One thing about your role choices, you really like to mix it up.
Last time we saw you on the big screen you were wearing a dress
in Sweet November. Tell me about your latest film, Black
J.I. Well, first of all it's an amazing book. If anyone is slightly
interested in what it is like being 19 and being in a war then Black
Hawk Down is a real page-turner of a thriller...Having read
it I was desperate to be in it and I was thrilled that Ridley offered
me a part in it. None of us really knew what the parts would be
like because there are so many characters in the book and the film
kind of evolved which is an interesting thing to see.
Black Hawk Down depicts the real life account of a group
of U.S. soldiers sent into Mogadishu, Somalia in October, 1993 as
part of a U.N. peacekeeping operation. While their intentions were
good, the carefully planned mission resulted in the U.S. military's
biggest firefight since Vietnam. Was it hard portraying these heroes?
J.I. I've never felt such a keen responsibility to the men that
we trained with at Fort Renning, the ones who were left alive. We
met the friends and relatives of the people who died and were injured
out there and I think all of us felt a duty to tell the story as
responsibly and unglamorously that we could because in itself, without
any Hollywoodizing, there is such nobility and such heroics in what
those boys go and do all the time.
You have worked with a lot of young actors Heath Ledger in
The Patriot, and now Josh Hartnett in this. How did you like
working with Josh?
J.I. He's obscenely good-looking I can hardly bear to think
about him but he is very nice so that helps a lot. He is very anti-status;
he is very keen to kind of play against as much as possible the
hierarchy on a set. We all trained together as the Rangers and I
was in charge of him, so I would punish them and tell them what
they could and couldn't do. Then when you arrive on set and Josh
has a trailer the size of Kansas it's not his fault; he didn't ask
for it, he worked very hard to equalize every situation possible.
I don't think he's learned how to throw his weight around yet and
he probably never will because it's not in his nature, and he aspires
to do very good work. I think you see the complications. He's done
these two enormous blockbusters and he's drawn to doing small complex
roles, but once you become this huge star it's much harder to do
that kind of thing.
Ridley Scott, who directed the movie, is such a great filmmaker.
What was it like to be under his direction
J.I. It was terrifying, it was nothing like going to real war,
but Ridley would go 'you only have one take, come around the corner,
you have ten cameras on you and the whole thing is going to blow
up. Helicopters are going to fly and that thing is going to blow
up over there.' Here I am, the commander of these troupes, but I
was, like, can we just break that down into a bit more detail. No,
come on, we haven't got time, let's go. I would come around the
corner with all these men behind me and suddenly all hell would
break loose. The entire city seemed to explode with bullets just
flying all around it. It was all I could do to stop crying and sucking
my thumb and it was like that every day for five months.
Oh I'm sure you did just fine.
J.I. We made it, but I do have to say that I think working with
Ridley is an eye opening experience. The man is a visionary and
has everything literally mapped out in his head exactly how he wants
to see it. It's fascinating just to watch him work. I am so honoured
that I got the opportunity to work with the man.
Did you learn anything after making this picture?
J.I. I'm not particularly pro-militaristic. I don't think of
myself as right winged and I certainly wouldn't defend the British
government or the American government on everything that they do
abroad but in this particular instance we were on the side of the
angels. The west was out there, and America was out there trying
to do some good and they sent these young boys in (the average age
was 19) to this hornets nest and they fought magnificently and they
fought with such commitment to each other. I sound like a recruitment
commercial, but it really was an honour to try and represent them
and try and tell the story without showing off. A lot of acting
is showing off and trying to make yourself look good and I know
the other actors tried to make the Rangers and the Delta force look
as good as they are.
You have a bunch of films coming out, but in a few months we'll
see you on the big screen opposite Jackie Chan and Jennifer Love
Hewitt in The Tuxedo, which was filmed in Toronto.
J.I I loved Toronto, it's a fabulous city. Working with Jackie
was such a blast; I even learned a few moves from him. The Tuxedo
is going to be a lot of fun; I can't wait for people to see it.