Lou Diamond Phillips: from young gunslinger to young writer (2023)

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On the side of a tenement near MacArthur Park that serves as a key filming location for Lou Diamond Phillips' new film, Mind Game, is a billboard promoting the recently released Young Guns II, in which he stars with the stars by Emilio Estevez, Kiefer Sutherland and Christian Slater. .

Earlier this year, Phillips starred in the supernatural horror film The First Power and the political thriller Show of Force. Phillips has directed ten films since he launched his film career three years ago with La Bamba, in which he played rocker Ritchie Valens.

Too much exposure? Too many papers?

"I haven't regretted it to this day," says the 28-year-old actor during a recently canceled break from Mind Game. “There were many movies that appealed to me for different reasons. But I keep rejecting much more than I accept.


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One reason for the spate of offers is clearly the actor's "crossover" status: in the eyes of Hollywood negotiators, Phillips is one of the few ethnic actors who can direct a movie. And his ethnicity is vague enough (Scottish-Irish and Cherokee on his father's side and Filipino with variations of Chinese and Spanish on his mother's side) that Phillips quips, "I can play what my neck plays." rest of my life." Never play the same role twice."

He's done just that well so far, playing Mexican-American in La Bamba and Stand and Deliver, Lakota Sioux in Renegades, Navajo-Mexican in Young Guns I & II, Irish in The First Power', Puerto Rican in 'Show of Force' ', as well as non-ethnic roles in the feature film 'Disorganized Crime' and the TV movie 'The Three Kings.'

In Mind Game, a psychological thriller Phillips wrote, he deliberately created his character as a Filipino. "I thought this would probably be my only chance to play a big part of my (ethnic) songwriting."

Phillips plays a struggling novelist discouraged by rejection from multiple publishers. In search of an instant bestseller, he befriends a serial killer (Clancy Brown) who has just been released from prison. As their relationship evolves into something darker, the film hopes to raise questions about ambition and what people will do to succeed.

These questions must have occupied Phillips the night he conceived the story four years ago. This happened, she says, while she was waiting for the light to change at an intersection in Beverly Hills.

"'La Bamba' was done, but it would take a year to be released," he says. "I was making little money with 'La Bamba' and worried that I was running out of money. The casting agents liked me, but I didn't have a job. They wanted to wait and see how 'La Bamba' did. At the same time, people whispered in my ear: 'This movie will do it. 'La Bamba' is your big break."

"While I waited in that light, I began to think about what I would do if this movie finally came out on a Friday night and I was a known entity the next day. How will this kid from Texas handle it? These themes shaped the character of this writer. , who yearned for success and was willing to make concessions.

Phillips says he wrote plays and screenplays long before he came to Los Angeles. She's happy to explain that not all of his scripts have roles for him and none of them are typical Hollywood movies.

(Video) Young Guns II • Blaze of Glory • Bon Jovi

"I grew up in the independent film industry in Texas, where you don't write about car chases because you can't afford them."

Although he was always committed to an acting career, Phillips said he wrote and produced plays during his high school and college years in Texas and, after graduating from the Theater Department at the University of Texas at Arlington, spent three years in Dallas/Ft. He is worth writing for and performing with a comedy troupe called The Zero Hour.

"We were more or less an uncensored Saturday Night Live. We've done some crass stuff, but not all of it has been approved. We started in a punk club in 1980, a one-hour show at midnight, and then we made the rounds at other nightclubs. That was my entry into professional theater.”

Phillips began studying film with the man he describes as his mentor, Adam Roarke, an actor who has appeared in films like The Stunt Man and Play It as It Lays. Philips soon worked as an assistant director and teacher at Roarke's Screen Actors Lab. It was during this period that Phillips received his first screenwriting credit from him.

“It was in an independent film, which I am not going to name because it is in video stores. A group had made a movie in Texas that they hadn't been able to sell for two years. Then they came for Adam and me. We had a reputation in Dallas for being movie-savvy people, and we were bad.

"We were watching this movie and Adam asked me if I could fix it. I spent a month studying the movie, the script and the final scenes. I rewrote 40 pages of dialogue and rewrote the plot. Then we went back to shooting for about two weeks.

