Joe Begos’ VFW made a huge splash when it premiered at Fantastic Fest 2019 a few weeks ago, and now, his latest is set to take over the Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood tomorrow when it screens as part of Beyond Fest 2019. While in Austin, Daily Dead had the pleasure of sitting down with two of the film’s seasoned performers: the incomparable William Sadler and the endlessly charismatic Martin Kove, who portray Vietnam veterans in VFW who must fend off a gang of murderous punks who attack them in their favorite watering hole.
During the interview, both Sadler and Kove discussed what drew them into VFW, the collaborative spirit they experienced on set, the joy of being able to share stories amongst their co-stars during production, and how much they enjoyed getting to kick some ass once again for VFW.
So, what was the initial appeal coming into this project? Was it the script? Your characters? The chance to work with this fantastic cast and crew?
William Sadler: It was the type of project that reinforced what we always know as an actor. As actors, if you really dig the people in anything, you're going to love the product. It's just what's going to happen. And if they're in a bizarre situation where they are underdogs, that only makes it even more compelling. Basically, it’s all about character.
Martin Kove: We helped develop the characters, too. They weren't entirely fleshed out in the script, so part of the job was to get real specific with who these people are. Before I took the job, I really wanted the character to be a little more heroic. I wanted to be closer to Fred's character and Bill's character.
William Sadler: He wanted to play my character [laughs].
Martin Kove: I liked his character. I really did. I liked his character. I couldn't do it time-wise, but they said to me, "Well, if you’ll play Lou, we'll rewrite it." And I said, “Oh, this is exactly what I want.” I wanted my character to be with them in Vietnam. I wanted to go out in the hail of bullets. I didn't want my character to end up weak.
William Sadler: I think the character was written just like a neurotic car salesman who was frightened and didn’t know what to do with these bad guys.
Martin Kove: That would not be fun for me. So, I made some suggestions, they rewrote it, and it was fun.
William Sadler: It was really great the way it ended up working out.
Martin Kove: We also were able to improvise and call upon whatever backstory we created, which gave these characters some legitimacy. It was fantastic.
I was going to ask if Joe gave you guys a chance to come together and collaborate. I know when you're working on movies like this, you don't have a ton of time, so you don't have a lot of time to sort of go back and forth. But yet, it feels very collaborative when you're watching it, like there is a natural back and forth for you guys.
Martin Kove: There was a ton of collaboration, but there had to be because of the shooting schedule. I remember doing something like 15 pages a day or some ridiculous amount of pages. And Joe's style of working is pretty loose, so we were constantly leaning on each other to figure out how he wanted us to be in those moments. It was very collaborative in that way, whereas in some movies, you come in, you rehearse it a little bit and the director directs it within an inch of its life. They lay marks down all over the floor and you have to hit the marks. This one felt a lot looser than that. That's largely Joe's style and the fact that we had to shoot it so fast. He wasn’t worried about where the fu--ing mark is, he would just tell us if we were good. He wouldn't even say action. He'd say, "Go."
William Sadler: But, you know, he had all these seasoned guys. That wouldn't have worked if everybody was new and worried about themselves all the time—"How do I look? Do I look okay for this?" That's what you would've gotten. So, the bottom line is you had people that knew the business in and out and we liked each other off camera, too. We were always sitting around while they're setting up, mixing the blood, just talking about movies.
Martin Kove: They put our chairs in a circle and we would sit there and tell the stories amongst ourselves.
William Sadler: It was great because everybody came from big movies and we all wanted to hear these stories. Martin had just finished the Tarantino movie [Once Upon a Time… In Hollywood] and Stephen [Lang] did Avatar. I worked on The Shawshank Redemption. So, we're all cinephiles, and there's this tremendous backlog between us. It was like a whole bunch of aging athletes sitting in a room and what are they going to talk about? Their games, of course.
Well, I think what's cool, too, about this is that there is obviously this idea of ageism in Hollywood, because you hit a certain age and suddenly people think you're not viable anymore, which is ridiculous. I think a movie like this is another step towards proving that is absolutely not true. How much fun was it to come into this and get to do the action sequences and still be bona fide badasses again?
William Sadler: Well, we’re not as young as we once were, but it was fun to kick ass again. I don't get asked to kick ass right very much anymore [laughs].
Martin Kove: But also, it's really interesting to see characters like that succeed at doing those physical things, because he just feeds into that underdog feeling when you’re watching guys like that. That's why The Wild Bunch is so much fun to watch. You're watching guys over the hill succeed. But the bottom line is, it's really exciting to see people who are older accomplish some really heroic things, even if they die along the way. They still put up a helluva fight.
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