Matthew Fox Talks to Cole Smithey About "Vantage Point," "Speed Racer," and Staying "Lost"
By Cole Smithey
Practically anyone with a television is aware of Matthew Fox from the hugely successful series "Lost" in which he plays a plane crash survivor named Jack Shepherd who shares a remote island with 47 other survivors. About the show’s international success Fox is quoted as saying, "It's sort of a show about the human species, not a show about anybody from any particular country or any nationality or any religious background."
Matthew Fox established himself as a television fixture on the television series "Party of Five" before the "Lost" series began in 2004. SInce that time the charismatic young actor has bridged the gap between television and feature films, starring in "Smokin’ Aces" and "We Are Marshall." With performances in this year’s "Vantage Point" and upcoming "Speed Racer," Fox is making deeper forays outside of the small screen, and is poised for leading man feature film roles in the not so distant future.
In his latest film "Vantage Point" Matthew Fox plays a Secret Service agent protecting a U.S. President during a trip to Spain. Director Pete Travis ("Omagh") has turned debut screenwriter Barry Levy’s Rashomon-inspired script, about an assassination attempt against a U.S. president on a visit to Salamanca into a dizzyingly complex puzzle that sits comfortably next to such great political thrillers as "In the Line of Fire" (1992). It’s Fox’s character Kent Taylor that adds zingers of surprises as aspects of his double life are exposed.
I met with Mathew at Sony’s Madison Avenue headquarters in Manhattan where he appeared wearing a motorcycle jacket and a look of satisfied exhaustion.
CS: What have you been up to lately?
MF: I’ve been to nine countries in the past 18 days. I’ve been to Japan, Australia, Korea, France, Spain, Russia, the UK, Germany, and now New York in support of this film.
CS: Your character is probably the most multi-dimensional in the movie. You got to have your cake and eat it too.
MF: It was a fun role for me. Obviously, I disagree with his methods. For me, it’s really always the project as a whole—the potential that I feel like the script and the director, and the director’s take on the script—the potential of it being something really good. This amazing cast came together. I love Pete Travis—loved what he’d done before, and thought that the way he talked about the movie and what he wanted to do with it, had all those elements. I like to believe that I’m the type of actor that once that sort of package feels like something I want to be involved in, I’ll serve the story in whatever way I’m asked to serve it. And in this one it was Kent Taylor.
CS: I understand you did some training to play a Secret Service agent.
MF: Dennis [Quaid] got to do more training than I did. I was doing another film directly before "Vantage Point." I had less than a 24-hour turnaround on the films, and I had to fly from Atlanta to Mexico City. So it was a really intense summer for me. I was shooting six days a week to get all the work on both films done in the "Lost" hiatus. For me it was really just trying to gather, as quickly as possible from the consultants that we had on the film, the logistics of how these things would be choreographed, the positional reference of everyone around the President at all times, where weapons were carried, how communications were conducted- really outward mechanics-type questions. Most of the relationship between Dennis and I, and hopefully building a history, or a sensed history between these two guys was something that Dennis and Pete and I worked on quite a bit.
CS: It seemed like a physically demanding role.
MF: It was a pretty physical thing, but I enjoy that. Anytime I have an opportunity to be physical in a role that requires that--you’re kind of viscerally activated. It takes away the thought process, which is fun.
CS: The car chase sequences you’re in seem dangerous. How much of that was your driving?
MF: I would love to take credit for doing that car chase, but my actual driving in that was pretty limited. Most of my appearance in the car sequence was done on a green screen with a couple of guys rocking the car, with Pete sitting in front of the windshield going, "You’re turning left, he’s behind you"! "He’s coming up on you quickly"! It was an incredibly frustrating experience. It was the only point in the entire making of the movie that I got into it with Pete. I was frustrated, and I was like, "This is not going to work." And he said, "Trust me, it’s going to work." Now everybody says it’s like the best car chase, and they love it. So I saw Pete after not seeing him for a long time—gave him a big hug and said, "You were right, it did work out. I was doubting you, and it worked out.
CS: How did your impression of Dennis Quaid compare with the experience of working with him?
MF: I always just imagined Dennis as a really solid individual. He certainly proved to be that. I really enjoyed meeting him and enjoyed working on the project. You know, this task was a really rewarding thing for me—to be in that company, and to just get an opportunity to be in a film with so many people that I had watched for so long, and respect their work, and also get to know them as people a bit, was pretty surreal. When you’re in the work and you’re coming at the day from the perspective of the character and you’re sort of only seeing the other actors as in their characters—you’re kind of defining relationships all the time. And so you don’t really think twice about it. But then there are those moments where you’ve got a couple hours of downtime and you’re sitting around shooting the shit, and those were the moments where I was like, "Wow, this is pretty great that I’m in this film with this group of people."
CS: How do you feel about your upcoming Wachowski Brothers’ movie "Speed Racer"?
MF: I’m very, very excited about the movie. I’ve seen certain sections of the film. It’s pretty amazing. And my little boy asks me every single day when the movie’s coming out. He cannot wait.
CS: Have you seen your action figure that the toy company made?
MF: Yes, I saw it. It’s actually my second. There’s a Jack Shepherd one for "Lost" as well. I’m just very excited for the experience of making it with the Wachowskis, and with the entire cast, it was amazing. It was an amazing summer.
CS: What did you enjoy about making a CGI-intensive movie?
MF: Everything about it. It was like doing it for the first time in a lot of respects. The whole process that they’re doing is very different--the way that the images are layered in, the way things are even shot. Most of the time you’d end up doing a scene and then the actors would be removed from it so you were doing it by yourself. Just the experience of discovering what this world is that they are building and trying to find a way into that world as this masked vigilante, was really fun.
CS: Would you carry on with the franchise if it develops?
MF: I would hope to do two more. I would love to do more of that world and work with everyone involved with that project. I’m very excited by the prospect of that, but it’s going to be one at a time obviously.
CS: Don’t the studios typically ask you to sign on for franchise sequels when you’re cast for the first one?
MF: Yes they do, and I didn’t think twice about it.
CS: You’ve made a seemingly easy transition between television and film. How do you approach your work?
MF: I’ve always approached the business as a marathon, not a sprint. I think you’ve got to take your time and make sure you are making choices that are smart for you. Choices are very important. I’ve been doing it for about 17 years, and I’ve just always felt that I’d have more opportunities later in my life when I’d gotten some life under my belt. I’ve just taken my time and waited for the right opportunities.
CS: How much do you enjoy doing "Lost"?
MF: I really feel like "Lost," and what I’m getting an opportunity to do on that show, is pretty complex and it’s evolving as well. My character started as an idea of what everybody wanted him to be this heroic guy, and he’s actually really flawed and the island is stripping away this deep compassion in him and bringing out a much darker side. So there’s an evolution happening in the character that’s always been important to [scriptwriter] Damon Lindelof, and myself actually.
CS: The show takes liberties with past, present, and future. How long has Jack been on the island?
MF: From the time the plane crashed to Jack in the future is about a year and a half. Jack would have been on the island now about a hundred and twenty days.
CS: Would you ever consider directing a movie?
MF: Maybe. I directed an episode of "Party of Five" towards the very end of that show, and it was a great experience. But I think if I were to ever take that on, it would have to be something that I felt so personally strong about—that I really felt like I was the one to tell it. Maybe that will happen. I think that’d be really exciting if it did, but it hasn’t yet.