Holiday 99 Interview: Ving Rhames

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Interviewed With Ving Rhames (VR)
Look for Ving in these films: Patty Hearst, Casualties of War, Jacob's Ladder, The Long Walk Home, Flight of The Intruder, Homicide, The People Under The Stairs, Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot, Bound by Honor, Dave, The Saint of Fort Washington, Pulp Fiction, Drop Squad, Kiss of Death, Mission Impossible, Striptease, Rosewood, Con Air and Dangerous Ground.

Now, in Bringing Out The Dead Ving Rhames plays the part of Marcus, the bible-thumping, optimistic fellow NYC EMS driver that sometimes gets partnered with Nicolas Cage's character Frank. Here, he shares a few thoughts with about his part in the film.

On his character in Bringing Out The Dead:

I had a good time. In the script the character was kind of generic but Martin Scorsese really let me flesh it out and bring some nice nuances to the character. It got to a point where he literally just let me go. He said "just go" and I went. And Nick was very generous as an actor. Nick would say "Ving, whatever it is you want to do, do it and I'll respond to it." So, that's what we did. All of the preacher/ spiritual attributes of the character were mine. Martin really encourages an actor to take risks. He said to Nick and I, "You guys can decide what kind of actors you're gonna be. Are you gonna be actors with limits upon you, or are you gonna have no barriers?" All you have to do is tell me that once! If you give me the freedom to go, I will.
On who he based his character on:


I based this character on some old black guys who worked in this barbershop when I was a kid. They would always tell old stories and kind of exaggerate… well, LIED, basically, but we'd all laugh along. I took an element of each of those guys and incorporated them into Marcus. One guy was very religious, and another was a womanizer and I thought it would be interesting if I could blend these together and see if it will work. Whether it works or not I don't know, but there is a rule of thumb with actors: if you make a choice and go 100%, even if it doesn't work, it'll come across real and truthful, so I know in the least I'm real and truthful.

On Scorsese's "structured freedom" for his actors:

Do you know the song "Freedom isn't Free"? "You gotta pay the price/ you gotta sacrifice for your liberty/ freedom isn't free." What Scorsese does is build certain parameters, but his focus is on the process, not the result. Like he'd say "Okay, I have what I want, Ving, but do you want to try it another way?" A lot of times there are directors who cast me because they want a "heavy" and if I try to find anything human in that role they'll cut it out. Scorsese gave me the artistic freedom to see what I… what we, could come up with. He gave me some suggestions but that was it, then he let me go. I was a little shocked because he is one of the greatest American film directors and I've never had that kind of freedom before really. Outside of Don King, Scorsese was the first director to really give me that kind of freedom.
Read Bringing Out The Dead Review


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