He’s a man of few words but a whole lot of deadly looks. Actor/ Musician, Common is the deadly force behind those eyes, co-starring across from Angelina Jolie, James McAvoy, and Morgan Freeman, in Timur Bekmambetov’s new film Wanted. Common, aka “The Gunsmith,” is a bad-ass killer who knows his way around a gun, but in real life it’s hard to find anyone more calm, cool, and nonviolent.
Common took a moment to sit down with LA.CityZine to talk about his role in Wanted, inspiration he gathered from his co-stars, his upcoming role in the Terminator across from Christian Bale and rumors of him playing the Green Lantern.
So what was it like being directed by a crazy Russian visualist genius?Â
Exactly.Â I felt like I was being directed by a crazy Russian genius [laughs].Â He was high-energy, very creative, very spontaneous.Â I was like ‘man, this dude is a great artist’.Â He was describing to me he would say ‘when the bullet curves, this is gonna happen’.Â You listen to him there but you don’t know it’s gonna look that good or be that incredible.Â So, his mind, like you said, he’s a visual genius. You listen to him say it but you don’t know it’s gonna look that good or be that incredible. He already saw these things happening and saw how he could do it. I liked the fact that he was open to listening to what we believed our characters would be. He was open to us coming and making changes.Â He would make changes on the spot. It’s probably not the producers dream to have a director be like ‘oh, I want to do this, do that’.Â But, eventually, he came out with an incredible product.
Were you familiar with guns before you did this film?
The education I had with guns was from training in previous movies. [From] Smokin’ Aces to — I didn’t have to do any training for American Gangster, but I did hold a gun and it really clicked — to Street Kings, to Wanted [I had] gun training. Ironically, I’m definitely not a promoter of guns, who Common is, I mean that’s not me. The films I’ve been taken on all have some guns in them, so, I did go through extensive gun training. It’s really like a gun education in a way because the Gunsmith is the one who’s taking apart the guns, putting them together, cleaning them, putting designs on them, so I needed to learn as much as I could about guns.
What kind of gun training did you have for ‘Terminator: Salvation’?Â
Actually, not to brag, but when I got to gun training for ‘Terminator’, I went one day and they were like ‘oh, you know all this s**t’ [laughter].Â I was like ‘yeah’, I humbly was like ‘yeah.Â I got this.Â I can do this’. It was simple.Â Gun training was like one day and, like I said, they knew.Â But I’m just starting the filming but there was a motorcycle scene where I wanted to do a stunt but they were like ‘naw.Â We can’t let you do it on the motorcycle’.Â It was like I was gettin’ knocked off the motorcycle and they didn’t want me to do that but I was open to it.Â At a certain point I did think though, ‘well, I do got an album coming out’. [laughter].
So are you pretty good with guns now?
I guess so. I know a little something about it. I’m no expert, but I’m pretty good. I got to say, I’ve been to a gun range where I’ve been shooting and I’m thinking I’m good, but there’s been an older woman that older older who is a better shooter than me. I’m glad I acquired that type of knowledge, but it’s not anything I want to utilize in my regular life.
What kind of atmosphere was it on set? The film seems so intense, was anybody joking around or having fun?
It was great. A lot of jokesters, man. I can definitely say Morgan Freeman is a cool guy. He’d be walking around joking and singing and just dancing. I was like, this dude was like you just felt the artist in him. You know, artists are free, and I just felt the freedom in him. And even like with Angelina, we were just having a good time, just talked about everything. James is a funny guy, so it was a lot of fun, to be honest. You know, and then when it’s time to shoot, you get into that mode of what the character is and that’s when the intensity comes.
Did James go in and out of his American accent or did he speak with a Scottish accent in between?
In between he was Scottish and I didn’t understand him. I didn’t understand like just yesterday we were in an interview and I was like, I don’t understand thirty percent of what he said. Actually a lot of the crew were either from England or France and speaking with accents and Timur speaks with an accent. It was like, I was really adjusting. It was adjustments everywhere going on. And James, I was really amazed and impressed he would go from the Scottish accent to an American accent so quick.
You don’t have a lot of lines in the movie, so how did you approach a totally physical performance?
Yeah, I mean, just really doing my best to really become the character. If the character’s alive, he’s alive. If you really do, you know, as much research as you can to create this who this person is and really know who the character is and know who the Gunsmith would be with or without saying things, then, you know, that energy and that presence is going to be there. And that’s the most important thing I can do, just really know who the core of my character is. At any given time they also would also give you lines or take out a scene so it was like, if you are that character you don’t have a problem when the lines come to you, you do them. In a way, you still are that character, looking at somebody or, you know, putting a gun together.
Were you one of those actors that needs your own backstory? Do you sort of think in you head about where he came from and what he got into? What did you create?
Definitely, because it wasn’t in the script. I definitely created something where the Gunsmith eventually, you know, became a person who was like a Samurai in a way. He was a master of weaponry and definitely a warrior, but also this calm Buddha-like character. And would take things in, that’s why without words, you could see things going on with him. He was perceptive and his energy was really more about trying to get James to become a good warrior as well as learning these guns and techniques, but it was like teaching him to become a good warrior, so that’s where the backstory of the Gunsmith, for me, came from that place.
Your character seems really serene and focused. How much do you draw on Common to bring that energy to your character?