"And a good movie? NO. But I'm proud that (the new footage) doesn't feel like it was added two years later. The plot works better, and it was a wonderful lesson in script structure for me. Plus, I got the What I set out to do as a screenwriter: We made a cohesive film that the producers sold and got their money back.”

"La Bamba," of course, made the boy from Texas a household name. Writer-director Luis Valdez used the Chicana rock star's life story to create one of the few positive images of Latinos in American movies. Valdez and Phillips portrayed Valens as the neighbor who found success through courage and ambition. Some critics found the film too sentimental. But the public responded and the film became a hit.

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Which, of course, led to a deluge of movie offers. “I approach acting in much the same way that I approach writing,” Philips says. "I try not to do the same thing twice."

Recreating the role of Chavez Y Chavez for the Young Guns sequel was less of a reprise for Phillips and more of a chance to "fix things I didn't like about the first movie." In these two Brat Pack westerns, Phillips found himself in the company of other young actors who were under the pressure of early success.

“Being in this aquarium at a very young age carries certain burdens, whether in the eyes of the press or the public. I mean, who deserves to be so lucky? You can get extremely bitter trying to prove something to someone. So you're doing the best job you're capable of and you hope that speaks for itself.

“It's about choice and stability. I don't think any of us have more stability. Certain guys establish themselves at the box office, or establish themselves as artists beyond what the box office dictates. None of us are at this point. We're all working like crazy, but I personally don't feel that far off. And maybe I never will be.

Another temptation of the sequel was the chance to recreate a role that Phillips says he's liking. “A lot of it has to do with my commitment to the Native American community. I am Cherokee by blood, but the Sioux tribe just adopted me. On Labor Day I will be driving to the Pine Ridge reservation in South Dakota for the naming ceremony.

Philips, whose Sioux name is Star Keeper, is also hosting a benefit concert called "The Winds of Life" in Santa Fe in October, which he plans to host. The concert benefits the indigenous people.

But the main reason the Texas native got involved with Young Guns was the simple fact that he was a Westerner.

"It was the most fun I've ever had on a movie set," he says. "I was very excited to be in a Western."


While filming a lynching scene for Young Guns II, Phillips got more emotional than expected. The scene called for the rescue of Phillips' character from a lynch mob when Billy the Kid (Emilio Estevez) shot the rope in half just as he was about to be hanged. But when Estevez fired his gun, the horse was thrown from under Phillips, whose hands were tied behind his back.

The rope around Phillip's neck snapped before it could do any damage, but the actor's foot caught in the stirrups of the saddle and when he was pulled alongside the startled horse, his right forearm was broken in four places.

Phillips keeps his arm perpendicular to his body. "It's not quite straight," he says. “I hit one over the fence playing softball the other day. But I still can't start. One good thing about Mind Game: I don't sweat, I don't get hit, and I don't do stunts. I play a writer.

Mind Game producer Richard E. Johnson admits he would normally have "very serious reservations" about producing a film whose star is also the screenwriter. “You could end up with a powder room. But Lou is extremely down to earth and professional. He really he can separate the duties. On the set, he reacts like an actor, not a writer.

"This is probably the most complex character I've ever played on screen," adds director Scott D. Goldstein. "Lou takes aspects of characters he's played in movies and shapes them in a new way."

Phillips himself notes: “Usually, you investigate to take on the role of someone else. But I created this guy for myself. I know what my motivations are."

A smile crosses his face.

"Just before this movie started, I received a series of rejection letters for a novel I had written. We received permission to use the (publishers') letterhead for a scene in which the character throws his rejection letters into the fire. Right before we started filming, I read a letter and said, 'Guys, there's no mistaking my motivation for this scene. I know what it's about.'

After Mind Game ends, Phillips is even busier. The first is The Dark Wind from executive producer Robert Redford and director Errol Morris. Phillips is in talks to recruit Native American detective Sgt. Jim Chee of the Navajo Tribal Police. He then travels to Canada for Agaguk, a film directed by Jacques Dorfman, in which Phillips will be cast as... yes, an Eskimo.

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“When I received the script, I had to laugh. For years I've been saying, 'Hey, maybe one day I'll play an Eskimo. So here it is. But then I stopped and thought, "Wow, who else are they going to send this to?"


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