Matthew Brandon "Matt" Ross is an American actor, director and screenwriter. He is best known for his roles as Alby Grant in the HBO series Big Love, Gavin Belson in the HBO series Silicon Valley, Glenn Odekirk in The Aviator, and Eddie Scott in the 2005 film Good Night, and Good Luck, for which he was nominated for a Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture.
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MATT ROSS BIO (Writer, Director) wrote and directed 28 Hotel Rooms, his first feature, which starred Marin Ireland and Chris Messina. The film premiered in the NEXT Section at the Sundance Film Festival before playing at many other festivals.
Ross studied acting at the Juilliard School and briefly studied film at NYU. He has written and directed eight short films, including The Language of Love, which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival before going on to screen at many domestic and international film festivals.
As an actor, Ross’ on screen credits include Martin Scorsese’s The Aviator, George Clooney’s Good Night, and Good Luck, Whit Stillman’s The Last Days of Disco and Mary Harron’s American Psycho. On the small screen, he played Alby Grant on “Big Love” and can currently be seen as Gavin Belson on Mike Judge’s “Silicon Valley,” both on HBO
In 2016, Ross was named one of Variety’s “10 Directors to Watch.”
Edit 3:45 E
Thanks for the excellent questions!
Please see CAPTAIN FANTASTIC.
I'm enormously proud of the film, think it's really worth trekkin' to the theatre to see.
You'll laugh, you'll cry, it will make you reflect, hopefully on a deep level, and it's a fun adventure to boot.
All that, plus Viggo Mortensen.
One of our greats.
What more can you hope for?
Be kind, tolerant, and compassionate.
We're all in this together.
Thanks again and PEACE.
What's your favorite " consider the animal" line from Silicon Valley?
Personally, I LOVE bulldogs.
And the lines were so funny.
I've always wanted one, but they have such horrible health problems.
But they're so insanely cute.
Plus, I THINK (could be wrong, my memory isn't great) it was the first time we did the gag.
This is a partial list of the Directors that you have worked with as an actor:
Terry Gilliam, John Woo, Woody Allen, Whit Stillman, Mary Harron, Martin Scorsese, George Clooney, Wayne Wang,
It is a pretty breathtaking list. What sets the great directors apart? What do these people have in common that you observed?
There are as many kinds of directors as there are people, of course.
So it's difficult to answer.
Of that list, they all had something remarkable, something unique to them.
But really, there is no "secret sauce."
If there is a commonality, it would be attention to detail, ability to adapt, openness, and a wilingness to play, and play well with other.
When you first read your script for American Horror Story: Murder House, did it even come to your mind how big this show would be someday?
And honestly, my part was truly a tiny, tiny part of it.
Really only there for that one season.
I like and respect that show, it's very brave and bold, but my time was extremely short there and my contribution minimal.
What it became has nothing to do with me.
People tend to look back on satire as if it predicted the future (Network, Idiocracy) instead of seeing that it was mocking and exaggerating the present. Do you think that's true? Do you think Silicon Valley will be looked back on as prescient, when it seems to be accurately skewering the present?
Yes, I agree.
Though both those examples were extremes at the time and have since become far more like reality.
In the case of SV, I think it IS the present.
Every day, many times a day, people who work in Tech come up to me and say our show is absolutey true, and perhaps not even extreme enough.
When you pitched Viggo on Captain Fantastic, which animal did you have him consider?
Pretty sure he's never seen the show.
Though it does love comedy.
Really looking forward to seeing Captain Fantastic, it sounds wonderful. Is there any special challenge when working with child actors?
And as far as Silicon Valley goes (currently my favorite show), what's your dream storyline for Gavin in season 4?
Please see it!
Working with kids presents many challenges.
Many had never acted before or only had a little experience.
But it's really about patience.
Allowing them to explore and play.
Kids don't have the idea that it's a "job," they don't think, as adults do, "this must be good because it's my profession."
They show up to play - to talk and listen and explore.
If you create a place for them to do that, and are patient, and play with them, ask them to try it different ways - it's a huge pleasure.
