Norman Reedus first exploded onto the silver screen and our collective conscience in “Boondock Saints.” Directed by Troy Duffy, Reedus played opposite of Sean Patrick Flanery as one of the McManus brothers in a unique film that would go on to become one of the biggest cult sensations in movie history. Over a decade later, the duo find themselves stepping back into those shoes, or in this case peacoats, to bring on one of the most highly anticipated sequels of all-time.
Reedus has been a very busy man in the years since the original “Boondock Saints” film. This seemingly fearless artist has taken roles that have showcased his amazing range and solidified his presence as one of entertainment’s most versatile actors. Reedus drives the point home that he is far from one-dimensional as he is also an accomplished photographer and will soon be taking on the role of director. Jason Price of Icon Vs. Icon recently caught up with Reedus, who makes his home in New York City, to discuss his past, his upcoming projects and the triumphant return of The Boondock Saints.
Where did you grow up?
Wow, let’s see. I grew up in a million places. [laughs] I was born in Florida, lived there for a couple of months. Then I lived in Northern California for a bit. Then we moved to Japan, right at the very end of high school. We lived in Kosovo and then London for a bit and then onto Spain. Finally, I made it to Los Angeles. It was there were I got a job at a place called Dr Carl’s Hog Hospital fixing motorcycles. The girl that I had followed to LA left with her ex-boyfriend and got married in Hawaii, so I was kinda stuck there by myself working at the Harley place and went to a party in The Hills and started yelling at a bunch of people and someone asked me to be in a play. The first night of that play, they were hip pocketing me and then I started pulling movies. That is how it all started.
When you were starting out, who were some of your influences?
One of my influences was Willem Dafoe, and I’m not just saying that. Harvey Keitel and Jim Jarmusch were influences as well. One of my favorite movies at the time and it still is one of my favorites is “Midnight Cowboy”. That role, that type of movie, that editing job and it’s cinematography, I really saw that as “art” and something that I could inspire to be part of.
You have played a variety of diverse roles in your career but you are best known for your role in “Boondock Saints.” How did you first get involved with Troy Duffy and his film?
I remember the script going around when I was living in LA. I read it and thought it was amazing. I went out and met Troy at a bar and we started talking about the storyline and the part. I really wanted to do it. Back then, there was another film that I was up for that was a Miramax film. They flew me up to New York for a meeting. I met up with Bob Weinstein and he asked me what I thought and if I wanted to do the film. I told him, “I’ll do this one if you give me Boondock Saints!” So I kept talking to Troy and was trying to get the part. I know there was a big casting war going on for it at that time, I think everyone wanted that part! I remember that Mark Walberg was in there, Ewan Mcgregor was there. A lot of people wanted it. Troy had to fight for me to get the part, because I hadn’t really done anything before that. I was very excited to be a part of it.
What was it like for you to step back into the role of Murphy McManus a decade later?
Ya know, the first day was a little weird, putting on those peacoats and revisiting that. It was fun though! It was like visiting an old friend and once we were in them, we were right back in. It was like riding a bike, everything just switched back on. The script is better than the first one, the scenes are better, the action is better, everything is better! Bigger and better! It was a blast to jump back in!
Once again, Troy Duffy assembled quite an ensemble cast for the sequel. Was there anyone that you were really looking forward to working with?
I was really excited to work with Julie Benz and Clifton Collins Jr., I have known Clifton for years, since way before we did the first film. It was really nice to be working with friends and it was nice to see Sean Patrick Flannery again. It was a blast and a really cool experience.
You mentioned the buzz about the original script, so I have to ask, did you have any idea that the film would develop into the cult phenomenon that it has?
No. I was really green back then. It was one of my first things. I had no idea. I was just happy to be on a movie set! [laughs] I was just taking it all in. I was like “What do I do? How’s this all work!” It was kind of overwhelming going from a motorcycle shop to a movie, instantly!
I knew we were doing something cool but I didn’t think it would be as huge as it has become!
