EXCLUSIVE: John Hawkes Talks 'Jackie Brown' Prequel 'Switch'

The actor will play Louis Gara alongside Yasiin Bey in this prequel to the Elmore Leonard adaptation.
John Hawkes discusses the Elmore Leonard prequel Switch
John Hawkes discusses the Elmore Leonard prequel Switch
Earlier today, I had the chance to speak with the extremely talented actor John Hawkes, who was promoting the Blu-ray release of Roadracers. After talking about why he turned down The Governor role on The Walking Dead, I asked him about a movie project I am very much looking forward to, Switch. This is based on Elmore Leonard's prequel novel to Rum Punch, which Quentin Tarantino adapted into the 1997 hit Jackie Brown.

John Hawkes will play Louis Gara and Yasiin Bey portrays Ordell Robbie, younger versions of the roles played by Robert De Niro and Samuel L. Jackson in Jackie Brown. The actor told me that he was not planning on doing a Robert De Niro impersonation for this role. Here's what he had to say.

"I think the only Tarantino movie I haven't seen is Jackie Brown, and I won't watch it until after I shoot this. I don't think we're supposed to be imitators of Samuel L. Jackson and Robert De Niro, although I think that's what some people expect. Again, I will not have even seen Jackie Brown at that point, and my De Niro impression isn't that great, so I'm just going to approach it like any other film. (Writer-director) Daniel Schechter adapted the novel, I think, really beautifully, and this has kind of been a long time coming.

I met with him many months ago, and Yasiin Bey, who I worked with many years before very briefly, I think he's a terrific guy and actor. I'm looking forward to getting going on it. It's been slow moving, trying to get the money and schedules all set up, but the script is what called to me, and that's always how it is. The script is good, and the role is good, and Daniel seems like a capable storyteller. I'm excited to work on it.


Asked when production would start, he added, "I have no idea. Hopefully this summer." We reported back in February that Jennifer Aniston and Dennis Quaid were in early talks to star, but it isn't known if they have officially signed on. The story follows Ordell Robbie and Louis Gara, who kidnap the wife (Jennifer Aniston) of a real estate tycoon (Dennis Quaid), although their plan goes awry when the husband refuses to pay the hefty ransom.

Life of Crime comes to theaters August 29th, 2014 and stars Jennifer Aniston, Mark Boone Junior, Kevin Cannon, Julie E. Davis, Yasiin Bey, Isla Fisher, Will Forte, John Hawkes. The film is directed by Daniel Schechter.



Sources: Brian Gallagher

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Comments (14)

  1. Brian Gallagher

    Haha whatever you say, dude. Whatever you say. Oh, sorry. Whatever you say @thedude-abides, whatever you say. I don't want to seem like I don't have a "set big enough."

    I didn't ask for your opinion either. I made an innocuous comment and you felt the need to shower us with your supposed genius, because apparently your purpose in life is to show people up on the MovieWeb forums. And no, I don't get why you were defending Ottley, since he essentially made up a story based on a bunch of "sources" he either misread or couldn't prove existed. So yeah, sorry for acting like a little girl when I was simply trying to get all of the facts of a supposed story that would have been interesting, if it was true.

    Case closed, or whatever.

    2 years agoby @gallagherFlag

  2. thedude-abides

    @gallagher You didn't touch a nerve. I could care less which websites you steal your little news articles from and post them on here like that means you know something.

    Apparently I'm the one who struck a nerve with you the other day when I called you out for acting like a little girl in the Ottley forum. Your rebuttal to my initial comment had nothing to do with you. I didn't ask you for your misguided little opinion; I could care less what you think. Yet for some apparent reason you felt compelled to direct a comment at me in an indirect way, without having a set big enough to back up that statement by tagging me in it, probably because you thought I wouldn't see it.

    And yes, again, for the fourth time, I understand in theory why Hawkes wouldn't want to watch Jackie Brown. My point is that I don't think that approach applies in this case.

    The fact is, whether you like it or not and despite your dubious claims to the contrary, the movie in question is a prequel, not a reboot. Period. Case closed.

