Ellen Barkin is one of my favourite interview subjects, dating back a couple of decades. It was great to speak with her again about her new Netflix comedy feature The Out Laws. Barkin gives her all in this one, doing her own stunts, sustaining injuries and keeping going and finding a comedic soulmate in co-star Pierce Brosnan. They are Lilly and Billy McDermott, the infamous gun-totin’ Ghost Robbers in town for a heist to which they invite their daughter (Nina Dobrev) and her new husband (Adam Devine). Barkin has lots to say about this high-octane, bakery-smashing actioner.
Anne Brodie – Ellen, it was so good to see you up there being comic, literally, deadly serious but comic. Really going for broke.
Ellen Barkin – Yeah, I always do, I love doing comedy, it’s just a lot of fun. If you’re not having fun doing a comedy you’re doing something wrong. To me it’s harder, going into a world with people much younger than myself who are putting out tonally different kind of comedy than I grew up with. I wanted to be able to understand it and explore it, and get it right. I find the tone of all comedies is different tone now, the contemporary comedy, not the old classics. It’s not the old kind of comedy and I was trying to relate it to this movie.
AB – Pierce was funny
EB – Pierce was hilarious!
AB – You raised the bar for him.
EB – I’ll take that compliment. But I’m not sure he’d take it too! I did notice as we progressed and it took him so little time, only took him a week, and he got looser and looser. I play the male support who beats everyone up. Pierce is more about the comedy. The movie is about their relationship; I watched him getting looser and looser and more hysterical. In the last two scenes, he just lost it, he was just screaming it out, so brilliant!
Sometimes it was very hard for me to keep it together. He was having a blast One scene we had so many takes, I said I’m sorry! I’m sorry! this time I promise I won’t laugh. and I’d ask “Does he have to do that while I’m working?”
And Adam Devine cracked me up, that face, each character he plays! This character is all about thickness. A perfect role for him. It was so much fun. He’s a genius. And Nina Dobrev and Richard Kind and Julie Hagerty it was great. Tyler Spindel, our director was such a fan on the set. If you happened to glance over at him while the camera was running, he’d have his hand over his mouth.
I will have to go on record by saying most of the stunts were done by me and Pierce. I’m 69 now and I used to be really good at these things, stunts. I was good when I was young. And I’m a little woman, but once I got there, I said “No no, I can do it, I’ll do it!” Later I was nervous but we had an incredible stunt team and special effects team specialists.
In the shoot-out in the bakery, my character was chosen to be the leader of how the explosives go off, they’re going off with me right there, a step forward and I get a cupcake in the face, three steps forward and a cake falls on my head. I’m covered with cake, it’s in my eyes. And you do it a few times and I’m thinking I’m getting tired. I’m running, shooting a gun, and trying to get out of the way of these explosions. Those cakes could hurt you. And at the end of that segment, I flipped some guy. I’m already f***ing exhausted and say “No, no” and then “I’ll do it!”.
One thing i didn’t do, skydiving, Lily s supposed to be skydiving with them., I’ve never done any green screen work and certainly didn’t want to fly. I was terrified, they said, “You’re fine, you’re safe”. I had done so many things that were safe with them. Maybe I’ll be ok. But someone on the crew came up to me and whispered, “You know in the Marvel Universe none of the principles fly, EVER.” I said ‘OK, I’m not going to fly but I didn’t want to ruin the moment. They said they’d dress me for sky diving, with a knapsack on my back, and photograph me in front of the green screen. That was fine until they walked away and the knapsack on my back made me fall backwards. They finally told me os was 50 – 70 pounds. “You didn’t think you should tell Me? And it’s just stuffed with paper like you do with everything?” The cemetery scene was hard, bumping along in that car.
AB – Oh, no, your neck and back!
EB – I was a wreck, I was covered in Salonpas, and had physical therapy on my knees and hips. Yes! I was thrilled to do it but to be honest, I don’t know if I’ll do it again. Standing next to Pierce, I’ll look at him, and every stunt he does, he says “I’m good” and “You might want to use that” and then he did five takes.
AB – Looks like you two had a blast
EB – We have chemistry. I’m a chemistry player, I believe it is necessary and anyone can have it. Any two actors can have it or a cat or a dog. It’s another layer of the performance, and Pierce and I, The Olds, I called us have it. They call us to the set, as The Olds, because you know how long it takes to get there.
AB – I’ve always admired your forthrightness, in interviews – and on social media.
EB – I’ve reached too high a level of disgust with Twitter to get my brain to compose. Ugly is all I see now, porn, asses, a lot of bad right-wing stuff, and antisemitism. My grandmother used to say Jews always say “never again” about the holocaust. If she heard someone say that she’d whip around and say “Not so fast, maybe they come for us, maybe first the blacks, then the Jews, then the Puerto Ricans. Those Jews from Eastern Europe weren’t sure it wouldn’t happen here.
AB – Thank you Ellen, what a joy to speak with you.