John Goodman is one of the great American actors, a superior talent who only makes projects better, whether it’s stealing scenes in a Coen brothers movie or his long run as Dan Conner in “Roseanne.”
You might say that he’s a monster talent, which segues nicely into his latest film, “Kong: Skull Island,” where he plays Bill Randa, a government official leading the charge to investigate the remote island, who might not have the best of intentions.
“He’s a well-meaning snake,” Goodman says. “I think he was damaged by his wartime experience. It set him on a course for life having to prove that these creatures existed.”
amNewYork spoke with Goodman about the star-studded film, which also features Tom Hiddleston, Brie Larson, John C. Reilly and Samuel L. Jackson.
What is your history with “King Kong”?
Well, I started like I think we all did, watching it on TV. I was fascinated by it, and even more fascinated when I found out the film process and I got a little hipper about how things were done. I always liked the story.
This looks like it was an arduous experience. What was the filming like?
I’m glad it looked arduous — there was a lot of makeup there. You know, we were in great locations for me, from fall to spring, so we beat the winter by being in Hawaii, Eastern Australia and Vietnam.
The cast on this film is pretty incredible. Was there anyone you were excited to share screen time with?
I never worked with Sam before, which was a treat, and just to watch how he carries himself. He’s a total pro.
You guys had some intense scenes together.
Yeah, it was fun. The guys playing the soldiers were funnier than hell. We had a great time in the downtime, just goofing around, and Ms. Larson was just exceptional. We only had one scene together, but she was great to hang out with. And Hiddleston is pretty cool — he’s a great actor.
You often pop up in really interesting roles. What drew you to “Kong”?
Well, it was a King Kong movie. I think that sunk it. I didn’t think I’d ever have a chance to do something like that. I felt like the character is kind of the guy that gets things going, so I appreciated that.
This is by far the biggest thing Jordan Vogt-Roberts has directed. How was it working with him?
He handled it really well, too. He knew what he wanted. He handled the actors well and the other stuff I don’t know anything about [laughs]. But he knew everything he wanted, which was great.
What is your favorite monster movie?
“Frankenstein” is the all-timer. When I was a kid that absolutely scared the living cream cheese out of me. I had a nightmare one night. I got out of bed, went into the hallway and I swore Frankenstein was walking down the hallway. I had seen Boris Karloff in something that night.
You recently finished up a run on Broadway in “The Front Page.” Tell me about that experience.
I don’t want to whine about it. First, it was exhilarating, and then I started getting pneumonia every four weeks or something, which precluded workouts and keeping my strength up. It was kind of like a survival battle after a while, getting through it. It’s a tough piece because it’s a period piece, we don’t do three-hour plays and we don’t do three-act plays, so it was a ride for the audience too, keeping them interested. But by the third act every night, by the time Nathan [Lane] got there, everything was under control and the third act was a pure pleasure, just riding the laughs. And it was a hit, an actual hit.
I know you just finished up, but do you think you’ll be coming back to Broadway anytime soon?
You know, I’ve had two offers since then, and I’ve turned them down because it’s a long time away from home and it is hard. But I never say never. It was tough, but it was a good experience. The actors were just great.
Any plans to return as Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on “Saturday Night Live”?
You never know. That was great because I was doing two shows that Saturday — I think they asked me Tuesday or Wednesday if I wanted to do it and I jumped on it because I thought it would be really cool — so I had a really cool police escort going over there. It was in December in the middle of all the Christmas tree stuff.
You played a Republican senator on the great Amazon series “Alpha House.” How do you think Sen. Gil John Biggs would react in the current political climate?
I’ve been thinking about that because he was a moderate Republican and I don’t even know if he would have been re-elected. I think [series creator] Garry [Trudeau] wanted us to go the convention and shoot there, but I don’t know if Amazon just ran out of interest or patience, whatever, so they dumped us. I really miss it. That was a great job and wonderful guys to work with.