He can be self-destructive, darkly debonair or a lot more dangerous, but Jason Patric is best known for bringing a smoldering intensity to his roles, be it in it something like “The Lost Boys,” “Geronimo: An American Legend,” “Rush,” “Sleepers” or “Narc,” Joe Carnahan’s 2002 film that reminded people of his talent after a self-imposed four-year hiatus. In his latest movie, director Brian A. Miller’s crime thriller “The Prince,” Patric stars alongside Bruce Willis, John Cusack, Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson, Jessica Lowndes and South Korean pop star-turned-actor Rain, playing a retired crime boss and single father forced to team up with his best friend and go to dark places when his daughter is kidnapped by an old rival. It’ a story that has a surprisingly personal connection for the actor. For ShockYa, Brent Simon recently had a chance to talk to Patric about the film, his acting process and which of his own films he watches and which he doesn’t. The conversation is excerpted below:
ShockYa: You worked with director Brian Miller previously, right, on “The Outsider”?
Jason Patric: Yeah, I was really just on that for a couple days. So it was mainly on this that we spent time together, and did the best that we could.
ShockYa: Did that experience on the previous film, though, brief as it was, give you a confidence that you needed that you could trust and work with Miller again?
Jason Patric: Well, I don’t think that first movie was very good. I don’t think there was (enough) time. It was what it was. But Brian and I got along, we saw each other a couple times throughout the passing year, and then he came to me because he had this script. And it’s a genre piece with a good idea, and he was really willing to work on it and let me have some say in the character. And I was free, so we decided to do it.
ShockYa: You shot “The Prince” in Alabama, and there are all sorts of (economic) battles between states these days — it’s in the news quite a bit — with tax incentives and credits used to lure productions to their respective areas. As an actor you travel a lot — that’s part and parcel with what you do. But do you look at where a project is filming and factor that in to a large degree — do you have to have a sense of how it might inform the story?
Jason Patric: Well they are filming in these places for the credits. That’s the way it is, no matter what anyone is saying. What you do look at is, “Okay, in this area is it going to still work for this script?” I know that was a concern even when we did “Narc” 10 or 12 years ago or whenever that was. We were supposed to film in Detroit and then it was Toronto, and I was very concerned about that, because I always think you can tell a movie that’s filmed in Canada. The only problem with Canada is so often that you’re trying to hide that you’re in Canada. Normally when you go on location you want the location to bring something to the movie. So in this case, Mobile just happened to have this very interesting downtown, and these structures that were very modern and glass-like, and then they had a small town-feel for other aspects that we needed. So it seemed to work out, and I also really liked it. But yes, I definitely look at and think about where I’m going when I have to go film something.
ShockYa: When you’re playing a character like Paul who has a cover (identity), and has been living lies and has secrets, how much do you feel you have to know about the specificity of all that deceit, and whatever other guise he’s slipped on?
Jason Patric: Well, whatever character you’re playing you have to complete the entire interior infrastructure, whatever it is — but what gets divulged or what people completely understand depends on the script and what you decide to show. But you have to know it, because people will watch a character — whether they understand him or not — as long as they feel that the character knows something, that the character is going someplace, that the character has some plan, and that there’s some sort of inner self or inertia. You watch that and try to figure out what it is. But you have to believe that and you have to follow that, whether it’s someone like this character who has a dark, dark past, or someone that just has a more sublimated past.
ShockYa: The film has a pretty interesting cast, including Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson, who seems from the outside at least to have applied himself in pretty serious fashion to acting. What were your impressions of him on set?
Jason Patric: I only worked with him for one day, but he was a nice guy. If I’m playing a character that’s an adversary to someone I don’t really hang out with them. I may say hello, sometimes I don’t — maybe afterwards. But he’s obviously committed and wants to do things beyond what you think of him. He obviously has a look and a presence about him that was used very well by Brian, who shot very well 50’s best Cents, if you will, his best self. He covered in a way and we structured the scene in a way that was most effective for him and I think it worked.
ShockYa: You mentioned sometimes not being buddy-buddy with other actors on set if they’re an adversarial character. Everyone has their own process. Spanning your career, is that something that you learned fairly early on — just that you need to do what’s good for you and not concern yourself with other people’s processes?
Jason Patric: Yeah, I’m not rude to people, but I’ve just done that from the beginning. I remember when I was doing “Sleepers,” Terry Kinney was in that and playing one of those guards, and I didn’t talk to him the entire time, ever — until maybe the last day, and then I just said goodbye to him. I think uncomfortability helps sometimes on a movie. And even on “Narc,” like with (Ray) Liotta, our processes are very different, and so we didn’t really hang out as buddies. Our characters meet in the beginning of the movie and we’re trying to figure each other out so I’d rather that happen on screen than me knowing things going in.
