Tracy Letts, 'Ford v Ferrari'
Breath I everybody. I'm Peter Travers. This is popcorn where we tell you what's happening at the movies and there's a tremendously exciting. especially if you're a motor head and you WanNa see what goes on at a race. Ah called Ford. V Ferrari which pretty much sets up. What it is my guest today Tracy? That's I have no idea you act you right Pulitzer Prize winning plays you. Our television show's every time I turn around how you have time to do all these. Are you torn between all this. Did they have to grab you by the throat. And say you're going to play Henry Ford the second that that's James Mangled styles throw okay He yelled at me until I took the job. And I'm really glad I did. He's it's a great screen. Plays a great filmmaker had a great time. And I was going to say. But you don't get got to be racecar driver but you do get in the car. When one of the funniest scenes in the whole movie is when Matt Damon Carroll Shelby Characters as deuce use which is what the second was called right juiced? I love that even though he's the grandson the actual son and you get you go for the ride of your life and great time. It was Really because how did they. How did they shoot that? Give away some okay. I'm in a car young about one hundred miles thousand our readers. The truth of the matter I mean James Mangold was very good about putting actors in real circumstances as close as he could to get us to the point where we didn't have to manufacture a lot. We weren't acting against green screens or with tennis balls. Or you know we were. We were in real cars not risk the actors lives I. They say that should be done. Matt wasn't actually driving. That's the that's the key. They they had something called a biscuit which is kind of camera car that wheels us around around the tarmac. But yeah we get up speeds about one hundred miles per hour. It wasn't the speed. That was the scary part. It was the CLAUSTROPHOBIA. Those cars are not made for. We're big guys and I'm a big guy and To Wedge me in that car I couldn't extend my legs can open the door because the cameras there the roof the cars about six inches over your head. You're buckled in a minute period. Suit right shoulder. My Hair shellacked covered and make up. You can't like sit there for hours. This is a little scary. Yeah your discomfort shows but I would just acting. How many times did you have to do this quite a few though? I think yeah I didn't I wasn't aware of this when I saw the film but Jim tells me what you see is mainly the first take. That's often the case address. Come on the show and they said well David fincher made. Let me do this nine hundred times and I said take did they use say I won. Spontaneous right yeah. I've worked with William freed can a couple of times times and He's a wild man he is he only does one take a light has to fall into the shot him to do take to fall. uh-huh you're in. It keeps actors on their toes learn. Yeah but plying this guy playing this Titan of industry how how do you prep for that or is it just the inner titan in you tracy that makes this happen. I'm not a big research guy. I didn't feel there was a lot of research necessary. You to play Henry Ford So much description very well written so so much of it is on the page already You know you get a good haircut you get you. You got a suit that fits you look good in the suit until you're in the car right then. Everything is riding up all that kind of gets you ready to do the thing. But it's really it's really on the page you know. The truth is I get asked to do a lot of titans of industry and presidents and all those the man behind the desk I get asked to play a lot of those parts parts so you look for the thing that makes it a little bit special a little bit different and for me the idea that the whole basis of the story both our movie VI and the real life story was the reason they went to this race was because of Henry. Ford's insecurity got his feelings hurt by Enzo Ferrari and decided to go to Lemond and beat Enzo at his own game. And that's the reason this story even exist because Ferrari was winning all this and he had the fancy car yeah and had Ford was doing things on an assembly line right but to me. Maybe it's because I see too many movies and it's part of what it is. It's also about any industry right and and basically Henry Ford. The second is trying to buy the youth audience if tired of nobody young buyings cars right. It's Rory Are excited one of the great things about the story is that it's complicated. It's not black and white. I mean the movie has Ken Miles and Carroll Shelby as the underdogs but they also worked for the Ford Motor Company. Ford Motor Company's never been an underdog so there there's an interesting dichotomy there here between these guys who are mavericks testing the limits of these automobiles and putting their lives at risk working for this giant corporate structure with a lot of financial interests. You know it's a it's one of the interesting grey areas. This movie exists. You Watch basically league these guys that are racing these cars to make something work for somebody they can get killed in the doing of it. It's the thing I love about Ford versus Ferrari. It is a human story story. It's not about the cars. I'm not a car guy. I don't know anything about cars. We didn't even learn this. We were in Toronto. Nobody's cargo nobody working his Co. including circle who goes so deep into a lot of car guy not a car guy and Mangled not a car guy which I think is a good thing I think if the movie had been made by a car car guy he might have fetish is the cars or were focused more on the cars than on the human story and I think the human story behind Ford versus Ferrari of these these these guys thrown into this competition together Some of them unlikely partners Henry Ford with these guys And yet there's something about people coming together to make something that is. It's moving We we can identify with that with that idea of cooperation. Collaboration competition I mean cars lined up trying to beat each other other to the finish line. It it doesn't get more apparent competition doesn't just such a concrete way in which is to compete a race But I you know these guys. It's a story about their their friendship and their cooperation with each other. In order to