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Mittwoch, den 28.07.2010

Cineclub-Interview mit Matthew Montgomery

Wir vom Cineclub präsentieren euch nun ein Interview mit dem US-Schauspieler Matthew Montgomery, den ihr im Mystery-Thriller Pornography: Ein Thriller sehen könnt. Das Interview führte unser Mitarbeiter Martin. Das Gespräch wurde über E-Mail geführt und ist in Originalsprache. Viel Spaß beim Lesen:

Martin: Dear Matthew, we are doing this interview via e-mail. Do you often do this? Are you used to getting inquiries from outside the U.S.?

Matthew: Pretty much. Occasionally I'll do the phone or face-to-face interview if I happen to be in the same zip code as the interviewer. But I'm good with doing the email thing. Gives me a chance to proofread and not say something stupid. It's a lot easier to make yourself sound brilliant when you have a few days and a dictionary. Now, if I could just learn the alphabet.

Martin: You grew up in a family of artists, had your first stage experience at the age of eleven and studied theatre at the University of Southern California. Do you remember what drew you to acting and filmmaking instead of painting like your father, for example?

Matthew: When I was a child, I drew stick figures on my dad's paintings. It's never really been my forte to say the least - drawing that is. When I was in middle school, I tried taking my dad's art class as an elective course thinking that I'd breeze by with an A. When your father is the instructor, you secretly believe you are entitled to preferential treatment even though you lie and say otherwise. I was lucky I got through with a passing grade. He was harder on me than anyone else. He said it was because he expected more of me. Interestingly enough though, this philosophy has transcended into every other aspect of my life. I'm a perfectionist and incredibly self-critical, especially when it comes to my craft. I believe that talent can be inherent, but skill is a hard earned road. You have to work for it. So when I discovered acting as my passion at such a remarkably young age, I simply stuck with it and have struggled ever since for perfection. I love what I do which makes it a lot easier to handle when you experience self-doubt or disappointment. There's a stick figure in every painting. In other words, we all have to start somewhere with our own skills. For me, I started with my passion for the craft of acting.

Martin: You were nicknamed "The Wonder Freshman" at university, because you were able to get hold of a leading role early on, although freshmen were usually barred from main-stage productions. How did it feel to be favoured that much? Did you sometimes wonder if you were a kind of prodigy only because of your good looks?

Matthew: My good looks have always gotten in the way of my actual talent. Just kidding. I don't know, I never really thought of it as me being favored. When I started hearing that nickname around campus I was a bit floored, but it helped me get laid a lot so I was okay with it. It was unexpected and I certainly didn't consider myself any more "wondrous" than any of the other talent circling the campus grounds. I got that nickname because I was cast in nearly every production that went up at USC during my stay there. What people might be forgetting though is that I worked my ass off for it. I struggled, and muscled through in order to prove myself to be capable of working that much. I wanted it, perhaps more than most kids at that age did. Something paid off I guess, cause now here we are. I guess my dad was right. Damn him.

Martin: You started quite successfully in the independent film scene and a few years later you first co-produced a film--which happened to be Rob Williams' first film Long-Term Relationship, in which you also starred. Did Mr. Williams first approach you about a role and were you so intrigued by the project that you also wanted to co-produce it? How did that come about?

Matthew: I had this day job, my last one in fact, where I sold pens. I eventually got fired from that place. I was terrible at day jobs. Anyway, Rob Williams and his partner, Rodney Johnson, had become regular customers of mine and I handled their account regularly. One day, Rodney came into the store to purchase something and we got to talking on a more personal basis--where we were from, movies we liked, our past relationships, that kind of thing. I finally admitted that I was an aspiring actor, something that I was very shy about mentioning while working. I never felt talking about being an actor at my day job was really all that appropriate. For whatever reason, I did though that day and that's when Rodney put two and two together and remembered that he'd seen me in Gone, But Not Forgotten - my first film that I'd done back in 2002. So essentially, it was really Rodney that paved the way to my long-term relationship with these guys. I quickly became good friends with them. We loved to have dinner and talk about movies. They're both writers and I was fascinated by that. They were also incredibly sweet to me and very friendly so it was immediately an effortless connection. I believe it was a few or several months later, Rob approached me about a script that he'd written a while ago called Long-Term Relationship. It was something that he'd worked on and had found its ultimate home on a shelf somewhere collecting dust and he was curious what my thoughts were on it and asked if I would read it. I did, and I loved it. So I told him, "You have to make this movie! And you have to put me in it." I was half-kidding really but I guess I put a bug in his ear because it didn't take long before we started discussing the possibility of them making the film themselves and opening up their own production company. When they finally made the decision to make the film, they asked if I would produce it with them. This honestly scared the crap out of me since I'd never produced anything in my life and felt hardly capable of doing a good job. I could barely keep a day job long enough to establish a good reference so I was pretty worried about how this could turn out. Somehow they suckered me into producing and I'm glad they did because now here I am, having produced five films with them thus far and I couldn't ask for a better team to have worked with.

