Dermot Mulroney as the desperate father of a dying
girl. Photo: IFC Films
Interview With Dermot
By Beverly Cohn
ermot Mulroney started his film career making movies for television
in 1986 moving on to the big screen in 1988 playing Michael Alperin
in Sunset, starring Bruce Willis as Tom Mix and James Garner
as Wyatt Earp. Since then, Mulroney has been featured in dozens of films
including two films with a wedding theme The Wedding Date,
co-starring Debra Messing and My Best Friends Wedding,
co-starring Julie Roberts and Cameron Diaz. Unlike those films, Inhale,
is a gritty, dark film about the trafficking of human organs in Juarez,
Mexico. A most charming, relaxed and forthcoming Mulroney participated
in a recent press conference to talk Inhale, in which he plays
a Santa Fe District Attorney who crosses over to the dark side of the
law in a desperate attempt to save his daughter. (This interview has
been edited for print purposes.)
Q: How did you go about preparing for this role?
Did you research the illegal trafficking of human organs?
Mulroney: Its interesting. What people refer to
today as research is really just Googling. It used to be
you had to go to the library, but yes, I Googled it, if thats
what you mean by research. I play a lawyer in Inhale, but my
dad, brother, and sister are lawyers so when we get together, there
are some serious discussions about how research has gone down the tubes.
This is off the topic. Anyway, there are plenty of stories on the subject
of trafficking in human organs, but it doesnt seem to be front-page
news. But, yes, I looked into it and found out as much as I could but
focused much more on the development of my character. As an actor, it
becomes much more about the imagination and the creative process.
Rosanna Arquette as Dr. Rubin delivers bad news
to the parents, Paul & Diane Stanton, played by Dermot Mulroney
and Diane Kruger. Photo: IFC Films
Q: What do you think is the purpose of this tough
Mulroney: It wasnt our goal to turn
it into a front-page story nor did anyone set out to increase awareness
of the problem. It was a good way to tell the story showing how these
characters face danger and an intense moral dilemma in saving their
daughter. Im not saying it shouldnt be taken seriously,
but by the same token when I read the script, I thought it was one thing
to try and jump the line on the normal organ donor process, but this
story was drastically different because it was murder for profit. It
was about murdering people and harvesting fresh bloody organs from a
body and selling them. Its a pretty provocative story line.
Desperate times may call for desperate measures.
Photo: IFC Films
Q: Did you ever know a really sick child
and did the script touch you personally?
Mulroney: No. I have kids, but none of
them, thank God, has ever been sick in a drastic way so I had no personal
experience on which to reflect other than being a father and being related
to lawyers, which I think is a stretch anyway. On page one of the script,
I launched into how would I feel if
which is the actors
job. Whats fascinating about acting is that you put yourself in
someone elses shoes.
Q: What was the most difficult scene
Mulroney: Without a doubt the most difficult
scene was in the basement of the strip club. The shot with the bottle
of Tequila, which is really soda and water, was like a near-drowning
experience. I knew it was going to be uncomfortable, but it was very
unpleasant for sure. I think that scene will be very memorable for the
audience as well because of the beating my character takes. It was a
real basement in a bar and was pretty hairy.
The overwrought parents leaving the hospital. Photo:
Q: What was the most striking part of
Mulroney: Well for me, its how the
movie ends because it doesnt end. I think there was a time when
movies were allowed to have a more oblique ending, where you leave an
unanswered moral question that I think is one of the most attractive
elements of this movie. When I finished reading the script, I thought
wow, did he really make that horrific decision and what would I have
done in that mans shoes. You hope as an actor you are able to
draw out the character in such a way that youre asking yourself
that question so that makes sense for the character. He goes so far
away from what a normal guy would do in a normal city, that you can
understand why he would make a decision that many other people wouldnt
make. Its the challenge of making that unresolved ending work
as an actor.
Q: Were you satisfied with how the rest
of the characters were written and acted?
