Brian Cox has one of the most versatile and respected filmographies of any actor today. The Scot came to prominence in the US as the original Hannibal Lecter in Manhunter. Many of you may also remember him as Captain John O’Hagan in Broken Lizard’s Super Troopers. Now, the venerable actor is back with a brand new project, Blood, a gritty, moody cop thriller that breaks the mold in that it isn’t laden with car chases or warehouse-leveling hails of bullets. Rather, this is more of a Greek tragedy set amongst the backdrop of a police procedural. To go deeper inside the world of Blood, we caught up with Cox to talk about finding balance in his work, acting as a communal art, and when we can expect to see him re-team with the Broken Lizard gang.
Nerdist: You’ve got a new movie, Blood, in which you’re playing a father and a police chief. When you’re playing a role in which you’re getting to be both an authority figure and a father, where do you find the balance in the role?
Brian Cox: The balance is there in the writing. You know, it’s about a community, and this is the man who was the center of this community and his diminished presence and how that affects the community and how the boys really can’t cope. They haven’t got the strength, and they make huge mistakes. Which is about the dominance of this figure, who is now a shadow of his former self, so it’s pretty much the script that gave it to me.
N: You have this ability in your career to bring out some great qualities in other actors. How does that feel when you’re able to see that not only is your performance stellar, which it always is, but you’re also bringing out great performances in other people?
BC: I think it’s communal art. The joy of doing it for me is working with people… the communal aspect of acting and the fact that people have a similar hunger you know, a young actor has a hunger to be good and an older actor has a hunger to wants to keep their standards.
N: When you are able to have such a versatile career and you’re going from possibly a comedy set one month to working full time on a dark drama. Do you have trouble shifting gears or is the work easy to turn on and off for you?
BC: I’ve always thrived from the business of doing the work. You know the work is always for me. And I’ve always thrived from the business of doing the work. I love the challenge, I love difference, and I’m not locked. The thing about acting is that rule one is, you’ve got to be open. You’ve got to be endlessly open. If you start closing off as an actor you defeat the whole point of being an actor. And it gets hard as you get older, but it’s the rule. The rule is you keep open, and that, to me, is the most important aspect of the work and that’s where you gain, you just gain tremendously because you don’t have too many opinions. You’ve got standards and you’ve got quality standards, but and the same time I just want to keep open about it. I just want to keep non judgmental and just enjoy other actors.
I’ve just done a play in London, which was a wonderful play called “The Weir” and I worked with four other actors, it was a quintet, and it was one of the best experiences I’ve had in years. But the joy of it was working with the others, going in every night and finding out what was going to happen and what was given to you. And that was the best aspect of what I do. It’s the fact that you get this opportunity to create in this microcosm community, whether it be a film, whether it be a movie, whether it be a TV piece. And the more powerful that community is, the better the work is.
N: And that leads to another question: It’s interesting that you speak of the community of the artists. On the other side of things, you have reached a point in your career where there is a community of fans that will generally just follow you no matter what the genre, no matter what the movie; if they see that you’re a part of it, they’re going to be intrigued. What is that like for you knowing that the taste that you have, in what you pick, people are following it somewhat blindly just because they have faith in it? What kinds of feelings do have about that culture that’s built up?
BC: Well, I’m very open about it. You know the thing is you have to be gracious to the people who like your work and the people who follow your work and realize that there’s an enormous privilege in that. In that people have really taken you on board and enjoy what you do and celebrate what you do and want to see more of it. So I find that a very humbling thing. It’s something that I go, “Wow, this is pretty amazing. It doesn’t get any better than this.” I mean I’ve done so much work over the years and I’ve done such a variety of work and it’s nice to know that I have people following me. And I certainly see the kind of mail I get. But if I’m doing myself, it’s about the range of what I’m doing, the fact that I am not known about a particular type of thing, that I’m known for just being good at my job and I’ll take anything on.
N: We host Kevin Heffernan and Steve Lemme from Broken Lizard’s Chewin’ It podcast. I love those guys and I think that a lot of us got hooked on you when you did Super Troopers; you were so fabulous in that. The word is that they’re prepping a sequel and I just wanted to know your thoughts were on getting to come back and work with those guys again.
BC: Oh, I would love to revisit that again. I had such a good time doing it before; I would very much like to do it again. It was a very interesting experience doing that film. I do actually think it’s their best film. They’ve done good films but nothing quite as good as that, I don’t think.
N: I think most people tend to agree; it was such a strong solid film. It was interesting that that came out and almost immediately L.I.E. was out there and you were just having-
BC: I was filming them both at the same time.
N: We didn’t realize that. That’s gotta be an interesting thing to bounce back and forth between.
BC: I think I overlapped by about four days with them.
N: That’s amazing because those are both such dynamic and vastly, vastly different performances.
BC: That’s a testament to really the way I like to work. I like to do stuff that isn’t expected. That is the opposite of what one would expect. You know, so there is this range and that film would be my rule of thumb. You know different, as much difference as you can. They’re separate worlds, but great worlds you know, those were a great group of guys and L.I.E. is such a dangerous but brilliant subject.
N: Well thank you so much for your time. You’ve been a wonderful interview and we really appreciate your work, sir.
BC: Thank you so much, take care.