As many of you know, another one of Chuck Palaniuk’s books, “Choke,” has been turned into the film Choke thanks to writer/director Clark Gregg and his amazing cast. ScreenCrave had a chance to sit down to a little three-some with the star of the film Sam Rockwell and his right hand man, Brad William Henke. The two of men share amazing chemistry on screen and off. Both of them work off them worked off each other like professionals in a play pen. Rather than tell you all about them I’ll let them speak for themselves…
So what was it like stepping into the role of being a sex addict, chokers, that is possibly related to Jesus?
Sam Rockwell: Good question. You know, just got to be loose. Got to be ready to lay it on the line, I guess. That’s about it.
There are many graphic scenes in the film, were there any scenes that you refused to film or had changed a bit?
Brad William Henke: Our sex scene. (laughter)
SR: They cut it. We wanted it…
BH: We filmed it…
SR: On our private time…
BH: Big rehearsal.
What was your experience like with Clark Gregg as a first time director?
SR: Me and Clark had done a play together, so we knew each other. But I think because he’s an actor—and I was comparing him to George Clooney because they’re both athletic and they both play basketball, and they’re both actors so they’re both very sensitive to that. They’re both very smart men and they have good temperaments and they have people skills. So it kind of makes for a good mix, as far as the director being the general, the commander of the ship. There is something about that competitive athleticism that I think is kind of cool for a director.
BH: The first time we rehearsed with Clark in Santa Monica, it was… good. (laughter) It was easy.
SR: Yeah, it was really easy.
BH: Then I went to New York a couple days early, and then we rehearsed together. We kind-of showed Clark what we were doing, and he gave us some notes.
SR: It really helps when they’re an actor. It really does help.
What was it like working with Anjelica Houston and eventually choking her with pudding?
SR: You know she was very cool about that. (laughter) Very, very, very cool about that. We just did the best we could. She was great. It was fun. There’s a lot of pudding involved.
BH: (Yells) Need some pudding here.
SR: You know, Kelly was giving her the kiss-y kiss-y pudding thing. What do you call that?
SR: Mouth to mouth resuscitation. I call it kiss-y kiss-y.
You both went to 12 Step meetings in preparation for this role, what were you able to draw from the experience for this role?
SR: Yeah we did actually, we both went to some meetings. You end up having quite a lot of compassion for them cause it’s pretty serious stuff.
BH: We both kind of thought that it was going to be kind of exciting or something when we went to a meeting, but the first meeting I went to was all guys, and it was really depressing. It’s like if something bad happens in their life, and instead of doing a drug they just go and masturbate or have sex with a hooker.
SR: Everything gets equated to sex, so it’s like if you’re hungry, have sex. If you’re lonely, have sex. If you’re angry or upset, if you’re celebrating have sex.
BH: Mine is eat a donut. (laughter)
SR: Mine is just heroin, barbiturates and semen. (Gets serious) It’s about repressed anger and it’s not unlike a food disorder, I guess.
BH: Drinking disorder.
SR: They said it was closer to that than alcoholism. I don’t know why, exactly, but it’s just because if you binge, you swallow your emotions. I guess you do the same thing with alcohol or drugs. There’s a documentary that we watched too that was really helpful.
Which one was that?
SR: It was a one called “Sex Addiction,” and we talked to this sex therapist, Sean, and he helped us. It was good research to do—it was necessary, I thought. It wasn’t just for kicks.
How do you feel someone who suffers from sex addiction might feel about the film?
SR: Hopefully sex addicts’s who watch the movie won’t feel so much like lepers, they’ll see that there’s some compassion. I hope it does that.
BH: It’s just a whole different world that you don’t know, that I didn’t know existed, its probably better that you don’t know. Because we weren’t characters. I feel like we were real people that had this problem but you could tell that we had good hearts and we were good people and everything. That’s a really good point. It was done in a way where we seemed like real people who had that problem. You don’t know that there are these groups of people that are looking to find people for sex everyday, these websites.
Did you get to work with Chuck at all beforehand?
SR: Not really. No, he just came by later and said “hi.”
Did you read Choke before the film?
SR: We both read Choke. And we listened to him.
BH: We listened to his tape all the time—it was awesome.
SR: Reading a book on tape.
BH: He reads the whole book on tape, but then at the end he answers his own questions. He was depressed or something and he laid in front of his car, hoping that someone would come pick him up.
SR: Yeah, that was a huge thing I thought. That gave me a lot. Just, what was the reason for him writing the book? He just wanted a hug or something. Hoping an ambulance would come by and they would carry him away. He was so profoundly sad from his father dying that he needed anything—just some attention from somebody.
BH: And I think all our characters, I mean, my character I’m needed to be loved.
SR: That’s what the choking is about. They give him a hug after giving him the Heimlich maneuver, so the movie’s all about that.
How did you feel your characters on screen reflected the characters in the book?