And make sure their blood sugar levels don't drop too low.
Their parents and on-set guardian helps with that: fruit or whatever.
I would love to see more of Gavin's personal life in Season 4.
We know nothing about him.
Plus, I'd love to see him behave in ways we haven't seen before. Anything surprising.
Lastly, I want him to hire some UFC fighter to spar with him.
I think Gavin would definitely fancy himself a "real" fighter - something that's patently absurd, impossible, and untrue.
I've noticed that you haven't been in a feature-length movie in a really long time, is it a case where you prefer working in TV more or is there another reason why?
How was it like working with the great Bruce Dern and Harry Dean Stanton on Big Love?
Lastly, how was directing Viggo in Captain Fantastic?
TV has become my bread-and-butter as an actor for many reasons.
One - I can actually get good parts, parts that if there in a film would go to someone way more famous than I
Two - I don't actively pursue acting anymore, perfering to spend my time writing and trying to make those scripts into films. I audition very rarely. So I tend to only audition for things I really love, like Silicon Valley.
I worked very briefly with Mr. Dern, but he was so nimble and smart and his work was excellent.
With Harry Dean, I worked for many years. I love him. You never catch that man acting. He's a legend.
Same goes for Viggo. He is truly one of our greats. A complex, nuanced, seemless, deep actor. And artist. He's an extraordinary human being.
Where do you write? Got an office at home? How many hours a day did you usually spend on it? How many drafts until everybody said OK LET'S GO?
I used to have an office that was a 15 min walk, 5 min bike ride.
Now I'm trying to create one in my house.
I try and drive my kids to school, work out, then write until I pick them up. Then after they go to bed. If things are cookin', I'll ask my wife to get them and write until dinner.
For CF, I wrote 6 drafts before I ever showed it to my producers.
But after the third draft, showed it to some very close friends for feedback.
I have a "brain trust" now, after years of doing this, people I know and love and trust, people who are very critical, but also constructive.
Then once you hire actors, drafts continue.
Matt! I'm looking forward to checking out Captain Fantastic.
I'm a huge fan of your portrayal of Gavin Belson. How much collaboration is there between you, Mike Judge & Alec Berg? The way you portray this cut-throat, but clueless CEO is amazing. There are these little looks and inflections you do that just add to the character so much. I love watching your performances.
Yes, thank you, please check it out!
Filming is always collaborative. I come in with a take, they watch, give notes, and I adjust.
But they write it. They come up with the situations and the stories. Mike created the character.
I just try to make him a complex, real, varied, human being - given whatever I'm asked to say or whatever circumstance Gavin finds himself in.
But thanks for your kind words.
Those looks and inflections are really just me trying to find nuance and be a three-dimentional guy who thinks he's doing the right thing, at all times.
Which, of course, is the source of much of the comedy, as it relates to Gavin.
Who would you like to direct what you haven't worked with before?
Assuming you mean, something I haven't written?
I've been offered many things, many excellent, but I think for the forseeable future, I will only direct what I write.
Though I'm very open to adapting novels that I love.
There is something, for me, far more profound about this approach.
And frankly, the only way I know how I can make it good.
What was it like working with Christian Bale on "American Psycho"
Additionally, what was it like meeting Lady Gaga during filming of "American Horror Story: Hotel" and would you return to the series in future?
Christian largely kept to himself.
He was in character all the time he was on set, then would workout (as he had to be in sick shape) during his off-time.
Having said that, he was always collaborative, inventive, and lovely.
He's a great dude and it was so much fun trying to kiss him in the bathroom. Ha.
Lady Gaga was very sweet to me, but really, we only had two scenes together, shot over the course of a single day, so I didn't work with her much. As an actor, she was very open, brave, and clearly cared deeply about the craft.
I sincerely doubt that I'll return. But it's up to them. If they write me in, and I'm available, I'll come back.
For a career in film and tv, what is more important than who you know? If one is abrasive or horrible at playing politics, what are their chances of succeeding in your opinion if all else was equal?
Are you asking before you're an actor and want to get into the industry?
