Friday, January 07, 2011

My Garrett Hedlund interview...

The journey of a hero
By Raymond de Asis Lo, L.A. Correspondent (The Philippine Star) Updated January 08, 2011 12:00 AM Comments (0) View comments

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Tron: Legacy returns to theaters today.| Zoom
MANILA, Philippines –  Tron: Legacy hunk Garrett Hedlund’s movies are screened in massive multiplexes and cinemas all over the world yet when his father wants to see him on the big screen, he has to spend six hours on the road going to the nearest movie theater and back to his farm in rural Roseau, Minnesota. “We have one theater in our town; they don’t even play my films!” he told this writer one November morning last year. “My dad has to drive to Fargo to go see, you know, my film.”

Garrett, 26, grew up in a farm until he was 14. “Our town has only 2,500 people and we lived 30 miles out on the farm. Nobody went to the movies there, you know, they’re all like, ‘that’s going to cost me 20 bucks in gas. I could’ve bought my tickets with that.’ There was only one theater in town to play the movie Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and it was the same movie! When 10 movies come out on a weekend, we would only get one of those.”

Those few trips to the movies offer him great memories today. When he was eight years old, he and his mother were in a little town in North Dakota watching A River Runs Through It when his mom suddenly exclaimed, “You know, that one is you,” pointing to the Brad Pitt character. “I had a fear that she knew I was always mischievous and in trouble,” he had thought to himself.

Today, he smiles whenever he recalls that particular day. He remembers how fear-stricken he was for a few days after watching the movie. He imagined himself getting killed in an unlit alley later in his life after a bad poker game. He had no idea that what his mom meant was that he was going to become an actor like Brad Pitt — and he didn’t even harbor any ambition that his first Hollywood film would have him starring alongside Brad himself in the 2004 epic Troy. “It was just incredibly surreal. It was like nothing — nothing really unbelievable happened to me in my life until then, you know,” he said humbly.

From a casual observer, his rise in Hollywood is nothing short of spectacular. After Troy he had a string of big-studio movies that would put many wannabe actors in a fit of envy. And Garrett wasn’t totally unaware of how lucky he has been.
Hedlund, star of Tron: Legacy grew up watching very few movies and he now compensates for it by making more and more movies.

“I was driving the tractor on the farm (one day), singing Don’t Take the Girl from Tim McGraw, (and all of a sudden) he’s playing my father in the next film. And then I sing on stage with him in Austin.” For his second film he was cast as one of the HS football heroes in one of the most critically acclaimed movies of 2004,Friday Night Lights.

His next three movies would have him working with Mark Wahlberg, John Malkovich and with a then still sober Lindsay Lohan and legendary actress Jane Fonda inGeorgia Rule.

On the day of our interview, Garrett was profuse with apology. He was in Montreal finishing scenes for his next movie, Francis Ford Copolla’s production of Jack Kerouac’s classic novel On the Road, and thus was unable to fly to L.A. to personally meet with the press. “I assure you it’s more awkward for me than you guys but I’m sorry if it’s a hassle for you,” he repeated twice before we start the interview via Skype.

Despite all the success that he is enjoying, the good-looking actor remains seemingly unaffected and remarkably humble. “Well, for two years or so — from the time I was 15 to 18 — I was flying from Arizona to L.A. to audition for anything, whatever I could,” he said recalling how it really wasn’t easy for him after all. “I was working at a restaurant as a busboy and all my paychecks went to Southwest Airlines. I’d get in a cab, go to the audition, get back in cab, go to the airport and go back. Wake up for school the next day.”

After several years of commuting between Phoenix and L.A., and after going to more than 30 auditions without getting any callbacks, Garrett decided to skip a year and focused on reading all the books on acting that he could get his hands on. “You know, I went on auditions and then finally I was like, ‘everybody in all these rooms looked the same as me and never getting a good response,’ so what can I do? Like a train be smarter than all of them.”

When the year was over, he decided to move to L.A. and started the round of auditions with a new-found confidence. “Your wheels are turning… and the details start flying. Finally, I knew that when I went to L.A., I just knew I wanted to do films that affected people. I knew I could get to a dark place and I knew I had a good humor and I knew that hopefully if I just focus 200 percent on the task at hand or the characters at hand that maybe somebody would finally give me a chance.”

And he has been on a roll since 2004. This season, Garrett has two movies opening mere weeks in-between. He has the lead starring role in the highly-anticipated Disney high-tech adventure treat, Tron: Legacywhere he stars alongside Jeff Bridges, and a critically-acclaimed turn as a country singer in Country Song opposite Gwyneth Paltrow.

In Tron: Legacy, he plays a rebellious 27-year-old son of the visionary creator of the Tron universe who can’t seem to accept that his father, who disappeared when he was a child, is dead. The movie, a visually stunning sequel to the 1982 cult hit Tron, uses the latest, state-of-the-art 3D technology to offer what is perhaps the most deliriously immersive movie experience one will have in movie theaters this season.

This is his biggest role to date and he doesn’t hide his excitement in getting the part to a sequel that took many years before it was green-lit. “I watched Tron for the first time in 2003,” he disclosed. “It was when I was filming in Malta and I just watched on the balcony off of some guy’s laptop and yeah, I mean, I dug it. I was really impressed with the way the creators’ mind works. I was really sort of questioning all this — all the junk about genetic engineering and socialism and totalitarianism.”

Apart from the mythology that the story is creating, Garrett had to also focus on the difficult and rigorous training for various action-packed sequences that make some key scenes very thrilling to watch. “The physical preparation for it was, you know, hard-core and all these things. A lot of what you’re trying to acquire is the strength in certain muscles. And that takes time to acquire — the weights and the training and the hand-to-hand combat, you know. And the motorcycle and all its preparation — wire stunts, the wire rigs and, you know, just being able to move around in that suit all day every day — it takes a lot of strength.”

The physical training he underwent is visible when he finally dons his sexy Tron universe suit. “Well, it’s the journey of the hero,” he explained half-smiling. “And there are qualities that are there at the beginning and there are qualities that aren’t there. And then by the end you hope that all those qualities are fulfilled.”

Does he mind when people see him as a sex symbol?

“I don’t know,” he replied with a grin on his face and said, “I guess” before finally breaking into a laugh.

Garrett may have found success early on in Hollywood but he still anticipates the challenges that the future holds for him. “It’s weird to talk about it I guess but it fills me with such incredible disbelief but at the same time just incredible gratification and thrill and excitement; curiosity to see what tomorrow is going to bring in this kind of journey, you know.”

He may have been to very few movies when he was growing up but the actor can surely compensate for that by making more and more movies in the future. It’s just too bad that his hometown had to miss his big Hollywood breakout movie.

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