A Cocktail Conversation With Walton Goggins

Can choking to death on a long-dead, diseased finger be poetic? Walton Goggins says YES!

In the new Tomb Raider, Lara Croft doesn’t set out to raid tombs. She just wants to find her father (who sorta wanted to raid tombs) and ends up stopping the actual tomb raider, played by Walton Goggins.

Walton sat down with the Cocktail and talked about turning Hollywood’s standard, two-dimensional baddie and making him a semi-sympathetic guy doing the wrong things for the right reasons.

Wake The Dead

Goggins’ character, Mathias, reaches the island first, but can’t find the well-hidden and heavily boobytrapped tomb.  Using a brutal regime of mercenaries and slave labor to find the tomb of the Japanese Death Goddess Himiko, it quickly becomes clear he’s running the show there, but someone else is pulling his strings. “I think Matias Vogel thought he was going to be Howard Carter,” Goggins told us, “and he was going to unearth Tutenkahmen’s grave but it was Himiko.” Ahh yes, the best of intentions. Like when you say you’re only going to have one glass of wine.

But every time the camera takes us inside his tent, we see a picture of his family on his desk. And it’s that subtle gesture that gives us insight into Mathias’ humanity. “I just thought about his journey to this island and the day that he said goodbye to his children and his wife.”  So why did Mathias go off the rails from noble explorer to homicidal archaeologist? “Desperate people do desperate things and that’s kind of where he was when you meet him in the story.”

Giving Him The Finger

More than a century of film has given us some creative ways to kill off characters, and Tomb Raider is definitely adding to the legacy.  Many folk legends are based in a bit of truth, and that is the device used in Tomb Raider. The Death Goddess wasn’t magical, she was sick.  And that leads to Mathias’ demise! “It’s a lot of fun.” Turns out just touching her body, centuries after her death, is still fatal.  And when it’s time for Mathias to go, Lara doesn’t hesitate to break off the corpse’s digit and shove down his throat!

And Walton says there’s no CGI here! “We had to put that finger in too.” And the prop was life sized, “That’s a big finger. I didn’t know if I’m gonna choke on that thing finger.”

But once you get beyond the awesomeness of Mathias’ death, there’s a certain tenderness. Tenderness? When you have a dead, diseased finger shoved down your throat? Walton says yes, “There was something I read in the script very early on. There’s an opportunity but I won’t spoil it.. something happens to Mathias and Lara Croft after that moment. Instead of it just being a moment of ugliness, for the briefest of moments it’s a moment of poetry between these two people.”

We agree. It may be the most poetic death-by-finger in cinematic history. “What Matias is able to get from her and what she generously gives to him. A lot of people won’t see it but some will and more importantly we saw it. And that’s kinda what that moment was like for me.”

Free To Be Me

Walton’s been in a huge range of roles the past few years, from Lincoln to Django Unchained a few years ago to Vice Principals (HBO) today. So range is kinda his thing.

“This role is a lot of fun,” he told us, and said having choices makes it fun, “I’m at a place in my life where I do have the opportunity to say no to things that don’t move me. More often than not I say yes.” Indeed, he lit up when we brought up Vice Principals! Clearly that’s a role he’ll ride for awhile.”

We wanted to know what’s really helped him break away from the pack these past few years, and the answer is looking him in the mirror. “I suppose so many actors early on in their career think ‘Oh I wanna be Brad Pitt or I wanna be George Clooney’ whatever that is that you want to be. I want to be Walton Goggins. I wanna be me. I play it as it lays man.

So what’s next? He’s not sure, “There is no great plan other than. I’m not trying to get anywhere. I’m enjoying what’s in front of me.”

The Critic’s Cocktail Recommendation

The Sir Walter Cocktail.  It’s regal, top-shelf, and unlike a Death Goddess’ digit, it won’t kill you as you slides down your throat!


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