DD: After making Stay—a film that explores a possible afterlife—have you ever wondered what your famous last words will be?
RG: Everyone always has this idea of what it’s going to be like when you meet death—what you’ll say, what you’ll think, feel and how it will manifest. I’ve had an almost-death experience happen to me twice. Once, I was on a plane when it started going down and the masks dropped and everyone was crying and screaming. We thought that was it! I was eating a steak. My reaction to the crash was: Finish the steak! I started stuffing my face. People were crying and I wanted to die on a full stomach. It’s silly! [Laughing] The second time I was broadsided by one of those L.A. car chases. I was pulling into the middle of a main street and this car came right at me. Right before the car almost hit me, as it was coming toward me, my last words were accidente—“accident” in Spanish. I don’t know why I said that. That would have been my last words. Ridiculous! So I have no idea. I’m sure I’ll do something ridiculous.
DD: What drew you to working on Stay in the first place?
RG: I wanted to work with [director] Marc Forster because I’ve been a big fan of his ever since I saw his film Monster’s Ball. He’s got a really special way of directing. It’s like he’s building the shot around you and then taking it down almost without your noticing, so you just keep doing it, trying to find it as he moves around you. The crew is also moving around you, but they never really invade the scene. Somehow, he manages to do it almost secretly. It does help, I think. He [doesn’t get bogged down] with the technical stuff that starts to take priority in other films. This is amazing to me. I also feel he’s empowering the viewer in this movie because there’s no right answer. Once he told me that, once I knew that was the plan, then I could go from there, too. It was [liberating] because I didn’t have any emotional beats that I had to hit. There was nothing required of me but to experiment. I enjoyed the confusion.
DD: How does Marc Forster work with actors? Did you enjoy his directing process?
RG: It was freeing for me. I think we’re all just paint. He’s the painter and we’re the paint and it was our job to play a colour. What was also clear was that Marc wasn’t going to try to trick anyone. Stay isn’t a movie about pulling a rabbit out of a hat at the end. He gives you all the answers in the beginning.
DD: What’s your opinion on big-budget movies versus art-house films?
RG: I don’t believe in artistic integrity. I don’t have any. As soon as I started getting paid to do this, I left that at the door. So I’m not worried about compromising that. I’m from a working-class background and I remember it was a big deal to go to the movies. You had a lot of choices and you picked one. If it wasn’t good, it was depressing. The ride home was depressing. You didn’t know when the next time you were going to see a movie was. So I want to make good movies. That’s what it’s about for me. I want to give people their money’s worth.
DD: How important is money when it comes to choosing films to work on?
RG: I have a great mom. When I came to L.A. to be an actor, she said, “Whatever you do, don’t ever make a decision for money. You’ll regret it because you’ll spend the money and it’ll be gone and you’ll regret what you’ve done and that will still be around.” I’ve taken that advice. Actors do get paid well, even when we’re doing independent film.
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