Funny story: I knew at some point on this day I’d be talking to J.K. Simmons, just not quite when it happened. I was also slated to talk to the director of The Tomorrow War, Chris McKay, and was told, over Zoom, I’d be sent to “Chris’s room.” Then, without warning, up popped J.K. Simmons’s head and I think he saw the confusion on my face and just instinctively yelled “Surprise!” (It will probably not come as too big of a surprise to learn J.K. Simmons is a quick-witted fellow.)
Simmons has that special thing going where he can enter a scene and people just instinctively applaud. (I mention to Simmons that Samuel L. Jackson also has this power, to which Simmons says, kind of shockingly, that somehow he’s never been in a movie with Jackson. Also, no, Spider-Man: Far From Home doesn’t count.) And Simmons has a scene like that in The Tomorrow War (streaming on Amazon Prime this week), when Chris Pratt’s Dan Forester – who is being sent to the future to fight a losing war against aliens called the White Spikes who eat humans – visits his ornery cuss of a father in the hopes his dad’s technical expertise can get the tracker off of him so he can flee. And it’s a majestic entrance, with a buff Simmons sporting a full, very long beard.
It’s daunting to interview J.K. Simmons because when you want to talk about past stuff, where do you even begin? But if you’re asking yourself, well, you at least mention The Accountant, right? Yes of course we talk about The Accountant. And he hints that maybe we haven’t seen the last of The Accountant.
Oh, so this is a surprise…
I’ve noticed you have this thing now, even when you’re not the star of the movie, you can show up and people cheer. It’s like both you have Samuel L. Jackson can get that response.
[Laughs] Well, gee thanks. You don’t think I’m the star of this movie, so I’m a little confused by the question.
You are the star of the third act.
Sam Jackson and I need to do something together. We never have.
That’s actually surprising.
Right? How does that happen? Because people keep telling me, “Oh, you’re everywhere,” and obviously Sam Jackson is in every other movie you ever see. So, one of these days.
It’s like you two have to go out of your way to avoid each other. That is actually remarkable.
I mean, maybe he is. I don’t know.
I’d be very self-conscious about that now.
Okay, yes, you’re the star of the movie. I feel bad now.
It’s all right.
I know this last year has been terrible, so I hope everything’s been okay with you. You look okay.
It’s been very okay. We really had a lot of silver linings during the pandemic. And this is with the obvious caveat that we weren’t financially devastated by it like so many people were, and we were able to remain healthy. But yeah, for us, it was really a time of blessed togetherness for the family. We came through it in good shape. By came through, I don’t want to say it’s over.
No, I understand.
Where are you on aliens? Before the pandemic I used to be kind of optimistic about aliens. Like Close Encounters and E.T. Now if they show up it feels more like, great, I guess we’re going to have to deal with this now.
Listen. First of all, I’m not going to say… I was about to say firmly believe. But I’m very open-minded about what else may or may not be out there. It seems pretty arrogant to think that we’re it.
I don’t know if they’ve been here, but they’re definitely out there somewhere.
Right. Yeah. So obviously, am I hoping to meet the White Spikes? That would be no.
No. I don’t want to meet the White Spikes.
I’d prefer the E.T. scenario. But this was a great story to tell about the dark side of the alien presence.
See, but I’m a pessimist now after the last year. It’s going to be the White Spikes. That’s what’s coming. It’s not going to be E.T. It’s going to be these people who want to eat us.
Right. In that case then, everybody needs to watch this movie so we can be prepared.
You’re a big baseball fan, right? The Tigers?
I am. Yes.
Did you get to go to the ’68 series?
I didn’t go in person, but I was 13. My family had recently moved from Detroit to Ohio. My new little knucklehead buddies were Reds fans or Indians fans and I was firmly holding onto my Tiger fandom. Then the ’68 World Series was like, that sealed it for life. Still, I’m a Tigers fan. Still. Maybe the greatest world series ever.
Speaking of baseball, and obviously you mentioned earlier you being in a lot of stuff, I forgot you’re in The Scout. Can we talk about the ending of that movie for a little bit? Because it’s the craziest ending.
I could not honestly tell you anything about the ending of that movie.
The final scene is Steve Nebraska trying to strike out Ozzie Smith as a power hitter. I love Ozzie but he has no chance against Steve Nebraska.
Hey, Ozzie had that big home run in the play-offs in whatever year that was.
Yeah, 1985 against the Dodgers.
Yeah. So, that’s not that big a stretch.
I find it remarkable that you were so good as J. Jonah Jameson that Spider-Man has now been rebooted twice at the reboots refused to cast anyone else as that character. Mark Webb literally said he wouldn’t cast anyone else and then when you popped up in Far From Home people went nuts.
It’s very gratifying. Again, I’m nine-years-old reading Spider-Man comics with my cousin, Ron, in his room when we’re visiting on the farm. Then I am, lo these many years later, and a lot of the big comic book fans have become fans of my portrayal of that character. It’s really mind-boggling to think about it from, well, from any perspective, but from my perspective as the little kid that’s always in there. Yeah, it’s been great.
A few weeks ago someone asked you if you’re in the new Ghostbusters. You literally said, “I may or may not be appearing in Ghostbusters and I’m not telling.” You should do that with every movie. Even this one I just watched.
You know what? I think that’s going to be my go-to because I do hate to be the guy that gives a spoiler. But I’m also an idiot and I slip up sometimes. So that’s just my go-to. “I may or may not be in The Tomorrow War.” If I am, I’m working with Chris Pratt and Chris McKay and the gang.
Yeah. Even past movies. “I may or may not be in Roman Holiday, but I’m not telling.”
Yeah, look for me in The Hobbit.
Are you aware of the rabid online community on social media for The Accountant?
I don’t know anything about anything online ever.
People love that movie.
I love that movie and I love Gavin O’Connor. Gavin O’Connor, that director, and that kid who starred in that movie?
Yeah. Who was that?
Well, that was a really, really great experience on a lot of levels. Again, I don’t know. There’s talk, and I don’t know from whom, it’s not impossible that maybe there will be a sequel. But you know what? Maybe there will be a sequel to half the movies I’ve ever done. We’ll see.
I can watch it anytime it’s on tv. If I’m flipping through channels and The Accountant on? I’m in.
Yeah, you can’t flip it off!
Listen, I’m very grateful too, and I’m glad it’s got an enduring audience.
Is there a movie like that for you where you’re flipping through channels? Especially over the last year, we’ve had plenty of time.
You know what, I don’t flip through channels all that much because, frankly, I’m either watching whatever my wife and daughter want to watch or if I’m working out of town, I’m watching baseball. But there’s no way I could turn off To Kill A Mockingbird.
‘The Tomorrow War’ begins streaming this weekend via Amazon Prime. You can contact Mike Ryan directly on Twitter.