Jon Hamm talks about Tag, having fun, and how being on a television show is different from being in a movie.
Who doesn’t love Jon Hamm? I have always been impressed by the actor as I feel he has taken on so many different roles and genres over the years. The actor became a household name after playing Don Draper in Mad Men but has gone on to star in several films including Million Dollar Arm, Majorie Prime, and Baby Driver. Hamm’s latest film, Tag opens in theaters this weekend. I got a chance to sit down with Jon Hamm to talk about the film and what it was like working on so many different types of projects throughout the last decade.
Scott Menzel: Hey man, how are you?
Jon Hamm: Very well, thank you.
Scott Menzel: Was it a long day?
Jon Hamm: You kind of get used to it. I definitely have the experience of doing interviews for films that weren’t this well received and those are a little bit more of a slog. But when your proud of it, and people like it, I love talking about my work. I love talking about it to whoever will listen.
Scott Menzel: It’s very nice to finally meet you. I’ve been a big fan. Not only Mad Men, of course, which everyone probably tells you, but I love that you go back and forth between independent projects and big budget movies, I absolutely love that. And I think it’s great how well rounded you are as an actor.
Jon Hamm: Thanks. I have pretty eclectic taste in most things, and so I’ve been really fortunate in my career to have some sort of credibility on both sides of the aisle, whether it’s studio or independent, but also comedy, and drama, and be able to kind of slalom between both sides is a real gift for an actor, because sometimes you get pigeonholed, or people tell you just stay in your lane. Like, we’re not really interested in seeing anything else out of you. And that’s a real bummer, you know? I’m glad I’ve had the good fortune in my career to not have that happen to it.
Scott Menzel: Yeah. Absolutely. Did you hear about this story before getting this part?
Jon Hamm: I didn’t hear of it before, but I had read the article for the script. So, I knew kind of going in, I was like, “Oh, this is wildly fascinating to me,” as absurd as it sounds. Ed makes the point where he’s like, if you just wrote this up, about a bunch of guys that did this, it wouldn’t work.
Scott Menzel: No, it really wouldn’t have worked.
Jon Hamm: Because you’d be like, “who gives a shit?” but the fact that these people are real, it creates the alchemy that it needs. It really gives it the emotional weight that it carries. There’s heart in this movie, you know what I mean? And there’s emotion at the end of it. People see these guys actually doing it, and they start to well up because you’re reminded of what these guys get out of it, which is that connection with friends, and your past, and your youth. And that joyous kind of spirit that we all had, and that we all get ground out of us by life. And you watch these guys running around like idiots, and you’re like, “oh, right that was me when I was five years old.” When all you wanted to do was go outside and play. And you see kids running around like lunatics, but you can’t chisel the smile off their face. And you see these 45-year-old men running around trying to tag each other, you can’t chisel the smile off their faces either. They’re having the best time of their life.
And so obviously, we’ve taken some creative license with some of the stuff and made it kind of a Bourne movie and kind of Predator too. It’s all of these crazy action sequences, but the real thrust of the movie is about friends. And about how do you keep friends in your life and how do you keep that vital? And that’s what really got me. And I thought Jeff Tomsic did such a great job of modulating that tone. Because it could have gone off into crazy. I mean, we got plenty of slapstick and nonsense in there too. But I think it’s what a movie like Bridesmaids did so well was with all of the bit set pieces, and all of the crazy things, and pooping in the street in a dress, in the beginning in the movie.
What it was really about and what really resonated by the end of that film was, “Oh, Kristen’s character and Maya’s character are best friends. And they’re scared to lose each other.” And like everyone has to have that experience, where your best friend moves or gets married or dates some girl that you don’t like or whatever it is, and you’re just like, “I miss my best friend.” And what does that mean? Male, female, it doesn’t matter. It’s why that movie was a huge success. And, you know I thought the same thing with The Hangover with the craziest set pieces, and the nonsense of the tiger and Mike Tyson, and all that. You literally can’t make up crazier scenarios than that but again, the fact that that it was somewhat based on a true story, the emotional core of those guys is what resonated with the audience.
Scott Menzel: Yeah, no I agree. I mean I talked to Jake earlier today. And he was saying when you look at the cast, you immediately feel like they don’t really go together. But, it’s that idea of hey, I hung out with you when I was 14 years old, and I still want to keep this friendship alive. And even though we all went in different directions, we still want to hang out together.
Jon Hamm: I have a group of friends that I’ve known since I was 12 years old. One of them is a huge investment banker, one of them works as an executive at a paper company, one of them is a handyman, and one of them is in Australia and works in digital media. We’re still friends and we still check in. I was on an email chain with these guys earlier today because one of our buddy’s little brother, little, (laughs) he’s 40, had his birthday and everybody went around the world, and we’re all, “Hey man, Happy Birthday Dude. Can’t believe your this old and whatever.” You know, it’s the best. And that connection, again, I think it is the really nice thing about Tag that it’s based on this ridiculous children’s game, but what it ends up doing is reinvigorating not only the friendship, but it reinvigorates yourself. Your life as it taps you back into that joyous energy.
Scott Menzel: I agree, it is a reminder to don’t take shit too seriously.
