Stolen Moments with Clifton Collins Jr

Clifton Collins Jr. has been surprising audiences for over two decades. His commitment to character and devotion to his craft has led him through various worlds of war, space, espionage, prison and more. However, this week the entire human race is depending on him to save our world. We caught up with Clifton to discuss Pacific Rim which is the highly anticipated new film by Guillermo del Toro hitting the big screen today (July 12). We also talk about acting, directing, music, stunts, weapons, history, toys, dancing and most importantly the love of a grandparent.

MV: Welcome to Movie Vine, Clifton! To begin, let’s discuss Transcendence. You are currently filming this in New Mexico … in the middle of summer … in the desert. (laughs)

Clifton: (laughs) Yes, I’m in the desert, but I’m in fantastic company. So if there is anyone to be stuck in the desert with it should be with the likes of Johnny Depp, Morgan Freeman, Paul Bettany, Cillian Murphy and Rebecca Hall.

MV: Oh good heavens, you can’t beat that.

Clifton: Yeah. It’s pretty awesome. We’re having a grand old time. We all get along as though we’ve known each other for years. Our director, Wally Pfister, is a blast to work with. If he wasn’t the captain of this ship and directing me he easily would be somebody I would hang out with in Venice. There’s a lot of visual effects and Wally is such an amazing visionary. It’s just reminder of the kinship of being an entertainer. Whenever we all get together it just involves singing, fun stories, and playing guitars. It’s a great creative energy all around, and you know it’s effortless.

MV: Even though it’s probably 120 degrees it’s still nice because you are able to enjoy it.

“I’m very blessed to be allowed to do the things that I do, and the way in which I do them.”

Clifton: The sandstorms are a bit rough, but look it’s a job like no other. I had this very surreal moment, you know as a kid your parents are always telling you to stop playing in the dirt or to grow up. My step-dad used to tell me that even when I was auditioning for jobs that I was so passionately going after. My grandfather, Pedro Gonzalez-Gonzalez, passed away in ’06. He was the only one who told me that I could pursue acting. It took hearing that one voice, that one person who I respected, telling me that I could do it. That has allowed me to go out, and actually pursue it on my own against the wishes of my mother. I had this moment in the middle of desert where it’s like 115 degrees, and I’m sitting there playing in the sand. I was like “You know what, Wally? Take a picture of me right now and let’s send it to my mom.” I’ll say “Hey, how do you like me now?” This is my job. I’m lying here playing in the sand waiting for Johnny Depp and Morgan Freeman. Here’s what I get paid to do. I love it. I’m having fun! (laughs) I’ll take my job any day of the week. I’m very blessed to be allowed to do the things that I do, and the way in which I do them. I now have the respect of the directors that I work with who allow me to collaborate in a lot of what I do. Which is something that in my earlier days was a difficult thing to do because I just didn’t know how.

MV: When you’re young I think it’s hard to figure out the balance. But, as you get older you realize, like you said, you get to play all day. That’s your job, your career, and what a blessing.

Clifton: We’re just big kids. That’s all we are. We’re just big giant kids. I’m like Tom Hanks in Big. You know what I mean?

MV: Yeah, I do. My husband is a toy designer so he feels the same way. Poor guy has to play with toys and watch cartoons all day. (laughs)

Clifton: (laughs) Watching toons! It is so awesome. You go to my house …. even my little hotel room here (on location) I’ve got like three GoPros and a Sony EX3 camera that I shot some of my award winning videos on. I’m going up to Dennis Hopper’s old place, and shooting some stuff for two new videos I’m doing. So on my days off when I’m not working I like to work more. Some people call it work, but it’s fun for me. I like shooting.

MV: That’s the thing. You have to enjoy what you do because work shouldn’t feel like work. It might not be easy, but it should be enjoyable. That makes all the difference.

Clifton: It really does. It’s easy to play hard. I mean I’m 43 and I’m coming home with bruises, scrapes, and cuts. Just like when I was 10 years old coming home with bruises, scrapes, and cuts. (laughs)

MV: (laughs) That’s the way to do it! Although you probably feel it more now than back then.

