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Bev Cohn: Aidan Quinn

Editor’s Note: This interview originally appeared in the November 19th edition of the Santa Monica Mirror and is being reprinted as a courtesy of that publication.

Aidan Quinn at a recent press conference
Aidan Quinn at a recent press conference. Photo: Beverly Cohn

An Interview With Aidan Quinn
By Beverly Cohn

poster for the movie ACROSS THE LINE: The Exodus of Charlie Wright
Photo: Exodus Distribution

idan Quinn’s piercing blue eyes have been lighting up the big screen for decades with one of his many memorable roles being that of Alfred, brother to Brad Pitt’s Tristan in Legends of the Fall, also starring Anthony Hopkins. Quinn is a very successful working actor and at the same time has managed to keep his private life, private, avoiding the “Hollywood scene.” He is married to Elizabeth Bracco and has two daughters – Ava Eileen and Mia. His latest film, ACROSS THE LINE: The Exodus of Charlie Wright, co-starring Andy Garcia, Mario Van Peebles, Gina Gershon, and Danny Pino, will be available on DVD and Blu-ray December 7.

Q: You starred in A Shine of Rainbows, a beautiful film recently screened as part of the Irish Film Festival in which you gave a stunning portrayal of the husband, “Himself.” Is it going into general release?

Quinn: It was. (he laughs) It’s come and gone. Like so many so many independent small films, it had a short, quick release. It was a fun part and Donegal, Ireland is one of my favorite places in the world. I’ve lived in Ireland, but I never got to visit that part of Ireland before and it was a great thrill to do that.

Aidan Quinn in a scene from the movie ACROSS THE LINE
Aidan Quinn as the billionaire criminal Charlie Wright contemplates his next move.
Photo: Exodus Distribution

Q: Charlie Wright, the character you portray in ACROSS THE LINE: The Exodus of Charlie Wright, which we understand is loosely based on Bernie Madoff, is a pretty despicable human being who bilked people out of billions of dollars with his Ponzi scheme, but in the film he comes off as a really likeable guy. Did you have any misgivings about not revealing that evil side of him?

Aidan Quinn in a jail scene from the movie ACROSS THE LINE
Aidan Quinn as the billionaire criminal Charlie Wright finds himself thrown into a Tijuana jail by corrupt Mexican police who are on the payroll of the local drug lord, played by Andy Garcia. Photo: Exodus Distrubtion

Quinn: No because I think it’s about redemption. It was important to have that moment when his self-loathing is revealed when the Claudia Ferri character tells him he’s a good man with a good heart and he says that she has no idea about how bad he really is. You see this man at the end of his rope and you eventually understand why nothing means anything to him anymore about money. It comes down to what is his life all about. What is the meaning of his time on this planet about. Another aspect of the character that I found interesting was his quest to find his daughter who he fathered many years ago and whom he never met.

Q: You shot in Tijuana, which is a pretty violent city. Did you feel safe?

Quinn: I did feel safe because bodyguards were provided for security. At the same time, I felt a tremendous amount of compassion and sadness for the everyday people who worked on our film, the neighborhoods we went into, the incredibly low wages that they work for, and how this whole drug cartel problem is hurting them so badly economically because no “gringos” are going there. I felt bad about all these things and felt glad that we were providing work, but it’s a tough situation down there.

Q: You’ve done a ton of films and have worked with a lot of directors. R. Ellis Frazier (director) said he didn’t give a lot of character direction. Would you have wanted more direction?

Quinn: You know I’m 51 years old and have been doing movies for 29 years. I don’t need a lot of help. It’s nice to get it when I need it and I’m always open to someone who wants to challenge me to go deeper or wilder or take more chances as an actor, but I think the director’s main job is hiring good actors and then shaping the music and beats of the scenes because good actors, given the opportunity, are going to do good work. I think the director’s job is about shaping the rhythms and creating a good working atmosphere.

Is it easier to work with a smaller crew?

Quinn: It isn’t about the size of the crew. You can have a crew of 300 as long as it’s a comfortable working set. The working condition that’s most beneficial to me is where you have a safe environment in which to act and you feel like you can do your work. So, when it’s chaotic and you see 14 crewmembers walking back and forth while you’re trying to do a one-on-one delicate scene, that’s difficult. A lot of the time we were stealing shots in the streets of Tijuana where people didn’t even know we were shooting. My favorite situation is where we have a sacred space where we get to play.

When you decided to do the film, did you know it was going straight to DVD and Blu-ray?

