I recently got the chance to talk to David Wilson Barnes about his role in the newest instalment of the Bourne franchise, ‘The Bourne Legacy’. Here, David talks about what it was like working with director Tony Gilroy and which three guests he would invite to dinner…
Hey David. Thanks for taking the time out to talk to me about your new film, ‘The Bourne Legacy’.
What’s the general plotline surrounding the film?
It’s complicated. I would imagine you’d be able to find a description online that is going to be more precise than what I could give you. Besides, I didn’t know what the plot was until I saw it last night. They’re very tight-lipped about scripts nowadays because of the internet and concerns around leaking secrets. So, when I auditioned, I didn’t know what the movie was about. Even when filming, Tony had to fill in the gaps in the story so we could perform the scene.
Tell us a bit about the character you play in the movie…
I play a Drone Airplane pilot. There are two pilots per drone, one who hands the flying and one who handles navigation and weapons deployment. I was the latter. I had always had a secret desire to play a military specialist, you know, someone who says cool tech stuff and pokes a lot of esoteric buttons, so it was a blast.
How did you get involved in the project in the first place?
Ellen Chenoweth brought me in to audition for another role in the film in New York, but Tony Gilroy thought I’d be better as the drone pilot, so he put me there.
How would you say this film is different and unique?
Well, it’s solidly a very good spy-action genre film, but I would say it’s unique from the rest of the Bourne films because you get a greater sense of the world surrounding the program that the military set forth in creating these special agents, how it goes wrong, and how panicking and reacting too hard and too fast on an issue can send ripples in ways that only exacerbate the problem. This also allows the story to explore what is the inherent conflict in the military – the problem of working with people and working with the military machine of which these people, who have their own fears and loves and desires, are ultimately cogs in.
The film stars Jeremy Renner, Edward Norton, Rachel Weisz, Donna Murphy, Joan Allen and Albert Finney – with Tony Gilroy onboard as director – what was it like working with the cast and crew on-set? Any good anecdotes?
The funny thing about movie making is that you don’t have much interaction with the people who aren’t in your scenes. Edward Norton and Donna Murphy were in our scenes, but we didn’t have a lot of interaction with them, mostly because we didn’t actually speak TO them, but were spoken AT by them, in the scene. Unless you have something to figure out in scene with the other actors – emotional points, etc. – there’s not a lot of interaction outside of just speaking dialogue. And it’s understandable, those guys meet so many people and have so much to do that they just can’t get to know you very well. The person I feel I did get to interact with quite a bit, however, was the director/writer, Tony Gilroy. He was so great to work with – incredibly smart and in tune with what we needed and understood and gave space to the challenges of the scene we were working on. I thoroughly enjoyed working with him. Sorry I don’t have something sexier for you, but that’s the problem with a functioning set – there’s not much to talk about when everyone’s cooperating and doing to their job well.
Let’s talk a bit about you David. What made you want to get into the industry in the first place?
My sister told me I couldn’t do it in the 6th grade, so I had to prove her wrong.
What advice would you give to anyone wanting to pursue a career in the industry?
Only take the jobs that you love and, if you have to ask whether you should pursue acting or not, you shouldn’t, because you aren’t one. Acting is a compulsion, not a choice.
You’ve been in a number of different films and TV series – which actors/actresses have been your favourites to work with and why? Any good stories?
My favourites to work with, film and TV wise: Al Pacino, Louis C.K., Tina Fey, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Jake Gyllenhaal, among others. Concerning Pacino, C.K. and Fey, I had particularly great parts, not because of what I had to do, but because I didn’t have a whole lot to do. What that afforded me was the opportunity to observe these complete masters at their craft doing what they do best, especially with Al Pacino. I was in ‘You Don’t Know Jack’, playing the prosecuting attorney that ended up putting him (Jack Kavorkian) away, but I didn’t have any lines in the court room scenes with him, so I spent three days watching him act. I was in heaven. I learned more during those few days about acting than any other moment in my life.
What’s currently on your I-Pod right now?
Too many things, but who I’m listening to a lot these days: Alan Watts (philosopher), Bob Dylan, Johnny Cash, Ween, David Bowie, Jay-Z, Buck Owens, The Clash, Django Reinhartd, T.V. On the Radio, The Flaming Lips, Tom Waits, The Velvet Underground… I don’t know a lot of newer music. I basically am lazy and wait for time to sift the pop culture grain from the chaff before I pay any attention to it.
If you could have dinner with three guests – (living or dead), who would you choose and why?
Alan Watts because he’s my role model. J. Krishnamurti because he’s the wisest human being I’ve ever come across. Tom Waits, cause I think he’d dig the other two.
On your off-days, how do you like to kick back and relax?
Depends on where I am. But mostly, if I’ve no schedule – which is the definition of a day off for me – I tend to let my fancy take me where it will, which usually ends up being waking up late, eating a lot, a cup of coffee, reading a lot, drinking a little and hanging with people with whom I have nothing to prove.
What’s coming up for you in 2012?
I’m starting rehearsal on a new Stephen Belber play called ‘Don’t Go Gentle’ at MCC in New York on August 28th. That takes me into November and beyond that, I’ve not a clue. Which is how I like it.
Thanks for the interview!