Matthew Fox Gets Lost
by Paul Fischer
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In a relatively short time, Matthew Fox has emerged as one of Hollywood’s hottest young actors, all thanks to that little known show, Lost. Still going strong, Fox has been able to balance his TV series and Hawaiian lifestyle with a film career. He will next be seen on the big screen opposite Dennis Quaid in the action thriller Vantage Point, in which he plays a secret service agent. Fox talked at length about his career and future plans for Lost to Paul Fischer.
Paul Fischer: One of the questions that has come up today with this movie is his motivation, I was wondering whether earlier on in the script there was more detail about his motivation? Did you care about his motivation?
Matthew Fox: Obviously I had to figure out some things—yeah. I cared very much about his motivation, but I think as a film I like it better that you don’t know why he does it.
PF: One thing I really liked about this film is one of the things I like about Lost is you’re never sure where people stand on the line dividing good from evil. What is it about these morality plays that attracts you as an actor, and us as an audience?
MF: I don’t know, I guess I’m really interested in the gray areas, and this concept that I’m not necessarily really sure about any concept of good and evil, black and white, good and bad. And I’m also very interested in the concept of perspective, it’s something I think about all the time in my life, the ability for one event to happen and for two people to perceive that event so differently, depending on where they’re standing and who they are and what kind of agenda they had in how they perceive it. It’s astounding to me, it really is, and I find myself running into it in my own life, just in my own micro-world, in and my relationships with family and friends and those types of conflicts, and then you extrapolate that out into conflicts between nation states. It’s just unbelievable to me how many people walk around in this world thinking their version of reality is the only one that exists.
PF: Is that why you were attracted to this movie in the first place?
MF: That was big part of it, yes, absolutely. It was Pete Travis and I thought the script was very smart, and I really loved what the movie is dealing with. And then it’s an action thriller, but it does deal with something that I think is pretty fascinating.
PF: What challenges do you have finding stuff that is different from you character on Lost?
MF: I’m really having a great time right now. I’m getting a lot of opportunities, and I’m getting an opportunity to meet with and work with really great directors, and so I think that television is more of a writers’ medium and filmmaking is more of a directors’ medium, and getting an opportunity to work with these types of directors is really rewarding to me. I’ve been doing this business for quite awhile, I’ve taken it very slow, I always felt that it was a marathon and not a sprint for me, I think that the people that really go quickly in this business, is sort of the sprinters, they go away kind of quickly and a lot of times they’re not in it for the right reasons anyway, they’re sort of after something else other than just doing the work. For me it’s been sort of a slow, steady, finding the right projects, never doing a project as a means to an end, or just because I feel compelled to be a part of it and it had those elements come together.
PF: Because of the strike have you been sitting there waiting to find out if Lost is going to start up next week or the week after?
MF: Yeah, that’s been part of—we shut down in November, for me I’ve been working none stop for two years, I’ve done four films and Lost in the last two years, so I understand that the strike was very, very difficult for a lot of people and I’m very well aware of that, for me it was like a forced hiatus in which I got to spend all of December and the holidays and most of January hanging out with my family.
PF: In Hawaii?
MF: In Hawaii, and also in Oregon. Family is important to me, so it was a chance to get connected. And I knew that I had these two films opening up in the spring, and that I was going to have a lot of publicity responsibilities, and sort of gearing up for the travel that that requires and the time that requires away from my family.
PF: Is there a cut off date when they’re going to decide this season is done?
MF: There are some conversations going on right now, there are conversations about us starting back up.
PF: There are a lot of rumors that the strike is going to be voted on tonight, and possibly resolved by Monday, for fans of Lost, assuming that the strike is over on Monday how long are you contractually obligated to the show—how many episodes do you think you could make prior to the original hiatus?
MF: I think they’re in negotiations about that right now, the studio and Damon, and I think it’s possible that we do four or six of the eight that we were supposed to be doing right now. I think we would pick back up and maybe shoot another four this spring, which would give this season a grand total of 12.
PF: Peter said you were very passionate about this movie and really wanted to do it, how do you do a movie and a series?
