Actor and Director Lou Diamond Phillips | The Backlot Podcast | NYFA

Eric: Hi, I’m Eric Conner, senior instructor at New York Film Academy, and in this episode, we bring you an actor director with over 150 film and TV credits. He rode with Billy the Kid and the Regulators in Young Guns, learned from Jaime Escalante how to Stand and Deliver, brought Ritchie Valens to vivid life in La Bamba, and brought a serial killer to justice in Fox’s Prodigal Son. We are talking about the Lou Diamond Phillips. Mr. Phillips screened the TV movie Love Takes Wing from the ten film Love Comes Softly westerns series. He directed and acted in the film alongside Oscar winner Cloris Leachman and the Backstreet Boys’ Kevin Richardson, who joined him for the Q&A. Mr. Phillips directing work also helped lead to other recent gigs behind the camera on Agents of Shield and Fear The Walking Dead. But one hundred and fifty movies and shows ago, Lou Diamond Phillips was an actor hungry to make his mark, one who credits his success as much to what he didn’t know. 

Lou Diamond Phillips: Just sheer tenacity and ignorance basically. Stupidity has always been a good friend of mine. And time isn’t that rough. No, you know, I say this to a lot of people and it’s funny because out here, you run into it a lot and no disrespect to LA actors, but not so much in New York and and in other places, because fame and celebrity are something totally different today than they were when I was 17 and starting. I mean, you know, you can get famous by sticking a firecracker up your butt now and get a movie deal, you know, or putting out a sex tape or you know what I’m saying? There’s a lot of ways to get famous. There’s a lot of ways to get celebrity. There’s not a lot of ways to become a good actor. And that’s what I wanted. The rest of it is great. I’m not going to lie to you. It’s pretty fantastic. I loved it. And when I when I pop in and I teach acting, you know, it’s –  you have to love it. You have to care about it. You have to care about how good you are. You have to care about how good the projects you are in. You know, it’s too hard otherwise. It’s too painful. The rejection sucks. And the interesting thing is, yes, we can all make fun of the people out there who aren’t talented. Still getting jobs. You know, there’s a lot of talented people. They ain’t getting jobs. And that’s hard. That’s hard to watch. It’s hard when you’re one of them, you know. You’re going to get some breaks. You’re not going to get all the breaks. Be grateful for the ones that you do get, but turn them into something. And eventually, you know, what you’re not, you’re not looking to be a flash in the pan. You’re looking to have a career. You’re looking to to link these experiences in these moments and these jobs and these gigs together into something that is a resume and a body of work as you go on in life. 

Eric: When Lou Diamond Phillips acted in the terrific Courage Under Fire with Denzel Washington, he posed a similar question to the Oscar-winning star about how to maintain a career. 

Lou Diamond Phillips: You know, and you guys are asking me questions now. And it’s funny, I asked Denzel a question. This was in ’97. He had won the Oscar for Glory and we were sitting on the train tracks. If you’ve seen the film, it’s kind of an important scene. But we were between takes and I’m just, you know, shooting the breeze. And Denzel in a rare moment was actually kind of just sitting there hanging with me because I think he figured everything out. And I said, so, Denzel, you know, when do you think you hit your stride? You know, because being an actor of color and being somebody who’s kind of outside the box, I’d like to think that I have some things in common with Denzel and Sam Jackson and Benicio Del Toro, who I just worked with. And, you know, some people like that who are a little different. We’re not the Hollywood norm, you know. And so, you know, Denzel, when do you think you hit your stride? He looked at me and he went, I ain’t hit it yet. You know, I feel the same way. You know, I’m very proud of some of the work I’ve done. You know, directing is, you know, something that I’m very proud of as well. There’s still that film that I want to direct out there that is, you know, the one where I get final cut. You know, I get to do what I want to do. Although, like I said, I’m extremely proud of this and I’m extremely proud of this because the parameters put upon me. They say that, you know, a thousand monkeys in a thousand years with a thousand typewriters can write War and Peace, maybe. You know, I think there is a talent to doing something in a finite amount of time knowing, you know, that you have these parameters and you have to do it. That’s why you’re a professional. Don’t leave your fight in the gym. Don’t waste everything in acting class. Learn to be able to to put out when the time comes. And a lot of times, guys, that’s five minutes in an audition room. Get your flight to that level to where you’re delivering. 

