The list you gave us that you read when you were a kid didn't
have Daredevil in it. Did you read that when you were
MCD: Oh, yeah. I always liked
the Kingpin, because he was a big guy who got picked on like
I did when he was smaller. It was kind of ironic that this
guy came to be this really big mogul in real estate, and I
love real estate. When they told me to play Kingpin, I was
like, "I need to play that guy." You get so empowered by the
role, you start acting like Kingpin, you start talking to
your assistants like they are worth nothing to you. After
Daredevil, I had to calm down and take a month off
and detach from Kingpin, because I was getting really aggressive.
UGO: I heard that Frank Miller
came to the set. I was wondering if you had a chance to talk
MCD: No, I didn't get a chance.
That was one of the days that I was off. I was at home lounging
with my dogs, so I didn't get a chance to meet him.
UGO: Did they have you reread
his run, or did you do it on your own?
MCD: I did it on my own.
All from up top.
UGO: What was the most important
element of Kingpin that you took from the comic?
MCD: They took out a scene,
they didn't want it to be too bloody, so there was one particular
scene that Mark told me they took out where someone is leaking
information on the Kingpin and I think it's my bodyguards,
so I'm telling my assistant, you know someone is always leaking
information. And in one instance, I cracked one bodyguard
with my cane and he dies automatically and I grab the other
one and snap his neck. This all just happened in, like, 5
seconds, and they felt that this was too overt. They didn't
want the Kingpin to seem like this big murderer even though
UGO: Yeah, even though he
MCD: They didn't want him
to show any physicality or fighting skills until he fights
Daredevil at the end of the movie. So they wanted to build
up the scene - Well, what is he going to do when he fights
Daredevil? So they took that scene out, they didn't want to
make it too overbearing, I guess for the kids.
UGO: How did you gain weight
for the role?
MCD: To me it wasn't that
hard, because any time they pay you what they paid me to eat
and gain weight and not really worry about your abs muscles
or nothing, that was like the easiest job in the world. When
I met Mark, I'm at 290 pounds and Mark said, "Well, you have
to gain some weight." My manager hates when I gain weight.
But when he told me that, I was like, "What weight are we
talking about?" He said, "Well, like 330 pounds or 340 pounds,
up in there." I just turned to my manager and said, "He wants
me to gain 40 pounds." So I worked out maybe a half hour a
day. I didn't do any cardio, so I had to keep the weight up.
I lifted a lot, I power lifted a lot, which you only do about
one or two reps when you power lift. And eat whatever you
want to eat. I thought that was fantastic.
UGO: What about fight training?
MCD: Ben worked with him
more than I did. I caught on to the fight scenes very quickly.
UGO: Did you bearhug him
MCD: You know what; they
didn't want me hurting the sexiest man in the world. So I
had to take it easy on him.
Me and his stunt double were more active. The fight choreographers
felt that we should go off to ourselves and kind of rehearse,
and that would make it go much simpler. I tried to do that
with Mr. Affleck and he is just kind of, sexiest man and fight
just don't go together. I don't know how he got the sexiest
man; that's another talk show. But when we were training,
I was telling Ben, that is right before we did one of the
fight scenes, I said, "OK, for these marks right here, these
steps one, two, three, four, punch, kick." He said, "OK, we
got it. Now I'm going to do it on you, let's do it on each
other." I said, "Right hand," and he blocked me, he comes
back with a left and comes across with a cane, and it's just
really like a Broadway play, but with him it might have been
doing the hustle or something. Because he had a lead pipe
and I said, "OK, are you going to use the lead pipe? Do you
want to change to the plastic one?" "No, I'm not going to
do nothing." We were over on the side anyway, so we go, dum
dum dum, and he goes, bam. I said, "Man, I just asked you."
I said, "You know what, Ben? You are my boy." I said, "I need
your stunt double right now."
I said we were going to walk through it.
I should have said, "Get the plastic one," but I gave him
the option of turning it down, which he did. And then he came
right across my eyes with this lead pipe and we had to stop
film for a little, while my eye went down. And I just said,
"You know what? No, not you. Stunt double." I just had to
tell that story because he is on the front of every magazine
and I just had to bring him down a notch. He's got a fine
woman and stuff; he's making all the money, so maybe I'm a
little jealous, OK?
UGO: Did you do your own
MCD: I had to. I did every
last one of my own stunts. My stunt double was not as big
as me, so they felt that it would just be too much of a difference.
I didn't mind it; it was pretty cool doing your own stunts,
because you can honestly say, "That was me" every single time.
