If you don’t know Vincent D’Onofrio from his first role as the unhinged soldier in Stanley Kubrick’s “Full Metal Jacket,” then you’ll recognize him for his quiet demeanor and meticulous crime-solving knack as Detective Goren on NBC’s “Law & Order: Criminal Intent.”
D’Onofrio rolled into town for the Savannah Film Festival and the screening of his first feature-length directorial debut, “Don’t Go in the Woods,” Nov. 2 at 9:30 p.m.
Since his role as Private Pile in “Full Metal Jacket, D’Onofrio has worked steadily. “[That part] had everything to do with my career,” he said.
As a kid he was a magician, worked in the technical side of theater with his dad, then started acting. Working with Kubrick was D’Onofrio’s first experience with a film director.
He said, “You got a sense that [Kubrick] kind of knew the film that he wanted to make and [you] just hoped that you were going to fit in. He had this film to make that was in his head, and nobody really knew what it was, except for him.”
For “Don’t Go in the Woods,” D’Onofrio said he cast it from the street.
The movie is about a group of musicians who go into the woods for inspiration in seclusion. They have several unexpected visitors, one of whom is a murderer.
Oh yeah, and it’s a musical.
“Except for one person, everybody sings and everybody dies,” D’Onofrio said.
In choosing his cast for the film he said they mainly had to know how to sing.
“If they could sing tonally perfect, then I wanted them to put their trust in me when it came to the acting,” he said.
D’Onofrio found inspiration for this film by his friend, composer and writer Sam Bisbee. He said Bisbee’s music inspired the film and was a lot of the motivation behind the story and tone of the movie.
With surprise hits in horror like “Paranormal Activity” and “Open Water,” which are filmed as these “real life” horror stories, where does a musical thriller fit in the genre?
D’Onofrio says it doesn’t. “I think that the gore and the killings in it are all kind of metaphorical and it’s not necessarily about some crazy guy going around killing people like ‘Friday the 13th’ or something.”
After comparing it to a Vincente Minnelli film, (“That was kind of a joke”), he said, “I think it’s closer to ‘Meet Me in St. Louis’ than it is to ‘Friday the 13th.’”
Even with his directorial debut, D’Onofrio has no intention of moving behind the camera full time. He said he’s going to keep acting and making movies for as long as he can. He has the same ambition for what he does as what he looks for in other actors and filmmakers.
“If they’re very ambitious and there’s something about them that you can tell they have no choice but to make a movie, or do a play, or write a movie,” he said. “You can tell in people if they have no other choice.”
Coming from a man who has played everything from an alien-infested farmer to Orson Welles, with amazing skill for 30 years, ambition is not a word spoken lightly.
He said if you have ambition, “eventually you will make your movie. Whether it will turn out good or not, that’s up to the film gods, I guess, but perseverance works.”Contact Katelan Cunningham.