The movies often make for strange companions, if not actual bedfellows. So it was that a bunch of entertainment writers at the junket for the genre-blending martial-arts western fantasy, “The Warrior’s Way,” met with a pair of actors with a definite air of beauty-and-the-beast about them.
Kate Bosworth is, oddly enough, the beauty of the pair. Perhaps best known as Lois Lane in the unfairly maligned “Superman Returns,” Bosworth has appeared in a number of films, including a solid appearance as Sandra Dee in Kevin Spacey‘s offbeat Bobby Darin biopic, “Beyond the Sea.” She also played porn star John Holmes’ teenage girlfriend in the fact-based “Wonderland” and was the female lead in the gambling-themed hit, “21.” Bosworth launched her career starring in the short-lived “Dawson’s Creek” spin-off, “Young Americans,” which wrapped in 2000 and followed that up with the lead role in the surfing-themed “Blue Crush” in 2002.
Danny Huston is often cast in the role of beastly types and authority figures, and usually a combination of both. He was the leader of the cold weather vampires in “30 Days of Night,” a memorably creepy power broker in “Children of Men,” and the mutant hating Col. William Stryker in “X-Men Origins: Wolverine.” He was also the despicably ultra-vicious desperado/gangleader brother of Guy Pearce in the 2005 mega-grime Australian western, “The Proposition.”
It’s also mandatory that I mention that Huston is about as “Hollywood royalty” as people get, being the son of acting and directing great John Huston, whose best remembered acting role remains as the deeply evil Noah Cross of “Chinatown” and whose iconic films included “The Maltese Falcon,” “The Treasure of the Sierra Madre,” and, still going strong decades later, “Wise Blood” and “Prizzi’s Honor.” That additionally means that Danny Huston’s grandfather was the early Hollywood star and character actor Walter Huston and his half-sister is Oscar-winner Angelica Huston. Still in his forties, he also was a director early on in his career, helming 1988’s “Mr. North.”
Bosworth and Huston were there to promote their roles in “The Warrior’s Way,” which was released this last weekend in a modest wide release. In the film, the first English language starring vehicle for Korean superstar Jang Dong-gun, Bosworth plays Lynne, a knife-thrower in training bent on revenge against the man who killed her family and attacked her. Naturally, that man is the Colonel (Huston), a mask-wearing evildoer who was badly disfigured by Lynne as a young girl, so it’s clear these two just aren’t going to get along.
Off screen, however, the two got along just fine as they sang the praises of the film which none of us entertainment journalist types had actually seen. About 10-15 minutes worth of clips had been shown to us the night before, prior to a very pleasant reception with some really delicious sushi and yakitori treats. The next day we got more American style fare at the Beverly Hilton. Did I mention that the food is often the best part of a press day?
The conversation started around some of the costumes used in the film. One journalist asked Kate Bosworth if she enjoyed the costuming aspect of movie-making. This might have turned into a very interesting piece if she’d said, “God, no, I hate it!” But, of course, that’s not how she feels.
“Yes, it is fun. I love fashion. I think we all know that there are certain times of the time when you say, ‘I wanna take my heels off,’ and be barefoot. and sometimes I do in these junkets. So, don’t be surprised if that happens.”
Quizzed about the style of “The Warrior’s Way,” Danny Huston, who in person speaks in a theatrical-sounding mid-Atlantic accent, kept to the topic of clothes.
“Well, talking about dressing up, I must say I enjoyed dressing up for this film in regards to all my regalia: my mask, my coat, my guns, my sword, my hair…the costumes were big in creating this film and, in a way, what grounded me somewhat as far as working with green screen and having very little else to relate to. The costumes were something that one could cling on to.”
“I felt the exact same way,” Kate Bosworth agreed, “In fact, I was saying in other interviews that the costumes were the grounding force, often. Because we’re living in this sort of fantasy world…it was really very nice to have such amazing costumes, to have that kind of visual aid.”
The next questioner actually asked if Bosworth had been “a great knife thrower before this.”
“Yeah. Just like all the time at home. On a Saturday night, that’s we do in the Bosworth household,” the actress joked. “No, I had never knife-thrown in my life but, you know, I’d never touched a surfboard before ‘Blue Crush.” I take on new skills in films pretty excitedly. [I] embrace it.”
