In Seven Psychopaths, writer-director Martin McDonagh’s follow-up to In Bruges, Sam Rockwell and Christopher Walken play a team of dog-nappers. The two actors sat down with with The Grid before the film’s premiere at TIFF in September—the conversation easily speaks for itself.
On the benefits of an ensemble cast
Rockwell: We actually worked together with [Seven Psychopaths writer/director Martin McDonagh once before], on his play A Behanding in Spokane. Chris and I were together for pretty much six months solid.
Walken: Yeah, I think doing the play made it even easier because we knew each other.
Rockwell: He makes me laugh a lot. And these are all such great people to be around. [The film also stars Woody Harrelson, Tom Waits, and Colin Farrell, among others.] Jesus, Colin—fuck him for being so charismatic. He’s so fucking charming and handsome and awesome.
Walken: Everybody was.
On the appeal of clever scripts
Walken: It was mysterious to me while we were making Seven Psychopaths. It was a lot of fun, but I’ve never made a movie that wasn’t a surprise when I saw it. There’s always stuff I didn’t know about and elements I didn’t know existed.
Rockwell: Martin’s such a clever writer. It was a pleasure. It’s great material. He has such a vivid imagination, as does Tarantino. You think, “What is this now? Now they’re gonna go to this guy’s house to clean up the guy’s blood?” I’m thinking of Pulp Fiction or True Romance. [To Walken] That scene with you and Dennis Hopper is so fucking bananas. All the twists and turns. And Christian Slater is gonna go kill the pimp. It’s just crazy. I think Martin does the same thing. He flips it on his head and you think, “What is gonna happen next?” That’s something I think people should do more but they don’t for some reason. Like that movie From Dusk Till Dawn. [To Walken] You ever see that movie?
Rockwell: You’d love this movie, Chris. You think it’s a Jimmy Cagney gangster movie and all of a sudden, these vampires show up halfway through and it’s a fucking vampire movie. I was like, “Wow, this is amazing.” I thought it was just crazy and interesting.
The Grid: The Birds is another example of a movie that has a sudden switch-up, from melodrama to horror.
Walken: A lot of Hitchcock does that, right? Even Psycho opens as this love story, with this guy cheating with this woman. And then she checks into this hotel.
Rockwell: Psycho is a great example of that. And that’s the first time I remember that happening in a movie, where you just think, “What the fuck is going on? This is a totally different movie now.”
Walken: Somebody asked Alfred Hitchcock what the hardest thing was to film. And you’d think he’d say cats or kids or something like that. He said, “Speed boats.” [Laughter all around.]
Rockwell: There you go. And how do you make birds scary, too?
Walken: I read about that. They had the fake ones that were plastered on people’s shoulders and they had real ones. And apparently that poor woman, Tippi Hedren, he put her in a room with these birds every day for months. She was always getting attacked by birds.
Rockwell: That’s amazing.
The Grid: Just imagine that—every day she has to go in and get covered in honey and seeds.
Walken: And get pecked in the face.
On filming gunfights
Walken: The hard part of making this movie was that I don’t like to work at night. And this was not only at night, it was in the middle of the desert. Cold! Oh man, was it cold.
Rockwell: Yeah, yeah.
Walken: Vultures circling.
Rockwell: Owls. And it was cold in that desert. It was tough. But with guns, sometimes the squibs [the explosives used in fake guns] are louder than you think. It’s funny because you feel very un-masculine very quickly. And the blinking—I’m always blinking when I’m pulling the trigger.
Walken: You don’t blink if you just shut your eyes.
Rockwell: Just shut your eyes and shoot? But then your eyes are shut, right? Then what? You’re like Ray Charles the shooter.
Walken: Yeah, just close your eyes, like Ray Charles.
Seven Psychopaths opens in theatres on Oct. 12.