make this happened it takes a lot of moving parts to make this thing happen to pull this off with a does and again. It's like the movie industry right or even the theater that's right takes. It's never one person. Yeah and I don't think I don't think he would admit it Mr Mangold but I think that analogy of making a film artists Working for corporate interests especially to to do something great Oh you do something of some size and scope I think that's something that Mr mangled absolutely identified with. I like how you're going him. Mr Mangold talk shows true respect for the guy. He's a great he's he is. I think he's moving to rush to think if I were working for him I I think sometimes helps doesn't it he. There's something about Mr Mangold. That is okay. We're sticking with something about about him. That's very inspiring I would I would go into battle for that man I really would he and hence buyers that that kind of camaraderie. I mean he yells he curses. He throws a fit. But it's something but it's not done of insecurity you can tell the difference. It's done because because he's passionate because he cares about the thing because he's excited he's trying to get it done. It's his way of communicating. And I I just I love him. We had a great time. I could see that yeah. Does he say things like more intimidating. Tracy how do you do that because it would be boring. I think to play somebody who is intimidating with bluster. But you don't do that not ever so. He has great authority. But it's never taken to that point where you're thinking. Oh this is just crazy. These guys crazy. Yeah he's sinister right times but wow well. That's part of the fun I mean if you're the guy in power you don't really have to do a lot right guys guys in power don't have to do a lot. They don't have to yell they don't have to you got someone else. Do sure sure they push a button behind the behind the scenes. You never know. That's the great thing about playing guys like that. I really enjoy that part. You know. It's like oh I'm perfectly comfortable in the seat of power at home. Is that the same name. Does your wife say okay. It doesn't work that way really all. I'm I'm the quiet. It guys sitting reading the newspaper and letting everybody else run the show. I'm so it's Cathartic and I suppose maybe it is. I don't know because you're married married to carry Kunas one of the best actresses around and you've even dared to work together which is tricky in marriage and life is so much better when she's calling all the shots really. Oh my God yes. It's fantastic. Oh Yeah I heard something. The first time we ever went at the grocery store together. I mean that's always a big thing so we go to the grocery store and I start unloading the groceries. And I'm doing it wrong. She tells me I'm doing it wrong. I went great great. How do you do grocery shopping? Yeah exactly right. It's like great. I'm done you do it from now on no never have to worry bud. uh-huh I never do that. Sounds like the guys way really does do it. She taught you that I love it. I love it but did you. Women should run everything. They should do everything they should run it. All but you two met when you were doing Virginia Wall. So that's that's an interesting thing to do to there. You are the star. Who Wins the Tony Award? That should have given you a degree of authority and power. But it didn't no no. I'm I'm glad these are great. I heard something and then I'll get off of this about your actual wedding ceremony. Yeah what can you talk of that a little bit. We were married in a hostile. We were GONNA go to the courthouse and we had one day left on our on our Illinois marriage licensed she'd just come back from L. A.. And the night before we were gonNA go get married. I said I'm not feeling well and Mound up in the emergency room long story short. I had my gallbladder bladder removed so carry went and found the chaplain in the hospital who had never performed a a wedding service before or normally she's there for sadder more sombre events and she came to our hospital room and she performed the ceremony? We were WED in the hospital. I was does take charge. Large absolute. She found this person to do she was she was wearing my T. shirt and I was in a hospital gown in the bed On a lot of drugs I was very right drugged up from from the surgery. I don't remember very little about our wedding ceremony. The rights to that movie. I just think it would be great league right to get married a hospital. I would recommend it. I think many people won't leap to that he could do. They actually have to have gall bladder surgery. The Nice thing about it or you city were yellow. And I'll looking completely out. Yes I was the nice thing about it is that the rest of the world is shut out. And it's really just you in that situation I'll tell. Hey there's nobody we know who's had a big wedding has told us we did it wrong much cheaper head to big. Yeah Wow wow well in that when I was seeing I should say this four that at the same time for Ferrari's stories out you have another show in New York Windows Vista played. The you wrote couple of years previously to that it played in this. But it's a play about white white dude's yeah now somewhat around about a white dude. Yeah well there's a couple of others but you know this Guy Wheeler is the special one. Yeah and when you leave your feeling about White Dude's as this guy is divorced or in the midst of it. And he's he has a lot of opinions. Yeah Rio head favorite yeah. None of those movies are good anymore. Rhino and yet charming. He can talk people into bed he can do anything. Yeah but he's got. How much of this guys you not much really even though you created him? Yeah not much I mean you know. He borrows rose from like I say he borrows for me. Borrows from friends of mine. Divorced two kids Career Frustrations Nations Money Troubles You know he has some things in common with some people I know but I you know it's not a it's not a takedown down and it's not a meathead defense. It's always in that middle. That's my hope that he's a real guy he's into real guy but some people in the theater afterwards were cursing him out sure tremendous lo he inspires some sympathy but he also inspires a lot of antipathy. A lot of people don't like him or come not to like him. It's kind of a challenging