HEAT VISION

Why Kyle MacLachlan Didn't Second-Guess 'Capone'

Decades after working with David Lynch on 'Dune,' the actor did not hesitate to join a project helmed by Josh Trank, despite the filmmaker's previous difficulties in the blockbuster sphere.
'Capone' star Kyle MacLachlan   |   ANGELA WEISS/AFP via Getty Images
Decades after working with David Lynch on 'Dune,' the actor did not hesitate to join a project helmed by Josh Trank, despite the filmmaker's previous difficulties in the blockbuster sphere.

Kyle MacLachlan has experienced every up and down that Hollywood has to offer, and that is why he believes in giving artists their fair shake. MacLachlan, who returns to the screen as Al Capone's doctor in Capone, starred as Paul Atreides in David Lynch’s Dune, where he witnessed firsthand what it's like for a visionary filmmaker to struggle with the demands and confines of blockbuster filmmaking within the major studio system. When it came time to make a decision on an offer to act alongside Tom Hardy in Capone, MacLachlan, understandably, was unfazed by the drama that filmmaker Josh Trank previously experienced on the set of his own blockbuster film, Fantastic Four.

"In fact, I didn't hesitate with this. I happened to be a big fan of his first film, Chronicle, and I was so taken by his point of view on that," MacLachlan tells The Hollywood Reporter. "I was like, 'Wow, this is taking twists and turns that I did not expect.' It could've been something really mundane, and I thought, 'This is an interesting filmmaker.' Once I read Capone, I thought that he was going to do something really interesting with this material. He reached out very kindly and asked if I would be part of his film."

MacLachlan also reflects on how his working relationship with Lynch has changed over the years in terms of Lynch's artistic intent and his own interpretation.

"Our first film was Dune, and I would pepper him with questions. He was very gracious, and he would listen to me for like 10 or 15 minutes. Then, he'd say, 'OK, that’s enough. No more questions,'" MacLachlan explains. "Over time, I began to realize that he doesn't really like to answer questions about the work that he's doing, whether he's created it or adapted it. So, by the time I got to Twin Peaks, I'd stopped asking questions, and I said, 'I'm just going to go the way I want to go.' So, you'll watch it and say, 'Oh, I think it was that.' And David is like, 'Great!' I don’t think he says, 'Oh, you didn't get it, or that's wrong.' It’s about your experience."

In a recent conversation with THR, MacLachlan discusses acting alongside the "pretty exceptional" Tom Hardy, his early impression of Timothée Chalamet as Paul Atreides in Denis Villeneuve's Dune and the particulars of his long-running collaboration with David Lynch.

How are things with you and yours?

Oh, it’s nice of you to ask. We're OK; we're in Los Angeles. We have a little outdoor space here, and the weather is pretty decent. So, we can't complain, but I think my son would complain. He has school in New York so he has to be up early on Zoom to attend classes. So, he's moaning and groaning a little bit, but I can't say I blame him.

So, my mom and I were on the phone a few moments ago, and once she learned we were speaking, she reminded me that we had an encounter in 1991 at a Starbucks on State Street in Chicago. Apparently, we stood behind you and a co-star in line.

Wow, your mom has got an amazing memory. Oh my Lord. 

Given your association with high-quality coffee, do baristas get noticeably flustered when you walk into their coffee establishments? You're the Jonathan Gold of coffee.

(Laughs.) I am! Absolutely. They quake in their boots. No, it doesn't happen all the time, but occasionally, I'll walk into a place and notice someone looking. It often leads to a very generous free coffee or a gesture like that, which is very, very kind. Within the coffee culture and coffee world, there's definitely a recognition that me, Dale Cooper, David Lynch and Twin Peaks are strong coffee believers and drinkers. So, that follows us wherever we go.

Capone's director, Josh Trank, has experienced the ultimate highs and lows of this business via his first two films, and it's safe to say that almost everyone in Hollywood has experienced some sort of disaster like Josh did on his second movie, Fantastic Four. At the end of the day, when a director puts a compelling piece of material on your desk, does a recent misstep of theirs influence your decision all that much?

No. In fact, I didn't hesitate with this. I happened to be a big fan of his first film, Chronicle, and I was so taken by his point of view on that. I went into the film not knowing anything about it, and I was like, "Wow, this is taking twists and turns that I did not expect." It could've been something really mundane, and I thought, "This is an interesting filmmaker." That was the first thinking. Once I read Capone, I thought that he was going to do something really interesting with this material. He reached out very kindly and asked if I would be part of his film. Then, I read the script. I liked the story, and I liked the point of view, which I don't think we've ever seen before. Tom Hardy also carries a lot of weight as an actor; he's a pretty exceptional performer. So, those kinds of things all add up to what is going to be a very interesting experience, at the very least, and hopefully something really, really cool will come out of it. Those are the kind of things I like to be involved with.

Your Twin Peaks: The Return DP, Peter Deming, was already on board when you committed, right?

He was. I actually called Peter and said, "How's it going?" And he had nothing but great things to say. I really enjoy working with Peter. I watched him work with David Lynch during the filming of Twin Peaks, and I really fell in love with him. He's just a gem of a guy and an amazing DP, obviously. It's always nice to come into a film when you have a friend or two associated with it. I already liked Josh and knew him a bit. I didn't know Tom, but I knew Peter. I thought, "We're going to come down to New Orleans, and we're going to have a good time." I'm not in it that much; I had just a couple of weeks of work. But, I thought it would be something that was fun to do.

Once you recognized that Tom was giving such a big and bold performance as Fonse, did you ever feel an urge to go up to 11 along with him? I think I'd constantly worry that my own performance would seem too understated next to his.