Mulroney: Each of these characters adds
to the uncertainty of the situation. The good guys turn out to be the
bad guys, and the bad guys turn out to be sort of good guys. Another
example, is you think that the Sam Shepard character is tough as nails
as the prosecutor but he turns out not to be what you expected.
Paul Stanton (Mulroney) (R) confers with his friend
James Harrison (Sam Shepard.) Photo: IFC Films
Q: Sam Shepard was wonderful and his
deep secret quite fascinating. Can you talk about your relationship
Mulroney: Our paths seem to cross on a
regular basis. I worked with Sam when I was 22 and he was 42 and again
about ten years later, in a film he wrote and directed, Silent Tongue,
a weird, beautiful movie starring Richard Harris and Alan Bates. Heres
the deal with Sam. (he laughs) He was never very nice and now hes
unbearable. Hes a very intimating person, but not to me, which
is why I can speak freely about him. Were actually friends and
see each other every seven years whether we like it or not. Hes
grown crotchety over the years for sure. The director, Baltasar Kormakur,
is a big, handsome, powerful guy and even he was quailed a bit because
Sam is such a forceful person. While everyone else was saying Yes
Sam, right away sir, I was saying Sam, would you please
knock it off.. Hes working a lot lately which is good because
if he stops working, hell live in a cabin by himself where hell
write and kick his dog. (laughs)
Q: At what point did you decide to be
an actor and what actor had a profound influence on you?
Mulroney: I had been acting and playing
music since childhood. Throughout my college years, I tried out for
plays, but I never really thought it made much sense to be an actor.
I thought it was foolish and that there wasn't a chance in hell that
it would ever happen. In looking back when I was 18 or 20, although
I trained and seemed to have a good knack for acting, I wasn't driven
and I think because of being relaxed about it is why it happened. Early
influences are probably the same as they are now. I saw Paul Newman
as the ultimate manly actor and was fortunate enough to work with him
and become friends. Sam Shepard's plays were a big influence in my college
years and I also admired Mickey Rourke.
Q: What don't people know about
Mulroney: I don't know. There's
not too much to tell.
Q: What about the fact that you're a musician
and play the cello, double bass, and play in a band?
Mulroney: Oh I think people know about that. Now, here's
back to this Googling thing. You Google and it tells you everything.
And some of you guys (the journalists) have been doing this long
enough to remember a time when you actually had to find out about the
person. Sometimes I'm asked the same question over and over because
it's number four on the Google list. Actually, there's nothing to reveal
because I'm not really that interesting.
A most charming Dermot Mulroney is hard at work
on his latest film, Everybody Loves Whales. Photo: Beverly
Oh come on. You're not just another pretty face.
Mulroney: (smiling) No I'm not.
Q: What's the biggest challenge in juggling your
roles as father, significant other, and career?
Mulroney: I've had a lot of time off recently so I have
time for my family - toddler classes, PTA meetings, etc. Everyone gets
it. Even my mother knows I'm going to call less when I'm working. When
I return after a shoot, I catch up with everything like my dry cleaning,
my bank account, etc. That's been my cycle from the beginning. It's
not that hard. Of course, there are some intense times like this morning.
I'm in post-production on a movie and am trying to make phone calls
to the music editor and be on time for this press conference. Then tonight
I have two events, including a charity I support.
Q: Which charity is that?
Mulroney: It's Education Through Music - L.A. It's basically
getting instruments into the schools because that's where I learned
to play and I want kids to have the same musical opportunities I did.
Mulroney: (Laughing) Oh you caught me. I wish. Look
at it. It's a mess. It's all over the place.
It reflects your range of talent.
Mulroney: Thank you, but it's really that my fate is
in someone else's hands and I accepted that a long time ago. As a younger
man, I used to think that one day I would get to that point where I
would achieve a level of success where I could pick and choose my projects,
but here I am 25 years later, and I still don't know what's around the
next corner. Now I just embrace that and love living like this and really,
there's no moss growing under me.
Thanks for a most charming interview.
Mulroney: It was my pleasure.