    Seeing as how Andrew Garfield is doing a reboot of Spider-Man, I sincerely doubt he wanted to take anything from Tobey Maguire's character, as you pointed out. That's exactly what I said in my second paragraph in case you weren't paying attention. But I guarantee you, and pay attention here because this part's important, I guarantee you Robert De Niro watched Marlon Brando in the original Godfather when preparing for his role in Godfather Part II.

    Hawkes and De Niro are playing the same character at a different point in that character's life, a la Robert De Niro and Marlon Brando as Vito Corleone; they're not giving two separate interpretations of that character in two distinct films, a la Andrew Garfield and Tobey Maguire as Peter Parker, a la Anthony Hopkins and Brian Cox as Hannibal Lecter. If you can't understand the difference, more power to ya, man. I can do nothin' for ya.

    Until then, we won't agree to disagree because you clearly have no idea what you're talking about and it's obvious you try and cloud that fact by being a smart ass. Personally, I could care less that you have no perspective on this or any other issue, but be advised that if you or anyone else on this site (as some have learned) question my logic in the misinformed and illegitimate fashion that you did, I'm gonna let you hear about it. I'm done with this argument.

    How's that for a legal reference, Mr. Willy Wonka reboot is better than the original?

    2 years agoby @thedude-abidesFlag

  3. Dan

    @shuabert I find your comment amusing in that it basically makes this colossal argument going on between @gallagher and @thedude-abides moot.

    2 years agoby @dan1Flag

  4. Brian Gallagher

    So you understand why he wouldn't.... but think it's illogical? You agree why he wouldn't want to watch it, but you think that "defeats any sense of logic?" You have a weird sense of being in agreement. Are you the same person now that you were 20 years ago? Even if you were, I have to imagine Louis Gara hasn't had nearly the same experiences in his younger years as De Niro's Gara did in Jackie Brown, with years and years of prison time under his belt. There do not have to be "some similarities" because they are both coming from vastly different perspectives. De Niro's Gara is a hardened criminal, whereas the past Gara might have been just starting out, therefore would likely have a much different sensibilities. I don't know, exactly, because I haven't read Leonard's book yet, and I don't know what the time gap between Jackie Brown and Switch is. In a sense, though, he is "rebooting the character." This is the character's origin story, so to speak, so how is that not "rebooting" him? Do you think Andrew Garfield went back and studied Tobey Maguire? No, because it's a completely new franchise with a completely new director, going for a new look and style, even though they share the same names.

    I may have no idea what I'm talking about, but damn near every actor I've talked to who has done a remake or a prequel, said they do not watch the original movies until after shooting, because, like we apparently agree on, they don't want to draw too much from the previous version of the character they're playing. Your semi-obscure references are all moot, because none of those actors were playing a younger version of another character. Yes, actors are inspired by other performances and draw on them for their performances, completely unrelated performances in completely different movies. And Quentin, well, he can do whatever the hell he wants, and I love him for it. But don't think that every director hands their actors a stack of movies and say "Act like this," because it just doesn't happen.

    From what I understand, the Charlie and the Chocolate Factory remake is practically identical to the original Roald Dahl book, which is why Burton wanted to remake it in the first place, because the original film strayed so far from the novel he loved as a child. So yeah, I guess it did "show."

    You can use all the caps or legal references you want. I could care less. Apparently I touched a nerve. I guess we'll have to agree to disagree on this one.

    2 years agoby @gallagherFlag

  5. incmob

    how can you not want to see De Niro's perfomance... it was perfect, and he hardly said a word. i think you can still watch something but bring your own to the table as well... hell bands have been doing it for years when replacing lead singers, and some movies as well. even look at josh brolin in MIB 3 that is the only reason i even want to see that is his take on tommy lee jones!

    2 years agoby @incmobFlag

  6. thedude-abides

    @gallagher Wrong. That's all they do. Every last one of them, including John Hawkes. That's why he said he wasn't going to watch Jackie Brown, because he didn't want to take from De Niro's performance. Bam.

    My point was that I understand why he wouldn't want to (which again I don't see you're argument because we're basically in agreement on that fact), I just think it defeats any sense of logic in this case because it's the same character. It's not like he's doing a reboot of a character De Niro made famous twenty years ago; he's playing the same character! Common sense would lead one to believe that he would want there to be SOME similarities.

