Adapted from an online interview conducted by Jami Philbrick for iamrogue.com To real the full interview, click here.
Mark Pellegrino has been a working actor for over 25 years, and has an impressive resume of television and film credits to his name. He has appeared on such popular TV shows as Dexter, Prison Break, Supernatural, Being Human, The Closer, Revolution, and The Tomorrow People. While his film work includes No Holds Barred, Lethal Weapon 3, Mulholland Drive, Spartan, National Treasure, The Number 23, and the Oscar-nominated Capote. However, Pellegrino is probably best known to audiences for his role as Jackie Treehorn’s blond thug in The Big Lebowski, and as the mysterious Jacob on Lost.
Chase Whale of Film Threat called Mark Pellegrino’s performance in Bad Turn Worse, “The best villain I’ve seen on screen since Heath Ledger’s Joker.” That’s high praise! The film follows three Texas teens (Jeremy Allen White, Logan Huffman, and Mackenzie Davis) that hope to make a break for it and escape their dead-end existence in a cotton-mill town. However, they get sucked into the seedy underbelly of organized crime when one of them steals from a crime boss named Giff (Pellegrino). The film also includes performances from Jon Gries (Taken 2) and William Devane (Interstellar), and was directed by first time feature filmmakers Zeke and Simon Hawkins.
I Am Rouge recently had the pleasure of speaking with Mark Pellegrino about his work on Bad Turn Worse and here’s an adapted version of what he had to say…
IAR: how did you get involved with Bad Turn Worse?
Pellegrino: It this just kind of an unusual project in that I got a call from my agent, and he told me that Bennett Miller had called and wanted me to call him back. I worked with Bennett on Capote. I called him because he is a great guy, and I was curious to know what the heck he wanted to talk about. He asked me if I remembered Zeke Hawkins, because Zeke was his assistant on Capote. I know I had met him on the set, but I was preoccupied with a million other things on my mind. The meeting went in and out of my consciousness. It did not stick there, but I remembered it. Bennett said, “Zeke is doing a movie with his brother. It is good. They want you to read it. If you like it, I think you should do it.” I read the script and liked it. The character of Giff was one of those bad guys that I think anybody who plays bad guys mostly for a living would like because he had charisma. He was really bad but there was something about him that did not make you not like him. I liked that about it so I got together with the guys and said yes.
IAR: This is a great role for you in particular. When you initially read the script did you recognize that this would be a really good character for you to play?
Pellegrino: Well I was actually a little bit nervous because the part had a lot of dialogue, and normally I am allergic to a lot of dialogue in movies and TV even though I often times have to do. In TV they tend to make you do a lot of expositional stuff. You have to make that real, and that is quite a challenge. In cinema I like to cut as much as I can, but I did not see that there was anything really to cut. I thought I was going to need to make all of this dialogue more palatable to an audience so I decided on a couple of internal character quirks that Giff had. Zeke works in a way that I thought was really communicative. Plus, the guys just let me be free with how I moved around. It was not about blocking something rigidly. It was about finding the movement in the scene and allowing that to determine a lot of the action, which I thought helped move things along as well. The freedom they gave me to move was great. There were some internal questions I think that helped quite a bit to still the nerves about saying a lot of dialogue in the film.
IAR: At this point in your career you have worked with several legendary directors including the Coen Brothers, David Lynch, and David Mamet. What was your experience like working with first time filmmakers Zeke and Simon Hawkins on Bad Turn Worse?
Pellegrino: I found that they were very much about the individual process of the actor. All of us had our own unique approaches. They were very hands off, and it felt very collaborative. The camera did not feel intrusive, which was nice. I would imagine a lot of first time directors might not have that kind of savvy to keep their hands loosely on the wheel to make sure the story is being told. But at the same time let the actor have their process and make the camera a non-intrusive element to the human thing that is going on between the actors. I think that is advanced. That is not a first time director thing. I really felt like they had a craft, and they knew how to use it. For my money I think they were unique. Not many directors can talk to each actor in their own language, and I felt like they did that.
IAR: Finally, I wanted to ask you about your involvement in The Big Lebowski, which has really taken on a life of its own to become a cult classic. How do you feel about the legacy of that film and being a part of something that is so beloved by its fans?
Pellegrino: I am very happy to be a part of something that has had that much of an impact on people and that has given them joy. It is great to be a part of a project that tells its story so well. I learned a lot from Joel and Ethan Coen. Just watching their process and watching how they made the page come to life. The script was great but then you watch what they had done to it visually, and you see how you make these moments happen. It is crazy to be a part of something like that; you are a little piece of history. As unintended as it was for me, not knowing what it was going to become, I am still in a little piece of something that is historical in a sense.
Bad Turns Worse screens tomorrow, Friday 21st, 6:30pm at Vancity Theatre. Doors open at 5:30 with a special opportunity to try on police gear with guests from the Vancouver Police Department.