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GREG KINNEAR on 'THE MATADOR'
Contributed by Michael J. Lee, Executive Editor
for Radio Free Entertainment

December 11, 2005


In the offbeat comedy The Matador, struggling salesman Danny Wright (Greg Kinnear) meets professional hitman Julian Noble (Pierce Brosnan) in a quiet bar while on a business trip to Mexico City. Wary yet fascinated by Julian's profession, Danny forms a strong bond of friendship with the so-called "facilitator of fatalities." Still, the suburbanite businessman is surprised when Julian pays him and his wife Bean (Hope Davis) an unexpected visit, showing up on his doorstep late one night and begging for help. Years of the assassination game have taken their toll on Julian, and he is in desperate need of one last successful hit after a streak of botched jobs.

In this interview, Greg Kinnear talks about co-star Pierce Brosnan, the evolution of his character's mustache, and his experience of working in Mexico City.

The Matador opens in limited theaters on January 6, and goes wider on January 20.


The Interview

MEDIA: Your character and Pierce Brosnan's become great friends in the movie. How did you get along with Pierce in real life?

GREG: I like Pierce. I mean, we did have a great time doing the movie. He's a nice guy. It's not like working with (fill in the blank). He's actually a very affable person. We're a couple of Irish lads down there in Mexico City. It was good. I think we both had a piece of material that we were both kind of excited about in different ways, so it was fun. It was really fun.

Was it your choice to grow the mustache for Danny?

You know, there was nothing in the script that [said] Danny has a mustache. And I walk around the corner, carrying my latte, and almost bump into Pierce, who's looking at me. I got a mustache, and I'm looking at him, and he's got a mustache. He's like, "Character assassination!" And for whatever reason--and I don't know why--we both just had this kind of similar response that somehow a mustache belongs on our characters. It's one of my favorite jokes in the movie.

Have you ever had to deal with unexpected, after-hours visitors showing up on your doorstep?

Not at the house. I've gotten a few calls here and there and [run] into some old faces. You always do along the way. But nobody who's killing people for a living--at least, as far as I know.

Have you ever met someone at a bar who was just so interesting that you had to go on an adventure with them?

No. And that probably says more about me than them, but I'm not a big "bar lounge, strike up the old conversation" guy. I'm a little intimidated by somebody who can just hold court at a bar. So I don't have a lot of those types of stories. But I do understand it. I thought it was a great set up and a great premise for the story to begin--in Mexico City of all places, which is a beautiful city, but it's gigantic. Sprawling place. And the moment you get off the plane, you feel a little disoriented there. You're a little lost, because it's just lights and colors and all this stuff. And to take these two guys and quietly seat them at a bar that's closing down was such an intriguing place for them to start on this friendship, I thought.

How did you like working in Mexico City?

Loved it. I really loved it. A great deal of our crew and some of our cast was from there, and they were fantastic. There's been a lot more movies done there in the last few years, and I can see why. They're great crews, and it's an incredible city. I kind of think it's like a fourth character in the movie. I really thought it was a nice postcard for Mexico City. No Man on Fire here, man. Nice things! Nice things!

Did you hit the proverbial language barrier?

I speak fluent Spanish.

Really?

No. Sounds so smart to say. Ummm...yeah, it was a little bit of a barrier, but it was fine. The fact is is that the rest of the world is very well educated on language, in a way that Americans just aren't as much, to a great degree. Most people spoke either English or French there.

So how are you with other languages, really?

I speak some Greek. I lived in Greece for a lot of years. I'm okay with the Greek, but I [have] just never been great with languages.

Hope Davis said that someone on the crew got kidnapped...

I mean, there is some danger there. But you know... [jokes] Didn't seem to bother me and my six security guards! I don't know what the big fuss was about.

Do you think Danny has just as many quirks and neuroses as Julian?

Yeah, but in a more repressed way. In a more inhibited sort of middle America way. We sweep those things nicely under the carpet, and he wants to walk the happy line of just having everything in order and everything in its place. And of course, as you start to peel it back, he's a little more complicated than that...But he's at a desperate place in the story. When you pick it up, he's bordering on ruin, which is [an] awful place to be. And I sort of responded, in the script, to how he was going to possibly find his way out of that. And especially through a friendship forged with a guy who is pretty despicable.

How would you characterize the screenplay overall, in terms of genre?

It's a buddy comedy, but it seems to avoid a lot of cliches and obvious places where it could go, which was really one of the strengths of it.

Do you think it's easy to find interesting scripts like this?

No, I think it's hard. Anybody who has wired the business of just getting great, interesting scripts...I wish I had their career. [laughs] It's really hard and it takes work and diligence, and the people that you work with are a big part of that. And reading is important, and trying to constantly look out there under the stones for good stuff is part of the job. But when you do find something that feels a little refreshing or a little different, it's wonderful to work on. Especially this kind of movie. This wasn't a $40 million movie which would have taken three times the time to do and a lot of time sitting in your trailer twiddling your thumbs. This read like a play. I knew it like a play. So did Pierce when we got down there.

Have you ever done anything outrageous to get a role?

I don't know. I mean, I've never dressed up in a chicken suit or shown up in the Batsuit, or the Catwoman suit, or any of the stories like that. I just don't have one of those for you. The thing that I do--and I think that anybody would do who is serious about a role or a piece of material--is just go in and try to express how passionate you are about it, or interested you are in it. I've asked for meetings with people who weren't necessarily looking at me to actually do the role, and sometimes that's paid off, sometimes not. But if you read something and you like it, it seems crazy not to go after it a little.

Do you have a preference between comedies and dramas?

I like both. I really do. I mean, if anything, the most fortunate part of my career is that I've been able to do a little bit of both, which is good.

With the holiday season upon us, is there any gift you really want? Are you addicted to anything in particular?

No...I'm very addicted to my daughter right now. She's two and a quarter and she's just so unbelievably darling, and she's at the point now where she's really talking. The communication thing is just unbelievable right now. She did this last night. She's all caught up in the pillows. She goes, "Daddy. Daddy, I'm a little bit stuck." And I'll say, "Well, you know, sometimes that happens, honey." And she'll go, "Talk about it!" I get "talk about it" a lot. So [she] could be a future talk show host as well.

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