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Freddie Prinze, Jr. & Mena Suvari

Living By Brooklyn Rules

by Jay S. Jacobs

The son of the famous but ultimately tragic 70s comedian/sitcom star for whom he was named, Freddie Prinze, Jr. has been working in show biz since he was a kid. Over the years he has made many films including the Scooby-Doo films, I Know What You Did Last Summer, Sheís All That, Boys and Girls and Down To You. He also had his own sitcom called Freddie.

What did it take for you all to connect like you did?


Mena Suvari: A lot of late nights. A lot of drinking binges. (laughs) I donít know.


Freddie Prinze, Jr.: It was twofold.  Michael was very smart -- the director, Michael -- in the regard that, during the rehearsal process, he'd start a conversation casually. He'd start a conversation casually, and be like ... this is the way Michael talks not me ... "Who's the first broad you nailed?" So I would begin to discuss the first woman that I slept with, and you'd start talking about how horrible you were, and it was like ten seconds long and she was like 'what?' and it was really embarrassing ... and then the other guys would start to chime in, and they'd crack jokes on you. Then you'd find out that it was even less with them, and ha ha ha, and then Michael would say "Now read the scene right now!" and we'd just go right into the scene with that same type of energy and that same type of vibe. That really developed a lot of the dialogue and the pace that was required for the scenes that we were going to do.


Well, did you rehearse and talk about the characters?


Mena Suvari: (laughs) It just worked out very well. We did the film threeÖ several years ago. But it worked out where I loved the script and Iím just a fan of Michael Correnteís and the characters. I was here just for a couple of days and I got the opportunity to meet with him and I told him that I loved it and I wanted to be a part of it. It just worked out. Iíd worked with Scott before. Everybody Ė Freddie and Michael had been working together for a long time and finally got this made. Iím just really happy about it and really happy to come together and make it work with no, NO drama whatsoever. Easy.


No drunken nights?


Mena Suvari: No. (laughs)


Freddie Prinze, Jr.: As far as chemistry, we just lucked out. Scott and I were confined to a trailer Ė I kid you not -- that was smaller than this table. He would just chain-smoke and I had a really bad habit of chewing tobacco.


Chewing tobacco?


Freddie Prinze, Jr.: Yeah, I used to. I played baseball grew up in New Mexico and that was just what you did. I quit. Thanks for your concern. So this inner door had to be closed because it was cold and so the smoke's in there. We'd watch that one scene in True Romance with Christopher Walken, and we'd do our Walken impressions. His was much better, but my Roger Rabbit was better. We would watch movies, and Scott and I, we just got along. I guess some of it was maybe that we both had fatherís in thisÖ well, he still has a father in this business, I had a father in thisÖ We both were sort of at the same age, emotionally, so it was very easy for the two of us to bond. Jerry and Mena had the nicer half of the trailer, where they had their own rooms. It's just hard not to get along with Jerry. I don't know anyone who doesn't like him.  Kathleen Turner said, ďA movie is a marriage with a guaranteed divorce.Ē I've really fought against that for the thirteen years that I've been doing this, and she was right as rain. It was so rejected, the amount of love I would put out there. This is the first film ever that we're still friends. Jerry and I just played golf. I shot like a 122 and he shot like a 126. I beat his ass, as bad as I am. We were drunk by the twelfth hole, but we just had a good time. I speak with Michael all the time. Terry sent me a picture of his baby. Like, I've never had that. I had it on my show, but that's TV and film is very different. It's never worked, ever, and it's not from a lack of effort, it's just never worked. I don't know why.

Mena, your character and Freddieís character came from such different worlds. How do you think that drew them together?


Mena Suvari: With Ellen, sheís somewhat well off and goes to Columbia. She catches onto Freddieís character Michael very quickly, but she admires him. She falls for him, you know, starts to like him. I think itís just that. The opposites attract kind of thing. Sheís on to him and she sees through that. She sees him for who he really is and I think she also sees a lot of potential in him and believes in him. I think itís really just that kind of opposites attract. And I think Ellen Ė it was exciting to her. She knows that heís a little bit more mysterious and possibly dangerous than the other guys sheís around all the time.


