One of the absolute highlights of this year's unusually robust Tribeca Film Festival was Noah Buschel's "Glass Chin" (read our review here). It's the tale of a down on his luck former boxer named Bud (played by Corey Stoll) who gets seduced by the criminal underworld. And there's no one more seductive than Billy Crudup, who plays J.J., a kind of loan shark/restaurateur, in a performance that borders on being downright mesmerizing. Crudup is a wonderful actor but in "Glass Chin" he taps into something really powerful and odd. And we were lucky enough to chat with him about the process of creating the character, which he equates to the experience making Zack Snyder's "Watchmen." Oh, and he gets a shout out J.J. Abrams for a "Star Wars" job too.
It's important to note just how articulate Crudup is. There wasn't a moment when he was searching for a word or having trouble coming up with a thought. Incredibly smart and emotionally acute, at one point when he describes his "Glass Chin" character as someone who has figured things out to an exact metaphysical certitude, it's hard to not think Crudup is just talking about himself.
What initially drew you to "Glass Chin?"
Well I'm friends with Yul Vasquez and he had worked with Noah before and really liked his friends. I had never seen one of Noah's films. So he sent me the script and told me they were interested. The character, as written, I had found really intriguing – it was a different sort of take on the power player, the moneyman, the loan shark, that I had ever seen before. He was someone who was openly articulate and expressive about the ways in which wealth has changed his life. And it was off-center. I appreciated that about it. After speaking with Noah, he had cool ideas about the character. So it was the character and the people that drew me to it.
What did you see in him on the page and how would you describe him to people who hadn't seen the movie?
He's kind of a fundamentalist in the sense that he is sure that he has the answers to life. There are no questions for him in the way the world works and more importantly no questions in the way that people work. And he's leveraged that to great advantage, whether or not he's the kind of person you want to emulate remains to be seen. But he's the kind of character who could easily end up a cult leader or head of a multibillion-dollar corporation. He might call himself a visionary. I would call him a lunatic.
Even the art he picks out, he's so sure about.
He's got absolutely no questions about things he fundamentally doesn't understand at all. And we meet people in the world, highly successful people in the world, who have persuaded themselves that they understand everything about the fabric of reality and frankly their confidence is somewhat persuasive. Because to most of us, there's lots of questions, and we get shit wrong all the time.
There are these great moments in the movie where you're delivering monologues right to the camera or directly off-center of the camera. Was that difficult? Was there someone else there?
Well I confess that the creative process was one of the more invigorating experiences I've had recently on film insofar as I didn't know what to expect from Noah. He had a kind of confidence in his filmmaking that gave me confidence. There were practical problems that I simply didn't try to address on the day. He said, "This take we're going straight into the camera." And that's what I did: straight into the camera. There was a kind of artfulness in the play of his direction that gave me a freedom. I wasn't sitting there thinking, How am I supposed to make sense of this particular one? Or, Is he going to get the right coverage of me on this one? There were times when I don't think he was even watching the take, I think he was sitting there listening with his eyes closed. And that didn't bother me in the least. I thought it was pretty exciting. He, as a filmmaker, was pretty clear about the resources he wanted to use to tell the story and therefore you have a kind of freedom once you understand the parameters that you get to operate in. So I was thrilled by it.