The Movie Jeffrey Wright Has 'Seen A Million Times'

Jan 26, 2013
Originally published on January 26, 2013 4:34 pm

The weekends on All Things Considered series Movies I've Seen A Million Times features filmmakers, actors, writers and directors talking about the movies that they never get tired of watching.

For actor Jeffrey Wright, whose credits include Basquiat, Syriana, W. and Broken City (currently playing in theaters) — the movie he could watch a million times is Francis Ford Coppola's Apocalypse Now.


Interview Highlights

On when he first saw Apocalypse Now

"I guess I was maybe 16 or 17 when I first saw it and you know, for a teenager, you know, becoming a man, there's a — to some extent — a kind of natural fascination with conflict and war for young men and so this movie was in some ways kind of the closest that I had to a war experience."

On meeting Albert Hall, one of the movie's stars

"The first movie I ever did was a mini-series called "Separate But Equal" with Sidney Poitier and Albert Hall, who played Chief in Apocalypse Now. And I said, 'Albert, oh man, I've seen Apocalypse Now I don't know probably 163 times, and it's just the most meaningful thing to me.' And when we finished filming he gave me a book and he wrote inside, 'Jeffrey, evolution is when a young actor comes up to you and says, "I've seen your work, you know, a hundred so times, and it has meaning to me." ' And it was, I don't know, that's just kind of an anecdote of what the film meant to me."

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Transcript

ROBERT SMITH, HOST:

On this show, we've been asking filmmakers about the movies they never get tired of watching, the ones they could watch over and over again, including this one from the star of the film "Basquiat."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "THE END")

THE DOORS: (Singing) This is the end, beautiful friend...

JEFFREY WRIGHT: Hi. I'm Jeffrey Wright, and I'm an actor. And the film that I have seen a million times is "Apocalypse Now," directed by Francis Ford Coppola, starring Martin Sheen, Marlon Brando, Albert Hall, Larry Fishburne, Robert Duvall and God knows all of the other greatest actors in the world giving some of the greatest portrayals ever seen in cinema.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "THE END")

DOORS: (Singing) No safety or surprise, the end.

WRIGHT: I guess I was maybe 16 or 17 when I first saw it. And, you know, for, you know, a teenager, you know, becoming a man, there's, I think, to some extent, a kind of natural fascination with conflict and war for a young man. And so this movie, in some ways, was kind of the closest that, you know, I had to a war experience.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "APOCALYPSE NOW")

ROBERT DUVALL: (as Lieutenant Colonel Bill Kilgore) I love the smell of Napalm in the morning.

WRIGHT: It's the story of, you know, a young soldier who's given a mission, and he goes on an epic, you know, hero's journey through madness and horror.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

WRIGHT: To choose one scene, why don't I just keep it simple and just start with the beginning, where we find, you know, Martin Sheen, you know, Captain Willard, lying in bed in Saigon and the journey begins.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "APOCALYPSE NOW")

MARTIN SHEEN: (as Captain Benjamin L. Willard) Everyone gets everything he wants. I wanted a mission. And for my sins, they gave me one, brought it up to me like room service.

WRIGHT: It probably features the most effective narration of any film in the history of cinema.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "APOCALYPSE NOW")

SHEEN: (as Captain Benjamin L. Willard) It was a real choice mission.

WRIGHT: The end of this day, we find, you know, Marlon Brando in just one of the most powerful, strange, kind of wonderfully indulgent performances imaginable. You know, he says - asks Martin Sheen, you know, are you an assassin?

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "APOCALYPSE NOW")

MARLON BRANDO: (as Colonel Walter E. Kurtz) Are you an assassin or a soldier?

WRIGHT: His face peers out finally into the light, and he says: You're neither.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "APOCALYPSE NOW")

BRANDO: (as Colonel Walter E. Kurtz) You're an errand boy sent by grocery clerks...

WRIGHT: Grocery clerks, he says...

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "APOCALYPSE NOW")

BRANDO: (as Colonel Walter E. Kurtz) ...to collect the bill.

WRIGHT: ...to collect the bill, you know, and it's just staggering poetry. It's just magic.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "APOCALYPSE NOW")

BRANDO: (as Colonel Walter E. Kurtz) The horror...

WRIGHT: The first movie I ever did was a miniseries called "Separate but Equal" with Sidney Poitier and Albert Hall, who played Chief in "Apocalypse Now." And I said: Hey, Albert, oh, man, you know, I've seen "Apocalypse Now," I don't know, probably 163 times. And it's just the most meaningful thing to me. And when we finished filming, he gave me a book, and he wrote inside: Jeffrey, evolution is when a young actor comes up to you and says: I've seen your work, you know, 100-so times. And it has meaning to me. And so, I don't know, that's just kind of an antidote of what it - of what the film meant to me.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

SMITH: That's actor Jeffrey Wright talking about the movie that he could watch a million times, Francis Ford Coppola's "Apocalypse Now." Wright's new film, "Broken City," is in theaters now.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

SMITH: You're listening to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.