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Awards Roundtable: 6 Top Actors' Uncensored Tales, From Worst Auditions to Leg Waxing

9:00 AM PST 10/30/2013 by Stephen Galloway , Matthew Belloni
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The Hollywood Reporter's annual series kicks off with a candid conversation featuring Matthew McConaughey, Jake Gyllenhaal, Forest Whitaker, Jared Leto, Josh Brolin and Michael B. Jordan.

This story first appeared in the Nov. 8 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.

Huddled together just before the first of this year's awards-season roundtables got underway at the historic Mack Sennett Studios in Silver Lake, the six invited actors were eager to discuss one thing: Christopher Nolan. "Is he a big guy?" one of the participants asked Matthew McConaughey, who was taking a break from shooting the director's Interstellar on the Sony lot. Queried another, "Does he talk a lot?" McConaughey, 43, demurred as he joked with his Dallas Buyers Club co-star Jared Leto, 41, who had flown in the night before from Michigan, where he performed with his band 30 Seconds to Mars. The duo joined Josh Brolin, 45, Jake Gyllenhaal, 32, Michael B. Jordan, 26, and Forest Whitaker, 52, in a candid discussion about everything from flubbed auditions to Brazilian waxing.

PHOTOS: Awards Roundtable: 6 Actors on Mistakes, Sacrifices, and Strange Auditions 

Let's start with a question about reinvention. How do you not get stale?

JARED LETO: Panic. Desperation.

JAKE GYLLENHAAL: Bills.

JOSH BROLIN: Fear -- there's always fear. You re-create yourself in every movie, don't you?

FOREST WHITAKER: There's a good fear, and there's a negative fear. There's a thing you confront when you're going into something new and you come to this sort of abyss, and then you push yourself. It makes you try different things.

MATTHEW MCCONAUGHEY: You mentioned two types of fear, and the one that's good is when you're scared. You don't know what's on the other side, but you're like: "I'm gonna dive in. I know there's something there; I don't know how to define it yet. I don't know the equation, but I'm gonna come up and I'll understand it." It takes you to the cliff, and you should be scared because the cliff drops, and you don't have a net.

BROLIN: I've never had that feeling in any movie where I actually feel like I'm nailing it.

WHITAKER: You don't feel the magic of it once in a while?

BROLIN: Never ever.

LETO: I get a terminal dissatisfaction on films. If I was bad in one scene, it's impossible to let go. And it can make or break my day. If I drank, I would probably drink a lot.

Q&A: Forest Whitaker on Evading Oscar's Curse, Rediscovering the Magic on 'The Butler'

Have you ever said no to something because you're afraid?

LETO: Oh yeah. I've talked myself out of auditions a hundred times. I auditioned for [Robert] De Niro seven times, years and years ago. I remember auditioning for Terrence Malick, and the casting director upended a couch, and we were supposed to hide behind it and shoot imaginary guns! [Laughter.] In that audition, I literally stood up, took a few imaginary bullets and shoved [the casting director]. I said: "I can't do this. This is like a bad high school play," and I walked out. And then Terrence called me -- you guys I'm sure have met him; he's the most gentle and amazing guy in the world -- and he's like: "Uh, Jared? I'd love you to be in my film."

Have you ever thought of quitting?

LETO: I did for six years, almost.

BROLIN: Six years you didn't work? Wow.

GYLLENHAAL: [Smiles.] It's only appropriate as an indulgent actor to think about quitting 'cause it's such an intense job.

WHITAKER: It takes a lot from you.

LETO: I was focusing on other passions, and time kind of flew by. But it can be heartbreaking. You make these little movies -- most of the time they don't work.

BROLIN: That goes back to what we were saying about feeling like you're [not] really nailing something. I remember [1996's] Flirting With Disaster -- I did the movie and never felt like we were nailing it at all. And then I saw the movie …

GYLLENHAAL: You killed that movie!

MICHAEL B. JORDAN: Exactly. Exactly.

STORY: Matthew McConaughey: Why I Rejected a $15 Million Paycheck 

Matthew, what went into your reinvention? I think you turned down $15 million for a Magnum, P.I. movie.

MCCONAUGHEY: I heard that number. I don't think I ever saw that in the offer.

BROLIN: Makes for a better story.

MCCONAUGHEY: Let me just throw this at you: That same script with that number really is a whole lot funnier than [when they gave it to] me.

So not quite true?

MCCONAUGHEY No, it may be true. [Smiles.]

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