Wright has always been more inspired by musicians than fellow actors—and few more than the bluesmen who redefined American music. “It there’s one grounding principal for me, it’s to try to avoid the cliché,” he says. “If there’s a challenge to acting, it’s trying to do something that emulates what these original bluesmen did: craft something out of nothing. What I’ve been led to understand is that there is no rock and roll, there’s only the blues. Rock and roll was just a marketing term to entice young white kids.”
If there’s one thing that connects everything Wright has been through this year, from Obama to his film work, it’s a sense of the inescapability of history, and the sometimes wrenching violence and lurching pace of change. On July 12, on location in Shreveport for the W. shoot, Wright, Josh Brolin, and others were arrested at a local bar—and there have been reports of excessive police force. Because of a December 2 court date for the case, which is still pending, Wright is reluctant to discuss details.
“It wouldn’t be wise of me to talk about it now,” he says, “but I will say I thought of Obama after it happened, as I was trying to think about why the hell we’d been placed in that position. I recalled how he displays this talent for converting liability into asset. And my hope is that I can do the same with this incident.”
The focus of his response will not be himself, he adds, but the more systemic problems in Louisiana. “There are large numbers of people better than me, who’ve been hurt far worse in similar incidents down there,” says Wright. “So perhaps we can deflect some of the disproportionate attention that’s been shined on us positively toward them.
“I’m trying to craft it into a positive experience ... with great difficulty.”