Matthew Fox Talks History, Gridiron Glory & Bonding with Tommy Lee Jones on ‘Emperor’
Matthew Fox in Lionsgate's 'Emperor'
As the drama unfolds in the upcoming historical thriller “Emperor,” you might just wonder why this seemingly made-for-Hollywood story hasn’t been told before.
Set in Japan at the conclusion of World War II, at the very beginning of the U.S. occupation, “Emperor” tells the tale of bigger-than-life General Douglas MacArthur’s (Tommy Lee Jones) vital decision about what to do with Japan’s Emperor Hirohito.Since there was no other head of state to execute, many folks on the home-front wanted Emperor Hirohito tried for war crimes. But as much as MacArthur wanted to make political allies, the Supreme Commander of the Allied Powers knew that killing the revered Emperor could easily disrupt the tenuous peace.
To help him with this all-important judgment, or perhaps to separate himself from it, MacArthur turned to his protégé, military attaché Brigadier General Bonner Fellers, played by Mattew Fox. Fox recently spoke with Yahoo! Movies about the intricacies of the role, how much research serves a historical story, his Ivy League gridiron bond with Tommy Lee Jones, why he doesn’t watch his own movies, and so much more.
We’ll have a follow up interview with Jones on Friday, March 8, the day “Emperor” opens in limited release.
[Related: Local Tickets and Showtimes for 'Emperor']
Adam Pockross: Have you played historical parts before?
Matthew Fox: One thing before, in a very different sort of period, but I did a movie called "We are Marshall." It was based on the crash of the Marshal Football Team. It was the only other experience I've had with that and that one was special because the man that I was playing, Red Dawson, I spent a lot of time with him really. I haven’t been in touch for a while, but really consider him a friend. And it added an extra amount of responsibility to be playing a man that I got to know and was often times around the set. And I just really respect him a great deal and so that was interesting.
This was very different for me in that respect, just because Bonner Fellers is gone and people really don't know much about Bonner Fellers and for the story that I was playing I didn’t feel like I needed to know a tremendous amount about Bonner Fellers. When I first read the script I thought that the Fellers character was fictional, to move us through this narrative.
Not long into my research, obviously, I discovered that he was actually a real man -- you know it’s always interesting, I mean, this is only my second experience playing a story about a historical moment -- but as an actor you have to ask yourself this question constantly in that situation: Is knowing a lot of details about the actual event going to help you or maybe get in the way of the film that you're attempting to put together? Because it’s not a documentary. You have to make a film that if somebody who knew nothing about the actual historical event, which would be hard to believe, but if they knew nothing about the end of World War II as far as the Japanese-American struggle, would they be able to sit in the theater and enjoy a film for the film’s sake?
And so I felt that for me I had a really good script and a story that could potentially be very moving, and powerful, and interesting, and is set in this moment of time as a backdrop and that I would probably not have to do a lot of research about who Fellers actually was.