John Malkovich Talks ‘Space Force,’ Fashion Design, and His Favorite Roles

Culture

Then some years later, another Italian, Riccardo Rami, asked me to start again and that was in about 2008 or ’09. I did that up until two, three years ago. Eventually, split with them and then I went with French partners and eventually stopped in about 2017 I guess.

What did you enjoy about it?

Well, not business because I don’t know anything about business. Unlike a lot of people who are maybe fantastically snotty about it, I just don’t have an aptitude for it. I’m not very good at it.

I’m a longtime fabric collector. I’ve always liked drawing, I like designing. I’ve designed costumes many times. I’ve designed lots of fabric. There are many things I loved about doing that work. But it’s tough work actually. There are aspects of it that don’t interest me and that I don’t see the point of. I never had the money to, but I don’t particularly want to advertise in a fashion magazine so that someone will do an article about my leather jacket or whatever. It’s not really my thing.

Production became very difficult in Europe because everything is so expensive and then people whine, “Why is it so expensive?” Then you say, “Because it’s not made in a sweatshop somewhere.” They say they want something nice but I’m not sure they know what that is and they don’t really want to pay for it and et cetera, et cetera. There’s much I loved about doing it but nothing I particularly miss.

You built up a reputation years ago as someone who was always wearing a suit, so what are you wearing during quarantine—sweats like everyone else?

I’m dressed super casually. It’s very funny. Before I started a fashion line, I wore a suit every day. Meaning, I wore a suit to garden. I wore a suit to take a walk. For at least 15 years, I was never out of a suit.

Then I got sick of dragging everything around and sick of having things ruined at a hotel cleaner’s. In the decade when I was in my fifties and the half decade I’ve had in my sixties, I’ve kind of traveled nonstop and it’s very hard to drag all that stuff around.

Weirdly, the minute I started designing fashion was the first time I ever got a pair of blue jeans, which were given to me at a fashion show, which they maybe still have in the Javits Center, [from] a guy called Michael Paradise. He has a company I like very much called the Stronghold out in Venice Beach. They just gave me a pair of jeans. I was like, “Oh, jeans. Wow.” That’s what I’m wearing today.

No. I don’t really get that dressed up anymore. You know, now, all I really do is walk around. Cambridge is a pretty casual place. I think if people saw you in a suit they’d maybe freak out.

I was reading an old Rolling Stone profile of you and Charlie Kaufman is quoted as saying that he wrote Being John Malkovich because, you “have this quality of unknowability, you can’t look into his eyes and know what’s going on inside his head. You’re closed off.” I was wondering if you would, first of all, agree with that assessment and, if so, how much is intentional and how much of that is just innate?

I think if any of it’s true then it’s just innate. I mean, Charlie is, obviously, much cleverer than I am. He’s observing me. I’m not observing me at all. I never think of me. I never think about “who am I?” “What is my place in the world?” Et cetera. It’s never been a big interest of mine, me.

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