John Michael Bolger has been an actor in NYC for over 20 years. He played FDNY Lieutenant Johnson for four years in the hit NBC series, Third Watch, has had a reoccurring role in Law and Order, NYPD and ER. He did an amazing job in the family movie, Rounding First, made us laugh in Delirious (with the late John Candy) had a small but significant role in Carlito's Way and gave an outstanding performance in Closer to Home. Today he meets with me to discuss his latest and greatest role in Michael Mann's masterpiece, Public Enemies which will be out in a few short months. This movie stars: John Michael Bolger, Johnny Depp, Marion Cotillard, Christian Bale, and Tatum Channing, among others. Clip from Third Watch:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jQtFGh8STiU
When did you do that funny commercial? If there was an academy award for commercials, you’d win it!
When did I do that commercial? Let me see, it must have been six years ago…it’s one of those Vegas spots…
Did you get paid well?
No, it just got me a lot of exposure…it’s the karmic invoice.
What do you mean?
I don’t sweat shit like that…it’s all part of “the plan” truly. Until my karmic bill is paid up, I still have outstanding accounts.
That was great exposure…so; it just became a public service announcement then?
Yes…and that big guy was Grace Jones’ brother.
How did long did Third Watch run?
About um…seven years, NBC had me on there for about four years.
That show was great, I like this clip too, it really gives the audience a good view of your character. Tell me more about the character you play in your new movie?
He’s a East Chicago Indiana detective, he’s corrupt, dangerous, basically a monster and he has one Achilles heel and that is his lover, Anna Sage, “the lady in red.” But I can’t get too much into that because people have to go and see it.
Are you like your character in that…
Am I a monster? No!
That’s not what I’m asking; I’m asking would you risk everything for a loved one?
Yes, it’s my code of ethnics and honor, it was eerie to play this character because a lot of him was me…and I had to look at myself more than I ever looked at myself before but in the end it was cathartic and revelatory.
Really, what was cathartic about it?
Martin Zarkovich was known as the peacock or the sheik. The money he would make with all these gangsters…he would go out and buy all these flashy clothes. After I researched more about him, I realized that he had an incredible need for attention. It also made me realize that I, John have an incredible need for attention thus being an actor, thus being combative, and thus being flamboyant. I had met my match and had to come clean on a lot of issues and have…thank you Michael Mann!
Ah, that's sweet. That's a great tribute, he seems like a fantastic director. How long did it take to shoot the film and where did you guys do most of the shooting?
We shot for four months and we shot all through Indiana, Wisconsin, and primarily Chicago…these were the actual places that they robbed and hide out.
How would you categorize your character…is it one of the bigger roles?
Yes, it’s the character who changes the whole tide of the film…they give you the location, they give you the clothes but it’s up to you to do the soul searching, it’s was quite a hard character to play but it paid off in the end…I did it all for the love of a dame. One reviewer already wrote, “You don’t know if it’s Zarkovich or Bolger’s anguish.”
So, you were believable then, that's a great thing for an actor to be able to do that. Let’s talk about your Michael Man connection…
Okay, that’s easy. Twenty years ago, I had no credits, I looked like one of the Village People…I was studying acting at HP studios…where I’d recommend you to go like once a week…
Anyway, I was studying with William Hickey and Shelley Winters, no credits, with lots of balls, I was driving a cab, but I liked my headshot, I looked like Wayne Newton, that was me man.
I wasn’t getting anywhere with auditions so every night I would drive the cab (laughing) I would stick one of my thousands of head shots up on the back window and I would have black eyes drawn on the pictures…this is going to be a long answer…(pause) and I would write a little sign that said, “I’d rather be acting.” One day I picked up a man in a very dark street in the New Tribeca area and he was bombed, he said, “Mayflower Hotel” and proceeded to harangue me about my headshot…he then told me he was a film director, he had a very heavy Spanish accent, he said his name was Hector Babenco and did I ever hear of him and told him, “No and sit back.” By the time we got to the May Flower Hotel, he told me he had a movie coming out the following week called, “Kiss of the Spider Woman” with William Hurt and the late Raul Julia and to keep an eye out for it and I said, “okay.” He tipped me very well and asked me could he have my picture. About a year and a half later, I was at The Actor’s Studio and overheard an actress moaning and groaning about how she was so nervous about having to audition for Hector for a film called, “Iron Weed.” Upon hearing this, I had to find Hector Babenco…with through cunning and larceny, I did.
