You probably know Rory Cochrane, even if you don’t think you do. His longest and most high-profile gig was serving as a member of the “CSI: Miami” team as Tim Speedle, but prior to that, he’d already earned the status of cult icon by playing the stoned-as-shit Slater in “Dazed and Confused,” as well as the monetarily-challenged Lucas in “Empire Records.” Since departing “CSI: Miami” of his own free will, Cochrane has kept busy with the occasional film; we spoke to him on the occasion of the DVD release of the disconcertingly-real thriller, “Right At Your Door,” and we took the opportunity to ask him about how much of a toll the filming of the movie took on him, why he left a sweet gig on a weekly TV series, and…well, frankly, we spent most of the time just trying to get him to give us answers of more than a word or two. (Nice guy, that Rory, but not one to give you essay-length responses.)
Rory Cochrane: Hello?
Bullz-Eye: Hi, may I speak to Rory?
BE: Hey, this is Will.
RC: How are you doing, Will?
BE: Pretty good. How are you?
RC: All right.
BE: Actually, I tried you a few minutes ago, but I figured you were still on the last interview maybe,
RC: Oh, yeah? I didn’t hear it beep.
BE: Not a problem. So…”Right at Your Door.” Very intense flick. I hadn’t actually seen it until they sent me the DVD – it never played in my area – but it’s great.
RC: Oh, well, I’m glad you liked it.
BE: Definitely. It’s part disaster movie, part horror movie, with a thread of romance running through it. How was it to shoot?
RC: Very grueling…and intense, you know? I’m sort of glad that it was only…that we shot it in twenty days. Which is a good thing, because I would probably have had to check myself into some sort of institution afterwards if it had went any longer.
BE: Yeah, it’s a little dark.
BE: How did you get involved in it in the first place?
RC: I met with Chris (Gorak, the film’s writer and director). I read the script and met with Chris, and then talked to him about it, and he…you know, he’s a first time director, but very confident, and he knew that Mary (McCormack) was on board to do it, and we went from there.
BE: I know he has quite a history as an art director, but did he take to actual film directing pretty easily?
RC: Yeah, I mean I was surprised how…that he wasn’t nervous. He knew exactly what he wanted to do; he’s very efficient, and it was kind of nice to see. I hope that he does more in the future.
BE: I know the budget wasn’t terribly high, but, then, I guess it didn’t really need to be.
RC: No. And also the…sort of the guidelines of the movie, because it was a low budget thing, made it a better movie without explosions and stuff like that, leaving more to the imagination, I think.
BE: I thought a fair amount about “The Day After” when I was watching it.
RC: I haven’t seen that
BE: Oh, it’s a TV movie from, like, ’84 or ’85 I guess. It’s the one where they theorize what life would be like if a nuclear bomb hit.
BE: Do you know if Chris had a particular point of reference when he was putting the film together? Besides the obvious 9/11 similarities, I mean.
RC: Um…not really. I mean, I knew the way that he wanted to shoot it, sort of the look of the film, but I don’t know what his points of reference were.
BE: The DVD has the script for the two alternate endings. For the sake of those who haven’t seen it, I won’t go into too much detail, but were you privy to discussions when they were figuring out which ending would work best?
RC: Basically, I was very adamant about them using the ending that they did because I was very concerned about my character coming off as a complete coward. Not that the ending changes that, but I just wanted to wrap it up like that.
BE: And one of the alternates was even darker than the way it actually did end.
BE: At least the actual ending was mildly optimistic, if still depressing.
RC: Yeah, I mean, it’s a very difficult film because it’s very interesting, but it’s depressing, like you said. But I think it’s interesting, and it makes people think, and I think that films like that are good when they sort of sit with you afterwards for awhile.
BE: How long did it take you to get into the mindset to play the character? Did you just have to go to really dark places to figure how you would deal with it if it was a real situation?
RC: Um, yeah, I mean, it was very intense. I think it was probably the most intense thing, emotionally. On an emotional level that you would have to sustain throughout, so it definitely took a lot of energy and thought. It was grueling.
BE: It seems like the kind of film that could develop a cult following once it gets out on DVD…which is not exactly something you’re inexperienced with having on your resume. Not ten minutes ago, I was on a site where I could buy a shirt with Slater (from “Dazed and Confused”) saying, “Fixin’ to get a whole lot better, man!”
RC: Oh, yeah?
BE: Yeah. You’ve actually battled through several films that didn’t get a fair shake at the box office that I really liked, like “Sunset Strip”…
BE: …and, in particular, “Empire Records.”
RC: Yeah, and people somehow…yeah, like, “Dazed and Confused” and “Empire Records” have gotten some sort of cult following, which is good because, yeah, you’re right, they didn’t get a fair shake at the box office, but at least they’re being seen somewhere.
BE: You’re so comparatively straight-laced in the rest of your roles. Do people even realize you were Slater in “Dazed and Confused”? Because, obviously, your hair in that film is pretty different than in just about every other film you’ve ever done.
RC: Yeah. But, no, I still get that.
BE: I haven’t seen “Southlander,” but I’m really, really curious about it. How did you get involved with that one? Because, I mean, Elliott Smith and Beth Orton…? Those two names alone are enough to get me in the door.
RC: Um…that’s, like, a sort of a very weird film.
