Life and Times With
By Beverly Cohn
PHOTO CREDIT: BEVERLY COHN
atthew Modine has been a successful working actor for decades, racking
up Golden Globe, Emmy, and Independent Spirit Award nominations, and
winning a Best Actor award for his role as Billy in Robert Altmans
film, Streamers. He played Pvt. Joker in Stanley Kubricks
classic Full Metal Jacket and had a running role in the TV series,
Modine recently appeared at a press conference to promote
his newest film, OPA! that takes place on a Greek island. The
story, although somewhat predictable, is sweet with a happy ever
after resolution. However, Modine didnt just talk about
his film, as he also expressed universal concerns outside of the sheltered,
glamorous world of entertainment. Text has been edited for print purposes.
Bev: Matthew, what do you love most about your work?
Modine: Whats interesting about my job is the
opportunity to meet people and to travel. People who are successful
in making films or writing scripts are generally interesting and smart,
and its a pleasure to be around people who are passionate about
what they do, which is story telling. I had an experience recently in
Turkey in which I stood in an amphitheater carved into the side of a
mountain that was probably built by slaves over 2,200 years ago and
here was still standing. I sat there imagining people singing songs
and dancing and telling tales and thought that this is what Im
part of part of the legacy of story telling. It was quite humbling.
Bev: How do you think film and theatre affects popular
Modine: As far as illuminating the human condition,
at its best our profession, the movie business or theatre, provides
the opportunity of shining light into what could be a frightening space,
making us realize that there is nothing to be afraid of and that were
all brothers and sisters. If the Palestinians and the Israelis would
come to that realization, that could be the first step in ending the
stupidity of hatred and violence that exists there.
Bev: What attracted you to OPA!?
Matthew Modine and Agni Scott in "OPA!" PHOTO
Modine: Traveling to Patmos was an opportunity of reinforcing
the idea of brotherhood. I play an uptight archaeologist named Eric
who comes to this Greek island in search of a buried treasure and falls
in love with Katerina (Agni Scott), the owner of the popular Taverna.
He discovers that this historic treasure is buried under her property,
which then creates a moral dilemma. The story contrasts my character,
Eric, who is materialistic, against the people who live there, who are
Bev: What is the lesson he learns?
Modine: They teach him that what is important in life
is not the cup that Saint John the Devine drank from; it was the person
who drank from it and whats important are the people who live
there and the joy that comes from the Taverna a place where people
gather to sing and dance, occasionally break dishes, and take care of
each other. Its materialism vs. spirituality vs. living.
Bev: How does this view translate to the West?
Modine: For people losing their homes, its an
important lesson. Our possessions are just things. Whats great
is when theres a natural disaster such as hurricane or tornado,
people come together to help each other. In the final moments of our
lives, were not going to be dying thinking about our houses or
our cars. Were going to be thinking about the people we loved
and did we try to make the world a better place. Thats what well
be remembered for.
Bev: How did Katrina change Eric?
Matthew Modine & Richard Griffiths Digging Up
PHOTO COURTESY CINEDIGM
Modine: When Eric arrives on the island, hes all
covered up with hats and jackets and doesnt even see the ocean.
Hes like a seed that Katrina waters with her love and watches
him grow. She gets him to let go and experience life OPA!, which
is a difficult word to translate because it means so many different
things. Its like La Chaim to life.
Bev: What is the main thing difference youve discovered
in eastern and western cultures?
Modine: When you travel to a country with an old culture
they seem to appreciate life because they understand the brevity of
it in a way we dont because were a young country. Theyre
surrounded by antiquities going back thousands of years while here in
a Los Angeles, were surrounded by buildings that are 100
150 years old.
Bev: So is the message of the movie to respect the past?
Modine: You want to respect the past, but you dont
want to be held to the past if it doesnt hold empirical truth
to life in the present; thats the beauty of the yin and the yang
of the conservative and the liberal. The one thing we know about life
is that when we wake up tomorrow, the world will be different, you will
be different, your body will be changed; youre dying. If you embrace
it, its kind of exciting.
Bev: What are the major problems we face?
Modine: The problems we face are enormous - environmental
and wars. This is not a time when people beat each other in the heads
with shovels, or spears, or bows and arrows. We live in a time when
someone can make a nuclear bomb compromising everyones life on
the planet. With the understanding of DNA, we are all brothers and sisters
scattered around the globe. Our natural resources are getting exhausted.