Quinn: I make my living doing independent films and in the last couple of years you really don’t know if any film is going to get distributed unless it already has a signed, sealed, and delivered distribution deal.

Where did you get your training?

Quinn: I trained a little bit in Chicago with a man named Byrne Piven and his wife Joyce at the Piven Theatre Workshop. They are actually Jeramie Piven’s parents. Then I studied with Sanford Meisner, which I guess is “The Method.” I also learned Viola Spolin’s Theatre Games, which is a great acting foundation. But really, I started working in theatre when I was 19 and I basically learned by practicing my craft.

Doing Theatre Games is a great tool for actors as it frees you up to be spontaneous and to work outside in as well as inside out. Do you agree?

Aidan Quinn in a scene from the Irish film A Shine of Rainbows
Aidan Quinn as the husband, "Himself," in the Irish film, "A Shine of Rainbows."

Quinn: Yes. Exactly. And it also teaches you how to play.

You have 12 or 13 films in the works. How do you find time to be involved in so many projects?

Quinn: Some of the roles are supporting roles, which are fun, but the truth is I have to keep working. I’ve got kids, a mortgage, you know, financial obligations.

The more times we see you on screen, the better.

Quinn: Thank you for that….


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Let Bev know what you think about her traveling adventure.

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Thanks so much for those lovely tourism photos, especially of Ireland. I certainly enjoyed all the places you suggested, and am working towards my next vacation. Don’t forget Cuba. That’s an exciting place.

Rosalie, Los Angeles

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Enjoyed your article on Mira Sorvino. Such an interesting background – family, education, career and now human rights activist. I'm not a gossip mag fan so getting more meaty news about movie celebrities from you gives me hope that there are some inteligent life forms in Hollywood.

Peter Paul, Pasadena, CA

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Thank you, Bev. This reminded me to go see the movie, "An Education," which I had already almost forgotten about, having seen the preview a few weeks ago. I enjoy this actress quite a bit--she has a uniqueness about her and she pulls me in. I enjoyed this.

Sandeee, Seattle, WA

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Thank you Beverly,I really enjoyed reading about your intimate conversation with Forest, of whom I am a great admirer. I look forward to seeing the film "Our Family Wedding."

Yoka, Westlake Village, CA

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Thank you for the sending me the beautiful article you wrote about Ireland. We will use your recomendations for hotels in the Southern part. We plan to also go to Dublin and some other Northern cities so I will get some recommendations for these from others. After reading your article, I am getting more excited about going. I think we will be in Ireland for 8 days altogether.

Leah Mendelsohn, Santa Monica, CA

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Very much enjoyed Ms. Cohn's article about Munich, especially the visuals. Though it has been 25 years since my last visit, the piece brought back countless pleasant memories of the city and the people!! Many thanks.

Lawrence, Los Angeles

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Marianplatz and that general area is truly one of the best Christmas celebrations in the world. Between that and Oktoberfest (which I can only imagine) Munich is one of the greatest cities in the world for major annual events.

Christopher Dale, New York, NY

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Hi Bev, you have done some wonderful pieces on some great celebs...Great work. The travel articles are just wonderful too.

Scott Mueller, Huntington Beach, CA

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Your great Zurich article makes me want to go there for the holidays! I love the photos, too, especially the ones of you in the sleigh, the view over the houses and the zoo!

Anna Marie, Santa Monica, CA

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Lovely article! As a European, and having been to Zurich (albeit in summer) I can vouch for this lovely city. Great pictures, too!

Helene Robins, Santa Monica, CA

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Hi Bev,

Nice review, nice seeing you, nice website interface "...Talk to Bev" - Enjoy your Thanksgiving!

Richard D. Kaye, Marina del Rey, CA

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Hi Bev,

Your interview with John Cusack is very interesting. I always wondered why these actors/actresses always get top billing when really, if you think about it, the real work come from the animators, writers and tech whizzes who spend far more hours on the movie than those actors. I know, I know, it's the all about marketing. The names of these actors are what bring in the big bucks. Still, I think these actors are way overpaid for the "little" that they do.

I remember that once upon a time, the early animation classics never mentioned the voices behind the characters. I think it was only later when Walt Disney tapped into the voices of known celebrities like Walter Matthau in the Jungle Book or Zsa Zsa Gabor in The Rescuers that the voices became a marketing magnet.

Keep up the good work. I enjoy your interviews as you peer into the lives of the Hollywood celebrities.

Peter Paul of South Pasadena, CA

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