I know that over the years, Troy Duffy has gotten a bad rap in a lot of circles, which isn’t necessarily fair. Having worked with him, twice now, I wanted to see what you think the biggest misconception about him is?
That whole thing with “Overnight” and all that shit — if you had enough footage of Santa Claus, you could edit it to make him look like an asshole. I have said this before but in the first film, where we are doing the courtroom scene, instead of yelling “Action!” Troy was slamming his fist on the table yelling “You deliver these people!” That is Troy’s attitude, but Sean and I couldn’t help but be like “Fuck Yeah!” You can’t help it! That is Troy’s personality and he doesn’t have a mean bone in his body. He truly is one of the nicest guys that I have ever met. He totally works with you, listens to you and is a sweetheart of a guy. Ya know, those two guys who made that film came to him. The deal was that they would film it and do something with the footage afterwards. Then they started asking Troy for money. Troy said “That’s not our deal. I don’t have any money. All of my money is going into this movie.” They got into an argument and said “Fuck You!” Then they went on to take the worst parts of the footage and assemble it in the most dynamic, evil way that they possibly could to make him look like an asshole.
The truth is that he is the nicest guy on the planet. I think that after the first one, he toned down a little bit and realized that when there is a camera in front of your face that you might need to not say some stuff and to hold back some stuff. That was a whirlwind ride, that first film.
Yeah, that is very true and why I asked. I think it was a raw deal and it is interesting to hear from people who were there as it all unfolded and clear the air.
Yeah. You can edit anyone to make them look like a jerk. You really can.
Obviously, it is an amazing feat you all have pulled off with making this sequel. It is really exciting to see the studio get behind the film. Are you guys doing anything special to celebrate the return of The Saints?
I know they have a really big press junket that we are going to do but I don’t know the details just yet. I am leaving to do a film soon, so I am hoping to find out those details before I leave. I think that we will be doing a premiere in Boston. I think they are doing that to give back to the fans.
You mentioned that you will be starting work on a new film soon. What can you tell us about that?
It’s a biker movie. It’s about a biker gang. I recently went out to LA and took my motorcycle class so that they can insure me and so forth. Basically, it is a tough Harley film. Which is really cool. I also just finished another film called “Meskada,” which is sort of a suspense, action, drama. That one was really fun to make as well. So, I am jumping back in with that. There is a film that I want to direct that I also want to start working on. Lots of cool stuff going on!
You mentioned directing and I know you have been behind the camera in the past, so it sounds like we will see you in a directorial setting in the future?
I have shot some short films and I have a production company called Big Bald Head. If you go to www.bigbaldhead.com or www.normanreedusonline.com, you can order them. They are three very strange short films, which are all completely different. It is something that I really enjoy doing. I directed them, shot and edited them myself. I had done some shows as a photographer and I have done some video installation shows in the past. My friends here in New York are all artists and they do art and shows together and I always liked doing that. So, I just sorta jumped in and I really enjoyed it. I don’t know if that is what I want to end up doing for the rest of my life but I certainly want to give it a try, especially since it is something that I am very passionate about.
Well we definitely look forward to seeing all of you work.
You have played such a wide variety of roles in your career. Is there a part or a specific genre that you would like to tackle in the years to come?
Yeah! I want to do a comedy! I think I am really funny! No one really thinks that I am funny but me, but I think I want to do a comedy. My Mom would love it if I did a movie where I didn’t kill everybody! [laughs] She is always saying “Why don’t you do a nice little romantic comedy with Jennifer Love-Hewitt or somebody?” I tell her “I don’t think they see me as that person.” But, I would love to do a comedy. There is an old one that I love called “Neighbors” with John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd. I would love to do a dark, dark comedy like that.
That would be cool.
Yeah, or a western. That would be cool. I’d like it.
A few year’s back you worked with legendary director John Carpenter on the series “Masters of Horror.” I think “Cigarette Burns” was a really great performance. Just curious on what you might have learned for working alongside one of the horror genre’s greats.
