Close Encounters of the Celebrity Kind...
Jesse Bradford Reaches New Heights
from the 7/13/05 issue of Windy City Times
by Richard Knight, Jr.
A teen heartthrob who kisses AND tells...
Hot young actor Jesse Bradford (thanks to standout performances in two independent features, Heights and Happy Endings) was
waiting for news confirming his role in a high profile, big budget movie. But he wasn’t at liberty to talk about it at the time of our
interview. “Man, I’m already in trouble,” he said with a laugh when I begged for a hint. “I’ll just say that it’s going to be very
different from what you’ve seen me do so far.” You can say that again – it’s now official – Bradford will costar with Ryan Phillippe and
Adam Beach in the Clint Eastwood directed Flags of Our Fathers, a World War II epic that relates the story of the troops that fought
the battle of Iwo Jima. A world apart from the gay, hopeless romantic Alec in Heights and the smarmy user Nicky in Happy Endings.
In person, Bradford is compact and casual and sported his signature 5 o-clock shadow and his late grandfather’s silver ID bracelet,
which the actor often wears. Excerpts from our conversation:
rkj: How did the part in Happy Endings come to you?
JB: I got the script as part of the endless series of scripts that seem to come my way and I read it and I was very intrigued by the
project. I thought it was excellently written and as soon as my character comes in, like 25 pages in, his intro scene was so off the
wall I thought, “Oh my God, what a fun, fun character.” I hate to say it but I felt like I understood him. I hope I don’t identify with
him because he’s kind of a jerk. I went in a read for Don (Roos) and had long hair down to here at the time and got a call less than
a month later that I got the news that I got the job and I was ecstatic but then the movie fell apart because Gwyneth Paltrow was
supposed to be Maggie Gyllenhaal’s part. Then it came back together with Jennifer Garner and then she fell out and then we got
Maggie which worked out great.
rkj: Do you know anybody like Nicky?
JB: I think that my material for trying to get to the core of Nicky came from people that I knew in New York at film school and one
particular friend of mine. We’re still friends but I’ve never told him that I used elements of him for this character. That’s where I
got anything kind of deep about Nicky but the thing that I thought was very L.A. about Nicky – and you get this much more in L.A. –
is the idea that he’s kind of a poseur. He doesn’t even know that much about film. I wanted him to have the vibe of a cinephile but
just by accident because he’s never really actually read a textbook. In L.A. you get these people that are so much more concerned
with looking the part than actually playing the part and I thought that was appropriate to Nicky.
rkj: Do you think he really has a thing for Lisa’s character or is he just using her?
JB: No I think he absolutely has a thing for her. I think he realizes that off the bat and it’s partially because he thinks she’s better
than what she’s chosen in life. He thinks he’s the one to show her that and maybe that will draw her to him.
rkj: In the end, he’s such a tragic character.
JB: Yeah! Great! Love it, love it! Fun to play.
rkj: What’s the difference between a first time director like Chris Terrio on Heights and Don Roos on Happy Endings?
JB: They both did the job with flying colors. The difference is this: in any scenario you want some idea of your director’s prior work
and with a first time feature guy you have to really look at what they’ve done to see if they can pull it off but with Don you only have
to watch about 20 minutes of The Opposite of Sex to realize you’re watching a great movie.
rkj: These are like the two “Ennui” movies – the West Coast and the East Coast ones – and you’re in both of them. Complicated,
character driven movies. So, with that in mind, let me ask you a very intense question: who’s a better kisser – Lisa Kudrow or James
rkj: Come on – you’re the only person in the world that has kissed both of them this year.
JB: Oh man (big laughs) That’s probably absolutely true. That’s a weird thing to think about! You know – here’s the thing – even
if James Marsden was a better kisser, I wouldn’t know it and wouldn’t be able to tell you that because nothing about that felt right to
either of us. It was just not in the cards for us so I have to go with Lisa. If nothing else, then by default but I gotta admit that I
was excited to kiss Lisa. There was a certain sort of feeling like, ‘Cool, I get to—
rkj: Kiss Phoebe!
JB: Right! And this slightly older woman that has a husband and a kid in real life. That one takes the cake for sure plus I was
standing there in my underwear and that was kinda fun.
rkj: Did you have any hesitations about taking on the gay character in Heights?
JB: Well, no. Here’s the thing: I turned down the opportunity to play a gay character once in the past in the movie The Rules of
Attraction. I think it turned out to be a really good movie and I would have loved to have been in it but I didn’t want to play the gay
character. It wasn’t because he was gay it was because there were two other roles that I liked better in the movie. There was a little
voice in my mind that was going, ‘Did you turn that movie down because you were afraid to play a gay character?’ and I would go,
‘No, no of course not’ but still I’d hear that little voice. So, to have Heights come along with the gay character was a nice vindication
for me personally. I no longer felt that was something I couldn’t pony up to and do.
I called up my agent the second I finished reading the script and said, ‘Yes, I wanna do this.’ There was really no hesitation. It
didn't matter to me. I liked the story and the conflict and the way it’s revealed in the end. I liked the idea of playing the character
that you’re not looking at him and thinking, ‘Oh, the guy’s totally gay.’ Maybe the second time around you pick up on it ever so
slightly. I liked the idea that I could screw with people’s perception in that respect and maybe teach people a thing or two about not
rkj: I also loved in both the movies, especially in Heights, the idea that in urban America really a lot of times it’s hard to tell the
difference between gay and straight. I used to be so proud of my gaydar. With some men there seems to be a certain comfort
level, that metrosexual thing—
JB: That’s what I was going to say. Yeah, yeah, it’s true. Those perceptions have broken down. I don’t know why that is or what
not but I thought – especially under the administration we’re under and the sort of right wing conservative bullshit that’s getting
forced down the throats of people who have no interest in right wing conservative bullshit – I thought it was a nice opportunity to
screw with people’s perceptions and send out a message that said, ‘You don’t know until you know’ and even then – who cares.
rkj: Well let’s elevate the conversation to Swimfan for a minute. You know you have all those little teen heartthrob websites but
there’s certainly a contingent of gay fans that see this film as a guilty pleasure. It’s a great camp movie and it was a hit, right?
JB: It was a bigger hit than people remember. It made almost as much as Herbie: Fully Loaded in its opening weekend and I think it
opened on a Wednesday. It still flew under the radar and I think people wrote it off a little, ‘Ah, some teen movie.’ It was the
Number One DVD for awhile, too.
rkj: So did you body wax or shave?
JB: (laughs) I shaved – it’s the only time in my life I’ve ever shaved. Every time I had to do a scene without a shirt on I’d touch it
up. It was important to the character.
rkj: Of course, a swimmer.
JB: I started swimming two months before we started shooting to train and I really worked at it. It was a nice little picture.
rkj: So you’ve made a big splash this year (laughs) with these two really different characters. Now casting directors are going to be
saying, “Get me Jesse Bradford” or “Get me a Jesse Bradford type.”
JB: Yes, a Jesse Bradford type or –
rkj/JB: (simultaneously with a laugh) “Who is Jesse Bradford?”