Forget the popular movies you know him for, like “I Know What You Did Last Summer” or “Cruel Intentions”: Ryan Phillippe is a serious actor in serious mode these days talking about his new film, “Stop-Loss,” a story based on the military tactic of recalling soldiers after they’ve completed their agreed-upon tours of duty.
Of course, that doesn’t mean he can’t be a little silly too, especially when he recently sat down with MTV News to discuss the film, which opens Friday. Read below to find out about the movie, sure, but also about his new tattoos, superheroes, how he almost got the role of Anakin Skywalker, and why he hopes one day to adopt a British accent.
MTV: Is “Stop-Loss” just another anti-war film?
Ryan Phillippe: No, no … the film to me isn’t anti-war. If anything, it’s pro-military. It’s told from the soldiers’ perspective, and it’s about the soldiers … dealing with what it’s like to serve and come home and try to assimilate and get back into some kind of a regular life.
MTV: Why does the world need a movie like this right now?
Phillippe: Because it’s happening right now — because there were guys stop-lossed last week and guys and girls next week will be stop-lossed. It has the potential to become an epidemic. It is, in essence, a backdoor draft. It’s happening to the current generation of 20-year-olds, that’s who’s over there, and that’s who we’re missing, and who we want to have come home safely.
MTV: The line “f— the president” — did you enjoy that line? What does it speak to?
Phillippe: [Laughs.] I think it comes out of a specific place of frustration for this guy. He’s been over there for two tours, and he’s seen how the war is being handled. He feels it’s being slightly mismanaged and the idea that the people that are sending us over are not the ones holding their friends as they die. I think that for the most part, a soldier checks [his or her] politics at the door — they go where they’re told and they serve to that end. [But] I think that if you make that kind of sacrifice, if you have that courage and you’re protecting this country, than you deserve fair treatment. And I don’t think that’s something my character gets in the film.
MTV: What’s the biggest lesson you learned?
Phillippe : The biggest lesson I learned probably has something to do with the fact that I’ll never know enough. You can’t even pretend to know what it’s like to be in a combat zone. It’s beyond hell.
MTV: What did you learn hanging out with soldiers that surprised you?
Phillippe : You know, these guys were really open and told us both the good and the bad about their time in Iraq, and the one common denominator was brotherhood — those bonds that are formed that are sometimes even deeper than family. That guy that you serve with may be the last person you get to share any sort of relationship with. Guys want to go back because of their friends and for no other reason.
MTV: Throughout the film, that [brotherhood] was symbolized by tattoos. You have new ink!
Phillippe : A phoenix, [which] symbolizes rebirth.
MTV: Why rebirth? Why right now?
Phillippe : I think because I’ve arrived at a place in my life that it makes sense. I have a focus, and my goals are clearer to me now.
MTV: Do you think you’d have made a good soldier?
Phillippe : I think I could’ve. I don’t have a lot of fear, and I come from a background that’s military.
MTV: Changing gears, [have you ever considered] a superhero role?
Phillippe : It seems like the good ones are taken. I would love to do it. My son would love me to do it.
MTV: Yeah, it’s probably hard to watch “Cruel Intentions” with your kids …
Phillippe : Not for a long time, no. [Laughs.] I also think when they’re older, they’ll look at the films their dad did and be proud of the choices I made, even if they are films they can’t see right now.
MTV: Is it true you almost played Anakin Skywalker? Did you ever meet with George Lucas?
Phillippe : I did. … They were interested. I read with Natalie Portman. I think it was sort of an age thing in their mind. It wasn’t quite right, but yeah, they were interested. And for a kid from the ’70s — I was born in ’74 — it was pretty exciting.
MTV: How do you feel when a role like that passes you by?
Phillippe : I’m all right with it. I don’t have a lot of regrets, and I feel like things happen for a reason. I’m pretty happy with what I’ve been able to do as an actor.
MTV: You’ve said that music is your greatest love. Which musician would you love to play?
Phillippe : You know, it’s kinda hard. Biopics and that sort of thing are difficult. You have to be a pretty remarkable person to have a movie made about your life, and some of the ones I could think of, I might not be right for.
MTV: Throw up a name and we’ll let you go.
Phillippe : [Smiling.] John Lennon!
Check out everything we’ve got on “Stop-Loss.”
For breaking news, celebrity columns, humor and more — updated around the clock — visit MTVMoviesBlog.com.