GIOVANNI RIBISI PLAYS “TIM BRIGGS” IN BALTASAR KORMÁKUR’S CONTRABAND
Mark Wahlberg leads the cast of Contraband, a fast-paced thriller about a man trying to stay out of a world he worked so hard to leave behind and the family he’ll do anything to protect. Set in New Orleans, the film explores the cutthroat underground world of international smuggling—full of desperate criminals and corrupt officials, high-stakes and big payoffs—where loyalty rarely exists and death is one wrong turn away.
Chris Farraday (Wahlberg) long ago abandoned his life of crime, but after his brother-in-law, Andy (Caleb Landry Jones), botches a drug deal for his ruthless boss, Tim Briggs (Giovanni Ribisi), Chris is forced back into doing what he does best—running contraband—to settle Andy’s debt. Chris is a legendary smuggler and quickly assembles a crew with the help of his best friend, Sebastian (Ben Foster), to head to Panama and return with millions in counterfeit bills.
Things quickly fall apart and with only hours to reach the cash, Chris must use his rusty skills to successfully navigate a treacherous criminal network of brutal drug lords, cops and hit men before his wife, Kate (Kate Beckinsale), and sons become their target.
Following is a special interview with actor Giovanni Risibi.
Q: How did you get involved in CONTRABAND?
A: After I read the script, I had a meeting with the director and was immediately interested in the film.
Q: What was it about the script that appealed to you?
A: The main attraction for me was definitely the opportunity to work with
Mark Wahlberg. I have been a fan of his for a long time. And then, of course, I liked the script.
Q: You also worked with your friend Ben Foster on CONTRABAND.
A: Yes, that was another reason I wanted to do this film. I have known Ben for over about 15 years and have never had the opportunity to work with him. He is such a force in acting. In this movie you see how layered his performance is. He plays an addict beautifully, on a sociological and material level. I could watch Ben just reading the newspaper. He is as good as it gets.
Q: Is it easier to work with friends?
A: From a level of confidence, I would say, yes. Everyone is different but it’s easier to establish trust without having to rehearse if you know the person.
Q: What appealed to you about the role of Tim Briggs?
A: It was interesting to play this malicious character. Briggs is a monster. He’s there to terrorize. He’s the kind of guy that will go the distance until he is put down. When I read the script, I thought he was this horrible individual who simply wants to hurt people. Then ultimately, in the process of rehearsals and chats with the director, he became less black and white. He also has a daughter and is a business man.
Q: You seem to be drawn to eccentric characters.
A: The more I get told that, the more I start to think that it must just be me. I guess I just try to do what I do effectively and in the simplest way.
Q: How did you prepare for this role?
A: I saw a lot of documentaries and read books that educated me on prison life. There was a great one on Danny Trejo. It showed you that world from an actor’s perspective. It is really interesting.
Q: I’ve heard that it’s more fun to play a villain.
A: I didn’t look at it like that. I guess there is that structure where the antagonist is usually more of a character than the leading man but I didn’t approach it that way.
Q: Briggs wears lots of tattoos. Did they all have meanings?
A: Yes, they all had meanings, although some were edited due to what the symbols meant. I think I could spend a whole day explaining everything that went into creating those tattoos. There was certainly a lot of thought put into them.
Q: You even changed your voice for the role.
A: That was hard work. Voice is one of an actor’s main tools. So I thought, “Why not try to attack that?”
Q: Did you watch the original movie?
A: I preferred to steer clear from it. Baltasar had the opportunity, in a way, to redo it. For the most part, it was important to make CONTRABAND its own movie. Otherwise, why not go back and just watch the original?
Q: Have you watched any of Baltasar Kormákur’s previous work?
A: Before we first met, I saw some movies that he had made and was really intrigued to work with him. I knew this was someone who was trying to make more than just a popcorn movie.
Q: What is he like to work with?
A: I got along with him really well. Baltasar is an actor and comes from the theatre, so he is all about character, which is such a privilege. He is not someone who is intimidated by Hollywood. He’s also a man’s man and owns a ranch in Iceland with horses.
Q: How is he as a director?
A: He pushed me, personally, in so many ways, including physically. Above all, I respect him and think he made a good movie, which in the end is what matters. He took what could have been a superficial film and made a really good human story out of it. For that, I am so proud and grateful.
Q: You have some very powerful scenes with Kate Beckinsale, who plays Wahlberg’s wife.
A: Those are some of the most uncomfortable scenes I have ever done. It was horrible sometimes to go into that and do take after take. We definitely walked out of it with our battle scars. Kate is a trooper and she was really incredible to work with.
Q: How is Mark Wahlberg as an actor?
A: Mark is one of the few actors I know that shows up to the set with the whole script memorized. I think he is all about doing whatever he has to do to get it right. It was a pleasure to work with him because he is incredibly humble and, at the same time, such a strong presence.
Q: Wahlberg’s character, Chris Farraday, goes really far to protect the people that matter to him. Would you do the same?
A: I guess it’s the type of question that, in reality, is difficult to answer. Although, it’s easy to talk about it, theoretically. But it’s a movie.
Q: What is acting to you?
A: I think it’s being committed to what you do and having an imagination about it.
Q: Why were you drawn to it?
A: I always wanted to become an actor. There is a part of me that wonders how I could have avoided it. It had to do a lot with my parents and the big blockbusters I saw growing up, like STAR WARS. A big moment for me was the day I saw A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE, which completely shifted my universe. All of that led me to being committed to make-believe.
Q: How would you describe yourself as an actor?
A: I guess I fall into the category of actors that are always wondering if they will ever work again.
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