In this episode of People’s Party, Talib Kweli and Jasmin Leigh sit down with actor, filmmaker, and activist Matthew Modine. The interview begins with Modine’s early years — growing up in Utah, being the youngest of seven, living next to a drive-in theater that his father managed, and eventually moving to San Diego where he attended high school while working at his parents’ Mexican restaurant. Through sharing these stories, Modine reflects on what compelled his move to New York at age 17, where he worked as a chef, went to acting school, and met his wife. He also digs into eye-opening moments in his life that changed his perspective on US history, and his gradual realization of our nation’s dark past (while admitting that he fears us falling back into those times because of Trump).
Later in the episode, Kweli, Leigh, and Modine discuss Muhammad Ali’s courage in speaking out during the Vietnam war, working with a young Nicholas Cage in the film “Birdy,” and starring in the ’80s movie “Vision Quest.” As the discussion deepens, Modine speaks on the United States and its failure to fully acknowledge the atrocities committed against black people and Native Americans, and breaks down how and when he came to understand the term “white privilege.”
Eventually, the conversation moves to all things “Full Metal Jacket” — the iconic Vietnam war drama in which Modine played “Private Joker.” Modine talks about helping Vincent D’Onofrio land his role as ‘Private Pyle’, outlines their on-set animosity, and speaks on what it was like working with R. Lee Ermey — who played the infamous and all too-authentic Gunnery Sgt. Hartman. Talib asks how Modine felt about his voice being used in 2 Live Crew’s “Me So Horny,” Modine attempts to recite the Rifle Prayer and do his John Wayne impression, and they talk about Stanley Kubrick’s choices with regards to violence in movies. This leads to deeper conversations about the humanist argument for Atheism, and the metaphorical/ visual impact of Full Metal Jacket’s sniper scene and what they were trying to convey. They also discuss Modine’s roles and the stars he worked with in the films “Memphis Belle,” “Any Given Sunday,” “Miss Virginia” and the hit series “Stranger Things.” In closing, Modine shares a cautionary tale of why not to operate a cell phone while riding a skateboard.