An Interview with Titus Welliver
Published: Monday, March 5, 2012
Updated: Thursday, March 8, 2012 11:03
Esteemed character actor Titus Welliver has made on a career on bringing striking authenticity to strong supporting roles. He may not be a household name, but recently he has captured perhaps his greatest attention through an unlikely source: as Ben Affleck's muse, having taken parts in "GONE BABY GONE", "THE TOWN", and his upcoming film "ARGO". Titus' roles in these films, along with his performances in cult favorites like "DEADWOOD", have displayed strength for commanding regional dialects and an ability for inhabiting his characters physical traits and tics to an amazing extent (that mustache in "GONE BABY" – wow.)
And the extended cut of "THE TOWN", available today on Blu-ray in an ‘Ultimate Collector's Edition', reveals a performance of far greater depth than was apparent in the original theatrical cut. Titus' character, an FBI agent hailing from Charlestown, evolves from an archetypal villain into a complex crusader, along with his partner played by Jon Hamm. And while the extra half hour/new ending that has been put back into the film improves everything, no one gains as much as Titus and Hamm – who are revealed not to be cliché antagonists but rather men who are tortured by the never-ending grind and the complete absence of forward motion that comes with police work.
To celebrate the release of Affleck's original vision; Titus sat down with us to discuss not just "THE TOWN", but everything else from "FRIENDS OF EDDIE COYLE" to his favorite exploitation classics.
The Voice: So there's so much more of you in this movie. It's great.
Titus: I know! It made my kids happy. There's one other thing that was not put back in the film, something I always liked but was very small. Basically Hamm and I confront Ben on the street after we find out he and Rebecca have connected. And in the first cut it was a little unclear that Jon has a personal ax to grind [against Ben] beyond law enforcement. But we gave Ben a quick tune-up in an alleyway with out batons.
The Voice: That sounds great. You should put it back in; this movie can just keep getting better.
Titus: I know, "THE TOWN" part 3. Just wait till Criterion tries to get a hold of this [laughs]. Then we're all in trouble. But you know, you shoot these things, then you forget about it.
The Voice: It's mostly scene extensions, rather than totally new stuff, right? Because it doesn't feel longer. It still has it's own flow.
Titus: Yeah. It's not the French Plantation from "APOCALYPSE NOW".
The Voice: So you and Ben have quite the working relationship; you're definitely a member of the repertory company for him by now. How'd you two meet?
Titus: Standard fare, I was auditioning for "GONE BABY GONE". He was not in LA at the time, he was location scouting or something, and so we put my audition on videotape. And uh, I was passionate about it. I really wanted to be in the film. I was thinking wow, this is one of the most accurate portrayals of Boston yet, in that you could see the [social] structure of it. And with Ben at the helm, I knew it would be the real deal. It wouldn't just be someone's perception of what Boston was.
And then it seemed like an eternity passed. I called my agent about it, and he said "funny you should ask, he wants to meet with you this week." So then "THE TOWN" was circulating, I called my agent and said "I need to do this." So we tracked Ben down, I put him in a headlock, and he put me in the movie. I had to stand on a ladder, but I put him in a headlock. [everyone laughs] Don't fucking laugh, I did it!
The Voice: So Ben, with his past two films, has kind of brought back the Boston Crime trend. What are some of your favorites in that subgenre?
Titus: Well, #1 is "FRIENDS OF EDDIE COYLE". I mean, anything by Higgins. And "BLACK MASS". But "EDDIE COYLE" – it's funny, when we did "GONE BABY GONE", I mentioned it to Ben and he wasn't familiar with it. So then he saw "EDDIE COYLE" between "GONE BABY" and "THE TOWN", and there is definitely homage's to it, to that film, within "THE TOWN". That to me, with Ben's films, is really the quintessential portrayal of the Boston underworld. There have been a lot of attempts to do it, and a lot of them are lame ducks. Because it's always this cliché of the Italians vs. the Irish, blah blah blah, and you know "we'll delve into the whole Providence thing"… no thanks.
And there is a huge talent pool out there. You see funky little movies like "SCALPERS", that were made for like $10, but those resonate. They're true to life. But there's so much rich material here that's yet to be mined further, so my eyes are peeled.
The Voice: Your character, and Hamm's, have such greater depth in this version.
Titus: Well they're so driven. It's like Ahab. It's obsessive. And what we know [more clearly in this version] is that he's been pushed aside because Rebecca is with Ben. So the notion that his ego has been already injured, and then it's…. it's like Ahab found out his wife was fucking Moby Dick. The stakes don't get any higher.
"THE TOWN" is available in an Ultimate Collector's Edition Blu-ray starting today.