UGO: With a predominantly
white cast and you're the bad guy, the black guy how did you
make this character sympathetic?
MCD: I didn't. He was not
sympathetic. This was real, and I was real in all of this,
in all the New Yorkers mind, you know what I mean? I don't
care about anybody; you guys do what I say, and that is why
Mark wanted me. He said, "You don't feel sorry for this guy."
The only time you feel sorry for Kingpin in the comic books
is when he was younger and he was little and kids picked on
him and he was chubby and everything. That is the only time,
but once he got to be in power…in fact, he got to be in power
by killing his boss. He used to give his boss temple massages,
this guy really trusted him and he snapped his neck and just
took over. I was like, that is what I'm talking about. You
want something, you just go and get it like that. He just
dumped the guy to the side. Everybody was like, "OK, you are
the shit right now, and you snapped his neck. We're with you
now." So you don't feel sorry for this guy at all.
UGO: There is one other sympathetic
moment with Kingpin, though, in the comics: When he loses
his wife, Vanessa.
MCD: I really wanted Vanessa
in that movie. I had a lot of interesting ideas. I wanted
something so I could say, "Yeah, I got a wife," just so I
could get a kissing scene in there.
UGO: Who would you have wanted
to play Vanessa?
MCD: Oh, it could have been
Halle Berry, Angela Bassett…it could have been a slew of fine
sisters in Hollywood. But no such luck for me.
UGO: You said that you were
picked on as a kid. Have you had the chance to encounter anyone?
MCD: Years ago, a dude named
Roscoe was my number one enemy in grammar school. He would
take, like, fifty cents from me every single day. He had a
lot of brothers that were always in prison. Some other guys
took his younger brother's basketball and told him to get
off the court. I looked down the alley and I saw these four
guys coming, these were his brothers who had just gotten out
of prison. I just threw the ball up and kind of faded off
to the side, because no one else saw these four guys coming
through the alley. So Roscoe is the main character that kind
of molded me into getting tough. And just recently, Roscoe
passed away of a heart attack.
UGO: One of the misrepresentations
of Kingpin is that everybody thinks he is fat.
MCD: He is muscle he is a
solid mass of fat and muscle, but he is very agile. When you
look at him, you think this guy is really slow, but he is
just as quick as Spider-Man and Daredevil put together, and
a lot of people don't realize that. So maybe the second time,
I'll get to do some cartwheels or something, of course with
UGO: The Oscar nomination
is obviously such a big deal. What did you think when that
happened? Do you think things are going to change for African-Americans
now that Denzel and Halle both won?
MCD: I hope it changes I
don't know if it will, but I was certainly happy that night.
I know what that means to sit there and then actually hear
your name called, and it's your name. Just to see her up there
crying, because I watched Monster's Ball, that was
fantastic. I watched Training Day, and the minute I
watched it, I said, "Denzel has to win an Academy Award for
that." Movies like that don't get nominated because those
types of movies just don't get recognized by the Academy.
I said, "The movie may not get recognized, but his performance
has to get recognized." I was not shocked by either one of
them winning. Once again, I don't know if it will change,
but I'm certainly happy that they won.
What is your take on where black film is today and the roles
that you get considering you are a big black guy? Are you
getting different types of roles?
MCD: Green Mile is
probably a movie that I will always be associated with. It's
just like you looking at Al Pacino, and you think Scarface.
I think that role turned my life around in so many areas that
you cannot believe. In fact, there was going to be a point
where some black institutions or groups were going to boycott
The Green Mile because they didn't like the way that
I portrayed the character. It was more of a hurt than anything
else, because as an African-American, Asian, or Latino, whatever,
you have to realize that it is not you, that it is a job that
you do just like you guys have a job, but you do go home to
other lives. I guess I put so much into the character that
people felt that I was trying to say that the black race was
ignorant or something, which I wasn't. I know that black people
aren't ignorant and I know that white people and Asians, whatever
creed you are, are not ignorant. But at that time in that
space, that guy was like that, and that is all I was trying
to portray, nothing more, nothing less. I had a job to do
and I wanted to do it to the best of my ability. Come on,
let's just take it for what it is. It's a movie. The guy did
a good job. It's like Roots or something like that.
You leave out of the movie and you're mad, but those are actors.
You have to calm down and realize that. That did happen, but
I was nowhere around and people have to realize that I did
it because I wanted to be good at it.
UGO: How did you get into
acting? Why aren't you playing football?
MCD: Once again, my mother.
