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Clifton Collins Jr.

Capote

SOUND BITES

Which director would you like to work with that you haven’t before?? “Any single director that is going to challenge me and give me an opportunity for growth.”

How do actors balance commerce vs. art?? “I’ve never had much luck with the commerce part. One’s food for the soul, and the other is food for the table and a roof for my mom.”

Up next: “Co-starring with Cuba Gooding Jr. as a cop involved in the LAPD Rampart Division scandal in ‘Dirty’ and playing a jingle writer participating in a friend’s intervention in dark comedy ‘Life of the Party.'”

Even before he was offered the role of Perry Smith in “Capote,” Clifton Collins Jr. began his research. “I started once I got my script. Even after I did the audition and didn’t have the offer, I continued to do research. I was so intrigued by Perry, I just wanted to know more about him,” says the actor.

Collins’ quest for knowledge continued into the production of the Philip Seymour Hoffman starrer, which tells the story behind Capote’s book “In Cold Blood.” “I tried to get my hands on as much material as possible. And I found enough to keep me busy every single day of rehearsal,” says Collins.

Collins has played everything from a gangster to a cop to a military man, but that Smith was a well-documented person added a challenge for the actor. “I felt, I don’t want to say a bigger responsibility but a different responsibility,” he explains. “I just wondered, ‘What would Perry think?’ It was my own little personal relationship with the character.”

Helmer Bennett Miller encouraged Collins to get to know Smith. “I love scripts with details, because it means the director has a very specific vision. Bennett had that vision. During rehearsals, he said we’re going to overturn every stone and look into every nook and cranny about this character to get it right,” says Collins. “Usually new directors promise you a lot, but in this case he did exactly what he said he was going to do.”

But there is such a thing as getting too close to one’s character. Collins felt that special sting while watching the final product. “I remember the first time I saw the movie, I got mad at Truman/Philip during the scene when he was lying to me about the book. I was looking at him, thinking, ‘He’s lying to me.’ I couldn’t help but get caught up in my emotions at the moment. Then I caught myself and just started laughing.”

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