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William Fichtner Webchat
Mr. 27% pops by for a chat...

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William Fichtner - 'Bill' to his pals - is known in these parts as Mr. 27%, a character actor whose talent and charisma improves any movie he's in by at least... well, you can guess the rest. This isn't in any way to disparage an actor of serious class, of course, as his versatility has seen him play good guys (Armageddon), bad guys (Go) and a bit of both (Prison Break). He's rapidly becoming one of Hollywood's big budget go-to guys, and lights up the 3D car chase flick, Drive Angry. He stopped by to field Empire readers' questions on everything from The Dark Knight to Eric Bana's passion for beef wagons. And he didn't even try to sell us Amway.

William Fichtner Webchat

Big_Pants says: The opening scene of The Dark Knight is seriously tense. How was it to film?
It was the first two days of principal photography, and Chris Nolan, when he asked me to play the part, explained what he was doing and how he was going to shoot it with an IMAX camera. But what I'll always remember about those two days is that he had all the folks he works with, on all his movies, and the special effects guys who were all Brits, and the sound people he works with all the time, and when we rehearsed walking through the bank and firing the shotgun, the special effects guys were like, "Just tell us where you'd like to fire the gun and we'll take care of the rest." When it came time to shoot the scene, they turned on the IMAX camera - which turns out sounds like a blender crossed with a can opener, it's so loud - and then when I started to shoot the gun, it was so loud. On the first take, everywhere I pointed the gun something exploded. Obviously I knew there were no real bullets in there, but if I hadn't I'd have wondered.

As loud as that camera was I never did any looping on that film because the sound guys were so amazing, the special effects guys were so amazing, because the filmmaking was just on the highest level of anything I've been involved with. Not to mention the fact that Chris is one of the finest filmmakers working today, and it's a pleasure to work with him.

SnorkyO says: What was like it like playing a satanic character?
I never thought of him as satanic. I just thought that this was a guy that at one time lived on Earth, obviously was a bad guy because he went to Hell, but he got a very good job. He's very good at his job and makes sure that everyone who goes to Hell stays there. He's responsible for everyone who gets sent there, so when someone leaves he has to get them back. So he's more like a bounty hunter.

patrick says: What helped you get in character for your role in Drive Angry?
Drive Angry is tied with The Amateurs, a film I did with Jeff Bridges, as the best experience I've ever had working on a movie.
The script. From the very first time that I read the story I thought it was fantastically written: the characters were amazing, the story was really tight, and call me old school, but I always believe that if it's not on the page, it's not on the stage. The exciting thing about the character of The Accountant is, who's got a reference point for a guy who works in Hell? It's not like you can call someone up and go, "Hey, how was that couple of years you spent in Hell?"

That was also the most fun, because really your imagination could go anywhere with it and there was no wrong way to go. I had so much fun talking with Patrick Lussier our director, about finding the right tone for the guy, that would be the right guy in this movie, and that's why the experience I had on Drive Angry is tied for first place with the best experience I ever had working on a film. Tied with a film that I did a few years ago called The Amateurs with Jeff Bridges.

Paxton says: Is there footage anywhere of your performance in Mr. & Mrs. Smith?
No, Doug Liman never wanted it to be on camera, but apparently the studio did and they kept pushing him to shoot the therapist, but by the time he was ready to get around to it he had already assembled the beginning of the movie. We were literally days away from shooting it, and they saw that and decided, "Oh, we don't need it." I didn't want it on camera and they didn't want it on camera, so we didn't shoot it.

tc says: You were brilliant in Prison Break but do you prefer working on a character for a film, filming for a maximum of a month or being able to really delve into a character and playing it for a number of years?
I think you really get a chance to delve into a character more with a movie. The sheer logistics of it, a 50-page script for a one-hour TV show will be shot somewhere between eight days. 50 pages on a movie, depending on the size of the movie - but even on a small independent film you will probably have more time than that. It's not that there aren't people who care creatively in the world of television, but there's always a bit more time in making a movie. I always feel films are more of a creative journey. But it's not like I turn up for work on a TV show and plan on trying any less to communicate who the guy is. I just find that when it comes to creativity, when making a movie it seems to be built in that there'll be less outside concerns, I think. Who the hell knows? What do I know? I grew up in Buffalo.

