DETAILS: Every film critic struggles to describe the sound of your voice. How would you describe it?
John Malkovich: Fake.
DETAILS: So where did it come from? Is it a mix of all
of the characters you've played?
John Malkovich: Yeah. And, see, I grew up sounding like Jethro Bodine, the Beverly Hillbilly. It is peculiar. I hate the sound of it. I can't listen to it at all.
DETAILS: You act opposite Helen Mirren again in RED 2. How do you describe her age-defying sex appeal?
John Malkovich: Helen is a boy's girl. She's smart, she is bawdy, she is sexy, she is refined and obviously talented, but she's the original boy's girl. Helen is who she is; she is the age she is. I wish more women did that.
DETAILS: Your character, Marvin, had his brain fried on LSD. Do you have any history with acid?
John Malkovich: I never took it. Most of my friends did more than their fair share, and I liked being around them, but I only started having a glass of wine when I was 36. I've smoked—and did inhale—probably about five joints. If you talk about a whole joint, might be three. Drugs were never a big interest of mine. I did a film a couple of years ago that had a very nice line in it: "Man has always sought oblivion." When I gave my son's high-school-commencement address, I used that line and went through the whole list of people who died at 27, 24, 29, and said, "That quote may be true, but maybe it isn't wise to seek oblivion always." Though . . . look at William S. Burroughs—he did acid plus 40 other drugs and stuck whatever else up his ass and he lived to be, what, eighty-something?
DETAILS: Next year, you play Blackbeard on the NBC drama Crossbones. Why do you think pirates have become so popular lately?
John Malkovich: The Indian Ocean, on Michigan Avenue, or on Wall Street, such is life—full of big rats and little rats.
DETAILS: You'd know that better than most. When Bernie Madoff defrauded you of millions, did that change the way you felt about money?
John Malkovich: Yeah, but I think in a good way. I don't view it as a negative experience.
John Malkovich: Well, to me it was, "You think you have a bunch of money—and you don't." So what? Most people don't. I think it kind of reconnected me to how most people live all the time. And, unlike a lot of people that were involved in the Madoff thing, I could just go back to work, and it was fine.
DETAILS: You started a clothing line, Technobohemian, that went on sale this spring. How do you feel about your foray into fashion?
John Malkovich: Matt Tyrnauer, who directed this documentary about Valentino, said, "So I see you've actually managed to find the one business more toxic than the movie business?" I said, "Yeah, I'd like to think so."
DETAILS: You've been a film and theater producer, but
are you comfortable being a businessman?
John Malkovich: I'll put it this way, I brought my first fall/winter line to New York and it was confiscated by U.S. Customs. They asked, "What is the value of this?" I said, "I'm not so good with existential questions."
DETAILS: Charlie Kaufman once said he chose to focus the film Being John Malkovich on you because he felt you were unknowable.
John Malkovich: Honestly, I don't think there's anything to know—meaning, I kind of am what I do. I work pretty hard at it.
DETAILS: In the film, a character says, "Who the fuck
is John Malkovich?" It's a joke, but is that one of those existential questions you wrestle with?
John Malkovich: The joke's on me: I did seven years of analysis, but I found the alleged topic very boring. That's the longest 50 minutes that you'll ever have in your life. Faulkner said it best: "Once a man gets in a rut, it's best just to let him stay there."
DETAILS: Your father passed away when he was 53.
Now you're 59. How does that feel?
John Malkovich: It's felt a bit like borrowed time, honestly. I've tried to make use of it, maybe even kind of crazily. What else can you do?
DETAILS: Is there any advice that your parents gave you that you've passed down to your kids?
John Malkovich: My mother was hilarious, but she wasn't the grandmother-y type, or the mother-y type, for that matter. But my favorite quote of my father's is, "Johnnie, when you pull the chain, the toilet flushes." Which was a prelude to a warning.