Clifton: I recently did a fantastic little web series called Cleaners for a dear friend of mine. Emily Osment from Hannah Montana, David Arquette, and such a great cast they’ve put together. I was the only one who didn’t have a stuntman because anytime something was going to happen, like a fight sequence, it’s all choreography. I’ve been doing martial arts since I was like 15. They were like “Oh we’re going to do this and that. Maybe we should do it like this or like that” then they realized I could do all of those things so they were kinda like “Oh”. The prop guy would hand me a weapon to use and say “I’m not sure if you know how to use this”. The joke was “I’m a Mexican so of course I know how to use a butterfly knife, or of course I know how to do this, or of course I know how to do a kick-up, or do the flipping neck-locking kick”. (laughs) But, honestly I started stretching early because I am 43. My cousin and I started tap-dancing when I was 7. My grandpa got us both tap-dancing and my cousin ended up being a police officer in Oakland. He’s a sergeant over there. He popped a hamstring about a year ago. So I didn’t dare do that in front of Emmanuelle Chriqui who is producing it and starring in it. So I kinda wanted to look like a man. In hindsight it was tough, but you know what … I pulled it off. I pulled off some stunts that I wouldn’t have thought of doing. Seriously. I pulled off some crazy stunts. You’ll see. It does hurt a little more though, I’ve gotta admit.

MV: It’s awesome when you can do something like that. This is what stuntmen do for a living, and even they have to retire early because it’s so hard on their bodies. So at 43 you can pat yourself on the back for even attempting to do the crazy stunts, and especially for getting it done.

Clifton: You know a testament to Emily Osment, she had a fantastic stuntwoman who is a champion martial artist, but she was really fearless. There is a fantastic stunt we did where Emily has me in an arm-lock on the floor. I’m still on my feet but she is on the floor. I’ve got to lift her up in the air with no amount of energy, and head-butt her to knock her out. I tell the crew “I’ve got about one or two takes in me so make sure it’s in focus because that’s it”. (laughs) Honestly, me personally, I want to keep doing it until we get it right. And, if I get hurt then we’ll work through it. But, one way or another we’re going to get the shot. But, when it’s the internet it’s a little different. You don’t have the time, or the luxury, to do some of the things that you would do on films like Transcendence or Pacific Rim.

MV: You have the motivation, the determination, and you want to get it done. But, even on a big budget film how many times can you do that particular stunt in a row with it still looking effortless?

Clifton: You’re 100% right. But, it taught me that you can do what you want. Put your mind to it, and if you have enough passion behind it, you can do anything. It was also nice to brush up on all of my weapon skills too. We went to a gun range. It was fun seeing these girls shooting pistols and stuff. But they would ask me “Hey, Clifton, do you know how to use this?” and I would say “You can just give it to me and let’s just go … let’s just shoot”. It was kind of a running joke because it didn’t matter what they handed me I’d figure it out. You know when I got into martial arts with my cousin we were already well versed in weapons. So I never thought it would come into play so hard on a web-series like this. You know when you’ve been in this business for as long as I have … tap-dancing for as long as I have … I still tap-dance. You know?

MV: You do?

Clifton: Yeah. I ended up showing Paul Bettany and our whole cast my first music video which was a spec video that was part of the whole GAP campaign when they were singing, and dancing, and stuff. They were dying to get me to tap dance so I got to show them that. And, the clip of my grandfather on the Groucho Marx show when he showed Groucho how he danced. He was 27 when he did that. It was a special moment to be able to show that, and have it be appreciated by real artists that I admire and respect. That’s one of the joys.

Pedro Gonzalez-Gonzalez Dancing
Pedro Gonzalez-Gonzalez

MV: Having experience with dancing, weapons, and martial arts you can go anywhere. You can do anything. You don’t have to be a master of everything, but you just have to know a little bit. For instance, the movement for martial arts and tap-dancing is going to affect the stunt work you do. It’s going to affect the way you hold yourself. The way you move across a stage. It affects everything.

Clifton: You’re absolutely right. It’s funny you said that. I was talking to Cillian last week and I told him something my grandfather told me. He said “Mijo, you don’t need to know how to do everything, you just need to know how to do one thing well. Just learn one song on the guitar, but learn it really well.” It’s almost like a magic trick because you do it effortlessly. Pull off one of Slash’s Sweet Child of Mine riffs and people will go “whoa!”. (laughs) But, that’s really all I know. Do that leading into the very beginning then just put the guitar down and be like “I’m tired I can’t play right now”. (laughs)

MV: (laughs) Just give them a little bit. Keep them guessing.

