William Fichtner interview

A serious, timely question: Who on Earth doesn’t have love for William Fichtner? The actor brings it every time, no matter the size of the role – which, as he recently told us, is not something he cares about. Whether he’s one of the stars or only on screen for a scene or two, he always leaves an impression. Now, he’s one of the leads of Mark Steven Johnson‘s playful heist movie Finding Steve McQueen, a true story about an eclectic gang of criminals stealing Richard Nixon’s illegal campaign contributions.

Throughout his career, in addition to showing a wide range in a wide variety of films and TV shows, he’s starred in movies that are already proving to stand the test of time. The Dark KnightGoBlack Hawk Down, and the works of Michael Bay: those movies aren’t going anywhere anytime soon. Recently, we spoke with Fichtner about his experiences on those films and his collaborations with Christopher Nolan, Michael Bay, Sir Ridley Scott, and others.

Below, take a trip down memory lane with the one and only William Fichtner.

Armageddon 

Based on what most actors who’ve worked with Michael Bay have to say about the man, there’s no experience like the Michael Bay experience. The speed, the yelling, the scale: it’s total Bayhem. Fichtner has been pulled into Bay’s orbit a few times, including ArmageddonPearl Harbor, and the Bay-produced Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and he has a blast taking direction from the notably vocal filmmaker:

[Laughs] Oh, Michael… Oh, Michael. I have to tell you, and I mean this, I’m not a trash talking guy, so you’re never going to get that, but I wanna say this – and I really mean this – I love being around Michael. Yeah, he’s a little nuts, he can be a screamer, but Michael is hanging out in another world with his vision on things. Boy, you got to give him the credit for it. Listen, I remember at the time we were shooting Armageddon, that’s when I met Michael, and sometimes when a big movie comes out, there’s two of them at the same time. Like, there’s two big volcano movies. I remember when Armageddon came out, there was Deep Impact, which came out within weeks of it. A lot of great actors in Deep Impact, and a couple of my good friends in that, and a very good movie. But it is interesting, Armageddon stood the test of time. Flip around on your TV right now and you’re probably going to find it somewhere. Michael knows how to make movies like that.

Bay also knows how to make movies like that at a remarkable speed:

He flies. I remember there was a scene we had to do defusing the bomb. They set this bomb off in this scene, and Michael came over and said, “Yeah, shut the bomb off, we’re going to get the shot like this. Can you guys do this? Come on, I gotta blowup the astroid over there.” We were literally like, “Okay.” “Ready? Roll camera. Come on, come on!” I remember finishing it, thinking, “I don’t know about this. Does it really look like we just saved the planet?” Go watch the movie, and it looks better than when we did it. So, something happened [laughs].

Black Hawk Down

When it comes to making a big movie, Ridley Scott sounds like a calm and collected master chess player with all the right moves in his head. There’s no question he’s a master of his medium, but according to Fichtner, he’s also the coolest of the cool:

I think Ridley Scott is the epitome of just cool. He is the calmest person I’ve ever been around on a set, and this was a big film. Ridley was as smooth as ice and such a gentleman and so nice. You know, you never have a sense around Ridley you aren’t getting it right. Ridley set it up in a way to just do your thing, and he captured it. That was hard, man, especially [for] the Delta guys. We were in Morocco and things would change everyday. Because you’re playing a Delta guy, you’d be running in the background in any scene. Guys were getting a month off here and there for the five and a half months we were there, but all the Delta guys – me and Eric Bana – were there the entire time, except for one week. I got one week to come back.

It was just great being around Ridley, and it was such a highlight experience. In fact, I remember we shot Black Hawk Down in 2001, and I met one of my all-time best friends, Kim Coates, and it was me, him, and Bana. The film I just shot, I wrote that for me and Kim Coates and play co-leads in it. Back up about five or six years ago, maybe 12-13 years after Black Hawk Down, I’m living in Prague for three years and Coates came over, visiting me and working with me on this project. We were walking down the street, checked out this restaurant, and who’s walking out as we’re walking in? It’s Ridley Scott, who’s getting his scarf on in the cold, and he looks up and just stared at us for a couple of seconds and went, “Get the fuck out of here!” [Laughs] What a gentleman. I’m so happy in my lifetime, and hopefully again, I had the one time to get to work with Ridley Scott. He is the epitome of awesome.

Finding Steve McQueen

Fichtner, who shot the Mark Steven Johnson pic over two years ago, says his fondest memories from the set came from the characters and the other actors. The role lets Fichtner be a little flashy with his slick period outfits, but also the chance to hang out around some classic cars. Fichtner himself is a car fan and has raced in the past, having won the 2011 Toyota Pro/Celebrity Race, but being around those period cars and sets, that’s something the actor can’t get enough of:

I think beautiful old cars are automotive art. We had some fun, cool cars on that and driving around in a Cadillac, it’s the joy of when you shoot a period film. That early ’70s thing, that was my time. I mean, I was in high school then [when the robbery happened], so I don’t remember this happening because I was too busy playing hockey and doing other things. Yeah, it’s cool. I’ll tell you one thing, I hope one time in my life I get to play a role from the ’50s. I just think that’d be so awesome, and very few people get to do that. With the sets, the cars, and the whole thing, it was great and a part of the joy of putting things together is creating the world.

Another joy of working on Finding Steve McQueen for the actor? Meeting costume designer Melissa Vargas (Hearts Beat Loud). When Fichtner got to work on his directorial debut, Cold Brook, she was one of the first people he called.

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