William Fichtner Webchat
William Fichtner in Prison Break

Paxton says: Would you consider yourself a 27%-er? Is it a compliment, an insult or a curse?
[We've just explained what that is, because it's sort of an Empire thing] Now that it's been explained to me, I certainly feel that way about people like Sam Rockwell - in fact I'd up that for him to somewhere in the 30-40%. I don't think it's up to me to make that call, but if you think I am, thank you!

patrick says: What makes you angry when you're driving?
You know, people that don't know how to drive, which living in LA is a considerable percentage of who's on the road. But honestly, I don't drive angry. I can't tell you how many times my wife says to me, "Why are you driving so slow?" and I say to her, "Why do I need to drive 20mph quicker so I can get somewhere three minutes ahead of time?"

verymetalmatt says: Did you hit the gym much before getting your buns out in Go?
I hit the gym every day. I got off the plane in London on Sunday, and to stay awake the good folks here that were helping me find my way around dropped me off at the National Gallery so I could look at paintings for a couple of hours, then I found a pool and swam for an hour, then I went to the gym, then I got up yesterday and did it again, and I did it again today. I like cardio, I like staying in shape. And thank you very much for the buns comment.

liam.kelly says: My girlfriend and I are huge fans of your work and have been following you since we seen your awesome turn in Go. We loved Invasion and were really gutted when it was cancelled. We were wondering how it felt as an actor to have your TV show taken from you at such a cliffhanger moment? Did you have an idea what would've happened to Tom Underlay if the series had continued?
For reasons and circumstances that are not really necessary to go into, I enjoyed my fellow castmates on Invasion and, like anything I work on, I will absolutely give my very best. A couple of years ago, someone asked me in an interview about career highlights, and I think number two or three that came up for me was the day that Invasion was cancelled. I remember the night that I found out that ABC was not going to pick up the show, and later that evening at about 3am, my wife opened up the bedroom window and yelled at me in the garage, "Would you please turn that Lynyrd Skynyrd down?!" as I was having a personal celebration.

I don't think I've ever shared that - and thank you for being fans of the show. If it would have continued, I would have tried to make the very best out of Tom Underlay's journey.

Eddy says: What would you like to see win Best Film at this years Academy Awards?
I haven't seen all the Best Film nominees yet, and I will get around to that before, so I can't really say at this moment. But like every year it's very hard to pick, because most of the films that end up in that category are deserving, along with the performances.

piehawker says: I'm a huge fan of you and your work with Jerry Bruckheimer. How is your working releationship and how do you see him? A buddy, a boss, a scary millionaire uber-producer?
With Jerry Bruckheimer no production value will be spared, and the catering will be as fine as any restaurant.
When you work on a Jerry Bruckheimer film, you can be sure of two things: no production value will be spared, and the catering will be as fine as any really really good restaurant. Jerry is an amazing producer, with a commitment to his films second to none. I've had the pleasure three times and I look forward to the next time.

Ricardo Walez says: Did you enjoy boot camp for Black Hawk Down, and was Eric Bana a fun guy to work with?
I never liked Eric - he's Australian, but let's not hold that against him. He has a fake muscle car called the Holden. I don't know what that is, I think it's a kit car. Or a Buick disguised as one.

I've worked with many cool people over the years, and had many great experiences, but there are very few people that when you finish a job you know that you will be friends for life. That was Bana for me in Black Hawk Down. Another actor, Kim Coates, who played a Delta operator in the film, became buddies with Bana and we look forward to every time that boy gets back to LA. Almost to the point that it's required now, wherever he's flying in the world, that he does a minimum stopover of 24 hours in LA, that we hit the bar for one or several glasses of red and then if we're lucky enough to get two days then my wife will start cooking. That usually turns into three days, and I already feel at this point that I've talked too much about this person that I really don't care about. Oh, and I don't like Vegemite.

Mr. Boo says: I hear that you're really into your cars? How did you get any work done while working on Drive Angry? And as I haven’t seen it yet, did you get to have lots of fun with them?
The stunt guys did. But that's okay. Yes, we had awesome cars. I did get to drive a hydrogen tanker, and that was pretty cool. But I am a huge muscle car fanatic. It's a time period in American history that was very short but has always caught my fascination - so much so that people often ask me why the screensaver of my iPhone is of my 1970 Road Runner and not my children? It's Vitamin-C Orange, like a really shiny navel orange, except it's loud and goes really fast and you can't put it in a glass.

Funky Duck NL says: What was your experience working with Michael Bay on Armageddon? Billy Bob Thornton hated working with him. Bay is known as a 'wild and hardish' person/director... what's your take on that?
Say what you want about Michael Bay, but I appreciate people that are so committed to what they want to do. Is Michael Bay the quietest guy in the room? No. Is he a screamer? You could say that. Does he have an unbelievable commitment to get what he has in his imagination? Like nobody. I had a great time with him.

seany87@hotmail.com says: You shared scenes with Robert DeNiro in the brilliant Heat. What's he like off-screen and did you get a chance to spend any time with Al Pacino?
No, no and no. He's very quiet. Michael Mann wanted to rehearse everything before we started shooting, so I spent a couple of hours with Robert De Niro rehearsing, and he was very quiet then too. Like most really great actors that I've had the pleasure of working with, it seemed to be all about making the scene work. And that is always the best of circumstances.

