Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Back from the edge: An icon returns for one last case., 6.30.11
by Andrew Murfett

VINCENT D'Onofrio was done. Detective Bobby Goren, television's modern-day Sherlock Holmes, was a broken man. Onscreen, Goren's career - and with it, Criminal Intent, the Law & Order franchise he anchors - was ostensibly over.

And then one day it wasn't. A confluence of circumstances has lured D'Onofrio back.

Having quit the series in 2009 (he made his debut in 2001), last year's season featured Jeff Goldblum as the lead. However, the ratings were poor and the show was seemingly about to be cancelled.
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Then D'Onofrio received a phone call from Law & Order creator Dick Wolf - the godfather of Crime Time, so to speak - making him a proposal.

Would he return for eight more episodes as Goren?

Wolf's idea was a final mini-season of CI to tie off loose ends. When told Kathryn Erbe, who plays Goren's long-suffering partner Alex Eames would return and writer-producer Chris Brancato would be appointed show runner, D'Onofrio acquiesced. A few days after filming the final episode in New York, the 52-year-old is still buzzing.

''We had a great time on these last eight,'' D'Onofrio says with uncharacteristic zeal.

''It was the right show runner and producer. Dick even did a little writing himself. And then there's Kathryn. It wouldn't work without her. The crew was in good spirits. It's tough to knock them out of the park every time but I think we did.''

Two years on, D'Onofrio blames his original departure on myriad artistic and emotional issues. Goren as a character had become a shell of himself, racked with guilt for the loss of his mother and brother and burdened by a number of psychological issues.

Onscreen, D'Onofrio experienced weight fluctuations and appeared exhausted. Off it, he had been producing, directing and writing a cluster of films.

One such project, Mall, features himself and Chelsea Handler and begins shooting next month.

''I was done with Goren,'' he says. ''I wasn't sure if I would go back. And I wasn't sure I would be asked back.''

From his first episode on, Goren denoted himself as one of television's glorious oddities.

In 2001, with two L&O franchises booming, Wolf developed the concept of a contemporary Sherlock Holmes. D'Onofrio instantly became the key to the character's success and longevity.

''As far as who the character is and what people think about him, it was [the producers] letting me go as far as I wanted in creating a unique detective,'' he says.

''The quirks and the way Bobby is was me trying to develop a character.''

More than any other L&O series, Criminal Intent fixated on psychology. When launched, the series was an instant hit, D'Onofrio endearing himself to a huge fan base with an amusing array of quirks and tics.

His trademark was an ability to unnerve others during investigations. His penchant for walking around a room eccentrically, alternatively staring at the roof with a wide grin or randomly picking up the personal objects of suspects, emasculated those around him.

Surprisingly, despite the theatrical panache and entertainment value in his onscreen persona, D'Onofrio battled for it to even become a part of the show.

''I had to fight it,'' he says. ''It was important to me I had the ability to take what they had written and reconfigure it, not change the words but reconfigure where the characters move and where they say their lines and what props they have and, basically, the movement on the set.

''In these last eight, one of the things that made it so nice is when Chris and I had our meetings, we talked about the long battle I went through in the first few seasons to get that freedom and we shook hands on it. He told me to just go for it. It made a big difference.''

D'Onofrio's own health has been an issue through the show's run, having been admitted to hospital twice while filming in 2004-05. A decision was made then to split the 22-episode seasons in two, with Goren appearing in every second episode and Chris Noth's Mike Logan every other week.

''There was nothing I could do about it,'' he says. ''I just thought, 'This is what I need to do now'.''

In the first few episodes of the final season, which begins screening on Ten next week, Goren appears happier. It's almost as if a weight has been lifted from his shoulders.

In one terrific scene in the fourth episode, Goren and Eames walk along a school hallway and past a group of students on their way to interview a suspect (a teacher). As they walk past the children, Goren sticks his hand out in the air and high-fives a student. Both grin knowingly and the scene continues.

''That definitely wasn't scripted,'' he says. ''I was surprised the kid high-fived me back. And I was surprised they left it in. I'm not sure the audience understands that a lot of the stuff … is done on maybe one or two takes only. So you never know if it's going to be in. It always feels nice when they leave something spontaneous in.'' In a nod to the show's history of psychological storylines, the final season has Goren attending therapy each week with an analyst played deftly by Julia Ormond.

