Benicio Del Toro talks about playing a hitman in Sicario
Junkie, narcotics cop, gang henchman, drug lord - Benicio Del Toro has played every side of the law in drug wars, earning a Best Supporting Oscar for his Mexican border cop role in crime drama Traffic (2000).
In his new movie Sicario (hitman in Spanish), which opens here tomorrow and also stars Emily Blunt and Josh Brolin, the 48-year-old US-Puerto Rican plays the title role - a man out for revenge for the brutal deaths of his family at the hands of a cartel.
His character, an ex-prosecutor, is a killing machine but Del Toro conveys the fury and pain simmering under the surface, all the while maintaining a stoic demeanour that can dissolve instantly into rage, or into surprising tenderness.
But that intensity is reserved for the screen, it seems. In person, Del Toro conveys more of a laid-back persona despite the suit and tie.
We are at the Beverly Hilton hotel for our interview, and while he is happy to discuss Sicario, he gets positively chatty when talking about his four-year-old daughter - from a previous relationship with US socialite Kimberly Stewart - and his dogs.
How did you create this character?
I read somewhere about a samurai who was a hitman. When he got to the person he had to kill, that person spat at him. And he got too emotional and didn't kill him because his emotions got in the way of the act of killing. And I kept that in mind when I was playing this character. I knew he was going to kill a lot of people, so I felt he needed to be almost zen in the dark side. So I worked on that, keeping him kind of silent.
Does it bother you that you have played mostly Latino roles?
Well, someone has to do it. It doesn't anger me unless the character that they offer is one-dimensional. I try to play these characters as realistically and as truthfully as I can, and I don't have a problem if I have to play Latinos for the rest of my life. But what I would have a problem with is if they start making them exactly the same.
One thing is clear: You're not going to be a Latino drug dealer in Star Wars: Episode VIII.
Hey, we don't know. I haven't done that one yet, dealing dope in space.
Are you a fan? And what can you tell us about scoring the villain role?
I remember seeing Star Wars when I was a kid. I was a big fan. I had an R2-D2 and C3PO model that you glued and you painted and I had those two and I remember staying up all night painting those things. I think the movies, they work on a different level and it's more like a spiritual story and it's all about evil versus good and trying to be good and trying to be evil and the metaphors and the myths. So when the opportunity came, I talked to the director (Rian Johnson) and I really liked him and I just got really interested about being part of that universe.
What are you learning from your little girl Delilah?
My patience glass is much deeper. If my daughter throws a tantrum, I sit there and wait for it to pass. I got better at it. And I watch musicals with her. I showed her a scene from West Side Story and it was really interesting because she watched it and she was like, hmm. And then she walked away. I have her on the weekends and I picked her up and said, 'Want to watch a movie?' And she said, 'I want to watch West Side Story.' I put on that classic scene with the song (America) and she stands in front of the TV, dancing.
Tell us about your dogs.
I have two, a St Bernard and an australian shepherd. Someone said that dogs don't know how to point but my St Bernard knows how to point. You put the banana right here and she will come over, look at me, and point at the banana. Her name is Ella. The other one is Bosco, who's 14.