Interview: Standoff's Thomas Jane | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
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Standoff’s Thomas Jane

The actor on his new film, his musical roots, and why he enjoys directing

Feb 12, 2016 Thomas Jane Bookmark and Share

Today, audiences know Thomas Jane as the man with the gun in his hand, but he started his career as a busker that only sang about such characters. In his latest film, Standoff, the 46-year-old actor stars as a shotgun toting, alcoholic war veteran defending his home, and an innocent young witness, from a vicious hitman played by Laurence Fishburne. It’s the sort of pulpy, white knuckle thriller that Jane built much of his fanbase on a decade ago, when he broke through with eponymous starring roles like The Punisher’s pistol-wielding vigilante and Stander’s infamous South African bank robber.

But before he starred in such shoot ‘em ups, Jane would sing lines like: “Momma lay my guns in the ground,” and “Hey Joe, where you going with that gun in your hand?” over and over as part of his meager two song repertoire—“Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door,” and “Hey Joe,” respectively—as a panhandler that was fresh to Hollywood. It was the late ’80’s and he was merely 18 years old, but Jane can still easily recall how tough those times were. “I didnt have any money, so I bought a guitar and busked, and ate with that money for quite awhile,” he says during a recent interview with Under the Radar. He adds: “When youre a kid youre pretty elastic, pretty rubberized, so you bounce pretty hard and still bounce back. And I bounced around pretty hard there for awhile.”

Below, Jane tells us more about feeling like a humble musician again on the set of Standoff, in between dodging bullets and engaging in heated dialogue with Fishburne. Jane also talks about the one setting he refuses to shoot in, why he enjoys directing as much as acting, and more.

Kyle Mullin [Under the Radar]: What did you enjoy most about making this new film?

Thomas Jane: Doing a two hander with Laurence Fishburne, where it’s just me and him for most of the movie, was what attracted me to the part. i really had a great time working with Laurence. And the script looked like something we could have fun with. And we did.

What sort of chemistry did the two of you have?

He’s a great actor. I think good actors challenge each other. We got an opportunity to do that. He’s a giving guy. He gave me a whole lot to work with and play off. Part of what attracts me to roles is who I get to act with, who’s got the chops.

Fishburne doesn’t play a villain like that often. He must’ve really enjoyed that.

He seemed to be having a good time, yeah. And the little girl [the murder witness, played by Ella Ballentine] was pretty good too. It was a quick shoot, pretty much one location, in Alberta, Canada. We showed up for work at the same place everyday, and it was beautiful out there— this old house, in this big field. I enjoyed it.

Was there any special prep for the fight scenes, or did you know enough already from doing The Punisher and Stander?

I knew enough, I guess you could say. it was pretty straightforward. Nothing super fancy, mostly it was Laurence and I chasing each other around with shotguns, and a lot of tense, dialogue heavy scenes. By the way, what’s Under the Radar?

We’re an indie music, arts and culture magazine. We’re based in Virginia.

Oh cool. Well I’m from Maryland.

Baltimore, right?

Yeah, I was born there, then I grew up outside of Washington, D.C.. And I dated a girl from Crystal City, Virginia for a while. I love it down there, my family and I still go to Maryland and Virginia all the time. It’s a wonderful part of the world.

And I’ve read that when you were growing up in those parts, your mom was in antiques and your dad was into genealogy?

My dad worked in genetics, actually. He started biogenetic companies—he’d build them up and sell them off. He was quite successful with that, he still does it today, it’s what he loves to do. And that part of the world is very bio-genetic friendly. It’s where they sent O.J. Simpson’s blood to be tested [during his 1995 murder trial]. Whenever they had to do that sot of thing they’d send it to Maryland, that’s where all the testing was.

Sounds like an interesting place for your dad. Was he pretty supportive of your choice to go into the arts?

