s the thing: It’s very important for him to have people in his movies that have set foot on a stage.
BC: You can tell all the actors have a sense of community about how to play a long scene like that. Remember when you were off camera, talking shit to me and Corey [Stoll] during the take? And of course we just went on. There was a really great spirit in the room.
YV: Well, you weren’t there at the premiere, but when he got up there to introduce the film, he didn’t say much. He said, I hope you enjoy the film and after the film we’ll have a Q&A where you’ll get to see some real deal New York stage actors standing up here.
YV: I’m gonna jump to the next question. Do you like opera?
BC: [laughter] Well, I’ll tell you this: About a month ago, Avery Fisher Hall at Lincoln Center did a version of Hansel & Gretel and the singers sang opera. And the reason I was there is because my amazing ten-year-old son was being a gingerbread man with some of his other classmates in the background. So on that day, I absolutely adored opera. And my son was a spectacular gingerbread man. Beyond that, I’m exceedingly undereducated when it comes to… most things.
YV: Do you think perhaps he will follow in his father’s footsteps?
BC: Oh god, I hope not.
BC: We want nothing but happiness for our children. And this business is just filled with incredible highs and brutal lows. And you just don’t want them to ever experience the brutal lows.
YV: A friend of mine’s daughter participated in this USC showcase recently. I went with them to see it and I literally wanted to stand up and scream, Run away! Run away!
BC: Yup. I get it. I remember having this acting teacher in undergraduate and it was a class for non-acting majors. She said this tongue-in-cheek, but also resigned from the place of an actor who had bigger aspirations than teaching undergraduate non-majors acting… She said, If you could do anything else, do it. And at the time I thought, That’s fucking terrible advice to give an actor, you should be saying chase your dreams! And I have to say, I completely understand her point of view now.
BC: I wouldn’t do anything else. I wouldn’t change it for the world, for myself, but I totally understand that point of view.
YV: And I have no regrets either but the thing is, I think once the decision is made to go into it, I do believe there can be no plan B.
BC: Yeah, but you have other talents. I’ve seen your work. You’ve got your photography [see above]. You’ve got your art. I don’t know about your modern dance anymore. You’re getting a little long in the tooth.
YV: I’ve slowed down on the modern dance.
BC: I don’t blame you.
YV: I leave the dancing to Linda these days. Let me ask you something. I know there is a memory that we all have when we are making a film and sometimes when you go watch the finished product the memory of making it sometimes is better than the finished product, which is a sad time. Do you find that this can perhaps make it hard to attend your movie?
BC: I’ve tried forever to kind of talk myself out of it, to either be less invested in the process, or less invested in the result. And you know the fact of the matter is, I care. I want to be a part of interesting stuff. I want to do the best work that I can, and I want that work to be impactful, you know? But when you put in the hands of your work in the hands of somebody else, it can be difficult. I hate to see the experience of working on something, particularly when it’s an important experience, either personally or professionally or artistically, reduced to two hours. And inevitably, it’s going to be reduced. Sometimes it’s reduced in the way that a poem is reduced and then it’s better, it distils it to its most truthful thing. But that’s so rare that that happens.
YV: It can happen but it is rare. And here’s how I reconcile with it: I think that the memory of making it only lives within us. Nobody else viewing the product has the memory that we have of being there on the day making the thing. But I really hope that you get to see [Glass Chin] on a giant screen because the suit, your performance, the stillness… There’s one scene where the camera sort of moves in on you inside Corey’s apartment and again, it’s two actors, it never cuts away, and it just moves in, and you’re sitting there and you’re beautifully lit and that silver suit, it is fucking terrifying.
BC: Oh that’s spectacular.
YV: It’s chilling. And what I noticed, aside from the fact that you’re a brilliant performer, is that your skin is fantastic. Which leads me to my next question.
BC: How do I do it?
YV: What is your skin regimen like?
BC: I remember the take that you’re talking about because that was one of the times when I don’t even know if Noah did another set up in the kitchen but we only did two or three takes for that. And then he was like, No I think that’s gonna be it for the scene. And there was a part of me that shat myself just a little bit there because needless to say, you want the director to have the ability if something is not there, to piece it together.
YV: It’s like Michael Corleone, when the camera pushes in on Michael after they destroyed his jaw, and he’s sitting there and he’s sitting on that chair and then he’s pushing on in…
BC: Really, I can’t ask for anything more than that because that’s exactly how it’s written. It is somebody who’s fully capable, in charge, in their element, and this veneer that is so chilling in so many respects, cracks a little and you see the real terror of this kind of human being.
YV: That’s right. And that you absolutely own him. And you said something that is fucking dead on and it’s something that our friend Phil [Philip Seymour Hoffman] used to say.
BC: Oh yeah.
YV: He would say, he was like, There’s a sweet spot. Not too much and not too little, that’s just enough.
BC: That’s brilliant. I mean, look at his work. His work is towing that line. Moment to moment, you know. For me, it’s the experience of creating an event. Not creating a behavior, not creating a mood, creating an event. And if you’re committed collectively to creating that event between you, then you’re going to navigate it with each other’s help, which will keep you in the sweet spot. If you get to it in your head that you’re the governor of it, like it’s your close-up, like it’s your moment to manifest emotion, it’s very difficult to find the sweet spot because you’re so in your own head.
YV: Which leads me to my next question: What is your favorite language other than English?
BC: This is my favorite interview of all time. I’m gonna go with English as spoken by a Canadian.
YV: So it’s not Spanish?
BC: Oh, right. You're Cuban. I love a Cuban sandwich.
YV: What is your favorite Cuban sandwich?
BC: Wow. Wow. Well, when I was in high school, in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, I worked at a place on the weekends called The Snackerie, it was in a mall and it was a snack shop run by my Spanish teacher, and he made one of the most phenomenal Cuban sandwiches I’ve ever had.
YV: You were destined from early on to be surrounded by Cubans.
BC: It’s one of the many ways in which I’ve been blessed in my life. Now wait, will you tell me this? Are you a fan of the Cuban sandwich? Or do you just call it the sandwich?
YV: That’s one of the funniest thing I’ve ever heard. I haven’t had one in a long time because I’m a snob about it. Unless I know the place is gonna make it really well, because if they don’t and then they bring it, I’ll just throw it on the floor. We’re nearing the end of the interview. What is your favorite death metal band?
BC: Yul. You’re asking me to pick one. Um, James Taylor?
YV: That’s a perfectly valid answer. Billy, man, I can’t thank you enough, honestly.
BC: Is that all we got, Yul?
YV: Well I mean we can…
BC: No sorry, I’m getting cut off right now. Sorry, I’m getting scripts at the door. It’s my buzzer again.
YV: [laughter] Do you know who contributed some questions that were incredibly helpful? Michael Panes. I tried to get some questions from David Bar [Katz], and he didn’t even respond to the email. So he’s dead to me.
BC: If he’s dead to you he’s dead to me. Unless he calls me with a script.