Clifton: Yep. It’s pretty awesome. But, you know there’s very little true ‘song and dance’ men anymore. I mean, my grandpa was truly one, Sammy Davis Jr., Bob Hope, you know even James Cagney for that matter who was the first president of the Screen Actors Guild. You don’t really have those guys anymore. I mean, you’ve got Justin Timberlake who is amazing who started young in that kind of an environment. But, they don’t really have any more of that stuff today. You’ve got the reality show stars who don’t really have a talent so to speak. You know?

MV: It’s unfortunate that they are getting rid of the most creative parts of entertainment for “reality”. Everyone strives to be good at something. The ‘song and dance’ men just had it all. People expected a lot from them. I think it’s a different motivation when you have people counting on you.

Clifton: Yeah. With Cleaners we did six episodes and I was like “Wow, man I’ve never worked so hard for so little financially speaking, but the creative rewards are pretty awesome”. And, also Paul is a cool cat to work for. He’s very kind and very thoughtful so it makes it easy to do those kinds of gigs. And, also David Arquette is someone I’ve known for probably 20 years and that was my first time to really work with him. We were like “Can’t believe it’s been this long”. Brings me back to the point of me wanting, and needing, to direct more. You know? The Soul of John Black was my very first video which is on my new production website stonefreeproductions.com. I also just released a teaser this week which I directed for a military monster movie. Be sure to check that out. WMD.

MV: Yeah, I watched WMD and really enjoyed it. Now I want to know what it is. It sounds scary.

"Something that nobody has ever seen before." WMD
“Something that nobody has ever seen before.” WMD

Clifton: It’s all based on real mythology that has been intensely researched. I’m working with a dear friend of mine who has been a big brother to me, Patrick Barrett. He has always been my storyboard artist and we just started writing stories together. The teaser is based on a high concept screenplay that he wrote. Something that nobody has ever seen before.

MV: I think that’s awesome!

Clifton: At the end of the day, I love working with my friends so whether it’s a small budget or a big budget it’s more for the community of it. I do it all for friends. You know I did Slash’s video on a shoestring budget for LAYN (Los Angeles Youth Network). All the donations went to that to help runaway kids. Jonpaul Lewis wrote the original story and I directed the video.

MV: Gotten. I watched that one too. That was heartbreaking, but I really enjoyed it. I know Jonpaul.

Clifton: Jonpaul is a good dude. He came to bat for me, and he came to bat for me really hard. He’s great. We’ve edited some beautiful things together. We did the High Cost of Living together which you know without the support of the record label we still got two and a half million views. It’s a music video.

MV: I noticed that Gotten has almost two million views. That’s amazing! It’s a hauntingly beautiful piece.

Clifton: Thank you. Yeah. Jonpaul wrote it and then I did a couple revisions on it. I did some painful revisions on it. I ran away when I was 15 years old. Slash knows that I like to get into all of my stuff. It’s just something I do. It’s part of the fun for me. But, I went to some dark places for a good week. You know, I had a few breakdowns. I started having night terrors and stuff like that. It kinda helped me refine the treatment a little bit, and come up with some of the shots that were there. Pedro Guimaraes, who shot it, did a great job. We shot on Skid Row and it was just me and Pedro. It’s dangerous. We only got like two good runs before I had to run a few red lights. You know they look out for themselves. They have their own little secret sanctuary where they can hide or run away from their problems. Where they go when they just want to bury themselves in a lifestyle of drugs, prostitution, and homelessness. I needed some reality. I needed some real moments of what it’s really like. I didn’t want it to be some Hollywood type video. It means a lot because of LAYN and the reality of what they go through. So at that point we were doing pickup shots. You know we’ve got a $70,000 camera in the back. So the third run down the street I had to drive watching both forward and backwards because you’ve got to see who’s got eyes on you. I knew right away … I saw one guy come running out and I knew he was going to give the signal that we were coming up. We were burned. So I told Pedro I’m going to give you the sign so hang onto the camera. Because as soon as the guys down four blocks gives the sign for the next four blocks you’re hot. You know I don’t know who’s strapped. I don’t know who’s what. I know where all the pimps are. I know where all the dealers are. Because they’ve got all of their cars on the corner. I can read the signs because I grew up around it. I’m not just some Hollywood cat who thought he would come through with a camera. But, we got the shots and were able to go at a slow enough speed to pick up natural lighting. And, you need natural with something like this. Because as soon as a film crew is there you’re getting something that is not real. It’s contrived. It’s made up. It’s people pretending to not be who they are. You know what I mean?