BE: Well, that’s what I’ve heard, but I’m kind of a sucker for any music-related flick, so that’s why I’m curious.
RC: Yeah, I mean, Elliot Smith wrote some originals for it, so that was pretty cool. But I don’t know where you would get that.
BE: I think they finally released it on DVD, actually.
RC: Oh, really?
BE: Yeah, I found…there was a link to it on the Wikipedia page for the film.
RC: That’s a very bizarre film; that’s all I can say.
BE: Where does your music taste lie?
RC: It’s pretty broad. If it’s good, I like it. I can’t specify some type of genre or subgenre.
BE: I get the impression you were in “A Kiss Before Dying” for about fifteen seconds. Was that…
RC: (Interrupts) Yeah, I got cut out of that.
BE: Oh, you did? Okay. It was on IMDb as one of your credits, and someone had a quote about the fact that you weren’t in it very long, but…well, anyway, was that your very first acting gig?
RC: Um, no, I was in this docudrama. It was the first thing that I did, and I went with a friend of mine from high school who was auditioning for it, and I was with him, going to get a slice of pizza or something, and the casting director said, “Do you want to audition, too?” And I said, “No, I’m just with my friend.” And she said, “Well, we’re seeing a lot of people. Why don’t you give it a shot?” And that’s how I sort of got into it professionally.
BE: And I guess a gradual process from there, because I know you were in a few movies, and then I guess it started snowballing after those first few.
RC: Yeah, I don’t know about snowballing…
BE: Well, it seemed like, after “Dazed and Confused,” you were on a pretty solid role of keeping busy, anyway.
RC: Yeah, I mean, you try to be a little bit somewhat choosy of what you do, work-wise, but you have to have somewhat of a balance between making money and trying to be artistic or whatever.
BE: With “A Scanner Darkly,” was it cool reuniting with Richard (Linklater, director of “Dazed and Confused”) on the film?
RC: Yeah, Richard is great.
BE: Did you two stay in touch over the years?
RC: Yeah. I mean, not tremendously, but anytime Rick calls me up and wants me to work for him, I’m happy to go there. He usually shoots in Texas. I know that he’s doing some movie now in London, but normally he just shoots in Texas, and I love going there. It’s great.
BE: When you were on “CSI: Miami,” how did your departure come about? Was that your choice?
RC: Yeah, it was. It was the sort of thing where I enjoyed working with the cast; I liked shooting in Miami once in awhile, even though they basically shot it in Los Angles; I definitely enjoyed the money. It was just one of those things that…I didn’t really get into the business to be a nine-to-five kind of guy. It’s unfortunate for the fans that appreciated my character; for that, I feel bad, but for anything else, I don’t. But I did give up a lot of money.
BE: When you said you were leaving, was it their idea to write you off the way they did?
RC: Yeah. Yeah, and I asked them not to do that, because there’s…if you do want to go back for a couple of episodes, you’re able to do that. They had it in my contract when I left that I wasn’t allowed to do television for four years, and I was fine with that because, y’know, why would I want to leave one show and go do another one? But they had it in my contract that they could ask me back for two episodes per season if they wanted to, and they never exercised that until they finally did, three years later. They asked me back for one episode, which didn’t really make any sense, but it is what it is.
BE: Did they have to twist your arm to do it? Obviously, you were contracted, but…
RC: No, no, I mean, I could have said no, but I didn’t. But it didn’t make any sense, because they shot me, so…
BE: Well that’s true. Do you have a favorite underrated film of yours? I mean, I know some of your films are, like I said, kind of cult flicks, but I’m talking about, like, your personal favorite that you felt didn’t get enough love.
RC: That *I* was in?
RC: I mean, I kind of…I did this film around the time of “Empire Records” called “The Low Life,” which didn’t really get a big release, but I thought it was pretty decent.
BE: Actually, I was just reading about that on IMDb. I saw that it was directed by George Hickenlooper.
BE: Is there any project that didn’t take off that you wish had? I mean, like a pilot or a film pitch or anything?
RC: Not really.
BE: Have you got anything else currently in the works?
RC: Yeah, I’m going to go do this movie in Chicago.
BE: Any specifics to be had yet, or can’t you talk about it?
RC: It’s a Michael Mann movie with Johnny Depp and Christian Bale.
BE: Good company, anyway.
RC: Yeah, and it’s a great subject matter. It’s about the Depression and gangsters.
BE: Oh, sweet. Excellent. All right, well, it’s been a pleasure talking to you. Like I said, I really enjoyed the flick.
RC: Alright, thank you. I’m glad you did.
Post-Script: You can almost certainly tell this from the interview, but just for the record, I tried so damned hard to get Rory to discuss more stuff from his career, yet I still feel like I ultimately failed. I never got the feeling that he was being evasive; he just didn’t have any interest or desire to talk about most of this stuff, neither in a positive nor negative way. But, really, for as much of his non-answers as I suffered through – and you really just can’t get the appropriate feel in this text for how much I was cringing when I got nothing but a “yeah” for an answer – when we got to the tail end of the conversation and I actually had to press him to reveal that he was working on a Michael Mann film with Johnny Depp and Christian Bale (it’s called “Public Enemies,” by the way), I was thinking, “Dude, c’mon, it’s okay to do a little self-promotion!”