Was there a lot of training involved?
There was, but it was hurried. “Because the film happened so quickly, as soon as everyone signed on it felt like it went very, very quickly,” Bosworth answered. “I would have loved to have had a little bit more training, but often we would learn a specific move and shoot it either that day or the next day. They really kept us on our toes, I’ll tell you that much. We were constantly going on adrenalin with the physicality, and that meant that we had to trust each other quite a bit,” she said with a bit of a laugh, adding that it especially applied to her scenes with Huston.
“I had a stunt girl who I was practicing the sword fights with,” Huston added. “Kate had a stunt man to fight with, but practically the first time we worked on the scenes together were on-set. In a way I wished for more training because I wasn’t sure how it was going to work but also the anticipation made me nervous and kept a certain amount of adrenalin going. It was a lot of fun for me. There’s this thing where you swing the sword and you kind of look over one shoulder and make sure that Kate was aware that that was what I was going to do. There’s this momentary connection and then you just go for it, you swing it. Maybe not at 100 percent but try to push above the 80s to make it work. It’s exciting for actors to feel that they’re doing their own stunts. That part isn’t a gimmick…We got tousled, we got bruised and it felt like an honest day’s work.”
“It would have helped to have had a dance or a ballet background with this because it was so specific with the footwork and balance,” Bosworth added. “More so than just slashing each other with big knives, it was really so much more like an intricate dance.”
What about the dirty-grungy aspect of being made to look as if one is living in a godforsaken frontier town?
“I was constantly asking for more dirt and more dust. I feel like as the girl I get the short end of the stick with that. They were like, ‘No, you need to be pretty’ and [said] ‘No, I want to be covered in dirt!’ and looking grimy and real…I was really into make sure my fingernails were very dirty and was constantly saying ‘put my yellow on my teeth.”
What about working with Geoffrey Rush, cast as the obligatory town drunkard and good friend to Bosworth’s character?
“I loved working with Geoffrey,” Bosworth said. “I’d known him a few years before that so it was really nice to work together. He’s so lovely and so much fun. He had such a ball being a drunkard on the movie. Sometimes you’d look around — there’d be a really intense moment happening — and Geoffrey would just be having a conservation with a statue [or other inanimate object].”
And what about the appeal of doing “The Warrior’s Way”?
“It was very similar to a Sergio Leone type film — those films belong to my childhood,” Danny Huston said. “I could almost imagine a Morricone score presenting my character. It had a fable aspect to it and a wonderful kaleidoscope of different influences.” Huston went on to praise star Jang Dong-gun as a sort of Clint Eastwood type, capable of expressing a lot with very little action. He also lauded the film as a whole and first time writer-director Sngmoo Lee, saying he was “just delighted” with how how the film turned out.
“There was lot of layers that went into that weren’t there when we were filming. I remember aiming up at the sky with my gun and I remember saying to Sngmoo, ‘Well, what am I shooting at?’ He said, ‘Light 27.’ I said, ‘I know, but what is Light 27?’ He said, ‘It’s a ninja.’ I said, ‘I see, are there other ninjas?’ ‘Yes, there are hundreds! They’re all around you!’ ‘Oh my God!’ I was also, in a way, visiting this world created by him, a very particular world.”
Kate Bosworth’s response to the question also put her at odds with most of the critics who bought tickets and did manage to review “The Warrior’s Way.” “I’m sure you can all imagine how many formulaic things cross the desk every day. To get something original and thoughtful and profound and beautiful and poetic — I didn’t see how I could say ‘no’ — and [not get to] sword fight.”
The next questioner was a journalist who, doing many roundtables, I’ve noticed always asks the same question: How does X role relate to an actor’s personal life? In this case, the question was for Kate Bosworth. The writer noticed that her love interest in the movie is a foreigner (the heroic Jang Dong-gun, of course) and that her real-life boyfriend, who happens to be Swedish actor Alexander Skarsgard (HBO’s “True Blood” and “Generation Kill“), is also a foreigner. Gossip mongers will remember that her prior boyfriend was reportedly Orlando Bloom, of England, the high seas, and Middle Earth.
