Interview: Michael Imperioli Talks The Lovely Bones
Tue, 12 Jan 2010 12:45:51
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Michael Imperioli understands darkness.
He's been in some of the past two decades' most poignant and violent works of art—from The Sopranos to Goodfellas to Clockers. Imperioli has always imbued his characters with a very human sensibility, despite being in situations of true duress.
In The Lovely Bones, Imperioli gives another classic performance under a black cloud as Detective Len Fenerman. Fenerman is the Salmon family's anchor after the tragic murder of daughter Susie. The actor plays Fenerman with a deft sensitivity that's palpable instantly.
In this exclusive interview, Michael Imperioli sat down with Dolor author Rick Florino to discuss the life at the heart of Lovely Bones, taking a cue from the '70s and finding inspiration in music.
Do you think The Lovely Bones is about these characters finding heaven or finding themselves? In the aftermath of Susie's death, everyone comes to his or her own self-realization.
Yeah, I think it's much more about living in the moment and appreciating what you have in the now because life is so fragile and it can be gone in an instant. It's more about life than it is about death.
Each character is given a purpose by this tragedy. That happens to a lot of people in real life.
The Lovely Bones also talks about the interconnectedness that we all share. We influence each other a lot more than we give ourselves credit.
Everybody gets to grow up in the film. Your character, Len, becomes part of this family.
They grow up, and it's through this very intense experience that life offers, which is death. Everyone has to deal with death on some level. Going through that brings wisdom, maturity and transformation.
Len gives the family a foundation in reason because everybody's losing it. Did you feel like he became their rock?
Oh yeah! I think he's kind of like their lifeline to the hope that Susie may still be alive somehow. As long as the case is still active, there's some kind of hope that they don't have to totally let go. That's both good and bad. There's this whole thing about vengeance. Mark Wahlberg's character thinks that vengeance is going to help him have closure but, in the end, he realizes they have to just heal anyway and go on. There may never be closure, and there probably won't be.
You balance Len's sense of reason with sensitivity. You understand the family's plight.
I think one of the key elements for the character was to have sympathy toward the girl, connect to the girl and try to relate to her. We spoke about Len being a family man and imagining this happening to him. I think he has a lot of compassion.
Len is more like a private eye than a cop. He's much more personal.
I think part of that is because it's a small town. He's not so jaded. He's not a big city detective so he hasn't dealt with a lot of these things. His responsibility for the people left outweighs even his responsibility to bring this criminal to justice.
The movie hearkens back to classic '70s flick. Did you feel that while you were on set?
The design is amazing! Everyone was just incredibly committed to detail. Being in the Salmon house and looking at props, magazines and records—the amount of detail on that set was just unbelievable. That helps. I love that—to sit on the set and pick up a magazine from the period. I love all of those things, and they really help. It immediately grounds you in that time period. It was a different time, especially for solving crimes of this nature. The technology was different. The concept of profiling and psychological profiling was different. These things were in their infancy.
You get gritty with characters, and it's characteristic of the '70s.
It's one of my favorites artistically. If you walk out feeling something, then we did something right.
What about Len personally resonated with you?
It was really the compassion. I felt like that was my way into the character—to have as much compassion as I could have for these people and really try to connect to them.
When you read the script, did you instantly get that literary feel?
Yeah, you can feel that. The script is very faithful to the book. The connections between the afterlife imagery and what's happening on earth are very thought-out through symbolism, dream imagery and psychological connections. There's a lot of method to the madness. They're not just random images; they're classical, mythic images connected to dream life, out-of-body experiences and stuff like that. I felt it when I read the script.
It doesn't subscribe to just one ideology either. There's a blend.
It's true. That's a good way to put it!
You have a true rhythm on screen. Do you ever listen to music to get into character? Where you listening to anything while you were playing Len?
I don't think so. Music is a big part of my life because I play in a band. Music is actually a really big part of my life [Laughs]. I play quite often, so that doesn't surprise me. My band, La Dolce Vita, plays in rock clubs in New York all the time. I play guitar and sing; it's a rock trio with all original music. It's New York alternative rock; and it's fun. We've been together for four years.
To act, you do need a musical sensibility. You're propelling a story along, and it's like singing.
Absolutely! Actually, the first real acting was song. They called them "The Goat Singers." The Greeks did plays that were really songs. There were poems performed to some sort of melodic structure.
If you can speak through an instrument, you can speak through a character.
They come from the same creative place. It's about communication. You're communicating emotions. You can watch this movie a couple times and really see the connections between the two worlds and why we're cutting from this world to that world when we do. They start to resonate a lot more. When I first read the book, there was that feeling as well. The character Susie had so much compassion for the world that you can't walk away feeling depressing. You had to adopt some of her optimism.
She has such a short life, but the little moments mean so much.
You have to appreciate them when they happen. You brush by those moments in day-to-day existence, but suddenly when someone is gone, these moments take on this whole huge weight and importance.
What else do you have on the horizon?
I wrote and directed a movie that's currently going to festivals. My bass player does his own music as well, and he did a lot of original music for the movie. La Dolce Vita did the opening theme for my movie and a couple other songs. It's called The Hungry Ghosts. The next time it's showing is in the Santa Barbara festival in February. It's about five characters in New York over a 36-hour period in various states of crisis. The stories wind up crisscrossing.
Did The Lovely Bones make you think a lot?
In the specific way that, being a father, it brought all of those feelings about how much you love children, how afraid you are of bad things happening to them and then how fragile is and how fleeting time can be. Those are heavy things to consider.
Check out Rick Florino's new novel Dolor available now for FREE here…