An Interview with Malcolm Goodwin
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By Wilson Morales
March 31, 2008
Every year there’s always less than five actors who I believe will elevate their status in the acting community either based on the films that they are set to appear in or the role that they will be playing. For Malcolm Goodwin, this may be his year to shine. If you happen to have seen ‘American Gangster’, you may have missed him amongst the other heavyweights that were in the film, but to be in a film with Denzel Washington and Russell Crowe will certainly draw attention. So much, that Malcolm’s next few films has him opposite some of the best talent in the business. Coming up for him is a featured role in ‘Letherheads’ opposite George Clooney and Renee Zellweger. Within the same time, Goodwin will also be seen in ‘Deception’ with Hugh Jackman. Toward the end of the year, Goodwin will then appear in perhaps his biggest role to date, a spot in Spike Lee’s war film, ‘Miracle at St. Anna’.
What role do you play in the film?
Malcolm Goodwin: I play the role of Bakes Davis, who is one of the wide receivers for the Duluth Bulldogs. People think that Hollywood is being PC for having an African-American in the film because most people think that we didn’t play college football or professional football back then. But we did. Fritz Pollard, Bobby Marshall, Paul Robeson, Charles W. Follis, Charles (Doc) Baker and believe it or not, many more. To be honest, I didn’t know either before auditioning for the movie and doing the research.
How did you get cast?
Malcolm Goodwin: I auditioned in LA right after I wrapped on ‘American Gangster’. I read the script and loved it. Since it’s the 1920’s I patterned my speaking style after a few old timers on my block in Brooklyn growing up and by listening to some vintage sound bytes I found online.
Did you have to physically train for the role?
Malcolm Goodwin: Before football camp, which lasted two weeks, I started lifting weights and working on my cardio. When I arrived to set we were told that the men of that time were built different. They weren’t diesel like the players of today. The players of that time represented in this film were WW1 vets, coal miners, farmers, just hard working men who played football for the love of the game. So I stopped working out and started pigging out. I put on 20 extra pounds, which helped out a lot because when it was time to take a hit, it didn’t hurt too bad.
How was it working with George Clooney and the cast?
Malcolm Goodwin: Working with George and my cast mates was one of the best experiences I’ve ever had as an artist and as a man. We all got along from day one and still hang out till this day. George sets the tone, lets us know what he wants and trusted us to deliver that. On free days we played a lot of basketball, pool, and darts. Darts was new for me but I got the hang of it and started reppin’. It was a lot of fun. There wasn’t one stressful day for me.
What have you learned from this film that's different from the
Malcolm Goodwin: I’ve learned that the filmmaking process is less stressful and painless when everyone from the last person on the crew list to the first person on the cast list is on the same page and believe in the project their working on, when it’s just not another gig to pay the bills. We all believed in this film, which made the experience so full. And it all started with how George and his producing partner Grant Heslov assembled this team of people to bring this film to the big screen.
How much do you remember of that football era?
Malcolm Goodwin: Before being casted, I knew nothing. Football was never my sport. I grew up a diehard Mets fan and Knicks Fan. During football camp we had to unlearn many of the rules of the game that is in effect today. Lucky for me I didn’t know many of them. So I didn’t have to unlearn anything. Any knowledge of the game I had came from playing Madden. But during that era which the movie touches on, college football was bringing in crowds in the thousands while professional football was bringing in a couple of hundred. There were a lot of trick plays, the football was larger so there wasn’t a lot of passing, the offense also played defense, and before the 1920’s many players were killed during the time because they didn’t have the protective gear back then.
Malcolm Goodwin: I play a cab driver. Originally I was up for a more pivotal role in the film but that character was written out at the last minute. Marcel still wanted to have me in the film so he gave me that role instead, which was great because I got to work with Ewan Macgregor.
What else do you have coming up?
Malcolm Goodwin: After Leatherheads and Deception drops in April, I have 3 films coming out. ‘The Heaven Project’ starring Paul Walker, ‘The Longshots’ starring Keke Palmer and Ice Cube, and ‘Miracle at St. Anna’ directed by Spike Lee. I’m currently filming ‘Crazy on The Outside’ directed by and starring Tim Allen, set to release in 2009.
How was it working with Spike Lee and the cast?
Malcolm Goodwin: Working with Spike was a dream come true. I was nervous as hell. Growing up in Brooklyn and Harlem, Spike was an icon. He’s the only director growing up whose films I had to see opening night in theatres. Also being a young African American actor I thought that the only way to make it on the big screen was through Spike. I’ve looked up to him for so long and defended him against so many haters growing up, that when I finally met the man I was shook. I didn’t want to let him down. I wanted to make sure I gave him my blood, sweat and tears. This dream I’ve had for so many years was now a reality and I wanted to rise to the occasion. And it seems like my cast mates approached it the same way. These men gave all of themselves for Spike and for the subject matter of the film. It’s the first and only film that documents the African American experience during WW2 liberating the Jews from the Nazi regime. It’s based off the book by James McBride, also entitled Miracle at St. Anna, he also wrote the screenplay.
Do you feel this will be a strong year for you?
Malcolm Goodwin: I feel really positive about this year. I’m still growing and learning as an artist, the day that stops is the day I stop. I feel so humbled, grateful and blessed by these opportunities. It’s been a long road and I hope the road ahead is longer because I’m ready for it.
Why should anyone see 'Leatherheads'?
Malcolm Goodwin: It’s the perfect date movie; a perfect balance with romance for the ladies, and football for the guys, with witty comedy that’ll make you both laugh.
LEATHERHEADS opens on April 4, 2008
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