Exclusive Interview: Jon Donahue discusses ‘Inferno’

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jon-680I spoke with Jon Donahue about Inferno. He talked about his new film, which also happens to star Tom Hanks, Felicity Jones, Sidse Babett Knudsen, and is directed by Ron Howard. It was also very lovely to find out that we are on the same page regarding Turner & Hooch. What do you say, Tom? Please, Tom? Inferno opens everywhere on October 28.

 LL: You work with Tom Hanks a lot, so don’t you think that the world deserves a sequel to Turner & Hooch?

Jon Donahue: [Laughing.] I think it deserves a sequel and a prequel. I want to play the dog in this one, so I’m trying to get Tom to go with it. It’s not easy after he’s winning all of these Academy Awards and things, but I think I’m nearly there. We almost have a Turner & Hooch, with me as the dog.

LL: Awesome! I love that movie, and along with Splash, it’s one of my favorite films.

Jon Donahue: I like Joe Versus the Volcano and The ‘Burbs.

LL: Yes, I also loved The ‘Burbs and The Money Pit. There are so many films.

Jon Donahue: Most of them are a lot of fun, even if he doesn’t agree.

LL: Inferno finds you back in the spotlight working with Tom again on the third film in the franchise.

Jon Donahue: Yes, I believe it’s the fourth book in the series by Dan Brown but I think Inferno was more adaptable, so here we are.

LL: In this one, Robert Langdon (Tom Hanks) teams up with Dr. Sienna Brooks (Felicity Jones) to stop an extinction level event. That’s a lot of pressure.

Jon Donahue: There’s a lot of pressure on Langdon this time, especially since he has a head wound and doesn’t remember anything. We, as an audience, have to find out what happened along with him. It’s not like he knows everything in this one, so the stakes are higher.

LL: What else can you say about the film and how your character fits into it?

Jon Donahue: I play Richard Savage and I work for the World Health Association. My boss is Dr. Elizabeth Sinskey (Sidse Babett Knudsen). I’m, kind of, her whipping boy. I’m the guy who takes orders from her carries them out. She’s a very powerful woman. We are on the hunt for Langdon and Dr. Sienna Brooks. It’s a nice chase movie. I got to tell you, I wish I were in better shape. I don’t look too bad. I think I did okay. I’m not a runner, so hopefully with some CGI they can make me look like I can run. I’m kidding. It was a lot of fun to play that character. That character is not in the book. He was added later. It’s fun to be added. Richard is a cool character—he’s tough, has to think on his feet, and has to carry out those orders and make sure that they happen.

LL: How do you think this film compares to the others?

Jon Donahue: This one is my favorite. It’s fast-paced, it just keeps moving at breakneck speed. I’m not just saying it because I’m in it, it really just moves along like a train because it’s a race against time. It’s really cool because Langdon doesn’t have all his faculties. He doesn’t have all of his wits about him. He doesn’t have his superpower, which is his memory. It’s cool that way, as an audience member, to find out when Langdon finds out and discovers the answers to the mysteries. We find out with him.

LL: I was watching a feature with Dan Brown and Ron Howard where they talk about all of the different filming locations. Can you talk about that and what your experience was like?

Jon Donahue: Venice—getting up at 5am to get on a boat to go to work. Are you kidding me? That was literally a dream. I’m on a boat going to set to work on a Ron Howard movie. [Laughing.] It’s amazing. Venice was beautiful. We weren’t there that long. We filmed for a bit in Florence, Italy, which was gorgeous. The locals were fantastic. We shot the majority of it in Budapest. The book does not take place in Budapest, but you can get away with things like that because it can double for whatever we needed. That was cool.

LL: It must be amazing to be able to film in so many different locations, rather than mostly sound stages and sets.

Jon Donahue: I don’t mind stages either because you can usually find craft services quicker. [Laughing.] Are you kidding me? Shooting on locations in Italy and running around—it’s amazing. We went to Turkey, which was amazing. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I had a blast in Turkey. Turkey was awesome. I got very fortunate on this film because not only do I get to be in a great film like this but I also got to travel the world, and go places that I’ve never been before, and shoot this wonderful movie with some amazing people.

LL: Can you also talk about working with the cast and being directed by Ron Howard?

Jon Donahue: The funny thing is, I’ve never met Tom Hanks. It’s always a hologram. Someday I’ll get to meet him. I’m kidding. Tom is, of course, really cool. He’s an acting school all on his own, just watching him work. Even if I didn’t have to work, I would come to set just to watch everybody do their thing. It was great.

