He has been the man in shining armour for the likes of Reese Witherspoon, Abbie Cornish and Amanda Seyfried but guess who makes Ryan Phillippe’s heart miss a beat – Aishwarya Rai Bachchan.
“Aishwarya Rai looks beautiful in every film she does, albeit Indian or American,” says the 36-year-old.
His Bollywood knowledge doesn’t douse here. “I have heard of Irrfan Khan and Hrithik Roshan too. Irrfan has been working in Hollywood films since a while now, and Hrithik Roshan is hugely popular amongst the Indians living here.”
“Bollywood has its own brand of cinema which appeals to a billion people locally and millions of more people outside of the country. There is a humungous population that watches and enjoys Bollywood films, even outside of India. They make entertaining films, which not only run high on emotion, but spread a message as well,” says the actor, who says he “wouldn’t mind doing a dance move or two to lap up a Bollywood film.
“I am sure it would be fun to work in one,” he says.
So has he seen any Bollywood potboilers?
“I have watched a couple of movies but I cannot quite recollect their names. All that I can say is that Bollywood films are entertaining to watch, the drama, the songs, etc, lend the film a larger-than-life look,” he says.
Ask if he has any plans to ever visit India for work or for leisure, he says, “Not as of now, but I have heard a lot of good things about the country and I plan to visit it very soon.”
Noteworthy is that Phillippe is also upbeat about Indian delicacies. “I have had Chicken Tikka Masala, once at a restaurant, and I found it pretty sumptuous. Spicy, yet sumptuous,” he says.
The Lincoln Lawyer
, Phillippe co-stars Matthew McConaughey in a match of manipulation in which both men’s lives hang in the balance. Here, his character Louis Roulet hires McConaughey’s bottom-feeding defense attorney, Mick Haller, when he’s accused of attempted murder.
Professing his innocence, it soon becomes clear, however, that Roulet’s story just doesn’t add up. And that the man himself may possess even darker secrets which McConaughey’s streetwise Haller will ultimately confront – both in the courthouse and on the streets of Los Angeles.
“It is a different from the run-of-the-mill stuff. The performance that all the actors working in the film have given are stupendous and certainly worth a watch,” he says.
Throwing light on his character, Phillippe, says, “Louis Roulet is a rich Beverly Hills playboy from a wealthy real estate family. He’s grown up well educated, a silver spoon type of upbringing. And he’s under the false belief that he can get away with murder, essentially. That the rules don’t apply to him.”
Getting the film wasn’t easy for the actor. “I read the script and I loved it. But because it’s such a complicated character, it was important to the producers, and understandably so, that they had actors read for it. So I literally auditioned and chased after this part,” he reveals.
“I think they saw something like 200 guys. But I just really wanted it. It was unlike anything I’d had an opportunity to do in my career. Also, it’s kind of fun to play the bad guy for a change (laughs)… The rules that exist when you’re the protagonist and you’re the guy that the audience has to relate to, or connect to, they’re thrown out the window when you get to be a character like this. There’s a lot of license and freedom that comes with it,” he adds.
So was that part of the attraction? “Yes. But it always really comes down to the screenplay and filmmaker. This is the kind of movie I like to see as an audience member. That’s pretty much the basis for the choices I make. I think maybe the reason why I haven’t been in romantic comedies or enormously commercial movies is because that’s not my area of interest. And then when you get an ensemble like this, it’s truly exciting. You show up every day and there’s another great actor that’s in the film or that you’re going to be working with. I love that. I love being in great ensembles,” he says.
Phillippe goes gaga over the script of the crime drama.“The scripts that we read as actors are not nearly as satisfying as this one ultimately was. When I did
years ago…I mean, the thing I’m proudest about
is that cast. And everyone who worked on that film, from Sandra Bullock to Don Cheadle, we all worked at scale. You know, for no money. And people still wanted to do it because it was original and it had elements that you don’t see in film after film. Actors are looking for more substance and a lot of times you’re not getting it with the scripts you read. Even to get a guy like Bryan Cranston, who’s won the Best Actor Emmy in the last two years, to get him to come in and play a relatively small part in this film, it’s a testament to the material,” he says.
Ask about future projects and Phillippe has a lot on his plate at the moment.
“The next film I have coming out is called
The Bang Bang Club
, about combat photographers at the end of apartheid in South Africa. I also sold a series recently to Showtime that I’m the creator and executive producer on,
Heavy and Rolling
, about a town car driver in Manhattan, sort of a dark comedy,” he says.
“I did a film with Bruce Willis this winter,
. And I’m about to direct my first short film… I mean, I think I’m kind of moving into a slightly more behind the scenes phase now. Having done this for almost twenty years – I’ve worked with Altman, Eastwood and Ridley Scott – I want to take some of that experience and create a little more, rather than just being part of someone else’s project,” he adds.