Coffee With Vincent D’Onofrio, TV’s New Kingpin

Vincent D'Onofrio on the set of Law and Order: Criminal Intent
Vincent D'Onofrio on the set of Law and Order: Criminal Intent Will Hart / NBC / Getty Images

It’s hard not to be intimidated by Vincent D’Onofrio’s size, which he’s made formative use of throughout his impressive career. Whether he was shaking down perverted criminals during his 10-season run as Detective Robert Goren on Law & Order: Criminal Intent, or playing the athletically-challenged Leonard “Gomer Pyle” Lawrence in Stanley Kubrick’s Full Metal Jacket, the landmark role for which he gained 70 pounds. Since wrapping on Criminal Intent, he’s managed to spend some time behind the camera, most recently on Mall, schedule to be released on October 17th. He wrote the screenplay along with two friends, then, as producer, got the script into the hands of Joe Hahn, who will make his silver screen directorial debut, though it’s not his first time behind the camera. Hahn has worked on video projects for his band, Linkin Park, and Vincent said of his work, “Joe’s very honest on set and he sees the full scene happening. I liked that.”

D’Onofrio isn’t planning to quit acting anytime soon, though. At this very moment he’s preparing to show off his commanding presence as iconic villain Wilson Fisk, aka Kingpin, in the comic-based Netflix series Daredevil, the first of many promised collaborations between the streaming juggernaut and Marvel Studios. Standing in his presence in a room of the Roosevelt Hotel in New York, head shaved, black blazer draped on his broad shoulders, we can attest to the authenticity of his embodiment. While the project is shrouded in the standard high-stakes secrecy accompanying all Marvel storylines, we were able to chat with Vincent about his other new projects, developing his Kingpin persona, and his Toronto Film Festival project The Judge with new pal Robert Downey Jr.

I’m curious how you found Joe Hahn. Had you heard Linkin Park before?
My nephew had gotten me into them a while ago actually, but we were connected by a mutual friend and producer Sam Maydew. We got on the phone and I liked how he said whatever was on his mind. He wasn’t shy about what he knew and what he didn’t know. I had the vibe that the film would be safe in his hands. On top of that, I went to see Linkin Park perform at Madison Square Garden before we started and looking out at the audience I thought, “This is who the movie is for.” It felt right.

Was there any advice that you gave Joe as he was getting started?
I try not to give advice to my directors. But really, he was great on set. Sometimes they can talk too much, it all gets confused. They won’t allow you to get into the role how you need to. Joe would only speak up if he had something to really say. Otherwise he let you play the character how you wanted to. He watched and make sure he was getting what he needed, and if he did then we’d move on. It was very effective.

Talking of people you probably enjoyed working with on a movie, how was being on a set with Robert Downey Jr. while shooting The Judge?
He’s just a really great guy. Not just an amazing actor, but also an all around good human being. On top of all of his success, he still takes a great amount of time for his fans. No matter what we were doing or where we were, he’d stop and pose for photos or sign autographs. 

You play brothers in the movie?
Yes, along with another superb actor Jeremy Strong, we all really enjoyed getting to know each other like that. On top of that, Robert Duvall played our dad. It was a like a dream family. We had a lot of fun and a lot of laughs.

Now that I have you in a good mood, let’s talk about Daredevil.
Filming has been great. I can’t really talk about specifics. Really. But I can tell you it’s all working. It’s all gritty. Everything is really impressive. They seem to know what they’re doing over at Marvel. I think ever since Downey and [Jon] Favreau did Iron Man and proved that comic book movies could be really cool they’ve just embraced that and taken it to the next level. They keep knocking it out of the park. This Netflix series that we’re filming right now, it’s going to be so amazing to watch. We’re doing these incredible, iconic scenes every single day. I have the best character; I play one of the best characters I’ve read in a long time. I haven’t had this much fun with a role for many years. 

How much did you know about the character before signing on?
I knew a bit about Wilson Fisk. I had seen the movies. I saw other interpretations. But for this, they really wanted everything to be fresh. They’re operating like they have been doing their movies. I’m finding most of my inspiration for Fisk coming from the old artwork, artists like Frank Miller.

Your new friend Downey must have been very excited you got the role.
He was thrilled. My wife actually texted him a photo of me dressed as Kingpin and we got a very, very excited text back.

I look forward to the Iron Man versus Kingpin crossover happening very soon.
[Laughs.] It’s not impossible! They have all kinds of plans. I think this Daredevil show is going to be the start of some very exciting crossovers.

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