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"[I]t's quite important that, if your audience is wrapping you, dressing you in the clothes of morality, you take them off. Because that's not the job of the artist. — Bono

Q&A: U2's Larry Mullen, Jr. on Why Acting Does Not Come Naturally (Cannes)

The drummer jokes that his acting debut in "Man on a Train" is not "a threat to the day job."
Hollywood Reporter

U2 drummer Larry Mullen Jr. will make his acting-producing debut with the crime drama Man on the Train, which Sierra / Affinity and Preferred Content are selling in the Marche de Cannes this week. The musician, who will have to skip the Festival de Cannes because of "touring commitments," spoke with The Hollywood Reporter about the excitement and anxiety attached to this new artistic venture.

The Hollywood Reporter: Had you been interested in getting involved with filmmaking for a while? How did that originate?

Larry Mullen, Jr.: Filmmaking never really crossed my mind. My involvement in the process came about by accident over a social drink with writer/director Mary McGuckian, whom I've known for years. After deciding to try and acquire the rights to re-make the movie, it turned out to be way more complicated than anticipated. Eventually everything fell into place. I enjoyed that process. It's an independently financed project. It was shot in only 17 days – in Orangetown, a small suburb outside Toronto. Stefan Von Bjorn, our director of photography, makes it look expensive. Becoming a producer felt natural - unlike the acting funnily enough.

THR: How did this particular project get on your radar, and what about it persuaded you to produce it?

Mullen: After a brief conversation about my interest in doing a cameo or something left-field and independent, Mary gave me a copy of the original movie. As far as Mary was concerned, if we were to make the film, I would have to get involved in producing it - and consider playing "The Man" - or nothing. Looking back now I can't help wondering should I have stuck to the day job.

THR: How did you find the acting part of it? Have you taken classes? Who was helpful in that effort?

Mullen: Well, sadly, it doesn't come naturally. I took some classes in Dublin some years ago, turns out I'm a little more self-conscious than I care to admit. "I keep on getting in my own way." Mary sent me several tasks. She gave me a binder with a long questionnaire to help me build the character. She also broke down the script scene by scene to help me learn what felt like a new language to me. Over a couple of months I invented my character and attempted to build him into the relevant scenes. Originally, I only wanted a walk-on part. Talk about diving in at the deep end.

THR: Is there any extra anxiety attached to this movie coming out, since you've been so successful in another art-form? People often reflexively show skepticism toward an artist trying to make a go in another medium. Is this something you're aware of/worried about?

Mullen: Of course. I have had an amazing career for a man who hits things for a living. I understand some people being skeptical - I'm not an actor. I've no plans to change careers, however I'm enjoying experimenting on myself. Why not?

THR: Have the other guys in the band seen the film? What's been their response to your moving in this direction?

Mullen: No, they haven't. This whole project has been under the radar for over a year. I doubt if they see my attempt at acting as a threat to the day job.

THR: What do you hope to do moving forward in terms of filmmaking? Are there other projects you would like to pursue? What are they?

Mullen: Despite being a novice, I found the whole process hugely liberating. I would definitely love to do more - just waiting for the next project – anyone?

THR: Are you going to Cannes? Have you been before? What has your experience been there?

Mullen: I was in Cannes two years ago at our U23D movie premiere. I love the French. I won't make it this year because of my touring commitments. I'm disappointed - they really know how to do film festivals over there.

THR: What are a few of your favorite recent films?

Mullen: Winter's Bone. Waiting for "Superman." Lebanon. Restrepo.

(c) Hollywood Reporter, 2011.