Casting Kris Kristofferson as Dr. Becker
For the role of the well-intentioned but implacable Dr. Becker, a man disillusioned by years of treating the mentally ill, Director John Maybury turned to Kris Kristofferson. "To me, Kris is an all-American hero," Maybury says. "He's a great country-and-western singer, a brilliant actor who's appeared in some amazing films and, in a way, post-Johnny Cash's death, he has almost segued into that position as a very important American voice."
Maybury was especially pleased by the way Kristofferson's iconic masculinity played off of Brody's edgier screen persona. "In a parallel universe, Kris would be the hero and Adrien would be the baddie," observes Maybury. "So the casting was a balance thing. Once I had Adrien in place, Kris made absolute sense as Becker."
Kristofferson welcomed the opportunity to explore the different layers of what could have been written as a stock character. "I read the script and felt that I could bring to the role of Becker a realization from the audience that the man wasn't simply a villain," he says. "I can identify with his desire to help people, and I can understand how he has been beaten down by the system and the circumstances under which he works. I wanted him to be three-dimensional. There are very few totally evil people, although some people are undoubtedly more evil than others. A character is more interesting if he has more than one side, and that is what I hope I have given Becker."
Assessing Becker's conflicted nature, Kristofferson says, "He was an idealist to begin with, but most of the ideals he brought to the job, thinking he was going to be able to cure people, have been worn away. He hopes he can help Starks, though experience tells him that the man has gotten away with murder. He thinks that Starks is a liar who remembers what he has done. But Becker retains an element of hope, right up to the point at which they kick him out of the hospital."
The experience of making The Jacket
reinforced Kristofferson's empathy for those who work in the mental-health field. "I wonder if the job attracts people who may be a little nuts themselves, or if they are affected by the environment," he says. "Access to medication causes a lot of doctors to succumb to temptation, and the pain that Becker is around every day would lead him in that direction. I can understand that, being in the music business, where a lot of people use that same medication. Watching documentaries in preparation for the role, I noticed that it is sometimes hard to tell the patients from the doctors. It's not a job I would care to have for any longer than the duration of making this film."
But as emotionally draining as the film could be at times, Kristofferson relished the opportunity to work with Maybury. "John creates a great working atmosphere; it feels like an ensemble cast," he says. "I've been lucky enough to work with a lot of good directors-Sam Peckinpah, Martin Scorsese, and John Sayles, for example-and I know the atmosphere begins at the top and is reflected in the whole outfit. This has been a very good set all round."
This film information was taken from the film's Official Production Notes.
This film is rated R for violence, language and brief sexuality/nudity.
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