MV: Yeah. It’s not organic.

Clifton: Right. We shot it on an Alexa which is God’s gift to the cinematographer, and has converted some of the most diehard dudes. It’s what Terry Malick shoots on. You can shoot in low light. I love that. I love my EX3 too. I was talking to Paul Bettany the other day and told him that when I have an EX3 in my hands I feel like Jimi Hendrix with a Fender. Something happens when I get behind that camera. It’s just got to be in my hands at all times. When I’m shooting part of my story and my treatments can evolve from, and be refined by, just my environment. Kinda like acting would. With all of the improvising with an actor and some outside elements were to come in. You’d work with them, and you’d work them into the story somehow. It sort of makes it organic.

MV: How do you see the world differently through a camera?

Clifton and Zac Brown for Chicken Fried
Clifton and Zac Brown for Chicken Fried

Clifton: You know, honestly, it’s quite cathartic. But, on the same notion it’s … well in my opinion at the core of every great actor is great empathy. In order to feel great empathy without having to go through it. I have gone through so much that it has allowed me to empathize on a deeper level with so many others. Which is the main reason why I like to work with people and do videos for songs that speak to me versus jobs. My stuff teeters, as you can tell, towards the darker more real side. Chicken Fried was something that was a bit of a phenomenon. We almost beat the standing record of Randy Travis’ record of 26 weeks on the charts. We got up to 25. It was those visuals that changed the opinions of some very important Country music critics. Those visuals I came up with that Zac (Brown) just completely supported me on. I was very lucky to have an artist like Zac to collaborate with and who had my back. Because even the label at times was like not quite getting it all together. But, you know, to be able to convey those moments of just feeling lost. A part of it is to identify with it.

MV: So that the audience can relate to it.

Clifton: Exactly. I think about these kids at LAYN that were given scholarships to Yale. I’m like where does that passion and desire come from? Because it’s so easy to fall into the rut of “Well hey my mom and my dad didn’t care about me so why should I care about me?”. In Boys Town, with Spencer Tracy and Mickey Rooney, Father Flanagan says “There’s no such thing as a bad boy”. You’re not born bad you’re made that way from a lack of love. At the end of the day everyone wants to be understood. And, to be able to capture these kinds of moments on camera … even on Chicken Fried I got a beautiful moment of Zac just being like “How are we going to pull all of this stuff together?”. It’s just a moment that I stole when I caught him like that. Like I was saying to Paul Bettany there’s something that happens when people don’t know that the camera is on. This beautiful naturalness. It’s just something that is so organic. It’s just something that exists, breathes and moves. To be able to capture that is just a joy for me.

MV: Just being in that moment, in that sliver of time, you get reality. You get beauty.


Clifton: Yes! I’m working with one of my partners right now Talbert Morton on a really fantastic comedy Camp Counselors Wanted. It’s something I might be doing with Mike Judge. It’s a loose parody on Friday the 13th. It’s like the character in Capote. It’s like Perry Smith you know? You’re not born a killer. So I have to be able to understand where that comes from. I have friends who are locked up. I go home and fill out the paperwork to go visit friends who are locked up. I have a friend who just got out of a Texas prison three weeks ago whose life story I’ve been developing to do with Sam Jackson. It’s like I’ve come from an entertainment family, but I’m not Hollywood per se you know in the sense that some people may perceive it. I certainly have the pride and the entertainment values in the dedication of wanting to give a great performance. It’s not the glitz and the glamour. You know my great-grandmother danced for Pancho Villa in the late 1800s. Crossing the border bribing a border guardsmen when she met my great-grandfather who was a trumpet player. So I have a history of it, and I have a deep respect that comes from that. I come from a Mexican Vaudevillian family. There’s four they’re called carpas which is Spanish for tents. They didn’t have ceilings on them so basically it was just a round wall that you could fold up, put in your car, go to the next town, and advertise your show. And, my family came out of two of the performing families inside of Texas.

MV: How you were raised is probably a lot different than a kid coming out of school right now. The industry itself is different from when your grandfather was first starting and your great-grandparents. The dancing, singing, acting, being a family act and touring. That’s the heart of entertainment.