Eric: And though he might claim ignorance was bliss in his early career, Mr. Phillips trained a lot and he continues to train. For actors and directors, when you’ve got your shot you better be ready to hit the mark. 

Lou Diamond Phillips: You know, here’s the interesting thing that I will talk about. Acting class versus brass tacks on set. The beautiful thing about acting class is that’s your gym. That’s where you’re working out. You know, you’re hitting the heavy bag. You’re jumping the rope. You’re doing all the stuff. You’re doing all of these exercises. Now, this is my opinion. What these exercises are for are to get you into shape to do it like that so that you don’t need an hour to prepare, so that you know how to break down a character. You know what an emotional life is all about. Hopefully you’ll never get out of the habit of doing your homework. Like Meryl Streep says, do one hundred percent of your homework because only 50 percent of it’s going to apply. You throw 100 punches so that that one is right there when you need it and you don’t have to think about it. That’s why I always use the gym analogy, because you’re just doing it, doing it, doing it. You’re finding a way to make it easier for you. You’re finding a way to access those things that you need so that they’re available to you in the moment. If I had to go off and prepare every time I had to act in this movie, I’d have run out of time to shoot myself because I am literally answering a dozen questions from a dozen people, taking care of my cast. They’re going, Lou is this on a 75? Yeah you you put it on a 75. That’s great. I want you to, okay and dolly at this point, because, you know, there’s a lot of camera movement in here and stuff that that I cared about and some that involved me. You know, I mean, the crane shot coming down from that thing, you know, I want it to be good and I’m trying to time it with Sarah and everything and still act. So for me, it really was the proof in the pudding that I was just telling you. I have done so much work and had so much experience. And it all comes into play when it’s like, OK, I got that, I got that. We’re set. We’re set. OK. My closeup. OK, so let’s go. Boom. Take one. Boom. Take two. Did I get it? Did we get it? Are we good? Move on. And that’s literally how it was sometimes if I knew I got it in two takes. Done. Done. If I didn’t get it, then fine, we do it again. Also being honest with myself and you know and not doing any of this, you know, and you know, you have to make decisions and you have to go quickly. So for me, like I said, fortunately for me in this film, the emotional weight was carried by a lot of other people. You know, I just had to be there for them. So it was a lot easier for me to turn it on and turn it off. And, you know, like I said, I scared anybody. Then it probably served me in the end. 

Eric: Before he shared the screen with legends like Denzel Washington, Jack Palance and former podcast guest Edward James Olmos, Mr. Phillips had to find inspiration from a different source, himself. 

Lou Diamond Phillips: The biggest inspiration, I mean, I know a lot of you here tonight are directing students and or acting students. I mean, your – certainly your biggest inspiration has to come from within. It’s such a hard road. I want to put it right out there right now. It’s not an easy path any of you have chosen. It’s an incredibly rewarding path. I do believe that this is still an art form. I do believe it’s a craft. I think it’s something that is a gift if you have the talent for it. And it’s it’s an even better life if you have the patience and the discipline and the perseverance for it, it’s really something that you have to commit yourself to. You know, I went to college, actually, I have a degree in this. You know, time has had a long career. It’s wonderful. Kevin is evolving into a different stage of his career after an amazing music career. So, I mean, for all of us, it’s this call that we have to continually answer something that we want to do. I don’t have to direct. I love directing. And quite honestly, I got really, really fortunate with this particular film in the respect that I would have directed it if it would have been, the script would have been a piece of crap, to be honest, just for the fun of it, just to exercise that side of me. I directed in college, I’ve directed feature length films. I’ve done a number of episodics and it’s something that I enjoy doing. So and and knowing the gig, you know, I’m not Gus Van Sant. I’m not an auteur who can shape my vision or that sort of thing. Director for television is, you know, rendering under Caesar what is Caesar’s and meeting a budget, meeting a schedule, meeting a time, and directing somebody else’s words, you know, for the most part. So in this, I was so thrilled that it was about something that meant something to me. Faith and my children are certainly a huge inspiration to me. You know, wanting to do good work and wanting to leave a legacy and wanting to do something that, you know, not only I personally can be proud of, but to have them here tonight and to have them have this as part of their legacy and the memory of being together on set and sharing this as a family. I mean, that’s when you know something that you’re doing selfishly for your art, but also for commerce and whatever else, you know comes together and you go, this was special. This was something different. And the fact that I could put some friends into it, you know, and make a few nice little discoveries along the way. I mean, I thought of Time as soon as I read this script. I thought oh I’ve got to get him in. I met Kevin through the audition process and, you know, I thought I got to get this guy, ask him if he’ll do it, because I just thought he had such a wonderful quality in the room, but also a great respect, a great respect to come in. And after playing the stadiums to have humility, which is not in big supply in this town. But as far as inspirations go. Yeah, and obviously there are my mentors, you know, they’re the people that I was taught by and who pass the flame on to me. But life, man. Everyday life, you know, hope, faith, tomorrow. All of those are inspirational. 

