We had a chance to sit down with Timothy Olyphant and talk about his role in Catch & Release. TIMOTHY OLYPHANT who plays Fritz starred in David Milch’s Emmy Award-winning show “Deadwood” on HBO, in which he portrayed Marshal Seth Bullock. Among his recent film roles are The Girl Next Door, opposite Elisha Cuthbert and Emile Hirsch, Dreamcatcher, opposite Morgan Freeman for director Lawrence Kasdan, Doug Liman’s critically acclaimed film Go, and The Broken Hearts Club with Dean Cain and John Mahoney. Olyphant will next star in the untitled Kimberly Peirce project opposite Ryan Phillippe, in Bill, with Jessica Alba, and in Live Free or Die Hard, the fourth installment in the Die Hard franchise, opposite Bruce Willis. Olyphant was born in Hawaii and raised in California.
He studied fine art and theater at the University of Southern California and, after graduation, moved to New York to enroll in William Esper’s acting program. He received the World Theatre Award for Outstanding Debut Performance – an award previously won by Al Pacino and Alan Alda – for his role as Tim Hapgood in the Playwright’s Horizon production of “The Monogamist” written by Christopher Kyle. He went on to star in David Sedaris’ one-man production “Santaland Diaries” at the Atlantic Theatre and later returned to the Playwright’s Horizon to star in “Plunge” also written by Christopher Kyle. Prior to acting, Olyphant swam competitively at USC and was a U.S. National Finalist in the 200 individual Medley.
Q: Could you talk a little about a rumor that there’s going to be a two hour movie [for “Deadwood”], a lot of fans want to know.
TIMOTHY OLYPHANT: I know what you know, I read the trades now because I want to know what’s happening, I heard they’re going to do them, and that’s all I can tell you.
Q: What do you want them to do?
TO: I’ll tell you this. I couldn’t be more proud of that show, and my involvement in it. It was one of the greatest experiences creatively and personally. Just recently, the fact that the Screen Writers Guild gave us that ensemble nomination, the most lovely thing about that was the excuse to call all those folks out. [Ian] McShane called me and I talked to Dayton Callie later that afternoon, I talked to Anna [Gunn]. It was just great to pick up the phone and hear those people’s voices again, and David Milch was… I try to think positively that I might have soaked a little bit of that up, that I might somehow take some of that brilliance with me to other jobs. It was unbelievable what it was like and unbelievable in that consistently everyday I showed up on that set, he did something that I was wowed by, that I just didn’t see coming, unbelievable in terms of the one hesitation you had, at least I had, the idea of doing a series, how long did it go and when will it get boring, at what point does it no longer have much to offer, and that point never quite came, it was really quite something.
Q: Would you want there to be a 2-hour film project?
TO: Well, the only reason that its pointless to entertain that idea is because, until there is something in front of me to make a decision about, it’s better for my mindset that I’m moving forward, and I think that until that phone call comes, it’s really pointless to get too hung up on that.
Q: This is quite the year for you, with that and the “Die Hard” movie that’s coming out.
TO: I feel very, very blessed, I feel very fortunate. I mean, the fact is, over a number of years now, I have been allowed to work fairly consistently, and also quite lucky to play quite a diverse group of characters. The fact that that continues, just really means the world to me because it’s what’s fun about the profession, going from one thing to the next, being able to do things that I find surprising, you know, that I find, ‘hmmm’, not something that I thought might have been in the repertoire kind of thing and you know just really makes the job so much fun. And I think at the same time as far as success is concerned, based on what you say it’s just higher profile jobs and things. The downside is, I imagine, my private life gets a little less private, which is something that you hope that I’m at a place in life where that’s not too disruptive.
Q: Was it easy to say yes to “Die Hard?” There is sometimes a risk to doing this kind of movie.
TO: It was easy, it was easy. That offer came in and it seemed like a no-brainer. You know what you’re signing up for. And you know it’s probably going to be a good time. And you know I’ve never been in a role in a classic great American popcorn movie and it’s just a personal thing, it shoots here in LA, I literally just work for a few weeks.
Q: Jennifer [Garner] and Susannah [Grant] described an interrupted feeling of delaying the release [of “Catch and Release”]. How has that affected you?
TO: The catch and previously unreleased?
TO: How’s it affected me…? Ummm, I imagine there is some sort of ripple effect career-wise, when movies come out it raises some sort of interest, going about in my professional life in some. It feels more or less the same. I think in the end of the day, all that you feel, in terms of is there any kind of anxiousness for it to get out there, part of the thing about this job is that you’re telling a story, and you want an audience, that sort of thing, you kind of look forward to, you know it’s not theater. The beauty of theater is obviously that intimacy and that thing of I do this, and you respond, and we all kind of taking part in it, and the only disappointment of anything being held for so long a time, is you waiting for that thing to bounce back.
Q: How is different in your character in “Die Hard” as opposed to Alan Rickman in the first one?
