IAR EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Walton Goggins Talks 'Django Unchained,' 'G.I. Joe: Retaliation,' and 'Justified' Season Four

Sunday, 23 December 2012 17:06 Written by  Jami Philbrick
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IAR EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Walton Goggins Talks 'Django Unchained,' 'G.I. Joe: Retaliation,' and 'Justified' Season Four

Usually, an actor is lucky if he can find one beloved role on television to add to his resume … Walton Goggins now has two!

The actor, who began his career appearing in such films as The Apostle, and The Bourne Identity, finally came into prominence with his career-making role as doomed Detective Shane Vendrell on the groundbreaking series The Shield. After the series ended it’s incredible seven-season run, Goggins went right back to work on television playing another misunderstood character, Boyd Crowder, the childhood friend and antagonist to Timothy Olyphant’s Deputy U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens on the FX series Justified. The busy actor also found time to appear on FX’s Sons of Anarchy this past season, as well as supporting roles in such recent films as Predators, Cowboys & Aliens, Straw Dogs, Lincoln, and the upcoming sequel G.I. Joe: Retaliation. But first, Goggins can be seen in visionary director Quentin Tarantino’s latest film Django Unchained, which stars Academy Award-winner Jamie Foxx and opens in theaters on Christmas Day.

The film, which recently earned several Golden Globe-nominations, is Tarantino’s tribute to the classic Western and blends elements of comedy, political awareness, and frankly, Tarantino, with the classic Spaghetti Western formula. In Django Unchained, Foxx stars as Django, a slave from the Deep South who is freed by a German bounty hunter named Dr. King Shultz (Academy Award-winner Christoph Waltz), shortly before the beginning of the Civil War. The bounty hunter soon makes the former slave an offer that he cannot refuse. If Django helps Shultz hunt and kill the men that he is after, who only Django can identify, then the bounty hunter will help him free his wife Broomhilda (Kerry Washington) from Calvin J. Candle (Oscar-nominee Leonardo DiCaprio), the slave owner who purchased her. Goggins plays Billy Crash, an assassin working for Candle. In addition to Goggins, Foxx, Waltz, DiCaprio, and Washington, the movie also features performances from Oscar-nominee Samuel L. Jackson (The Avengers), Don Johnson (TV’s Miami Vice), Bruce Dern (The Hole), James Remar (48 Hrs.), James Russo (Beverly Hills Cop), Tom Wopat (TV’s The Dukes of Hazzard), M. C. Gainey (Sideways), Franco Nero (Django), Tom Savini (Dawn of the Dead), Russ Tamblyn (Drive), Amber Tamblyn (The Ring), and Oscar-nominee Jonah Hill (21 Jump Street). 

I recently had the immense pleasure of talking to actor Walton Goggins about his work on Django Unchained, as well as G.I. Joe: Retaliation, and the upcoming forth season of Justified. The energetic actor discussed his new film, how excited he was to work with Quentin Tarantino, what it’s like on a Tarantino set, improvising, preparing for his role, creating the character of Billy Crash, the film’s possible connections to Shaft, balancing comedy and action, what fans can expect from his role in G.I. Joe: Retaliation, season four of Justified, and remembering the late great Shane Vendrell. 

Here is what the accomplished actor had to say:

IAR: To begin with, let me ask you the obvious question, how stoked were you to work with Quentin Tarantino?

Walton Goggins: Well the answer to that question is in the question and that is that I was beyond stoked! It was a dream come true man! I was twenty-one years old when I saw Reservoir Dogs. I walked out of that theater, went home, put on a black suit, white shirt and black tie and pretended to be Quentin Tarantino. I just wanted to hang around long enough to get to say some of the man's words on my own. You know, it was a dream come true really.

What's it like working on a Quentin Tarantino set? 

Goggins: He's as curious a person as I've ever met, and probably more passionate than any person I've ever met. And it's infectious, you know? He's just trying to get to the truth of his story, and he encourages you to go every possible way in order to achieve that end. You just know that you're with a master and he's going to support you no matter which limb you go out on and we're just going to keep going until we find it. 

Do you have to stick pretty close to the script or is there some room to improvise while you're on set?

Goggins: The only person that improvised was Quentin Tarantino. In that moment he would say, "Say this, you know on this next take, then say that." So there was absolutely no improvisation on my part. You don't have to do that when you're reading a script written by Quentin Tarantino. You just want to hang on every single word and not miss one because he has such a rhythm in his dialogue and it's poetic. It's poetry, it really is and so everyone is really excited to be there. They know that they're experiencing something that very few actors have been given an opportunity to do and you just relish every moment of it. There was one scene in particular where the camera was on me and I turned around to say my line. I looked up and (cinematographer) Bob Richardson was behind the camera, Quentin Tarantino was right next to the camera, and next to him were Leonardo (DiCaprio), Sam (Jackson), Jamie (Foxx) and Christoph (Waltz). They were right off to the side and I couldn't speak! I didn't really forget what I was going to say, it just wouldn't come out! I said, I'm sorry, I'M IN A GOD DAMN QUENTIN TARANTINO MOVIE! Everybody just started to clap and applaud because I think we all knew how special it is when he makes one. 