Eric: For an actor like Lou Diamond Phillips, making the transition to behind the camera only strengthened the need to be prepared since the cast and crew will happily be on your team if you show you know how to coach. 

Lou Diamond Phillips: For the most part, professional film crews, they’ll respect you until you prove otherwise. But they’re really savvy, man, if they can figure out if you know what you’re doing or not very quickly. So the biggest thing is having a point of view, being able to make decisions, being able to tell people what you want and what you need to be able to articulate it as a director. You know, and then you start to have your meetings with people and they hear what you want. For instance, I mean, the last scene in the movie was originally written to be in their apartments at night. You’ve got to be kidding me! It was my first change. I said, can we change this during the day? And I want a crane, you know, it’s the end of the movie. Boom up. So when you come in with a point of view, having done your homework and everything else, people will take you at your word. I’m not going to say every actor will make a good director, but I say that there are a lot of them out there because they care and they’ve worked their way up, they do make good directors because you’ve just been there, you know the drill. You know how long it takes, you know. You know, there’s no surprises. The times when I’ve heard actors have crashed and burned as directors is when they go in being all touchy feely, thinking this is going to be my artsy fartsy moment. It’s not going to happen. You don’t have time. At a certain time it’s like, just please hit the mark and say the lines. Everybody’s waiting. There is that side of it that I as a director, that’s that’s one of the things that I actually really, really enjoy. I mean, it’s the art side of it. The the ephemeral, creative side. I adore it. It’s part of who I am as an artist. But there’s also part of it saying, I have how long? And what I have to do? And how many people do I have to get moving? And how many people do I have to make happy? I mean, there is a, there is a, you know, game playing aspect to this. You know, those of you, you know, play games online, thanks to my wife, you know, where you go. I’ve got this much time to do this and this and this and this. And I have to achieve it and I have to achieve it up to my standards. So that’s the other side of things that I think are really challenging in a lot of fun as a director.

Eric: Mr. Phillip’s description of the opening shot of Love Takes Wing, makes you understand why he gravitated to directing. 

Lou Diamond Phillips: Probably the most difficult shot was it’s a heartbreak. It’s the first shot in the movie it is a beautiful shot. There was the birdbath and there was a little cherub in it and it started off looking down into the water. A single leaf fell into the water. To me, which symbolized the first child who gets sick, who happens to be my daughter, Grace. And then we boom down, crane, saw the the front of the orphanage, children run by in slow motion and it takes us to the rest of the kids into Ms. Cloris. It was a beautiful shot. And metaphorically, I told you about some of the other things that I do in the film. This is the first time, and it was difficult for me, this is the first time in anything I’ve directed where the first shot wasn’t the shot that I designed. Every other thing I directed the first shot said something and you don’t know it. Hopefully, you know, you’re not supposed to know when you’re when you’re watching it, but my first shot and everything I direct tells you what this movie’s going to be about thematically, metaphorically, even certain story points, but in a way that are in my language. I mean, the camera department was just so fantastic. I mean, we really never had anything that wasn’t, you know, one hundred percent usable. There were times where I had to compromise a couple of shots because they didn’t work with necessarily what the what the actors wanted to do. I mean, there were a couple of things that I changed in the script that I, with permission, in the script that says she stops in the center of the room and looks to the heavens and says, ‘thank you.’ And I thought, she’s thanking the ceiling. That doesn’t say anything to me. And visually, it says nothing to me. There’s nothing I can do with that. So I set the prayer on the bed at the end and put the moon in. You know, that’s a visual effects as well. And Sarah – so what I explain it to Sarah, you know, I said, OK, you’re talking to the full moon when she goes. What I said is the I have God, trust me. She goes, OK, I get this beautiful emotional performance. That was easier for her than walking up to that window and waiting for the light to move on her. I mean, and I totally fell for it because I’ve been in that situation myself. You got to walk. You’ve got to stay alive. There’s nothing out there. You’re waiting for the light to go down. It feels so sterile. It’s not real at all. And then you’re thanking God about all this. But when we put it all together with the sunrise, the the light and the camera’s dollying in at the same time and then you put the music and finally, it was my one Spielberg moment in the movie, you know, it’s like really designed beautifully. And it’s one of the emotional high points of the film. But I started listening to myself, trying to explain it to her. And I thought, well, that sounds like bulls**t, you know, but she went with me on it because we were far enough into the film that she had seen I think, some of the dailies where she she goes, OK, you know what, Lou maybe he knows what he’s doing. 

