There are a few actors who instantly make you sit up straight and take notice, no matter the role he or she is in. One of the best actors of this generation, Ben Foster, is one of those disarming performers. In 2013, he appeared in three superb films in very different roles. In Kill Your Darlings, he brought out the misery and madness of author William S. Burroughs, decades before he wrote Naked Lunch. In Ain’t Them Bodies Saints, he was an officer wounded by Casey Affleck’s bullet, who finds a redemptive love for that outlaw’s wife. In Lone Survivor, out on DVD and Blu-Ray June 3rd, he paid tribute to Matthew “Axe” Axelson, one of four Navy SEALS caught in the line of fire during a reconnaissance mission.
Foster is intense and deeply committed to many of the roles he gets, whether it’s adding glaucoma drops to his eyes to look like a drug addict in Alpha Dog or going even more psycho-crazy than both Christian Bale and Russell Crowe – not an easy task – for 2007’s 3:10 to Yuma. He is a marvelous character actor and the public will soon know him as more than Robin Wright’s fiance.
He just wrapped Stephen Frears’ biopic of Lance Armstrong, in which he will play the disgraced cyclist, and is also playing Medivh in Duncan Jones’ video-game adaptation Warcraft, due out in 2016.
In honor of Lone Survivor’s home video release, we recently sat down for an exclusive interview with Foster. He spoke about how he chooses his roles, training with the military, what he learned from spending time with Axelson’s family, and much more.
Check it out below, and enjoy!
WGTC: In 2013, you appeared in three great films – Kill Your Darlings, Ain’t Them Bodies Saints and Lone Survivor – in three very different roles. How do you decide on the roles you take?
Ben Foster: Well, first of all, I’m happy you liked those films. That’s nice to hear. I like to learn about things I don’t know a lot about. Also, it’s whatever crosses my desk at the time. Does it feel right in my hands and in my body? With those scripts in particular, I got to work different muscles. But it wasn’t planned all at once. You speak with the director, you read the script, and you see if there’s a way to collaborate and communicate, if there’s a shorthand. As I get older – and I don’t even want to sound like such an old dog, I’ve only done this for 22 years, something like that – if you’re going to go to bed with somebody, you want it to be exciting. I don’t know how you pick it, it’s just got to feel right.
WGTC: One of your performances that resonated with me was in the 2009 film The Messenger, which is very under-appreciated. How did your role as a war veteran in that film bring new shading or perspective to playing a Navy SEAL in Lone Survivor?
BF: I suppose like all experiences, there’s an accumulation. I saw the results of the war at Walter Reed Hospital with amputees doing research for The Messenger. I saw that side of it. For this picture [Lone Survivor], it was spending time with those who served actively. Getting to spend time with the family of the man that I was to represent was a great privilege. To speak with the Axelson family and sharing their love of their husband and son and brother, and just hear stories of this man… it goes beyond a film experience. It was a deeply human experience that I’ll always treasure.