NY Film Festival 2014: Martin Short, Cast Talk Inherent Vice

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Apparently the groovy ’70s may not have been exactly what they used to be. That is, if you’re gazing back through the somewhat inebriated looking glass, or rather rabbit hole, of Paul Thomas Anderson’s Inherent Vice. Which is a screen adaptation based on the original 2009 Thomas Pynchon bestseller, and in which quite a flaky collection of characters are assembled to solve all sorts of crimes festering in this comic noir. And while playing out within the seedy rather than sunnier side of LA. A number of the cast members of Inherent Vice dropped by the NY Film Festival for the movie’s premiere, and to hold forth – except for an uncharacteristically inhibited Joaquin Phoenix – on an assortment of equally offbeat related topics. Touching on overalls, speed reading, saxophones, the Muppets, and pizza.

So how many of you have read the book?

[A very, very few hands go up]

MARTIN SHORT: And it must have been a speed reading course! I had my assistant read it to me!

Well, what did you do to get into character for Inherent Vice?

OWEN WILSON: Huh? I’m sorry, what was your question?

What did you do to immerse yourself in this role, and into living in the ’70s for this movie?

OW: Well, for me I guess it began with the work. I think it wasn’t, you know, a complicated process. Getting into that role in the ’70s.

But it was just sorta meeting Paul. And figuring out um, the look. You know, what my character was going to be wearing.

Because I had some ideas that Paul would be, um…He didn’t go with my ideas!

How so?

OW: I had one shirt that I really wanted to wear. And I guess it wasn’t…’70s enough!

I mean, as stuff. But I think it was when we landed on the overalls! You know, he was sorta looking at some Dennis Wilson.

I think that’s what it was – white overalls. And the Muppets look too! The saxophone player from the Muppets. Yep.

And what does it mean to you, with all your young fans for your kid movies, especially Lightning McQueen in Cars?

OW: Yeah, kids love to see movies. More than once! Well, it’s exciting. And for me to be part of Disney, right?

Martin, I loved watching you on TV when I was a kid. I never could get enough of you!

MS: Uh, I can’t follow that! Yeah, I realize I can’t follow any of it. So yeah.

How did all of you get inside the heads of your characters?

MS: Well I think for me, when you’re working with a great director, you feel very, very safe. Because you know that all decisions and all directions will be made months later.

You know, in the editing room. And so you just feel completely loose. So what I love, is how many variations you can have.

Like you go in the car, you get out of the car. And then you try it again, and try it again.

And I might improvise an approach to a line and say to Paul, shall I do it again? Paul, you want me to do it again! I can’t do it.

Then I’d do it again. So it was just, it was really trying to create as many elements, and colors and hues.

And that could help later on when he was putting it all together, in that sense. And that’s brave, as an actor.

How about you, Owen?

OW: Well, it was a very loose way of working. But I sometimes wouldn’t necessarily know exactly what I was doing.

I just sort of, you know, had to rely on feeling safe. Or comfortable in decisions made down the road.

And I tried to do a lot of different stuff. And I remember a lot of improvising.

But we were sort of, you know, encouraged to kinda do anything. And um yeah, it was just kinda loose. And chaotic!

And what about you, Joaquin?

JOAQUIN PHOENIX: How ya doin’? I was fine!

Okay…Benicio, what’s your take on immersing yourself in this quirky movie?

BENICIO DEL TORO: Um, I remember jumping in. You know, right into a three page monologue.

And I think someone said, that in order to learn your lines, you need to repeat them. Three hundred times!

So that by the end of the scene, you know your lines! But you can take a scene that’s taking place, and move it into a car. And you’re just like dancing, in a way.

And I really enjoyed it, working with Joaquin. And my scenes with Josh too.

And there was a lot of laughing, and a lot of them were laughing at us! So that was fun.

What are you up to next?

BDT: What am I doing next? I’m going to my hotel!

No, I meant your next movie!

BDT: Oh, I’ve got a couple of things. Escobar is coming out, Paradise Lost. And, what do I have…Um, I have a film called A Perfect Day.

And Sicario. So I’ve got these things coming out. But working-wise, I don’t know.

And do you like seeing all your fans coming out for you, does that excite you?

BDT: Yeah! I liked seeing the cast today too. Because I haven’t seen the cast for a long time, you know?

I hear you. Did you like going back to the ’70s as a character in Inherent Vice?

BDT: Yeah. I always like going back to the ’70s!

So what’s your favorite ’70s memory?

BDT: My favorite ’70s…pizza! Discovering pizza!

More information about the NY Film Festival 2014 is online at: Filmlinc.com

Prairie Miller is a New York multimedia journalist online, in print and radio, who reviews movies and conducts in-depth interviews. She can also be heard on WBAI/Pacifica National Radio Network’s Arts Express.