The celebrated “Dances with Wolves” star appears in the INSP premiere movie “Blue Ridge.”
Graham Greene is on the phone, calling from his home in Ontario, for the purpose of promoting Blue Ridge, the western-flavored crime drama that premieres at 8 pm ET/7 pm CT Saturday, and repeats at 2 pm ET/1 pm CT March 28, on INSP.
He is, not at all surprisingly, excellent in his supporting role as Cliff McGrath, leader of mountain community clan who impatiently awaits the outcome while the new sheriff (Johnathon Schaech) investigates the murder of McGrath’s daughter, a real estate developer who evidently riled the wrong people.
Greene said he enjoyed making the film on location in Kentucky, especially when, between scenes of tense confrontations, he and his fellow cast members got to joke and make rude remarks about each other’s performances. “If I can’t have fun, I don’t go to work,” he explained. “It was just fun to start doing stuff like that.”
Here are some other highlights from our freewheeling conversation.
Cowboys & Indians: Even after you’ve been making movies all these years — and earned an Oscar nomination for your role in Dances with Wolves — do people still confuse you with the famed British author Graham Greene?
Graham Greene: [Laughs] By now, I think pretty much everybody knows that he died. But there was a time when I got this letter from some professors of English. This was back when we just had fax machines. They faxed me questions like, “When people read your books, what do you prefer us to be doing? What kind of wine should we be drinking? What kind of weather should it be outside?” All that sort of thing. I sent them back some ridiculous answers. The type of wine? Lots of it. Weather? Pouring down rain, but high winds.
C&I: What attracted you to Blue Ridge?
Graham: Going to Kentucky. And the part was — well, it was rough. It was a rough part. But it was just the chance to be a bad guy.
C&I: To be fair, some of his behavior is excusable, don’t you think? After all, somebody killed his daughter.
Graham: [Laughs] Well, everybody was a bad guy in that film.
C&I: While you were in Kentucky, did you get to actually sample any moonshine?
Graham: No. I just watched people.
C&I: And observed the effect on them huh?
Graham: Oh, yeah. Pretty much.
C&I: In many ways, Blue Ridge resembles a western. You have quite a few of those on your resume, don’t you?
Graham: Oh, yeah. They used to have this thing called the Golden Boot Award that they gave in Santa Clarita. And I got my star on the street there somewhere between John Wayne and Steve McQueen and Tom Mix, all those guys.
C&I: I’d say you certainly deserved it. You’ve earned your spurs.
Graham: I hope so.
C&I: What do you look for primarily these days in projects that are offered to you? You mentioned you wanted to play a bad guy again. Are there certain other things that you're drawn to, that maybe you weren't drawn to 10 or 20 years ago?
Graham: Yeah. The ones that pay the most.
C&I: Good choice, good choice.
Graham: No, I'm just kidding. No, I like the diversity of roles. I’ve played cops, I’ve played soldiers. I played a judge in Molly’s Game. I played God twice. I played the Archangel Gabriel. Well, I guess that’s pretty much got me covered.
C&I: I wish I would have seen you give your acclaimed performance as Shylock in The Merchant of Venice at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival back in 2007.
Graham: Well, I was doing Merchant of Venice at one theater in the afternoon, then going to another theater at night and doing Of Mice and Men, playing Lenny.
C&I: Oh wow. Oh wow. Oh man.
Graham: Mice and Men was an incredible production. And nobody could get tickets for it. It was sold out.
C&I: What do you think you learned about yourself as an actor after an experience like that?
Graham: I don’t know. I’m still learning. You don’t know everything. Everybody thinks you know everything about acting, but you don’t. I just know one thing: Steal from the best.
C&I: Do you remember a particular film or stage or TV production where it first dawned on you that, hey, you probably could make a living at this?
Graham: I never really thought about it. It just happened. I guess that it was when I was nominated for an Oscar. I said, “Well, being nominated is better than winning.”
C&I: In what way?
Graham: Well, suddenly, everybody wants you.
C&I: What do you think was the best piece of advice you got when you were starting out as an actor?
Graham: Don’t leave your wallet at the dressing room, make sure your fly’s done up, and get an alarm clock.
C&I: And what do you say when young actors ask you for advice?
Graham: You got to have the urge. I have kids today ask me, “I’d like to become an actor, I have a degree, what do I have to do now?” And I say, “Learn how to wait tables, and get your cabdriver license.” You don't just walk in and start acting. A buddy of mine, we’d been in the business — I don't know, maybe 20 years or so. And this kid was sitting in the theater where we hung out in Toronto and he said, “You know, I’ve been out of acting school for two years. I should be in Hollywood making movies right now.” And we both laughed at him. You’ll never get there with that attitude. You’ll never get there.
C&I: Have you ever thought about writing your autobiography?
Graham: No, I’ll do that later. If somebody wants to know something about me, they’ll have to wait.
C&I: I’m sure you’ve got enough stories to fill a book.
Graham: Oh boy, do I ever. I’m writing short stories, but they’re all over the place. Now I got four computers, two iPads. And there are stories all over every one of them. I’ve got to put them together.
C&I: Are they works of fiction? I mean, are you working on a novel or an anthology of short stories?
Graham: No, they’re just little short stories. They’re not connected to one another.
C&I: So if Blue Ridge is well received — and I think it will be — any chance you might come back for at least a cameo if there’s a sequel?
Graham: I would come back yeah. I didn’t get killed in it, right?
C&I: Right. I mean, your character is still in mourning for his daughter at the end. But he’s still around.
Graham: Well, I’ve been killed it over 50 pictures. So it's funny. Most times, I just flip through the script and find out, okay, I'm dead. Then I just take the rest of the script, and throw it away. Don’t need it.