Known over the years variously as Hunter Hearst Helmsley, Jean-Paul Levasque, and Terra Ryzing, Triple H has had one of the more varied careers of this generation of wrestlers. For many years, he was content to dwell in the ring, only taking a single acting gig in Blade: Trinity. He evidently left an impression playing a blky vampire thug, as he was approached by WWE film a few years later to appear in the straight-to-video comedy The Chaperone, directed by Steven Herek. This Friday, Triple H will appear as the lead in Inside Out, a moody crime drama. Witney Seibold had a brief telephone conversation with this friendly and talkative fellow, to shoot the breeze about wrestling identities, his acting career, and his dream of remaking Spies Like Us.
CraveOnline: I got to see “Inside Out” yesterday. I liked it more than I expected to. I especially liked you in it. In a project like this, that's directed towards a wrestler, did you get to invent your own character, or was it something the screenwriters invented?
Triple H: The screenwriter came up with this project. It was actually written for somebody else in the company. I was brought in at the last minute. I had a contractual issue with the guy, and the producer came to me and said “This is a perfect role for you, can you do this?” I hadn't even read the script, but I read it, and I liked it but said there were some tweaks I wanted to make, so we spent a couple of days re-writing stuff. And only three days later, from the time I first read the script, we started shooting.
Wow. What sort of tweaks did you make?
I felt, when I read the script, that my character, AJ, was... It was like one of those things where you keep saying to yourself “Why is this character hanging out with this other idiot [Jack, played by Michael Rappaport], who's just going to get him in trouble?” Now you can understand it when you watch the film, 'cause they're kind of like brothers. They grew up together their whole lives, y'know? Bruce Dern kind of raised them as brothers. Originally in the script, they were just buddies, and Bruce Dern was just a guy they worked for. To me, when I read the script, I asked “Why does this guy go through all this stuff just for his buddy?” Y'know what I mean? They used to be just work buddies. So we changed the premise of the story. My character had no family when he was younger. His mom was an alcoholic. His dad was, y'know, gone, and Bruce Dern took him in. Rappaport became his brother, and they just happened to be an organized crime family. He got pulled in in that way, but this was his family. Now he's trying to save his brother's life this whole time.
That sounds like a positive change to me. A question about a small detail in the movie. Your character, AJ, is obsessed with starting his own pickle business. Was the pickle thing your idea, or was that just in the script?
That was just in the script! They just wanted a quirky kind of way to show that this guy is just done, and now just wants the simplistic life. He's not looking for money. He's not looking for anything else. He just wants to go be by himself and make pickles. And as silly as that sounds, he just doesn't want to be bothered or bother anyone else.
I understood that, but it seemed like such a wonderfully idiosyncratic thing...
It is one of those idiosyncratic things, and now it's one of those things that's all anyone can ask about! “What's the obsession with the pickles?” Y'know?
Ooh. Well, I'm sorry to ask again.
No, no! It's just funny how that resonates the people. To the point where one of the concepts for the film's cover art – y'know the actual poster-art for the film – was like a gun in a pickle jar. And I was like “No one's gonna get that.” That's like the worst cover ever.
You're a professional wrestler, and you've had several personae in the ring. Did you try to translate any of your in-ring personae to your on-screen character?
Not really. In-ring personae are one thing, but they're all character that you play. My in-ring persona is kinda me, but just way overly aggressive, and with the volume turned up. I look at the movies, and read a script, and I try to find out where this character is coming from; if that was me, how would I be emotionally? If that was my scenario, where I would I be emotionally? You just try to do that. Acting to me – and I'm not a Shakespearean actor here, so take this for what it's worth – but from my point of view, it just seems like there's a lot of hype and over-complications put into acting. Actors try to make it seem like what they do is a lot harder than it is, I dunno. But I don't get it, y'know, the whole acting thing where “This guy's been in character now for weeks and he doesn't come out of this character,” and you have to refer to him by his character's name. Just go in the other room and pretend to be something else, and when you come back, be yourself again. You're not building rockets here.
In 'Inside Out,' you got to work with Parker Posey, which was the second time you've worked with her [the first time being in 'Blade: Trinity']. What was it like working with her again? What is a pleasure to se her again?
It was great. It was great to see her. And she's so talented. But this was a complete role. In “Blade: Trinity” she was the lead vampire, and I was just kinda the henchman, so I was in the scene, but I just happened to be alongside her. We goofed around a lot on set, and got to know each other that way, but I didn't really get to work with her. In “Inside Out” we have a lot of interaction. Even if we're not necessarily having dialogue together, there needs to be an awkwardness on camera because she used to be my girl and now she's my best friend's girl, and there's that awkwardness there. So we had a lot of scenes together, and there's emotional scenes with the two of us, [SPOILER ALERT] where I'm telling her about her husband being killed. There's a lot of that. So it was a chance to work with somebody. And I was lucky in this movie to get the chance to do that with a lot of people. I got to work with talented people like Michael Rappaport every day. I got to work with Bruce Dern! It was phenomenal. And to work with Parker... talk about a learning experience.
This is not your first lead role. You were in the Stephen Herek movie 'The Chaperone.' What drew you from wrestling toward feature film acting?
I wouldn't say anything “drew” me. Years ago I was offered a lead, but it didn't work with my schedule. Lionsgate offered me a three-picture deal, which I turned down because I didn't want to go to Hollywood. I wanted to stay in wrestling. Fast-forward a few years, and WWE Films asked that I take on this project called The Chaperone. I read it. I like it. And I wanna do it. And then they come to me with this other project, which was titled differently at the time, now called Inside Out. I read it, they offered it to me, I said “Great! O.k.” The timing was right. It's not like I'm out knocking on doors, going to different studios saying “Guys, what's my next project here?” If they bring me another one, and it's a great script, and the timing is right, I'd love to do it. I enjoyed making the movies. I had a great time. But if it's not the right thing, and it doesn't fit the schedule, well, I love what I do now.
I'd certainly watch your next movie. If you had a dream role, if you could play any kind of character, what kind of role would you play?
It's funny you should ask that. There's obviously the giant blockbuster action film. Which would always be fun. But I think, too, that in our programming, I'd love to do comedy stuff. I'd love to do a straight-up comedy. Whether it be something like Tropic Thunder, or The Hangover, y'know? I've had this concept in my head about redoing Spies Like Us for, like, forever. Anything like that would be phenomenal.
What was the first record you bought with your own money?
I believe it was KISS Double Platinum.
Well, that definitely makes you much cooler than me.
What did you buy?
I was 8, and it was “Weird Al” Yankovic. I was not a cool kid at all.
I think as a gift, the first album I asked for and actually received was the Fonzie “Happy Days” album. So I'm not as cool as you think.
I think now that you're working in features films, and doing professional wrestling as well, you're definitely cooler than me.
[Chuckles in a friendly fashion]