On Friday, John Malkovich opens in The Infernal Comedy at the Barbican, London. He’s playing Austrian serial killer, Jack Unterweger, the celebrity killer-author, accompanied by a baroque orchestra and two sopranos, singing arias by Beethoven, Haydn, Weber and Mozart; the beauty of their voices and the music help to invest the victims of Unterweger’s murderous game with the dignity he denied them.
He’s been talking to The Times’ Ginny Dougary:
ON HIS VOICE
“I don’t really listen to it. I mean, I can’t ever imagine being in a situation that desperate… But, of course, one’s speaking voice you’re obliged to hear occasionally. I mean, even if you’re not in our business. No, I don’t particularly like my voice but I’m not going to, like, obsess about it.”
“In my circumstances, I not only have modest ambitions but a modest talent… but, you know… I’m 57 years old. I mean, I’m used to people hating or not liking what I do.”
“It’s not very pleasant. I mean, life ends badly. This is the same for me as for everyone in the history of humanity. But it’s very rare that I think, ‘Oh, I wish I were 47 or 37’ – and 20, never – but that would be like once every 18 years. I have the normal aches and pains but I can’t complain because I’ve enjoyed just absolutely spectacular health. You know, a lot of people spend their whole lives just beset by problems that can’t be overcome – and I’ve never really had any problems.”
ON PLAYING A SERIAL KILLER
“I don’t think of it as unsettling. Without saying something as mundane as it being therapeutic, it’s kind of good exercise – it’s like going to an emotional gym. I mean, it makes you deliberate on certain things and I think the very fine thing that Michael did with the script is that this actually recreates what the Viennese felt when they met Jack Unterweger. You know, this guy comes out and he’s kind of goofy and charming and funny and he has a lot of silly jokes and is clearly quite haunted and awkward, but also clever and entertaining and then, eventually, they realise that it’s a continuous series of screens: behind that screen is a monster and behind it a person, and behind it a monster, and behind it a person… This is someone who never should have been out in public. Ever – for any reason. But in our modern system, he is.
“In our Judaeo-Christian society and belief structure, redemption is very important to us and we’re taught that – on the road to redemption – that’s why you say, ‘You know, I behaved badly and I’m sorry for doing this’. And that’s a natural thing in people and I think rather great – and necessary. Then there’s the question beyond that: are we redeemable? Tough call. I really couldn’t say.”
ON HIS CHILDREN
“I hate to say this, because I think it puts enormous pressure on children and I don’t want them to have pressure, but I don’t remember my life before I had them. It seems like it never happened. So for myself, and I think for Nicole also, they have always been our major focus.
“I was a very hands-on parent, but I think you’ve got to let kids find their own way. They’re not going to listen to you anyway.”
“For me, the principal rule of my life is that I’m never around anyone who doesn’t want to be around me. It’s super-simple, and if they don’t, I beg them to take their leave as soon as possible. I mean, they have to take their leave and go.”
read all in The Times