Ron Howard is the best. Ron Howard is great, especially with actors, because he’s an actor too. He grew up working on film sets and TV sets, you know, Happy Days and The Andy Griffith Show. He really is good with actors. He’ll give you some direction and you’ll just get it right away. He just knows how to talk to an actor to get what he needs. That was cool. I grew up watching Ron Howard movies. My dad took me to see Night Shift when I was a kid. Yes, my dad took me to see R-rated movies when I was a kid and I’m okay. Of course, Cocoon and you mentioned Splash earlier, and Apollo 13. Look at the range of genres that Ron has directed. The fact that I can be in a Ron Howard film, directed by Ron Howard, is mind-blowing to me. I’m so excited. It’s pretty exciting and I can’t wait to hear what everybody thinks of the movie. I know that they are really going to love it. Ron worked so hard on it and Hans Zimmer did the music, and the music is great.

Working with Sidse Babett Knudsen, who is a famous Danish actress who is in the new Westworld, she plays my boss and we had a great rapport. We did a movie a few years ago called A Hologram for the King, and yes it was with Tom Hanks, I played a character named Ted who offers Tom Hanks a joint. It ended up on the cutting room floor but the director sent me the footage. I loved that. It wasn’t my fault that I was kept out—that’s what I was told. I worked with Sidse, she was also in that movie, and I did that scene with her. For Tom and I to work with Sidse again, that was so much fun. I love working with all of them, and Felicity Jones is going to be in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. That’s pretty cool. She won’t spill the beans about Rogue One. Working with her on Inferno, she’s so talented. I can’t say enough good things about the cast. Omar Sy, who is this wonderful French actor. Irrfan Khan, who was in Life of Pi, Jurassic World, and he was also cool. These international stars doing this film—it’s pretty crazy.

LL: Inferno comes out on October 28.

Jon Donahue: It will be in Imax, which is cool. My head is going to be like…I’m only worried about me. Tom has his own people. For me, my head is going to be gigantic and I can’t wait.

LL: You’ve actually done a bit of everything in the business. You even did set production on Constantine. [That’s one of my favorite Keanu Reeves films.]

Jon Donahue: I did. I worked on Constantine as a production assistant. I moved to Los Angeles in 1999. I knew I wanted to act. I used to be a news reporter in Upstate New York. I used to work in Orlando on the CBS affiliated news channel in my hometown of Binghamton, New York. That’s the home of Rod Serling, the creator of The Twilight Zone. I moved on to Orlando because I knew I wanted to act and I thought Orlando was the place to be in 1993. They filmed SeaQuest there, and Ron Howard actually shot Parenthood there. I knew I wanted to go to Florida and it was so much closer than LA. I got a job there as the skipper of the Jaws attraction. I would battle the hungry great white shark every day. I worked at Nickelodeon Studios. I was a Gakmeister and performed shows. It was a lot of fun and basically going to work and entertaining, and having a blast, all day. I then moved to Los Angeles and pursued my acting career. I needed to make some money, so I got jobs on movie sets and one of them was Constantine. I did some voice over work on a Robin Williams movie called License to Wed. I did some ADR work. It’s not a carton or anything, but in post-production you have to put in some voices and things. I went to set to visit and Robin Williams and I hit it off. I did the Upright Citizens Brigade with him. It’s a great improv training place to go here. We would just do impressions all day and I miss him. Robin Williams was a true talent. He took me under his wing and it was great. I did voice work on Beverly Hills Chihuahua 2. I played Antonio in that film. That’s a Disney movie, so I’m officially a Disney character. That was fun. Yeah, a little bit of everything in this town.

LL: What else are you working on?

Jon Donahue: Right now I’m just promoting this film. I have a few things on the pipeline. I did Bridge of Spies with Steven Spielberg a couple of years ago. I played Agent Faye. I did a couple of scenes, but it was fantastic to work with one of my favorite directors. Raiders of the Lost Ark is my favorite movie. Hopefully, I’ll be doing Indiana Jones. I’m not saying that I’m cast in it, but I want to be in that. I hope it happens.

Inferno opens in theaters on October 28.

Jon Donahue on Twitter: https://twitter.com/JonDonahue

Jon Donahue on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/JonDonahueActor

Inferno on Twitter: https://twitter.com/infernothemovie

Photo of Jon: David Carlson

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