This was a good call she made. I wanted to play defensive
end in college. I just felt that I was a football player.
I had made the basketball team, but they just needed someone
to knock people around. So I called my mother, and the coach
said to me, "If you play two years, you will be in the top
three rounds of NFL draft, guaranteed." I said, "I'm playing.
I just have to get my mother to say yes. I'm in Mississippi
and she is in Chicago; she'll never find out." But I tell
my mother everything and in our conversation, I said, "Mom,
I made the football team." And all of a sudden, I went to
myself, "Ah, did I just tell her?" She said, "What did you
say?" I said that they want me to play football and she says,
"But you're not going to, right?" I said, "No, I wouldn't
do that." She said, "Because I told you not to, right?" And
here I am standing in my boxer shorts, six foot five, three
hundred something pounds, saying, "Yes mom, you told me not
to play." One of the guys from the football team overheard
it. So once he got back to the locker room and told everybody
that his mom was making him quit the team, that spread through
campus like the plague. My last two years everybody teased
me about being a mama's boy. That was the big thing on campus.
But you know what? She was absolutely right.
UGO: What was her reason?
MCD: She didn't want me to
get hurt. That was when a lot of football players were getting
hurt and getting paralyzed, and she didn't want me to end
up like that. So she made the right call on that. Comic books,
UGO: [Laughs] How did you
wind up as an actor?
MCD: I moved here eight years
ago from Chicago and started hustling, as I call it, handing
out my resumes and going on every audition that I could. I
really thought that I was a good actor, but I was probably
one of the worst actors to probably hit LA. When you are acting
you think you can act, but you really don't know how to act.
I went on audition after audition and, about after fifty times
of being turned down, I called my mother and I said, "Nothing
is working out here, it's not what I thought it was going
to be." I said, "Either I'm going to come home or I'm going
to join the police force in LA." I felt that I worked security
enough and I could do that. Some of my friends said, "We'll
put you through; we need more good guys like you." My mother
just started crying. She said, "Please don't do that." I said,
"Mama, I need money, I need a good paying job. I'm not doing
anything illegal so it's either one or the other. Either you
send for me or I'm going to join the LAPD." She said, "You
know what? You don't listen to me. I'm not sending for you
and you're not joining LAPD." Then I started crying, "You
never turned me down like that before," and I'm like all mad
because she never told me no before. She said, "You are going
to stay out there and realize what you went out there to do."
She said, "Just suck it up." That next day, that 1994 earthquake
hit. I said, "The ground moves out here, mama. I'm not used
to the ground moving, I'm used to it being cold and you know
that is coming." She said, "I don't care. Stay out there.
If you come back here, you are going to be very upset at yourself
years from now when you look on that screen and say, 'I could
have done that.'" I never wanted to look up and say god, because
believe it or not had I not done this, The Green Mile
was still going to be made; it just would have been somebody
else there, and I would have been in Chicago, probably with
a house full of kids, thinking that could have been me. I
never wanted to regret that, so I'm glad she told me. So that
is two to one. She is two to one.
UGO: What are people's expectations
of Daredevil? It's not a household name
I think it will be really big. Just because we have Ben Affleck
going, and he is hot right now, he has a beautiful girlfriend.
I'm glad I'm in the movie with them, I'm tagging on, and I'm
on their coattails. He could bring in his family and I could
bring in my family and that will probably be enough to make
the movie a hit. He is really, really good and people admire
him so much that I don't think I could have seen anybody else
playing Daredevil . I really hope that it's a good weekend
force. But I found out when you put expectations on something
and you don't reach it, you get upset. I'm not up for the
number figure with it, because once you do that, you are looking
for that particular number and in your mind, you say, "It
has to do this." If it falls short you think you failed and
UGO: If you could have any
super power, which one would you have?
MCD: The power to read minds.
UGO: Would your mom want
you to have that? [Laughs]
MCD: The power to think more
more stills of Daredevil
you do what your mama tells you? Tell us!
Robert Epstein lives on the Upper West Side of Manhattan
in New York City. He is a contributor to such websites as
Gadflyonline.com, SlushFactory.com, 3ammagazine.com, Hybridmagazine.com,
Ifanboy.com, DavidFincher.net and, of course, UGO.com, where
he covers the world of movies, sports, music and literature.
He is also a former producer for MetroTV, where he worked
on such shows as The Daily Beat, Studio Y and New York Eats,
and has worked on such feature films as Tromeo & Juliet
by the Troma studios and Dinner and Driving. He loves referring
to himself in the third person.