If so, I'd say "who you know" is largely unimportant.
Dont' wait to be cast.
Be active and make your own content.
In terms of the politics question, I don't know. Depends on the individual.
Personally, I wouldn't want any one representing me who was abrasive or horrible, nor would I ever vote for such a person.
What film is your guilty pleasure?
The first one.
My girlfriend is a huge fan of the Rose Red mini series from the early 2000's. What was your favorite part about filming it?
First off, getting to eat all the pasta and cake and ice cream and all the beer I drank - as I had to gain almost 45-50 pounds.
That lasted about three weeks.
Then I was in HELL.
So uncomfortable and unhealthy and unhappy.
BUt I loved playing that character.
He said what no one else would. He was a truth-teller.
And I love the cast.
We all had so much fun.
Also, being in Seattle, I city I love.
Since you were actually there who had the best business card?
Timothy Bryce? Paul Allen? Patrick Bateman? David Van Patten?
Clearly, the best business card was had by Timothy Bryce, Paul Allen, Patrick Bateman, David Van Patten, and Luis Carruthers.
Who is better at chess? Action Jack Barker or you?
You have to ask that?
Are you drunk?!
Plus, Jack cheats.
He'll deny it, but he has a chess champion (can't legally name him) monitor - in real time - his matches and the guy tells him what to do.
Not cool, Jack, NOT COOL.
Hi Matt, how are you today?
I haven't seen Captain Fantastic yet (my tickets are booked!) but it seems all the kids, and Viggo, have some sort of cool talent. Apart from writing and directing and acting... what would you say your cool talent was?
Thanks for booking the tickets! Much appreciated! Hope you like it.
My cool talent...
I'm decent at "art," drawing and painting and sculpture.
Always been a doodler.
If that's an actual word.
Not sure that qualifies as "cool."
How much did you know about coding/computers before Silicon Valley?
My brother can code and I was around him growing up, saw him playing with it. He used to make games and codes now for a living.
But not me. I know little about coding.
But I've used computers my whole life - to write, to edit videos, to work with photos, etc.
I'm relatively savvy, but not compared to people who actually work in that industry.
I saw Cap Fantastic this weekend and I really enjoyed it. I have a question about one of the scenes on the bus, where one of the daughters is reading Lolita. Her analysis seems to hew closely to the thrust of Viggo's character. My question is, how that scene came to you and why you chose to slot it where you did?
Also, how much physical conditioning did the kids have to do? Because damn.
I think that analysis was my own, from when I first read the book, in High School.
I thought it was imporant to not only SAY that the kids had strong analytical skills, were critical thinkers, but to SHOW it as well.
George MacKay, once cast, did yoga 3-4 hours a day. He also did some crossfit.
Everyone had to sign a contract saying, for the length of the film, that they'd eat well (no sugar or junk food) and take care of themselves.
They all did rockclimbing every day, some Judo and jujitsu training.
But mainly, I asked them to eat well and get some sleep.
Who's your favorite character from Silicon Valley?
Impossible to answer.
But my 9-year-old LOVES Jian Yang (Jimmy O. Yang), thinks he's the funniest man who's ever walked the earth.
And he may be right.
Although Charles and Nora didn't had a very romantic relationship, you and Lily Rabe had so much chemistry working together! What was it like to work with her?
That's cool that you thought that!
Lily is so talented it's scary.
She deserves to be a huge star.
Loved working with her.
She was the main reason I wanted to do the show and I wish I could act with her again.
The process was not unusual though. We just talk and listen, try and play off each other, be present and open to what the other person is doing.
Easy with her.
She's such a complex actress, so talented.
What is the most underrated film and performance you know of? (My choice would be A Face in the Crowd.)
Gary Oldman in TINKER, TAILOR, SOLDIER, SPY delivers one of the quietest, most complex, most subtle performances in recent memory.
He does NOTHING and at the same time, EVERYTHING.
Absolutely brilliant and so brave to trust the audience in the way he does.
What was it like working on ''Murder House'' with Ryan Murphy?
