I recently sat down with Matthew Modine to catch up with the actor and to determine how to connect the dots between his provocatively titled short film, Jesus Was a Commie, and his role as Nixon in Christopher Nolan’s forthcoming addition to the Batman franchise, The Dark Knight Rises. Add to that the fact that the exact nature of Modine’s role in The Dark Knight Rises has been kept under lock and key, and this is one mystery man who has a knack for remaining elusive while remaining delightfully engaging.
The scope of your work not only speaks to your talent but also to your tenacity and versatility. Is acting an art or a science? MATTHEW MODINE: I think it’s both. It is an elegant combination of the two. You have the science of filmmaking and the art of the actors who make the film. It takes a team of dreamers to make the dream come true!
You’ve been in many films, from Full Metal Jacket to And the Band Played On. Do you have a favorite role?
MM: And the Band Played On was one of my favorite and most important roles. It was about life and death. It was about the impact of taking no action and it took the voice of the arts and HBO to tell a story that for far too long no one was willing to tell.
You are an acclaimed author as well as an actor. Do you prefer one to the other? MM: I think sometimes people forget that even though we may be actors, we are still people. With that being said I have a range of interests, including writing. I also recognize that as an artist, I have unique opportunities to study human behavior and explore diverse places. All of this finds a place in my writing and my writing lets me explore parts of what it takes to create believable characters.
Hollywood is constantly highlighting stories of failed relationships, yet you have been married for more than 30 years. How do you make it work? MM: Honesty! I “lie” for a living. As an actor, I am paid to not be me. But that’s not reality. In my real life, in my marriage, it is all about the truth.
The Dark Knight Rises is part of the Batman “thrillogy.” Why do you think fans find Batman so attractive and magnetic? MM: Unlike other superheroes Batman is human—he has no super powers nor is [he] from a faraway planet. Instead he is a man who hides behind a mask to reveal his true strength and compassion. As a result, I think audiences find him mysterious with an air of familiarity.
I have been waiting to ask you this question for weeks. What do you think is the biggest misconception that people have about you? MM: Well, I hope the answer doesn’t disappoint you… But most people think I am short. I am 6-feet-4-inches tall and people tell me on a daily basis that they had no idea I was so tall.