Eric: Part of the trick of directing for TV or lower budget films is making artistic sensibility still work with much less time and resources. 

Lou Diamond Phillips: I’m ridiculously anal about a lot of these shots, especially for television. If you’re playing in the big game, when you’ve got millions and millions of dollars and 60 days to shoot it and you know you can be inspired every day in TV, you really, really have to know what you want. And so I thanked Heather, earlier, you know, my art director, because I asked for certain things, you know, we built that birdbaths and that was originally my first shot in the film. I did not get final cut. So that was actually the first shot in the film. Every shot in this movie means something. There’s nothing random about any single shot in this film. And as a matter of fact, there are other shots in this film that I wish were there. You know, I mean, it’s all I can tell you. And I always say, you know, I’ll see rehearse, I’ll go, reach for that, go for the hand, go for this insert because it means something. And with my actors as well, I repeat this action, do that. And it’s interesting. I mean, you can analyze it after the fact. I don’t I don’t want it to be too obvious when you’re watching it. Watch how many scenes start with water. It’s a design. Watch how many scenes have an angel either in the beginning or the background or this through line of her faith joining in. I wish Jane Peterson were here tonight because one of the other motifs that we had, if you will, the movement from light to dark, her enlightenment moving toward the light not only from a matter of faith, but a matter of knowledge. And in each scene, progressively, it gets a little more bright, it gets a little more hopeful. And it was by design that the payoff for that is the sun coming up when her faith has been restored. 

Eric: Directing also means having to let go of some really terrific moments, could be due to time budget or maybe the network, studio, and producers making that decision for you. 

Lou Diamond Phillips: Haley lost a lot of beautiful work. Kevin and I both lost some stuff. I tried to lose more of me, but they wouldn’t let me. But, you know, I mean, that’s just, unfortunately, the nature of the beast. And especially in this, like I said, I did not have final cut. And I wish there were a few things that that I could have salvaged and just so you also know, I mean, this script was ridiculously long. It was far too long to shoot on this schedule knowing that it was going to be cut down to 90 minutes. No disrespect to the company. This is how they do things. But it was, for me, always, always the knowledge on set, knowing that I was shooting things that if it doesn’t advance, the story probably won’t make it. But at the same time, I can’t shoot it badly because it’ll probably end up in the movie. And I got to go, oh, that sucked, you know, so everything had to be shot with care and everything had to matter. So I never said anything in oner. I never shot anything, you know, just the close ups or whatever. You know, I tried to design everything and do it well so that if it did make the film, people would at least be proud of it, you know, and proud of the work in it. It was one hundred forty – and those of you know, the rule of thumb is it’s a minute per page. So you’re looking at a two and a half hour movie already if you shoot it as tight as you possibly can, knowing you’ve got to cut it to 90 minutes. Why are you doing this to me? You know? Oh well.

Eric: This is especially difficult for Mr. Phillips since he’s so protective of his actors on set. Kevin Richardson who, as a Backstreet Boy, is no stranger to performing, was appearing in his first movie. He was beyond thankful to have Lou Diamond Phillips take a chance and have his back, even if he didn’t get to go full cowboy. 

Kevin Richardson: It was amazing. I had a great time. I only had experience on set shooting music videos. So this my first film or television experience and it was really laid back, relaxed, but at the same time getting it done kind of atmosphere. And I appreciate Lou give me a shot. My first role. I thank you so much for that. 

Lou Diamond Phillips: You’ll always remember me as your first. 

Kevin Richardson: Yes. 

Lou Diamond Phillips: Tell everyone. 

Kevin Richardson: Yeah. 

