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More Than an American Idol: John C. Reilly’s Dewey Cox

[IMG:L]When seasoned actor John C. Reilly first ignited fandom as a competitive porn star in Boogie Nights, it was hard to tell what exact space this cryptically alluring, yet non-traditional face would occupy among the pantheon of Hollywood’s A-list. 

While it was clear the talent was there, would his quirky looks dictate he get sucked into character-actor world, or friend-of-the-lead-guy world? Or would he actually make it to the ranks of leading man, with an option to float amongst the categories?

In charting the rise and fall and rise of Dewey Cox, it’s loud and clear that Reilly has not only found his leading man–but his leading man has found him. At one with double persona, Reilly inhabits frontman Dewey like a chilly hand in a well-worn glove. Hollywood.com caught up with the dynamic Reilly who spoke to us through his new alter-ego: the one, the only, rock n’ roll star for the ages–Dewey Cox.

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[IMG:R]Hollywood.com: Did you have a musical upbringing?
John C. Reilly:
I did a lot of musicals as a kid growing up in Chicago. Then I studied acting in Chicago. Yeah, then I taught myself to play guitar in college. Then slowly it seeped into my acting career. I wrote a song and played a little bit in Boogie Nights. Then I sang a little bit in Magnolia. And I was in Chicago, the movie. [Smiles] Slowly … I was almost preparing for this moment. 

HW: Any former bands in your past? 
JCR:
I had bands but nothing I’d really be bragging about. I had a band as a kid called Shark Fighter. And another band here in NY when I lived here called Frozen Spit. You haven’t heard of them for a reason.

[IMG:R]HW: Did you have films like Walk the Line and other music films in mind when filming this?
JCR:
Personally I wasn’t really thinking of Walk the Line–or any biopic. I understand when these guys [Judd Apatow and Jake Kasdan] wrote the script that these guys may have been thinking about these trademark things that you see happen over and over in musical biopic but I was thinking more about musicians actual lives and documentaries that I would watch, like Don’t Look Back or Chuck Berry: Hail! Hail! Rock ‘n’ Roll!. I saw a great documentary about Roy Orbison.

HW: When you were writing your songs, were you consciously thinking of themes, or just writing a song to write a song?
JCR:
The songs needed to be funny but they also needed to be really listenable because there’s so much music in the movie–and we didn’t want it to just be these silly joke songs that would be difficult to listen to. Also, the musicians involved had a lot of pride on the line … That’s why it was helpful to have Jake [Kasdan, director] there every day. 

[IMG:R]HW: Talladega Nights must have been good training for this film…
JCR: Yeah, it was. You know Judd also produced Talladega … I think everything that I’ve done has been preparation to play Dewey Cox. I don’t think I could’ve pulled this off five years ago for a lot of different things: the music, being able to carry a lead of a movie, and taking on that responsibility–the comedy stuff. [With] Will FarrellAdam McKay and Judd Apatow I was like, “Alright, I’m going into you guys’ world a little bit here…you gotta let me know if I’m doing okay.” It was smiles all around.

HW: Did you know going into this you would really have to dedicate yourself to this character?
JCR:
No, honestly.  At the start of the recording of this movie if we sat down and said, “Alright, we need to write 40 original songs,” we would’ve just collapsed under the weight of the responsibility. We just took it one song at a time Making this movie was nuts! One day I’m kissing a chimpanzee and the next day I’m having sex with a Playboy Playmate–the next day I’m running around in a Sumo diaper on PCP flipping a car over, or begging for my life in Yiddish.

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HW: Was something exciting about lampooning some of the stereotypes that are often unspoken touchstones of these biopic films, like having the over rhythmic Black clubs and calculating Jewish managers?
JCR:
You know it’s funny–I’ve done over 40 movies at this point, so I’ve been in the filmmaking world for a long time–and like a lot of the people working on the movie we all thought, “Man, there’s so many things we see over and over in these types of movies. Wouldn’t it be fun to point that out and just have a little bit of fun with that?” So, yeah definitely! 

[IMG:R]HW: What about the naked scene?
JCR:
That’s been one of the great joys of this film–watching that [penis] get unveiled in the movie and watching people freak out and laugh. We had to experiment with the amount of [screen] time we could show the scene … And Judd Apatow’s first inclination was like, “No, no. Have it stay there forever! Like a minute and a half.” Then we started to lose some [audience] people and we began to shorten it–the time on screen I mean. Ha!

HW: How do you feel about aging in the film?
JCR:
A friend commented that I had lost some weight and I explained, “Yeah, I’m playing a character from age 14 to 72,” and he looked at me like, “What?” and I explained that it’s a comedy. It was a thrill! I don’t normally get a chance to play a 14-year-old character, so I had a lot of fun with it.

[IMG:L]HW: Do you think this is going to change the way musical biopic are filmed?
JCR:
I think that’s already changing to tell the truth. If you look at a movie like I’m Not There people are already starting to realize maybe it’s time to shake up the formula a little bit. But, the truth is biopic exist for a reason because they work and people like to see that classic story arc of someone from humbled beginnings making it big, losing their way, and then finding redemption.

HW: Can you identify with this character at all?
JCR:
I come from pretty humbled beginnings myself in Chicago. I’m not nearly as prone to ridiculous episodes as Dewey Cox has been … There are a lot of similarities between an actor’s life and a musician’s life. It’s a little more extreme with musician’s though, because I think fans expect you to be that [icon]. They’re watching you in concert and when they read about you–they expect you to be that person offstage. With actors they may look at you and think, “Well! He’s an actor, he’s just playing a character.” They seem to get it a little more. So the pressure on the musicians to really live the myth is a little more.

[IMG:R]HW: Do you have a favorite costume from the film?
JCR:
It’s really tough to pick a favorite costume because there were 120 costume changes in this movie and that’s almost more than one per minute. That’s one of the funny things we were goofing around with the biopic of it all is that too–that’s the way you trap where the character is at, in what time period, is through the clothes. Yeah, I liked that white suit with the “D” on it.

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HW: Alive or not, is there a rock star who you’d want to see the film? Or one who you wouldn’t?
JCR:
A lot of people have been asking me that: “Aren’t you afraid of offending Johnny Cash? Or his family? Or Elvis Presley and his family?” I think the truth of it is, if you lived the life that Johnny Cash did, or Elvis did, or Roy Orbison did, you had to have a sense of humor about it by the end … I gotta think those guys are smiling right now, if they’re able to watch movies–wherever they are!

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