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Q&A with ‘Perfect Stranger’ Star Giovanni Ribisi

Giovanni Ribisi shouldn’t be a stranger to moviegoers. He appeared in stellar films such as Saving Private Ryan, Boiler Room, and Lost in Translation, to name a few. Now he’s starring with Halle Berry and Bruce Willis in the thriller Perfect Stranger, playing a computer geek/reporter who is somewhat obsessed with his associate (Berry), as he helps her try to solve a murder.

The busy actor took some time out to talk to Hollywood.com about making the film, how he prepares for his roles as well as giving us a few choices words on the state of movies in general these days.

Hollywood.com: How does it feel like to be yelled at by Halle Berry?
GR:
It’s the greatest thing you could ever imagine. Wait, she yells at me in the movie? Yeah, I guess I was thinking other thoughts at the time.

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HW: Is this one of the darkest movies you’ve ever made?
GR:
Noooo, are you kidding? You should see my private video collection! [Laughs] Definitely not one of the darkest but certainly one of the more complicated, I would say. And I think that’s a positive thing. It’s a movie about secrets and about the lengths people will go to cover up those secrets. And how many different masks we put on. It was a challenge in that regard, for everyone, really. Luckily, we had a two-week rehearsal period, where everyone got really comfortable with each other. It was me, [director] James Foley, Halle and Bruce [Willis]. And that’s a rare thing most movies can’t afford these days. It’s so important. Ultimately, for my character, there was a definite through line. And it comes down to what he wants in the movie and what his objectives are, in a way. The film sort of says life and people are not necessarily so black and white. There’s definitely a grey area. To a lesser or greater degree, everyone has secrets.

HW: What was it like working with Halle?
GR:
She’s extremely committed and concentrated. It’s really refreshing to work with someone when it’s not about the next Prada shipment. It’s more about really wanting to do a good job. I think you can see that in the films she decides to do. As well with Bruce. I couldn’t believe how brilliant he is, really smart. A lot of that two weeks was just pouring over things and dissecting every little thing. It was a rare experience. By the end of the day we were absolutely exhausted.

HW: I guess Halle’s beauty didn’t break your concentration so much then.
GR:
Oh, no. It totally did.

HW: How do you prepare for a role like this? What deep, dark place did you dwell?
GR:
Pacing in my trailer nervously, crying, “What do I do?” [Laughs] Every movie has a different process and you just have to be committed. I think for me, I’ve definitely had those feelings for someone. If you’ve never really felt that way for someone, then you haven’t really lived your life. Those deep, emotional feelings that flip flop between love and hate you can so easily feel for someone. It’s definitely that, using your own personal experiences as an actor and concentrating on that. Also the spontaneous inspiration that comes in doing a scene with someone over and over. You definitely gain a certain amount of confidence after years of working that really are only there because of those years. Applying your trade, so to speak. I love working on characters, getting the walk, the voice and all that. There you go, acting 101! [Laughs]

HW: Are you meticulous?
GR:
I would hope to be, almost too a fault. And I really do mean to a fault. Because it can be the most fucking annoying thing to other people. But this is just the way I go about it.

HW: Do you ever watch a final edit and say, “God, I wish they didn’t use that shot…”
GR:
All the time, EVERY shot, actually. That’s one of the hardest thing about being an actor because you are your own worst critic. Just have to work with people you trust, specifically directors. And James was right there, had such a great time. Glengarry Glen Ross, At Close Range, he’s just a phenomenal director. And he was so enthusiastic. I’m sure you’ll hear from Halle, his exclamations after he was happy with a take were something else. He’d scream, “YESSSSSS!” Almost embarrassing.

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HW: How does your spirituality or belief system effect your acting?
GR:
You’re talking about Scientology? People ask me about that and just to dispel any rumors over the years, it’s really a simple thing, a pragmatic philosophy. For me specifically, I go to the [Scientology center], study a course and drill what I’ve learned and then I go out and apply it. There’s definitely viewpoints that Scientologists have, specifically, as you guys know, on the pharmaceutical industry. But it’s just a pragmatic philosophy. And how it’s helped in my acting, it’s a philosophy that deals with human behavior. It really sort of covers all aspects of life, but that’s what philosophy is. So, yeah, it’s done nothing but help. It’s not a belief system as much as it is like going to a college or university.

HW: What do you like making more, studio films or independents?
GR:
I think making that distinction, no offense, is inaccurate. I’ve made movies that were considered independents that had a bigger budget than a studio film. It really does come down to the script and the director, the people who are involved. Years ago, the discrepancy was laudable. There was a movement going on with independent films but then the wrong people jumped on the bandwagon and started suffering from the same thing we complain about studio films. In other words, I think there are just as many shitty independent films as there are studio films. I think it really takes somebody who’s committed and who really wants to be effective in what they do.

HW: So what do you think about the state of movies these days?
GR:
For me personally, I think the gap has widened between what is really good and what is schlock. That we are in a time, for some reason, that is a regressive. Where people are being more parochial and tentative or scared or trying to fit a criteria. But I think if you look back at the decades of filmmaking, it’s an ebb and flow to it. I get excited about [this time] because I look at it as something to rebel against. By the same token, there were some great films last year like Little Children, The Departed or The Proposition. There are things going on in movies that I’ve never seen. Really provocative, exciting.

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