Not since Elisha Cook Jr. has there been such a scene-stealing baby-faced character actor as Giovanni Ribisi. If the name doesn't ring a bell, you'd recognize him from his intense, slightly crazed roles in films like Cold Mountain, Lost Highway and Suburbia. (Let's forget The Mod Squad remake for now.)
In Perfect Stranger, Ribisi plays a computer expert researcher who helps out Halle Berry's investigative journalist, but also has a thing for her. In town recently to promote the film, Ribisi proved as intense in person, especially when he paced the room, smoking.
Does it bug you that people don't recognize your name but recognize you in person?
Not at all. It's satisfying. I used to shy away from publicity so as not to let it get in the way of the work. But it's part of the job. The tabloids are a whole other arena. If fame happens, it happens. I just want to maintain focus.
I like how you use your voice in this film and others. Is that intentional?
I don't feel seated in a character unless there's a voice I can relate to. A lot of American actors don't concentrate enough on the voice and what a great tool it can be. I've been inspired by actors like Gary Oldman and Tim Roth.
Was it tough playing somebody obsessed with Halle Berry?
It was so difficult, you have no idea. I've had acting challenges, but my God! Seriously, as an actress Halle's probably run into that often, and she knows how to deal with it. She was so refreshingly committed to doing the best job.
I like how her character works on Miles. She knows Miles lusts after her.
She's definitely exploiting that, and she's smart. It's one of the layers of her character and all the characters have that in the movie. It's about secrets and how far people will go to hide them with a mask. I think everybody has that Iago/Machiavelli character inside them.
Funny you should mention Iago. It's a perfect role for you. In the works?
Oh yeah. It's just a matter of finding the right production.
Your sister's married to Beck. How cool is that?
I come from a Sicilian background and it's all about pride in yourself and cultivating the family. He's an incredible individual and has a great family as well.
You once said that if it weren't for Scientology you would be in an alley. What did you mean?
That was probably a while back when I was a teenager and a lot more dramatic. I grew up with Scientology - my parents at one point were clerical. It's a pragmatic philosophy, not merely a belief system. Yeah, it's had media exposure because certain luminaries do Scientology, but millions of people do it who are not celebrities. It's not a threat or some cult.
Additional Interview Audio Clips
Ribisi on his character Miles:
Ribisi on acting since he was a child:
Ribisi on his dream role:
PERFECT STRANGER (James Foley) Rating: NN
Perfect Stranger draws on our cyberspace paranoia to tell a highly implausible tale about Rowena, a journalist (Halle Berry) who goes undercover as a temp at an ad agency to prove that the company's horny head honcho (Bruce Willis) murdered one of her friends.
With the help of her crushed-out I.T. researcher (Giovanni Ribisi), Rowena discovers that the boss has a taste for S/M online chatting. Pretty soon everyone's a possible suspect in the murder.
The film looks good; those are real Manhattan locations. Unfortunately, the online world's not nearly as vivid - no surprise, since it's difficult to make computers seem threatening or dramatic. The film ends up an uncomfortable mix of genres, none of which gels.