THE THREE AMIGOS – by Chris Nashawaty
Julia Roberts, Brad Pitt & James Gandolfini chat up The Mexican and spill jumping beans on their caliente careers.
In a way, the setting couldn’t be more appropriate. A decade ago in this very same Beverly Hills hotel, Julia Roberts slinked through the lobby in thigh-high leather boots as the star of Pretty Woman. Now, strolling past a dapper maitre d’ who no longer needs to instruct her which fork to use, Roberts enters the Regent Beverly Wilshire’s cleared-out dining room and pulls up next to Brad Pitt and James Gandolfini to talk about their new romantic caper The Mexican – among other things. But first, the actress kicks off the interview with a question of her own. Turning to the man better known as Tony Soprano, Roberts inquires, “First, how do you pronounce your last name?” “Gan-dol-fini, why?” “Because I’ve heard it overpronounced in a way I find funny: Gan-doll-fini. They’re punching the doll.”
Entertainment Weekly: Who was first to sign on to the movie, because this morning when I was preparing…
Julia Roberts: You actually invested a morning?
Brad Pitt: [To Roberts] Officially, you were on board first.
Roberts: That’s what I found out today. But I think it was just a chicken race. Brad was intrigued by it first. Then I heard he was intrigued, so I became intrigued.
Pitt: We called her up to see if she’d be intrigued. And she was intrigued by the call. And from there we all called Gan-doll-fini.
James Gandolfini [Nods toward Roberts] I saw her at an award show doing this thing over here [smiles and primly waves his hand like the Queen of England]. At that point in my life, I hadn’t even thought that she would bother waving at me. So I was sitting there, freaking out completely.
Roberts: He ignored me! I did the fan wave across the room and he ignored me.
Gandolfini: I looked over my shoulder like, “What is she doing?” And my wife was like, “She’s waving at you, you moron!”
Roberts: My face turned red and I turned to Benjamin [Bratt, her boyfriend] and said, “James Gandolfini just ignored me.”
EW: Brad and Julia, considering that you’re almost smooching in the movie poster, I was surprised you weren’t together more in the movie. It’s a little Sleepless in Seattle, no?”
Roberts: Well, it’s not quite that extreme. We’re so together that we don’t even need to be in the same room.
Pitt: In spirit we’re together. That’s marketing, that’s not our department.
EW: And James, your character- the tough guy who’s a softie on the inside- kind of goofs on the whole Tony Soprano image.
Gandolfini: It’s based on complete laziness, though.
EW: How so?
Gandolfini: [laughs] Because I didn’t have a lot of time, you know? Because I’m trying to figure out how to do this thing and I went through all this
s—, but I didn’t want to change any rhythms and then have to go back to Tony Soprano. So the character was just based on laziness really.
EW: Out of the three of you, who’s most likely to…
EW: Well, I was gonna ask,, “Who’s most likely to screw up on the first take?”
Roberts: [laughs] Brad!
EW: Who’s most likely to ad-lib?
Roberts: You? Maybe me. I’m gonna go me for 500, Alex.
EW: What was the strongest lure to do the movie? The script?
Pitt: For me, it starts there, and then it’s the company you keep.
EW: James and Brad, you’ve acted together before, in True Romance. Brad was smoking weed out of a honey- bear bong, and James was the hitman who came looking for Christian Slater and Patricia Arquette.
Pitt: Yeah, we have one brief moment through a screen door. [Does his stoned line from the movie] “Don’t you con-dascend to me, man.” [To Gandolfini] You have one of my all-time favorite scenes. Nah, I won’t embarrass you. No, actually I will. When you’re talking about your first kill with Patricia Arquette, oh man, that’s a great scene.
EW: Well, I was going to ask you all about each other’s movies anyway. What are your favorites?
Gandolfini: [To Pitt] Kalifornia.
Pitt: Ahh, now we get into that…
Gandolfini: What do you mean? Kalifornia is a great movie. I don’t know who you [have to] know to do that performance- and I don’t want to know.
Roberts: How did you go that long without washing your hair? I don’t even like those kind of movies and you were great in that.
EW: What kind of movies?
Roberts: Travel the world and kill everyone that breathes.
Gandolfini: As far as movies about getting into the mind of a psycho go, that was the best one I’ve seen.
EW: I also want to ask you what movie you wish you could wipe off your Resume. And if you won’t answer, I’ll ask the others to weigh in for you.
Pitt: Oh my God.
Roberts: If we don’t answer that question, then you’re going to ask them? Wow!
EW: Come on, it’s not that hard. For example, Tom Hanks says his is The Man With One Red Shoe.
Pitt: Well, he’s got a lot of distance on that one, so that’s pretty safe.
Roberts: Wouldn’t it be funny if he said Forrest Gump?
EW: Okay, first your favorites.
