IAR EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Method Man Talks 'The Cobbler'

Thursday, 12 March 2015 10:28 Written by  Jami Philbrick
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IAR EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Method Man Talks 'The Cobbler'

Method Man is one of the founding members of the groundbreaking hip-hop group Wu-Tang Clan, but in recent years he has also become a very accomplished actor!

Born Clifford Smith, the Grammy-winning rapper made his big screen debut in the classic crime drama Copland, which starred Sylvester Stallone and Robert De Niro. He went on to appear in such films as One Eight Seven, Big Daddy, How High, Garden State, Soul Plane, The Sitter, and Red Tails, as well as the upcoming Judd Apatow comedy Trainwreck with Amy Schumer. On television, Method Man first appeared on the HBO series OZ, before co-starring in his own sitcom Method & Red with fellow rapper Redman. But it was his role as Melvin “Cheese” Wagstaff on the seminal HBO series The Wire that really began his evolution from beloved musician to accomplished actor. But now, the rapper/actor stars opposite comedic powerhouse Adam Sandler (That’s My Boy) in the new comedy fantasy The Cobbler, which opens in theaters on March 13th. 

The Cobbler was directed by Method Man’s fellow The Wire alumni actor/writer/director Thomas McCarthy (The Station Agent, The Visitor, Win Win). The new movie follows Max Simkin (Sandler), who repairs shoes in the same New York shop that has been in his family for generations. Disenchanted with the grind of daily life, Max stumbles upon a magical heirloom that allows him to step into the lives of his customers and see the world in a new way. Max soon learns that sometimes walking in another man's shoes is the only way one can discover who they really are. Method Man plays one of Max’s customers whose life he soon embodies. In addition to Method Man and Sandler, the film also stars Dan Stevens (The Guest), Steve Buscemi (The Big Lebowski), Ellen Barkin (Sea of Love), and Academy Award-winner Dustin Hoffman (All the President’s Men, Tootsie). 

I recently had the absolute pleasure of speaking with Method Man about his work on The Cobbler. The rapper turned actor discussed his new movie, being directed by his former Wire cast member Thomas McCarthy, playing dual roles, working with Adam Sandler, understanding the business, and seriously studying the craft of acting. 

Here is what Method Man had to say about The Cobbler:

IAR: To begin with, what was it like having your former The Wire co-star Thomas McCarthy direct you in The Cobbler?

Method Man: I knew that he was a great director so when he asked for the meeting I went in and did my due diligence. I thought I’d seen this guy before but I just couldn’t put my finger on it. I went through his IMDB page and saw he was in Little Fockers and films like that. I had to dig a little deeper and then I saw that he played Scott Templeton on The Wire, you know that reporter. So when I met him again I said, you were that piece of shit reporter on The Wire! He said, “And you were that piece of shit Cheese!” So we were off to a great start right there. 

Since McCarthy is also a talented actor in addition to being an accomplished filmmaker, do you think that helps him relate to other actors as a director on set?

Method Man: I prefer directors that were actors, the same way I prefer producers that were MC's because it makes the job a lot easier. He described things to me in a manner that I could understand. It wasn't too technical so I was comfortable on set and I never felt out of place. Especially for a role like this, which was a dual role kind of.

You do play a dual role in the sense that at one point in the movie Adam Sandler’s character takes control of your character’s body. So you had to actually play your character being controlled by Sandler’s character. Can you talk about that specific acting challenge?

Method Man: The challenge, which I realized while I was doing it, was not to play Adam. It was actually for me to try and play myself. Get it? For people that don't get it you have to actually watch the movie to know exactly where I'm coming from. This was me trying to be a bad me at that. It was weird because Tom had to use a percentage system so I could know how much was actually my character and how much was Adam’s character. So it would be like 80/20. That helped me so I could understand exactly how much to bring. Tom is real hands-on.

What was your experience like working with Adam Sandler on The Cobbler?

Method Man: The scene I did with Adam, he didn't have too much dialogue so it was pretty much straight forward. He was very gracious. Let's put it that way because he's Adam Sandler and he took a back seat in the scene and let me shine. The scene I was actually in with him had us going back and forth. He put color into my black and white picture. He added on to what I was doing. He was a straight man to my comedian at that time. He played the straight guy for me. He didn't have to do that. He could have swallowed me up in that scene, but he didn't and I love Adam for that. He's very humble, and a very blue collared kind of guy that you could take to a bar, have a beer with and watch your games. I didn't realize that until after it was over and done with. He consciously probably did that I realize now. It was very gracious of him like I said. It's hard to describe. I don’t get why people knock him. Actually I do get it. His movies are making a lot of money and people are enjoying them. But look at his core of work, especially when he did things like Punch Drunk Love. The guy is very talented. He’s in the position he’s in for a reason. Knock him all you want to, but he’s in the position he’s in for a reason. He’s very talented and the guy understands the business. That’s what I’m still working on, understanding the business.

Do you mean that you’re still working on understanding the business of acting or the business of entertainment in general?

Method Man: Every aspect of it as far as acting, doing due diligence, showing up for interviews and things of that nature.  Showing the people you’re working with on whatever project you’re on that you are a team player. That you’re willing to break your back for the project because not only is it their project, but you’re adopting it as your own too. You want to see it done well.

Finally, you’ve been acting for a while now. Do you think you’ve improved and grown as an actor over the years?

Method Man: Yeah I think I’m more grounded. I like to call it that. I think I’m way more grounded in it than what I was. I’m not as green as I used to be. I have a lot of work to do. I’m working on my craft now. I have an acting coach. Coaching is very good. I sit in class now. I’m going to classes, I’m sitting in and I’m just trying to knock the kinks out of what I need. A good coach will teach you all the technical stuff that you need in order to achieve your objectives. A great coach enhances the things you already know and improves on. I’ve never done the coaching thing before. When I started on The Cobbler, I went to a coach and he helped me out. He walked me through some steps and it made me more comfortable with what I’m doing. I don’t ever want to feel out of place or look like I don’t know what I’m doing when I'm on a set. You have to do your homework. These people go to school for this. These people have done theater. They've been on the grind for fifteen, twenty, thirty years trying to harness their craft and get it right where it's fun for them. They're on that level as elite actors. The A-listers have the chops for this. Who am I to come in as a former music person and just cut the whole line? I don’t want to just jump in these major roles and not do them as well as someone who's been doing this for a long time. Let's say I beat out Laurence Fishburne for a role. That would never happen, but let's just say I do. I would be mad at that because I know what Larry brings to the table as far as his thespian background, his TV background, and his movie background. I mean on Apocalypse Now he was fifteen! You know what I mean? Who am I to cut the line and jump in there just because more kids now would recognize me over Larry Fishburne in this part? That is insane to me. If anything like that ever happens, not saying it will, but I hope people will say, “I can see him doing that.” Because they will see that I've done the work. I've earned my skills. I've done my homework. I've sat in the classes. I've sat in the theater and done the exercises that make you great. Not good, but great.

The Cobbler opens in theaters on March 13th.


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