Jett Garner, actor, "Baghead"
Actor Jett Garner lives in Austin, Texas, one of the hotbeds of filmmaking, but he's a Hoosier at heart. Born and raised in Anderson, Garner went to college at Indiana State, and later IUPUI, and worked as a stock broker with Charles Schwab in Indy when he got a call for an audition for some movie called "Star Wars" for a little-known character named Anakin Skywalker.
Garner didn't get the role, but it was enough for him. He moved to Austin, hooked up with some filmmakers, and got serious about acting and filmmaking.
Garner has a small but key role in the new film "Baghead," written and directed by the Duplass Brothers. Garner hooked up with me to chat about making that film, how Indiana's legislature could learn from Texas' failures, and beating up paparazzi.
JS: What led to Austin becoming this sort of second mecca of filmmaking? JG: I don't know, really. There are just so many filmmakers here. Robert Rodriguez, Richard Linklater, the Duplass', who made "Baghead." It was really on the way to becoming a big-time filmmaking locale, but Louisiana and New Mexico both passed in their legislatures these massive tax breaks for filmmaking, and unfortunately the government of Texas just refuses to even match it. We went from having 30 big films a year to 5 or 6. There are still the independents, but as far as the big bucks, the ones that were here in the early 2000s, they're not coming back unless the Texas government gets off their butts and does something about it.
JS: Indiana is going through that now. We just passed a 15% tax credit for filmmakers, then we find out Michigan has a 40% break, and Illinois has a huge break, and we can't compete. JG: It makes no sense to me. It's like, they want to be here, but when they're talking millions of dollars in tax credits, why would they? A film crew coming to a town, pumps money into the economy.
JS: How did you get involved with "Baghead"? JG: Jay Duplass, the director, and I have this relationship where if either of us has an idea or a script, we bounce ideas off of each other, things like that. So originally he sent me the "Baghead" script and asked me for notes or thoughts. About 2 months later, he called and said "hey, we've been wanting to work together for a long time, you want to do this part?" Then he said, "there's a caveat," and I knew he was asking me to do nudity. He said "it's going to be awkward as hell," and it was. That was cold, cold water coming from that garden hose on me, and it was one of those mornings in September in Austin where it's usually 100 degrees, but that day it was like 65. But it served the story.
JS: "Baghead,"has so many elements. It's very funny, and there's a huge relationship element, and then it kind of turns into a horror movie. And all of those aspects work just spot on. JG: Mark and Jay were able to connect all of those tones so well. It could have just been a disaster, but they did a good job. And the thing with the Duplasses, you don't even look at the script once you read it initially. We pretty much improvised the entire script for "Baghead." Jay and Mark said "Just say something and we'll see if it works for us." The festival scene at the beginning wasn't even written in the script. The script basically said, "the character's film screens, and there's a Q&A session afterwards."
JS: I saw online that you have a martial arts school. Has martial arts helped you in acting? JG: When I first started acting I wanted to be Edward Norton, or James Dean or whoever, a dark, brooding actor. And if I could have anyone's career now, I'd want to be Jason Statham. I love that guy. He's in great movies like "Snatch," and he's in popcorn-and-soda movies like "The Transporter," but whatever he does, whether it's martial arts or serious acting, he's fun to watch. The guy can take a small role in an ensemble, or he can carry the film as a badass.
JS: I actually found that you had a hand in one of my favorite celebrity videos recently, where Quentin Tarantino was sparring with some rude paparazzi . Can you tell me about that?
JG: (laughs) How did you hear about that? I know Quentin. We're not friends, but we've met each other a few times and whenever we see each other we say hi. So we were talking, and these guys with a video camera are shouting things at him from the parking lot. They were trying to be rude to him. He finally left, and as I'm walking through the parking lot, they started on me, just speaking to me like I was dirt. They started asking me about Quentin and saying really rude things. So finally I said "turn off the camera and I'll tell you. At first they didn't want to, but finally they put the lens cap on, and I said "when I first met Quentin he did something like this," and I ran up and kneed the guy, and I got him in the groin accidentally. And his buddy acted like he was going to turn the camera back on, but I kind of gave him this look and he decided not to. I kind of looked around to make sure no one was watching, because I didn't want to go to jail for these guys. It was wrong to do, but those idiots had it coming.