Tuesday, 31 October 2006
We Are Marshall is a film that chronicles the aftermath of the 1970 plane crash that killed 37 members of the Marshall University football team, eight coaches, 25 boosters and five crew members and the efforts of Jack Lengyel, played by Matthew McConaughey, along with surviving assistant coach Red Dawson, played by Matthew Fox, to rebuild the team from scratch.
Matthew Fox's character, Red Dawson, was the assistant coach for the 1970 Marshall University football team. He didn’t get on the plane the night of the crash. After the tragic occurrence, he was approached by the school to act as head coach of the team, but decided against coming back. Coach Lengyel convinces Dawson to return for a year to help rebuild the team as assistant coach.
We spoke with Fox about how he felt undertaking such an emotional project like We Are Marshall. We also talked about him meeting the real Red Dawson and what it was like working with McG as a director.
Q: Hi, Matthew.
Matthew Fox: Hello.
Q: Hi. Thanks for taking time to do the interview this morning.
Matthew Fox: Yeah, thank you.
Q: Hey, let’s start at the beginning. What was it that initially drew you to this project?
Matthew Fox: That was the script. I didn’t know anything about the - you know, what happened in 1970. And so - you know, I read the script and then that was McG, and those are the two beginning factors that just had me excited about it. And then obviously - I met Red and that was the thing that really was huge, too. I just really - I love him and (we’ve gotten to be) really good friends and (feel). And I felt really (- felt) important to me, (and felt) I was really - it was one of those things where I just really had to do it.
Q: Did you do a lot of research, you know, the (backstory) Marshall Academy and Red himself?
Matthew Fox: I kind of went at that from two places because I didn’t know much about the story. The first thing was to ask McG for all of his research materials that he had put together and he sent me this (gab) and stuff, and so I kind of - you know, I spent enough time with that to get a really good concept of what had happened. And then the most important element to me was to spend as much time with Red as I possibly could as early in my preparation process as I could. And I was shooting on Lost and couldn’t leave Hawaii, and that was about six weeks from the starting of shooting We Are Marshall, and so I called him and asked him if he would consider flying to Hawaii. And I fully anticipated him, you know, being very reticent to do that. He hasn’t done much flying since 1970 and - but he surprised me by saying he would like to do that and that was - and he actually flew all the way to Hawaii, spent four or five days with me. We - come to the set with me on Lost. I was working, and if I wasn’t, we just spent a lot of time together, spent time with my family, and we got to know each other. That was the first step. And then the next step was a more difficult process and that was me asking him questions about, you know, recollections, memory, things that he hadn’t done a lot of talking about. I mean Red has had a really, you know, it’s just (unintelligible) are very internal sort of strong man, and he doesn’t - he is not the kind of guy that’s going to do a lot of talking about his own stuff. And so - but he was incredibly open with me and generous and that was the process that was really important to me.
Q: Now, with the story being based on true events and the tragedy of the Marshall Plane crash, how much added pressure was there on you for this role?
Matthew Fox: I’ve never felt as much pressure and - in a good way. I mean, you know, when you do a fictional story and you’re creating everything from a fictional script and creating a character that is, yours and the director is only to create, you know, you always want to set out to make a really great movie, I mean, that’s the way you approach it (unintelligible) a great story. But when it’s based on a true event and you’re playing a man that you care deeply about getting it right and doing him justice and honoring his sort of - his life, you know, there’s an enormous amount of pressure if you’re coming out it from a place of responsibility and I felt that, I mean, I - all I care about - and Red hasn’t seen the movie yet because he’s waiting for the right time for him to see it. He’s got to see it on his own. And obviously the one person in the world that I care the most about feeling good about this movie and feeling good about my portrayal in this movie is Red Dawson so - yeah.
Q: But you played college football, how did that experience help you when you’re filming the movie?
Matthew Fox: It helped - I mean obviously I love the game and I know the game well and this was the first time I ever approached it from the coaching perspective and - but I had a lot of coaches in my life and I think, you know, drew from a (conglomerate) of those, but also got to know Red long enough that felt like I had a pretty specific idea of what kind of coach Red was and that stuff was really fun. You know, I had to carry a weight through this movie, and so it was hard and - but - yeah, the football stuff, it was really fun to get back on the field and have all these kids out there in pads and I’ll tell you the football stuff and how well that was choreographed and - that was amazing.
Q: Uh-huh. Yeah, I’m going to pass off to my colleague. Thanks very much, Matthew.
Q: The film is... it’s pretty dramatic. It’s based on, you know, a really tough emotional time in college football history, and it’s quite a departure for McG. He’s, you know, better known for Charlie’s Angels, how was it working with him?
Matthew Fox: Absolutely fantastic. I can’t say enough things about McG. He - I worked with him again in a heart beat, I mean, you know, he was - for my first big movie to have that experience with him, I could not have asked for anything better. It was just fantastic. He came out it from such a well-prepared, such a passionate place, and he’s such an amazing, you know, guy as a person who’s really cool, number one, but then as a director, he was phenomenally prepared. We totally trusted him. He created an environment, which was really conducive to people, I think bringing their (A game) and, you know, he’s just awesome.
Q: Great, thanks.
Fox currently stars as the conflicted, heroic doctor Jack Shepherd on the hit ABC series “Lost.” For his work on the Emmy-winning Best Drama, Fox shared the 2005 Screen Actors Guild Ensemble Award and was nominated for Golden Globe and Television Critics Association Awards for achievement in dramatic acting. Previously, Fox starred in Golden Globe Award-winning series “Party of Five.”
Fox will next star in the political thriller “Vantage Point,” opposite Dennis Quaid, Forest Whitaker and William Hurt, set for a 2007 release.
We Are Marshall starring Matthew MacConaughey and Matthew Fox opens December 22, 2006.