Evan Jones’ role in ”A Million Ways To Die In The West” isn’t one of the funny ones, and that’s no accident. The brusierish-looking actor has a face that simmers with menace and has been put to good effect in films from ”Gangster Squad” to ”The Book of Eli”.
But when Moviehole talked to him about his role as Lewis – the fearsome gang member assigned by villain Clinch (Liam Neeson) to watch over Clinch’s wayward wife Anna (Charlize Theron) – Lewis was friendly, eager and effusive about Seth MacFarlane, comedy and upcoming projects.
You don’t get many funny lines considering it was a comedy.
No, it was pretty hilarious because they were shooting Giovanni Ribisi, Seth, Sarah Silverman and Neil Patrick Harris do the funniest things ever. Then we got to be very serious and we wanted the audience to laugh but we don’t have any funny jokes.
But we tried to make it funny. We played it very seriously and hoped it would come off kind of humorous.
Sometimes a movie set can be a very serious place, even for a comedy. What was the atmosphere like on the shoot?
Everyone was very laid back, very cool and calm and collected. Seth was taking care of everything. He knew what he wanted and he knows comedy because of Family Guy and everything he’s done.
When we got there I wondered if he’d be do funny voices and we’d be hearing that all the time, but I didn’t hear it at all. People were having a good time but he was very serious when it came to figuring out what the joke was. He tried a bunch of different ways and there were times when we’d shoot something and think it was done and then we’d come back and shoot it the next week because he thought of something funnier.
He’s a perfectionist when it comes to whacky comedy. It seems improvisational but a lot goes into it. It was an education.
How was it working with Charlize?
She was great. She’s an amazing Academy award-winning actress and she’s got so much experience. She’s amazing. She picked up this dog while she was there. We were shooting on a reservation and this stray, tick infested, flea infested dog came up to her. She picked him up and within 24 hours he was on a private jet.
There’s not a lot of comedy in your back catalogue. Is it something you want to do more of?
Absolutely. This is the first out there kind of slapstick comedy that I’ve done. There’s been stuff I’ve always thought is kind of funny, like my role in 8 Mile – I think it’s hilarious when I shoot myself.
Your characters often do unexpected things. Do you bring a lot to the table to give directors?
I try to. Sometimes the stuff is already there but usually I like to go against what’s expected. I’ll try to push it to the extreme and then it’s up to the director whether they want to reel me back in. With Sam Mendes on Jarhead, he was totally open to going as far as we could possibly go with the characters and that’s what we got. It was just like play time.
What have you got lined up next?
Right before A Million Ways to Die in the West in New Mexico I did a western with Tommy Lee Jones that just played at the Cannes Film Festival called The Homesman with an amazing cast.
It’s set in Nebraska territory in 1854 and it’s so good. Tommy Lee stars in it, he directs it, he produced it, he co-wrote it. It was like a big flip-flop of my experience with Seth MacFarlane, it was the same genre except one was an extreme drama with horrible heartache and the other is an extreme comedy with horrible deaths. But the Tommy Lee Jones’ set is amazing as well, and I don’t play a bad guy in that one. That’ll come out I’m sure around October/November.
Did you audition for that in the traditional way?
No, that one was amazing, mind-boggling. I got a phone call saying ‘Tommy Lee Jones wants you in this film’. So I had to go out to New Mexico and work with Mr Jones.