IAR EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Ron Eldard talks 'Super 8' on Blu-ray and DVD

Monday, 28 November 2011 17:32 Written by  Jami Philbrick
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IAR EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Ron Eldard talks 'Super 8' on Blu-ray and DVD

Journeyman actor Ron Eldard has had a long and distinguished career in both films and on television, you may not recognize him by name but trust me; you would definitely know his body of work. The actor first gained attention for his role as Paramedic Ray “Shep” Shepard on the extremely popular NBC series ER, and then went on to be featured in a slew of successful films including Deep Impact, Black Hawk Down, and House of Sand and Fog. But the actor is perhaps best known for his starring role in the short-lived Steven Bochco series Blind Justice, as well as playing opposite Brad Pitt, Jason Patric, Billy Crudup, and Kevin Bacon in Barry Levinson’s Sleepers, which also co-starred acting legends Robert De Niro and Dustin Hoffman. After a recent short stint on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, the actor returned to the big screen this summer in the hugely successful J.J. Abrams directed film Super 8, which was produced by Steven Spielberg and is now available on Blu-ray and DVD.

The film takes place in the summer of 1979, in a small fictional Ohio town called Lilian. Eldard plays Louis Dainard, a single father with a drinking problem, who works in the town’s local factory. One day Louis is too drunk to go to work and the woman that takes over his shift, the wife of Deputy Jackson (Kyle Chandler), is killed as a result. Blaming himself for the accident, Louis visits Jackson at his wife’s wake to give his condolences but is instead taken into custody by the Deputy. Four months later, the deputy’s son, Joe (Joel Courtney), is helping his friend Charles (Riley Griffiths) make a low-budget zombie movie on Super 8 film and convinces Dainard’s daughter Alice (Elle Fanning), who Joe has a crush on, to act in the film. However, both Dainard and Deputy Jackson forbid their respective children from interacting together, causing a very “Romeo and Juliet” type theme. The two kids defy their single parents and eventually start to fall for each other. Things get even more complicated when the kids are shooting one night near the train tracks and witness a truck purposely derail an oncoming locomotive in order to free something that the government is transporting inside. This begins a chain of events that will force the kids to work together in order to solve the mystery of what was on the train, and save the town from a misguided military, and a frightened extra-terrestrial creature that only wants to go home.

I recently had the pleasure of speaking to actor Ron Eldard about his role in Super 8, as well as his distinguished acting career. Eldard spoke candidly with me about the film, how and why he got the part, working with J.J. Abrams; his collaboration with Steven Spielberg, making an Amblin film, his emotional scene with Kyle Chandler, the film’s excellent cast of young actors, creating the alien/monster, and which one of his past projects he is most proud of.

Here is what the talented actor had to say:

IAR: To begin with, I recently saw the film for the first time and really enjoyed it. Congratulations. It’s a really nice piece of entertainment, isn’t it?

Ron Eldard: Thank you. The first time I saw it was at the premiere and I just thought, this is a great popcorn movie. It was funny, it made me laugh, it was exciting, and the train crash is no joke; that is a great sequence. I just thought that if I was paying for this, it's well worth my money, my time and it was pretty fun.

It's really smart entertainment, which is something that we don't get a lot of, is it?

Eldard: No, you don't and that is exactly this. I was like wow, and I left with a big smile. What an adventure and it's also personal. I love the ending when they show the real alien.

Had you worked with J.J. Abrams before?

Eldard: I had not. I have worked with Spielberg on a couple of things. I had done a movie of his that he produced, and also I was on ER that he produced. I had not done anything with J.J. before.

Tell me what is he like to work with as a director? What's the mood like on his set and how does he sort of orchestrate all the action?

Eldard: First off, it's just very friendly. It's a friendly set. It's really a gentle and friendly set where there's just good humor. It's odd because there were several of us who happened to be magicians, The DP (Larry Fong) is a great magician, J.J.'s a magician, I'm a magician, there were several people (who were magicians) so there would be like random magic tricks going on. Sometimes if there was a break, all the background actors would gather, and suddenly the DP would put on magic tricks while he was setting lights, then he’d go back to work. So J.J. is very, very friendly but he’s serious too. I mean he definitely knows what he wants to get but he’s open to suggestion because it's a very friendly set. Low drama.

How did you get cast in the film? Did you audition for it, or did they just call you and ask you if you would be interested in being in the movie?

Eldard: This was unlike any other job. Everyone was brought in for this thing. I had never seen so many really excellent actors and actresses, and a huge number of them, all at one place at the same time. But when you came into this you knew nothing about the movie because you couldn't read the script. With the scene that they wanted you to read, you could not leave the office, if you took two steps close to the door there was literally a guard that stopped you in your place. No joke, because he really wanted to keep the fun a secret. So I auditioned without knowing anything about it. I think I lucked out because it just so happened that three months before the audition I had made a movie where I played a guy who had been a roadie his whole life for Blue Oyster Cult. So I just so happened to have long hair and facial hair but I had no idea that (the movie I was auditioning for) took place in 1979. So I walked in with a really good ‘70s look and it just kind of worked out. I auditioned and then they offered me the part.

I love the muttonchops that your character has in Super 8 but did you actually grow those for the other film?

Eldard: Yes, I grew them for the other role, which was even more severe than Super 8. The other role I had some seriously awesome facial hair. I have a crazy face. It's a great movie. It's called Roadie, so check it out. It's beautiful and it's a great film. So I just happened to have the right look when auditioning for Super 8.

