Fatigue and rage are the qualities on display when fanatically loyal gunslinger Charlie Prince appears in “3:10 to Yuma.” They also happen to have been Ben Foster’s most noticeable characteristics when he auditioned for the role of the uber bad guy.
“The audition circumstances were tenuous. I had just arrived by plane from New Zealand and hadn’t slept in 48 hours,” Foster explains. “The physical state I was in was less than desirable. I recall being at least an hour late to the meeting, fatigued, and I actually called my agent to reschedule. They hung up on me. That sent me through the roof.
“When I walked into the meeting, I guess it was the right amount of fatigue and rage.”
As Prince in director James Mangold’s oater remake, Foster mixed a steely eyed determination to protect and serve his boss, Ben Wade (Russell Crowe), with a dashing brand of evil. He says Crowe was “incredibly over-the-top generous with me. He taught me how to ride a horse. He’s the real thing.”
Foster worked closely with Mangold to capture the gritty glamour of the subordinate desperado.
“Jim and I went over archival photos,” Foster says. “We came to the conclusion that these outlaws were the rock stars of their time. They encouraged their own myth. They were very aware of their own PR. There were these penny papers circulating, almost to the effect of a comicbook. If you got in it, you became famous. So the more outlandish the attacks and the more flamboyant the attire, the more you became an icon.”
In fact, audiences may be so riveted by Foster’s chilling portrayal of the menacing peacock that they might forget where they saw him before. Lately, that’s a lengthy list. He has played major roles in “X-Men: The Last Stand,” “Alpha Dog” and “Hostage,” and will soon be seen in Craig Lucas’ indie “Laws of Motion.”
But he is probably best known as having played Claire’s tormented boyfriend Russell in “Six Feet Under,” an experience he looks back on fondly.
“Most of the writers were playwrights. The directors were hand-picked from the festival circuit — hungry, exciting, intuitive,” he explains of the acclaimed HBO series. “Every week you were coming into something like guerrilla theater. They don’t give you an arc. They don’t tell you where your character is going. It’s week by week.”
And each week in Foster’s career just seems to get more interesting. “I’ve been doing this for about 12 years,” he says. “I’ve seen a lot of people come and go. A lot of people, a lot of buzz, a lot of heat … whatever word the industry wants to use.
“This has given me the great luxury of allowing me to explore different types of roles. I get to work with exciting filmmakers and actors, which is the important thing. At the end of the day, buzz burns out.”
AN ACTOR SHOULD ALWAYS: “Learn his lines.”
I’M INSPIRED BY: “So much. Anyone who is willing to take chances.”
FAVORITE FILM CHARACTER: “The three characters Peter Sellers played in ‘Dr. Strangelove.’ “