Exclusive: Meet Clifton Collins Jr. From Mike Judge’s Latest Comedy, Extract

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Clifton Collins Jr. as Step in Extract Photo Credit: Sam Urdank/Miramax Film Corp

Clifton Collins Jr. has played a death row prisoner in Capote, a hit man in Traffic, and most recently, a Romulan officer battling the USS Enterprise crew in Star Trek. While his on-screen transformations appear effortless, one look at his bookshelves — laden with tales of serial killers, drug cartels, and pimps — reveals that Clifton does his homework and never phones anything in. We’re not sure what this says about his latest role as the victim of freak factory accident in fall’s long-awaited Mike Judge film, Extract.

After the jump, read on to find out about how Clifton went “balls to the wall” and performed a risky stunt while filming, and who was more computer literate back in the day, him or his buddy Judd Nelson.

Flavorpill: Mike Judge is a comedic genius. What was it like working with him on set?

Clifton Collins Jr.: I can’t say enough good things about Mike Judge. He is an extraordinary person and artist. He laughs with you and encourages a very collaborative environment. I would create lines off the page and forget about it until later on when Mike would say (provides a very convincing imitation of Mike Judge): “Hey Clifton, remember when you said that line about…? Let’s shoot the scene that way.”

Mike Judge on the set of Extract Photo Credit: Miramax Film Corp/Sam Urdank

FP: What scene was the most fun to film?

CCJ: Aside from making out with Mila Kunis in a truck, I’ve gotta say the scene where I got my balls blown off. I thought that a stuntman was going to be doing this scene, and then I was given the stuntman’s size 31 pants. I wear a size 32. My initial thought was “we’re talking about my balls here. I know there are two but I want ’em both.” When I decided to film the scene myself, I did it Evel Knievel style without the protective lead pack. I asked Mike how many shots we had and he said “maybe two takes.” And I said: “So in other words, probably one.”

Mike was petrified before we filmed the scene, but when I finished the take (and emerged unscathed) he said “that was genius.” I didn’t feel worthy of such a compliment from such an amazing person. That praise was almost as special as the experience of working with such a talented cast.

Mila Kunis as Cindy in Extract Photo Credit: Sam Urdank/Miramax Film Corp

FP: When you’re not in front of the camera, you’re directing music videos. Congrats on your CMT Breakthrough Video award for Zac Brown Band’s “Chicken Fried.”

CCJ: You know the old adage of “you do something you love, you don’t work a day in your life”? Well that applies to me. For example, I had Sunday off and I could have gone to the beach, but what I really wanted to do was submit the treatment and storyboard for a new music video I am directing.

FP: When it came time to make your directorial debut, did you borrow stylistic cues or approaches from any of the established directors you’ve worked with?

CCJ: My approach was a combination of past directors and myself, plus what I have applied from genres of film I love, such as exploitation films from the ’70s, likeDirty Mary Crazy Larry. I met Zac Brown through ROAR, our shared management company, and the first meeting was in a Hollywood club. We immediately clicked and Zac said, “I need you on this video — you’re the only motherf*cker that gets the song. There can’t be a chicken in the video.” I said there will be a chicken in the video, but not in the way you think there will be. To me, “Chicken Fried” is a state of being. Zac and I view this video as a beautiful bookend to a troubling time in American history.

FP: Three websites you find yourself surfing religiously are?

CCJ: YouTube, Google and Wikipedia. One of my funniest early computer memories occurred when writing a short with Judd Nelson. We wrote a 15 page short together called “Chicken In The Oven” on one of the first Mac computers. We were both so computer illiterate that neither of us knew how to save it. In a panic, Judd suggested taking the computer to Kinko’s where we could Xerox the screen and all 15 pages of the piece.

FP: Sounds like a scene from a Mike Judge movie. Let me guess, you managed to save the day?

CCJ: (laughs): Yes, I saved the file and still have it.

Extract opens in theaters nationwide tomorrow.