Clifton: I have to agree with you. Samuel L. Jackson actually brought up an interesting point when we were campaigning to get my grandfather a star when he was alive. He reminded me that my grandfather for all intents and purposes was my father. And, Samuel is my next biggest mentor and father figure in my personal life. He said “Cliff, you know, the walk of fame is great, it’s great for Hollywood, it brings a lot of tourists and people love it, this and that. It’s got a different meaning for your grandfather. It means something totally different an affiliation with his peers, and an affiliation with the time. It’s very different. It has different meaning.” It’s less commercial, you know, it was more personal. Today the studios are more about we’re promoting this and we’re promoting that. So it’s just interesting that you say that because I’d have to agree with you. I’ve been very blessed in my young career, and I say young because I’m going on 24-25 years, to have worked with so many fantastic directors. I think last year was such a beautiful milestone for me. For one, I had Mellissa Rosenberg offer me the Red Widow TV show. To collaborate with such an amazing writer, and then to go onto Pacific Rim. Wow! So what do you think about the Pac Rim trailer?

MV: It looks awesome! I’m really really excited to see this!

Clifton: It’s the kind of movie you’re going to want to watch two or three times. To me to work with Guillermo del Toro … he rocks. He wrote this role for me. I remember Kevin Reynolds telling me back when I did One Eight Seven that Guillermo had called him and asked him about me back then. They had a very long conversation about me. Which Guillermo reminded me about and I said “Yeah, Kevin told me”. And, then he was like “Clifton, I’ve got this role in this movie I’m filming, and it’s a very small role right now it’s only two sentences, but I’m writing it specifically for you. I’m tailor writing it for you, and it would be an honor if you would do this role” and I was like “What are you f*cking kidding me? It’s backwards Guillermo the honor is completely mine. The fact that you are even calling me.” It was in that instant that I was just incredibly humbled. And, I actually thought he was lying too. I thought “Oh, whatever, he’s downplaying the role”. He said “Don’t bother reading the old script there’s nothing there”. But, me personally, the actor that I am, I just wanted to get a lay of the land so that I can have some sort of an idea of what I’m going to be reading. So if I can possibly create anything, even if it’s remotely close, it would be worth the read. And, sure enough I read it and he was not exaggerating by any means it was only two lines. Which I still would have done for him. But, you know to have a director you respect, admire, and look up to believe in you on the level that he did and does…

MV: It doesn’t get any better than that.

"I found it beautiful to continue the legacy."
“I found it beautiful to continue the legacy.”

Clifton: My grandfather’s first movie for Batjac Productions was The High and the Mighty where he’s controlling the controls. You know as planes fly over he can talk to them, and there’s boats on the sea he can talk to them. He would slide from side to side. There’s a moment that evolved in working with Guillermo where he decided that I would be manning two control stations. So I was sliding from left to right on the wheels and it was the most … honestly I can’t really articulate it but it was so wonderfully surreal. I found it beautiful to continue the legacy. To do a film on this level for a master like Guillermo del Toro, who in my opinion is a modern day Hitchcock.

MV: You just came full circle. You and your grandfather. The one person who believed in you the most, and encouraged you the most, from his film to now in that one moment you came full circle.

Clifton: Exactly! That is exactly what it was. I stopped for a second. I thought “Oh my God, this is so trippy”. I’ve seen The High and the Mighty so many times. It was just so cool. My grandfather was 29 and I was 42 at the time. Still the sentiment was fantastic. You know? And, to get the direction in both English and Spanish I felt like I was at home so often. It was like my grandfather, and my grandmother too, would speak to me in English and in Spanish. It was just very much … it felt like I was at home.

MV: That’s beautiful. What a beautiful moment. I mean, it’s every actor’s dream to work on a Guillermo del Toro set anyway so it’s like going back to playing.

