Cool Counts: Vincent D’Onofrio Talks ‘Jurassic World’
Vincent D’Onofrio knows he’s a character actor, and he knows what’s cool. Not that it’s much of a secret: getting to act opposite velociraptors in Jurassic World is cool by anyone’s standards. D’Onofrio plays a Vic Hoskins in Colin Trevorrow’s sequel to Steven Spielberg’s classic sci-fi thriller Jurassic Park, and Hoskins has a plan to train velociraptors to work alongside soldiers on the battlefield. It’s a plan that Chris Pratt’s character, Owen Grady, has a problem with, but both of them will be put to the test when tragedy once again strikes the island of Isla Nublar.
We caught up with Vincent D’Onofrio on the phone to talk about his experience with both Jurassic Park and Jurassic World, find out more about his lifelong gig as a character actor, and his fondest memories of working on the hit TV series Daredevil. We also ask him for the secret ingredients to Mystic Pizza, but sadly, he can offer very little help to the many, many fans of the film.
CraveOnline: What was your experience with the first Jurassic Park? Did you have the same childlike sense of wonder that us kids had?
Vincent D’Onofrio: Oh yeah. I mean, I read the book. I remember reading the book on an airplane on a very long trip to Australia, and then I heard shortly after that that Spielberg was going to be making it into a movie. Growing up in the generation that I did, Spielberg was such a huge, iconic filmmaker to my generation, you know? And I’m a big sci-fi fan, so the idea was just incredible.
And then seeing it, I think that one of the things we have in common, anybody that liked the movie Jurassic Park, that they just go down a laundry list of iconic images that are left with you from that movie after all these years. Just waiting to see the dinosaurs running through the field, and seeing the raptors and how they moved, and the first time… and the park itself. What Hammond was preparing and how it reminded you a little bit of Disney, a little bit of how he would [have designed it]. He took you through and taught you about the mosquito, getting the mosquito out of the [amber] and blood from the mosquito. It’s just all those images stayed with me even after all these years.
So was this an easy project to say “yes” to? Was it like, “I don’t even care who I play?”
Well of course, yeah. It would be silly not to do it. I mean, how could you turn down Jurassic? I can’t imagine.
What were your thoughts when the character that they presented you with was the evil military guy? It’s a character we’ve seen before, so how were you thinking you’d make it your own?
I don’t know, I think you just approach him as a person. A real person. He has his point of view and he has his job, and that’s how you play it. The movie in itself is so huge. The lead characters, like Chris [Pratt] and Bryce [Dallas Howard] and the kids, and there’s this whole storyline with the dinosaurs. As a character actor you just have to realize how you fit in and kind of just help service the story. That’s really my job as a character actor. So I just try and approach him like a real person with a point of view, and the writers and then the filmmaker, Colin [Trevorrow] does the rest.
Tell me about thinking of yourself as a character actor. It’s a job a lot of people obviously appreciate, since we see character actors in practically every project, but do you see it as a different sort of responsibility?
I think I’ve made a career out of it. I’ve kind of segued into television for nine or ten years, and now I’m kind of back into doing what I was doing before the show [Law & Order: Criminal Intent]. I think that that’s my job and I think that that’s what I’m best at. I think that I can play a part in a movie for five minutes or five hours. It doesn’t matter to me. I mean, they’re all characters to me. But I think that in this particular movie, in Jurassic, I think yeah, I think I’m there to service the story and help moving things along.
Tell me about acting opposite velociraptors, because…
[Interrupting.] So much fun. It is, I mean it’s so much fun. The idea of… because you know, it’s not like you don’t know what they’re going to look like. You’ve seen what they can do. The magic of CGI these days is just sensational. So you know it’s going to be extraordinary, and you know when you’re doing something as big as Jurassic that there’s going to be new stuff that we’ve never seen before with that kind of work, that CGI work. They’re going to push the envelope with it as they always do.
So you’re just thrilled to be able to be a part of that, to use your imagination to try and make it look real, like you’re participating in a real scene with a real animal. It’s a fantastic task to try and achieve, and just so much fun. And you know, Colin is just so imaginative and collaborative. You’re on set with him and you’re having an absolute ball. You’re doing the best work you can but at the same time you want it to be cool.
That counts, you know. Cool counts. So it has to be real, it has to servicing the story and it has to be cool. And a guy like Colin knows that. He knows that and he pushes for it. He’s definitely a whole ‘nother story. He’s just a great director. I’d work for him again in a second no matter what he does. He’s a hell of a director.
What makes a great director for you? Because you’ve worked with some of the most incredible directors ever.
They’re all different. They’re all different. As long as they’re honest to themself, and they’re not trying to be something they’re not. Male or female, whoever they are. They’re all different. Stanley Kubrick [director of Full Metal Jacket] never spoke about story, never talked to you about acting, but he knew what he wanted when he saw it and he would just put you on the spot and tell you to do it and you’d have to come up with it, and he would shoot it until he thought it was right. But he had no suggestions. But you knew that you were under a really good eye, that you were being watched by a really good eye, and when it was right he’d know it.
So that was a great director, and when you get to somebody like… back to Colin, Colin is collaborative. He wants to be in there, he wants you to know what he thinks the scene is about so that you can take it and run with it. And he’s not pretending. He really is that. He’s not pretending to know things, he’s not speaking in metaphors or giving you silly ideas. He’s in his story completely. He’s written and he’s in it, and every word that comes out of his mouth is helpful. He’s like a helping hand to your performance. That’s also a really great director. So they’re all different.
I would like to compliment you on an incredible performance in Daredevil…
Oh, thank you!
Wilson Fisk has always been one of my favorite characters, and you had so much richness to work with. I was wondering what sort of scenes stand out to you in the making of that show, that really clicked with you as an actor?
Well the truth is, is that I looked forward to reading every one of those scripts. After I had read the first three, anytime Steven DeKnight would send me the next script I would crack it open immediately and read it. I can’t tell you how much I loved the way he wrote that character, and his crew. I had very few notes, ever, and they were just extraordinary, him and his team at writing that character. That will always be my fondest memory of playing that character, Fisk, was the writing. I mean it just gave me so much to work with.
I haven’t seen the series but everybody in my family has and all my friends have, and I’ve seen scenes that I’ve looped and stuff like that, so I don’t really know exactly what people are talking about when they talk about it. But I know what it felt like when I was doing it and it was classy stuff. It was real high-end writing and production value. The producers […] and Jeph Loeb and Charlie Cox, the actor who plays Daredevil, the team was amazing. I have to… you’ve got me talking about it now. I have such fond memories of it. What was your actual question?
My question was if you had a favorite scene. I’ll tell you mine: the “ill intent” speech. That scene kills.
Yeah, that’s Steven DeKnight. He wrote that. It’s an amazing thing. I think we did it three times and it was done.
Are you contracted to come back for the new season?
Oh, I’m not allowed to talk about Season 2. I can’t say anything about it.
Then let me ask you something I’ve always wondered…
Did they ever tell you the secret ingredients to Mystic Pizza?
[Laughs.] I don’t know! No, I don’t think so.
I’ve asked every actor from Mystic Pizza I’ve ever interviewed. No one knows, damn it.
Have you ever been there and eaten pizza at Mystic Pizza?
I actually haven’t. Is it great?
[Laughs.] It’s actually very good, yeah. I’m not sure if it’s because of any special recipe or anything but it’s actually decent pizza. It’s really good.