Ryan didn't direct any of the episodes that I was in.
Can't remember who directed that one.
Is Bill Paxton one of the coolest actors going? He looks like such a generic all American movie actor, but always brings something super interesting to his roles. If he looked like Steve Buscemi he'd be recognized as a national treasure.
Yes, loved working with Bill.
Bill was nothing but always so kind and generous with me.
And I agree, he always brings something special.
Did you have actors in mind when writing the script for Captain Fantastic? Or do you find somebody who can act like you imagine the character would act?
How was working with Viggo Mortensen?
No, I didn't.
You never know who will be available, nor who you'll have access to.
I try to see what people bring, for those who audition, and see if it illuminates the character in ways I either didn't imagine or ways I did.
I can't say enough positive things about working with Viggo.
Far too much to address here.
Suffice it to say, he's one of our greats.
It was an honor and a pleasure.
You have a unique perspective on supporting characters, as a writer/director and actor. What makes a small two scene, twenty line supporting character stand out? What do you do in practical terms, to make sure that they pop?
I don't really think in those terms, honestly.
Just try to be honest and real and find some complexity and humanity.
And, of course, it all depends on what's written, what you're asked or required to do.
Do you brush your teeth before or after breakfast?
Depends on they day.
I loved the Silicon Valley scene where Gavin delivers a eulogy for Peter Gregory - do you know what the planned backstory for the feud between them was?
No, I don't know.
I believe that was still being developed and tragically - because of Chris' shocking and untimely death - it was never explored in the pages I saw.
But I THINK it had something to do with them developing a company together and then growing apart or fighting over some part of it. Maybe they wanted to take it in different directions or simply had such different views of what they were doing and why.
You'd have to ask Mike Judge though.
Awesome seeing you here! I love your character in Silicon Valley.
What I like the most is the interactions with Denpok.
How is he in real life? Are your interactions with him the same?
And do you have any big upcoming movies/shows in the future?
Bernard White plays Denpok.
He's amazing. The coolest guy.
So smart and kind and funny.
In real life, we talk about... "life." Our careers, our wives, our hopes and dreams, the business, movies, books, etc.
I love hanging out with him and am always so happy when we get to act together.
I'm writing 3 movies to direct now.
Hope that will be next for me.
But in terms of acting, just Silicon Valley.
Yes, it is.
And I, Gavin Belson, am sitting in it.
Let's address the elephant in the room. What hair gel do you use?
Comb hair back.
Apply Kiehls Creme with Silk Groom.
When dry, run fingers through hair.
Hi Mr. Ross! Do you have any directorial advice?
Read the scripts of the films you love.
Analyze what the director did to translate that story.
What they retained, changed, eliminated.
Then make films.
Short ones to begin.
As many as possible.
Learn by doing.
Just don't go into debt.
No one makes money from shorts, and even rarely from indie features, anymore.
Do you have any advice on set control?
Be kind to EVERYONE.
Treat everyone how you'd like to be treated.
Make sure your First AD is kind and level-headed and does not yell.
This person represents you and the tone of the whole film.
I expect people to show up to work and to work hard, as I do.
What was it like working with Martin Scorsese?
The man is a master.
And so kind.
I would go to work on days I wasn't called just to watch him work.
He's so inclusive as well.
We'd have conversations about film, and if I hadn't seen whatever film he was talking about, he'd send it to my trailer.
Too much to say about it here, but suffice it to say, it was one of the most special times, as an actor, I've ever had.
How do you like to give direction? Do you like to keep it simple or go really in depth and complex?
Depends on the actor.
There are as many kinds of actors as there are people.
Some like to talk a great deal, some don't want to hear or say a word before doing it.
Your job, as the director, is to understand what each actor needs and create a safe environment for them to exercise their process.
How did you get your first short int sundance?
I just submitted it.
I'd made probably 5 or 6 shorts before I submitting one, however.
How big is your dick?
If you ask an inappropriate question, you get an inappropriate answer.
So in that spirit....
Bigger than you can possibily imagine, my friend.
Bigger than you can possibly imagine.