The Dallas Buyers Club actor, who is featured in W’s 2014 Best Performances portfolio, opens up to W Editor at Large Lynn Hirschberg in his latest Screen Test.
Released on 1/7/2014
My first professional job,
it's a toss-up if it was selling weed
or working at a barbecue restaurant as a dishwasher.
At the barbecue restaurant, I got paid $2.50 an hour
and I had taxes taken out which I'm fairly certain
was illegal at the time.
I was just happy to have a job.
That meant freedom to me.
The weed could have paid better than the dishwashing
but the problem is
is getting high on your on supply
and breaking that golden rule.
I didn't have a very glamorous beginning.
I always thought I would be a visual artist.
I went to art school,
but at some point,
I fell in love with film.
that I would get a job as a director
if I got a job as an actor first.
That was my plan.
When I got my first job,
auditioning like crazy.
Auditioning is probably akin to boiling
your own testicles in vegan butter
or sawing off your butt lip and chewing on it
like it's tobacco.
That's another thing you can compare to auditioning.
No, I remember being in one audition.
Every casting room has the worst vibe
you've ever felt in your life.
There's maybe a dentist in Tijuana
that has a more comfortable setting
than a casting office.
There was a couch overturned.
I was asked to hide behind the couch
and shoot imaginary bullets at an unseen enemy.
I remember standing up in the middle of that
as I was shooting bullets and being shot at.
I said, I just, I can't do this.
I ended up getting the part.
This is a lesson, yeah, to sabotage.
I had about three weeks, maybe 3 1/2 weeks
to prepare for Dallas Buyers Club.
Because I hadn't made a film in five or six years,
I hadn't read a script in a few years.
I had heard about this project,
it had bounced around forever.
Someone had sent it to me a few times
and said, I really think you should take a look.
So I did and I fell in love.
I was already very thin.
I may have got down to 112 or 13 or something.
I'm a healthy 150 now.
When you lose weight like that,
it's a great tool.
It changes the way that you walk,
the way you talk,
the way you think,
the way you feel,
the way people treat you.
It changes everything about who you are.
I remember sending a note to the producers
like a week before shooting saying,
Listen, I really want to make sure
that this is a transsexual woman
we're talking about.
This is not someone who wants to play dress-up.
If you want that, you should call somebody else
because I'm not interested in that.
I don't know how to do that.
In 1985, I'm sure it was a struggle
to walk through the supermarket
dressed as woman.
Because I was in character all the time,
I was able to have these really unique experiences
like I had in Whole Foods
where I got three distinct looks.
One was Who is that?
The other was What is that?
The last was I don't know what that is
but I don't like it.