Lou Diamond Phillips: Now you’re going to go on to do much, much more, like I said. I mean, first of all, the work that was in here is fantastic. And you got great presence. I hope you’re happy with it. 

Kevin Richardson: Yes, I am. Thank you. 

Lou Diamond Phillips: Good. And you look great. 

Kevin Richardson: It’s definitely different. It’s challenging. It’s exciting, makes you feel alive, makes you afraid. It’s something new and challenging and I love it. You know, I’m starting a whole new career, paying my dues, going to class, going to auditions. I had the the honor of acting on Broadway in the musical Chicago. But other than that, this is only my second professional acting job. But it puts a little fear in you, makes you feel alive. It’s a challenge. And, you know, at times on set, my first scene that we shot was with Lou. And I just remember before Lou was back there, look and make sure we had the shot set and then he came up and it’s like action. I’m like, oh, man, here we go. You know, I was like, oh, here we go. But, you know, it felt good. And there were times on on set when I was like in awe of of of all of you and their performances. And I was there to learn, you know, I’m I’m learning. So again, I thank you Lou for the opportunity. I wish that I got to show my my gun. But I know I understand. It’s all about the story. I’m yeah. Yeah. I got to wear a gun and I was looking forward to seeing me pull back that jacket and show it’s all good. 

Lou Diamond Phillips: We’ll do another western. You belong in westerns, man. Not everybody does, you know, which is true. 

Eric: Lou Diamond Phillips’ work as a director, especially how he treats his cast, was largely influenced by how his previous costars approached their own performances. 

Lou Diamond Phillips: When I did Courage Under Fire with Denzel Washington – and once again, here you were talking about 600 times the budget, a 60 day schedule and a script that has been in development for a couple of years. And so it’s really at the top of the food chain. And even after all that wonderful preparation, everything that happens there, Denzel Washington is such an instinctual actor that, you know, he would get on set and he would get the vibe and he would take things that you were doing and giving, you know, I mean, that’s one of the few films where I did almost no homework. All I did was learn my lines because I was going to work with Denzel Washington and Meg Ryan and Matt Damon and a lot of people who I knew were going to bring their A game and I was just going to give as good as I got. I just got my character background down, my lines down and figured out, OK, whatever they serve, I’m going to return. And it’s interesting that Denzel would work that way because he would he would sit there and he didn’t want to get to know us too well. He didn’t want to bond because his character was supposed to be learning all these new things. He was very polite and very cordial, but he didn’t want to get too close so that there wouldn’t be this comfort zone on set. He would watch the rehearsal. Watch you work. It was wonderful. I remember we’d do a take or two and then he’d walk away. He’d take these long walks. You know on a set like that, they had, you know, twenty minutes between you know, relights and you know takes and stuff. So he always had time to sort of relax and go away and gather his thoughts. And then he would come and he would improv dialog. But he would always give you your cue. He would always give you your cue so that he never changed any of your lines. And it’s a point I remember Ed Zwick said to me, he goes, you know, you’re not changing any of your lines. I went, I like all my lines. My lines work. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. But but Denzel was always there to give you something new and something different. 

Eric: Part of that balance to directing is making a story new and different while still making sure it gets done on time and within budget. 

