John Goodman On 'The Artist,' Rumors, Death Hoaxes & More
In a career that spans more than three decades, John Goodman has seemingly done it all. He's starred in the nation's No. 1 sitcom ("Roseanne"), earned indie-cult-hero status (in "The Big Lebowski"), played both a President ("The West Wing") and a Congressman ("Evan Almighty"), voiced animated characters ("Cars" and "Monsters University") and even played a live-action cartoon character (Fred Flintstone). Now, he can cross starring in a silent movie off his list, too, as he features as an angry Hollywood studio executive in the Best Picture frontrunner, "The Artist."
Goodman, who was in London preparing for the upcoming BBC miniseries "Thicker," spoke to The Huffington Post about his role in the charming film that is sweeping awards season, as well as a number of his other big career milestones.
How did you get involved in "The Artist?"
They asked for me. My agent told me this guy wanted to do something and he showed me -- since they dont have a script, the guy had a scenario, basically scene-by-scene, explaining what was happening. But he tarted it up with all these old Hollywood pictures, pictures of old stars, of old advertisements, of old scenes from Hollywood. And I thought, This guy is really going through a lot of trouble, he must really dig what he's doing. And then he came to explain to me how he wanted to do it, and I flipped, I thought it was a great idea. It's just a great idea to tell a story.
Did you have an active interest before that in old Hollywood?
As I get older, I appreciate what they did more. Some of the stuff, I can't figure out how they did it. Just really effortless craftsmanship went into this stuff. And a lot of these guys were making it up, inventing the business as they went along. The guy I'm playing is one of these tough old bastards who came down from New York, fell in love with the movies and then wound up inventing the process as they went along.
You're portraying a very tough executive -- do you think that kind of character still exists in Hollywood?
You know what, I don't have much access to the executives, the big shots. I kind of try to avoid them. From my end of the spectrum, I just don't have that much exposure to them.
You're doing some speaking in the film, even if it doesn't make it into the sound mix. I read you were speaking English and Dujardin was speaking French, and you went back and forth without understanding each other.
Yeah, but it worked. There was common ground in that we knew what we were talking about, but there was some heavy focusing going on. Which kind of carried through to this whole ensemble feel of the piece -- everybody was really focused, because it was such a different way of telling a story. It created a great camaraderie among the cast.
Why do you think it's been so critically successful?
I think people enjoy seeing it. I think they enjoy seeing it with other people. It's a great, shared experience, it's one of the reasons we started going to the theater to begin with, to share a story with other people and see how they react to it, how they feel. And it's just a basic, decent, simple story that runs on a lot of different levels, too. It's a big warning, in this business, that nobody is irreplaceable.
How about that "Spring Break '83" movie, where you play a character named Dick Bender, it comes out this spring it seems?
What was this?
See, I have to deal with IMDB all the time, and rumors and figuring out what's true and what's not true. I'm looking at this film called "Spring Break '83"
Oh yeah! I remember this. This was something that was shooting up in Baton Rogue and [laughs] the paycheck was too good to turn down. So yeah, I flopped over on my back and I whored out, man. I put on the cheap cologne and I whored out big time.
So what exactly was this role as Dick Bender?
I don't remember. He was a rich guy who was yelling into a cell phone most of the time.
How often do you do that, just do a role for the check?
Oh man, not often. At that time, I think I was pretty desperate.
It looks like it's finally going to see the light of day. When did you make it?
Maybe like four, five years ago. Is it really coming out?
Yeah, I see it has you as Dick Bender and Alan Richardson as Brad, Joey Pantoloiano as Sgt. Coltrane.
I remember working with Lee Majors. Is Lee Majors in it, or maybe this is a different movie?
No, Lee is in it.
OK, yeah that's the one. But there have been movies that people have told me I was in that I wasn't in.
How often does that happen?
During interviews. People look on the computers and the computers are wrong.
Do people you know read news stories and then call you up and say, "I didn't know you were going to be in this movie" and you're really not?
I was dead a couple of times, shit like that.
How do you deal with a death hoax rumor on the Internet?
I don't care. It's so far out of my control, what am I going to do? Bust a blood vessel and really die?
I've always wondered about that, because it's my job to sort through those things and report what's true, and it gives me a headache -- how do the subjects deal with it?
Yeah, back to doing "Roseanne," when the television show was popular, she was tabloid bait. So I'd read shit about her that was all fiction, and there was a lot of stuff about me that was not true, and what are you going to do? You can't believe any of this shit, so it was kind of hard to get too worked up about it.
Roseanne wrote a New York magazine piece and said she thinks the show resonates more now than even when it came out.
Yeah. When we started doing that show, there was a little unease in the country about the economy, and there were all these glitzy shows on TV that I really don't think reflected what the country was going through. I think our show was a good touchstone for what people were going through, just trying to scrape by, going paycheck to paycheck.
Did you hear that from a lot of people?
Yeah, I still get people that say, "You remind me of my dad" or, "Roseanne is just like my mom."
In the beginning, like this time last year, he showed it at Radio City Center and we all went and I think that was the first time I saw it, with a room full of Kevin Smith fans, so that was pretty cool. I was disappointed that it went straight to DVD, but I guess that was part of his process as well. You know, once I step out from in front of the camera, my work is done and I have no control of anything. It was fun to do, though. We had a good time.
What are you looking forward to doing beyond what you have planned?
I wouldn't mind being on a series again. You get tired living out of a suitcase. I get to work with Joel and Ethan Coen again [on "Inside Llewyn Davis"] and that's something I'm really looking forward to. I'd like a lot of things. I like doing big movies but that hasn't been the case, so these little ones are doing me just fine.
When the Coen brothers call, do you just say, "Yes"?
Yeah, it doesn't matter. "We've got you drinking out of a dog bowl." OK!
Justin Timberlake is the star, right?
Is he? I didn't know that.
Yeah, Timberlake, you, Garrett Hedlund, Carey Mulligan, Oscar Isaac as well.
Oh, OK. [Laughs.]
How often do people come up to you and say, "I don't roll on Shabbos"?
A lot. Once a week someone will bring up a DVD or something to sign or come out of the blue, blindside me. There was a festival in NY last year, and it was the first time everyone got together. The panel we did, no one could understand the guy interviewing us, and it was in a huge theater, and that kind of sucked, but it was great seeing everybody.
When you were making it, did you expect it to be such a cult hit?
I never know anything like that. I really don't care. I was having such a good time.