MF: Touchstone has been very accommodating as far as, I spent three and a half months in Berlin last summer making Speed Racer, and there was overlap, there was almost three weeks of overlap between my schedule on Speed Racer and Lost, so Damon literally shot—we shot episodes out of order to accommodate my schedule, which is incredible. They’ve been very, very supportive of these projects I’ve been doing outside of the show, and I appreciate it because I’m really enjoying the process.
PF: Can you talk about your experience working with the Wachowski brothers—did you have any expectations when you went into it?
MF: I didn’t know Speed Racer at all. Again, getting back to that thing about how directors are very important, when the Wachowski’s asked to meet with me, I guess they’re fans of Lost and they had an idea that I might be Racer X, and I went into the meeting never knowing anything about Speed Racer. I wanted to work with the Wachowskis. That meeting went great, and I went home with a script, and I got the source material and watched a lot of Speed Racer, and the script blew me away, and then I went after that role. I went back to L.A., and I really went after that role, I wanted it, and it took like six weeks. Working with the Wachowskis and the cast on this particular film, and what this film is going to be like, how much it’s a game-changer in my opinion, was an extraordinary experience, it was amazing.
PF: Can you talk about working with those new cameras?
MF: They’re pretty unforgiving.
PF: You mean every line shows?
MF: Every pore. But they’re amazing and the information that they’re capturing and then what can be done with that information in post is extraordinary. I ADR’d the movie yesterday with Larry and Andy and, I mean, it’s just unbelievable what it looks like, it’s just unbelievable.
PF: Does the film have a running time yet?
MF: I think it does but I wouldn’t feel safe saying that.
PF: Like William Hurt did you have to have any security guards in Mexico City for fear of being kidnapped?
MF: I think all of us had protection, yeah.
PF: Were you able to bring you family, or were you afraid to?
MF: I did. They came to Mexico City for two and a half weeks, I believe. There was some conversation about that, it made us a little nervous but the truth is it was awesome. The kids travel incredibly well, they love it.
PF: You mentioned with Lost you were going to try to do maybe four, maybe six episodes. Does Damon plan to take the eight episode storyline and push it into four to six episodes?
MF: I couldn’t tell you. That would be a question for Damon.
PF: Concerning Lost: having moved ahead as well as going back in the story, and now that there’s a time when it’s going to be over, do you know more about the story and what’s going to happen because your character is kind of a mess in the future, do you know why?
MF: Oh yeah, I know a lot, I know everything that got him to that point, I know why he’s at that point, that was important to me.
MF: Oh yeah, I’ll just—
PF: In general terms what does having a final date for the show to end affect the way you as a cast and crew approach the whole process?
MF: I think how it affected Damon was the—Damon campaigned for that, that was what he wanted, and I understand why, he would always say to me, “If somebody told you you were going to go out and run a marathon tomorrow, but they were like we’re not sure whether we’re going to make you run 18 miles or you’re going to run 26, you wouldn’t have any idea how to pace yourself through that.” And he has the story in his head, but until he knew how many chapters he had to write that story in, it was very difficult for him. And so now that he has that, that’s why the story is going to have a lot of momentum and is going to move quickly, every episode is going to feel like it’s charging forward to the final conclusion of this story.
PF: How surprised were you that the show became the cultural phenomenon that it seems to have become?
MF: I’ve always believed in it being something very special, from the moment I read the first script and met with J.J. and Damon and the people that were involved. I felt very positive that it was going to be a very good show. You can never count on that translating into some sort of finding a massive audience. And what the show has done globally has just been astounding. I’m very surprised by it. But on the other hand, I think the show deserves it.
PF: Do you think it lost its way? It had a huge audience and then a huge drop off.
MF: No, I don’t feel that at all. The people that jumped, those were all bandwagon jumpers, those were the people who would not have been Lost fans to begin with. We won the Emmy, we won the Golden Globe, we were like this cultural—and then we had a whole bunch of people jump on just because they couldn’t stand being left out, and they weren’t really Lost fans to begin with. And they all went away.