Lou Diamond Phillips: Every feature length film I’ve ever made has come in under budget. I have never gone over schedule. And yet at the same time, one of the things that I’m proudest of are the way my actors come off. And with my leads, with Sarah and with Haley and with Jordan, they all had different processes. And often times what was on the page isn’t how they would have said things or is and how they, they wouldn’t have done things that way. And yet when you’re doing a TV film – it’s funny, I’ll illustrate it two ways there was supposed to be a fight scene in Courage Under Fire, Denzel and I were supposed to have this balls out beating each other to shreds fight scene, which is what eventually makes me confess. And we started the scene and there’s all these extras and I had actually been doing the fight choreography for about a week and a half with the stunt coordinator. And Denzel comes on set that morning and we’re about to do the fight and the coordinator’s there and all the other extras are there, everything else. And Denzel says to Ed Zwick, he goes, can I say something? I wouldn’t fight this man. And I see the stunt coordinators go, you know, and Ed says, well, what would you what would you do? He goes, I’d talked to him and I’m just sitting there, yes Mr. Washington. Whatever you say Mr. Washington. So Ed Zwick goes, OK, stunt coordinator, you’re gone. And extras, thank you very much. We’re going to work this out. We took two hours to, you know, just rehearse the scene and improv it and the scene turned out great. Wonderful. OK? Not the case on a movie like this. On a movie like this, every page has been approved. Every line has been approved. Every scene has been approved. I could not randomly cut them. I could not randomly change them. If I wanted to change a line, I had to call over the producer who knew that he had to answer to the executive producer if they didn’t like the changes we made. I’ve been on set on episodics where I literally shooting in Vancouver would have to call the Home Office in L.A. going, OK, I’d like to change this line. What it says, oh no, don’t go in there. OK, can I change it to let’s get out of here. OK, great. Thank you. You know, because there are a lot of people justifying their jobs and yeah, that’s what they have to do. But dealing with real artists, I gave them enough leeway to where they thought they could get away with it every time, you know, and there were times it’s like, guys, no, no, I, I can’t I can’t change this. I can’t do this. We cannot – we can’t just drop that. So my most difficult times on set were trying to – because I would never go, just do it or I would never go, just say it. That wouldn’t come out of me because I wouldn’t want to hear that from a director myself. So it was a matter of me trying to be supportive of my my talent, trying to give them what they needed to give a good performance, because I knew that if I just made them do something, it would suck. So what’s the point? Make it to where they’re going to feel good about it and feel good about what’s happening without much time to rehearse and knowing that the clock is ticking and knowing that it can’t turn into this lovely off Broadway theater experience where we can just sit around and talk about our feelings until it works. You’ve got so much time in the day to get the scenes. So it was those moments where I had to go, OK, how do we work through this, guys? You know, that that was was the balancing act for me. 

Eric: Washington, the talented actor, knows what moments are needed and which ones aren’t. But it might be Denzel, the movie star, who can determine if those moments stay or go. On the set of Love Takes Wing, it was the unique method of Cloris Leachman which really kept everyone on their toes. 

Lou Diamond Phillips: The interesting thing about Cloris on this one is that she’s she’s a life-force man. She’s she’s just this sort of whirling dervish. And yet when she connected to when she was there, there was just magic. You could tell that her choices were always in the moment. It didn’t always help us with lighting. It didn’t always help us with rehearsals. It didn’t always help the other actors, to be quite honest. But it certainly served her and her process. And for me as a director, it really was just about getting it on film and making sure she looked good, making sure that, you know, she was lit well and that that, you know, she was comfortable where she wanted to go because she would throw a dozen choices against the wall and four of them would stick. And it’s being a director who is also an actor, I was able to go, she’s going to want that one, that one, that one, and that one. So don’t worry about lighting over there. Don’t worry the lighting over there. She’ll end up standing here, here and here. So we’ll keep her in those parameters, you know, but it was a little interesting to tick, tick, tick, tick, tick, tick, tick, tick, tick, tick, tick, you know. 

Anthony Montes: Yeah, yeah. She was brilliant. She during the wedding scene, I was watching her and I watched a lot of older actors that I’ve admired. And, you know, what are they doing? How are they doing it? And she kept very alive in between takes. She would go over and it’s like, oh, the hair’s not quite right. And she went to like five different people, just extras on the set. And she redid their hair. And then we’d shoot and, you know, she would be involved and then she’d go do some more hair. And it was like but she was very alive. It kept her alive. And, you know, I mean, the camera wasn’t necessarily on her, but it was like she was having a good time. 

Lou Diamond Phillips: Nor did anyone really want their hair done. 

Anthony Montes: No, she’s not a union hairdresser, by the way. 

Eric: That’s exactly what I expect from one of Mel Brooks’  favorite performers, who has almost 300 credits of her own. Despite his own four decades of steady industry work, Lou Diamond Phillips still takes nothing for granted. 

Lou Diamond Phillips: That leads me to a point that I want to make for all of you, whether you’re going to be directors or actors. I mean, like I said, you know, a little bit of humility goes a long way. You have to have an ego and you have to have thick skin and you have to be tough to make it in this industry. But too many people really think that they invented the wheel and they didn’t. There are a lot of talented people out there. Not all of them get the right breaks. The industry can make you cynical, it can make you jaded, but it can also feed the negative parts of your ego, the negative parts of your your psyche that are necessary to get along. I was ridiculously impressed because, you know, I know who Kevin Richardson is. I mean, he’s world famous. He’s performed in stadiums, you know, to hundreds of thousands of people. And he came in and thanked me for the opportunity. And he didn’t come in like, you owe me this or I’m entitled to this because I’m already famous. So I think the people who tend to have long term careers, you know, the people who continually challenge themselves and also manage to have a real life with real kids and people who care about them tend to stay grounded. And I think that’s kind of some of the best advice you could ever have. 

