by Luke Hickman
Robert Forster is one of those great actors that has been around for a very long time, successful on both the small and big screens. His role as bail bondsman Max Cherry in Quentin Tarantino's 'Jackie Brown' is arguably the part he's best known for. Forster received an Oscar nomination for his supporting role and gives Tarantino credit for rejuvenating his acting career.
After a few Miramax sell-offs, 'Jackie Brown' is finally coming to Blu-ray next week, and to help promote the Blu-ray release of 'Jackie Brown,' Forster took some time to chat with High-Def Digest about the film, his fondest memories attached to it, the insanely complex dynamic of acting, and his upcoming role in Alexander Payne's 'The Descendants.' Enjoy!
HDD – Luke Hickman: Hello! How are you doing this morning?
Robert Forster: I'm good. I've got my first cup of coffee. I start my morning at this little coffee shop and I said, “This morning I've got to get my coffee before I start talking.” So here we are. How can I be helpful?
HDD: I'm looking forward to 'Jackie Brown' on Blu-ray and when the opportunity to speak with you presented itself, I got excited.
Robert Forster: Well, thanks. What is High-Def Digest like? You feed information about high definition products to whom?
HDD: There are so many people out there into new high-def technology, they follow it constantly, so we let them know what's out there.
Robert Forster: Yeah. …. I've had Blu-ray in my house for years. ...
HDD: Do you have a home theater?
Robert Forster: No. I've got a flatscreen Sharp that's connected to – well, somebody connected to the other things, but I don't have streaming stuff, Netflix for instance. … I would like to have that thing – if it was easy – where in my house, when I'm far away in bed in Vancouver, I could jump on my iPad … and access my Tivo, my recorded shows. These are probably the simplest of things, but that's next on my list.
HDD: It's great what you can do with technology these days. Don't worry, you'll get it down and they'll have that technology around soon enough.
Robert Forster: So, low-def 'Jackie Brown' in high-def.
HDD: Have you gotten to see the Blu-ray yet?
Robert Forster: I have not. I saw it on a screen about three nights ago. They screened it out here at LACMA (the Los Angeles County Museum of Art), the – where are you?
HDD: I'm in Salt Lake City.
Robert Forster: I see. Well, we've got a nice museum where they screen movies once in a while and they screened 'Jackie Brown.' It was a real good audience. These people knew the picture. I suppose it's like those 'Rocky Horror' shows. Remember those, whatever those were? People would go on Friday night's and everyone knew the words? Everybody knew the jokes from 'Jackie Brown' because they laughed a lot. I was very delighted with this audience.
HDD: Did they show the new remastered version, or was it an old print?
Robert Forster: You know, it looked pretty good, but I have no idea. This is a museum, so they probably had the best print you could get. I got to see a few seconds of it because they kept pulling us out for interviews and photos. It's a work day. I never knew it was a “work day” when they said, “Would you come and promote the picture.” But since 'Jackie Brown,' all these things have become understandable.
HDD: It's not been 14 years since 'Jackie Brown' was first released. What comes to your mind when you think of the film?
Robert Forster: Wow. (laughs) Good – thanks. Now I'm searching my mind for that first thing. (laughs) I know one of the things comes to my mind. Oh, gee. I can remember the moment in my kitchen when I was with my daughter after [the nomination] – now we're talking about a personal experience. Or do you want movie experience?
HDD: Either or – both!
