Danny Huston may be the son of legendary director John Huston and half-brother of Anjelica Huston, but he spent the past decade blazing his own trails in Hollywood. His career started behind the camera, following in his father’s footsteps, but soon evolved into playing a plethora of roles. Quickly becoming a recognizable face on the silver screen, Danny Huston is about to make one of his biggest impressions yet on moviegoers. Sngmoo Lee’s “The Warrior’s Way,” is a tale where Eastern and Western cultures and traditions collide and Huston is at ground zero.
The film centers around Yang (Jang Dong Gun), the world’s greatest swordsman, abandoning his warrior clan to start a new life in the American Badlands. “The Warrior’s Way” is a visually dazzling modern martial arts adventure with stunningly choreographed fight sequences and gravity-defying stunts. In an original, gorgeously realized journey into a mythical past, writer and director Sngmoo Lee seamlessly marries the cinematic traditions of East and West. Korean superstar Jang Dong Gun, Kate Bosworth, Danny Huston and Academy Award-winner Geoffrey Rush star in this epic story of revenge and redemption. Icon Vs. Icon’s Jason Price recently sat down with Danny Huston to discuss his journey in the entertainment industry, his influences and how they played a role in “The Warrior’s Way,” bringing a character from the script to the screen and much more!
Tackling a career in the entertainment industry is often not for the faint of heart. From what I have read, you didn’t initially set out to end up where you are today. What can you tell us about that journey?
Well, I had no intention of becoming an actor at all. I was just, as a director, waiting for my projects to get made. I was waiting for this sort of eternal green light for a studio or some financing entity to give me permission to make my films. Things were taking forever! Fellow directors, out of the kindest of their hearts, would offer me small roles here and there and the roles gradually got bigger. The next thing I knew, I was an actor! [laughs]
I am curious to know who has been most influential to you as an actor?
I suppose my father. I really approach acting from a filmmaking point of view. I just feel that I am servicing the story and trying to tell it as best I can. My father was not only a great storyteller and filmmaker, as you know, but he was a great actor. People say to me that I seem to like playing villains a great deal. My father played what is probably one of the greatest villains in film history in ‘Chinatown.’ He has been very influential on me.
What was it about the script or the character in particular that drew you to your role in ‘The Warrior’s Way’?
It had this wonderful Sergio Leone quality about it. I almost imagine my character being scored by Ennio Morricone. Just to name a few other Italian movie influences, the townsfolk and the carnies reminded me of a sort of Felleni movie. It just had this wonderful little kaleidoscope of different influences and genres along with a delicious villain for me to play. The character has certain complexities but is also bound in a sort of romantic, slightly perverse, obsessed way to this girl who scarred him for life, who is played by Kate Bosworth.
What is your process for bringing a character like The Colonel from the script to the screen?
In this particular case, he was very formed by the costumes, the mask that he wears, which is very tight against my face and forced me to speak in a particular way, the way that he is rather vain, he is compulsive, he doesn’t like dirt and he is caught in this dust bowl of a place. These qualities were key for me to transform the character into the delicious villain it became.
Your family has quite a history with the American Western. How did that play into your performance? Was it something that was in the back of your mind going into the project?
Yes, very much. I was influenced by the westerns that I used to see when I was a kid, not necessarily that my family have been involved in or the western that I shot prior to this called ‘The Proposition’ that Nick Cave wrote that featured Guy Pearce, Ray Winstone, Emily Watson and was directed by John Hillcoat, which was a very violent western set in Australia. ‘The Warrior’s Way’ is more of a fable, more ‘Sergio Leone,’ I suppose. Those types of films were something that I really loved as a kid. The villains in those films like Eli Wallach and so on, were something that influenced me a lot as a boy. The film, in a way, is shot not unlike a memory, it has this nostalgic feeling to it. Those are the types of qualities that I tried to bring into the piece but also connected with as I was making it.
There is quite a buzz about the film and its director/writer Sngmoo Lee. What was it like working with him and what do you think he brought to the table?
Well, he brought the script to the table and his vision. It was very specific, concise and clear, especially with all of the green screen that was going on as we inhabited this world that wasn’t in front of us, so we have to imagine it. He was extremely helpful there. He knew what he wanted. Of course, we were free to interpret what direction he was giving us but he was very clear in broad strokes in regard to what he asked of us. Working with green screen at times can be very confusing because you don’t really know what you are looking at, so he was very, very helpful.
