Was Hail, Caesar! as much fun to make as it was to watch?
A: It really was, if not more. It was such a blast. They really create an environment, where everyone can just relax and have fun and be playful.
Tell us about your character?
A: I play Hobie Doyle, Hobart Doyle, who’s a singing cowboy star in the 50s – big singing cowboy movie star – and I get pulled off a western to act in a very sophisticated parlour room drama.
How does that work out for him?
A: I think we pull it off (laughs). At the end of the day, we get it done.
We see you riding horses, lassoing and proving to be a deft hand with six guns. You had to learn a lot of new skills for this right?
A: Yes, I did. It was kind of like being one of these actors in the old studio era, because it was like as soon as I had the job there would be fencing classes and voice classes and things like that. I pretty much had to start with horseback riding and I had a trick-roping teacher and a gun-twirling teacher and I had a guitar teacher, and I had a horseback stunt man who was helping me do a lot of the stunts, so it was almost like this whole regiment. It’s incredible that these guys know all these things – these old actors were like circus performers with huge skill sets. Also the way they were filming the movies at that time, you know, if they needed a horse to fall, they just put wire round it and pulled. It was really rag tag and dangerous. It’s amazing that some of those are really films. You watch those silent films where the house is falling on Buster Keaton and things like that, and guys would just do that! There were no safety precautions.
He’s a very endearing character. Did you like him?
A: Absolutely. That was there from the first time I read it, and that’s such a tribute to the Coens. I love my character. They’re able to write these characters and they have such an understanding of these people, too. They’ve made all these western kind of films – they’ve made some action westerns, movies that are kind of hovering around westerns – and so they at this point have a really great understanding of how to use all those tropes in that style.
Did working with the Coen Brothers live up to your expectations?
A: Well there was one thing that really no one expected, because they’re so serious in their work. The one thing that was really a pleasant surprise was how relaxed it all was and just what a good time you had. I think that’s one of the ways they’re able to get these things out of people – they treat everyone that works for them with a lot of respect and a lot of confidence. Everybody is made to feel like they really know what they’re doing, and the Coens are so prepared that the way things move never feels chaotic. It always feels like you’re at play, and it was just as enjoyable an experience as I could have possibly hoped for.