Clifton and Guillermo del Toro
Clifton and Guillermo del Toro

Clifton: Yeah. He’s truly a joy. I can’t say enough good things about the guy. We had a very heavy heated bromance. (laughs) You know he’s got me speaking Cantonese. And, I actually learned a guitar song for him which we ended up not recording. It’s one of the reasons why I grew out my fingernails on my guitar hand for like a Flamenco thing. It’s kind of an inside thing nobody really makes reference to it because it started to pull away from there. But, I grew out my nails on one of my hands, my plucking hand. (laughs)

MV: Well see, now you can add that song to your arsenal of the other two songs. (laughs)

Clifton: (laughs) I learned La Malagueña for him on top of the Cantonese. But, now I can play a bunch of songs so if you want to get down on some Slash, I can rock out. I can do some Jimi Hendrix, CCR, I can get down on some good stuff and Hank Williams Sr. I’ve come to play hard … with a head’s up. I can hardly wait for the next movie. It’s one you don’t want to end. It was a blast. To have Guillermo manning the ship there was no way in Hell that we were going to hit an iceberg. It didn’t matter what time of the day or night you were fricking jamming.

MV: I bet. For your scenes was it mostly green screen, or were you on a practical set?

Clifton: The whole command center was all practical. I forget how many screens we had. We had a bunch of giant screens. My first day was actually a little rough. You know first day of school you’re always a little nervous. You want to do a great job. You’re the new kid on the block. The cast had already been working together for a good three weeks or something. I told Guillermo, I told him after the fact, but I told him I wanted to have a vocabulary reminiscent of the robot world. So I started studying robots. I bought books on robots and building robots. I bought Robots for Dummies. I bought a couple of robot kits. Just so I would know that these things are called this, and these things are called that. But, so much of this world is … well Guillermo’s imagination so rich for truly anything. But, I couldn’t wrap my head … I mean I understood the concept behind the definition for the words that were created for these Jaegers (robots). But, to look up at this giant green screen and as an actor you visualize things. But, you know with Guillermo I gotta say I learned something a little different. I had to really exercise my imagination tool on a much different level. I had to have visuals. You know there were these monitors in front of me that obviously weren’t practical. The buttons I was pushing and the whole consol was practical, but the screen that came to life and there were three levels so that stuff was all fake. I had to mentally see these three different stages and levels. Guillermo meticulously took me through almost like a hypnotic therapist would into seeing things. So I had to see and interact with a lot of things where were not in fact there.

MV: So did it take you back to when you were a kid playing pretend?

"I had to really exercise my imagination tool on a much different level."
“I had to really exercise my imagination tool on a much different level.”

Clifton: Sure. I mean in this case it’s definitely pretend, but you take it to a deeper level. We have to save the world. It’s part of the fun. It was so fantastic to work with just the caliber and the different nationalities with an international cast. It’s funny my grandma is still so insanely sharp. I came home for a couple of days off of Transcendence and Guillermo had set up this screening of Pacific Rim. He said “Do you want to attend a screening?” and I said “Can I bring my god kids that are in town from Oakland with my cousin and my grandma?”. He said “I don’t know if this is a grandma movie, but definitely!”. So my grandma watched it and when she saw Rico she goes “Oh, look, look there’s your co-star from Babble.” (laughs) I was like “Wow, Grandma!”. Grandma is like Hollywood Google. (laughs) Any Hollywood scandal, or any Hollywood tale, folklore, or urban legend she’ll tell you how it happened. She’ll tell you the befores and afters that you don’t read about in the paper about exactly who was banging who, or who was cheating on who, and when it happened and why. It’s pretty awesome. Hanging out with Grandma my actor buddies like to come over and ask her about Howard Hawks or whoever. There’s just so many actors and directors we could talk about at the time. It was such a beautiful time in Hollywood. It’s pretty awesome.

MV: Did your grandma enjoy the movie?

Clifton: Grandma went out of her way to call me like three days later to tell me to tell Guillermo that she’s been thinking about the movie, how great it was, and just went into detail. I was like it’s almost like Rio Bravo minus the singing. (laughs) The awesome film my grandpa did. She absolutely loved it. This is a different thing. You spend so much time with this character, and you work so hard for this common goal to save the world. In watching the finished product it was like a double whammy. You’re a kid pretending to do this thing, but then also you’re a kid watching it. I mean we all grew up watching big giant robots and all these different things that had to do with these different types of elements. But, there was a moment where I just jumped in my seat, and I looked at my grandma and it was like I was a 7 year old boy again. Like you know just going “Oh my God! Oh my God!” So it’s weird to have that actor element, the childlike actor essence, and then to watch the piece and feel like a child again. There are moments where I was so lost in the film that I didn’t see myself. I was caught up in the masterful storytelling of Guillermo del Toro.

MV: I think that’s amazing when that can happen. When you forget all of the technical things, and it takes you back to when you were a kid. You get sucked completely in.

