We interview Irresistible star Chris Cooper about working with Jon Stewart, his approach to playing his character, and much more.
As other national election fast approaches, it’s the perfect time to watch Jon Stewart’s Irresistible break down the politics and absurdity of even local elections. In the satire, Marine hero Jack Hastings (Chris Cooper) runs for Deerlaken mayor against the current incumbent, Billy Braun (Brent Sexton). And, of course, everyone loses regardless of the outcome.
Chris Cooper chatted with Screen Rant about the honor of working with the likes of Jon Stewart and Steve Carrell, as well as why he feels closer to Jack than many of his other characters.
Your character Jack gets pretty swept up in the political machine. Can you talk to me about what attracted you to the premise of the film?
Chris Cooper: A good script. I was not going to pass up the opportunity of working with Steve Carell and Jon Stewart. I’m a huge fan of theirs, so as soon as that came out – plus the idea of political comedy that Jon wrote – I wasn’t gonna pass it up. It was really that simple. And the timing was right; I was looking for little work in the summer, and it worked out really well.
I love Jon Stewart’s insight into the political world. Can you talk about collaborating with him as a director?
Chris Cooper: Yeah, sure. I have to mention the Director of Photography, Bobby Bukowski. I think Jon worked with him on his previous film, but I had worked with Bukowski as late as early as 1989. I think that took 50% of the worry off Jon’s shoulders. Bobby knows his camera and was very informative; very helpful to Jon.
Like I said, being a fan of his and what he created in the script, worked well. I’m in his club politically, and I liked the story. I liked the reveal at the end; it’s very smart. People may have a little criticism of it, but probably you can realize it’s a two year old script, and everything that’s happening now we couldn’t anticipate. But I think he had some important points that were entertaining and informative.
What about the working partnership between the characters of Jack and Gary?
Chris Cooper: They have such a great relationship, and Jon really fired up the careers of Steve Carell and Steven Colbert and these folks. I find myself imagining their relationship, when they had Jon Stewart’s Daily Show. Jon and I talked about casting and the script and all, and I think he trusted me to come with my character and gave me lots of free rein.
What was interesting to me was being a fly on the wall. As cameras and lighting were being set up for the scenes we were going to shoot that day, I found it pretty interesting that Jon and Steve – coming from comic backgrounds – continued to work on the script and point out pieces and ideas and cut lines here and there until the cameras rolled. Steve had quite a line load, and I think from time to time, they were kind of frantic about, “Let’s cut this, and let’s get to the kernel of the joke or the idea.”
It’s just very different coming from my background, in which far more often than not, the script is set in stone by the time we’re at the set location. But I’ll add that working with Carrell – you can see the gag reel if you ever want to – he just killed me. He could come up with [anything].
What I want to get to is: we would shoot the scene, however it turned out, until everybody was happy and Jon got the crux of what he wanted in the scene. Then he would turn Steve Carell loose to do whatever improvisation, or whatever crossed his mind, and it’s pretty damn interesting to watch these guys. To watch Carrell with his talent, which – I don’t have that gear, and it’s just wonderful to watch him go nuts.
Your character is targeted by Gary for his ability to cross over. He’s a small town farmer, yet he has progressive views on immigration. How do identity politics play into the plot?
Chris Cooper: The setup is that this was a retired Marine, and there is a base in the town which leaves us with a population of about 15 to 18,000. This base has been shut down, and you have many different cultures and identities that work at this base. You go from a population of 18,000 down to 3,000 – and that’s what we’re dealing with.
Mackenzie Davis plays your daughter in this. Can you talk to me about the relationship between Diana and Jack?
Chris Cooper: I don’t think it’s covered in-depth in the film, but we just created the idea that my daughter is really well-educated. I’ve lost my wife, and Diane has come back home to kind of look after her dad. I don’t want to give it away, but she has an idea about the coming election. I guess that’s as much as I can say.
Another great character is Faith, played by Rose Byrne. Can you talk to me about her character? Because it’s surprising how many real people in politics are like her.
Chris Cooper: Indeed. We were about three weeks into the shoot, and then Rose came. What a great gal, and a really good talent. The pairing of she and Steve Carell was wonderful to watch.
You shot in Georgia over the summer for this, right?
Chris Cooper: Yeah, we were based in Atlanta for pre-production, getting costumes and hair and makeup and all that business. Once we went out to location, that was about an hour and a half outside of Atlanta – very near Rome, Georgia. There’s a river running through Rome, and it’s about a 20-minute ride to the location, which is about three times smaller than Rome. It just worked beautifully for the locations; the empty warehouse and storefronts that they had worked very well for the film.
When dealing with a character like Jack, what is it that you want to bring to him that isn’t necessarily on the page?
Chris Cooper: That’s kind of a tough question. This is one of those jobs that I feel fit like a glove. When you Irresistible, the character of Jack Hastings may be the most similar to my imagining of myself.
I did my military, my father and I raised registered Hereford cattle in the 60s and 70s in Kansas, and I almost took that on as a career. If I didn’t see the acting thing through, I’m sure I would have carried on with cattle ranching. So, it just felt really comfortable to play Jack.
That was a great way of life for a young man. I knew then, at the time, it was terrifically physical and called for all kinds of duties with cattle and all that business. You get very familiar with each and every individual cow. They have their own personalities and you spend enough time with them. It’s a great way of life.
Earlier this year, you starred in the second season of Homecoming with Janelle Monae, which was an 180 degree turn from this. How do you end up choosing the projects that you want to work on?
Chris Cooper: I spent 15 years of my life doing theater work, and continued after I started my film career. Having read so damn many plays over the years and doing productions, I think I had a pretty good background. When a good script came along, I knew it.
That’s that’s how it goes. I mean, I certainly will do my homework. Who wrote this? Who’s directing it, who’s behind the camera? What other actors are on board? And that’s a good start for me.
And then now, it’s more like am I gonna have fun doing this? I will happily take on a far more difficult role for the remainder of my career or however you want to call it, but I’m having fun now with the films that I do. I don’t make it so painful for myself anymore. I daresay I hope I’ve grown. By now, I’ve just developed a good sense of what is a good script for me and then, do I want to be involved with it.
More: Why Irresistible’s Reviews Are So Negative
Irresistible is now available on Blu-ray and Digital.
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