Interview: Inherent Vice actor Michael Cotter



Inherent Vice opens in theaters on January 9th. I got a chance to talk with one of the actors in the film, Michael Cotter, who plays Rhus Frothingham. We discussed the movie, as well as the cult-hit Dylan Dog.



Jim: Hey Michael, glad we get to catch up. Wanted to start out with Inherent Vice, what was the process in your getting this role in the film?



Michael: It was just your standard audition. The casting director Cassandra had actually seen me a year before when she was casting the film Her. I had gone in and auditioned for that, I didn’t end up booking a role for that, but she remembered me and brought me in for Inherent Vice. Paul liked me enough and cast me in it.



Jim: Speaking of Paul, how was it working with an iconic director like him. What was he like on set?



Michael: Well I have to say it was an amazing experience. The scenes I had in the film were small intimate scenes that were just me, Joaquin Phoenix, and Reese Witherspoon in an office building. It was different then some of the larger scenes in the film, because there just wasn’t a lot going on. There were no extras, the crew was small, it was an intimate feel, just a very relaxed set. Paul let everybody do their thing, it almost felt like you were shooting a project with your buddies. It had a relaxed vibe to it, which was awesome. Joaquin is the lead and he has a lot going on at all times. His process as an actor is very specific, it allows for him to find his way in a scene very easily and comfortably without feeling the pressure in getting it in one take. The other really fun thing was in one of the scenes where Paul just allowed us to improv a scene and play with it within a the structure of the scene. We knew the beginning, middle, and end and were able to just play around with the scene the three of us. It was an interrogation scene where we were asking Joaquin’s character about this person he had seen. On the very first take Paul let us play with it. After each take he would stop us and say that was great, but lets maybe play a little bit with that thing, or ask this thing, lets see what happens when you and Penny (Reese’s character) when you confirm and whisper something to each other. It was awesome to just improv a scene and play a scene with these two all-star actors, and Oscar winning director. It was really a pleasure to have that opportunity.



Jim: You mentioned the process that Joaquin goes through as an actor, is there anything you took away from seeing him work, and incorporated to your own acting?



Michael: I think there were a couple of things. One, was Joaquin’s openness in the moment, especially when we were improvising. He’s just really great and just taking whatever is given to him and just organically finding that thing and don’t feel pushed, and really ground him, which I really love and to play with him in that sense. In terms of Reese, she’s just such a pro. From her, I watched how she just controls the scene, but not in an overpowering way. You just wanna watch her and play along with her, because she’s just so on-top of it.



Jim: The screen presence in a sense.



Michael: Exactly! In other terms, I’m just a working actor and not an A-list like these guys. Just to be able to work with them for a couple days. To hear them talk about their process, and hear them talk about where they are, it gave me confidence and comfort. In the improv scenes they were asking me stuff what I was doing, and it made me feel like I belong. It is a nice reassurance to have to improv with these big leaguers and to still hold my own. It was a great thing to take out of it.



Jim: What is your take on the film, what do you think people should keep in mind going out to see it?



Michael: Well, I would say be ready for a fun ride. The film takes place in the early 70’s, and Paul does a great job of painting the picture of Southern California in the early 70’s. You kinda just get to go along on the ride. There are a lot of characters that are in this film. If you look at the cast list, you are like how do you fit in all these A-list, big name actors in one movie? The way it happens is, except for Joaquin and one or two other actors, all these people are in there for a couple scenes. It’s a really dense film with lots of characters, it can be kinda hard to follow all the names and figure out. Just know that it’s all going to come back together in the end, and just go along for the ride. Lot of times you feel like you are going on a journey, there are some really fun scenes that take you on these tangents, as well as some poignant scenes. It is a really fun ride. I’ve seen the film a couple times now, each time I see it I feel like I find something new and entertaining to enjoy out of it.


Jim: I remember your work in Dylan Dog, tell me about your experience working on that film?



Michael: Yeah, that was a really fun one. We shot Inherent Vice in LA, so it was a nice local thing for me. For Dylan Dog, we shot it in New Orleans, so I got to go there for a week or two. It was a really fun experience because I was playing a zombie who works in a morgue. It was full-on zombie makeup, including prosthetic teeth for mold they made for me. Also cataract eyes contacts. I was in makeup hour and a half to two hours each day, plus contacts, and I don’t normally wear contacts. When you have the cataracts contacts, any kind of light that shines on them, you get that feeling of driving in fog and you turn on your high beams and you still can’t see anything. If light hits those contacts you literally can’t see anything. In between lunch breaks and takes the PA tried to walk me around. Both Brandon (Routh) and Sam (Huntington) were great to work with, fun guys. It was fun zombie comedy.



Jim: I enjoyed it personally.



Michael: Thanks, that was a fun one.



Jim: It’s not a movie for everyone, but it is geared for the certain kind of audience with it’s genre.



Michael: Yup, I agree. It’s kind of a horror-comedy. It has it’s lighter moments, it’s a fun watch for it’s genre.



Jim: Anything in the works that you have currently going on?



Michael: Yeah, another comedy I wad shooting earlier this year. They are trying to figure out how to get wide distribution first. It’s a movie that’s called, Larry Gaye: Renegade Male Flight Attendant. That one has a great cast, Mark Feuerstein (Royal Pains) is the lead in that one. He plays a flight attendant. It’s basically a modern version of Airplane. Your classic slapstick comedy. I had a scene with Mark and Danny Pudi (Community). Stanley Tucci, Henry Winkler, Taye Diggs are also in the movie. The movie is supposed to come out in the new year. Out here in LA, I’m finishing up a play called Reasons to Live. It’s a West Coast premiere of a play. It’s a dysfunctional family comedy.



Jim: Looking forward to seeing you in the film.



Michael: There are some great performances. Paul has a great shot at getting adopted screenplay, or a director nod. It’s a terrific cast, and it will be fun to watch. Hope you enjoy it. It was a wonderful time, and a great opportunity. I’m very blessed to be part of it.



Jim: Thanks for your time Michael.



Michael: Thanks so much Jim! I really appreciate it.



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