'Let Me In'-terview: Richard Jenkins On Playing a Murderous Fiend

Posted Mon Jan 31, 2011 at 01:15 PM PST by Drew Taylor

This week, the criminally underrated horror remake 'Let Me In' makes its splashy, blood-soaked debut on high-definition. It was one of 2010's very best movies… and one of its most under-seen. If you've seen the original Swedish film 'Let the Right One In,' well you'll have a pretty good understanding of the basic story beats, but director Matt Reeves, along with his supernaturally talented cast, which includes Kodi Smit-McPhee ('The Road') as a lonely young boy and Chloe Grace Moretz ('Kick-Ass') as the vampire that befriends him. Richard Jenkins, in the remake, assumes the iconic role of Moretz's guardian, a serial killer who operates just so he can feed his vampire companion.

HDD's Drew Taylor got to talk to Richard Jenkins about his performance, the film, being in Joss Whedon's 'Cabin in the Woods' and whether or not there'll ever be a 'Step Brothers 2.'

HDD: You're known for your small-scale comedies and dramas, but 'Let Me In' is very much a horror film. What attracted you to doing a genre piece?

Richard Jenkins: I didn't look at it like, "Gee, I'd like to do a genre piece." I looked at the character. And I really liked the story, I loved Matt's script. I didn't know there was a Swedish movie of this when I signed on and I just liked the whole idea of the film. And I loved being the oldest person on set, which for the past ten movies, I have been. [Laughs]

Now you did [Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard's horror movie send-up] 'Cabin in the Woods' before 'Let Me In,' right? What was that experience like?

That was incredible! This is a whole group of really talented young folks, from Joss Whedon to Drew Goddard to Matt Reeves. They're all friends, they all kind of came in together, and they're all really gifted and sweet and fun. And the two movies, to make them, was a ball. 'Cabin in the Woods' was such a ball.

Do you have any idea when that's coming out? [Due to a prolonged post-production process in which 'Cabin in the Woods' was up-converted to 3D and then financial ruin struck MGM, when, exactly, the long-completed film is scheduled to be released is anybody's guess.]

I think it's a week from next Thursday… I don't know! I don't think anybody knows. I have no idea.

So, you didn't know there was an original Swedish film when you read the script. Did you go back and watch it later?

I did after I finished the film, yep.

And what were your thoughts on that?

It was incredible. I had read the book before I read the movie.

Was there anything you took from the book that you applied to the movie?

Well, I thought he was different in the movie. I try to just take what's there, on the page, and deal with that. But, you know, I started to shoot and Matt said, "Have you seen the Swedish movie?" And I said I didn't know there was one. And he said, "Well, wait until we're finished before you watch the other movie." And I did and it's an amazing film.

So you didn't know how sort-of iconic the original movie was?

Well, it didn't take me long to figure it out. It's one of those movies that not a lot of people saw but those that did just… Well, it's just a brilliant film.

Can you talk about what it was like shooting the scene in the back of the car with the botched murder attempt?

Well, it was fun. It was really fun. We did it one night. We kind of had to cancel it because we had to do it with the roof off the car, so we could get into my face, or the bag over my head, and it was snowing. And we had to go back and do it again. But I don't want to give away how he did it, but I think he's going to do that on the [Blu-ray]. Isn't he?

I haven't gotten a chance to look at the Blu-ray yet. [Since the interview I have looked at the Blu-ray, and there is an amazing little documentary on how they pulled off the shot.]

It's cool. It's really, really cool. And when you see it, you kind of go – oh, right. It's like a magic trick. It's always easier than you think it is when you know the trick. And it was a really smart idea that he had. And he had a great editor and they put it all together. But it was fun. The young guy, who I ended up putting to sleep there, was really struggling. He was a stunt guy but he was like "Geez!" It was fun. I had to hang on.

Can you talk about what about the story and the character appealed to you so much?

Well… I liked the fact that he was kind of… There weren't a lot of words. That's always a challenge to see if you can create a life and a human being without a lot of dialogue. I always love when film does that. It's one of the things that it can do and we don't do it as much as we should, I think. And I love that. I like Matt. I met Matt before this movie… It was announced that he was going to do it. But I liked him, I thought it was a really smart guy. I thought – "What the heck?" This sounds be fun, you know, running around the snow with a half-gallon of blood. Could be a good time.

You talk about being the oldest actor on the set and a majority of your scenes are with children. What was that like?

I kept looking at them like, "Let's see, when I was their age I was trying to figure out how to tie my shoe so I could untie it later." You know, it's a whole different world. These kids are really sophisticated and sweet but still kids, and really bright and fun. It always amazes me when I work with young actors like that.

It seems like Chloe is going to be the next Meryl Streep or something.

Oh yeah. Chloe. She's going something, man. And he does too! They're just really good.

Now, it's made more explicitly clear in the remake but the implication seems to be that Kodi's character is going to grow up to be the next version of your character. Is that your understanding too?

That's how I played it, yeah. I mean, whether or not… That was my interpretation. From reading the script and looking at it... That was my fear.

That's what I was going to ask you about, was how you brought this kind of resigned melancholy to your character. There's a way that you light your cigarette that is so kind of mournful. What was it like creating that character?

I mean, nobody ever thinks they're a really bad person, I don't think. And that's part of the fun of being an actor, is you get to stand in other people's shoes and look at it from their perspective and their point of view. And this is someone who is trying to do his best to keep someone he cared about alive. That's how I looked at it. It's not that I enjoyed doing what I did. In fact, I didn't. It's what I had to do, it was the life I had chosen. I felt regret. I felt – why am I here? What is this? What does this lead to? I've always said about this movie, part of the reason I love it, is that vampire movies are always so glamorous. And you look at this, you think – I don't want to be a vampire, you know? Cardboard over the windows, sleeping in the bathtub, it couldn't be worse or more depressing and almost sad.

Were you disappointed by the lack of commercial appeal for the film?

I was. I was surprised. But, you know, the longer you do this the more you realize that you don't know anything. That's the line from William Goldman's book, you know, nobody knows anything. And it's the truth. But I was a little surprised, because I saw it at the premiere and really loved it. I thought, gosh he did a great job. Matt is a really talented guy. After the fact, everybody says – why? Everybody knows after but nobody knows beforehand. But I was surprised. I was.

There's one quick throwaway question. I saw something online about a 'Step Brothers 2.' Is that something you look to revisit?

Well, no, I haven't heard anything. I think I mentioned once that Adam McKay had mentioned to me something in passing. I think I read something on the web – "He says it's a done deal?" But… no, no. I have not heard a thing about it. I did hear that they're doing a rap album. I don't even know if that's true.

Thank you so much, Richard. I really hope people check it out on home video.

I do too. I do too.

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