Jackie Earle Haley, 54, is best known for his breakout role as Kelly Leak, the rebellious teen who found himself playing on a children's baseball team in the 1976 comedy Bad News Bears. After that, Haley continued to shine through with his sinister roles like Rorschach in Watchmen, the infamous Freddy Krueger in the 2010 remake of A Nightmare on Elm Street and even as an alleged psychopath, co-starring alongside Leonardo DiCaprio and Mark Ruffalo in Shutter Island.
It's only recently that Haley stepped behind the lens to direct his first film, the 2015 drama-filled thriller Criminal Activities starring John Travolta and Downton Abbey's Dan Stevens.
Moviepilot gave me the chance to catch up with Haley to discuss the film and his new role of director.
This was your first movie you directed, was that something you always knew you wanted to do?
I’ve known that I wanted to direct movies since I was about the age of 10. I remember as a kid working on Bad News Bears and even before that, I would really pay attention to what the director was doing. I was fully aware of camera geography by age 11 or 12. When I was a little kid, my mom got me an 8 millimeter film camera and projector with a little plastic editing system. That’s where you're actually doing the film, and put it on the system. You have to cut it, slice it and tape it back together where you wanted to make your edits - manual. I remember when I was 30, I was bummed that I have not yet made a movie. I just couldn’t figure out how to get one going, so I kind of gave up. This just came out of the blue and I got to direct my first movie. It’s been great.
If directing a film wasn't enough, Haley also had a supporting role as Gerry, Travolta's right-hand man.
Did you find it hard balancing directing and acting?
No. I think it really helps that it was a good supporting role, but obviously I didn’t have to work every day as an actor. I found that it wasn’t difficult in terms of doing both. Especially, you know, I had a great partner - my producer, and my son as my assistant. I would kind of lean on them a little bit. I was able to do, like, two or three takes then come back and see it myself. Then I'd direct myself like, “Oh, I should try this. What do you guys think?” I think between the three of us, it made it kind of easy to step in there and work for a day as an actor and do both. It was natural, I guess.
Did you find that directing was harder than acting or vice versa?
Well, I mean, that’s kind of a difficult question. Directing definitely takes a lot more time. You’re not the star of the show, but even then, you’re editing and working on post-production, so directing is a lot more time consuming. But you also have a collaborative process, you've got all these wonderful human resources: Great crews, great post-production crews. You have wonderful technical ability in terms of the equipment, how these guys manipulate and get wonderful shots - so that’s one thing. When you’re an actor, it can be harder when you’re dealing with incredibly emotional situations. In that moment, you’re kind of on your own. You just gotta find a way to get there and hope that when they edit it, it will work for you. It does sometimes feel like more is on the line as an actor in those specific moments. Obviously, there’s a lot on the line with directing too, like, “Is this going to be a good movie? Will people get it?” So I was really pleased when the movie was done; I feel pretty proud of it. Everyone who has seen it, knows. The test audience scored it pretty high and everybody seems to like it.
What advice would you give aspiring directors and actors?
Perseverance. You have to do things to survive. You have to work and you have to make money, but at the same time, if it’s something you’re trying to do. Knowing you’re passionate about it, you always want to keep trying to do something every day to encourage this to go on. Just a little step, you know, keep trying, keep trying.
I had the lucky chance to screen Criminal Activities before it hits theaters, iTunes and VOD on November 20.
I have just one word to describe the film: "Wow!" And I mean it.
On this savage, roller coaster ride, four relatable high school buddies find themselves in a sticky situation after making a quote-unquote investment deal with the mob that shockingly goes sour. But this isn't just your typical mobster film by any means. When the pressure hits—and it does—the guys start to unravel one-by-one, leaving their friendship and morals up for question. How far is too far?
But if the money, guns and kick-ass mobsters aren't enough to satisfy your thrill seeking needs, the movie has a dark twist you'll never see coming...