VOD Spotlight: U2’s Larry Mullen Jr.January 07, 2012
On Demand Weekly's VOD Spotlight highlights stories from the On Demand industry. Chris Claro interviews U2 drummer turned actor, Larry Mullen Jr. about MAN ON A TRAIN (Tribeca Film). Read our review of the film here.
Larry Mullen Jr. Drums Up Interest On Demand
The drummer from an iconic band talks with On Demand Weekly’s Chris Claro about his cinematic acting debut.
At 50, Larry Mullen, Jr. would appear to have precious few mountains left to scale. Founding member of the internationally acclaimed, universally respected, still-together U2, Mullen has provided the band his steady backbeat for over thirty years. He and his mates have sold over 150 million records, won 22 Grammy Awards, and are esteemed not only for their continued relevance, but their ability to bring light to the world’s ills. But even with all that, Larry Mullen, Jr. had the desire to do something new. The cliché goes that all actors want to be rock stars and all rock stars want to be actors, so just as Elvis, Bowie and Mick did before him, Mullen decided to take a shot at another kind of performance.
The film he chose as his debut, MAN ON THE TRAIN. It’s a remake of the French original, co-starring Donald Sutherland as a lonely professor who befriends a mysterious and taciturn stranger. The two men have a profound effect on each other and the film is an engaging, if obtuse, look at their offbeat friendship. Mullen’s involvement in the project came out of a meeting he had with his friend, the director of the film, Mary McGuckian. Though she encouraged him, Mullen was initially reticent, as he felt acting was “kind of a lead singer thing to do.”
“It’s not a dream a drummer is supposed to have,” Mullen explains. But McGuckian asked Mullen to watch the original MAN ON THE TRAIN, which starred Johnny Halliday, who was considered by some to be the French Elvis. “And he does this film and it’s a hit all over the world,” says Mullen. Halliday’s success acting in the film made Mullen less hesitant about taking the plunge into acting. “I was watching how somebody in your business actually can make that transition without too much embarrassment,” Mullen says.
Mullen was impressed that a novice such as Halliday could score onscreen, and jumped at the opportunity to take a stab at the same role, undaunted by his own lack of training. In fact, Mullen felt that his lack of professional acting skills made performing in the film easier for him. “Having no knowledge or training gave me a get-out-of-jail-free card,” he says, “I couldn’t fall back on technique if I had a problem. I just had to get up and do it again, which I did. Since I didn’t know any better, I wasn’t embarrassed in front of Donald Sutherland.”
The irony, says Mullen, is that his lack of experience made him more confident rather than less. “Having not studied any Method or Stanislavski,” says Mullen, “I couldn’t rely on all those things to learn the craft, so I was vulnerable. But it was advantageous because I had to rely on instinct as opposed to craft.”
Indeed, Mullen’s naturalistic portrayal benefits from his simple, unadorned style. But, Mullen acknowledges, he would have been lost without the cooperation of his co-star. “I was standing toe-to-toe with one of the greatest actors and he was very generous in the way he could just step out of my way,” Mullen recalls, “It was a great experience for me and I’m very privileged to do a first project with somebody as great as Sutherland.”
About the film itself, Mullen is sage. “I’ve heard some people describe it as homoerotic, but I never felt that way, necessarily,” he says. “Older men and younger ones can be friendly and in this film, they end up living in each other’s shoes.” Ultimately, says the rock icon and budding actor, “it’s about characters living vicariously through each other. For my character in particular, that’s the hardest thing, giving yourself away. But for the professor, it’s all he wants. Essentially, it’s a buddy movie.”
Chris Claro is a contributing writer to On Demand Weekly. He is a former Director of Promotion for Sundance Channel and now works as a writer, producer, and media educator. He is a regular contributor to dvdverdict.com and contributor to the Eyes and Ears section of huffingtonpost.com
Look for MAN ON THE TRAIN (Tribeca Film) in your local cable movies on demand section.
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