BOXOFFICE sat down with Red star Brian Cox to discuss balancing blockbusters and indies.

One For Them, One For Me

on November 04, 2008 by Marco Cerritos

Sitting across from versatile actor Brian Cox it’s hard to forget that he has earned a reputation as one of the greatest working actors in Hollywood. His supporting turns in blockbusters like Troy, X-Men 2 and the first two Bourne films have introduced him to a new generation of moviegoers, but his artistic power was first felt in Michael Mann’s Manhunter. The film was remade under its literary title Red Dragon, but Cox’s original portrayal of Dr. Hannibal Lecter continues to scare audiences to this day.

Cox has been described as a chameleon actor by his peers for seamlessly disappearing into quirky characters from classic independent films such as Rushmore, L.I.E., and Match Point. Navigating a string of characters so wildly different seems to come naturally to Cox, who feels that the trick is to change slightly within himself. “The key is you work internally. The internal mechanism shifts in various degrees. And when the internal mechanism shifts the exterior shifts. The look is always slightly different because of what’s going on inside.”

Cox recently took time off from his busy schedule to promote his latest project Red, one of his independent labors of love that almost didn’t make it to the screen. Cox stars as Avery, a quiet man living out his days in a small town with only his haggard dog Red as a companion. Avery hardly leads an exciting life and would rather spend his time fishing and playing with the old hound instead of blending into society and being more active in the town’s spotlight. When an attack on his canine friend forces Avery to confront the town’s law enforcement, the misunderstanding turns into a life and death struggle between the lonely man and corrupt officials.

Red started out as a small film based on a small story but eventually escalated into a nightmare shoot, even shutting down production and switching directors halfway into production. Cox eventually had to step in as a mediator between original director Lucky McKee and replacement Trygve Allister Diesen, a job he feels is part of the filmmaking process. “The director is a lonely job so you need your backup and the problem is fiscally it wasn’t going to work. I’m the constant factor and the script is the constant factor. In the end everyone’s contribution is there to be seen and there to be praised. You’re learning from your mistakes and that’s what independent film is about. It’s designed not to be perfect and if it is perfect you should make it imperfect.”

But despite communication problems and some bad blood, Cox believes that the big Hollywood paychecks aren’t enough to dissuade him from one of his true loves, independent film. “It’s the lifeblood as far as I’m concerned. The blockbusters are fine and I have a really good time doing them and of course I’ve been very lucky because I’ve had some really great roles. I’ve also been in some cutting-edge movies like the Bourne films which redesigned the action genre. After Jason Bourne, James Bond would never be the same. Daniel Craig has a lot to be grateful for.”

Another of Brian Cox’s passions is the stage where he returns whenever possible to balance out his film work and become a different kind of actor. While he doesn’t seem to have a preference between the two, he feels they both equally drive his work in new and different directions. “I don’t have a preference, the theatre feeds me in a different way. It hones the craft and the cinema is where you have to make the craft more invisible. You can’t be as obvious as you are in the theatre because the theatre requires a different kind of energy. The root is the same but the transfer is slightly different. My favorite medium of all mediums is radio. That’s what I really love doing because nobody sees your face and it’s just you and the script. It’s very fast and you don’t have to learn it and you have an immediate relationship with it. Less politics creep into it as there are in cinema or in theatre.”

Red is now available on DVD.

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