The AV Interview: Joe Pantoliano (Hide and Seek, The Sopranos, The Matrix (1999), The Goonies)

Hide and Seek poster

Erix Antoine (Our Man Down South) interviewed Joe Pantoliano shortly before the Christmas Holidays. Due to everyone being off-line and having fun, we decided to wait until the world returned to normal reading patterns before posting on the site. Here’s Erix interviewing Joey Pants regarding his recent work on Hide and Seek and more films!

ERIX: How are you holding up? Fully recovered, I hope.

Thank you. I’m still working on it.

Joe Pantoliano (Hide and Seek, The Matrix, several other films)

ERIX: Hang in there.

Thank you.

Joe Pantoliano (Hide and Seek, The Matrix, several other films)

In which Erix discusses Hide and Seek with Joe Pantoliano

ERIX: So, Hide and Seek… This is a horror picture. It occurs to me, Joe Pantoliano hasn’t done too many of those. This might be your first. Isn’t that interesting? In a career coming up on 50 years, you’ve been in close to a hundred films and this is your first horror film. Am I right or wrong?

No, you’re wrong. I did one a long time ago. Also, I think it’s way more than a hundred films. I think it’s like a hundred and sixty films. We gotta check! And I did a film… Andy Davis’ first film, after he made Stony Island, that Joe Roth produced, called The Final Terror.  With Daryl Hannah, Rachel Ward, Adrian Zmed… A lot of interesting people.

We did that in Crescent City, California. That was my first job with Andy, and then I went on to do The Fugitive, Steal Big Steal Little…

Joe Pantoliano (Hide and Seek, The Matrix, several other films)

You know, I don’t know if The Final Terror ever came out! But because of the advent and the success of the horror genre, and the streaming services, it’s kind of been discovered lately.

Joe Pantoliano (Hide and Seek, The Matrix, several other films)
Hide and Seek poster

ERIX: What’s your feeling on horror, sci-fi, fantasy… does that appeal to you as a movie watcher? As an actor?

Well, yeah… If it’s good. The problem is there’s so much crap out there. And, you know, in the good old days, it was a means to make money on the cheap. The old horror movies, you could make them cheap and you didn’t need movie stars. And a lot of people got discovered out of these horror movies. 

Look at Jamie Lee! And I just saw Jennifer Tilly is doing a Chucky series now.
But, as for me, at 70 years old, I’m just happy to be working. So, anything that comes my way, that is halfway interesting, I’m all for it. It keeps me off the couch.

And Hide and Seek is not traditional horror. A lot of people don’t die. It’s more in the thriller genre, wouldn’t you say? And I just thought this one went a cut above the grade, in terms of the story they were telling.

Joe Pantoliano (Hide and Seek, The Matrix, several other films)

ERIX: I guess another way to look at it is as a detective story. A mystery. Jon Rhys-Meyers is trying to find his estranged brother… And you’re helping him out. If we look at it that way, this is more of a “traditional” Joe Pantoliano movie.

There’s a lot of secrets… There’s a lot of trauma… And it’s all about the corporate world and how we’re trying to protect the secrets of this high-powered family. To the detriment of everyone. It’s the idea of the “haves” and the “have nots.” If you have enough money, you can buy power, you can bankrupt newspapers… When you have individuals with more power than the government, I think that’s not a good thing.

Joe Pantoliano (Hide and Seek, The Matrix, several other films)

ERIX: Agreed. Now… This is a “good guy” Joey Pants. And he’s likable and sympathetic. But you have an innate likability as an actor. So even though you’ve played a good number of heels and bad guys, you’re always likable. Is that a conscious thing from you? To always strive to make the characters likable, even if they’re bad guys?

I always try and go against the grain. I’m always trying to find ways to be unusually interesting and not repetitive and, you know, I’m kind of running out of tricks.
For instance, if it’s a comedy, I’ll always look for the danger. Because I’ve been exposed to people like that. In life, you never see the bad guys coming. You don’t know you’re being taken until you’re took.
In some cases, it’s intentional. I remember when David Chase hired me for The Sopranos, he said he wanted [Ralphie] to be likable. So, I was always looking for the humor in that.

I remember, when we were in Shanghai doing Empire of the Sun. And I had a “tone meeting” with Spielberg prior to starting the shoot. And I’d worked with Steve on a couple of occasions. The Goonies, for sure, and maybe another one… And, in discussing the themes and the character, at the end of the conversation I said: “You know, my tendency is always to go for the humor.