I must say I try my best to not have any Common qualities in my characters, but if the character has something that’s like me, you may see it come out. When I go to the screening or go to see the movie, I get mad if I see anything that has to do with Common, any of my maneuvers that come out I’m like, ugh, it gets me mad. And I actually asked actors, “Do you see yourself when you’re doing a character?” They say, it’s like the same thing. They get mad when they see themselves on the screen, because you really want to see the character. That’s your job as an actor to create that character. Common is removed from the film set when you step on and you’re doing Gunsmith.
Actually, in Chicago, one thing I had to mention that made it kind of difficult was when I was working on being this character, because we were in Chicago, we had a lot more people coming up saying, “Hey, Common, what’s up baby? You’re home, how it feel?” and I’m trying to stay in the zone of the Gunsmith and it’s like, “Yo Common, what’s up? You coming round the house?” and like, “Nah man.” It’s cool, but you do your best just to be that character.
Do you worry, because you have such a positive influence on kids, that they might see you in a film or do you pick your roles with that in mind?
I definitely feel that I’ve laid a foundation to let youth know who Common is.Â As artists, we get an opportunity to speak to people whether we go into the high schools, go to events or even interviews on TV, they get to hear what we’re about.Â I make it clear that I’m taking on a character and I’m not afraid to take on dark characters and characters that people may look at and say ‘man this guy is a crazy character’ or ‘this guy is bad’. As an actor, you don’t judge what you’re doing and you can’t worry about, ‘well, how do people perceive this character?’ As an actor, you’re becoming a person. As a person, you can’t really judge yourself to much so I just approach it like that, taking on these roles and just really wanting it to be a good role, be in good films. That’s really the goal.Â I think I can take care of letting people know that that’s not me. I’ve kind of established that already.Â But, for those who don’t know, they will get to see that.
Did you get hurt doing any of the stunts in this?Â
I wanted more stunts. I would have been glad to be able to tell you, ‘yeah I busted my elbow’.Â I wanted more stunts.Â I was like ‘man, when am I getting a good fightin’ scene as the Gunsmith’.Â But,Â true to the character, I guess, they didn’t really show that element of him, that aspect of him but I’m looking forward to doing some stunts in whatever film I do, I have to do ‘um in.
What is the set like for the new Terminator film?
Man, that set, the way I can describe it, being respectful to the film, is it’s just an incredible set.Â I went in there, I went to that set and it was like ‘man, we are in this world. This is like Terminator.Â I’m in ‘The Terminator’, right in this world.’Â I would say the set is incredible.
Have you worked with Christian Bale yet?Â
Not yet but I’m looking forward to it.Â He definitely is a great actor, man.Â I can’t wait to work with him.
What’s your role in that?Â
I’m playing Barnes.Â I part of the resistance, really like one of John Connor’s right hand men, a freedom fighter.
What about the rumors that you’ll play Green Lantern?Â
Man, rumors, those rumors
Can you confirm or deny?Â
I can say that if they do do a Justice League movie, I would love to be Green Lantern.Â That’s all I can say. I do like Justice League.Â I love it though.
How hard it is to continue an acting career and put out albums?Â
I think each expression is sharpened in the other, meaning both of them are helping each other.Â As an actor, when I’m working on a film, which is something I’m really intensely lovin’ to do, I can go write a song and it kind of feels like second nature. This is another way for me to express myself.Â It takes pressure off writing songs because I’m almost doin’ it in passing. It’s like ‘okay, I just finished workin’ on this character, let me just write this song real quick’. There’s definitely a lot less pressure.Â I think that the music industry and performing and being an artist has helped me to be more confident coming into film; being able to deal with change and dealin’ with all eyes on you.Â It’s your time.Â You’ve gotta do it.Â That’s why I think music has helped and also, I come from a background of freestylin’ which is you’re spontaneously doin’ things. So that’s helpful when it comes to filming because you need to feel spontaneous and real if there’s a conversation goin’ on.
What are you goals in acting?
My goal is to be a great, an incredible actor and be one of the biggest movie stars out there. I want to have a long career as an actor and be noted as one of the great actors of our time. That’s what I want to be.Â I know it’s a journey but I believe I can do it.Â That’s what the goal is. I definitely feel it’s a wide range for me to do it.Â I know I want to do love stories, romantic comedy, drama, action.Â I want to be part of the great process.
Did you talk to Morgan Freeman about that?Â
I did talk to him about it. I think was one of most important things, he was like ‘you know, you have to work at it.Â You’ve got to continue to work at it’. He was a good teacher to me.Â He did come over to say some little things in my ear that I would take heed to and I was so honored that he did.Â I felt like a chill when he came over and first gave me some advice because this is Morgan Freeman comin’ over.Â This is a guru, one of the greats.Â Everybody on the set looked at Morgan Freeman like that.Â From the D.P. to anybody on the crew was like ‘that’s Morgan Freeman!’ He would do scenes and we’d be like ‘you just hear that voice.Â That’s Morgan Freeman’. For him to come and give me some advice I really felt honored.Â I learned from him, Angelina, James.Â I learned from Denzel.
Do you imagine a signature character you might be known for?Â
Good question.Â I feel that me, as an artist, I never want to be pigeon-holed as one thing.Â Obviously, it would be nice to do a superhero character eventually that becomes timeless but, at the same token,Â I would want to do the role of a pastor and that becomes timeless and then do the homeless man.Â So, I don’t think I would want to be pigeon-holed with just one character.Â I want to show my diversity and make classic movies.
Thank you very much for your time Common!Â
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