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‘Four Brothers’ Interviews: Garrett Hedlund and Andre Benjamin

You shot in Toronto, which subs for the movie’s setting, Detroit, and it looked like you didn’t have to do much acting to look like you were freezing your butts off.

Garrett Hedlund: “All the scenes that were sort of shot towards the beginning were horrendous, because it was January in Canada. I was from Minnesota, so I was a little more adapted to that sort of weather, more than these guys, but blood thinned out as well, and it got f**king cold up there.”
Andre Benjamin: “It was scenes, like the scene on like the white area, where you didn’t see any land. We were shooting on top of a lake, it’s frozen, so it’s kind of like a human standing on a big block of ice. And there were no trees to stop the wind, and it was just so cold, that my mouth would freeze up, and I’d have to warm it up so I could say my lines. I have never been that cold in my life.”

Was the chemistry on set, the teasing brotherly vibe, immediate, or did it come to you in stages?

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Benjamin: “I can say that it was a blessing, because I’m an only child, and so going into a movie called Four Brothers…We didn’t have time to rehearse–usually you have weeks to rehearse with the cast–and so we had a week and then we pretty much just did hockey practice. So a lot of bonding came from playing hockey and going out at night, but it was natural. Everybody’s personality was cool, no egos, we laughed, and joked, and we got so comfortable we could talk about each other. Even racial jokes, because we knew about it – you know how it was, the black, white, black, white, brother-type thing. So it was cool.”

What were some of the nicknames you gave each other on set?

Benjamin: “We always got on [Garrett’s] hair size. Because he had this hairdo, you know? He’d come out of the trailer in the morning with this big bouffant, type thing. So we always got him about that. They got on my clothes–they said it was too tight. Actually the line in the movie about my teeth–That was made up. After that day, I just knew…I said ‘Well, Tyrese, for the rest of my life, people are gonna talk about my teeth because of that line.'”
Hedlund: “Let’s face it, these guys–you see how much they sort of taunt [my character] when he does speak, and so he sort of goes in a world on his own, sort of sits back. He kind of separates himself from the bunch.”

Andre, you’re relatively new to the acting game. Have you taken any formal training, or is it all on-the-job experience?

Benjamin: “Even before I started in music in middle school and in high school, I was in a drama troupe, in a performing arts school, but I’ve never thought about being an actor. It was kind of just being chosen to be in stage plays like Charlotte’s Web and stuff like that. But after doing music, doing videos, I’d get calls from producers and directors and they’d tell me come hang out and try out for this role, and I started to like it. And so I moved to California because I was spending so much money on hotels and airplane tickets.”

What’s the allure for a recording artist to go into acting? Why does it seem to be a natural progression from videos?

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Benjamin: “Videos and films are totally different. Because you’re hiding behind music, you know? And you pretty much just lip-sync. And in film, you know, they yell ‘Action!’ and it’s as quiet as it is in here, and you have to believe it, you know? You have to go in to it.”

On screen in this film, you seem like such a relatable Everyman, very normal. And very different from your flashy OutKast music persona.

Benjamin: “Andre 3000 is a character in itself, you know, so I’m actually closer to Jeremiah than people think, you know.”

Garrett, you arrived in L.A. and seemingly immediately got cast in a big film. Did you ever really struggle?

Hedlund: “Prior to going out there, I sort of picked up the book and started studying, reading anything I could to sort of just increase that ability to sort of analyze material and put myself in a character’s shoes. With every novel, every series, I’d see myself as that person, so when it came time to read scripts, it came a little more natural. When I was in Arizona, I started reading scripts. I’d read the scripts to the movies that I haven’t seen, and take my take on the character and pretend that I was gonna go in. Movies like ‘Five Easy Pieces,’ and things with great actors when they were still young, the movies that started them off. Then after that I’d watch the movie and see what they did, but the whole thing with that sort of study was just to show myself that there were no rules, and that I could actually follow my instincts and train my instincts.”

Did you create this back story for yourself, your character, to explain who you’d become?

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Hedlund: “Yeah, you do, you write a complete back story, which will just help you answer any questions that aren’t, you know, answered in the script. Anything that’s not in the script is there in your mind, so therefore writing back story definitely helps you out. I remembered when I first started, even going in on auditions, I would write fifteen pages of back story on the character, from the beginning, from starting in this life, so like what his fears are and just sort of about him, I almost wrote it like a short story about this character, and sort of, you know, even if it wasn’t sort of almost the same as what’s on the page, but it’s already then for becoming a character in my mind.”

Andre, you’re the voice of reason, was it hard to be dramatic when you’re really so cool?

Benjamin: “No, I think humans, you look for any chance you can to do stuff like that, you know. By that time, like, the character, you know, but I think you have to know–and I don’t know if they showed it that much in the film, but growing up, we all were knuckleheads, we all did the street thing, so we were all in the same boat, but I guess they moved out of town, I stayed in Detroit. Like once you have a wife and two kids, two girls, you kind of have to slow it down. And I think I was the only voice of reason or the more responsible one because of that, I had more to lose than any other of my brothers. But at the same time, I still had pride, there were certain scenes cut out of the movie, like I think, like me and Tyrese were sitting at the table, me and Angel, I’m sorry, were sitting at the table, and I think he’s testing me, you know, because they come back into town, I have a house, and a family, so they’re trying to play like I’ve softened up, you know, and I kind of snap on him at the table, but I think they took it out.”

As a recording artist, how is it learning to let it go and really having to be emotional?

Benjamin: “It’s therapy. It’s therapy, it’s good, it’s good, I remember I was shooting My Life in Idlewild, and I’m not gonna tell you like scenes or whatever, but when I left that movie, I felt like a new person, because I had to go places that I hadn’t gone in like ten years must have been, you know, in OutKast, because you’re not supposed to show those parts. So it was like therapy it was good.”

What do you get from working with John Singleton?

Benjamin: “To always iron your clothes before you go outside. [laughs] It was a joke on the set: we called him John Wrinkleton. Because he always came wrinkled. I think the intensity. I had a conversation with him, I said ‘What’s the difference between these two directors and those two directors?’ And he always said ‘I’m an old school director. The people I study, they give the emotion out of the movie.’ He said ‘If I feel like I can make you feel something visually, that’s cool–if it looks good, that’s cool. But if I feel like I can make you laugh, if I can make you cry, if I can make you sad, if I can make you like overjoyed and happy, then I feel like I’m doing my job.’ So he looks for the emotion in it.”
Hedlund: “I came off with one good line from John [Singleton], and that was ‘If you’re gonna steal, steal from the best.’ And that’s–I think that was one of the best lines I’d hear him say.”

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