Seven Psychopaths

They play speech-giving, gun-toting psychopaths in In Bruges director Martin McDonagh’s zippy, blood-drenched comedy Seven Psychopaths, which just premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival. But in person Sam Rockwell and Woody Harrelson are really just big softies at heart, and good buddies who like tea, each other’s movies, and do soft-core porn? (More on that below). sat down at the Toronto fest on Sunday with Rockwell and Harrelson, and separately with costar Christopher Walken, who’s totally dead-pan funny as Hans, a philosophical dog-napping business partner of Rockwell’s super chatty, psycho killer Billy. Colin Farrell (an In Bruges alum) stars as Billy’s friend Marty, an L.A. screenwriter working on a screenplay about psychopaths, and all the guys, while on set, fell for a little pooch named Bonny, a white, fluffy Shih Tzu belonging to Harrelson’s character, scary mob moss Charlie. Bonny’s kidnapped by Billy and Hans, leading to violent consequences.

Walken, his grey hair just as vertically Don Kings-ish as ever, merrily praised the entire cast, calling Harrelson “lovely,” Farrell “a sweetheart,” and Bonny “so cute.” It turns out that Walken and Rockwell became fast friends working together in 2010 on McDonagh’s play A Behanding in Spokane. “Most movies I’ve done I’ve hardly seen the people in them again. Sam is different,” revealed Walken. “He’s a friend, and he lives in New York. I don’t keep in touch with people I work with, but I do with Sam. I talk on the phone with him, and I even go eat, and stuff.”

He also sort of bemoaned filming in the Southern California desert during the movie’s 10-week-long mostly L.A.-based shoot. “When you shoot in the desert at night, big trips, every time you went some place, it’s four hours in the car,” he said in that stop-start classic Queens-accented voice of his. “At night, it’s freezing, it’s like the moon, and with the sand, and everything. It’s hard.”

As for Harrelson, who’s about to start shooting The Hunger Games sequel Catching Fire in nine days, he sipped on tea and water, and sleepily mentioned he had gone to bed at a burning-the-midnight-oil 4:30 a.m. (!). Rockwell was much higher energy, squeezing Harrelson’s shoulder and grinning from ear-to-ear. A new bromance is born.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: So Sam, Christopher Walken told me you guys are good friends!

SAM ROCKWELL: We did a play together, so we spent a lot of time together. We stay in contact. We talk on the phone. He’s a lovely lovely guy. He’s a hero to many of us, an acting hero!

What’s up with Billy’s funny dog hat in the movie, and Charlie’s scorpion neck tattoo? Woody, did you come up with that? Do you have any other tattoos?

SAM ROCKWELL: That was Colin, with the hat. He found it at a gas station on a road trip.

WOODY HARRELSON: That was my idea, the scorpion tattoo. I don’t have a moral issue with tattoos, but I’m too afraid to get my own. It’s like pain aversion.

Sam, tell me about Billy. He seems like a real REAL psychopath.

My character’s kind of like a cousin of Colin’s character in In Bruges. Ralph Fiennes ‘character, in In Bruges, is not unlike Woody’s character. The movie’s a romantic version of a psychopath. Actual psychopaths, I don’t know, don’t have a loyalty to friends, and s—t like that.

Did either of you study any real-life psychopaths??

SAM ROCKWELL: A little bit. There’s a book called The Psychopath Test.

WOODY HARRELSON: I bet you passed with flying colors [everyone laughs].

Ha! You guys have such a great, easy rapport with each other. It’s actually quite wonderful to watch.

SAM ROCKWELL: This guy is a hero of mine. I love this guy. The first time I was on the set I was so nervous to work with Woody, but he’s so f–g mellow. There was one point where I ad-libbed to get the motor going, and when Woody looked over at me, he said something like, ‘Alright. Let’s play.’ We started getting into it. It was fun. He had hit Colin with the gun, and I had the dog, with the flare gun. And I said, “F—k you!” And he said, “F—k you!” And we went into the dialog. It was fun.

WOODY HARRELSON: Sam’s really great to work with. He’s got so much imagination. The way he tries all kinds of interesting, unusual responses to things. He’ll have craziest line readings you wouldn’t expect. This one comedic line that you deliver [turns to Rockwell], you were using the dog, and did it in a different voice [makes voice higher]. He’s absolutely fearless. It’s a joy to work with an actor like this, and I always thought he was a great actor. I saw this movie, Choke, years ago, at the Toronto Festival, and I was like, “Oh my God, this guy, he’s like an acting God.” That was amazing.

SAM ROCKWELL: Woody’s a special special talent, and he’s got a special charisma. It’s infectious.

What about working with Walken? You guys play off of him so well.

SAM ROCKWELL: Him and Tom Waits. These are all really unique guys. When I saw White Men Can’t Jump, I thought, “Holy s—t, who is this guy?” Woody and I had never worked together.

It sounds like you really really like each other, are friends.

WOODY HARRELSON: This is actually it, after this interview, I’m never going to see him again! … Nah, we’ll always be friends. No question about it. He’s a super freakin’ good friend.

So what’s next, project wise, for the two of you?

SAM ROCKWELL: We’re doing a soft porn. Not entirely sex. It’s soft.

WOODY: Heh heh.

Hmmm, on another note, a certain homophobic phrase is used a lot in the movie, even though it’s ironically explained at one point. What’s up with that?

SAM ROCKWELL: Obviously, they’re bigoted characters. Billy could BE gay. He could be in love with Marty’s character. I’m just putting it out there.

WOODY HARRELSON: It’s seems possible. That should probably be highlighted in your article [laughing].

For more film news, including coverage of this year’s Toronto International Film Festival follow @solvej_schou

Read more:

Seven Psychopaths
  • Movie
  • 110 minutes