Thursday, Oct. 10, 2002
Cole Hauser is in Denver to promote White Oleander for the DIFF. In it, he plays Ray, the boyfriend of one of the foster parents to the main character in the movie. Even though his role is small, he stands out as one of the better influences on the life of our young heroine.
You may have seen Hauser in the film Hi-Lo Country. I saw him first in Pitch Black, one of the most underrappreciated films of 2000. He’s working on two new action movies, The Fast and the Furious 2, and Tears of the Sun with Bruce Willis.
I asked Hauser about his life before the movies and found an interesting story of a young man with a lot of confidence.
Cole Hauser: I was born in California. Moved to Oregon, spent some time in Oregon for about 4 years. Then mom moved us down to Tampa Bay for about 6 years.
Marty Mapes: Was that a military life?
CH: No, my mom was a single mom for most of my childhood. She’s kind of an old hippie. She was one of those moms that would just get bored. As a kid, it kind of pisses you off because you meet friends and then they’re gone and you have to start over again, but as you get older, it’s actually something I’m glad she did.
MM: What did you find to keep you going between places?
CH: You spend a lot more time by yourself, you end up working on yourself. You go to another place and it takes a good six months to meet a friend, so it’s one of those things where you end up riding your bike around by yourself a lot and you get a lot of time to think.
MM: How early were you bitten by the acting bug?
CH: It happened with a good friend of mine, Kevin Morgan, who died a few years back. He played football with me, and soccer and stuff like that, and he was big into acting. He was always saying — because I was a really good liar in school — he was like “You’d be a really good actor, man. You bullshit the teachers and half the time they really believe you.” I was like “aah, I don’t really care about acting, you know, it’s kind of a joke. I like sports.” I wanted to be a professional athlete when I was younger.
The year before, he went [to acting camp] and he told me there were all these beautiful girls, and you do a play, and it’s fun, and you get to go to New York.
MM: Was this in high school or college...?
CH: This was junior high. I think we were maybe going into our freshman year in high school. So I did some auditions and he sent the tape in. They accepted him obviously, and then they accepted me a few days later. We went out there next summer and I ended up doing a play and won best actor. I just had no idea what I was doing. I was scared to death, to be honest with you. I had the lead in this play, Dark of the Moon. I had no idea.
But people loved it. I think the standing ovation is probably what got me. It was like the afternoon after I did it and everybody stood up and I went “wow, I really affected these people. All these people got their asses out of their chairs and clapped.” I was like “this is an amazing feeling.”
MM: And you continued through high school and college?
|Halfway through tenth grade I got kicked out of school ... for uh... well...|
I said to my dad at the time, and my mom, I said “look, I’m not learning anything in school, I’ve never really learned anything in school. I never really cared about school The only reason I was going to school in the past was to play sports.” And they said “well, what do you want to do?” And I said “well, why don’t you emancipate me so I don’t have to go to school any longer?” I was 14 and a half. And they were like “well what are you going to start working on?” And I’m like “well, I’m going to try to do this acting thing.”
They said “you have six months. If you don’t get a job, you know....” They put the pressure on me to really work hard at it. So I went in and started auditioning and failed horribly for the first, I’d say three or four months. And then I met a casting director, Lisa Beech, who loved me and she introduced me to Sherri Lansing, who is now the president of Paramount, and Sammy Jaffe, and they were doing this little movie called School Talk so I eventually, through 500 tests, got a part in it. I never went back to school.
MM: Ray is an interesting character. He’s only got a little bit of screen time but he has one of the biggest effects on Astrid. Tell me what you thought about Ray.
CH: Ray’s different in the book than he is in the film. I had just gotten done playing a racist in Hart’s War. I wanted to play something where he’s not a scumbag, he’s not a dirtball. I said “I want to play where the guy is really genuine, he likes this girl and there’s some kind of connection with her, whether it’s her purity...” And [director Peter Kominsky] actually agreed, he says, “you know I don’t want him to be this kind of scuzball guy, I want him to be a guy you’d really think that she could fall in love with.”
|Cole Hauser is the only person I’ve ever really wanted to be.|
MM: I want to ask about playing a supporting role — not just a non-central role, but a true supporting role?
CH: “I wouldn’t approach it any differently if I was starring in a movie than doing a day on a film. It’s real simple, just give your 100%. There is no such thing as a small role.”
MM: Can you talk about the difference between doing an action movie and doing a drama?
CH: “Most of the films I do are action-dramas. They’re not really like one thing or the other. Fast and the Furious  — the part of it that’s action, I’m not really part of. I’m part of the drama side. I’m playing this guy who pretty much runs Miami and runs drugs and money launders and stuff like that.
But especially with Tears of the Sun — the Bruce Willis film, Antoine Fuqua — it’s an intense film about humanity in Africa and about America helping out. It’s going to shock a lot of people. We did some really amazing things in that movie. It was insane, the amount of action, it was just unreal, and the drama part of it is really real. Antoine did a great job and Bruce is a genius, he’s great at what he does, and it’s just a powerful story. I’m really excited about that movie. I think it’s going to be huge, not just in moneymaking but huge in opening a lot of peoples eyes to what’s going on in the world.
MM: Is it more fun to do an action movie?
CH: When you get to do an action film it’s like you kinda get to go back to being that kid again, you get to play soldier, play cop, you know it’s fun. Especially for me, I’m still young enough to do a lot of my own stunts. That’s a fun part of being an actor. I did Hi-Lo Country I got to ride a bull. I did Tears of the Sun I got to shoot all kinds of guns and explode things, I mean it’s just fun.
MM: Who did you want to be?
CH: What happens inevitably in this business is you start getting compared to one person or another, whether it be Newman or Brando or Pacino, and those are all nice things to be compared to, but I’ve never wanted to be anything other than myself. There’s nobody as good as me and I’m not as good as anybody else. Cole Hauser is the only person I’ve ever really wanted to be.