BH: In the book I feel like Denny was a little bit darker but the script wasn’t written that way as much and so I just know that’s a part of my history. Those scenes in the book were in the movie, you just didn’t see them. If we ever improv’ed, [Sam] would improv a line from the book.
SR: Yeah, we would either listen or look at the book and we’d circle some stuff we wanted to use in a scene and throw it in there .
BH: He was really meticulous. He was always listening to the tape.
Neither one of you shaved your head like, they do in the book, why was that?
BH: I couldn’t shave my head cause I was doing a t.v. show.
SR: I couldn’t cut my hair either I was doing this thing.
BH: If you’re doing two different parts of the movie in the same day, you can’t have a shaved head and then not have a shaved head.
SR: It’s something about short hair with Chuck Palahniuk’s protagonists, we couldn’t do that for one reason or another.
Chuck had said that this was actually, a closer adaptation from book to film than Fight Club was and that he enjoyed it. Does that make you feel good about how you represented the characters?
BH: Well we have to give it to Clark, Clark wrote the script
SR: That does make you feel good that your representing the book… yeah absolutely.
There were suggestions throughout the film that Victor and Deny were both on this quest for normalcy. How do you equate that for the search for love?
SR: It’s the same thing, right? It’s that normalcy represents unconditional love and structure and normal parental guidance, rather than the parental guidance they probably both had, certainly Victor’s had.
BH: Well, my character is living with his parents, so I felt a big failure in that regard to be however old I was, and living at home, working at this place and always being in the stocks—always fucking up. No one’s ever telling me I’m doing well. Then I would start to grow and then he would get pissed off at me.
SR: That’s right because misery loves company. But I think it’s a lack of boundaries with anybody. He’s living at home, and my whole thing with my mother is all screwed up, so it’s always about a lack of boundaries. It fucks up your head as a kid when you have that, and then your relationships with the opposite sex or same sex become dysfunctional.
Sam, do you feel like your character is able to find normalcy with Paige at the end of the film?
SR: I think the idea is that he’s finally able to integrate eroticism and love and not compartmentalize the two. I think that’s the lesson in the movie for Victor, and for Brad’s character. That’s the lesson, that’s what he keeps telling me throughout the movie. She says in the movie, “why cant we have both?” [and he says] “I cant fuck you cause I like you.” They don’t have to be mutually exclusive and that’s the lesson Victor learns, so he’s able to be kinky in the bathroom but also with someone he loves.
You guys had a great chemistry in the film as well as in person today, did you guys know each other before?
BH: No. I felt like five minutes into our rehearsal like this was going to work.
SR: We come from similar training too, our training as actors.
In the film you guys seem to have a bit of a bro-mance going on.
SR: Absolutely we have a man crush going on big time.
BR: Well at the beginning, I so looked up to him, I follow him around, I want him to love me, so its really hard for me when I meet someone else, because I kind of feel like I’m cheating on him and he feels that way to and I see it.
Was there ever a possibility of either one of you not being in the film?
BH: I was shooting a TV show at the time, and I was not going to get to do the movie because of the dates.
SR: Yeah, they changed the whole schedule for him.
BH: So the producer said don’t come to rehearsal because he said he didn’t think it was going to work out the night before. And I was like fuck that, I’m gonna go to that rehearsal! (laughter) And I’m going to make it so they can see that I need to do this movie. So I said “that’s it, I’m going!” I knew it just worked. And we rehearsed a lot, and he’s a great actor. Sometimes if the lead of the movie, or the star of the movie doesn’t trust the other actor, then I feel like they can’t just let loose. So it’s my job to make the other actor know they could trust me because when you trust each other, awesome gifts happen that you didn’t even know were going to happen because you’re just listening and reacting to each other.
SR: I liked working with Brad. It was like working with Steve Zahn. The thing with Brad it was like me and Steve. It was this simpatico relationship where you almost know you’re in sync with them. And it’s just chemistry—it’s just a natural thing. There’s a few actors you get it with, but it’s good.
BH: So then when you have that, you know, if he gives me a look—just like any relationship you ever have in life—if someone gives you a certain look you know if they’re pissed at you. And it makes the scenes to be so much more real.
You have played a number of not overtly likable characters like Victor is in this film, is there something that attracts you to those types of roles?
SR: Playing bad guys is fun. The taboos are always fun, playing the bad guy is always fun, and I’ve played some bad guys. [Like in] the Green Mile, that guy was so much fun, its kinda your chance to get some scissors and tear up the carpet, throw the t.v. out the window like a rockstar. I just try to like the character I guess and try to empathize with his point of view and That’s all you can do.
BH: he’s a great actor, and he has so much depth to him, that no matter what the circumstance, he could be totally pissed off, but you could see a little kid in him, he has so many different levels going on because he has everything going on that the character has going on so its never a one dimensional thing.
There is a bro-mance, in real life too I see…
Both: (Laugh) Yeah.
Choke opens in theaters September 26th!