You were determined.
He gave me an audition. I got to meet Bonnie Timmerman, the best casting director in the business. I didn’t get the job but she liked me and said she would remember me. Not long after that, I auditioned for a show called “Crime Story” and got the part. Michael Mann…he gave me my first professional job and now twenty years later, he’s gives me my biggest acting professional job, that’s the answer, I could have said more but…
He remembered you twenty years later?
You just walked in and said hey.
No, no I had to do a whole audition process...
Do you have an agent?
Yes and she got me the audition. I’m very blessed and I’m very grateful.
So, you decided to start acting when you were twenty seven?
Yeah, but at five years old, I remember sitting on my stoop in the South Bronx knowing that things were going to get a little funky so I told my spirited inner child to run as fast as you can and I’ll find you some day…and I did at twenty seven years old, sobriety opened the door, and I started to live my life fully for the first time, I could breathe.
When did the hard drinking life begin?
From twelve to twenty seven and was proud of the fact that I never missed a day of partying…I had a perfect partying record until I ended up flat on my face, my bottom…then the hard work started…who am I? What am I? Why am I? I’m scared…I’m really scared.
When did you complete your memoir?
It’s not a memoir, it’s a fiction novel, “Stoop to Conquer” …I started it 2001 and I completed it in 2008, it’s a coming of age story, set in 1980, set in Hell’s Kitchen with drugs, sex and rock-n-roll, mayhem, peer pressure, redemption, renewal and New York City is the backdrop.
Do you have a publisher yet?
No, I’m going to try to bring it out with the movie. Writing this book made me realize what writers go through, it sends you around the bend, it becomes your lover, your child, your ruler, the pillow you sleep on and then somebody asks you to hand it over…it’s like giving your child away.
What made you write this?
David Miltch, the creator of NYPD Blue and Dead Wood was listening to me talk one day and said, “Bolger, you’re a writer, you should write something someday," so I did.
That’s a good idea to promote it at the same time as the movie…where is the premier going to be?
The world wide premiere will be June 23 at the Westwood Mann Theater in Los Angela's…
Did you have any scenes with Johnny Depp?
Yes and Christian Bale, they’re cool, alive, human, life in their eyes, fire in their soul, present, breathing, nice.
I read your dedication for your mom in Kelly Ripa’s book…that was nice.
She was responsible to get all the writers for that book, they put a compilation of short stories together called, “I love you mom.” Writing that piece about my mother was a way of giving back to someone who gave me everything and continues to…she lives out in Long Beach, Long Island.
Where in Ireland is she from again?
That's right, we talked about that earlier, how both our parents are from Letrim, sorry about that...(laughing) what was your favorite Indie flick that you did?
I read some good reviews about that, it had such a tragic ending. What do you think about that film?
Seed was the story of an everyman who wanted to get the answers to all the questions that we’ve asked all our lives that most people avoid, he was willing to die trying…you really have to see that movie. It was an interesting ending, it could have gone either way, and you could have thought it ended in a good or bad way.
What about “Closer to Home?”
It’s a love story set in New York…about two people who are literally ships in the night and miss one another.
And “Rounding First…”
It was compared to Stand By Me, my performance depicted a man who was searching for his own father and through the realization that he couldn’t father his own son, they all got to win.
What’s your favorite role?
Martin Zarchovich…no, it’s a tie between him and Francis Seed, folks we have a tie!
What about your favorite play?
Long Days Journey into Night written by Eugene O’Neal, the Irish. It’s dysfunction at its highest form.
Michael Mann is your favorite director?
Absolutely. If he called me right now and said, “I have a part for you,” I would walk barefoot…to Canada.
Whoa, you like him a lot. I'm really dying to see this movie now...this is going to be very exciting.
He’s a real director! He’s an actor’s director.
What are his movies again?
Thief, Collateral, Heat, Miami vice, Last of Mohicans, there are so many...he’s big time.
He really is the man. Michael Mann's the man...