Interview: 'Down and Dangerous' Standout John T. Woods On Creating A Character
Every film fan yearns for a movie that has slick style, a stellar story and sexy sirens, but nothing says memorable like a standout performance that heightens all of the above. In the case of the new film immersed in the world of drug smuggling called "Down and Dangerous" (in select theaters and VOD Feb. 14 from Artis Entertainment), it’s the stunning turn by actor John T. Woods as the film’s lead Paul Boxer. Channeling the quiet clever cool of De Niro in "Heat" and the cunning of James Caan in "Thief," Woods’ gunless smuggler has equal parts charisma and danger that together create one unforgettable piece of work. We got a chance to sit down and chat with Woods – an actor to watch – all about his authentic feeling performance, his character preparation and what’s next for the talented actor. Highlighting work that cooks, here’s...
Since this was based in part on the experiences of writer/director Zak Forsman’s father what research did you do in terms of playing drug smuggler Paul Boxer?
John T. Woods: It was actually really nice as far as prep goes to be able to read a novel that’s based on someone’s father. I was able to read a book called Snowblind that was written directly about Zak’s dad. And so that book itself had a ton of insight to who his dad was, the principles with which he ran his work and the ethics with which he ran his life. So it was nice to read that book, talk to Zak, talk to Zak’s family and really get a sense of who the guy was since he unfortunately passed away before I got a chance to meet him.
Was there anything that Zak insisted on in terms of authenticity involving the subject matter?
JW: Yeah, there were certain things that Zak shared with me as far as there were these audio tapes that were pretty old and they were almost like travelogues. It was as if someone in the back of a taxi cab had put a recorder on and we got to listen in on conversations back in the 70’s. I got to hear how his dad spoke, his inflections and his sense of humor – a cutting sarcastic charming sense of humor we all wish that we just had intrinsically.
Paul has a quiet cool and toughness without being overplayed - kind of like De Niro in "Heat" – was it by design?
JW: Oh yeah. I love "Heat," it’s probably in my top three, and Zak and I really respect Michael Mann’s work and characters and also style. The first time we were talking about making "Down and Dangerous" one of the first scenes we mentioned to each other was the restaurant scene in "Heat" between the two of them. The conversation between the two of them – so much being said with the eyes and not doing much but saying so much in that scene. So there were times shooting the movie behind the scenes when Zak would remind me to play things straight and keep it really simple. It’s tough to do sometimes as sometimes you feel like you’re not doing enough, which is just dangerous to be thinking that way. But Paul has this cool, calm and collected demeanor that I think translates well on film – you can see what kind of guy he is.
I love your scenes with your mentor played by the great Judd Nelson – what was Judd like to work with and how key were those scenes to building your character?
JW: It’s interesting – Judd came in and he was great. He was on our hit list as far as playing the character of Charles and he read the script and he contacted us directly and said, ‘I really want to play this.’ He came in and he had a lot of ideas and questions that he just wanted to discuss about the character. But he and I hit it off – we got along like gangbusters. Plus there’s sort of a kinship that developed, which is really good for the character. Charles is also sort of based on Zak’s father as well, but in a different way.
The sexual and sensual tension between you and Paulie Rojas’s Olivia is heavy – was it an instant chemistry between you two?
JW: When you get on the set you really just want to like the people you have to work with, especially if you’re working in an intimate setting like Paulie and I had. The first time we met we did a test screening together and I told Zak later on - and I think he agreed – she was not only talented by we cemented and clicked really well. She’s very, very smart, very funny and super silly. She gets all of her work done, but she’s just ridiculously silly.
What’s next for you?
JW: Well Zak and I are developing two films right now that we’re both really excited about. One is a horror, which is more like fifty percent horror, fifty percent thriller. And the other one is an LA based comedy action detective crime thriller kind of like "Kiss Kiss Bang Bang." When we were doing "Down and Dangerous" we had so much fun and the most fun we had when we were all laughing. So we decided next time we do an action film let’s throw in a lot more comedy if we can. We‘re developing it now and hoping to shoot in the summer and in the meantime I’m still doing TV.
"DOWN AND DANGEROUS" OPENS IN SELECT THEATERS AND VOD FEB. 14 FROM ARTIS ENTERTAINMENT.