Martin: In the years to follow you played in two more Williams films and produced each of his movies. Did you enjoy being so tightly involved in those film projects? Did you see that as a training for future productions of your own?

Matthew: After the first film, it began to feel like a very natural fit for me to produce while continuing to act as well. Not only did I enjoy being involved so intimately in these projects on a professional basis, but it really helped me grow on a more personal one. I began to really feel a sense of self-confidence that I think I lacked before this period and it's really helped me to understand how much I can underestimate myself sometimes and my abilities as a filmmaker. I honestly never thought of it as a training ground for future projects of my own until I wrote Sticke Figures. When I came up with this story and wrote the first draft in three days, I knew it was a film that I would be making myself. And having come from the experience and growth from working with Rodney and Rob on Guest House Films, I suddenly was no longer daunted by the prospect of taking my career a step further and doing that. And this too felt like the natural next step for me to take.

Martin: So with Sticke Figures, you'll not only produce and star, but have also written the screenplay. Why won't you direct it, and will directing be the next big step in your career?

Matthew: I've always known that directing Sticke Figures would not be the right direction for me to take with this film. And there are a number of reasons for that. The two most important ones are that I can only wear so many hats before something begins to suffer. And since I have no desire to cast someone else as the main character, I knew that not acting in it would not be an option. I imagine that sounds rather self-absorbed but I wrote it as a vehicle for my own career as an actor. I believe that I have the strength and insight on how to produce this film well, too. My efforts need to remain on those two aspects strongly in order to truly make this film be as successful as I know it can and will be. But more importantly, this story is something I feel very strongly about and one that surrounds the journey of a little girl. It was really important to me to have a female voice and female perspective to the film because of that. My director, Aprill Winney, is someone I've known for quite some time and she has an extensive theatre background and has directed a couple of features of her own already as well. She's incredibly visual and understands the balance between technical aesthetic and creative storytelling. I've known from the very first draft of the screenplay that this film was meant to be directed by her. She's always been at the top of my list. This film may be written by me, but it will ultimately be her vision.

Martin: After Long-Term Relationship you mainly made gay movies. Do you sometimes regret that as an openly gay actor you are restricted to independent cinema, or are you comfortable where you are? Do you sometimes fantasize about being in the position of Jake Gyllenhaal, for example, who had a huge success with indie films, who then starred in Brokeback Mountain and now is doing Bruckheimer productions?

Matthew: I'm not even going to compare myself to Jake Gyllenhaal. I mean, HE'S JAKE GYLLENHAAL! No, I don't regret being an openly gay actor at all. I never have, and certainly hope I never will. I am indeed comfortable with where I am, but when I look back on where I began I can also say with much truth that I am not where I was when I began. Most people may look at my career thus far and say: "Wow, he's done a lot of gay films. But he's kind of stayed in the same place." I just don't believe that to be true. Yes, I have done more LGBT cinema than most actors, but I've done other films as well. I would love to cross over into mainstream cinema as long as it meant not having to say goodbye to my roots. I will always be involved in LGBT cinema, not because I have to but because I want to. I enjoy being a part of an ever growing and changing film community that up until recently has been rather marginalized. It helps validate the sometimes self-serving aspect of being an actor. Hahaha.

Martin: Do you think Hollywood is discriminating against openly gay actors by not allowing them into big productions? Directors like Gus Van Sant may be open about their sexual orientation, but not Hollywood actors. That Rock Hudson had to stay in the closet may be excused, because the height of his fame was well before the Gay Rights Movement. Yet besides Rupert Everett there aren't many openly gay actors who also play gay roles in the bigger studio productions. It were straight leading actors who were cast for Philadelphia, Brokeback Mountain, Milk, A Single Man. Why do you think this is so? Why do you think there isn't even one A-list Hollywood star who is openly gay? Is that only because of box-office concerns?