There is a ton of action in the film. What can you tell us about your experiences with the stunt team on the film? I imagine you can learn quite a lot from those seasoned veterans.
Yes! Working with the stunt guys was really fantastic! We really had to choreograph a rather complicated sword fight. One of the big highlights of the project for me was working with Kate Bosworth, shooting the sword fighting scene. It was a lot of fun to do and very physically demanding! We were both bruised by it afterwards — but proud of our bruises! [laughs] It made you feel like you did an honest day’s work! It was a good feeling! [laughs] We broke the shooting schedule up, it happened right around Christmas, so we shot for about three days and wrapped for Christmas and then we started back up after the holiday. That gave us enough time to catch our breath and go back and refine what we had done. We are very proud of it because over 90% of what is there is us, the actors. Hopefully, that makes it kind of gritty and real as there is no trickery.
As you mentioned, you are also surrounded by some great talent in this film. How would you describe your experience performing with Kate Bosworth, Geoffory Rush and specifically Jang Dong-gun who may be a new talented face to American audiences?
Jang Dong-gun is a quiet, respectful, powerful young actor. He certainly knows how to use stillness which is something that my character, The Colonel, could use! [laughs] Working with Kate, well, I knew Kate before doing the project so it was great to be able to spar, literally, with someone and know that we could really trust each other and not hurt each other too badly! Geoffory Rush, I am a big, big fan of his, how could one not be? I wish that I had more scenes with him but the scenes that I did have with him I took great delight in working with him.
Looking back on the experience, what was the biggest challenge in making this film?
The biggest challenge, honestly, was the weight of the wardrobe. The mask, the large leather coat, the guns, the sword, the hat, the wig were all very constraining at first. It was hard to even move with all of that stuff on me and around me. Finally, it became something that really helped to define the character and I was able to use it as a way to express The Colonel’s movements. He can’t see out of mask, out of one eye, so the other eye becomes very active. The speech, as I mentioned, is very difficult because the mask fits so tightly to my face. All of these things were really restricting at first, if not daunting, but ultimately helped me to define the character.
Obviously you are on quite a role as an actor. Kudos to you! Is there a chance that we might see you behind the camera as a director again in the future?
I have been developing a project over the past 10 to 15 years called ‘Day of The Dead’, a book that I have been optioning. In a way, it has become a bad habit and a costly one to option the book time and time again! [laughs] It is hard for me to convince the author that I am actually going to make it! I am hoping to get into production on that next year. I have a lot of momentum on that now, so there is no reason that it shouldn’t happen at this point. I hope it does!
Looking back on your career how do you think you have evolved in your craft since starting out?
One role feeds the next, somewhat. The films that you make don’t necessarily come out in the order in which you made them in but they are influences that you take from one film to the other. More than anything, I used to love hanging out on my father’s film sets. I loved spending time with directors and seeing how they form and make a film. Hopefully, I will be able to apply those experiences when I get back in the saddle and make my own.
You have played so many different roles throughout your career. Is there a particular type of film or genre that you are anxious to tackle in the future?
I feel that I approach stories and films from more of a storytelling point of view, so the whole script is what matters to me. Even if my part is very small, I still want to be a part of something that I can respect and that excites me while working with people that I respect and that excite me.
What is the best advice that you have for anyone who would like to make their career in the film industry?
I suppose that with technology the way that it is today, my advice would be to go out and make a film. Stay true to yourself and don’t allow anyone to stop you from doing that. One can literally go out and make a film with their iPhone at this point!
Yeah, with a good bit of editing software, you can do it. All you have to do is have a vision.
What other projects are on the horizon for you in the immediate future?
‘The Conspirator’ is coming out from Robert Redford. It is the story of the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. I play Joseph Holt who was responsible for prosecuting the first woman to be hung. It is a beautiful and elegant film directed by Robert Redford that I am very proud to be a part of. That is the next film that will be coming out.
Anything that you would like to say to the fans before I let you go?
Well, I hope that they go out and enjoy ‘The Warrior’s Way’. It is a real spectacle — a ballet for boys! [laughs] It certainly struck me as being an extremely elegant piece of filmmaking and a delicious fable.
Thank you so much for your time, Danny. We are big fans of your work and we hope to talk to you again very soon! It’s been a pleasure!
Thank you very much!
The Warrior’s Way will be released to theaters on December 3rd, 2010.