thing. He starts off as our curmudgeonly protagonist but over the course of the thing he really kind of becomes the antagonised in his own story. Don Yourself rooting against him. And then maybe he tries to win back your sympathies. A little bit as as an audience member it walks a fine line. It inspires arguments. Which I'm very happy with? That's it nobody leaves thinking. I understand this completely. Yeah there there comes a point in the play where people are very invested in the outcome and yet yet they want to see perhaps different outcomes and as a playwright. That's something I absolutely strive for where people are very invested in the story that they're leaning forward. They want to see what happens happens next. But their their viewpoint about it changes depending on who they are it becomes a kind of Rohrschack test for the audience like that. How did this begin for you this year? In Oklahoma right you're born there. Yeah what kind of but you. Now when those of us who live in New York think of Oklahoma we go Oklahoma right we. This is what we think and of course not how anybody grows up right in quite that way but when did you decide. You know what I'm GonNa do. I was GONNA take my thoughts and is GonNa put them down on paper. Might my folks were both English teachers. They were both creative people. really smart people They taught at a small university in a small town in southeastern Oklahoma. where I grew up and I think they really hoped that I would get the hell out I. They really did hope for that. And they. So they encouraged creative endeavor they encouraged writing. And then when I got bit by the theater bug the encouraged acting. I have a brother WHO's musician position. They they encouraged all of that They wanted us to have interesting. Lives and The life of an artist is an interesting life. So that's really where it it all comes from but making it happen isn't that easy not easy at all not easy for anybody When I was I spent a couple of years in Dallas? Allison when I was twenty years old I floated up to Chicago and Fell in love with the theater scene in Chicago and have lived there ever since. Who why are you? What kind of guy? Where were you then? I don't know A healed you know I got I got got sober at twenty eight I. I haven't been shy about talking about my sobriety So yeah I had some wild years Bit of a depressive not a bit compressive of pretty major depressive hard-working though even even then working hard try to improve my craft. Chicago theater is a is a is a great And very rigorous atmosphere for artists Still is now how it was then it was before I got there It's because people are really focused on the work. They're not focused on. There's not a star system there right. You'RE NOT GONNA make making money in Chicago. So people are really focused on the work audiences in Chicago. Embrace new work they want to see new plays they will venture out to see. Are these people. I want them to come and move Chicago cardinals so we can go find them. As are you staying there aggressive because of that feeling but what happened to. You doesn't happen to a lot of people. Yes you can be an actor you can write plays. You can make a living but you're not going going to become more Henry Deuce not going to be that but when you have a success leg August dosage counting what happens that touch puts you on some other level. What happens to that head? Yeah I don't know unexpected success and and late success I mean I. I didn't have a credit card till I was forty forty-three years old. You know so kind of late in life or later in life than we sometimes think about these things happening but I mean fantastic and unexpected and fun and and because I was forty three had some perspective about all of that Enjoyed it but did necessarily think. Oh this is this is the new way this you know. I mean as soon as I soon as August was open and running I went back to work on my next play as like. That's that's the thing to do. Just keep working now. Are you as a critic of you as an as an actor you know I liked the film and TV stuff. I don't I watch it. Watch it once because especially because I'm curious about the work of the other people I've been working with but I can't be objective about myself when I see it so I watch it and I go. Oh that's that's what we did that. I'm done what to watch for the longest time working on homeland. I because I had not worked a lot on camera. I was just really focused on the other act curtain. You're right there and I just WanNa play the scene with you and I don't care and it took a while L. before I started to get okay with the idea that there was a camera in the room. It's okay there's a camera here. You know it takes a while as a theatre actor you you. You don't have that it's not. They're not poking sometimes the cameras. Big Tiny we're blaming the audiences. They're watching play. The scene with the camera is different. Different things so it takes a while to get used to the. Oh it's all right that that cameras recording what we're doing in fact I liked it. It's here so you're brave and fearless. Now Oh God come on. Don't don't put those words. I'm not putting any care but the fact is that since this is the first time you've been on the shell you. You don't know that we always end in a little bit of the guest giving us a little bit of song and I know that there's a song in your heart. I know that there's something that drives you every day and that there's something you're whistling from Oklahoma and I'm sure you can do the whole score because what you've done for Oklahoma. What are you looking for here and eater anything? That's actually you WanNa give you anything you WanNa hear me site. I do even if it's the tiniest morsel some. I'm not a singer I know that. But that's the those are the best are all scared. I just I said that. You fear Bruce King everyone is show. We're the ones who get shy. But I probably Sunday to show. Everybody does there's no nobody's over. Meryl Streep will would can't but he did anyway and there's great heart in it in the corner of my I I saw you in Rudy's you were very high. You were high. It was a crying disgrace. They saw your face. You've just been holding out on me. The whole time through tortured in very earnhardt Ford task and that was really. Yeah did tracy great to talk to.