Jon Hamm: Exactly. Life’s short man, have some fun. Do a thing once a year that you’re just being a goofball. I still play on a men’s baseball league here in Beverly Hills and it’s not because I’m so competitive that I have to win, and by the way, I’m not very good at baseball anymore, I’m old and it hurts. But I love playing because I love getting together with the guys and going out. I’m actually missing the game right now, because of this press day, but it’s actually right down the street here in Beverly Hills. But, it’s that once a week hit of friendship, competition, outdoors, and playing that I love.
Scott Menzel: Is that why you like to mix it up with genres too?
Jon Hamm: I think so. I would say if you want to do the same thing over and over, being an actor’s probably not the best choice. You know, there are a couple factory jobs that I could probably take you to that might be more fun and more your speed. The best part of being an actor is the variety and getting to do something different. As actors, we don’t get the chance to really choose what we want to do. It’s other people choosing for us for the most part. I wanted to be in that movie but like “tough shit, Matt Damon’s doing it.” “Uh, okay, well, yeah he’s pretty good.” You know, I want to do that, “Oh, they want a different whack.” At a certain point, you take what you can get, but you have some control over saying no and picking things. And I’ve had a really eclectic career, to say the least, and that’s been on purpose. Because I choose things by how I am affected by the story, or a person I really want to work with, or something I think will be challenging, or scary, or will inspire me in some way. Mostly, it’s would I want to see this?
I’ve rarely been in a movie that I was like, “I don’t want to see that.” Even the ones that don’t make money, (laughs) actually most of my movies don’t make money, but even the ones that don’t make money, you kind of go, “It’s still a good movie.”
Scott Menzel: Yeah like Beirut which didn’t even get much of a release.
Jon Hamm: Beirut and Million Dollar Arm. They’re good movies and people like them. And the marketplace is the marketplace. If you’re Million Dollar Arm and you open the same weekend as Godzilla, you are going to get stepped on because that’s how it goes. Beirut opens in what 100 theater in the summertime? There’s no room at the inn.
Scott Menzel: No, you are absolutely right. There is no room for it and people aren’t paying attention to it.
Jon Hamm: But with the wonderful world that we live in now, these movies have second lives on a plane, or on Netflix or on whatever you have. Its good to know that eventually, people get to see them. I can’t tell you how many people have seen my movie Nostalgia that came out in like “a” theater for like four days.
Scott Menzel: I know, this is another thing that Jake Johnson and I were talking about. He had a film called Win It All, which was his Netflix movie that premiered at South By Southwest and no-one saw it. And then he went on various trips, and people came up to him, saying “oh, hey, you’re the guy from that gambling movie.”
Jon Hamm: It’s bonkers. I mean, I made this movie, Nostalgia, it was so dark and so arty, and so dreary and sad. It really is a beautiful film, but it was never going to have an audience in theaters. Those movies don’t do that anymore. But about 15 people over the last week, it must have been on airplanes, have said, “Oh my God, I love Nostalgia, it was so sad, oh my God, this stuff you do with Ellen Burstyn, and Catherine Keener made me cry. I was crying like an idiot on the plane,” I’m like, “Oh, glad you saw it, cool.” I liked it.
Scott Menzel: That’s great though. I am glad that people are seeking out smaller films like that. Speaking of which, you’ve done independent films, studio films, and TV. What are some of the differences or challenges between the three?
Jon Hamm: Studio films are tough because you’ve got about a thousand people making decisions. Some are qualified, and some aren’t, but everybody thinks they are. And the process is so different and the money is so different. There is so much excess and so much waste and whatnot. Independent movies are much more streamlined, and you have way more of a creative throughline to the person who is actually making the movie. All of the finance stuff is a pain in the ass. I’ve produced them, I’ve been in them, they’re very difficult to get made. And they’re even more difficult to get seen. And it’s why the media obviously is very important, but also places like Sundance, South By Southwest, and TIFF are incredible for getting the word out and getting people to see these movies. It’s why we have Moonlight. It’s why we had Get Out. Get Out was a studio picture, but it was a smaller film
Scott Menzel: And it started at Sundance.
Jon Hamm: Yep, it started at Sundance at a midnight screening, and a friend of mine came back from it and was like, “I just saw the best movie of the year.” I was like, “What?” He goes, “Get Out.” I was like, “No, tell me what.” He goes, “No, the movie was called Get Out.” I was like, “oh,” but I know Jordan and Jordan’s a phenomenally talented guy who has been for years. He finally got his opportunity and hit it out of the park.
Scott Menzel: Yeah, he definitely did.
Jon Hamm: His next movie’s going to be great too. And so, TV is TV, you know? TV is a marathon. Independent is like running 100 yard dash. You know, a studio movie is like running a 400 yard dash, but TV is a marathon. It’s a grind, especially with network television. You got to make 22 episodes a year, which hardly anybody does anymore, but you gotta be in physical and mental shape. For me when I did Mad Men, we only did 13 a year. But, emotionally it was a grind too. And for that reason, I was happy when it came to an end, to be like, “Okay, I can put this down now. I’ve been carrying this heavy load for some time. It’s nice it’s time to put it down.” Go do something else.
Scott Menzel: Yeah. All right. Well, thank you again for the great interview.
Jon Hamm: Thanks. It was really nice talking with you.
Scott Menzel: It was very nice talking to you. Hopefully, you can still get to participate in some of that baseball game.