TO: His is going to be much better. [Laughter] Just a little guess. It really is quite different. Again, we just started, I just started I should say, this week, so I’m kinda feeling it out. It’s a cyber-terrorist plot based on this article in “Wired” magazine a few years ago saying that as horrific and as sad as seeing a building come down, that the real threat to the country is that terrorism, that someone could hack into the infrastructure, they could cripple the country in a matter of days.
This character is a guy who used to work for the government and one of them has the possibility of carrying it out. So it implies in its own right, it’s a different character, it’s a different villain. There’s something that feels maybe a little bit more unstable about doing that kind of a thing, you know the ouch doesn’t really match the pinch. This guy’s career is kind of ruined and is sort of now saying ‘I told you so.’
Q: Have you been blown up or beaten up yet?
TO: Not yet. [Laughter] But I have a sneaky suspicion.
Q: Now there’s plenty coincidence that you’re with Kevin Smith.
TO: Yeah, first day, there was Kevin. [Laughter] Disappointed… no. [Laughter] He was throwing things out there on “Die Hard,” and not just for his character… Kevin’s funny.
Q: He’s a unique human being, how do you interact with him as somebody who is more of a conventional straight ahead kind of actor?
TO: I try not to interact with him too much because it ends up on the blog. [Laughter] Wait a minute, what did you call me, what did you call me? Did you just call me conventional actor?
Q: Straight forward actor.
TO: Straight forward actor… How do you know about my straight forward or not straight forward?
Q: Because of the way you speak and the way you approach the thoughts that you have towards your roles, and because the director told us Kevin was this [certain] way. So with that on the table, I’m curious about being around someone like that.
TO: It’s all the same. Absolutely. I think at the end of the day, you read about it, that everyone’s going about it in their own ways in different ways, but when it comes down to it, you’re doing some very simple actions that help move the story. I think at the end of the day, my job is the same. I have a sense, hopefully of what the scene is about, what I’m trying to do, and other than that you make yourself available to what’s going on around you.
You know what I mean, it’s like a boxing metaphor, you have a sense of what you’re trying to accomplish, but once you get in the ring, you don’t want to be so stuck in that because if the other guy does something that you were not expecting, it might be a good idea to come up with another plan, and I think that’s all it is. And I don’t find working with Kevin any different from working with anyone else. In a way all it does is force you to listen more because you don’t know what he’s going to say. And it’s not a bad thing.
Q: How was working with Jennifer [Garner]? Was it different from what you expected? Have you seen “Alias?”
TO: No, you know, I’ve known her for a long time. I knew her years ago in New York, when she and I were both just first starting, and it was very refreshing to see that more or less she was the same girl I knew then. She’s just a lovely person, and she’s a real pro, she knows everybody’s name, she’s on time, she’s one of those people that despite being this kind of major star, she’s one of the guys, and I really appreciate that a great deal, because for me this was a real opportunity to play a role that I’ve not played with a big star and she made me feel very relaxed, very at home.
Q: What was the attraction of this role, as you said you’ve not played a character quite like this?
TO: Well, that was a big part of it; it was an opportunity to play a leading man and to lead. But it was also an opportunity to play a great character. At the end of the day, as more opportunities come to me, anyone who goes to the movies or watches television knows often times the lead roles are most boring. So you try to find roles that are as fun as possible or as rich as possible. And Susannah writes well, very, very well. And it was a fun character.
It was a fun character because at the end of the day, any of these roles, the comedic ones or bullock or whatever, if you can find something that allows the character to be surprising, where you don’t quite see the moment coming, where you’re not quite sure what that character is gonna do next, and for a conventional leading man role, this had a lot of those moments.
Q: What’s going on with “Hitman?”
TO: I don’t know.
Q: Are you still attached to it?
TO: I don’t think I’ve ever been officially attached to it. Contrary to the internet. [Laughing] It sounds fun. It sounds pretty cool. I’ve seen the pictures; I’ve never seen the game. It looks cool. Lord knows, who knows how I look like when this hair comes off. [Laughter] It’s a major concern.
Q: It has not had the history of good video game movies though, so what gives you the confidence that that’ll be a good one?
TO: That’s a good point. I don’t know. You start like always, you start with a script, and then you ask yourself who’s going to tell that story. You got Luc Besson on right now, whose done very good movies in that genre, “La Femme Nikita.” I remember walking around for weeks just saying La Femme Nikita. [Laughter] It was just such a good movie. Gosh, it’s just great. And then “The Professional,” I just watched “The Professional” again a few weeks ago.
It’s a good movie. It’s such a bizarre… you know I haven’t seen the long version. I hear the long version is unbelievable where he goes and kills people with her. I haven’t seen it. It’s such a great, sweet story; it’s such like a funny… it’s such a metaphor for parenthood, in this warped way. You’re trying to essentially teaching your children how to survive with you. And it’s really quite something.
Q: So they have approached you, but you haven’t signed on?
