America Online Chat with Tom Berenger

August 18, 1999
Copyright 1999 Entertainment Asylum & America Online, Inc. All rights reserved.

Online Host:  America Online and Entertainment Asylum proudly welcome Tom Berenger. Mr. Berenger is here to talk about his new movie, "One Man's Hero."

Question:  What is the background of the movie?

Tom Berenger:  The Mexican War, the most unpopular war, with 15% desertion rate, which was the highest. One-third of the continental US came from that war.

Question:  Why was MGM so reluctant to release this film? How long did it take to get released?

Tom Berenger:  MGM did not sponsor this film -- it was an Orion Pictures film. They gave us domestic money and they distributed it. After we started shooting it, Orion got bought by MGM. We were a bit of a bastard child. It was 3 years trying to get it all together -- two years after we finished shooting. It's a true story. My character is a real character. He was a real Irishman -- he was a sergeant in the Canadian army. He crossed the border to join the US army. He would be given 40 acres of land after his service. The army itself was pretty much immigrants, mostly Irish, some Germans, but primarily Irish. I think it was 3/4 of the infantry was Irish. Some of these guys deserted.

Question:  Hello, Mr. Berenger! I absolutely loved your performance as James Longstreet in the movie "Gettysburg." Do you have an interest in the Civil War, and how did you come to get that role?

Tom Berenger:  I'm a history buff. It was based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning book.

Question:  Why is so little known about this story of the San Patricios?

Tom Berenger:  Since it's about 320 men, it’s a small story in the bigger picture. It's not the kind of story that they would teach in American history books, because it was about deserters. About 90 of them were hung. Others were whipped and branded. Deserters were traitors. This is taught in Mexican history. They celebrate it on St. Patrick’s Day. They invite the Irish ambassador. They're big heroes in Mexico. It's an interesting story. It was the largest military execution. Eighty of them were hung on the gallows in one day.

Question:  Tom, would you talk about your experience working in "Platoon," and who's your favorite NFL team? How about the Tampa Bay Buccaneers?

Tom Berenger:  It's not Tampa Bay. I like the Chicago Bears. "Platoon" was as good as it gets. We did 3 weeks jungle training. By the time we shot, we were in shape. We were a pretty cranky bunch after 3 weeks.

Question:  Did you train for this movie?

Tom Berenger:  We had about a week. We did musket and bayonet drills. We did that in English and in Spanish. After we did that, we put 5 men in a crew and swapped positions. These guys would have started in English, but would have switched to Spanish. I think you see a little of both.

Question:  "At Play in the Fields of the Lord" looked like a tough shoot. What do you remember most about doing it?

Tom Berenger:  It was a tough shoot. I don't mind jungles, but it was 6 months long. I was wondering if I was ever going to get home, and I was in a plane crash in the Amazon River. Aidan Quinn was in it too. It was a little scary.

Question:  Did you have to research for "The Substitute"?

Tom Berenger:  Yeah, my character was a mercenary. I'd played that before. I don't know how much my character was really supposed to know.

Question:  The music really made "Eddie and the Cruisers." Did you play the piano for the movie?

Tom Berenger:  I had to learn. I don't play, but I had to learn those songs. I'm not that musically inclined, so that was difficult. I had to practice every single day. For me, it was technical. I believe the rest of them had all played in bands before. I rode from New York to Jersey with them, and they were all excited.

Question:  You played baseball in "Major League." Are you into sports, player or spectator?

Tom Berenger:  I don't really have time to be on a team. As far as baseball, all I can do is go to a batting cage or play catch with a few friends. I exercise, but it's all swimming and running.

Question:  I want to commend you on your success, despite your resemblance to Paul Newman. That had to be a hurdle.

Tom Berenger:  It was a little bit in the early days, but then suddenly we didn't hear about it anymore. Somewhere around 1979, I stopped hearing about it.

Question:  You worked with a lot of great stars. Who were the most challenging to work with?

Tom Berenger:  Is challenging good or bad? Good -- Denzel Washington, I worked with him. We became good friends. John Cassavetes was quite a character. Charlton Heston is really a gentleman, old school. Charlie Sheen I've worked with 3 times. I've never really had a problem working with anyone.

Question:  What are you planning on doing for the millennium, and are you afraid of the Y2K bug?

Tom Berenger:  Everyone is afraid of that bug. I have no idea how that's going to affect us. There are a lot of banks taking care of it, but I know I managed to get my hands on two bottles of great champagne. My wife and I got invited to a rented restaurant. So we're going formal.

Question:  Have you or are you looking into directing anytime soon?

Tom Berenger:  No. I think being an actor is a dog's life. You want to talk about time consuming. Directing is a great way to ruin your life, your family life. Let's say you shoot for 12 hours, then you have to go screen dailies. You sit there with the crew and watch what you did the day before. You eat late, gain weight, go to bed late, get up early. And then you do it all over again, at least 6 days a week. Directors look bad after 6 weeks of shooting.

Question:  Sir, one of my favorite movies still is "Rustlers’ Rhapsody." Do you plan on doing any more comedies?

Tom Berenger:  I would love to. I'm looking at one that is definitely comedy, dark comedy. Looking at that for January or February. I'm ready for that. It's hard work too, but it's fun to watch.

Question:  Mr. Berenger, I've been waiting for another movie from you. You are great! Have you considered doing another comedy with Charlie Sheen again? You two were fantastic in "Major League."

Tom Berenger:  Yeah, as a matter of fact, I have a script. I told the writers that the characters are so strange, that it should be a comedy. It was originally a history script, but they reworked it. He would be great for the other part.

Question:  While I realize you want to talk about your newest movie, I have to ask, what has been your favorite movie to date?

Tom Berenger:  I don't really know. At one time, I might have been able to say. But now, I'd be splitting hairs to say one over another. They're like kids. I don't have much time to watch any of the movies. Maybe "Gettysburg" is the one that I've seen the most.

Question:  I heard you are a pilot. Do you fly your own planes at all?

Tom Berenger:  I'm not a pilot. I don't fly planes. I crash them. I did fly one in a scene, but the real pilot was hidden behind me.

Question:  Tom, are you married, and if not, will you marry me?

Tom Berenger:  I'm married, and watch out, ‘cause she's watching this!

Question:  How difficult was this shoot? Was it hot?

Tom Berenger:  We shot in Mexico. It was dry heat, desert. We had wool uniforms. You didn't sweat much, though. The sun would just burn your head up. The altitude was a little rough too. We'd keep going up higher and higher.

Question:  Thank you so much, Tom Berenger! Go see his new movie, "One Man's Hero"!

Tom Berenger:  Thanks!

EAMusic1:  Have a great night, everyone!

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