Read our exclusive interview with actor Tim Griffin, who has been described as J.J. Abrams and George Clooney’s “Go-To Guy.” The actor, who is most remembered for playing John Nevins, the man who interrogated Jason Bourne in ‘The Bourne Supremacy,’ has collaborated with Abrams and Clooney on such movies as ‘Star Trek,’ ‘Leatherheads’ and ‘The Men Who Stare at Goats.’ Griffin currently has six films slated for release in 2011, including ‘Abduction,’ ‘A Better Life,’ ‘Carjacked’ and Abrams’ upcoming project, ‘Super 8,’ as well as as well as the fall NBC pilot ‘Prime Suspect.’ He discusses with us, among other things, what it’s like working with Abrams and Clooney, and how he prepared so quickly for all of his upcoming projects.
Shockya (SY): You have starred in a variety of film genres, including the spy thriller (‘The Bourne Supremacy’), comic book superhero adaptation (‘Iron Man’) and horror disaster (‘Cloverfield’). Why are you attracted to so many different movie categories?
Tim Griffin (TG): It’s a total thrill, because I’m also a fan. So to get the opportunity to work with so many different talented directors and actors is like living a surreal dream. One day you’re staring down Matt Damon (‘Bourne’), one day you’re taking direction by Jon Favreau (‘Iron Man’) or J.J. Abrams (‘Star Trek’), one day you’re walking across a pit of hot coals with Jeff Bridges and George Clooney (‘Men Who Stare at Goats’). Like fantasy football, or fantasy baseball, sometimes it feels like I’ve been drafted into some fantasy acting league, and every game is with a different group of All-Stars. Surreal.
SY: One of your most recognizable and famous roles is from ‘The Bourne Supremacy,’ in which your character, John Nevins, interrogates an uncooperative Jason Bourne. What is it like knowing that this part resonates with fans of the successful action trilogy?
TG: One thing that a lot of people don’t know about those scenes is that I think the decision for Bourne to be completely silent during the interrogation was a last minute decision by Matt Damon. We had rehearsed with the director, Paul Greengrass, for several days prior to shooting, and he had encouraged us to play with the dialogue and the blocking to make the scene as authentic as possible. During one of our exchanges, Matt wondered aloud: “what if I just didn’t say anything?” Paul in turn asked me, “what would Nevins do if Bourne didn’t answer ANY of his questions?” I said “I really don’t know, but let’s find out…” The rest is history. To me, the scene is almost hypnotic because it is so eerily silent and still, and yet you know that at any moment Jason Bourne is going to open up a can of whoop-ass. It has become one of those scenes that everyone seems to remember. I’m very proud to be a part of such a legendary franchise.
SY: You have collaborated several times with both J.J. Abrams and George Clooney. What is it like knowing that two of Hollywood’s A-list filmmakers enjoy your acting so much that they continually want to work with you?
TG: I have to watch what I say, because George Clooney is the kind of man who seemingly knows everything, and if I start spouting off about how much he “enjoys my acting” or giving myself airs, he will make sure those words come back to haunt me. He is a lethal practical joker. But I can say that both George and J.J. live up to the hype that surrounds them. Both possess enormous talent. Both are down to Earth. Just great, great guys. When you’re working with them, you know you are a part of something special.
SY: Among the movies you have co-starred in with George Clooney are the sports comedy ‘Leatherheads’ and the war comedy ‘The Men Who Stare at Goats.’ Why is it so appealing to work with him?
TG: If you ask most of the cast and crew about the experience of filming ‘Leatherheads,’ most people (myself included) will tell you that it was one of the most special of their careers. From the first day of training camp, our entire cast and crew bonded like family, and Clooney was at the center of it all. He was our director, our co-star, and our team captain. Hands down the most fun I have ever had on a show. The people I met on that job remain some of the my closest friends to this day. Many of the same crew were with us for ‘Goats,’ and it was when first I walked on the set, I felt like Norm on ‘Cheers!’ Team Clooney is a amazing thing to be a part of.
SY: Besides ‘Star Trek,’ you have also worked with J.J. Abrams on the upcoming sci-fi movie ‘Super 8’ (which is scheduled to be released this June). The movie follows a group of kids who witness a truck colliding with a train while they’re filming a zombie film. What makes ‘Super 8’ different from other sci-fi zombie movies?
TG: The only thing I can tell you about ‘Super 8’ is the title of the movie (Spoiler alert: it’s called ‘Super 8’). Otherwise, someone from “Bad Robot” may show up at my house and “wish me into the cornfield” like Billy Mumy did in that episode of ‘Twilight Zone.’
SY: After ‘Super 8,’ you have five other movies coming out between the spring and fall this year, including ‘Abduction’ and ‘A Better Life.’ Did you shoot them back-to-back, and if so, how did you prepare for them so quickly?
TG: Pretty much. I usually get a week or two between projects (sometimes more, sometimes less), so if I’m doing a big action film like ‘Abduction,’ where I spend half the movie chasing Taylor Lautner across the countryside, I will try to put in a little extra time at the gym, but other than that you have to show up prepared and ready to jump in. For ‘A Better Life’ I only had a short window to film, but I absolutely loved the script, so I told Chris Weitz (another amazing director) I would do any part I possibly could, and we found a way to make it work. I really don’t care how much I get to do in a film, or whether my part takes days, weeks or months to film. Bottom line, if it’s a quality project, I want to be a part of it.
SY: Not only are you co-starring with Maria Bello in the bank robbing thriller ‘Carjacked,’ which is set to be released this summer, you two are also scheduled to appear in the fall NBC pilot remake of the British police drama ‘Prime Suspect.’ What is it like working with her?
TG: The funny thing is I accepted the role in ‘Carjacked’ because I wanted the chance to work with Maria, not realizing that we had just co-starred together a few months before on ‘Abduction!’ (we didn’t have any scenes together, and she was wrapped before I arrived on location in Pittsburgh). She is just a phenomenal actor. We begin filming the pilot for “Prime Suspect” at the end of this month in New York. I’m nervous when I show up on set she’s going to think I’m stalking her and file a restraining order against me. But to randomly co-star in 3 completely different projects back to back to back…? Maybe the universe wants us to work together.
SY: Besides your movie career, you have also risen to fame by guest-starring on such shows as ’24,’ ‘Big Love’ and ‘The Closer.’ How is working on television shows different from filming movies?
TG: I love guest starring, because it’s like getting the chance to “join the world” of some of your favorite shows. I think I did the fourth season of ’24’ and I was a big Jack Bauer fan, and then all of the sudden, BOOM, there I am face-to-face with the man himself, and we’re trying to stop a nuclear attack on America. Or a show like ‘Big Love,’ which is another series I watched religiously (no pun intended), and suddenly there I am in Bill Paxton’s living room threatening to expose him as a polygamist. As a side note, did you know the houses where Bill and his wives live are all built inside a soundstage? Neither did I, until I first walked on the set. Even all the backyard playground and pool, etc. Blew my mind. Anyway, another nice thing about TV is that sometimes when you create a character, like say when I played George O’Malley’s brother, Ronny, in ‘Grey’s Anatomy,’ you become part of the fabric of that world, and fans of the show will embrace you like a member of their family. It’s really cool. But it’s also bittersweet because you’re kind of like a gun-for-hire, and when your part is done, you step away from that world, sometimes forever. And then it’s off to the next job…
Written by: Karen Benardello