John C Reilly

Chicago, Gangs of New York, The Good Girl, and The Hours

Interviewed by Alec Cawthorne

When Hollywood's looking to cast a supporting actor role, two men are rarely far from their thoughts: Philip Seymour Hoffman and John C Reilly. The 37-year-old Reilly had a busy 2002, appearing as Amos Hart in "Chicago"; Jennifer Aniston's husband in "The Good Girl"; a corrupt cop in "Gangs of New York"; and Julianne Moore's partner in "The Hours". He'll soon also star with Jack Nicholson and Adam Sandler in the comedy "Anger Management"...

With "The Good Girl", "Chicago", and "The Hours", you're playing three unhappy husbands...

I have to say that I'm happily married, very happily married, in real life. Happy marriages don't get depicted in movies very often because they are not very dramatic. They say happy families are happy for the same reasons, and unhappy families are unhappy for many different reasons. So that's what makes great drama conflict between people. I'm lucky to have these parts.

I don't approach my roles with any kind of ego in mind. I don't have to play likeable people, the guy who gets the girl all the time. I just want to play someone who has an interesting human experience on film. In these movies, all the characters are very conflicted people. In "The Good Girl" the guy starts out frozen in his life from pot and everything else, and he comes to life in the course of the movie. In "Gangs of New York", despicable as that character is, he is a broken man, someone who had high ideals and is compromised and corroded by his choices.

So do you call yourself a character actor?

I'm friends of guys like Brad Pitt and George Clooney and they'll come up to me quite often and say they want the parts I play because I get the interesting stuff. Yeah, but they get the girl! Let's switch for a day and see if they still want my parts.

When people say that I'm a character actor that's a real honour. On bad days I think that's just a limitation - that they're trying to keep me in my place and tell me I can't play larger roles. Most of the times I just think that 'character actor' means a good actor - someone who is not playing themselves for a living.

Wouldn't you like to be Tom Cruise?

No. I have a lot of respect for Tom, he's an incredibly hard working guy, and a very good actor. But having experienced first hand what their lives are really like, it's tough. For all the fame, glory, and money that they get, they pay a big price. I worked with Tom a couple of times and I worked with George Clooney on "The Perfect Storm" and watched what he went through every day with hundreds of people constantly after him. When he is not working he is fleeing. So no, I don't want that. I cherish my anonymity, I have a really great family life and am very domestic when I am not working. That is fulfilling to me, that is how you learn about life.

What was more demanding, "Chicago" or "Gangs of New York"?

It's tough to compare the two. All of the movies that are out this year couldn't be more different in tone. They both were very demanding. Martin Scorsese is someone I consider to be the greatest living filmmaker out there. So when I showed up for that movie, it was an awesome responsibility to do well. That project was something he had been trying to get done for 30 years. That movie meant a lot to him, I wanted him to realise it in the way he always dreamed.

Working with Daniel Day-Lewis was incredible, he's peerless as an actor, no one can touch him for intensity and focus and commitment to the craft of acting. He's a real artist, not a celebrity.

Then coming into "Chicago" was great. I grew up doing musicals, from the time I was about eight-years-old, right through high school. It was all there was to do where I grew up. No one was doing Ibsen or Shakespeare in my neighbourhood in Chicago. By the way, I'm the only Chicago native in this movie. Born and raised there, I didn't leave Chicago till I was 22-years-old.

"Chicago" is now playing in London and opens nationwide on Friday 17th January 2003. "Gangs of New York" and "The Good Girl" open on Friday 10th January 2003. "The Hours" opens here on Friday 14th February 2003.