It’s been a big summer for Walton Goggins. Aside from hitting the big screen this weekend with a memorable role in Cowboys & Aliens, the thoughtful, literate Southerner with the deep-set green eyes and electro-shock haircut picked up his first Emmy nomination for supporting actor on television’s Justified, after not getting similarly deserved recognition in seven years on The Shield. In addition, he filmed a part in the independent drama Officer Down, has been promoting his work in Rod Lurie’s Straw Dogs remake which is due in theaters Sept. 16, and has begun filming on Lincoln, the Steven Spielberg-directed biopic in which he has a key supporting role.
Movie Smackdown! editor Eric Estrin caught up with Goggins recently in the actor’s Hollywood home and asked about the experience of filming an old-fashioned Western mashed up with an edgy, extra-terrestrial thriller.*
MS!: How was it doing Cowboys and Aliens?
WG: Oh, showing up at work, and I’d never met Harrison before, which is insane. Getting a knock on the trailer door and it’s Harrison Ford saying, Do you want a ride home in my helicopter? I mean, come on. Who doesn’t dream about that?
MS!: What was your role like in the film?
WG: I’m in Daniel Craig’s gang, and I’m his biggest fan. Hopefully you’ll laugh when you see it in the movie.
MS!: Did you guys do a lot of green screen?
WG: We did a decent amount, but not a lot. With technology now, they just frame it, and then they can paint anything they want to in the frame. I found myself reacting to a guy in a gray suit with a tennis ball on his head marked, “The Alien’s Face.” You want me to be scared of a Wilson tennis ball? But you do it. You live in your imagination.
MS!: Were you comfortable riding horses in the movie?
WG: (Laughs) I’m the asshole who said, I’m a pretty good rider. I’m a pretty good horseback rider.” And I am, I think. I thought… until I get to that set, and literally my first day of working was riding a horse with Harrison Ford, Daniel Craig, Sam Rockwell, Olivia Wilde and everybody else behind me. And I get bucked off the horse. Four times. Four times. And they’re saying, Oh, wow, I thought you could ride, Goggins. Thought you knew how to ride a horse.
MS!: Why did that happen? Don’t they train the horses?
WG: Yeah, don’t they? I had a bad horse, man.
MS!: How did you work it out?
WG: I asked for a new horse after the fourth time. “Excuse me, I need his stand-in. I need this guy’s stand-in.”
MS!: You’ve had some great supporting roles. Who are the supporting actors you’ve responded to as a fan?
WG: I love Warren Oates. I think Jack Nicholson was second fiddle early on, and you know, who doesn’t fucking love him? John Cazale… Duvall was second fiddle for a long time. Most of my heroes — Chris Cooper is that guy. Ed Harris, Richard Jenkins — the list goes on and on.
MS!: Do you ever want to be a leading man?
WG: Yeah, I hope it happens for me. With the success of Jeremy Renner and Melissa Leo, there is beginning to be this resurgence of ‘70s leading men and women. I hope I get my shot.
MS!: You don’t have to look like George Clooney any more.
WG: No, and that’s good, ‘cause that’s never gonna happen for me. I’m what’s known as a three-miler. I look good from certain angles at three miles away, but you never know what you’re gonna get.
*Parts of this interview originally appeared in the Los Angeles Times Magazine.