Eric: As much as his talent and perseverance, Lou Diamond Phillips’ attitude has helped pave the way for the longevity of his career. 

Lou Diamond Phillips: You know, I’m pretty much grateful any time I get paid to act. So you know what they say, you know, you know, they said, what’s your favorite role? My next one. I mean, there are very few standouts, you know, I mean Courage Under Fire is certainly one that I’m incredibly proud of because, you know, that’s just an amazing cast. And to not be blown off the screen, I was really working with some of the finest people in the industry. Ed Zwick, you know, and Roger Deakins, the cinematographer. Just you know, really people at the top of our field and profession and, you know, to be included in that group, as was and Matt Damon was unknown at the time. So that was that was pretty fantastic. A lot of my theater work, The King and I, is always going to be one of my my favorites. Doing King Arthur. I’m very proud to probably be. And I think the first brown Filipino king of England. I mean that’s such a great accomplishment in and of itself, not being the gardener in Camelot and taking care of the roses. The Young Guns. I’ve never had more fun on a set than both of those films. The Big Hit is a real big favorite of mine because it’s just so over the top. And they just gave me such a license. A little seen film, a dear friend of mine, Steven Purvis, directed called El Cortez. And once again, that was one of the moments where my concerns in life and things that I appreciate in life intersect with art. And speaking of balls, he walked up to me at a Q&A like this, handed me a script and said, I’d like for you to do this film. And I actually read it and it was actually wonderful. And I called him the next day, but it’s called El Cortez. And I play a man with high functioning autism. And it’s a it’s a neat little film noir, tiny little movie made for a nickel and a dime. But it’s one that you just go, wow, we did a good job. You know, we actually made something that’s worth being proud of. So, I mean, just being able to like, you know, what Kevin said. I mean, this is this way I got into acting in the first place. Yeah. And there are those icons that we have out there and many of them I love the Eastwoods, you know, Harrison Ford to a certain extent, Cruise to a certain extent, although, you know, I mean, he gets outside of himself and does some really cool things every once in a while. But I’ve always considered myself a character actor. The fact that I can do leads is fantastic. I’m very proud of that. But a lot of times the roles that I take are character based. I mean, this one, by the way, this was a Bible thumping older woman. And they asked me to direct it first. And it was like, yeah, great, great. And then the call came about four days later. Would you think about acting in it? And what do I have to. Yeah, we kind of think you should. So it was it was that unspoken, if you really want to direct this movie, you really need to act on it. So I said, well, what role would you like me to do? Well, we’re thinking about doing a bad guy. So well, the bad guy is a woman right now. And I said, okay, we’ll switch it and fine, you know, her four scenes became eight scenes and there you have it. But like, I said. 

Anthony Montes: You never considered doing it in drag? 

Lou Diamond Phillips: In a heartbeat. But it is the faith based Hallmark Channel. I think if it were Spike TV, I could get away with it, you know. But I think, you know, like I said, every one of my roles is a character role, even if it’s a lead. I try to find that character nugget and it’s going to make it interesting because most of the time, I mean, most of your heroes are pretty boring. You’ve got to find something there that speaks to you that, you know, you can you can do something with. Hang your hat on. 

Eric: Here’s to many more moments for Lou Diamond Phillips to hang his hat on. We want to thank him, Kevin Richardson, and the cast and crew who joined them to share their process and stories with our students, and thanks to all of you for listening. 

 This episode was based on the Q&A, moderated by Anthony Montes. To watch the full interview or to see our other Q&As, check out our YouTube channel at YouTube.com/NewYorkFilmAcademy. This episode was written by me, Eric Conner. Edited and mixed by Kristian Heydon. Produced by Kristian Heydon and myself. Executive produced by Jean Sherlock and Dan Mackler, with a special thanks to all of our staff and crew who made this possible. To learn more about our programs, check us out NYFA.edu. Be sure to subscribe on Apple Podcasts or wherever you listen. See you next time. 

New York Film Academy
New York Film Academy film and acting school offers the best hands-on degrees, accelerated courses, and intensive workshops. Call +1 (212) 674-4300 for more info.
New York Film Academy