Good Times with Ving Rhames

Otherwise known as, “The most ironic title ever.”

So here’s the Ving Rhames story I referenced a few weeks ago…

I interviewed Rhames in conjunction with the DVD release of the straight-to-DVD flick Death Race 2, which – despite its title – is actually a prequel to the Death Race remake that Jason Statham did a few years back. The film had been on Bullz-Eye’s radar for several months, owing to the fact that our editor-in-chief, Jamey Codding, had participated in a junket that sent him to South Africa to not only interview some of the cast members but actually do time as an extra. Pretty cool deal, right? Good film, bad film, if you can actually produce a readable article or two out of the experience of attending a junket, as Jamey did, then it’s a trip worth taking, that’s what I say.

As it turned out, Death Race 2 was a bad film. (Didn’t see that coming, did you?) But as the DVD’s release date creeped ever closer, since we were already going to be running Jamey’s coverage of the trip, anyway, I took the studio up on their kind offer to supplement that coverage with phoners with stars Danny Trejo and Ving Rhames. There was only one catch: they hadn’t actually finished pressing the DVDs yet, so the phoners would have to take place without my having actually seen the film. Even though I’m quite capable of doing enough research to hold my own in a conversation about a film I haven’t seen, it’s still something I reeeeeeeeally hate to do, and on the rare occasions when I have no choice but to do it, I always try to be upfront about it. There’s nothing worse than trying to bluff and getting called on it.

First of all, this is how my conversation with Danny Trejo went:

Me: Well, I suppose I should acknowledge first off that I have not seen the movie yet because they have not sent me a copy of the movie.

Danny Trejo: Hey, let me tell you something: it is just, like, an adrenaline rush of action. It’s awesome.

Me: Awesome. Well, I’ve seen the first one, so…

DT: This one kicks the first one in the ass.

BE: Wow! Nice.

DT: It’s unreal.

Y’see what I did there? I admitted that I hadn’t seen the film, and Trejo, awesome guy that he is, took it in stride and just told me what I could expect from it when I did see it.

Ving Rhames, not so much.

Stand by for…

We never actually ran my interview with Rhames on Bullz-Eye…or anywhere else, for that matter. I kept meaning to post it on the site’s entertainment blog, Premium Hollywood, but in the end, Jamey and I both agreed that it certainly didn’t need to be part of the rest of our Death Race 2 coverage, and he kind of left it up to me if I wanted to run it on the blog. But I never did. Since I referenced it the other day, though, I figured the least I could do was offer up the portion of the interview that led us to decide not to run it…and I’d offer up more than that, but, frankly, what you’re about to read is the only part I ever bothered to transcribe.

The conversation started out well enough. I remember he told me that he liked working in South Africa, and I seem to recall him saying that one of the reasons he took the role was because he had friends in South Africa and was able to visit them and pull a paycheck at the same time, which is certainly reasonable enough. But things went horribly wrong when I dared to – gasp – be honest with him.

Me: What was the set of the film like? I haven’t actually seen it yet, but I presume that there were…

Ving Rhames: You haven’t seen the movie?

Me: No, I…

VR: How can you do an interview if you haven’t seen the movie?

Me: (Nervously laughing, not entirely sure he’s serious) Hey, I’ve seen the original “Death Race 2000,” and I’ve seen the remake, but…

VR: Stanislavsky said, “If you do not take your work seriously, I will refuse to work with you.”

Me: (Long pause) And then the interview was over…? I hope not.

VR: No, Stanislavsky said that. I’ll finish the interview, but you…honestly, being professional, you should have seen the film if you’re going to interview an actor in the film. Do you agree?

Me: Well, absolutely. And if they had provided me with it, I certainly would have. But I’m out in Virginia and not in a position to screen it, and they didn’t offer one.

VR: Okay, ‘cause I’m not going to… (Hesitates) Well, now, you know what you have to do? You have to pay your fifteen dollars and go see the film. But don’t ask me any questions about what the film is about.

Me: Okay. (Long pause) What were the vehicles like? That’s really what my question was going toward.

VR: What were the vehicles like?

Me: Yeah!

VR:  Honestly, I didn’t…my character doesn’t work in any of the vehicles. So I might’ve seen them in passing, but I was never there when, you know, they were actually doing those scenes. So all I would say is they’re heavily armored with a bunch of explosives and what have you.

Me: Fair enough. (Pause) Well, uh, do you mind if I ask you about some other stuff that you’ve worked on that I actually have seen?

Me: You want to ask me about other films that you have seen that I’ve done? Yes, you can.

So I did. Well, actually, first I asked him about two TV projects: the Aquaman pilot that never got picked up and his short-lived Kojak revival. I mean, I am a TV critic, after all. But before I could ask about anything else, he suddenly said, “Hey, look, you know, I got to go, other people to talk to,” and he was off the line…and with a good 10 minutes left of our scheduled interview time still remaining.

Good times, Ving Rhames. Good times.

By which, of course, I mean Worst. Interview. EVER.

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One Response to Good Times with Ving Rhames

  1. Pingback: Writing Craft, Vol. XIII: The AV Club contributor Will Harris talks about freelancing (Part Two) « John-Henry Doucette

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