"I was caught up in the masterful storytelling of Guillermo del Toro."
“I was caught up in the masterful storytelling of Guillermo del Toro.”

Clifton: That’s what happened. It’s a cinematic time machine that takes you back to when you were a kid. It’s pretty awesome! I gotta say, I felt like there was so much love on such a big budgeted film. It was just so much professional artistry coming to the table with first and foremost passion and love for the project. It was just very very different. I’m very blessed to have worked with the Soderberghs, and the Bennett Millers, and Terrence Malicks, my God I got to work with him twice which was such a huge huge joy. It was like Christmas all over for me. I could end my entire career just continuing to work with Guillermo.

MV: Guillermo del Toro’s movies are phenomenal to begin with. His imagination … I can’t even begin to grasp it, and I have a pretty wild imagination. But, the stuff he comes up with is awe-inspiring.

Clifton: Yeah, it really is, isn’t it?

MV: Think about it, this summer kids are going to be running down the street playing Kaiju and Jaegers. He just created a whole new world that is going to make kids ditch their video game controllers to go outside and play.

Clifton: Yeah! I know. I kinda want one too. (laughs)

MV: (laughs) Keep it in the garage.

Clifton: I’m so not going to lie to you … I got a Six Million Dollar Man still in the box at home so… I’ve got buddies who are so envious. They’re all my age and are all professionals. Even Slash has a bunch of dolls at his place too. We’re still kids. You know what I mean? (laughs)

MV: Um (clears throat) … married to a toy designer … (laughs)

Clifton: (laughs) That’s right! So I’m speaking to the choir here.

MV: You have no idea! (laughs) Do you know if they ever came out with a Romeo figure from BDS II?

Clifton: Um, I don’t know. I think there were talks about it.

MV: They should.

Clifton: The director’s cut set is coming out next week (Best Buy exclusive Blu-Ray on July 16).

MV: Are you doing anything special for it?

Clifton: Yeah. We’re having a live tweet session on Monday (July 15) on the BDS twitter page. I know the fans keep asking me about a third one so we’re all biting at the bit. I talked to Troy and hopefully number three is in the works. But, he’s also working on a bunch of other ideas including a fantastic TV show idea that he’s right in the middle of writing right now. So we’ll see.

MV: I know the fans will be excited to tweet with all of you. That sounds like a lot of fun. Will your Six Million Dollar Man be joining you? (laughs)

Clifton: (laughs) Maybe. You know, I do have something different. My buddy Bill Rogin manages R. Lee Ermey the drill instructor from Full Metal Jacket. They came out with a motivational doll. An Ermey motivational doll that is 18 inches tall. You push the button and he rattles off things from Full Metal Jacket. They go fast since they are a limited edition. But, I found my Six Million Dollar Man doll in Vancouver back in ’93 or ’94. I found it in a four story kind of a swap meet second hand shop. I saw him and I was like “Oh my God I am so bringing him back to L.A.”. I wish I had two so I could play with one. (laughs) See? It always comes back to us just being big kids. And, I got an excuse, I can just say that I’m an actor. So when someone says “Aren’t you a little old to be playing?”. I can say “Nope! I’m an actor. In your face! Get out of jail free. Haha! Now you’re mad cuz you don’t have one.” (laughs)

MV: (laughs) Just call it research. This was fun. Thank you for hanging out with Movie Vine today, Clifton. Really looking forward to seeing Pacific Rim this weekend.

Clifton: Thank you! I really appreciate it.

*Be sure to visit Clifton’s official website then follow him on Twitter and Facebook. You can watch all of Clifton’s videos at stonefreeproductions.com including his WMD teaser (shown below).

Jan Ostegard

It's been four decades since I first discovered a passion for movies. One momentous evening in 1977 my sister and brother introduced me to Star Wars and it forever changed my life. I relocated to Los Angeles after receiving a BA in Theatre and lived in the San Fernando valley for nineteen years. Besides acting and writing, I enjoy movies, music, theatre, relaxing at the beach or in the mountains, mastering racing games, traveling around the world, and hoarding chapstick. My husband and I are currently readjusting to life back in the States after spending three years living in Shanghai, China.

One Comment

  1. Great story! It made you feel as if you we’re in the room having a conversation with Clifton. Very good interview Jan……

Back to top button