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You are also a father in real life. Has your perspective as a father changed before and after playing Ben in CAPTAIN FANTASTIC?
I do not think it has changed the way I feel or behave as a father, but I believe that the experience of working in the movie "Captain Fantastic" has reminded me of the importance of being as present as possible in my relationship with my son, and especially of the value of listening to him and others. The movie, in a way, encourages us to be truly open, to engage in two-way communication, especially with people and ideas that we are unfamiliar with, or instinctively reject at first.
CAPTAIN FANTASTIC has been highly commended at various film festivals including the Cannes Film Festival. Why do you think this film is received so well throughout the world?
I think that the movie has been embraced around the world because it deals with universal concerns. I imagine that all people have found themselves in situations that challenge their pre-existing beliefs and points-of-view about other people and the world they live in, situations that have perhaps brought into question certain prejudices that they might have about different ways to communicate and coexist within families and in society at large. It is also a movie that inspires audience members to consider how they were brought up, how parents and/or other adult authority figures related to them, the types of communication and human coexistence models that they may have been exposed to as children. It is, in part, a movie story about constantly striving to find a new, and better balance as individuals and as members of society, about learning how to admit errors and improve oneself.
Was the shooting of the film tough for you? Was it easier than THE LORD OF THE RINGS?
Although the "Captain Fantastic" shoot was much shorter than the extremely long process of filming Peter Jackson's trilogy, there was a similar bonding that occurred with the cast and crew. True and lasting friendships were also formed during the process of preparing and filming Matt Ross' movie. Although the filming time was much shorter than that of "The Lord of the Rings", the "Captain Fantastic" team had to do a lot of work in the outdoors together, and efficient collaboration and trust was very important to the successful telling of our story as well. We were very fortunate to have had the opportunity to unite several cast members of both movie productions at a dinner 2 months ago in Los Angeles. It was wonderful to see parts of the two "families" together that night. All of the children from "Captain Fantastic", plus their movie "mother", Trin Miller, got to know Orlando Bloom, Elijah Wood, Billy Boyd, and Dominic Monaghan. We got along very well and some good stories were shared.
We think that this film is particularly meaningful with respect to the current social situation in the US. What do you think about that?
I agree. But I do not think the movie's relevance is limited to the socio-political situation in the US. We have had tremendous success and great reactions from the public in every country we have shown the movie in. In my personal interactions with audiences in different parts of Europe and Latin America, for example, I have found that people were able to connect the events and emotions depicted in "Captain Fantastic" not only to their own family situations, but to the obstacles they saw to peaceful, productive social interaction in their own countries, and to the problems arising from polarization in their political systems.
The benefits of global, high-speed mass communication that modern technology provides has not yet led to greater understanding among people of different racial, religious, philosophical, linguistic, sexual, or national backgrounds. For the moment, most people seem to use the new technology to basically add more selective, biased information to reinforce their pre-existing world views and prejudices. This causes more polarization and conflict. Hopefully this situation will change and improve with the passing of time and the increasing evidence of the benefits that come from sincere curiosity and collaboration. Our movie address the importance of making an effort to learn about a wide range of ways of co-existing with other people and with nature. This matters to all people, affects all people.
You were nominated for Best Actor for the Academy Awards with this film. How did you feel at the ceremony?
I was extremely proud to represent Matt Ross and everyone who helped him to tell his extraordinary original story, "Captain Fantastic", and it was very enjoyable to attend the Oscar ceremony with my son, Henry. We had a good time together. He also accompanied me to the award ceremonies for the Golden Globes, the Screen Actors Guild, and the Independent Spirit Awards. I was honoured to have been nominated as an actor for all of those, as well as The BAFTA awards. It is very rare to be recognized in this way by peers and critics. It happened to me nine years ago for my work in David Cronenberg's "Eastern Promises", and I did not expect it to happen again. Just being included in these awards events was a significant victory for our relatively small movie production, and our nominations have encouraged people around the world to watch "Captain Fantastic". For that I am very grateful.
Could you please give a message to the Japanese audience who are looking forward to seeing the film?
First of all, I am sorry that I cannot be in Japan to present the movie to audiences there, as I have been able to do with other movies a few times in past years. I hope that all who are able to see "Captain Fantastic" - hopefully on a big screen that will show the movie to best advantage - will enjoy the journey of the 'Cash' family as much as all of us who took part in the filming in the forests of Washington State and in the deserts of New Mexico did. "Captain Fantastic" is a movie that I'm very proud of, and that I believe will be remembered and valued for years to come. It is wonderful that it is being presented with such care in Japan.