''It was a great idea,'' he says. ''She does a brilliant job. I didn't think I would like it as much as I do.''

Perhaps the least realistic element of the show is the level of Goren's intellect. We're intrigued to know whether he has ever imagined there might be a limit.

Surely Goren's ludicrous depth of knowledge on every topic, from French poetry to science to fine wine, has raised D'Onofrio's eyebrows?

''In all the episodes we've done, [his] intelligence has gotten a bit silly at times,'' he says, chuckling. ''I think the fans that stayed with us were willing to take a leap of faith. Some of my favourite shows were the early ones where it was full bore all out and you had to take a leap, otherwise you're going to hate it.''

Despite appearing in hundreds of films and TV series, D'Onofrio now concedes Goren could become a career calling card. Every time he leaves his house, be it for work or to get a carton of milk, strangers talk to him about Goren. They typically ask the same thing: ''How can he be so smart?''

What pleases D'Onofrio is they smile when they ask.

''They love the fact they hate him for being so smart and they love the fact they're entertained at the same time.''

With this final season remaining faithfully attached to its ''ripped from the headlines'' L&O ethos, expect episodes inspired by Charlie Sheen's meltdown and the failure of the Spider-Man Broadway musical.

The series has been a surprise ratings hit in the US. We leave D'Onofrio with a salient question: will this be the last season?

''It's a good question,'' he says. ''After Jeff left the show, CI was over. That the network [returned] with Dick, the fans should thank them. They kept a lot of people employed. And they gave us the opportunity to do eight great shows.''

Asked whether he would say yes to more then, he is succinct.


Criminal Intent airs on Monday at 9.30pm on Ten.

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Leigh said...

We are finally getting CI in Australia! This article, from the Sydney Morning Herald, is the first information we have had about S10 since Vincent and Kate agreed to return to the show.
Loved S10, and loved the ending of Ep8.

Sandy said...

This is a great, great article. Thanks for sharing!

val said...

I wish they'd published more of these articles when the show was on!

maculae said...

It somehow feels that LO:CI was always bigger in Australia. Don't know why. And also, VDO seems to always come out better in interviews from Australia.

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List of films in production.

"In Dubious Battle" [2016]

"In Dubious Battle" [2016]
An activist gets caught up in the labor movement for farm workers in California during the 1930s. Vincent....Al Anderson


A story about the early life of Tennessee Williams

Directed by James Franco
Vincent D'Onofrio, Jacob Loeb

"American Falls" - [TBA]

In a rural town in Southern Idaho, the Suzukis, a Japanese American family, run a small motel. One night they get a strange visitor who sports ‘city’ clothes who turns out to be the first African-American man that Toru Suzuki’s children have ever seen. Yoshiko takes it upon herself to solve the mystery about this man, especially when 2 police officers come knocking on their door.

Short film produced by Erika Hampson.
Vincent D'Onofrio as Detective Foster.

'Purgatory' [TBA]

'Purgatory' [TBA]
Tagline: In the Wild West a lot of blood was spilled... but it didn't go to waste. Vincent....Dallas Stoudenmire

"A Fall From Grace" [TBA]

Detective Michael Tabb knows the city of St. Louis inside and out. He has felt its true heart, as much as its dark underbelly: but he does not know who, in both the dark and light - is taking the lives of young girls.

Director: Jennifer Lynch
Producer/Writer ...Eric Wilkinson

Vincent D'Onofrio ....George Lawson (GRACE's father)
Tim Roth.......Detective Tabb

Filming in St Louis - TBA

"Supreme Ruler" [TBA]

A man campaigns to become the leader of the Buffalo lodge.

Vincent D'Onofrio as Hank Dory
Ron Livingston as Steve
Marcia Gay Harden as Nancy

"The Monster Next Door" [TBA]

"The Monster Next Door" - Comedy Horror

Executive Produced by Dennis Johnson, Melanie Mohlman Produced by Eric Wilkinson, David Michaels
Written by Jim Robbins
Directed by Jennifer Lynch

Cast: Vincent D'Onofrio, Bill Pullman, French Stewart, Bill Moseley

'Down & Dirty Pictures' - [in Production - Filming TBA]

'Down & Dirty Pictures' - [in Production - Filming TBA]
Vincent......Harvey Weinstein

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