TO: There has been conversation. [Laughter]
Q: So what else have you been talking about, are you doing anything after “Die Hard?”
TO: No. Don’t know what I’m doing after that.
Q: As an actor, is it different for you working with somebody who is both a writer and director?
TO: It’s always great when clearly there’s one person who’s in charge, I mean, its fantastic. You know, arguably David Milch is both writer and director. It doesn’t mean anything when the writer and director are the same person, and that person sucks. But it means a great deal when …it’s always great to have one person tell you a story.
Q: Is there something about being a swimmer and being competitive when you are acting and it’s about teamwork and it’s about some kind of synchronization? Is that difficult for somebody who is obviously a natural competitor? There are really very few sports that are more competitive than …
TO: I remember when I first started coming to grips with the facts that unlike swimming, that the fastest person didn’t always win. And that was a tricky thing to wrap your head around. In sport, the winner is clearly the winner and in this job, in terms of getting jobs, that you can be the guy that they said blew everybody away, not the one that we’re goin’ with. People are opening and closing doors and it’s out of your control. But that’s a lesson in life, you basically realize that you can’t do anything about it, so you just have to disregard it, and move on.
Q: In scenes particularly is there…?
TO: In scenes particularly I don’t ever find myself thinking… I’ve not thought about it. I enjoy this job a great deal. And one of the things I enjoy about it is that collaborative spirit. I really enjoy the relationships; I enjoy the creative atmosphere that is sort of social in a way. Recently listening to David Lynch, it’s this thing that ideas are everywhere, and there’s something fun about being on the set, and not just the relation between the director and the actors, but the crew and all of it. And it’s true that ideas are sort of everywhere. There’s things informing you all the time. And there’s things to work off of all the time. I remember one of my first good experiences on a film set, I remember when I first started acting I was doing plays and I’ve done some television and I did this one small part in a movie and I just couldn’t figure out what was fun about it, the experiences were very vapid, and was not inspiring at all.
But I did this one day on “A Life Less Ordinary” with Holly Hunter, and we were in the middle of a take on her coverage, and a breeze kind of kicked up, and she kind of stopped and turned her face into the breeze, and her hair kind of blew back, and I thought, is she ruining her take? I thought this was the craziest thing ever. And then it occurred to me that she was just working off of what she was given, and she was just dialed into the experience and the moment. And it was the first time I thought, aha, look at this, you can go on a film set, and you can aspire to do something really creative, and really… I don’t know if it translates, but it was the first time I just didn’t see someone manufacture, nothing about it was manufactured, and it was really quite beautiful. And I find the experience on film sets, that’s the place you want to be. She seemed totally unaware of herself.
Q: What can you tell us about the Kimberly Peirce film?
TO: It’s called “Stop Loss” with Ryan Phillippe and Channing Tatum. It’s about these soldiers that come back and think that they’re finished with their tour of duty and then they’re called back to the crisis in the Middle East. I play a Lieutenant Colonel who is essentially the guy saying ‘Look, you gotta go back, there’s nothing you can do about it.’ I’m sort of his last effort. Well, I guess he goes to a Senator after me to try to fight it.
Q: How did you get your role with the radio show – 103.1?
TO: I was a big fan of that station, it’s one of the great radio stations, certainly here in LA. I had friends in common, I went in to do some publicity for DEADWOOD and I thought, boy I’d love to do something on the show, and the next day I called in to sports, and it’s been 7 months ago or so.
Q: Do you write all of it yourself?
TO: I just read the paper. [Laughter] I wake up in the morning and I lay out the sports page in front of me, and I just pick up the phone, I call them or they call me, and I tell them what’s in front of me. [Laughter] Other than that, I could also just tell ‘em my brother scored a two-hundred seventy this weekend at the golf course, I could do… it’s a great thing, I really enjoy doing it. And Joe Escalante is a class act, I’m a big fan. So, it’s been great.
Q: What radio station is it by the way?
TO: 103.1 Indie 103, here in Los Angeles, an alternative rock, punk station. I do sports and David Lynch does weather. [Laughter] And I’m not joking.
Q: Just once a week?
TO: It’s everyday, Monday through Friday.
Q: Is it online?
TO: Yeah, you can go online and pull up Friday’s sports report; they tend to keep it on there.
Q: I can’t imagine David Lynch committing to any kind of web…
TO: He does it everyday on his website, so this is just an extension of what he was already doing for a few years now. Everyday he gets up and does the weather, Los Angeles. You know it’s really quite…
TO: No, I really think there’s a little genius to it, I think what he’s doing is quite interesting.
Q: Are you a big city guy or were you a fish-out-of-water ever, kind of like your character in the movie, or do you feel more comfortable in a small town?
TO: I never really thought about it, I feel like my wife and I, we’ve lived in tiny little beach town to New York and LA. We look back and we realize that we were always pretty happy. I think you create your own community, and I’ve been really lucky that way.