Robert Forster: There was a moment driving back from the day I was nominated. This was a huge thing. I didn't expect such a thing. It was a very [big] surprise. And I didn't know that I needed to go out and do interviews. We did 29 interviews that morning. When the car was driving me back, I realized that the reason that I got a nomination was because a lot of people signed my name – they didn't just check off a box – and the thought of that gave me such warmth. It was the strongest little emotional thing that movie represents to me. If you're talking about the movie, the very very moment in the end when [Jackie] comes in the office and she throws out the idea that he might want to come to Spain with her. He's giving it some thought and she says, “You scared of me?” And I tell her, “A little bit.” That scene ends with a kiss – and a close-up on that kiss. When we got to that point in the scene, Quentin came over and said, “Now, look. I haven't figured out how I'm going to end this movie yet, but this moment is the beginning of the end – this kiss moment.” He said, “The phone will ring. Pick it up.” We were in the middle of the kiss on the first take, the phone rang and I wasn't quite sure what I wanted to say to the other person, but I fumbled it a little bit. Then we shot it a second time and by then I knew what I wanted to say. And so the moments immediately after the phone rings were a big surprise to me on the set. … Movies are a business of making movie shots – there's a discreet number … of shots in a day. You set them up. They're complex. The guy who wrote it wants you to deliver a piece of information inside that shot. And there's the director who may have a plan inside that shot – it's a motion maybe, or an entrance, or some dialog, or a reaction. … The director may give you something he wants to see in that scene or maybe some timing that he's hoping you can achieve for him. And then you have to stand so the guy who sets the lights is happy. And the one listening to words has to be happy. Otherwise, at the end of the shot he's going to say, “It's no good. Start it again.” Or if I put the cup in the wrong spot, somebody says, “It's no good for continuity. Start it again.” Or if I do something too big for the size shot I'm in, the guy behind the lens says, “It's no good for composition. Start it again.” The actor have to deliver a stroke that meets everyone's needs at once. Everybody is your boss. And that's not the end of it. The one who's cutting this picture wants you to deliver stuff that can be cut. In the old days it was harder. Matching was one of the things I learned when I started, it's so that you can cut the cut looking like you're drinking the same cup of coffee or whatever. We've got to know the rollercoaster shape of this movie so that we can give the audience … a ride. They've got to be there going around the curves or they wont be there at the end of the ride with us. We've got to give our audience something too. To the one who hired me, I am responsible for helping to deliver this picture on time. I've got to be ready on the first, second, third take so that this picture can come in on time and they'll be willing to hire me again. There's an awful lot of little things that you've got to be doing. Every movie shot is important. It's an existential exercise because never is any [movie shot] the same as the one before. So, you're out there shooting movie shots and [the last shot of 'Jackie Brown'] is one that I think of as warm when I think of it. Gee, was that a nice shot. I grabbed the phone. By then I knew what I wanted to say. I talk to the mother, ask whether the father was in the house, da-da-da, and by the time I look up, the car was pulling away. It was a nice movie shot. Those are the things you do on a daily basis.
HDD: I love the way you explain the complexity of making a movie. It's poetic.
Robert Forster: Thank you, Luke.
HDD: You're welcome. Breaking off topic a little, next up you appear in 'The Descendants.'
Robert Forster: Yes, I do.
HDD: I'm excited to see it because you get to work with Alexander Payne. Can you tell us a little about it?
Robert Forster: 'The Descendants' is a really nice picture. I knew this guy Alexander Payne from 'Sideways,' then I saw 'Election.' And then I saw 'About Schmidt.' That may be how I got to know this guy. … Boy, I knew this was a real interesting filmmaker. And when my agent called me – I was in the car – and said, “Would you be willing to do one scene in a movie?” I, who am not afraid of doing just one scene, said, “Sure.” I had a meeting with this Alexander Payne – what a nice guy – and nothing happened. A month, two, three go by and I don't hear a thing. And then I get a phone call from a guy who says, “Hi. This is Alexander Payne. I'd like to invite you to Hawaii to work with us on our movie.” Wow! This seems to be a really really classy guy. Usually I get to know that I got a role when the wardrobe designers calls. What do I want to say about the movie? I heard about one review that said something like I abused everyone in sight. I'm an angry father-in-law of George Clooney, my daughter is in a coma and I blame him. By the way, [my part] turned into two scenes – I said one scene, he said, “No, there's two scenes. You don't have the right script. You read an old script.”
HDD: Alexander Payne is great, so I'm really looking forward to 'The Descendants.'
Robert Forster: Yeah, I play a father with his family in crisis. He gets to know his children. It's quirky, lovely and touching. I don't know what everyone else thinks about it, I just hear it's getting nice reviews. I'll be delighted to see this picture.
HDD: Thanks again for fitting me in with your morning coffee. I really appreciate it.
Robert Forster: By all means, Luke.
HDD: I look forward to the 'Jackie Brown' Blu-ray and seeing you in 'The Descendants.'
Robert Forster: Thank you. Have a good day!