Question: You’ve done huge movies and small ones. This one is somewhere in-between. Do they feel different when you’re making them?
Answer: It definitely doesn’t feel like an indie move that we really have to really peddle to get people to know about it. The nature of the story, I think, people have been waiting for it for decades, so the people who have any investment in it whatsoever, anybody who wants to see it, probably would have known about it.
Q: This is one of those books that for so long was considered not filmable. Did that add pressure?
A: Oh absolutely, my god. Walter, I mean, how many people spend years making a documentary in search of a possible film? He wasn’t even confident that he was going to make the movie. He was just satisfied and driven to research it and think about maybe putting a movie together. The honor that this thing is steeped in, it is hard to touch. The amount of work that it takes to make yourself feel validated, to even be there, to even consider helping out, is crazy — absolutely for me, unprecedented.
Q: A movie version has been talked about for years.
A: I think to look at the list of actors that came before you (who were discussed for the film) and go, wow, so those years passed you by. And then the next set of actors, they missed out. And so, is this actually going to come together with us? Is this actually going to happen?
Q: Wouldn’t it just stink to be one of the ones who missed out?
A: Oh god, it would be horrible. We weren’t completely sold that this movie was going to happen until we were literally standing on set, shooting it. Even throughout rehearsal it’s like, gosh, is this actually going to happen? It would have been the most painful, horrible experience. But fairly expected at the same time. I think it’s more surprising that we actually went through with it.
Q: How do you prepare for a role like this?
A: I think the only way to really satisfy anyone who loves “On the Road” with a film version is to genuinely have real experiences and hope that the research you’ve done and your love for the book finds its way into your body and into your bones, rather than through line readings, through pointed, planned-out scenes that you recall from the book. But everyone has a different experience reading that book. I think the point is to watch people surprise themselves rather than package and deliver a story to you.
Q: Does the reception of the film matter to you? Or of any film?
A: As soon as you’re really worried about how something is going to be consumed and at what level. … As an actor you should usually be thinking ahead. You should be looking in front of you instead of behind you. If the experience of making the movie wasn’t enough and you sort of need this validation at the end of the process, then you’re enjoying things for different reasons than I am.
Q: This is the second time that you likely will be associated with characters in famous books. Is that strange, that some people will think of you when reading it?
A: Yeah. It’s pretty mind-blowing. The other day they brought in a bunch of copies of “On the Road” for us to sign. The fact that I was even signing my name on that book really blew my mind. It’s crazy.