(Laughs.) I was inspired by his work, and I am inspired by his work. I can see the level of commitment that he's bringing, and I can see the absolute conviction behind his eyes to the character, to the moment and to the reality of the situation. That's what I bring with my work as well, but it's very inspiring when you meet someone who does that as well. It's like a confirmation. It's like, "Yes, we are two really good actors playing this fantastic scene at the top of our games," and I'll bring what I bring and Tom brings what he brings. And we just do this dance. That, to me, is the most exciting and creative part of the journey — that one-to-one work and finding all the little nuances inside of that.

But, you don't consciously say to yourself, "Well, if Tom is doing something that big, I should do something just as big," right?

(Laughs.) I don't think it's done consciously. I have to bring my reality, sensibility, who I am as a character and all the work that I've done. It's really about the character and not so much the actor. It's just like, "This is what my character would do here. This is how he would work, and this is how he would interact with this person at this time." So, that's how I think of it.

You play Dr. Karlock who's a deviation from Capone's real-life doctor at this time. Even though they're not meant to be the same, did you look into the real person, Dr. Kenneth Phillips, just for reference's sake, or did you strictly focus on the character in the text?

It was really just a cursory look at the fact that there was a doctor and that he did exist. He seemed somewhat flamboyant and a little bit eccentric. Beyond that, it's what his motivations were, why was he there … those kinds of things. I created those things. Why would anyone want to be in that situation? Why would they be drawn to a nefarious figure like that? Is there an expectation of something to come like some sort of gift? Is there a sense of being protected for something else that happened? The dynamics are endless. My focus is always on how it impacts the script, the storytelling and how I fit into the story. How can I make it as complex as possible?

The Feds are clearly holding a previous crime over Dr. Karlock's head. And yet, they're strong-arming him to commit another crime by catering his treatment of Fonse toward a confession and not his overall well-being.

I think that’s part of the dilemma of the doctor. I played it as a doctor who's taken an oath and wants what's best for his patient. But, at the same time, you're absolutely right; he is under pressure from the Feds because of previous activities he was caught doing. We made up a story about what that might be, and there's a slight reference to it in the movie. He's also under tremendous strain, and yet, he needs to appear unflappable when he's with the Capone family. So, he's like a spy in the house.

Capone takes place in the late '40s, and your character is adorned in some pretty incredible costumes. I particularly loved his watch. Do you have a favorite period to perform in as far as costuming and production design are concerned?

I've got to say The Flintstones was a pretty good era. (Laughs.) It was certainly the most comfortable costume I think I've ever worn. It was a suede one-piece wraparound — kind of a Diane Von Furstenberg style — with a button. The '40s was a pretty great era; you get the hat, which is always fun since we don't wear anything like that now. The one era that I did not like … I did a film in Prague years and years ago, and I wore a stiff collar. The movie was called The Trial, and they had a separate collar from the shirt body. I remember putting those on, and they would just slice into your neck. That was not my favorite era. (Laughs.)

Twin Peaks: The Return was brilliant. I know David tends to avoid explaining his intent, but when you received each script, would you/could you ask him about his intent in each scene? Or, do you prefer to form your own interpretation just like the audience?

Early on, when I began working with David, our first film was Dune, and I would pepper him with questions. I was really familiar with the book, and I just had all sorts of questions, thoughts and ideas. He was very gracious, and he would listen to me for like 10 or 15 minutes. Then, he'd say, "OK, that's enough. No more questions." (Laughs.) Over time, I began to realize that he doesn't really like to answer questions about the work that he's doing, whether he's created it or adapted it. So, by the time I got to Twin Peaks, I'd stopped asking questions, and I said, "I'm just going to go the way I want to go." So far, it's worked out pretty well. (Laughs.) He gave me a couple of the episodes to read, but they weren't episodes in a traditional sense. I was pretty clear about what he was asking me to do and where the character was going. I didn't have to have anything more specific from him than just, "He's on a journey," and I said, "OK, I think I know where the journey is, where he's going to and where he's taken from." The parts that I didn't know, I knew would be fascinating because it'll be my own interpretation; it won't even be David's. David's done what he's done, and I'll look at it and have my feelings about it. This is what he says, too. So, you'll watch it and say, "Oh, I think it was that." And David is like, "Great!" I don't think he says, "Oh, you didn't get it," or, "That’s wrong." It's about your experience.

When you first learned that you'd be playing four different characters in the third season, did you have to sit down for a minute or go for a walk?

(Laughs.) I had to lie down for a minute, actually. I ran the gamut from absolute fear, recognizing that each of these characters had to be specific, individual, complete and necessary for the story to work. If one of the characters didn't work, then the story wouldn't work. But, then I would relax and say, "Yes, but it's David. David is not going to let you fail. He's going to let you do what you need to do." So, I just approached it in my own kind of way with David's help, obviously, and we, together, really created the look, feel and vibe of these characters. And then, we were off and running.

I hate to be a cliché, but have you seen the recent photos from the new Dune movie yet?

Yes, I saw a shot of Timothée (Chalamet) walking along a beach, which I assume is Caladan. That's what I've seen, yeah. I'm really looking forward to seeing the film. He's a very good actor, and I'm looking forward to seeing what he does.

Of all the work that you’ve done, which production would make for the most interesting documentary?

Ohh, man. Six things just leapt into my brain. I thought of Dune, obviously, because that was such a huge production. It was my first film, and we shot it in a number of different places. But then, I thought about the world of Blue Velvet. And then I thought of The Doors, funnily enough, and working with Val (Kilmer) and Oliver (Stone) and where that film journeyed and where it went. In some ways, I sort of felt like we were shooting a documentary while we were shooting the film. Man, I don't know … I’ve been in some pretty interesting films as I think back. (Laughs.) I'm a very, very lucky guy.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity. Capone is now available on Digital HD and VOD.

  • Brian Davids
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