You will most likely know Matthew Modine as Pvt Joker in Stanley Kubrick’s Full Metal Jacket, Birdy in Alan Parker’s film of the same name and many, many more film roles. He also has a supporting role as Foley in Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Rises.
Matthew was kind enough to have a chat with me about the various films he has worked on, the Full Metal Jacket Diary and so much more.
You are back in on the big screen in The Dark Knight Rises. Can you tell us how you came to be involved in the project?
When it was announced that Dark Knight Rises was beginning production I had my agents begin the process of getting me involved. With such a large principal cast returning (Oldman, Bale, Caine, Freeman) and the other principal leads already cast, there was some question about what roles may remain. I was very happy that Christopher Nolan expressed interest in me and that I was able to participate with such a significant role.
Christopher Nolan has said he wanted the film to have a feel like that of the epic silent movies with lots of extras and big sets. What was it like working on such a big film?
That is a great question because as big as the film is, working on the film, with the crew and Nolan, it never felt like some unruly leviathan.
On the contrary. The set was as organized and as intimate as an independent film. By creating this type of environment, Nolan and his producers were able to focus on characterization and story telling.
Yes, he does.
What gives you the most satisfaction – acting, writing or directing?
They are all equally rewarding. Each is quite different from the other. Each very hard to master.
Alan Parker used to get stunning performances out of all his leads during the Eighties, most of which were still early in their careers. Brad Davis in Midnight Express, Mickey Rourke in Angel Heart, and of course you in Birdy. What marked Parker out that actors would go that extra mile for him?
It’s not that the actors would choose to go the extra mile for Parker. Parker demanded performances from his actors. He pushed actors, and his crew, to perform the best that they could. If you weren’t willing to go that extra mile for him, I think he would have put you on a bus and sent you home. Period. I liked his aggressiveness. FIlm is forever. Pain is momentary.
I don’t now if I will ever be able to sum the two years of working with Kubrick and the experience of working on FMJ into any singular or multiple conclusion. I kept a diary and was allowed to photograph the experience which was published into a book, Full Metal Jacket Diary. The book has now been made into an app, the Full Metal Jacket Diary App. I was recorded reading the book and doing characterizations of the people involved, music and sound effects were added, the photographs were digitally scanned and additional photos and personal letters have been added to create a deeply immersive experience for the viewer/listener. Our goal with the FMJDiary app was to make something Kubrick would be proud of. It’s an intense app and it was sometimes painful, very often amusing, and at times hysterical to revisit those diary entries. I’m very proud of the app.
Was Stanley Kubrick as exacting and precise as reports suggest?
This is what is interesting about the FMJDiary. What is revealed in my diary is a man searching for his story. A director in pursuit of the best, most economic way to create his film. He was an artist in search of all that. I heard a story about Michelangelo carving marble. At the end of his life, he would begin a sculpture on a large block of marble – not enforcing a predetermined vision INTO the marble, but chipping away at it to discover what was already INSIDE the marble. The story of FMJ is not an original story. What is genius about FMJ is that Stanley chipped away at what we already are – and revealed this to the audience.
Your Full Metal Jacket Diary was a huge success and is now being turned into an iPad app. Can you tell us how the project came about and what we can expect from the app?
I was approached by a young artist named Adam Rackoff. He was one of the many geniuses that worked for Apple Computer. He told me how much he loved the FMJDiary and asked me how I would feel if he turned it into an app. He explained his concept, adding original music and sound effects, having me record the text and do characterizations of the other people involved, doing high-rez scans of all the images in the book and adding additional personal letters from Kubrick. He loved that my book was limited to 20,000 copies and knew that I would never make a paperback edition. So this way, he would be able to broaden the experience to a whole new global audience via the app. He has created something that Stanley Kubrick would be proud of and millions of people can now enjoy.
What are your favourite features on the app?
It has a personality. It is a unique experience, unlike anything I’ve ever seen.
Diaries are a really private thing. Did you ever envisage 20 odd years later sharing it on such a scale?
What do you think Kubrick would make of the idea…. And of iPads/eBooks?
I know he would own one. Absolutely. After all, he pre-envisioned one in his film, 2001: A Space Odyssey
Did you ever broach Nolan about doing the same for DKR?
No. It wasn’t my place on this film.
Do you still take photographs on set?
Sometimes. But FMJ was a unique experience and unlike all other film sets.
What is your favorite iPad App… Don’t say Angry Birds?
The Full Metal Jacket Diary app. And a new one I have helped develop with Adam Rackoff, the Punky Dunk Project. It’s a children’s app. Very cool. Fun to play with and also educational.
It used Kickstarter to help provide funding for the project. Does getting funding that way give you more confidence in a project and more freedom?
It was done using Kickstarter because Adam needed seed money to develop the app. I gave him lots of original prints from the time I was working on the film to raise money. I must say, the people that received those prints, stole them! They are worth thousands more than what they were got for on Kickstarter. But I was happy to do it because the reward for having now a completed app is amazing. Well worth it!
Would you consider using it to fund the making of a film?
I might. Why not!
You have got the FMJD app heading our way and your are currently filming jOBS. What are you next projects going to be?
I have finished jOBS. I’m filming Category 8 in Montreal now. Once I finish this I will travel to Los Angeles to begin preproduction on a film I wrote and will be directing, The Rocking Horsemen.
Now just some general quick questions we ask everyone:
What are your favourite films of the past 12 months?
Dark Knight Rises. Five Year Engagement.
Butter, salted or sugar popcorn?
Salted, or a mixer of the two.
If you were to be killed by a movie monster or maniac which one would it be and what would your final words be?
King Kong. “Et tu King Kong!?”
What film do you first remember watching?
If you could have worked with any actor alive or dead who would it be?
What film do you have to watch if your switch channels and it is on?
Its a Wonderful Life
Matthew Modine, thank you.
The Dark Knight Rises is still playing in cinemas and the Full Metal Jacket Diary app is on sale from today, 7th August. You can also get the Punky Dunk app here. Check out the official site and Facebook page for more details.