PF: What are the other two movies you did four—you did Speed Racer and Vantage Point—
MF: I did a cameo in Smokin’ Aces, as well, with Joe Carnahan, so I count that as one of the projects.
PF: How do you keep your kids grounded is what I’m asking, when you’re a star.
MF: Well, they don’t have any contact with the business part of it. They really don’t get to see any of the things I’m in. Speed Racer that’s one of the things that I was just so excited about as well was that I knew that my kids—it’s a PG film and a family movie, and they came to Berlin and they came on set and saw me in the full Racer X thing, and I didn’t want to scare them so I was like, “Hey,” and they were like, “Daddy?” “Yeah, yeah, it’s me,” and I walked on set and my little boy turned to my wife and he goes, “I want to be Racer X next Halloween.”
PF: How old are your kids?
MF: He’s six and the girl’s turning 11 this spring.
PF: Are they aware that their daddy is a big star?
MF: I don’t know what big star means. I have no idea whether—I guess people at school make a little bit of a thing about it, but I don’t think they’re really that conscious of that in any way.
PF: Would you like to have a big family?
MF: Every now and then I think about having another one, and then my wife says, “Absolutely not.”
PF: How’s life in Hawaii?
MF: I’ll tell you what, I’ve never really been a beach paradise guy, I’m more of a mountain person, so it’s been amazing and we’re enjoying it and it’s been a welcomed change for us to get the kids away from the bigger city into a quieter—they’re in a really good school and they’re making great friends and it’s been wonderful, but it’s not the place I would want to live the rest of my life. I just need bigger horizons, mountains, and I need four seasons, I really miss four seasons of weather I’ve got to be honest with you.
PF: What do you want to do with the rest of your career when Lost goes off the air?
MF: Again, for me it’s just sort of project by project. I don’t think I’ll do television again. I only say that because—I think some of the best writing is going on in television, and in my opinion Lost is an example of that. The reason why I want to do films from here on out is just because it gives me more control over my year. I love the idea that I can pour myself into something 110% for three months and then it’s done. Then I’m unemployed again, and then I use that unemployment period to hang out with people that I love and nurture those relationships and do things that I love to do and reenergize myself until that next thing comes along that feels inevitable for me. And that just gives me more control over the year. When you’re working on a television series, depending on whether you’re doing 24 episodes or doing 16 like we are now, that’s anywhere between six and nine months of your year is locked into one character, one project, one place and I would just like to have a little bit more flexibility than that.
PF: Will J.J. come back and direct an episode of Lost?
MF: I would love that, and I think it probably will happen before the final episode. I would be very surprised if J.J. didn’t want to come back and direct at least one more episode of the show.
PF: Could you talk a little about working for the Wachowskis and if you had any preconceived ideas about them going in and what were they like on set?
MF: None, no. They were very private and so you don’t really know much about them until you get to meet them and fall into their world, and they really are artists, they create a world and a big part of your job, particularly on a cartoon being turned into this whole world, is that you spend all of your time trying to figure out what that world that they’re creating in their two head is, and you’re trying to crawl in that and you’re trying to bring that image of X, and that’s what I was doing, X, and this guy and this voice and this presence and this silhouette and find that guy within the backdrop of what they’re doing, which was just amazing. It was a really, really great experience.
PF: I’m curious how your life now in Hollywood compares to what you envisioned for yourself when you first started out as an actor?
MF: I never ever thought I’d be doing what I’m doing right now. I never really set out—getting here has just been a series of a bunch of opportunities, one leading to another, and I never set out when I was 22-years-old and said, “I want to be acting in big movies.”
PF: Would you like to do romantic comedies, and do you consider yourself a romantic guy?
MF: I’m probably on a scale of one to 10 on romantic, like a three.
PF: Does your wife agree with you?
MF: Yeah, yeah, she probably would, but she’s a 3.7…
PF: So Valentine’s Day is not a big day?
MF: No, we’re just not soft and mushy in that way. If the right romantic comedy script came along, if somebody writes one that’s not the same exact fucking formula, then.
Paul Fischer is originally from Australia. Now he is an interviewer and film critic living in Hollywood.
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