‘Cabin in the Woods’ Star Richard Jenkins Talks Getting Bloody and Which of His Characters Deserved to Be Killed

It is one of those movies you get the impression everyone is having fun.

Yeah. You know, most of the characters are in their 60’s. You don’t see movies like that anymore, anyway…or, let me go back and say that again. You don’t see movies like that. So I always wonder how younger people are going to respond to it, but I think it’s really a cool film. It was fun to make. If you can’t have fun making movies, you should do something else. [Laughs] They should be really fun to make. Most of the time they are.

Say when you are in that circumstance, where making a movie isn’t exactly fun, how do you get through that experience?

Well, everything you do, you convince yourself that it has a chance of being great. I think everybody involved does that. If you didn’t do that, you couldn’t get through the day sometimes. But you don’t do something unless you are committed to it…Well, that’s not true. Sometimes you do it because you need the money. But most of the time, almost all the time, you think this movie is going to be good. I think everybody on every film I’ve ever done was hopeful.

Right. No one sets out to make a bad movie.

No. Absolutely not. And if it was easy to make a good one…People say, “Didn’t you know that wasn’t going to be any good?” “Well, no. I didn’t.” If you knew how to make a good one every time out, it would be boring. There would be no need for the word brilliant, I guess. Yeah, it’s hard to make a good movie. It’s really hard.

There’s some filmmakers you’ve worked with that I’d say are pretty reliable, like Coen Brothers and David O. Russell. Obviously, working with them more than once, what makes those relationships work?

Well, David…I haven’t seen David in a while. David was just a…That was an amazing time. That was incredible, to see this young guy I really didn’t know. You know, he had done Spanking the Monkey. You just felt like big things are going to happen for this guy. He just was really talented. And his next film I felt was brilliant, the George Clooney movie, Three Kings. I thought it was just extraordinary. Totally different.

And working with Joe and Ethan is a trip. They are just the sweetest guys. They just let you do your work. The write brilliant scripts and cast fabulous actors, and have the movie in their head. They know what they want. At the same time, they let you do your work. They want to see what you can bring to it.

I find it funny how you mention they are the sweetest guys, when you keep in mind how mean-spirited Burn After Reading is.

Oh, my God. There’s not a redeeming person in the whole…

Ted is, but he gets the most brutal death.

Please. He’s asking for it.

[Laughs] He’s asking for an axe to the face?

[Laughs] If you can’t tell, she’s not going… First of all, he wants it to be with her. That’s the problem in the first place. Yeah, no, there isn’t anybody. That’s what I love about it. It’s like, “Well maybe this…No, not that person either. Well how about this…No, not him.” [Laughs]

You know from frame one that things aren’t going to end well for Ted.

[Laughs] Yeah, I know. As soon as I showed the pre-Scottsdale, I knew it was not going to go well, no. [Laughs] I think that’s the only movie that they’ve written, until then, I don’t know about since then, that they wrote for specific actors. And they got everybody they wrote the parts for, because two or three parts… [Laughs] Brad was amazing in it.

[Laughs] I heard Brad Pitt describe that character as someone who lives in his own bubble. I feel like that’s how all of the Cohen Brothers characters are [Laughs].

[Laughs] Francis McDormand, I mean she was just like, “Really?” That was my character, listening to her and taking her seriously.

[Laughs] You also worked with someone, from what I hear, is very detail-oriented, Andrew Dominik. How was that collaboration?

I love Andrew. Andrew is fantastic. Andrew is really…he’s great. I loved doing it. I spent two weeks in a car with Brad [Pitt]. I have a good feeling about that movie. I don’t know, but I have a good feeling about it. I thought it was beautifully written. The dialogue was great. Andrew was really terrific. A terrific collaborator and yet an artist who knows what he likes and what he wants.

Does that happen often where you leave a set where you feel pretty confident in a movie?

You know, no. I may say I’m confident. I’m not. You just feel like the work, on the whole scope of the film that you were there…and I wasn’t there for the whole film, just my stuff. I’m just talking about the cinematography, the director. I mean just really good stuff. I liked the way he shot it. I just think he’s talented. I loved his first movie…


No, not Chopper. The second movie he did.

The Assassination of Jesse James?

Yeah. I didn’t see Chopper.

It’s a very good movie.

I hear it is. I liked Jesse James. I like his fearlessness to do a movie of that taste. I just thought it was wonderful. I thought Brad was incredible in Jesse James.

Yeah, he was. It’s one of those movies filled with these beautiful, quiet character details. On set, does he give you freedom to find those type of moments?

It’s kind of just you play the scene and he lets you…You feel like you are allowed to do that with him. You are allowed to play the scene, to live the scene out, that he’s not in a hurry. And then however he edits a scene. He leaves in what’s interesting and takes out what isn’t interesting, I suppose. That’s all you can ask from a director. And he watches everything you do. All these guys, all these really good directors—Drew, Larry, the Cohen Brothers, David—I mean these really good directors truly watch what actors are doing. They don’t just look for something specific. They watch and see what you are bringing to it.

Is there usually a big difference working with a writer/director like that? For example, how about Christopher McQuarrie?

Well, I think the most intimate I ever was with a writer/director was Tom McCarthy. That was, for me, a great experience. It was just amazing to do that, because we became really close. I think it depends on how the writer deals with what they’ve written. You know, not precious with it. Tom isn’t. Tom will change it in a heartbeat if he feels it isn’t working, as will Chris…You know, most of these guys just want it to be good. I had a great time with Chris McQuarrie. Geez, I sound like Mr. Pollyanna here! Everything is positive. Every time you talk to me. I know nasty stories…I got some nasty stories but you ain’t gonna hear them.

[Laughs] Maybe one day I’ll convince you. 

[Laughs] I have some nasty ones, but no, you are not going to hear them.

[Laughs] That’s like the one good thing about bad experiences—you have really great stories to tell from them.

[Laughs] You have to be careful who you tell them to.

[Laughs] Well, hopefully one day. It’s pretty exciting that Mr. McQuarrie is back behind the camera. I think The Way of the Gun is fantastic.

Yeah. He knows what he’s doing. He really knows what he’s doing. He and Tom worked really well together. We’ll see. I don’t know.

I have to ask, do you have any scenes with Werner Herzog?

I just heard him in reading. He was just fantastic in the reading. I think he’s going to be really cool.

The Cabin in the Woods is now in theaters.

All you really need to know about Jack is his favorite movies are: The Last Detail, Rumble Fish, Sunset Boulevard, The Truman Show, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid, The Verdict, Closer, Shadow of a Doubt, Spider-Man 2, Jaws, Adaptation, Get Carter, The Last Days of Disco, Carnal Knowledge, Almost Famous, Ed Wood, Barton Fink, and L.A. Confidential.

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