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Jeremy Davies Gives the Skinny on ‘Rescue Dawn’

Jeremy Davies is in need of a sandwich.Photo: Getty Images

Where, exactly, can you take your career when your breakout role in Spanking the Monkey depicts you fucking your mom? After a number of small-ish roles in decent films (Secretary, Saving Private Ryan), Rescue Dawn's Jeremy Davies decided to study film directing — and ended up getting a number of plum acting roles in the process. Vulture caught up with the diminutive talent, whose ribs are on alarming display in the film, at a dinner at Osteria del Circo following the movie’s premiere. He stood around, flirted with Paz de la Huerta, drank water, and didn't eat a thing.

Well, you look a hell of a lot better than you did in the movie.
I lost 33 pounds from this weight, which is pretty skinny. I weigh, like, 137-ish now. This is normal, believe it or not. I’ve always been pathologically skinny.

Did you get sick from losing all that weight?
It was easy to do, and I know how to do it in a healthy way. The secret is using a far infrared sauna, which is at the same frequency as your body heat. It sounds wildly scientific, but basically it gets you heated much more quickly and gets you sweating faster.

That doesn't sound easy. How’d you meet Werner?
I sought Werner out, and I did the same with Lars von Trier. I wrote Lars a letter and said, “I think you’re one of the greatest filmmakers in the world, and I’d love the privilege of coming to watch you.” And he invited me out and made me take a small role in his film Dogville, which I didn’t even want. He’s one of my best friends now.

And Werner?
He got in touch with me out of the blue because he’d seen a demo tape that I’d made. I was supposed to play Charles Manson for an independent film that never came together, and I shot myself rehearsing. I edited it down to twenty minutes, and that tape got bootlegged around town. [Steven] Soderbergh cast me in Solaris because of that. Years later, Werner got ahold of it. And against his better judgment, he cast me.

What lessons did he teach you as a director?
I recognized something in Werner that I’d recognized in all the great directors I’d worked with. It’s the desire to create what I like to call an unrepeatable moment, a moment you can’t write down in a script. It’s anti-Xerox. It’s a director who’s unafraid of an actor being jazz. You can only point to it after you’ve shot it. You can’t really describe it.
Jada Yuan