Interview: ScreenAnarchy Talks FOCUS With Adrian Martinez
It's that old story for character actors - you might not know the name Adrian Martinez, but surely you've seen his face. He's that big guy that connects with Ben Stiller in Walter Mitty, and is compadre to Will Farrell in Casa di mi Padre. He's got a brief turn in American Hustle, and has shown up in everything from The Sopranos to Flight of the Conchords.
In Focus Martinez plays third banana to the film's stars Margot Robbie and Will Smith, but does so with real appeal. His Farhad is welcome comic relief, and Martinez sets the tone perfectly between sardonic sidekick and competent computer guy.
ScreenAnarchy sat down for a lively conversation with Martinez while he was here in Toronto. We began with a direct question about the quality of the film
So, FOCUS...Did you like it?
I did, I liked it a lot.
Would you tell us otherwise?
Yeah, I would!
Did you see the ending coming?
When I read the script, that was one of the things that drew me to the picture, the fact that I didn't see the ending coming. So many movies are very formulaic and this is not one of them. I felt like it took a lot of twists and turns. And it made me want to be a part of it.
What drew you to the character of Farhad?
One thing that connected me was that he's extremely faithful to Nicky, Will Smith, and that's something that I could connect to. The people in my life really matter to me and I am faithful, no matter what, to the death! I'm Scorpian and we're very loyal, faithful types. That was my common ground with him and how I started to build the character, was just that sense of loyalty. I think he doesn't know everything, but he knows that he needs to protect his boss.
You have fun messing with Margot Robbie's character by showing her dirty pictures and speaking filth
Well, I don't know what you mean by filth? I think he was just speaking openly. I mean, people talk about that, but the reality is, he's a con guy so he's trying to test her and see what her motives are. He's trying to push her to see what he can get away with, what's she really made of. It's a means to an end, he wants to find out what she's made of, so he says stuff like that, to see how she's going to react.
I thought that Margo made the smart choice of not going to let this guy [get to her] because she can put up with anything I can throw at her. So it was a little chess match there.
For the sake of method I'm assuming you did show Margot a picture of your penis
That's on the DVD extras.
Ah, The long version
Yeah, extended. [Laughs] Listen, she's absolutely cool. Every 20 million people, someone gets everything, and that's her. She's just gorgeous, intelligent, she's grounded . There's a lot being thrown at her right now, and you would never know, she's just cool and collected. She's like Jane Bond, she's just awesome.
Listen, a guy like me, when are you going to meet a Margot Robbie, like in the movies, man. It's not going to be at the 7-11, where I was two months ago. So she's pretty awesome and I was just happy to be the . . .
Is it true you're getting behind the camera and you're going to be working on your own?
Yeah, there's going to be a big announcement by Time Warner at SXSW of a project that I'm co-creating. I'm really excited to be a part of it. It's still going to be funny, but it's going to be like saucy too. I'm not supposed to talk about it, but it's going to be good.
One of the more interesting credits on the film is the thieving consultant. Did you learn any cool tricks?
My storyline is just the computer guy. What Apollo Robbins, our technical advisor did was with other cast members. One thing he did telll me over dinner, and I do want my watch back, is you have to really, really be authentic, particularly when you're bullshitting. You just have to come from a real, authentic, emotional place when you lie. It's kind of like the same thing with acting, you use real emotions to sell imaginary experiences. That's one thing I have in common with con-men, we're all just sort of selling something that's truthful, but for fictitious reasons.
When everyone's lying it might make for a weird feeling on set
I really appreciate what Jon and Glen did, was, they really allowed for a safe atmosphere on set. We had takes that were scripted, takes that weren't. There was always a sense of community and party in the air. There were times when [Will] Smith would just start partying and dancing just out of nowhere. Just in New Orleans, at 3 in the morning, when we were riding around the Superdome - He didn't say this, but I got the sense that he felt like saying "Get jiggy with it!"
Listen, it was a great time.
What did you get out of working with a fellow veteran like Smith?
A sense of gratitude. It's the simplest thing. You just feel like despite the years he's put in and all of the miles he's travelled, he's still invested in bringing it. He really wants to do something special each and every time out.
People knock him for After Earth, but the reality is, you don't go into a movie to make it bad or good, you do the best you can and you hope it plays out right. That's what he brings to every take and to every day, is just this relentless sense of I'm going to really fucking go for it, man, and you feel it. You really feel that sense of determination to make it work.
