He never thought of becoming an actor one day. In fact, the idea would never have crossed his mind, had it not been for Gus Van Sant. In 1996, while VJ on the MTV network, Simon Rex appeared at an audition, at the invitation of the director of My Own Private Idaho.
“It’s been 25 years, can you believe it? is surprised the one who today takes the spotlight in Red rocket, the new feature film by Sean Baker (The Florida Project). Gus wanted to see me at the time because he was considering maybe offering me a small role in Good will hunting, says Simon Rex during a videoconference interview with The press.
“He called me in, I introduced myself, I delivered a few lines with Matt Damon, but Gus stopped everything pretty quickly. He told me that I was not ready to do this job, that if I wanted to become an actor one day, I had to go and study. Even though I had never played in my life before, he felt I should go in this direction because he detected a je ne sais quoi in me. That’s what I did. ”
Without Gus Van Sant, I wouldn’t be talking to you today.
A brutal world
In Red rocket, the first film in which he was given a lead role, Simon Rex, which we saw in particular in Scary Movie 3 and 4, embodies a headliner of the returning porn cinema who, after living for a few years in Los Angeles, even gleaning some trophies awarded to the best performances of the genre, is forced to return to his lost hometown of Texas. Penniless, cohabiting with his former wife and the latter’s mother, the man uses all the means at his disposal to try to get by.
Campaigning his intrigue as the 2016 presidential campaign began, Sean Baker paints the portrait of people trapped in a brutal world, who must measure all possible options to survive in a society that leaves them little luck. Mikey Saber, the character played by Simon Rex, is one of those individuals endowed with a sometimes salutary charisma, but who are nonetheless unbearable as they always seem to choose the worst thing to do. Until the day when charm is no longer enough.
“I tried to make sure that despite Mikey’s actions, all horrible, the spectator could still feel enough sympathy to want to follow him for two hours, says Simon Rex. This balance was difficult to find and was one of the many challenges. Having always worked in comedy, it is certain that a dramatic role was new to me. I had to play real, be vulnerable, go for nuance and subtlety, because the camera really captures everything. It was really a challenge. That, and running naked in a more or less disreputable neighborhood! ”
A very raw approach
In this regard, Red rocket was designed in a particular context. Simon Rex was at home, secluded in the Mojave Desert in California, when it was reported that Sean Baker was trying to reach him. In June 2020, the world was then plunged into the uncertainty generated by the pandemic. The actor had no plans in sight.
“Sean had me audition on my phone right away. He said, “OK, I need you in Texas in three days. As we can’t really travel by plane, there will be about 40 to watch, we will rent you a car, here is the scenario. ”
“I said yes even before reading because I really couldn’t refuse a Sean Baker film,” he continues. When I read the script I thought to myself: “Holy shit, that’s really a lot! ” My character is there from start to finish and he carries the whole thing on his shoulders. It was intimidating, but since I was already on my way to Texas City… ”
Simon Rex thus found himself on the set of an independent cinematographic work, written and directed by a renowned filmmaker, whose works are highly appreciated by film buffs. It was one of the most memorable experiences of his life.
“It was chaotic and stressful at times,” he explains. We often filmed in guerrilla mode, without a license, hiding from the police and neighbors. I liked this feeling, this very raw approach. I prefer that to projects where someone is waiting for you with an umbrella to protect you from the sun when you get out of your trailer. I prefer to stay on the lookout in a more realistic climate, without artifice, without any luxury. ”
In my eyes, comfort is often the enemy of art.
A turning point
Since the presentation of Red rocket at the Cannes Film Festival, where he was in the running for the Palme d’Or, the life of Simon Rex is not quite the same.
“It’s a very strange feeling, because with this success, the outlook of others changes. You wonder if the people around you suddenly are sincere, who are true friends, if the person in front of you loves you for who you are or for what you represent. As I am in a rather good time, my phone does not ring. People now want to see me, whereas at the time when I was not working, I was quite alone. All that to say that I don’t come from a Hollywood background at all. And that’s good, so much the better. ”
This new notoriety however gives the actor the opportunity to be able to make, for the first time in 20 years, real professional choices.
“In this profession, you usually feel lucky to land a role in a shitty movie that you wouldn’t dare watch yourself. There, I can look to the future with confidence and choose projects that I would really like to see as a spectator. Isn’t that wonderful? May I also add that Montreal is my favorite city in North America? I was lucky enough to go on tour with my rapping character Dirt Nasty. Every time I go there, it’s the same enchantment and I don’t want to leave! ”
Red rocket (Red rocket, in French version) is in the room.
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Simon Rex and Red Rocket | On a new orbit