“I was thinking to myself, as she was asking this question, I think the last three boyfriends have been foreigners. It’s an obvious habitual trait of mine. Dong-gun is so lovely and so it’s very easy for me to organically form a relationship with him even if it is just in a look…I suppose we were lucky in a way that there was just an easy between us from the very beginning. The relationship was very well formed on the page.”
However, she admitted, it might have been more difficult for her costar because of language issues. “The Warrior’s Way” is his first Western film and Jang Dong-gun, though able to speak some English very well, uses a translator in interviews. She acknowledged that for him it was a matter of “the challenge of mastering the English language and putting the emotion to it as well…We rehearsed a lot, for that reason.”
The next question was about Bosworth’s next film, Rod Lurie’s upcoming remake of Sam Peckinpah’s still hugely controversial 1971 thriller/psycho-sexual drama, “Straw Dogs.” Her character in the original film, portrayed by Susan George, figures in one of the most notorious and widely argued-over rape sequences in film history. The scene led to the film being banned in the UK for decades.
“Do you know what? I actually had never seen ‘Straw Dogs.’ I read the script before I watched the movie. I knew of the movie. So, I thought, ‘I’ll read the script and see how it holds up as a screenplay and see if that holds my interest. I didn’t really want to be too influenced by the film because I thought, ‘Of course the film is going to be interesting and wonderful.’ I didn’t want that to influence my decision.”
“So, I read the script first and it was great. I love Rod Lurie. He’s a very talented man…I watched the film and that was when I was [realized] that this was going to be quite a ride, quite a journey.” She noted that reading screenplays it will often leave out the emotional details of scenes and that seeing the Peckinpah film made it hit home what she’d be in for in the remake of the film. “I’m most attracted to material when I have a certain sense of fear…I think a certain amount of fear is a good thing. You certainly grow a lot and learn a lot. I suppose that’s why I love doing what I do. I’m not really in it to just sort of flat-line.”
Some questions followed about what a sequel to “Superman Returns” might have been like, now that the Ur-superhero is on his way to a full-on reboot, (she has no idea), and her health/exercise regimen/preferences (she particularly likes horseback riding but studios don’t approve). That led to a question about Bosworth’s surfing in “Blue Crush.”
“I feel like I was paid to become a full-on athlete. More so than anything else, it was five or six hours of training every day. I got a little bit of an overload of that at the time.”
Then there was a question about Danny Huston’s next role. He’ll be playing prosecutor Joseph Holt in Robert Redford‘s “The Conspirator.” In the film, which has been screened at festivals but won’t be coming out until next April. Holt is pushing for the execution of Mary Surratt (Robin Wright Penn) for her role in the successful plot to assassinate Abraham Lincoln in the aftermath of the American Civil War. How did Huston view his character?
“…He’s a man who suffered a great loss, a great president. The conspirators are, I suppose, in today’s terms, terrorists, but there’s a witch-hunt element to it. One can relate it directly to what’s happening at Guantanamo and trials that are going on now. There’s no black and white, but an interesting point in history that relates very much to today.”
But, though actors routinely say they don’t like “judging” their characters, no matter how poor their behavior, how does Huston play such heavies as the Colonel and Marlow, the vampire?
“What a nasty trick God plays on vampires. It’s quite a difficult existence. You can’t survive in daylight. You need human blood…So, the character in ’30 Days of Night’ is angry at God. Here, the character is scarred by Kate Bosworth’s character on the face, and he’s quite a vain character. He heart is somewhat scarred [also]. There’s a romantic desire, however perverse that might sound, that he wants to satisfy.”
That talk of perverse desires reminded me of something. Genetics notwithstanding and despite some physical resemblance, Danny Huston is very much his own man as an actor. The night before, however, I thought I maybe caught a bit of Noah Cross. Was I on to anything?
“You know, the tightness of the mask, and the way that it forced me to speak with a certain precision, and occasionally I heard my father’s voice kind of bleed into my voice. It was a surprise when saw it, but I kind of see what you mean. I mean, Noah Cross is probably the best baddie — if baddie is the way to describe the character of Noah Cross — I think in film history.”