Pitt: Yeah, hands down.
Roberts: Legends Of The Fall
Roberts: When you’re crying at your brother’s grave in the tall grass…
Pitts: [Begins to blush] Ahhh yes, very emotional.
Gandolfini: When you’re in that hot tub thing…
Roberts: [Cracks up] Hot tub? I don’t remember hot tub in Legends of the Fall.
Gandolfini: You know what I mean, that hot spring.
EW: So what’s the movie you don’t want to own up to?
Pitt: I did a teen horror movie. I’ll give you that one. It’s called Cutting Class. Actually, I’ve never seen it.
Roberts: [Laughs] Well, with all the solid choices I’ve made, golly. You know what, the last tine I was really honest about a movie and wasn’t complimentary, people’s feelings were so hurt. Because the point is, nobody walks onto a set and says, “Yeah, let’s really make some crap.”
Gandolfini: This question might not be worth the grief it causes.
Roberts: I’ll say this because I’ve talked to the director about it. I made this movie Dying Young and what we shot was far more complicated- it turned into more of a love triangle between Campbell Scott and Vincent D’Onofrio and myself- and in the final cut, it was a little cleared and my character didn’t make as many desperate choices.
Gandolfini: Since they both did it, let’s just say that Eight Millimeter didn’t turn out exactly as I hoped.
Roberts: [Whispers] We both said the same director.
EW: Brad, have you done a Joel Schumacher movie?
Pitt: No, not yet, but I’m willing to try.
EW: James, the new season of The Sopranos is about to start. How difficult is it to juggle movies and TV?
Gandolfini: The TV schedule is so long and so intense. You’re doing like 9 or 19 pages a day, so… every day, you go home and memorize the shit and do it again. Every once in a while you’ve got to come up and breathe, otherwise you become this guy. [Roberts and Pitt laugh nervously.]
Pitt: I’d hate being married to you.
EW: What do you think of the looking actors’ strike?
Pitt: Well, I don’t understand all the dynamics. But there are a lot of political points to it and egos get in the way. But when you get past the egos, what’s fair is fair.
Roberts: The problem is that the public’s perception of actors is the three of us- people who are working and get paid ridiculous amounts of money. That’s what you see on TV when they say that actors are striking. And people in Ohio say, “What the fuck are they striking for? How much money do they want?” But they don’t realize it’s a huge union and an enormous amount of people who rely on much smaller paychecks aren’t getting paid what they deserve and they need the benefits. That’s really what the strike is about. That’s what people need to be constantly reminded of. We will strike together as a union to support one another.
EW: You sound like Erin Brockovich. [Roberts looks down her tank top at her non-Brockovichian décolletage and laughs.]
Pitt: The studio system’s going to blow wide open at some point because they’ve had one of the greatest scams going on forever.
Roberts: [Laughs] We are never going to work again.
Pitt: I’m not going to break it wide open here, but the money they paid us is almost shut-up money… They really make their money on this catalog of movies. I mean, if they have so many bombs, why aren’t the studios going out of business? I don’t want any confusion here, because we get paid beautifully…
EW: Let’s talk about the idea of small movies versus big movies. How much thought do you give to mixing big mainstream stuff with smaller, more personal films?
Pitt: Mixing it up, I think, is more for your own experience. If you do a couple of movies in a row that take six or seven months to shoot, you want to cover some other areas.
Roberts: But a good script is a good script. What are termed “the big
ones” – they actually don’t show up on bigger paper.
EW: Julia, do you feel any added pressure on The Mexican because of your Oscar nomination or because it’s your follow-up to Erin Brockovich?
Roberts: Not at all. My impulse is to say, “Why should I?” But I
don’t even want to know. What I love about the nomination is I will forever be on that list with all those gals. Till the end of time. I. Will. Always. Be. On. That. List.
EW: Do you read reviews of your movies?
Pitt: [Laughs] Only when they’re good.
Roberts: I don’t pursue reviews. If I’m looking at the paper and
I see a review of The Mexican, you kind of have to go there. But I don’t have them gathered together, bound, and shipped over to my apartment.
Gandolfini: I’ll go through them. I mean if 25 people say the same thing, then you’ve got to think about it.
EW: Has there ever been a character you just can’t shake after the movie ends? I mean, James, how hard is it for you to get rid of Tony Soprano at the end of the day?
Gandolfini: As soon as I go home, I forget about it. I don’t want to take anything that had to do with him home ever.
Roberts: There are elements. I remember there were 10 days of hysteria during the end of [the Mexican shoot] and every day I was facing some form of fear and terror. And day after day I had to walk onto the set and start crying for 14 hours. After that, I sort of become the remains of Julia.
EW: Is it tough on the people you go home to?
Roberts: It requires a special individual to understand the odd ways of actor life.
Pitt: [Applauds] Good answer, good answer.