Matthew: Wow, that's a lot of questions. Let's start with the first one. Do I believe that Hollywood is discriminating against openly gay actors? No, I do not. Now, before any of the readers start lynching me and throwing glitter, let me explain. I believe that Hollywood as a whole is much more open about openly gay actors. I admit that this may be slightly naive but it's based on the increasing number of openly gay actors that we can now see on prime time (Jane Lynch, Neil Patrick Harris, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Chris Colfer, T.R. Knight, Sir Ian McKellen, Portia DiRossi, Adamo Ruggiero, Wanda Sykes, Dan Butler, Cheyenne Jackson, Sean Hayes, Alan Cumming, David Hyde Pearce, ... I mean, I could go on really. We'd be here for hours.), so I actually feel that the most discrimination comes from the actors themselves. The ones that have convinces themselves that they have to stay in the closet in order to have a career in the industry. It's simply not true. That being said, I do also believe that there are certain filmmakers and directors and/or producers that might be discriminating against openly gay actors but I find it difficult to say that Hollywood as a whole is discriminating against openly gay actors. It may be true in some cases, sure, but I feel that the tide is turning rather quickly with that. ow, as for films casting straight actors in gay roles, I have no idea. One can sit and speculate whether they're purposely casting a straight actor over a gay actor for days on end. But I doubt seriously that the casting directors are asking their actors for their sexual orientation when auditioning for a part in Milk. As someone who has helped cast several films now, I can honestly say that sexual orientation is much more secondary to talent and just simply being right for the role. I truly feel that the same policy applies to mainstream cinema. As far as box-office concerns, one could argue that perhaps a studio is not casting someone besides Jake Gyllenhaal in Brokeback Mountain because they don't have the kind of box office draw that he has, and not at all because of his sexual preference. In other words, they could have cast a CW actor who was straight but didn't because he's just not as "big" as Jake is. I think it's easy to play the gay card with stuff like this and I believe that this kind of dialogue is important and valid, however, I also feel that looking at all sides of the story will lead to much clearer understanding of where we're at right now, and where to go from here.

Martin: You are in a relationship with actor Steve Callahan, who is known for East Side Story. Steve had a small role in Williams' festival pleaser Make the Yuletide Gay as well as in Pornography: A Thriller; and Steve co-starred with you in Williams' latest movie Role/Play. How did you meet him and how long have you been a couple? Was it you who brought Steve into Williams' and your productions?

Matthew: Steve and I met doing Pornography: A Thriller. He asked me out and I didn't realize it, and told him I was busy. Luckily he gave me a second shot after the wrap party. Steve actually got involved with Make the Yuletide Gay and Pornography: A Thriller all on his own because he's an incredible actor. Rob actually sought Steve out after watching his performance in East Side Story. We'd been huge fans of his for a while and were just waiting for the right project to work with him on. It was just an added bonuses that I ended up sleeping with him.

Martin: At the moment you are in pre-production for Finding Mr. Wright with David Moretti, who is best known for Dante's Cove and The Lair. Pornography has been directed by David Kittredge, who edited and produced Sean Abley's Socket, in which not only you were cast, but also Derek Long, a regular in Williams' movies. It seems as if Hollywood's gay independent film-makers are cliqueing together. What is gay life in Hollywood like? What is the life of a gay independent film-maker in Hollywood like?

Matthew: I wouldn't phrase it as cliqueing together as much as I would call it creating a family together. We all started out in similar places, wanting to tell similar stories, and were figuring out how to do all of this together--with each other. It's one of the most wonderful aspects of independent filmmaking in general. There is such a vast amount of loyalty and support and encouragement from your fellow peers that you can always count on to help you get your project to where it needs to be and fulfilling its ultimate potential.

Martin: In July a small distributor of gay movies is theatrically releasing Pornography: A Thriller in Germany. Do you follow where your movies are being distributed? Are you aware of the fact that all over the world people may be watching you at this very moment, probably drooling over that cutie on the screen? Do you mind that to some you may be only a handsome face or body, not realizing that you also produced these movies? How do you see yourself?

Matthew: I'm totally okay with people drooling over me. One has to suffer for their art. But seriously, I basically see myself as the biggest goof ball on the planet. It's hard to take me seriously most of the time. I love how much attention my films have gotten and I hope that this continues and only gets better. There are so many other stories I can't wait to tell. But at the end of day, we're only making movies. I'm just along for the ride.

Martin: Well, thank you, Matthew, for this interview. All the best for your current projects and your future career!
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