ShockYa: Given your family background (Patric is the son of Oscar-nominated actor and Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Jason Miller, and the maternal grandson of actor and comedian Jackie Gleason), was acting something that was kind of always in the cards for you — did you feel a strong attraction or draw to a performance instinct at a young age?
Jason Patric: Well, I was aware of it, the same way that if my father was a dentist you’d be aware of that, but it doesn’t mean you’re going to be a dentist. It’s in front of you, but then you make a decision. I think if anything, the idea that i was just going to fall into it for some familial reasons or have some door of nepotism opened actually gave me pause. But when I decided I was going to do it, I just did it on my own.
ShockYa: And yet I’m sure second- or third-generation performers face that all the time — the idea that it was simply easier for you because of your background. Does that create a little bit of a chip on your shoulder, and if so was that something you used at any point in your career?
Jason Patric: It never did for me, because I just changed my name and I never talked about it. You have all these other actors — and I think 99 percent of every other actor that has a father or mother in the industry, you know that from the beginning, from the time they’re kids. But that was never the case (with me). There’s a lot of people who don’t know any of my family history and I’m in my 40s. I’ve always just been very, very closed about that, and obviously I’m not taking the publicity road anyway. So I don’t think it gave me a chip, it just made me know that I had to succeed on my own or fail on my own.
ShockYa: Thinking back over your filmography there are no small amount of dark or brooding films. When you’re playing a heavy, or bad guy, do you find that certain roles stick with you?
Jason Patric: The more parts of yourself you have to use, obviously, the more it resonates in you. I’ve tended to be drawn to roles that are men facing some primal struggle, and then are put in a situation where their character has to reveal (itself) and they go one way or another. So in that I tend to look at myself and find parts of my character that satisfy what this character is going through as a person. And when you re-dredge those up or relive them or re-sequence them you’re experiencing them somewhat again. And that brings some of that home, even if it’s just a scab that you’ve taken off that healed a long time ago. You’re still feeling it.
ShockYa: Does the enduring appeal that crime films have indicate something tragic about human nature — that we’re more drawn to dark than light?
Jason Patric: A lot of people’s lives are a routine and they look for the extreme, and when you have these crime films or genre pieces they know what they’re in for (to a certain degree). So they’re preparing themselves — whether it’s to be scared, or if it’s a dumb comedy then to laugh. Some thrilling-type aspect is a part of yourself that’s probably not normally engaged in your everyday, day-to-day life. So when you choose something like this, I think there’s almost a comfort on a ride that (you know) you’re going on. And I think when you’re making the movie, within a genre, the idea is to try to bring something a little different and specific to it while still keeping within certain parameters. I’m not so sure it’s a comment on society in general, other than (the fact) that violence doesn’t seem to bother people anymore — they’re inured to it. And I think it has a lot to do with the violence in movies and video games — it doesn’t bother people as much. I’m not so sure it evokes a reaction anymore.
ShockYa: You touched on the fact that your first film with Brian you felt wasn’t very good — you said it was what it was. Do you watch all of your films, and do you find —
Jason Patric: (interrupting) No. No.
ShockYa: Do you selectively watch your films, then?
Jason Patric: Yes. If I didn’t have a good time doing it or I wasn’t challenged or interested I don’t watch it. I don’t want to go through it again. There’s no reason. But if there’s something interesting, or some performances or actors that I enjoyed working with or I saw something interesting then I like to see how it played out.
ShockYa: And are you then able to divorce yourself from the character you created and then get into it, evaluate it and judge it as a separate, freestanding creative endeavor?
Jason Patric: To a degree, to a degree. It depends. I’m pretty much moved anyway when I watch myself. It doesn’t appear to me the same person that I’m brushing my teeth with every morning. So I don’t know.
ShockYa: Wrapping up, what do you like to do in your free time when you’re not working — is there a particular hobby or set of interests that takes up a lot of your free time?
Jason Patric: Well, right now I’ve just been an advocate against parental alienation. I’ve had this situation with my son that was basically abducted by my son, and I started this foundation called “Stand Up For Gus,” and it’s now the leading parental alienation and co-parenting site in the country. So it’s been about that — fighting that sort of child abuse where a parent turns one child against the other (parent). It’s something that I want to bring a light to, and end. So that’s pretty much where all my spare time goes.
NOTE: “The Prince” is in theaters and available on VOD from Lionsgate beginning August 22. For more information about Patric’s aforementioned foundation, visit www.StandUpForGus.com.
Written by: Brent Simon