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Vincent D’Onofrio Talks About Playing Marvel’s Kingpin and How Daredevil Is Like a Stanley Kubrick Movie

Photo: Cindy Ord/Getty Images

Starting today on Netflix, you’ll be able to watch Vincent D’Onofrio as Wilson Fisk, better known by the moniker Kingpin, on Marvel’s Daredevil. D’Onofrio has affection for his cue-ball crime boss and doesn’t see Fisk as a bad guy, rather as one who’s motivated by the same things that Daredevil is. D’Onofrio sat down with Vulture recently at the Loews Regency Hotel, wearing a snazzy three-piece suit for Netflix’s press junket. Leaning back in his chair with a toothpick in his mouth, he talked about drawing inspiration from Frank Miller’s comics, the grind of Law & Order: Criminal Intent, and how working on Daredevil was like working on a Stanley Kubrick film.

Were you a fan of the comics?
Yeah, I was when I was a kid. I read Spider-Man, and that’s how I knew about Wilson Fisk. The first phone call I had with Jeph Loeb about this series was all about Fisk. It was a very long phone call that we had; it was a very good call. During the call, it all kind of came back to me. I can remember speaking with Jeph, and simultaneously, it all started coming back: I remembered so much, I remembered Vanessa’s name, and that all comes from Spider-Man. Before we started shooting, I went back and explored Daredevil. I knew Daredevil’s origin story, but I never got into the comics that much. Then I got into all those and read all of those.

There have been other attempts to make Daredevil. Did you look at those as references? Or were you interested in doing something different?
No, what I was interested in was reading that stuff and looking at how those drawings would influence me. Frank Miller and David Mack are incredible artists. The artwork influenced me a lot. They portrayed him as being more than just a bad guy; they visualized him as a man. That helps you a lot, because if you play it as a bad guy, it’s not going to be interesting. If you play it as a man — like you or I — suddenly it becomes human and interesting.

Who just does bad things?
That’s up to you. That’s the audience’s job to say. Honest to God, there’s not one scene in that show where I thought, Okay, I’m doing something bad here. I always thought that I had purpose, that I was driven for a reason, and that I was protecting myself and the city. I was just doing the things that any of us would do.

What is your character driven by?
He wants to be a better man. He wants to protect and make the city a safe place to live. I know that sounds like Daredevil might want the same thing, but I think we both want similar things.

It sounds like you were more into Marvel than DC.
I would only say that. I would never say anything other than that.

I think you’re usually one or the other.
In this conversation, right now, I will say I am a Marvel fan and always have been.

You’ve worked in so many different genres: television, theater, film. Netflix in particular has really changed the game.
I think it’s everything. I think it’s changing everything. I think it’s fantastic.

How so?
Well, the idea that you could do a piece that’s going to be looked at like a 13-hour film is amazing. That format influences so much about the series, the way it’s written, the way it’s performed, and the way it’s directed. I mean, we’re not talking about episodic television; we’re talking about big pieces of work that are written great, shot great, and produced in a really upscale way. You feel so creative.

So you actually think of it as one giant piece rather than as a serial show.
I did a TV show for a long time. [Ed. note: that show was Law & Order: Criminal Intent, which lasted ten seasons.] This feels nothing like that. I remember people saying to me during that show, “Well, every one of them doesn’t have to be great. You can’t knock it out of the park every time.” Which made sense. Because if you’re doing 23 of those episodes a season for nine, ten years, it’s impossible. You just don’t have the energy to knock them all out of the park. But that’s kind of sad. Who wants to be involved in something if you’re not going to be knocking it out of the park because you’re too tired or because that episode is not the best written?

And you have 14-hour workdays.
Well, a lot longer than that. Fourteen hours is a myth, okay? Fourteen hours is what they say because it sounds good. It’s more like 17 hours a day. Anyways, when you do a show with Netflix, everything you’re doing is knocking it out of the park. That’s the whole point. The point is to launch these 13 hours and have the whole thing be like one big, fantastic journey. What could be cooler than that? When you’re an artist and you’re involved in that, that’s like, forget it, man, you can’t ask for more than that. That’s like being in a Stanley Kubrick movie for a year and a half. It’s like the same thing. It’s fantastic.

Do you binge-watch anything?
I don’t. I think I’ll be watching Daredevil. I think that’s my new favorite show.

Vincent D’Onofrio on Playing Marvel’s Kingpin