Vincent D’Onofrio Talks ‘Mall,’ the Intense Indie Film He Made With Linkin Park’s Joe Hahn
"Everybody needs to be reminded that I’m a character actor and I’m not just the kind of guy who plays a cop," Vincent D'Onofrio tells ScreenCrush in an interview. The actor is going from his most recognizable role as Det. Robert Goren in 'Law & Order: Criminal Intent' to the directorial debut of Linkin Park member Joe Hahn, 'Mall,' in which he portrays a gentleman caught sneaking a few too many peeks at a woman undressing in a fitting room -- but his depraved character is just one of many lenses through which we view the heavy story at play.
'Mall' depicts the events surrounding a mall shooting committed by one disturbed kid, through the narratives of a handful of characters, mainly that of Jeff, portrayed by 'Shameless' star Cameron Monaghan. D'Onofrio, who also co-wrote and produced the film, has a lot of projects in the works -- including his upcoming turns in 'The Judge,' playing opposite Robert Downey Jr., 'Jurassic Park 4' and Netflix's 'Daredevil' Marvel series -- but as he tells us, 'Mall' was "a film that we felt needed to be made and we made it."
How do you have time in your hectic schedule to fit in all these smaller projects? And you’ve been a director, you’ve been a producer. Can you talk a little about getting involved with this project?
I always think it’s the company you keep. It’s what gets you motivated and gets you doing things, and also produces content and work for everybody. It’s just basically staying friends with friends, and trying to go with ideas that people have or that I have, and trying to get people connected to my ideas, and developing a trust over years with people so that when you do have an idea that people will come together immediately and start to help it get done. Because of those types of things, I can do 'Jurassic World' and I can do this Marvel series, and I can do - ‘The Judge’ is coming out.
I saw photos of you and Robert Downey on Twitter and Instagram. That looks like a really good time.
Did he? What did he do?
A little selfie behind the scenes with a hoodie.
On what blogs?
On his Twitter account.
Oh, okay. I'll check it out. I didn’t know.
... So I’m able to do these projects and get projects written and write projects and couple up with people and get these things done while I’m doing it. Because it’s not just me, it’s other very, very creative people helping me, and with all of them believing in the same thing to get something done.
Can you talk about that collaboration process a little bit? I know you adapted ['Mall'] from the novel, but you also want to put your own mark, your own spin on it.
I had work with Sam Bisbee and Joe Vinciguerra on a couple of things before we wrote ‘Mall.' And so ‘Mall’ came together pretty quickly as a script. So ... we did a lot of crazy things. We were doing something crazy in Memphis, and we actually wrote most of ‘Mall’ at a hotel in Memphis.
Yeah. And then Joe went off, Joe Vinciguerra, went off and tightened it all up, brought it back, and then the three of us sat and finished the final draft. Something like that, I think it went something like that. And you know that’s the way it goes. I mean that’s how it works. Right now I’m doing, or writing, a Western, and the story is my story; it’s a story that I concocted. [Speaking of a film about Pat Garrett and Billy The Kid.] I can’t be that specific about it, but it’s a very intense story. And I was able to get this writer Andrew Landham to write it. We’ve been working on it for several months. We started working on it while I was shooting ‘The Judge’ in Boston. He came out and we sat in a hotel in Boston and worked it all out. This is how you get things done. You trust people and your ideas, and then you grow with it.
Whenever I talk to directors or producers of more low-budget indie films, I feel like they always have a really interesting story when it comes to financing the projects. How was the process for you guys?
That’s always the toughest thing. I always stay far from that. I don’t have the patience for it. I think that content sells and certain content sells more ... sometimes you have to take the original feeling, this original message that you want to tell, and you have to think about how you can tell that message in the most attractive way. The word "attractive" could mean the most emotional way, the most surface way, you know? It could mean many things. So when the content is finished and it’s formed and it's ripe, it's there for sale and for somebody to help make. That’s what it is. It's all about content, I think. That’s as far as I go with it. And then I have people that find the money for me, and that could take a year, it could take two years, we could get it right away.
How long did it take for this film?
It took about a year I think. I think that Joe’s being involved had a lot to do with that, because he’s obviously an entity himself.
As you are, too.
Yeah, I mean, I'm not in the biggest rock 'n' roll band in the world. I'm just a character actor, so there's a difference. Joe and Sam Maydew, who produced it along with me, and myself, I think we were careful where the money came from. We didn't want it to just come from anywhere, so that's what made it take a year. But I think the interest of Joe's first film feature being made was a finance gatherer.
You could tell all these elements Joe took from directing his music videos were infused in this, and parts of it almost felt like they were their own music video. Considering where we are in terms of music videos, and then that 'Metallica Through the Never' movie, I think music and cinema are meshing in this very interesting way. How did you see music and what was going on story-wise in this movie coming to together?
It's such a big thing. It is in all the stuff that I do; music is huge in what I do. I use music in my acting. When I'm developing roles, I use music to inspire me. Even for the part that I'm playing now for the Marvel series, this morning I was actually looking at lyrics for from Iggy Pop's "Lust for Life," playing the song and looking at the lyrics at the same time. I use in music in everything that I do -- artistically everything. This particular project, it was very much that. This project had to be geared toward people Jeff's [the main character, played by 'Shameless' star Cameron Monaghan] age. And maybe a little older than Jeff, the lead character, or Mal's age. That was the key. There was no brilliant plan -- okay, we'll get some rock 'n' roll star to, you know. [We got] Joe because he's a creative artist, NOT because he's a rockstar. It all just came together in such a brilliant way.
... I went to see Linkin Park when I had already met Joe and he was already committed to the film, I went to the Garden [Madison Square Garden] to watch Linkin Park and I found myself looking at the audience. I was filming the audience on my phone because of the lighting and the way it was affecting the audience, you know -- how the fervor of the kids there watching the band. But during that process, I realized for the first time, it all clicked together, that every kid, every guy, every girl in that audience could have been a character in 'Mall.' And so it was just perfect and it all came together perfectly.
You weren't at the Comic-Con screening?
Have you ever been to Comic-Con?
I haven't, no. I have a feeling I'm gonna be there a lot because of 'Jurassic' and Marvel and stuff.
You've gotta go, just to experience all the fans being there. We were there this year, and I remember Joe said something at Comic-Con, something that struck me, was that this shoot in particular was 18 days long. Can you talk about shooting in such a confined time frame.
Yeah. I mean, it's the only way it can be shot, in 18 days; it can't be shot in 20 days. There's just not enough money; the money runs out. You have to save money for post[-production], and if that money runs out, you're screwed. So, yeah, you gotta make 'em. I've made movies for $100,000 in 12 days. You gotta make 'em for nothing. Joe did a fantastic job leading the way through that. He really got things done, him and his crew. Art direction, dp, they really did a fantastic job.
It's a film that we felt needed to be made and we made it.
I mean, basically, the days are dictated by money. That's the final line. It couldn't have been 19, it had to be 18. You just gotta come together a make it work, and everybody that's involved in a film like that knows. Everybody's on the same page. It's like, you know that that's what has to be done. And nobody's going to become a multi-millionaire off of 'Mall.' It's a film that we felt needed to be made and we made it.
'Mall' hits theaters and major digital platforms on October 17. Watch the trailer for the film below.