Freddie Prinze, Jr.: It was funny. Mena and I had a different kind of chemistry than I've ever had with anyone else. There was something comfortable right away. Usually when I step forward to a girl, they step backwards. That's just kind of the natural ebb and flow to a scene. I stepped forward to Mena and she stepped forward to me and I was kind of like stepping backwards. There was just this comfort level. The first scene we had to do together was a scene in bed. She just nuzzled right in and fit perfectly right into my chest. We just looked at each other and did the scene and the scene became much quieter than it was in rehearsals. She looked like Brigitte Bardot. It was like possessing her. It was really weird. We had this wonderful chemistry. Then the last scene we did together was on the roof, and so we already had this comfort and protection and all you want to do is hold her and keep her warm, because sheís this little thing. Even though sheís strong, but you want to protect her. She doesnít need help from anybody. Sheís just this firecracker. But I canít help it. Itís me. My wife is this big, too. Itís how I am. So, when we did that scene, even though it was in the rain, a couple of lines changed and some of the attitudes changed, but there was just this comfort level that I haven't ever had. And I've had chemistry with other actresses before. I've only not had chemistry once, (chuckles) and it was zero chemistry. But other than that, I've always had it. I don't want to say it was better, but it was. It was just better. There was just a comfort level thatís never really existed before.


I love that your character is upwardly mobile and able to reach out to his friends. Was that something that interested you about this character?


Freddie Prinze, Jr.: The main thing was I could just relate to him. I tell people I grew up in Albuquerque, New Mexico and most people go, ďOh, that sounds so quaint.Ē  They donít realize that in the 80s it was the number one city in the country for gang related murder, per capita. There was a group of four of us, and the best one of us was taken away thirteen days before we graduated high school. It shouldnít have been him. His name was Berto and he was by far the best. He had this girlfriend. It was heartbreaking. So I could relate to that.


Do people still relate to you as this young kid?


Freddie Prinze, Jr.: It depends on the audience, you know? It depends on who I'm with. When you have as much success as I did doing that thing Ė playing that guy that every mother wishes their daughter would date, and she's busy dating a guy who rides a motorcycle -- it's hard for them to invest in anything else. It's funny. I pitched myself for this movie years ago, when Griffin Dunne was attached to direct, and he just wasn't having it. He was the audience that wasn't hearing how I grew up. I couldn't even get a meeting with this guy. Fortunately, they got rid of that guy. (laughs and shakes his head.) I think the real reason was their movie fell apart. It had nothing to do with it. Their financing fell through. Years later, when Michael (Corrente) was involved, I did get to meet and I remember sitting in that room. It was him and (screenwriter) Terry (Winter) and Rachel Rothman who produced it, and I'm making this passion play and I'm telling them ďI can relate to this guy.Ē I don't trust them enough to tell them all the reasons why, but I'm saying it was much as I can so they know I'm reaching out. I said if you let me read scenes... I'm not afraid of auditions. If you put my work up against every other guy that comes in here and read, I'm gonna beat them. It wasn't me being arrogant. I just knew I was supposed to play this part.


I was telling (wife) Sarah (Michelle Gellar) this when I read the script. My wife believes in destiny and fate, and I don't. She was like ďIt's destiny! You're meant to play this role!Ē I was like, I don't know about that, but I'm fucking getting this part. (laughs) So I went in and I read and I was fortunate enough that I communicated what Terry was wanting to see and what Michael and Rachel were wanting to see and I got the part. Because they took that chance on me, I was willing to do things that many a therapist has tried to pull out of me and failed. I beat them all. That my wife has tried to pull out of me. I got her too. I relived some of that here. It was awful and horrible and I didn't feel good Ė which is why I keep so much bottled in, why Iím so private in the first place Ė but Michael created the safest environment possible to go through something like that again. For Scott too. People think Scottís had this sheltered life because he's James Caan's kid. No. No. It's just perspective. His environment was different, but it's all about perspective.


Freddie Prinze, Jr.: So it was difficult, but I saw it on the screen and I realized that I had never been proud of a movie before, like I thought that I had been. I've said that I've been proud of movies, and I wasn't lying, I was just wrong. I realized what pride was when I left that. I was quiet walking home. We saw it in Tribeca and Sarah and I were walking home. She was kind of choked up and wasn't ready for that scene with Jerry. And just really loved it and she was like ďI've never loved you more in a movieĒ and I said I've never been proud. I guess. All of a sudden all these things started coming. The feeling was so good. With a film like this, you don't know if itís going to get distribution. You don't know if anyone is ever going to see it. It's a small movie, and I didn't care. I didn't care. Everything since that screening with like ten people has been gravy. Everything's been gravy.

Freddie, you and Sarah both worked with Alec Baldwin recently. Did you compare notes?


Freddie Prinze, Jr.: I loved him to death. I'm not shying away from questions about Alec but I will say that I love him to death. I know a lot of actors that aren't as good as Alec and that aren't at the stature that Alec is at that have never bothered to come to rehearsal Ė ever Ė because they got better shit to do. The ball game is on. Alec was there every day. I'm a big believer in rehearsal. I give all my rehearsals for free. Always have. Always will. I try to give two weeks, most people, I'm surprised are happy with one. I'm always the first guy on set and the last guy to leave, and this guy beat me there every day. I would strategically leave early, but he's just been there. He was me, and he knows all my tricks and how I'm going to get there early. He's just schooling me. But I loved him.


