But I did have my family and I did have my animals and caught up on a lot of viewing. I watched a lot of movies, which I think is among the best ways to say on point with the craft of film performance. So I got a lot done, but still, I did miss, “Wow, they’ve got soft-shell crab, I really wish I could have that soft-shell crab and combine it with some nice bit of chardonnay.”
I’m glad you brought up the culinary aspect because the film touches on how a really great meal can evoke deep sensory memories, even years in the future. What’s a meal that does that for you?
I don’t mean to out my father, who’s no longer with us, but I remember when I was nine years old, he brought home a bucket of KFC and a bucket of champagne. I’ll be darned if that wasn’t the best taste combination I’ve ever had. It was like this American tempura. And of course, he also poured me a glass of champagne to go with it. I don’t recommend for other folks who have nine-year-olds to give them champagne, but that combination did have an impact on me.
When I was even younger, he said “Take this goat cheese and have this glass of red wine and sip it, now isn’t that something? Doesn’t that taste linger? Don’t you appreciate the after-taste? Do you see how the red wine and the goat cheese go together, Nicolas?”
Even weirder still, this is one of my earliest memories: my father had taken all of us to Italy and I was about four. For whatever the reason, he had left me with all these nuns. The rest of the family had gone out. They’d given me this very spicy kind of stew and this very fermented drink that tasted like licorice. I remember having that and then the nuns rocking me on a bed to get me to sleep. Later my father said to me, “that was fox stew and they were giving you anisette drink to help you sleep.” So those were my earliest memories and you can see how profound the culinary element brings me right back.
Yeah, that stuff sticks with you for life. You have a big monologue at the end of the film where you say the line “we don’t get a lot of things to really care about.” At this point, what are the things you really care about?
That was in fact the line that really put the hook in me to make the movie. At some point during the filmmaking process somebody wanted to cut the line and I said, “No, that’s the line! That’s why I wanted to play Rob. That’s what we can all relate to.” The things I care about—with the risk of sounding cliche, but they’re cliche for a reason—I care about my boys, I care about my animals, I care about my work, and I certainly care about my wife. My loves that I’ve had in the past with different people that I’ve become intimate with, those memories are profound. The good and the bad, I accept them all. They’re all informative and forming. They all sculpt me in some way and make it possible for me to be able to share my feelings and memories in characters that I play in a way that I hopefully don’t have to act too much.
One thing I was curious about was, early last year, you were photographed with your now-wife visiting your tomb in New Orleans. Is that a site that you visit often and, if so, what’s that journey like for you?
When you enter a new love, you want to show where you went to school. “This is my old neighborhood, I grew up in that house.” When I was in Japan, where I met Riko, I wanted to see the places that were meaningful to her, the shrines in Kyoto. New Orleans is like the other city I grew up in, so it was meaningful for me to show her New Orleans. To show her Hollywood Boulevard. Although, that ridiculous story that came out in the media that I took her to my star on the Walk of Fame—no, I didn’t go to my star. I never found my star. We weren’t looking for that, we went looking to show her Mifune and Godzilla. I wanted to show her the Japanese icons that had been on the Walk of Fame. But of course the media being the media turned it into something it wasn’t, but that’s okay. I wanted to share the areas that were important to me, New Orleans being one of them.
This interview has been edited and condensed.