Obviously, some of Tarantino’s favorite films from the past influenced Django Unchained, and all of his movies to a certain degree. When you start work on a project like this, does he give you a list of films to watch for homework just to get a feel for the type of movie he is trying to make?

Goggins: Yeah, I think he does that for everybody. For me, my entrance into this movie in this way was a little different than the other actors in the sense that the role that I ultimately got was going to be played by Kevin Costner. There was a scheduling conflict and then the role was going to be played by Kurt Russell but there was another scheduling conflict. By the time this event happened we were already there and we were filming. But he brought me into his trailer and he looked at me and said, “Alright Goggins you're my Warren Oates (Badlands). Go out there and go get them.” He said, “How does that make you feel?” I said; I need to go practice how to use my gun! So I didn't have the opportunity to get those cinematic tools that Quentin so often kind of administers to the people in his movies. I just kind of went on faith and putting all that faith in QT.

Can you talk about creating the character of Billy Crash? Did you look at any of the classic Spaghetti Westerns, like The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly perhaps, to get inspiration for your role?

Goggins: No, I really like limited resisting a lot of these movies that I had already seen. I did see The Good, The Bad and The Ugly and turned it off towards the end, to be quite honest with you, just because I didn't want to be influenced by it. I just wanted to bring my take to it. I didn't want it to be derivative or something I had seen before. So for me, literally when I put on this outfit, and saw what (costume designer) Sharen Davis did with these clothes, how they kind of draped off Billy Crash, the character came alive. I had my gun and I really started kind of practicing how Billy used his gun, and he was as skillful a gunslinger as Django. I wanted him to be elegant, for his movements to be elegant and graceful, and to in some way contradict the words that were coming out of his mouth. I wanted his movements to be as important as things that he was saying. After the second day of filming Quentin came up to me and said, “I know who you remind me of now.” I said, who? He said, "You're Lucky Louie." I said, who? He said, "The cartoon character. The cartoon Lucky Louie, which was generated in France and was really, really big in Europe.” Christoph looked at me and said, "Yep, you're Lucky Louie!" It was so great. So I got a couple of the comics and looked at myself and said, okay, yeah, I'm Lucky Louie!

I’ve heard Quentin Tarantino talk about the idea that Django Unchained is an unofficial prequel to the 1971 classic Shaft, because Kerry Washington’s character’s real name is Broomhilda von Shaft. The idea being that she and Django will eventually give birth to the groundbreaking ‘70s detective’s lineage. This fact is also interesting because Samuel L. Jackson, who portrayed John Shaft’s on-screen nephew in John Singleton’s 2000 reboot, also co-stars in Django Unchained. Did Tarantino ever discuss that idea with you or any of the other actors while making the film?

Goggins: I wasn't privy to the conversations. We didn't talk about that. But if Quentin said it, then he believes it. I mean it happened!

The film really balances comedy with the classic Spaghetti Western style, was it difficult for you as an actor to navigate the movie’s two distinctive tones?

Goggins: Some scenes didn't ultimately make it in the movie. But the ones that we filmed that didn’t make it actually showed more of that (comedic) side of Billy. I was actually given an opportunity to tonally thread the needle the way that everybody else did. A lot of those exchanges were really, really funny from Billy Crash's point of view, but the words that kind of came out of Billy Crash's mouth didn't ultimately make the final cut. But I really felt like I had a vintage Quentin Tarantino experience. 

What can we expect from your role of Warden Nigel James in G.I. Joe: Retaliation?

Goggins: Funny. 

Are you the film’s comic relief?

Goggins: I'm one of the comic reliefs, yeah, absolutely. He's got some really good one-liners and we were able to go off script a little bit and improvise some stuff with director Jon Chu. It's just a visual extravaganza, it's so much fun, and it's a really good movie. I've seen it and I'm really excited for it to come out. 

Are you back to work on the season four of Justified?

Goggins: I'm back and shooting episode seven right now. 

What can fans expect from Boyd this season? Will he be causing more headaches for Raylan (Olyphant) this year?

Goggins: Boyd starts off like the king of the hill for all intensive purposes and has a little higher climb before he falls precipitously. It's a really good season where (the show’s creator) Graham (Yost) has made the decision not to have a season long nemesis for both Boyd and Raylan, but has gone back to the friendship of Boyd and Raylan and how they're interacting within their own world. It's kind of back to the roots and I'm really excited about it. 

Finally, most actors are lucky if they can play one beloved TV character in a career, but now you have done it back to back, first with Shane on The Shield, and now with Boyd on Justified. After The Shield ended, did you ever think you would be lucky enough to find another role like that in your career?

Goggins: Listen, I still put on Shane's leather jacket from time to time and walk around the house when nobody's home. I would imagine when Justified ends … when no one's looking I'll take my buttons on my shirt and do them all the way to the top (like Boyd). These characters mean a great deal to me and I'm so fortunate that I'm getting a chance to play two characters like this back to back.    

Django Unchained opens in theaters on December 25th. 

G.I. Joe: Retaliation opens in theaters on March 29, 2013.

Justified Season Four begins airing March 6th, 2013 on FX.

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