Matthew Modine has been a successful working actor for decades, racking up Golden Globe, Emmy, and Independent Spirit Award nominations, and winning a Venice Film Festival Best Actor award for his role as Billy in Robert Altman’s film Streamers. He played Pvt. Joker in Stanley Kubrick’s classic Full Metal Jacket and had a running role in the TV series, Weeds. Modine recently appeared at a press conference to promote his newest film, OPA!
Mirror: Matthew, what do you love most about your work?
Modine: What’s interesting about my job is meeting new people and traveling to places. People who are successful in making films or writing scripts are generally smart and it’s a pleasure to be around them because they are passionate about what they do, which is story telling.
Mirror: What attracted you to OPA!?
Modine: I play an uptight archaeologist named Eric who comes to this Greek island (Patmos) in search of a buried treasure and falls in love with Katerina (Agni Scott), owner of the popular Taverna – a place where people gather to sing and dance, occasionally break dishes, and take care of each other. He discovers that this treasure is buried under her property and thus begins the conflict in values.
Mirror: How does Katrina change Eric?
Modine: When Eric arrives on the island, he’s all covered up with hats and jackets and doesn’t even see the ocean. He’s like a seed that Katrina waters with her love and watches him grow. She gets him to let go and experience life – OPA!, which is a difficult word to translate because it means so many different things. It’s like La Chaim – to life! It’s materialism vs. spirituality vs. living as well as the opportunity of reinforcing the idea of brotherhood.
Mirror: What is the main thing difference you’ve discovered in eastern and western cultures?
Modine: When you travel to a country with an old culture they seem to appreciate life because they understand the brevity of it in a way we don’t because we’re a young country. They’re surrounded by antiquities going back thousands of years while here in a Los Angeles, we’re surrounded by buildings that are 100–150 years old.
Mirror: So is the message of the movie to respect the past?
Modine: You want to respect the past but you don’t want to be held to the past if it doesn’t hold empirical truth to life in the present.
Mirror: Were there any special challenges shooting in Greece?
Modine: The only challenge was getting there as it’s pretty remote and is actually closer to Turkey than to Athens.
Mirror: Was your leading lady fun to work with?
Modine: She was great. Christina Concetta, who co-wrote the screenplay with our director Udayan Prasad, realized after filming for one day, that she could not play the part and that’s when Agni jumped in.
Mirror: Did the nude scene in the sea offer a challenge?
Modine: Udayan is from India, living in England and Greece and swimming around naked is just part of life so if I would have protested, they would have thought that I was a big sissy. What I’ve been told is that you see my penis in the film so in order to get a PG-13 rating they digitally removed my tallywacker. They call it a mangina.
Mirror: Are there any special challenges to combing a successful career with that of being a husband and a father?
Modine: Relationships are very complicated and it’s hard for two people to grow old together. What I value is what I learned at young age and that is how important it is to tell the truth. It would be soul-destroying for me to cheat on my wife after making a promise to her. I couldn’t live with myself. It would destroy me.
Mirror: Do you think living away from Hollywood has helped your 30-year marriage to Cari?
Modine: Yes. I think so. It takes a lot of work, but we rely on each other. She gave me two beautiful children and is the most unbelievably selfless mother. I grew to appreciate and love her and still thank her for giving me these two children and doing such a great job of raising them. I once read that that the best gift a father could give to his children is to love his wife.
Mirror: Do you have any fears as an actor?
Modine: Every time you finish a job you wonder if you’re going to work again.
Mirror: What drew you to the stage play Matthew Modine Saves the Alpacas?
Modine: A friend of mine wrote it, but my son didn’t like it. He didn’t think it depicted me in the best light. I tried to explain that it wasn’t me and that I didn’t spend 20 years smoking dope in a Winnebago or that I’m a selfish, shallow person who’s willing to adopt a baby in order to get back on the “A” list. This is a story about a character named Matthew Modine and that using my name was a way of making fun of this business we call “show.”
Mirror: What kind of impact does a bad review have you?
Modine: I try not to read them because if you read the good ones and believe them, then you have to read the bad ones and believe those as well. It’s easy to lose your confidence if a critic hates your performance.
Mirror: Did you grow up being a Mormon?
Modine: My dad was a drive-in theatre manager and joined the Mormon Church when we moved to Utah because his mom told him it would be beneficial to the family. The Mormon church won’t let go of me thanks to Wikipedia. (laughter)
Mirror: Thank you. It’s been a pleasure.
Modine: Thank you for your time.