Last time Dazed met Ben Foster, he branded fellow thesps as “dilettante masochists… weirdos who want to feel all the time.” Not that the 31-year-old actor stands above it all: by contrast, he’s all too aware of the pitfalls of his profession, particularly stardom, which is why he consciously glides between mainstream – X-Men 3, the prospective Gotti mob movie opposite Travolta and Pacino – and acclaimed indies like The Messenger and Fernando Meirelles’ upcoming global ensemble 360. His other latest project, corrupt cop thriller Rampart, reuniting him with Messenger helmer Oren Moverman and co-star Woody Harrelson, also marks his producing debut.
Dazed Digital: Why the move into producing on Rampart?
Ben Foster: Finishing The Messenger, Oren and I didn’t want it to end. It was a very rare experience of collaboration so we started a production company and we’ve been developing projects. Rampart is the first one to get funding.
DD: How did the experience compare to ‘just’ acting on a film?
Ben Foster: An independent film has the potential to fall apart multiple times a day, every day. As the producer you have 200 problems, they’re all impossible and you have to figure it out. That appeals to me. And just being with Oren and Woody as a collaborator and friend. It was certainly a labour but there’s not a complaint in the world about it, it was a very rigorous, amazing experience.
DD: Give us a specific example of your duties.
Ben Foster: Well, Oren asked me to oversee the S&M Club Satan section of the film. That was essentially just throwing a party [laughs] and making sure those who were there weren’t necessarily actors but kids who wanted to play hard, create an atmosphere that one can get lost in. It was the last day of shooting too, which was nice – why don’t we finish the movie in an orgy?
DD: So presumably Oren thought you were particularly suited to this job…
Ben Foster: Well, I’d spent a number of years in Los Angeles and perhaps ended up in some… curious events…! [laughs] I can’t tell you what a joy it was talking to this [S&M] mistress, discussing which crop she could use and looking at her slaves – real slaves – and how many lashings they would get…
DD: You also appear in a supporting role as homeless witness…
Ben Foster: I pleaded with Oren that I not be in the film. The concern was that I didn’t want to be in uniform opposite Woody again [after The Messenger], and I wanted to give my full attention behind the camera. So we figured this small character wouldn’t take me away enough from the other work and still allow me the joyous opportunity to play with Woody. Woody’s one of our greatest.
DD: I didn’t even recognize you at first!
Ben Foster: It’s important that I don’t recognize myself. Actors work on self-delusion and self-deception - we’ll do anything to get lost. It doesn't mean that one needs to have contacts or grow a beard but that’s what the guy was asking for.
DD: Without getting overly ‘Method’ about acting, you’ve said before that “If you don’t take it home at night, you’re not doing your job.” Do you still feel like that?
Ben Foster: With a film role, you allot a certain amount of time for consideration. I don't care who you are, if you’re considering any subject all day, it's going to enter your dreams. For myself, keeping it warm is the only way that makes sense to me. Some nights are more sleepless than others.
DD: Can you give me an example? How about ex-con sex offender you play in 360?
Ben Foster: We actually shot that here in Ascot. My girlfriend came over to visit and… that was not a fun weekend...
DD: Does that make it important or even essential to maintain a balance between blockbusters and more intimate, maybe more demanding work?
Ben Foster: I like character-based stories and I like shit blowing up. Because it’s freelance work you kind of have to be open to anything. There are so many different types of film, one genre or approach would bore me to death. It’s a big world out there.
DD: And one still full of “dilettante masochists?"
Ben Foster: [laughs] There’s an enormous amount of pampering around actors that has always made me a bit nauseous. It’s an interesting kind of person wanting to do this day in, day out. I certainly haven’t figured it out… it is a special tribe. And I mean that with much love and ridiculous confusion.
Rampart is out now; 360 will be released later in the year