Yeah, I think so. It’s always a little unnerving when your kid says “I’m going to be an actor, or a musician, or a painter, or poet.” I mean, you’re just left to say: “Good luck.” But I think people try to be supportive. Support’s nice, in the end but you’re gonna do what you’re gonna do.

Then you left for Hollywood, and you were only 18. Has your career turned out the way you expected?

I didn’t exactly know how it would come about, but I just wanted to make a living at what I love. I’ve been real fortunate to make a good living, and yet stay under the radar enough that I don’t have paparazzi camping outside, collecting my trash. And that is a sweet spot for an actor, let me tell ya. I’m fortune to be able to do that— make a good living, have a nice house and car, send my kid to a good school, and not have to deal with all that horrible crap that I watch some of my peers go through. I hope I can keep threading that needle.

Speaking of your peers, I’ve read that you’ve always looked up to Nicolas Cage, and that you’ll be co-starring with him in a new movie this year called USS Indianapolis: Men of Courage. What was he like to work with?

I gotta tell ya, man: I guess we’re in the same movie, but I never worked with him. We waved at each other in a scene, that was it. I came in for a bit, to play a small part, because it’s the story of the USS Indianapolis. If you want to know that story, just listen to Robert Shaw give the monologue in Jaws. That’s the movie. I’m surprised it took this long to make that movie.

I came in for a few days, and played the pilot who discovered the crew members in the water, after they’d been there for days getting eaten by sharks. I only did that, I told the producers: “I’m not getting in the water, I’ve done that too much already. But I’ll be the pilot! I can fly a plane over the water, but that’s about as close as I want to get.” But it was fun, we shot in Alabama. I hope it turns out good enough that it’s honorable to the people who went through that experience, and their families.

What is it about the water that made you so antsy?

I did that movie, Deep Blue Sea, and I was in the water for six months. I was with animatronic sharks, then we flew down and shot with real sharks. I got a rash that still hasn’t gone away from shooting in that tank water. So yeah, I’m done with that.

That was back in the late ‘90s, right? Are you at a place in your career now where you’re getting more satisfying roles?

Oh hell yeah! [Laughs] Nah, I’ve been happy the whole time. I got no complaints. I got a little comic book company [RAW Studios], where we make underground sci-fi and horror comics. I get to direct a bit, and do a bit of writing. And I’m going to direct another movie in the fall again, I hope. So I can’t ask for anything else.

What’s this new movie you’re directing?

I’m going to do a western, and I co-wrote it too,

Will you star?

No, no I’m not. I did that for my first film [2009’s Dark Country]. I’m not going to star and direct again, that’s too much work. I think they both suffered for it. So, for this one, I’m just going to focus on directing, and have blast doing it.

How does directing fulfil you in ways that acting doesn’t?

With directing, you get to play all the parts. I love actors, I love acting and the art of it, and I want to contribute to actors’ performances. I want to set up an environment that brings out the best in them. Having been doing it for so long, I know what works and what doesn’t. I’ve worked with great directors and I’ve worked with shitty directors, and I know what environment is conducive to bring out the best work. And I want to be able to contribute to that— there’s no overabundance of directors who know how to work with actors, right? So any positive contribution that anyone can make in that area, I say bring it on.

So I want to be an actor’s director, and a storyteller. Acting is storytelling, but I only get to tell one sliver of the story as an actor. And I’ve always been a big picture person, looking at the movie as a whole— that’s where my brain has always gone. So it’s just time to start doing that.

You talked about working with all kinds of directors— where does Standoff director Adam Alleca fall into that?

Well, the guy wrote the screenplay. It was his story, his vision. Me and Laurence were there to help execute it. So we’d show up, and we were like, uh, what do they call them… day players, day player musicians. We showed up with our trumpet case, and case and saxophone case, and set up, and said: “Ok boss, where do you want it? How do you want to lay it down?” There’s a lot of dignity in that, that’s an honest living.


Standoff is currently available on DirecTV and opens in theaters and On Demand on February 12.


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