Since his scene-stealing performance as the garbled-mouthed petty criminal Fenster in 1995′s ‘The Usual Suspects’, Benicio Del Toro has become Hollywood’s go-to-guy for brooding anti-heroes and exotic outsiders.
In his new film ‘Sicario’ he plays Alejandro Gillick, a consultant with expertise in the Mexican war on drugs, whose dubious origins place him somewhere between those two stools.
It’s already shaping up to be one of our favourite movies of the year, so we jumped at the chance to speak to Benicio. Find out what he had to say about ‘Sicario’, those ‘Star Wars 8′ rumours, and his big Hollywood breakthrough in 007′s ‘Licence To Kill’.
Yahoo Movies: We’re going to go out on a limb and say it, ‘Sicario’ is our favourite film of the year so far.
Benicio Del Toro: Oh OK, that’s a good start! Alright, we’re done!
YM: We have to say these things sometimes with a bit of a poker face, but we can’t begin to tell you how much we mean it this time!
BDT: I don’t know you yet, so this poker face could be an act.
YM: Your character is such a fascinating guy, where do you go with researching something like that? Is he based on someone that was real?
BDT: I didn’t get to meet a hitman per say. You know, you go straight from the script usually, and when I was reading the script I understood him as I went through. But I kept going, ‘Why is this movie called Sicario?’ And then the third act I was like “boom: the hitman in quoting a quote”.
And I felt like less is more with this movie. But there was a scene at the dinner table, that is was like, “OK this is the real hitman”. And he’s conflicted because he has a past and he’s really wounded. His family was killed, so he’s going after revenge. That’s a motivator that I haven’t played in a movie yet. You know: that guy bent on revenge.
I remember a story about a samurai that I read a long time ago. And the samurai was sent to kill an evil lord. And he went and he found the evil land lord and he got his sword and just when he was about to decapitate him the evil landlord spat at him, in the face.
And the samurai, he stopped, put his sword down, and he walked away. And basically what it said was in order to be a samurai; you can’t have your feelings participate. You have to mentalise that.
And so I felt the same way, maybe that was a way of going into the character, making an interpretation. In order to be a cold blooded killer - with a past like that - he must have for years worked to completely mentalise those feelings. So he can go through and become this hitman.
YM: The film is already getting some Oscar buzz. Why do you think that is?
BDT: I think when that happens it’s because the stars align. I don’t think there’s a formula to it. The only the thing is you’ve got a lot of talented people. From the director down to wardrobe department. And somehow this happens. The more talented people you have in a film, the more chances you have for this beautiful accident to happen.
There is a lot of people here involved in this film, in every department that are very good at what they do and they just brought in their A-game. And it just worked. From the writer to the hair and makeup.
YM: One of the roles that we all know and love you from is as Fenster from ‘The Usual Suspects’. The famous scene in the line up where you’re all cracking up, is it true that you were all giggling because someone farted?
BDT: Someone broke wind. But I don’t know who it was. But yeah someone broke wind, and I think someone cracked up. There was a little bit of improvisation around the whole “say the line” thing. I actually think it was Chris McQuarrie, who said the line “In English Please", and it was one of the last days too. So everybody was a little bit relaxed, a little confused about the film, and so we thought “what the hell, let’s just have a laugh”.
YM: The chemistry between you guys in the scene is great.
BDT: It is one of those accidents and they work. I don’t think there was one take, from beginning to end, we ever finished. We had to cut every time.
YM: ‘Star Wars 8′ is something we hear you may appear in, how exciting is that to be involved in? How did that come about?
BDT: It’s very exciting. Well Rian Johnson the director, we met and he said “I might have something for you in ‘Star Wars’”. I crossed my fingers. And you know he called back. Keep your fingers crossed. That’s the moral of the story.
It’s a great opportunity. It is a good character. I’m looking forward to get back and do something, you know, have fun with it. And work with Rian.
YM: Who would you say is your favourite Star Wars character?
BDT: I think as a kid, I liked R2-D2 and C3PO, but Chewbacca was always cool.
But the cool guy in the group was Han Solo. And Darth Vader was an amazing creation. Like a mixture of Frankenstein and Dracula. You could go on and on.
YM: Another franchise that you were involved with, and still to us one our favourite James Bond movies, is ‘Licence to Kill’. That was a great role…
BDT: Are you giving me that poker face again?
YM: I wish that my poker face was this good. Is that something you would be interested in, revisiting the Bond franchise?
BDT: Oh yeah. I hold that time very dear, because it was kind of bizarre. I was at acting school and I had just told everybody I was going to be an actor.
There were kids who I went to high school with, that didn’t even know what I was doing, and one summer they went to the movies to see the new Bond film. And they saw me, and they couldn’t believe it. I mean I got funny stories about that.
Friends of mine where like “Whoa, whoa, whoa, how did you? Wait? This kid was cutting class with me a year ago and his in a Bond movie?”.
So yeah, I love the Bond films. I like all kinds of movies. But it’s like…you know Barbara Broccoli, I think that ‘Licence To Kill’ was one of the first movies she was coming into work. I met her father.
YM: It was ahead of its time as well. It was almost like how we see the Bond films now.
BDT: Yeah. It’s a cool, cool, cool, movie and it was a good time. But I think I’ve done it already. And I am proud of it.
‘Sicario’, also starring Emily Blunt, Josh Brolin, and Jon Bernthal, is coming to cinemas on 8 October.
Image credits: Lionsgate/Disney/MGM