I’m Glad I’m Done: Tom Berenger on the State of Hollywood
One of Actionfest’s special guests was Carolinian Tom Berenger. The action movie festival screened Sinners and Saints, a recent cop thriller in which Berenger plays the captain. After Berenger hung out with the Ashville, NC fans, signing autographs and posing for photos, he stepped to the side for an impromptu interview about his classic films. When we asked about Major League: Back to the Minors he may have thought we were still talking about a future sequel, but that’s okay.
CraveOnline: Is it interesting to be at Actionfest for a role that’s less of the action role as the captain?
Tom Berenger: Yeah, but they don’t do AdministrationFest. Adminfests.
Is it a nice place in your career to be where you can play the mentor/Captain character?
Yeah, I figured that would happen one day. I was kind of saying make sure you’re around where you can do those one day too.
I feel like you have done a lot of action movies like Sniper, The Substitute and Shoot to Kill, but Hollywood never put you in the action box, did they?
No, no. I was fine where it was with a variety of different roles, even comedies so I was fine with that.
What is your opinion of filmmaking today compared to when you started?
One thing I notice is I don't know if this is the whole structure of the business but boy, it’s nothing like when I started. It’s nothing like in the middle of it somewhere.
Is that because of digital?
Digital, I listen to them talking about that all the time and I’m wondering if that isn’t part of it. I’m just not sure exactly where that fits in because besides that everything else has changed so much too, the way business is conducted. You have actors doing auditions, they mail in their auditions, they skype it. That’s weird to me. It’s just strange. So there’s all this skyping going on and all these young actors are doing it. I’m kind of glad it’s almost over for me in a way. I’m glad I’m done. I’m glad my kids aren’t in the business because I go where’s the theater? Where’s all that? I just don’t see it anymore. How does anybody get more than a five-year career anymore.
What is the secret to maintaining such a Hollywood presence where you still work prolifically?
But I don’t work as much as I did. I’ve still got to do about five more years before I get my pension. I don't know. I’m not pleased with it. I’m not happy about it but I suppose it’s probably also why I rarely talk about it except for these interviews. I don’t even talk to my girlfriend about it. I don’t talk to my kids about it. We never talk about it and I wouldn’t know really what to say except yeah, I miss the good old days. Yeah, I wish they were back but they just aren’t.
Charlie Sheen keeps saying he wants to do Major League III. Would you be up for it?
Yeah, I’d probably be up for it. I don't know if it’s going to happen or not though.
Were you aware that there was a third film, Major League: Back to the Minors?
I heard that like about a year ago or something but never from David Ward or somebody substantial. It’s just scuttlebutt.
I think it would be great if they still called it Major League III even though there already was one.
Yeah, they can call it whatever they want to call it I suppose.
Did you know you were making a comedy classic on the set of the first one?
I thought it was going to be pretty good, yeah. I felt pretty confident about it and I don’t always, but I did on that one.
With the education system the way it is today, do we need The Substitute more than ever?
Yeah, we need that in our schools, our universities. Look, there’s people shooting up universities now, isn’t there? Boy, we need to do something. The country’s falling apart at the seams.
Why did you not continue that series? You did Sniper 2 and 3 but not the Substitute sequels.
They didn’t want to pay me on that. They didn’t want to pay me so they made it actually a different character.
Yeah, Treat Williams played a new substitute.
They go, “Oh, we’re not paying him.” I go, “Well, they made money on it but they were cheap bastards.”
Was Shoot to Kill an exciting film to make?
Yeah, that was a lot of fun. It was very physical obviously and the locations were just splendid. Sidney Poitier like gentleman of the old school. It was just really nice.
What is your favorite role you played?
I don't know because I’ve got several and for different reasons. Not all of them but if you took your six best, it’s like your kids. Which one’s your favorite? Even that can change, right?
We know how intense Platoon was. Are today’s movies missing that intense behind the scenes experience?
I’m trying to think. There’s not many Oliver [Stones], that’s for sure. Even cop films, my favorite cop film was done by Sidney Lumet, Prince of the City. It’s like two hours and 30 minutes long. It doesn’t have an intermission because it’s not long enough to have an intermission but it’s long. When I watched it, it was in a theater in Queens, I said, “I’ve got to go to the bathroom. Maybe I’ll get a bag of popcorn on the way back but I don’t want to leave because if I do I’m going to miss a scene.” It was a huge ensemble cast with all these subplots. It was real, based on real life situations, by a guy named Robert Daley who wrote for the New York Daily News. There were all these characters and all these subplots and it worked. They just used them all, put them all together and everybody from the federal prosecutors to the New York State prosecutors to the U.S. Marshals to all the cops to the bad cops, the good cops, the bosses. It was pretty good. If you were going to play a cop, besides reading the books that you should read, you should see that movie too. That nails it. That is the best cop film. Unfortunately it’s about some crooked cops but it was right on.
When Christopher Nolan called with Inception, what did you think of that idea?
I had a hard time understanding it actually. It was kind of difficult but then if you think about it, your dreams are weird. Dreams are weird, right? What was that all about? So they had to be that way. People go, “What does it mean? What do our dreams mean?” The ancients spent a lot of time thinking about that.
Did you have to play three versions of that character: the real guy, the dream version and someone else as him in the dream?
Oh, let me put it this way. When she goes, “Is this a dream within a dream?” I started laughing. I was in the audience at the premiere and nobody else was laughing but I thought it was funny. Is this a dream inside a dream? It is. It’s mirror reflections of mirror reflections. They had a shot in Paris where that thing opens up and there’s all these mirror reflections of mirror reflections of mirror reflections. I don't know, I had a hard time understanding it so as an actor I just go, “Is that right?” “Yeah, that’s good.” “Is that?” “No, no, no, change this.” It was all in his head. So it was kind of like flying at night with no instruments and all your stuff’s coming from the control tower. They’re telling you go to the left, go to the right, two degrees down and that kind of stuff. That’s what it was like.