MTV: What was your initial take on the script?
Martin Freeman: I was just about to finish “Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy” and I got the script from Jake Paltrow. I didn’t know him. I just liked it. It was the combination of liking it and being surprised that you’d been sent it in the first place. Apart from “The Office,” I don’t know what Jake would have seen of mine. I’m guessing nothing.
MTV: What did you want to hear from a director when you meet with them?
MF: I suppose it’s just hearing them talk and hearing a writer/director talk about his thing. I’m always attracted to writer/directors because they can realize their own vision. Jake was impressive with his knowledge of film. He knows reference points and the context and history of film. But I wanted to talk to him about the script. I’ve seen enough films where men stay fully clothed and women get them out. It’s not really my taste unless it’s a porno. I really don’t like the ease with which we use the female form. It’s f–king boring and it’s lazy! We dress it up as something serious and then it’s like, wait why haven’t we seen his nob? We’ve seen everything of her. Why aren’t we seeing some c–ks in this? But he was totally kosher. I mentioned these reservations he was like, “that’s the last thing I want to do.” And it was genuine.
MTV: Your character, Gary, is having a kind of a pre-mid-life crisis.
MF: I was a bit horrified when I first read it. I was like, “this guy is having a midlife crisis! F–k, I’m not that old!”
MTV: Do you ever have existential crises of your own about your career or personal life?
MF: Never career really. My personal life is very lucky. I have a beautiful family and a very loving one but being who I am I always try to find the f–king melodrama in something.
MTV: What do you make melodramatic?
MF: Anything. Everything. Did that guy slight me last night? When he said that, was he insulting me? Should I have said something? I’m a f–king pu–y. Why didn’t I say something? That kind of thing. I don’t do that with my career I think because I don’t take it that seriously. I take work seriously but not career stuff. The stuff that keeps me awake at night is never, why is he doing better than me? Because the truth is if I wanted to be there instead of here, it comes down to luck and me engaging in the process that actors have to engage with, which for the past six years I’ve been running away from, publicizing movies and being in full f–king denial that anyone would want to speak to me.
MTV: You must have done a ton of press for “Hitchhiker’s”?
MF: I did. Yeah. And I really had to steal myself for it and gird my loins because there’s always that English part of me that goes, “don’t sell out! Don’t f–king go to Hollywood!”
MTV: Unless Michael Bay calls with a lot of cash?
MF: This is something I think about a lot. Having integrity really does preoccupy me. If you relax about something, to what extent are you selling out? I do want to keep working. I’m just negotiating myself through that now really. It’s an ongoing process because my general default setting is hostility.
MTV: Are your agents on board with this philosophy?
MF: I’ve been with my agent in Britain for six years and the reason I’m with him is we’re on a similar wavelength and he knows that I’m going to say no ten times more than I’m going to say yes regardless of things like status and career. I should have been living in American five years ago by the book. Once people saw “The Office,” I should have moved. But I just never did. I don’t want to hang out there just so someone can ignore me. Life is too short. I want to be doing things I’m actually proud of, not let me do this s–t film that might lead to a slightly less s–t film which at some point will buy me a new swimming pool.
MTV: The question is, is there a breaking point? How much is enough to make you compromise?
MF: I don’t know because I haven’t found it yet. I’m not Gandhi. I’m not a super good person.
MTV: Even Marlon Brando did “The Island of Dr. Moreau.”
MF: I know. But I think he was insane. I think he was actually mental by the time he was 45 in a way that please God I hope I’m not.