In "3:10 to Yuma," directed by James Mangold, Foster takes his tightly wound screen persona to operatic new heights. As Christian Bale's desperate rancher tries to deliver fugitive Russell Crowe to the authorities, it is Foster's indelible outlaw sidekick Charlie Prince who dogs their every step. With his portrait of love inverted and twisted, loyalties misplaced and anger unleashed, Foster aids immeasurably in turning what could have been merely a run-of-the-mill oater into something grander.
When "3:10 to Yuma" was first coming out it seemed like just a movie, in a way, and since then it's really connected with people and become even this somewhat unexpected potential awards picture. Are you surprised?
I've learned not to project on what the results are going to be. You just don't know. I'm still shocked that movies come out. It's a miracle when any movie gets made, and then gets made well. But look at the people coming to play, it's a bunch of heavies -- Jim Mangold, Christian Bale, Russell Crowe, Peter Fonda, Elmore Leonard story, shooting on location in New Mexico, our [director of photography] Phedon [Papamichael]. It felt like we were insulated with people who liked to work hard. But it does seem to be resonating with a lot of people and I can't put my finger on why.
I saw in another interview where you and James Mangold decided that your character was like a rock star of the Old West, and that was the basis for his flamboyant clothes and theatrical manner. How did you strike on that idea?
It was really looking at these archival photographs and reading up, reading as much as I could of the journalism of the time. These outlaws, some of them were fantastic dressers. I really wish we could have included this in the film but there were some outlaws who wore little bowler hats and rode those bicycles with the really big front wheel. That was how they presented themselves -- two guns and this odd bicycle. It was a great sense of flair.
As the film goes on, your character becomes more and more unhinged. His loyalty to the character played by Russell Crowe is pretty extreme. It's tough not to read that as having some kind of homoerotic or romantic undercurrent. How did you envision their connection?
Devotion was clear on the page. But to connect to it on an emotional level, for myself, I had to rationalize, how do you do that, how do you cross the desert killing anyone in your way? And although his theatrics are presented in a very specific way, it's coming from something much deeper. And that can be taken in any direction an audience member wants to take. Myself, it was rooted in love, and not necessarily a clear or specific kind. I mean, love is a disease, it makes us insane. Insane. I don't think it was necessarily based on an obviously sexual level, but when you're in love with someone -- it could be a friend or a family member -- you can rationalize doing a lot of things. That was the only way I could make it make sense to me, and not just be a sociopath who grins a lot and is just nasty.
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You do have some terrific outfits in the film, especially that great leather coat. I can only imagine once you put on something like that, it does at least some of the work for you.
I was excited about how far Arianne [Phillips, costume designer] wanted to go with it. So often people want to play things so safe and controlled, there's this style of filmmaking and acting that's so far under the table that there's a tendency to lose the vitality in the expression. Anybody who's willing to take it further out is someone I'm going to be really excited to play with. You walk differently in pajamas than you do in a tuxedo. Particularly with someone like this who's very aware of his own icon status, it's very important to him to present himself in a particular way, you do find that person's identity. It's not necessarily working outside-in or inside-out, it just handles itself. And the ritual of putting on wardrobe is something I really connect to, putting it on with attention. You're putting on someone else's skin.