This is a guy that had a trailer with exercise equipment and the trailer was the size of this block, and at 7 in the morning, he's working out and I'm like, do I go with the multigrain bagel, or do I go with the Cheerios, ooh, I haven't had that in a while. This is a guy who is just in another league in terms of work ethic and it's impressive.
Were you ever on the set with Gerald McRaney?
No, our storylines didn't [mesh], but I met him at a junket in L.A., I told him it was an honour to meet him. He's a cool guy. He compared Margot to a smart Marilyn Monroe. I think that's a good way of putting it because I mean, the sky's the limit for her.
What was the direction style of Glenn Ficarra and John Requa like?
It's kind of like driving in a Bentley - Tthere's so much of it that is already set for you, like cruise control and everything. These guys spent a year just figuring out the sequence at the Superdome, all of the different senarios you could do. That's the kind of commitment to specificity that makes it easier for the actor to just come in, say his lines and do his thing, because they've already laid out all of this ground work. You just have to not mess it up and just say the lines and not try to do too much, just be authentic to the scene and to the moment. It's great because they've done so much work.
You've worked with some incredible talent - what inspires you?
Will Smith inspired me just because as I said of his sense of gratitude about everything. Ben Stiller, it's more for his work ethic - This is a guy that starred in the movie, produced it, directed it, and then put in a 16 hour day and then edited it. And he's just got a mind blowing work ethic.
Will Ferrell, it was about his sense of discipline. In Casa de mi Padre we would have Spanish cue cards on horses, literally, this dialogue would be on a horse, and you would never know, he was just right there in character. [He's] not like a funny guy, more like a banker on set, but then once you say action, he's right there with the humour and the timing, impeccable. Different people make you think of different things. I got cut out of most of American Hustle, it didn't work out well for me, but the cheques cleared and I got close to Jennifer Lawrence and I still love her.
What do you think people most underestimate about your performances?
Underestimate? I don't think people think about my performances. But I don't know, I'm just this guy that pops up in movies and TV shows that people are like hey, that guy, I've seen you in something, what was it, and I'm like I don't know, I wasn't there when you watched me.
Now it's gotten to the point that I actually give out these little cards that have my website because sometimes, I just gotta take a leak man, I gotta go, and so you can't do this whole, "were you in . . ." No, I don't know man, here, take my card, and I give them this card, and I move on. Listen, I'm making a living and I work.
Do you consider yourself a character actor?
I consider myself a leading man in a character suit. And hopefully, one day, they'll all catch up to that. I grew up loving character actors, like Wilson in Castaway
Yeah, he had balls
[Laughs] Yeah, he had balls. e said so much, but said so little.
Clamenza in The Godfather, you know, put a little in the soup, a little sugar, a little garlic, like you need those guys.
That guy got paid more than Brando in that movie.
Did he really?
Yeah, that's why he wasn't back in 2.
Wow, but he came up with the line, "Leave the gun, take the cannoli's". So sometimes, the improvs work.
I think those guys represent a tradition in acting that you need in these movies. Not everyone can be or look like Will Smith and Margot Robbie. You need the guy to counterbalance that. Not that I'm not that good looking, but you need that guy that just sort of grounds everything and gives it a sense of humour and a sense of perspective.
Those are some mighty glasses you get to rock in this film
The glasses came from the fact that John and Glen in real life, I forget his name, there 's this award, Grammy-winning producer on whom the look is based.
Probably Ahmet Ertegün
Yeah, so it's kind of based on that. Being at the Superdome, I'm a football guy, I love the Packers, I'm a big time football guy, so just being able to walk on the ground that had the Superbowl, I was like, that was really cool.
You started out playing a perp on AMERICA'S MOST WANTED
We caught that guy. One less scumbag on the street, thanks to me.
I was a kid, and I apparently just looked like the perp that they were trying to get, so the audition was just basically my face. They took me down to Philly, and they were like, "OK, you're going to get this Uzi machine gun, we're going to put you on the passenger side, hold on to this metal bar, you don't want to fall out of the car, it's going 50 miles an hour . . . rolling."
Wait a second, I don't do stunt work, and they're like hey, you want the jacket, just do it. And sure enough, I was like holding on to a metal bar with . . . .they caught the guy so it's all good.