John Carpenter is one of the coolest motherfuckers that I have ever met. He has this laid back, sarcastic attitude that is so infectious that it makes you want to hang out with him all day long. He is really fun in this very dry kind of a way and his mind works visually in this super fascinating way. You are doing something and you are wondering where he is going with it and then you will realize “Holy shit! Here’s going there?” Ya know? It always works. He has done some of my favorite films and he is such a dynamic character. Him and I became friends making that film and we talked quite a few times on the phone afterwards. He is one of those people who I like as a director, as a person and he is a remarkable guy.
One of the film’s that you recently worked on is ‘Night of the Templar’ which was one of David Carradine’s final performances. Did you get to interact with him during the filming?
No, not really. I have heard stories about him and the director [Paul Sampson] of that film is an old friend of mine. I did that movie because he asked me to and if you can’t help your friends out with their movies, then what’s the point? Ya know? He told me stories about David Carradine and I remember him calling me after we heard the news and he was like “That was not a suicide. I know that dude and it was not a suicide.” I don’t know how the story ended up but he [Paul Sampson] told me that he was such a great guy. It is a real shame that he is not around. There have been so many deaths lately, it is crazy to me how many people have been dropping.
Yeah, it has not been a good year for for that type of thing.
Yeah, it is nuts! Every week there is a new story that someone else has died. Actually, DJ AM lived right around the corner from me. Heath [Ledger] lived right around the corner from me. It is just really weird.
What is the best piece of advice that someone has given you along the way in your career and what advice do you have for anyone who would like to get involved in the film industry?
I think that you really just have to want it and keep going after it. Ya know, it is really weird how people get to where they get. These days, you can have a sex tape and become a huge star. You can date somebody and become a huge star. It’s weird, but if you really like acting and you like that process, you just go act. If you are into it, people can see that you are into it and if you are passionate about it, you will get jobs. If you are an actor in a small town, do theater. Think about doing theater there for a few years and then moving to a bigger town. Pursue it. It is weird because there are actors and then there are celebrities. that line gets crossed all of the time, ya know?
It gets a little blurrier every day.
It’s true. You can be on a reality TV show and become an actor, ya know what I mean. Those lines are blurred all the time. I have had some of the nicest things said to me by some of my heroes, like Sean Penn and Gary Oldman, two really cool people, basically stating that there is a difference between this person and that person. “We’re happy you are this person and not that person.” I see that all of the time. I see someone who is really good at what they do and no one knows who there are. Then I see people who are considered “huge” and they just blow. It’s like if you want to be a photographer, carry a camera around and shoot all of the time. It is kinda the same thing. At the end of the day it is a job like any other job. You go to work, try to put in a good day, you may fight and it effects your whole day, you go home and hope that you did a good job and gear up for tomorrow. It is just like any other job when you strip it down to the bones, ya know.
You mentioned photography. I know that you did some modeling in the past and you are an accomplished photographer. I was curious about what attracted you to photography?
Photography is something that I have always done. I just had a big show in Berlin a couple of weeks ago. I have had a few shows there and a few shows here in New York. I was part of a show in LA last week. It is something that I have always enjoyed doing. I like to take really ugly things and make them pretty. That’s my thing. You can do that in acting or in whatever you do, you just kinda find a niche.
What other projects do you have coming up that we should be on the look out for in the near future?
Well, “Pandorum” is coming out soon and the film that I mentioned, “Meskada.” There is a script based on a book that I am going to direct which is called “I Was A White Slave In Harlem.” I am excited for that. It is about Margot Howard-Howard who was a transexual living in New York City in the late ’70s, early ’80s, who was kept as a sex slave in sort of an ivory tower by a herion dealer.
Sounds very interesting.
Yeah, Like I said, it is based on a book and it is really cool. Like I said before, I have this production company and if anyone wants to check out my short films, they can go to www.bigbaldhead.com or www.normanreedusonline.com and order them. They are pretty interesting and some of my photographs are there as well. I am always doing stuff!
That’s great. We will help spread the word! I thank you for your time and best of luck with everything you have going on.
Thanks, man! That’s so cool of you. It was great to meet you and thank you so much.