When I spoke to J.J. Abrams last summer about the movie he was very proud of the fact that it is an Amblin film. In fact, he went on to say that he wouldn’t have wanted to make the movie if Steven Spielberg was not involved and if it could not be part of the Amblin family of films. Obviously there are many comparisons between Super 8 and some of Mr. Spielberg’s earlier films like E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial or The Goonies, but was there a sense of that on set while you were making the movie? Was that intentionally the type of film Abrams was trying to make and was everyone involved with the production aware of that while you were making the film?

Eldard: Well certainly. I mean … and this is not just my theory but comes from J.J., it’s clearly paying homage to Spielberg, one hundred percent. Again in the best way, there's so much love. I don't think he could've made this movie for the money he made it for if it was not an Amblin film. I think having Spielberg take to it, not just as a cache, but there's a whole machinery that goes along with that. That's going to allow you to make a movie of that size for the amount that they made it for and attract ... I mean J.J. can attract people on his own but a combo of J.J. and Amblin, you know that's a very attractive thing. Especially when you’re asking people to come in when you can't read the script and you don't know anything about it. There's no downside to any of that.

In addition to great performances from the film’s adult cast including you, Kyle Chandler and Noah Emmerich, the movie also features an incredible cast of young actors as well. Could you talk about working with the younger actors and what they were like to be around on set?

Eldard: Well you never know, quite a few of those kids had very limited acting experience. Not Elle (Fanning) but the others. So it's a risk, you hope that they don't freeze up on camera, but that they also don't start being precocious after the take, and here was none of that. Those kids are so cool that we would hang out during lunch break we'd play football. They were just fun to hang out with. And Elle, just by her nature, first of all she's a beautiful actress, she's really a talented girl, but she's also a kid, she’s only thirteen. So the boys would protect her like she was they’re sister. J.J. was very good about trying to knock the acting out. So with the acting just try to get it away, get it away. For those kids at that age, which is a very magical age, twelve, fifteen, that's a magical age for kids, particularly boys. You know, they're still boys. Yet they start getting hormones, but they're still just boys. I think that those kids hung around each other all the time and I think they naturally are all just really, really cool kids. If you can get adults to do that you are lucky but when you get kids that can do that, you just got to put the camera on them. They were incredible and did some beautiful stuff and didn’t override it. Also Elle is just a really special little talent.

I really enjoyed the intense scene in the car between your character and Kyle Chandler’s character towards the end of the film. It seemed like a very emotional scene for you as an actor, could you talk about how you prepared for that moment?

Eldard: First of all I love that scene too, and again it sounds like all the same kind of bullshit movie talk, but Kyle, that is just an upstanding dude. He is one of the last super guys. Kyle is just the real deal. He's just a good, good man. There's no after drama going on there. I love that scene too but I haven't seen the deleted scenes. That scene's actually a little longer, the actual scene that we shot. So I would be curious to see if they put the deleted, full version of the scene on the Blu-ray and DVD. But that was … you know we built that scene up. I had an idea of what I wanted and it took us quite a while actually. You overshoot it to bring it back. I don't know, I think it's a really beautiful thing too and I think it's nice to see two dudes who can do that.

One of the great things about J.J. Abrams as a filmmaker and a storyteller is that he doesn’t show you everything, which is very much in the spirit of Speilberg’s famous quote about making Jaws, “You don’t show the shark in the first reel!” Can you talk about that and how the filmmakers really used the visual effects sparingly on this movie, only giving us glimpses of the alien/monster when absolutely necessary? 

Eldard: As far as I know they were working on that monster right up to the last second. That monster wasn't fully finished until very, very close to when that movie had to be in movie theaters. I had seen versions of it early on from mock-ups and they'd show me some ideas for it, but they didn't really know what it was going to exactly be. So the first time I have to see it is when I'm in my car … I crashed my car and I see the monster take my kid. I just said, well give me an idea of what the monster's going to look like. J.J. said, "I'll tell you what, you've been in a crash, you're kind of not going to know exactly what it is, it'll be shadowy, it'll be monstrous, and it'll be huge." So I didn't really have an idea. Even at the end he gave us sketches of ideas, but it was a secret, an unknown to us until we saw it as well, which I think in the end worked out better. It was the same kind of fun. I really appreciated that his fans and the press kind of jumped on board with the fun of keeping this really secretive. Keeping the fun so you find out what it is when you see it in the movie theater. When I saw it I was like wow, I didn't know it looked exactly like that! I had not seen a monster like that before. It's got a little E.T. in it, it's got a little Alien in it, and I love that you just don't see much of it.

Finally, looking back on your long and impressive career, is there a project that you are especially proud of? Is there a film or TV show that you look back on and say, “I’m really glad I did that one?”

Eldard: I'm really proud of my body of work. I should probably say yes to more things. I don't say yes to anything if I don't think has a possibility of being something great. Not to sound promotional but certainly the movie coming out in January called Roadie, definitely was the best thing I've ever done. It was a great piece of work. But I mean, Black Hawk Down I thought was really a movie but also a film, yes? So films, certainly Black Hawk Down was something great. Sleepers is one of the nicest projects I ever worked on. Barry Levinson is a great guy to work for. That whole group was just so collaborative. I think that stretch where Billy Crudup and I meet up until we kill Kevin Bacon is really one of the best sequences I've ever been involved in, in a film. That's a short film just by itself. Also there's a movie called Bastard out of Carolina, which was Angelica Houston's feature film directing debut. That was very difficult and really a great piece of work as well. I've been lucky. I've worked with great people. I got to save the world with Robert Duvall (in Deep Impact)! There isn't just one. Even my very first film, a film called True Love, it still holds up as a great, great independent film. 

Super 8 is now available on Blu-ray and DVD!

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