Join us as we sit down with actor Vincent D’Onofrio, best known for his roles as Pvt. Leonard “Gomer Pyle” Lawrence in Full Metal Jacket, Edgar, the evil bug in Men in Black and Detective Robert Goren from Law & Order: Criminal Intent.
This past week, D’Onofrio took some time to talk to us about his most recent film, Kill The Irishman, in which he stars alongside Ray Stevenson, Val Kilmer and Christopher Walken.
Jonathan Hensleigh (2004’s The Punisher) directs this crime drama, which is based on the true story of Danny Greene (Stevenson), an Irish thug working for mobsters in 1970s Cleveland.
Read on to see what D’Onofrio has to say about his training and preparation for the role, how he enjoyed working with Stevenson, Kilmer and Walken and what his plans for the future are.
We Got This Covered: So what is Kill The Irishman about?
Vincent D’Onofrio: Kill the Irishman is about a guy named Danny Greene, who started in the unions in Cleveland. He kind of took over. He kind of cornered the market there, and then got involved with the mob. He then took things into his own hands and this started a war. It took a long time for them to get rid of Danny Greene, but, eventually, they did. He’s kind of the first guy going up against the mob, and especially being an Irishman. He kind of formed into a tall tale figure.
WGTC: Who is your character in the movie?
Vincent D’Onofrio: I play John Nardi, the guy who crossed over from the mob to help Danny Greene organize and start his own underground activity.
WGTC: How much training and preparation did you put into this role?
Vincent D’Onofrio: I researched Danny Greene. There weren’t a lot of pictures of John Nardi. There was just one photo, and so I had to kind of use my imagination and think of myself as the character of the story that we’re telling in the film, not what you might call the “real story of what happened.” But Jonathan Hensleigh, the writer and director of this film, wanted to give the story that he wanted to tell. I just, in my way, kind of prepared as an actor to play John.
WGTC: Had you known about this story or read the book on which it’s based before tackling the role?
Vincent D’Onofrio: I didn’t know about Danny Greene, no. I was quite amazed by the whole thing. He was quite a figure. It was cool to research his story and the people around him. I found it very interesting.
WGTC: How was it like working with Ray Stevenson and the rest of the cast?
Vincent D’Onofrio: I loved it. A lot of them I’ve worked before. They’re all great guys. Ray, especially, is a great guy. I had a great time. We all had a great time. I’ve known Val for a long time and it’s always good to see him. It’s just good, you know. When you’re having a good time on the set, you, sometimes, think the film is going to turn out bad since you’re having a good time. But, in this case, the film turned out pretty good. I had a good time, and we made a good film.
WGTC: Had you worked with Jonathan Hensleigh before, or is this your first time?
Vincent D’Onofrio: It was the first time, yeah. Jonathan and I have remained friends since the film. We got along pretty well.
WGTC: Do you have any more crime or mafia related films coming up as your next projects?
Vincent D’Onofrio: I did a film called Fire with Fire. I just finished that a few weeks ago. I play an Aryan leader in that, but that and my character in Kill the Irishman are the only kind of so-called corrupt people I’ve played lately.
WGTC: What is Fire With Fire about?
Vincent D’Onofrio: It’s kind of a thriller/action film we shot in New Orleans with a director named David Barret, who I liked a lot. Bruce Willis is in it. Hopefully, it’s really good. I hadn’t done anything like that for a long time, because I was on television for so long with Criminal Intent. It was interesting to pick up an action type movie after the show was over. I really had a good time.
And what I mean by when the show was over, I don’t mean doing movies like they were before I started the show, but shooting at a much faster pace and shorter amount of time. Your daily work schedule is heavier and there’s no more sitting around anymore, which I like a lot. It was kind of nice to go back and go into an action film and be working every day on it and getting it done. I really enjoyed it.
WGTC: With Criminal Intent being over, do you have any plans to return to television?
Vincent D’Onofrio: Yes, I’m doing a new show for NBC called Blue Tilt, with Ethan Hawke and myself.
WGTC: Is it another cop drama or something different?
Vincent D’Onofrio: It’s a detective show, but it’s not just about crime. It’s about family too.
WGTC: How does it feel to be a part of the Law & Order legacy?
Vincent D’Onofrio: It was good. I learned a lot from Dick Wolf. I’ll always remember playing that character because it was such a good character. It was great to be able to be a character like that for television. I think the thing that I’ll bring from the whole experience, the whole 10 years, is I had never been interested in the television business before. As the years went on, I became more interested in it and I learned so much about it. I think, in the end, that will be the thing I bring from it the most. I learned so much about how the television business works.
WGTC: So Law & Order was your first television experience?
Vincent D’Onofrio: Early in my career, I had done about two other shows on television and then there was the brief role I did in Homicide: Life on the Street. That was it. I had never been a regular on a show before. I spent most of my career doing theater and films.
WGTC: That’s about all I have, unless you have something you would like to add about Kill the Irishman or any of your other projects.
Vincent D’Onofrio: I think that Kill the Irishman is a very good movie, and it’s about an interesting subject. As far as what I’ve done, I have my first feature that I co-wrote and directed coming up in December called Don’t Go in the Woods. It’s being released by Tribeca Films. It’s a horror musical. Tribeca Films loves it, and we start doing a press tour for it next month.
WGTC: Who is in the movie?
Vincent D’Onofrio: I cast it off the streets of New York, all unknown actors. I just wanted people who could sing and have never acted before. It’s perfect. I used no casting director and just went into my hometown, New York City, and just found them.
This concludes our interview, but we would like to thank Vincent for taking the time to speak with us.