Iím a big believer in letting these guys know. I've had the pleasure of working with Peter Falk and with Ving Rhames and with Alec Baldwin and these guys whose work I respect very, very much. I let them know, in a subtle way, I'm willing to be a student if they're willing to be a teacher. And he so wants to be. I use the word arrogant in the best way possible. He is arrogant enough to be a teacher. I think you do have to have arrogance to be willing to shape and mold a mind. He really was willing to do that, and it was near as good as the experience was with Peter Falk. The only reason it wasn't was because I spent more time with Peter. I only had a few scenes with Alec in this. It was a day-to-day thing. Peter would call you up to his hotel room at 3 a.m. (imitates) ďFreddie, get up here. Right fucking now.Ē Heíd chain smoke all night long. We would go to like 6 a.m, just doing scenes. The only reason that it made it better is that it was on a daily basis. But, I would work with this guy any day of the week. Any time he wanted, whether it was acting, directingÖ Whether he wrote it. I don't care. I respect Alec.


Mena, are you in to mob movies and mob culture?


Mena Suvari: A little bit. Yeah. Yeah. Definitely. I have an interest, just the same as a lot of people do. I love The Sopranos andÖ I donít know why. (laughs) For some reason thereís definitely an American fascination with the blood and gore and violence of the mob, and power and that kind of thing.


It seems like mob movies become American classics.



Mena Suvari: No. Somebody asked me that earlier. No.


What are you going to do? Find a rich girl?


Mena Suvari: She asked me if I found somebody who went to Columbia. I guess the gist of it was if there was somebody that went to Columbia and dated somebody from the mob. (Laughs) I donít even know how Iíd find somebody like that.


Put an ad in the paperÖ


Mena Suvari: I would be like could you find somebody in Manhattan that went to Columbia and dated somebody from Brooklyn? (laughs)

Youíre not thought of as so much of a New Yorker, but youíve done several films in New YorkÖ


Freddie Prinze, Jr.: Iíve done five films here. I live here. 90% of my family lives here.


There is a big Puerto Rican community hereÖ


Freddie Prinze, Jr.: Iím the only one in LA when Iím in LA. I did my show and one of the characters on my show last year spoke Spanish, so I had a big Spanish audience and every week Ė we did a live audience Ė and I would speak to them in Spanish and say how many Puerto Ricans are here? (silence) How many Mexicans are here? (mimics crowd noises) Iíd say how many from El Salvador and the Mexicans would boo them. Theyíve got beefs with the Puerto Ricans now. They used to protest my dad for getting that job. But now theyíre cool with him, because weíre crazy. Then I come to New York and itís like how many Puerto Ricans (mimics yelling).


Youíre resubmitting your New York bondÖ


Freddie Prinze, Jr.: You know, whether they take me or not, Iím here. Iím like any other Puerto Rican, weíre here. You donít want us here? I know, itís okay. (laughs) But weíre not going anywhere. Weíve got no place else to go.


Your father didnít play a Puerto Rican?


Freddie Prinze, Jr.: My father played a Mexican. He was Chico on the show Chico and the Man.


I knew that, but I guess I never realized he wasnít playing his background. I just I thought it was rightÖ

Mena, was it fun putting together that 80s bouffant? Itís quite the contrast from nowÖ


Mena Suvari: YeahÖ Somebody earlier was ďthe hair isnít big enough.Ē I was like, what?? ďYeah, we thought there would be a lot of 80s hair.Ē I was like, well you know, we didnít want it to be too over the top. But it did have the rollers everyday. Yeah, it was fun. The fashions were definitely fun to play with. The simple sweet, kind of pretty girl, the pearl stud earrings Ė that kind of thing.


Are you going to play a zombie in Day of the Dead?


Mena Suvari: No, I actually play a corporal in the Army and I save the day.


How good is your marksmanship?


Mena Suvari: Iím really good. Iím really good. I had my gun training. I worked six-day weeks. I did all my own stunts. I may be little, but Iíve got three older brothers and can hold a gun.


Can you whoop any of them?


Mena Suvari: Any of my brothers? Sure. Sure, I can.



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Photo Credits:
#1 © 2007 Brian Hamill. Courtesy of City Lights Pictures.  All rights reserved.
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#3 © 2007 Brian Hamill. Courtesy of City Lights Pictures.  All rights reserved.
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#10 © 2007 Brian Hamill. Courtesy of City Lights Pictures.  All rights reserved.

Copyright ©2007 PopEntertainment.com.  All rights reserved.  Posted: May 12, 2007.

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Copyright ©2007 PopEntertainment.com.  All rights reserved.  Posted: May 12, 2007.