Actors are used to pretending they’re other people. But what if they were able to switch lives, or at least jobs? “[I’d do] some brand of daily journalism, like a column,” says Tom Hanks, 61, who plays legendary newspaper editor Ben Bradlee in The Post. “Goings-on about town, that kind of thing. I’d like that.”
James Franco (The Disaster Artist), 39, also likes writing, which he has done in numerous forms. John Boyega (Detroit), 25, opts for architecture; Willem Dafoe (The Florida Project), 62, for being a cook or a farmer; Gary Oldman (Darkest Hour), 59, for continuing his offscreen passion: “My hobby is 19th century wet-plate photography. I could do that until the end of time.” But Sam Rockwell (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri), 49, says he has no other options, except “pumping gas. I got no plan B. I don’t have any skills, man.”
Tom, you said you’re drawn to certain themes. One theme hasn’t been explored in film for a while: sexual harassment. Have all the allegations about sexual predators in Hollywood surprised you?
HANKS No, no, no. Because, look, there’s a lot of reasons people do this for a living. Making a movie is a life experience that can create an awful lot of joy. You can meet the person you fall in love with, you can laugh your heads off. That’s the good stuff. The bad stuff can happen on a movie as well. There are some people who go into this business because they get off on having power. And the times they feel the most powerful, which is why they went into the business, are when they are hitting on somebody who’s underneath them, [and] I don’t necessarily mean completely sexually. There are predators absolutely everywhere.
Have you ever seen anything like that happen and taken action?
HANKS How do I put this? We produced a project in which someone said, “There is an element of harassment that’s going on here.” And as soon as we heard, you’ve got to jump right in. You talk to every one of the guilds and find out what happened and you go there immediately. The difference is, there’s stuff that happens on a set that can be really inappropriate, and there can be that type of predatory aspect on a set because you think, “Well, we’re in the circus and we’re on the road, so therefore the rules don’t really apply.” The other aspect is, “Come try to get this job from me. You want me to give you a job? Come prove to me that you want this job.” That’s a sin and that’s against the law and that is a degree of harassment and predatory behavior that goes against an assumed code of ethics. I think eventually everybody who has a production office is going to have a code of ethics and behavior. If you don’t follow these, you will not work here. And that’s not necessarily going to be a bad thing. Somebody said, “Is it too late to change things?” No, it’s never too late. It’s never too late to learn new behaviors. And that’s a responsibility of anybody who wants to obey a code of professional ethics.
If you could put one movie, one performance representative of the best of acting in a time capsule, what would it be?
ROCKWELL [The 1978 movie] The Deer Hunter. It had a huge impact on me when I was a kid. I saw it with my father, and my father looked like De Niro in that; he had a beard and a mole.
HANKS Robert Duvall [as] Tom Hagen in [1972’s] The Godfather.
FRANCO De Niro in [1973’s] Mean Streets, [1976’s] Taxi Driver and [1980’s] Raging Bull.
DAFOE [The 1931 movie] Frankenstein. Boris Karloff.
OLDMAN George C. Scott in anything.
BOYEGA I went to the University of Greenwich in London, and one day, in lectures, we heard a massive explosion downstairs, and all the students left the lectures and went downstairs. And as soon as I got there, there was a set, and there was Johnny Depp as Jack Sparrow on top of two carriages, filming a cool stunt scene. And I stayed there for half of the day, just watching him. I just watched him because I had never been that close to a set. And I always think back to how I felt, because all there was was raw passion to [act].
This story first appeared in the Nov. 29 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.