Joined: 30 October 2004
Experiencing the big cities like New York and Los Angeles amazed him, but now he's convinced the America in Cameron Crowe's film is one the world hasn't seen for a while - and maybe has forgotten about.
Your character, Drew, takes a road-trip through America after losing his business and his girlfriend to discover what's truly important in life. Did you receive the same Southern hospitality while travelling through the heartland in Elizabethtown?
I never knew what they meant by the heartland of America or Southern hospitality until I went down to Kentucky and met people who baked cookies and made ice cream. There is that sense of community. It's so easy to forget what's important in life, which is basically family and friendship. You'd expect there to be apprehension when a movie comes to town, but we were welcomed there and really inhabited those places. I was lucky enough to stand in front of the Lorraine Motel [which houses the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, Tennessee] and cross that beautiful yellow bridge in Arkansas. They are very powerful places to be. This is the America that the world hasn't seen for a while, and maybe even America itself has forgotten about. As a Brit, I've experienced New York, Los Angeles, Miami and the big cities of America and I love them; they're vibrant and crazy. They're an eclectic bunch, but there's another group of amazing people in the heartland.
Are you glad to make the leap from action adventure hero to a more conventional romantic lead in Elizabethtown?
This was the first contemporary role for me and that was a new responsibility. Being in an action adventure movie where there's a big siege or 300 horses crossing a desert means there's a lot to detract from actors interacting. I never thought of myself as being an action adventure guy, living out my boyish dreams. I'm glad I got to do that early on, because, if I had had any more dialogue, I probably would've made a real mess of it. This was the first time I had dialogue and, thankfully, I was in the hands of somebody like director Cameron Crowe, as well as a great dialect coach to work on the Southern accent. It was all new and exciting.
Did you always want to play an American?
I think it's a rite of passage for any British actor to do an American role at some point if they want to have a career in America. I was just very lucky that it happened with Cameron Crowe. We met on a GAP jeans commercial many years ago, which I did because I wanted to work with him. We kept in touch, sending music and postcards and stuff. We had a meeting and he had six pages of script for Elizabethtown. He said, 'Nobody has seen this except my wife Nancy and I would love for you to read these few lines.' I was very honoured. It felt very fated that we ended up working together.
Your character is obsessed with the material trappings of success, which ultimately ruin his career. Do you think material gain is important?
Drew is obsessed with success. We can all relate to that idea - career success means enough money to buy the new house, the new car, the new watch, the suit, and the sneakers - whatever it may be. It's so easy to be fooled by the idea that the new watch I'm wearing is going to make me happy. I'm as much of a sucker for that as the next person. It's easy to think the momentary happiness from purchasing or owning those things is meaningful in some way, but you can't take those things with you when you go. The lesson in life is about more than that. For me, what's important right now is seeing my dad, my sister and family in the next month or two.
Cameron Crowe is famous for having amazing soundtracks in his movies. What's this one like?
He used My Father's Gun by Elton John and a 1975 live LP version of Tambourine Man by Bob Dylan. Those were themes in the film. He's got an incredible and eclectic taste in music. We went to see a band called Iron & Wine when we were in Louisville, Kentucky that I really admired - country stuff, real Americana. Music is a universal language and you can play a piece of music and it can evoke all kinds of emotions. Cameron uses music to create emotion - it's a directing thing for him. He'll play a piece of music at the beginning of a take which really takes you somewhere. He sometimes plays a piece of music and I can get what he wants.
What message do you think this movie sends to movie fans?
If people leave this movie and say, 'You know what, I want to take a road trip with my dad,' or, 'I want to go home and see my family' - because you never know when someone is gonna go - I'm happy. The film deals with life, death, success and failure. The only way you can actually experience life and truly enjoy it is if you address death. We're all gonna go and you have to be able to appreciate what that means, so you're not afraid of it and can enjoy the moments that you live through. That was the theme that runs through this movie.
Joined: 13 November 2004
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