Even if we said lets build more nuclear power plants, you know
theres only a finite amount of uranium available just as theres
only a finite amount of oil and coal which might last for another 50
to 100 years. What we need to understand is that everybody whos
ever existed, existed here on this little blue ball, and theres
nobody coming to save us we have to save ourselves.
Bev: Were there any special challenges to combing a
successful career with that of being husband and father?
Modine: Relationships are very complicated and I would
never stand in judgment of anyone. Its hard for two people to
grow old together. What I value is what I learned at young age and that
was how important it is to tell the truth. It would be soul-destroying
for me to be someone who would cheat on his wife after making a promise
to her. I couldnt live with myself.
Bev: Do you think living away from Hollywood has helped
your 30-year marriage to Cari?
Modine: Yes. I think so. But, it was really difficult
and a lot of work because my profession takes me away so often. But,
we rely so much on each other. She gave me two beautiful children and
she is the most unbelievably selfless mother. I grew so much to appreciate
and love her and still thank her monthly for giving me these two children
and doing such a great job of raising them. I once read that that the
best gift a father could give to his children is to love his wife.
Bev: Do you have any fears as an actor?
Modine: Every time you finish a job you wonder if youre
going to work again.
Bev: What kind of impact does a bad review have you?
(Indirectly referencing the poorly received Matthew Modine Saves
Modine: I try not to read them because someone told
me that if you read the good ones you have to read the bad ones as well
because if they say something good and you believe it, then you going
to have to read the bad ones and believe those as well. I dont
want to be not influenced one way or the other. Its easy to lose
your confidence if a critic hates your performance.
Bev: What drew you to Matthew Modine Saves the Alpacas?
Modine: A friend of mine wrote it, but my son didnt
like it, as he didnt think it depicted me in the best light. I
tried to explain to my son that it wasnt me and that I didnt
spend 20 years smoking dope in a Winnebago or that Im a selfish
shallow person whos willing to adopt a baby in order to get back
on the A list. I explained that this was a story about a
character named Matthew Modine and that using my name was a way of making
fun of this business we call show.
Originally, my friend wanted to write something serious
about the motion picture industry about the objectification of
women, about how women are treated like meat - tits and ass then
discarded when they reach a certain age.
Bev: What made him change direction:
Modine: As he was getting deeper and deeper into it,
I think he faced the same problems that Stanley Kubrick faced with Dr.
Strangelove. The more he tried to write about it in a serious way,
the more absurd it became and that the only way to approach it was in
a comedic, farcical way. So Blair (writer) found he could have more
fun with the play if he made fun of it, which is why he used my name
in my title.
Bev: Getting back to OPA! Were there any special
challenges shooting in Greece?
Modine: The only challenge was getting there as its
pretty remote and is actually closer to Turkey than to Athens.
Bev: Was your leading lady (Agni Scott) fun to work
Modine: Yeah. She was great. Christina Concetta, who
co-wrote the screenplay with our director Udayan Prasad, realized after
filming for one day that she could not play the part and thats
when Agni jumped in the next day without any rehearsal.
Bev: Did the nude scene in the sea offer a challenge?
Modine: Udayan is from India, living in England and
Greece, and swimming around naked is just part of life so if I would
have protested, they would have thought that I was a big sissy. What
Ive been told, is that originally you see my penis in the film
so in order to get a PG-13 rating, they digitally removed my tallywacker.
They call it a mangina.
Bev: What do you think of social networking?
Modine: I think social networking is an interesting
phenomenon. I think it magnifies the separation in our lives. I live
in New York City and were much more in contact with each other
because were cold together, were hot together, we travel
on the train together. Theres a connection just because of our
close proximity to each other. Here in Los Angeles, theres all
this separation - you leave the house, get into the car, drive to the
building, etc., and you dont come in contact with people so I
think the social networking is a real example of how people want to
Bev: Whats next for you?
Modine: I dont know. Im facing that right
now. But, the exciting thing is that I recently finished doing To
Kill A Mockingbird at the Hartford stage and it was the most successful
play in the history of that theatre. Its much more fun getting
standing ovations playing Atticus Finch than playing in Matthew Modine
Saves the Alpacas. Comedy is brutally hard. You never know what
the audience is going to laugh at. Its like heroin getting people
to laugh its very addictive.
Bev: Did you grow up being a Mormon?
Modine: My dad was a drive-in theatre manager and joined
the Mormon Church when we moved to Utah because his mom told him it
would be beneficial to the family. The Mormon church wont let
go of me thanks to Wixpedia. (laughter)
Bev: Thank you. This has have been a pleasure.
Modine: Thank you for your time.