April is Actor Month at TFE. Here's Jose in conversation with one of our best.
In person, Chris Cooper exudes the same suave charm he has onscreen, when we sit down to discuss his work in Jean-Marc Vallée’s Demolition and I refer to him as “Mr. Cooper” he shakes his head and says “call me Chris”. From his oddly approachable John Laroche in Adaptation, to his tough but sensitive Tom Smith in Seabiscuit, Cooper has perfected the art of creating “the memorable everyman”. In Demolition he plays Phil, a man who must cope with the death of his daughter in an accident, and has to learn how to forgive his son-in-law Davis (Jake Gyllenhaal) for having survived. Most of Cooper’s scenes involve harsh encounters with Gyllenhaal’s character, who has lost all sense of societal propriety rather than paying tribute to the legacy of his wife.
When I speak to Vallée about the qualities his cast brought to the film, he explained “I observe and try not to interfere with the actors, they use all the space around them, they put stamina and spirit into it”, you can see this in the way with which Cooper in particular moves as if he’s completely unaware that his character exists at the service of a story. He couldn’t seem more comfortable in this fictitious man’s skin if he tried. I spoke to Chris about his process, how he uses external elements to discover the men he plays, and to celebrate Actor’s Month we ended up discussing his favorite thespians.
Our conversation follows...