Morangias says: What about upcoming projects? Will you do more TV? You were great in First Snow.
I have a huge project I'm going to begin next week, something I'm very excited about and which will be very physically challenging. I'm going to clean out my garage. I also have a list, that my wife gave me, of other things that must be done, and I will get them done for her as soon as I possibly can. Otherwise, she threatened to go buy more boots. And whatever I work on next, I'm sure will be very exciting because if it's not, I probably won't want to do it.

P says: In Prison Break, your character was portrayed as good and bad… how does it feel to play such a diverse role? One season you’re a bad guy to the audience, and another season you’re a good guy and everyone loves you... It must have been weird with your fans,
Story of my life. The bottom line is this: as long as my four sisters still love me, it's all good. So hang in there, and eventually you may like me too. Thank you.

William Fichtner Webchat
The Dark Knight

Jimmy The Saint says: It was a pleasant surprise to see your Heat-inspired cameo in Dark Knight. What is Christopher Nolan like as a director? And what do you think of the three main American superheroes – Batman, Spiderman, and now Superman – being played by Brits?
I have no problem having any actor from anywhere play a role. I'm excited for any actor that gets a job, I truly am. Even if it's a role that I'm up for and I don't get it, I never begrudge any actor having it work out for them. Life's tough enough in this business, and at the end of the day I hope that everybody does an amazing job because then it's really worth watching.

Mr. Boo says: With a film you get the whole script right away so you know how your character pans out. With TV, it’s not like that. So were you surprised with the changes your character went through in Prison Break?
There seems to be a bit of a backlash in Hollywood about 3D, and I really don't get it.
No, not totally surprised, because when I was deciding whether to work on the show, the writers had a really strong idea of where the character would go. But still, there are twists and turns along the way that you don't know about, so that always keeps you on your toes. But also in television, I'm one of these people that believes that, after six or seven shows, if you are an actor that really cares about your character, nobody really knows your character better than you, not even the creator of the show. If the circumstances are of a collaborative nature, if something comes along that you know isn't the guy, then you can express yourself and make the necessary changes to keep it true.

Funky Duck NL says: What's your take on the whole 3D hype of today? Drive Angry says that it's shot in ‘Real 3D'.
There seems to be a bit of a backlash in Hollywood about 3D, and I really don't get it. I see a lot of 3D films with my young son who's eight, and I love it. That's not to say that I think everything should be shot in 3D; I don't think we need Burger King commercials in 3D. But up to this point, I don't believe I've ever seen anything quite like the ‘70s road-movie-car feel of Drive Angry done in 3D. I always appreciate the uniqueness of something new.

AgentSands says: Which one director would you work with for nothing? If any?
Patrick Lussier, who directed Drive Angry. I shouldn't say that, but it's true. Working with Patrick was one of the two best times I ever had on a film. If I thought about this long enough, I'm sure that list could grow and grow and grow. But let's not get away from getting paid. Even a little!

Will Ryan says: Did you like working with Nic Cage and Amber Heard in Drive Angry?
Very much so. Nic is a consummate professional: extremely prepared, very intelligent and a really, really likeable guy. And extremely right for the character of Milton. I feel the same way about Amber playing Piper. Very talented, very beautiful and just the right amount of torque. I look forward to the next time.

MoPictures says: Do you have a favourite film, or actor?
Yes, I do. Favourite film: The Graduate. Favourite actor: impossible to answer that, there's so many people that I think are so talented.

MikeTheActorMan says: Can I ask what steps you took to become so successful and what advice you'd give to someone with a passion for acting? I'd REALLY appreciate it!
I have a Bachelors in Criminal Justice and Political Science, and the summer after I graduated college I decided to shift my life and move to New York and begin waiting tables immediately. I found a place to study, and it wasn't one of the more popular studios in New York. But I think what's most important is that you find the person that you hear, and then you can grow. My mother visited me once, and she said to me, "It seems to me that there's only two things you have any control over: how clean your apartment will be, and how much time you can put into your craft of being an actor." There are so many things that are not under our control, but the commitment and time you put into your own work will prepare you for when the moment comes along, and everyone will get that moment, that you can shine. So get some Windex, and start studying. Best of luck!

Thanks for all your questions. It was my pleasure to spend some time with you. All the best.

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