Interview with Andy Garcia (Stanley Locke)
Smokin’ Aces was fun to watch. Was it as much fun to shoot?
This movie, we had a good time. It was a lot of fun.
You must get sent a lot of scripts, but why did you decide to do sign up for Smokin’ Aces?
I was a big fan of Joe’s film, Narc, so when you hear there’s a script coming over from Joe Carnahan, you know it’s going to be interesting because he has such a fresh voice. I actually talked to Ray Liotta, who is a good friend of mine and he said great things about Joe. So, I met with Joe and told him I dug Narc. We spoke about the part and I said ‘Sure, let’s do it’.
So you pretty much took the role straight away at the meeting?
There are so many colorful, crazy characters in this Smokin’ Aces. The guy who you play, FBI Deputy Director Stanley Locke, is probably the most sane of all the characters. Is that what attracted you to play him, that Locke is like the eye of the cyclone?
I actually asked Amanda (casting director Amanda Mackey) about playing the hitman character that Nestor Carbonell plays. I said “What about that part?” and Amanda said “No, Andy, Joe needs you to be the moral authority of the film.” [Laughs.]
Do you like being the moral authority of a film?
No, not necessarily. I would have liked the other part, but there are some things that the hitman does that in retrospect I probably would not want to do, just because of my kids. And Nestor is just great in the part.
How was it working with Ryan Reynolds? This is a bit of a breakthrough role for him and pits him in some intense scenes with you and also Ray Liotta. How did Ryan handle it?
Ryan is great. He’s a terrific guy. I haven’t really seen some of his comedies, but just because an actor is known for comedies does not mean he can’t do drama. It’s important not to be pigeon-holed, which can happen. But, Ryan is a sweetheart kind of a guy and did a beautiful job in the movie.
Joe Carnahan said you have a natural acting gift in that you know exactly where to stand in a scene. The camera could be moving, but you have this natural ability to be in the right spot. Are you aware of that?
You know, Michael Douglas said that to me earlier in my career when we did Black Rain. I don’t know. Maybe it’s just an instinct I have about staging. I guess it’s just an instinct. It’s not like I’m constantly thinking ‘Where’s the camera?’ It’s about having a healthy third eye, which is what I used to study in theatre. Where that stems from, I don’t know.
Having that third eye it must help you when you direct a film?
Yeah, I guess so. Joe isn’t the first guy to say it, so they must be picking up on something. [Laughs.]
So, how do you approach a role? Do you approach each one differently, or is there a single process you go through whether the role is playing a bad guy, good guy or any other character?
Each role has different needs and demands. Sometimes there’s technical demands. In the case of this part in Smokin’ Aces, Joe and I talked about giving him a tinge of being a veteran FBI guy who has spent a lot of years in Virginia at the FBI headquarters. I wanted to bring a bit of that flavor into his dialect. Every role has a different attack, but ultimately you want to get inside the character and find a sense of truth. This guy is a career FBI guy and to be deputy director he has been doing it for a long time; he is a man molded by the organization and committed to the oath of that organization.
Have you met any actual FBI agents?
I have friends who are in the FBI.
Oh really. And they help you with playing an FBI guy?
I talk to them about it, but you also get a sense from them just in natural conversation. You kind of get their stance in life. Their philosophies, behavioral conduct and traits.
So going out to dinner with your FBI friends can be a fact-finding mission?
If you are around them, we are all victims of our own environment and job description. That’s the fun of the acting challenge. You are searching for the acting details.
Do you learn something from each character you play?
Naturally, in research you pick up things. Often a role will open you up to something that you are not used to. You learn from every experience in life. It’s another layer to your baggage.
You have been in so many great movies from The Untouchables to The Godfather: Part III to Black Rain and When A Man Loves a Woman. These days, what projects get you excited?
I go where I’m stimulated. If I’m stimulated, I show up. As Mick Jagger sings, ‘It’s my life and I’ll do what I want.’ [Laughs.]
Did you see the Rolling Stones when they came to LA on the last tour?
No, I didn’t see them this time, but I’ve seen the Stones a lot. I actually worked opposite Mick in a film a few years back, The Man from Elysian Fields. Mick is a terrific guy.
A lot of the cast in Smokin’ Aces said they were excited to work with you, but what’s it like for you when you get to work with a hero of yours like Mick Jagger?
Mick was great – really easy going. But, he came to work as an actor, you know. He showed up in the morning, put on the clothes. He said: ‘Help me. I don’t do this often.’ I said ‘Don’t worry about it. We’ll do it until you’re comfortable. We’ll hold hands and do it together.’ It was very easy and he’s a terrific actor. When he responded to the script, he said ‘I’d like to do it’ and we said ‘Really?’. But, it was great.
Mick, of course, wasn’t in Smokin’ Aces, but there are two other music greats in the cast – Alicia Keys and Common. Did you get to spend much time with them?
They did great jobs in the film. Sadly I wasn’t in any scenes with either, but I did run into Alicia a few times on the set.
And how about Joe Carnahan? He has become one of Hollywood’s hot young directors with Smokin’ Aces, Narc and he’s got some other big projects coming through.
He’s a talented guy. Not just as a director, but as a writer. His writing is very sharp. His sense of language is very strong.
There’s some great shootout scenes and carnage in Smokin’ Aces. If my memory is correct, you were the only lead actor who didn’t get splattered with blood?
That is correct.
I bet you were happy with that.
Yeah, but that was the role I was offered. [Laughs.]
Looking ahead, what other projects will we see you in?
I’m always going to be involved with music. I’ll record another album. The soundtrack to my film, The Lost City, is coming out in January, it’s a two CD set. I have a couple of scripts I’m attached to for 2007. They’re not financed yet, but I am getting them off the ground. I want to direct again.
We see you in big budget films like the Ocean’s movies, but we also see you in small budget movies and passion projects. What do you prefer?
Whatever stimulates me. If I am, I jump in. Just because it’s a big budget movie doesn’t mean its bad. The size of budgets does not alter my decision if I should do it. If there’s a movie with a budget of only $1 million that I find interesting, then I’ll sign up, but it has to be in the hands of a director who can do something with it. Ultimately, it’s a director’s medium.