    Why do you think actors always refer to where they drew their inspiration? That's all they ever do in interviews is talk about what actor's performance inspired them to help create their character. Go back and look at Daniel Day-Lewis's Oscar acceptance speech from 2007. All the guy did was go on and on about how he drew inspiration from Heath Ledger in Brokeback Mountain. That's not me bloviating some nonsense I made up; that's Daniel Day-Lewis saying that. Arguably the greatest actor of our time.

    And I venture to guess you've never seen Murder on the Orient Express either. If you had, you would see Daniel Day-Lewis drew a significant amount of inspiration from Albert Finney's character for his character in There Will Be Blood as well. So don't come at me with that nonsense, brian, because you clearly have no idea what you're talking about in that respect.

    And while I'm on the subject, ask any actor who's ever worked with Tarantino. All the guy does in pre-production is sit them down in front of a projector, and screens movies for them with performances from other actors he wants them to immolate. Look it up. For the opening scene in Pulp Fiction (and it even says it in the script) Tarantino sat Tim Roth and Amanda Plummer down and screened a Howard Hawkes film called His Girl Friday from 1940 starring Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell (which by the way, as a point of reference, I have seen), and told them that that was exactly the way he wanted them to act and speak to each other.

    As for the Willy Wonka remake, not that I would've expected anything less from a remake, but it showed.

    And yes I used a legal reference, or would you have preferred I used caps there as well?

    2 years agoby @thedude-abidesFlag

  7. Brian Gallagher

    No need for the caps, dude. I may be getting older, but I can read just fine:)

    You're really going to bring in legal terms to something like acting? What you described, finding "points of reference" from other films, is exactly the kind of things most actors never do, in terms of crafting a character. They may watch films from a certain era to get the tone of a particular period, or something along those lines, but they want to craft their own characters, even if those characters have been portrayed by other actors before. He is doing his "due dilligence" by not watching Jackie Brown, especially since it is set many years before the events of those films, and I'd be willing to bet his director wouldn't want him to watch it either. John August had never seen the original Willy Wonka movie before writing the Charlie and the Chocolate Factory remake, which I personally enjoyed more than the original. Everyone prepares differently. It's what comes out on screen that matters, and with someone as immensely talented as John Hawkes, I have all the faith in the world his character will turn out great.

    2 years agoby @gallagherFlag

  8. Space101

    Hmmm not sure about this one...

    2 years agoby @space101Flag

  9. thedude-abides

    There is such a thing known as a point of reference when it comes to doing anything in the comparative sense. In terms of legal precepts, they are known as precedents. In other fields they are known by other names. In acting, it's called doing one's homework in order to establish a point of reference to the character. And in order to do that, one must read about the character and watch films (or think back to films they've already seen) in which other actors give similar performances they can draw from in order to establish that point of reference...

    Like I clearly stated before, I UNDERSTAND HIS LOGIC (in his approach of not watching the film) OF NOT WANTING TO DRAW TOO MUCH FROM DE NIRO'S CHARACTER. However, there is such a thing called doing one's due diligence, and if I'm playing the same character made famous by Robert De Niro, you bet your ass the first thing I would do would be to watch the movie.

    2 years agoby @thedude-abidesFlag

  10. Josh

    I find it kind of misleading to call this a "Jackie Brown prequel," which implies it's a prequel to the film, when it's actually an adaptation of a prequel novel. Semantics, maybe. It just made it sound like Tarantino was involved, when it's a totally different project.

    2 years agoby @shuabertFlag

  11. Brian Gallagher

    People are different when they're younger, especially after serving all the time that Louis did. I'm assuming that this is set before he served all that time, so I imagine he probably had a much different outlook on life, and such. I don't see the problem with his approach. Can't wait to see what he can do!

    2 years agoby @gallagherFlag

  12. thedude-abides

    I really like the idea of Hawkes playing a young Louis Gara, but I don't like the fact he isn't familiar with De Niro's performance. I understand his logic in not wanting to draw too much off De Niro's character, but then again, isn't that the point?

    2 years agoby @thedude-abidesFlag