Matt Dillon Talks Creative Process, Upcoming Lars von Trier Thriller ‘The House That Jack Built’

Clad in all black, the actor answered questions at the Santiago de Chile Fest for more than an hour, covering his career past and present

SANFIC: Matt Dillon Talks Creative Processes,
Photo: Alejandra Mora

SANTIAGO DE CHILE — In town for a series of events at the SANFIC Santiago Intl. Film Festival, Matt Dillon addressed the assembled press at the Hyatt Hotel in downtown Santiago.

Dressed in all black, Dillon entered the press-room to a resounding wave of camera clicks. Taken aback, the actor backtracked, and made a better prepared entrance, begging the pardon of the assembled crowd.

Throughout the hour-long event Dillon fielded questions fired at him in much the same way, often taking breaks to think, double back, and reinvest more thoughtfulness in his answers that a rapid fire response might not allow. It was as if he treated each answer he gave as the most important of the afternoon, taking special care to avoid especially inflammatory or frivolous topics.

Dillon’s career has spanned more than three decades and from 1983’s “The Outsiders,” to 2005’s “Factotum,” Dillon’s films have frequently received critical and festival acclaim. In 2006 Dillon received Oscar and Golden Globe nominations for his role in “Crash.”

Dillon enthused about his best known comedic role in 1998’s “There’s Something About Mary,” where he played the insufferable con-artist Healy.

“I was getting on the airplane and someone said to me ‘To Santiago?’ and I realized that I had a line in that movie about Santiago!” He hailed the ingenuity of the Farrelly brothers and said of the experience, “if they all were like that it would be so great. We all had fun making it.”

The actor also talked about upcoming films, such as Lars von Trier’s thriller “The House That Jack Built.” In it, the actor will play the titular character, Jack, a 1970’s serial killer. The story will follow Jack’s 12-year development, and document the crimes that define him. Jack’s rise, Von Trier said in an interview with The Guardian, was inspired by the rise of Donald Trump, and the director’s desire to show “that life is evil and soulless, which is sadly proven by the recent rise of the Homo Trumpus – the rat king.” Co-staring Uma Thurman and Riley Keough, the film is being produced by Von Treir’s Zentropa Entertainment, along with the Copenhagen Film Fund and Danmarks Radio.

“The content of the movie is quite dark. That was something that I had to take a leap of faith in,” Dillon said of the film, He pointed out that in a conversation while shooting, he had conveyed to Von Trier that his character was really a pretty bad guy, to which the director responded, “Well, you couldn’t play anybody worse.” As to what Dillon took away from the experience of working with the famed director, Dillon said, “at dinner before we started he asked me to trust him and I said O.K.. The experience was really good for me from a creative standpoint.”

In fact, Dillon came back to the creative experience frequently in his answers. When questioned about the changes he has noticed in his 30 years in the film industry, he responded: “I’ve watched the business side of the industry change a lot. I’ve never been all that comfortable with the business side, I’m more into the creative processes.” Those words again.

Later, when talking about the rise of quality in TV, the actor commented: “I really like the medium and I like the potential, the creative potential that exists in TV.”

While noting that he has no real intentions of directing again in the near future, he is working on a documentary which will be a “personal story and journey for me and a friend of mine who is also a musician.” The documentary will focus on Cuban scat singers, and Dillon committed, “it will be very exciting.”

Dillon also talked about another feature in the pipeline, “Jo the Medicine Runner.” The film takes place in the Kona coffee fields of 1920’s Hawaii at a segregated plantation where two men will battle for the affections of the same woman. He pointed out that this character couldn’t be much more different than the one in “The House That Jack Built.” The independent film was directed by David L. Cunningham, co-stars Jim Caviezel and is set to premiere later this year.