So, keep an eye on me, will you?” And he said “Joey, this is a three-hour movie. Any time you can be funny, be funny.”

Joe Pantoliano (Hide and Seek, The Matrix, several other films)

Talk of The Goonies, Tales from the Crypt and Richard Donner

ERIX: You brought up The Goonies, which was directed by the great Richard Donner. You also worked with him in a Tales From the Crypt episode – “Dig That Cat, He’s Real Gone.” That’s one of the all timers. Donner sadly left us recently. Anything you’d like to share about him?

Oh, I learned so much from working with him. Especially since he had so much fun. He had this ability… He would actually talk to you, yell at you – not in a mean way, to be heard – in between dialog. He was just hysterically lovable and he made everything fun. He took the seriousness of filmmaking, which, I don’t know the “why” of that party line… You know, show business, and actors are to be valued…

In my view, of all of the performing arts, acting is the least vigorous. It’s a cerebral creative format. If you’re a dancer, or a painter, or a musician… That’s seven hours of practice a day! But Dick Donner opened up a world to me, that no longer made me feel guilty that I was having fun. Maybe that’s a running theme in my work… That I’m always trying to have fun.

Joe Pantoliano (Hide and Seek, The Matrix, several other films)

ERIX: That’s what I mean. The characters you create, there’s always an energy to them. And part of that likability is always in the energy they transmit. So, even if it’s a bad guy, it’s always this charismatic and likable character. It’s magnetic. And I guess that’s what you’re talking about. That sense of fun you try to bring into everything you do.

That’s very astute of you.

Joe Pantoliano (Hide and Seek, The Matrix, several other films)

Joe Pantoliano’s thoughts on The Matrix and Cipher

ERIX: Well, thank you for saying so. For instance, one of your classic characters – Cipher – in The Matrix. He’s great. And then there’s the heel turn about half way through the picture, but still… I like that guy.

You know, I always defend Cipher. In all of the characters in that story, he was the only one who had doubt. You know, he’s lost his belief in Morpheus. He took the red pill like everybody else, and he’s come to the conclusion that he made a terrible mistake. 
Morpheus had already eaten through five other “Ones” that had gotten killed, and the woman that he loved was in love with somebody else and all he wanted to do was go back to his mommy. He wanted the ability to be ignorant again. And so… Who wouldn’t take that deal? 

If you had the ability to betray all of the people that you cared about and then go back into the world and become Brad Pitt or whatever… And not even know you did it? I guess if people don’t like Cipher it’s because they see themselves in him.

Joe Pantoliano (Hide and Seek, The Matrix, several other films)

ERIX: And, well, there’s the fourth Matrix movie coming out in a couple of weeks. I’m going to assume you have nothing to do with that, but even if you did, you wouldn’t be able to tell me a damn thing, right?

I know as much as you know, in seeing the trailer. I would be looking more forward to it if I were in it. But it looks terrific.

Joe Pantoliano (Hide and Seek, The Matrix, several other films)

ERIX: So, you are confirming, here and now, that you are definitely not in it.

I’m not in it.

Joe Pantoliano (Hide and Seek, The Matrix, several other films)

One last question about Eddie and the Cruisers

ERIX: Alright, it’s been great talking to you but I just have one last question. I want your opinion on something… Does it really make sense that the master tapes for “Season in Hell” can stay pristine and intact after being locked in a trunk in a junkyard for 20 years?

Oh my God! I don’t remember anything about that movie! They were locked in a trunk? I guess it was a very hermetically sealed trunk!

You know, most people only like Eddie and the Cruisers because of the soundtrack. The movie bombed; and that was before HBO even… Was it The Z Channel? So, as I recall, they sold that movie to cable, which was a new thing… So, they stuck it on cable. And then the music got discovered and people wanted to buy the album, which wasn’t even in stores. So, they had to remaster the album. And that was The Beaver Brown Band… That’s what’s remembered.

Joe Pantoliano (former Cruiser band manager, former citizen of Zion, former Chicagoland labor figure, current star of Hide and Seek)

ERIX: It’s been great talking to you, best of luck with the film and all your future projects.

Pleasure talking to you too. Take care.

Joe Pantoliano (Ready to Rumble, Racing Stripes, Hide and Seek)

Hide and Seek is now available to watch!

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