John Malkovich leans back in a wicker chair in the garden restaurant of the Chateau Marmont and, after a long drag on a cigarette says, “I guess I'm not a very contemplative person.”
Coming from many actors, the statement might seem credible. From Malkovich, whose every utterance is both intensely introspective and drolly absurd, it's an Escher-like impossibility, a joke that folds in on itself.
Malkovich seems as intent on upending expectations as he has at any point in his 25-year film career. After parts in auteur movies from the likes of Clint Eastwood (“Changeling”) and the Coen Bros. (“Burn After Reading”) and a role in a commercial failure this summer (“Jonah Hex”), the actor is off to work on two operas. But not before a stopover in Los Angeles to promote, with his usual mix of the thoughtful and the deadpan, “Red,” one of the most populist films he's done since playing the Cyrus "The Virus" Grissom in “Con Air” 13 years ago.
In his new film, a violent, comic book-derived action comedy that grossed a solid $22.5 million over the weekend, Malkovich inhabits the role of a trigger-happy paranoid. “Like most actors, I like to squeeze off a few rounds whenever possible,” he says, before adding, in his trademark overly enunciated articulation, “Not in life, hopefully. And as long as everything is safe and the armor is competent.”
In recent months, Malkovich has been feeling his commercial oats. He currently also can be seen in “Secretariat,” Disney's feel-good family film about the iconic horse. Six weeks away from his 57th birthday, the actor has a surprisingly youthful face, though the rigid Shakespearean bearing we've seen in many of his screen roles remains present as ever.