Ted Levine is best known for his role as the serial killer Buffalo Bill in The Silence of The Lambs. He can usually be found playing a key role in many a cult feature and his portfolio includes the role of scary badass in The Hills Have Eyes and has been the voice of Sinestro for DC animated features. We caught up with him to find out what he was up to.
Starburst: How would you describe yourself?
Ted Levine: I’m an actor and I’ve been acting for about 35 years now. I live out in the country and I ride horses.
Can you tell us a little bit about the Banshee Chapter?
It’s a budget horror movie we shot in the deserts of Mexico. I play an eccentric writer, an anti-social dude that lives like a sort of hermit. He self-medicates a bit with hallucinogenic drugs.
Did you have to prepare at all for that role?
Over the years I’ve done a lot of drugs. My life has prepared me for that role. I read a little bit of Hunter S Thompson, not specifically for this role but in the past I’ve read him. I sourced myself and my brothers; growing up in the sixties and seventies we all did a lot of drugs and we all dabbled in various aspects of the arts. I had a wealth of information to draw on.
What do you look for in a role?
All sorts of roles appeal to me. Mostly it’s the story and I was kind of intrigued by this adventure that my character takes with this young journalist. I thought that there was something special there. The character is not unlike Hunter S Thompson; he’s sort of reaching the end of his life, he’s a bit jaded and not very inspired by his or anybody else’s writing. I think that in an odd sense he’s looking to meet his maker which is the drug experiments in the movie.
You shot to fame as Buffalo Bill in Silence of the Lambs, is that where it really started for you?
No. I’d been acting a long time before doing Silence of the Lambs, and I’ve done a bunch of stuff I’m really proud of. I think it’s the thing that got me noticed; you get naked on screen you’ll get noticed y’know. Before then I’d done quite a lot of work on the stage in Chicago.
If you had to pick one role before Silence of The Lambs that you’d want to be remembered for, what would that be?
I played a character called Vershinin in a Chekhov play in college that I liked very much. It was a good production and a pleasure. There are a lot of roles that are good. The role that I play now is the one that’s most intriguing to me.
What’s your next big role?
I’m going back to work on the television show The Bridge. There’s a little film called The Girl in the Lake that we shot in New England that I think you’ll find is pretty cool. I play a small town Sherriff and his grand-daughter was abducted when she was just seven years old. She comes back - it’s a pretty interesting story.
A lot of movies are all about the franchise these days, does any of that appeal?
I don’t know what’s going on because I don’t have a television; I don’t watch it. As far as franchises go if something is going I’m happy to be on The Bridge. I’m pretty excited by that, I think it’s a territory that hasn’t been explored as much. It’s a border town story.
Tell us more about The Bridge.
It’s pretty cool. It focuses on a little town in Mexico; there are two police departments and the interaction between the two. I play the leading lady’s boss in the El Paso Police department and she’s played by Dianne Kruger. The Mexican contingent is played by Demián Bichir. The character that Dianne plays has some social issues and my character steers her towards Demián as a mentor for her. It’s a really interesting dynamic.
You’re also known for roles like The Hills Have Eyes and the Fast and The Furious. Would you do these roles again?
I haven’t played a monster in a long time and it has to be a good story rather than just sensational crap. Not that I haven’t done some sensational crap but we’re tapping into a very primitive part of ourselves and I prefer to do more interesting roles. The part of the job that appeals to me is playing characters who make hard ethical decisions. Those stories interest me. Horror movies can often just be one step above pornography because they feed into a very primal part of the human brain. But if there is a good story behind it then it’s okay. When it’s all said and done, what I do is tell stories to other people.
What advice would you give the 16-year-old version of yourself?
Forget about that girl.
And at 25?
Forget about that other girl. *laughs* No, I’d say keep on the track that you’re on. I was doing the theatre, being a carpenter and hanging out with cool people.
BANSHEE CHAPTER is out now.