Joseph Sikora Photographed by Indira Cesarine for The Untitled Magazine
Joseph Sikora Photographed by Indira Cesarine for The Untitled Magazine

Actor Joseph Sikora, who stars opposite Tom Cruise in the new release  Jack Reacher, which opened in cinemas on December 21st, talks to The Untitled Magazine about his career and recent work.

“Who doesn’t want to be an actor or a rockstar?” answered Joseph Sikora when he told us why he wanted to get into the acting business. While Joseph will be the first to admit that he isn’t the greatest vocalist, after twenty-four years in the acting industry he certainly is accomplished. With past roles that include the critically acclaimed movie, Shutter Island, Safe, and television shows such as Boardwalk Empire, and White Collar, it’s clear that Sikora has come a long way from his first acting job in the play of The Little Prince in a small theater in the suburbs of Chicago.

His breakthrough moment was while working on the HBO series called NORMAL when fellow actor Tom Wilkinson gave him the advice, “ all you have to do is think the line and the camera will read it”. Joseph took that advice as “when you commit to what you want to express it doesn’t take much for it to read on film”.

Sikora considers the entertainment industry a humbling experience, in particular handling all the rejection. A man of many abilities, he often does his own stunts, and considers his stunt work on set of the Joe Charbanic directed film The Watcher one of his most challenging scenes ever. If he had to choose a different career, he would have been a fire fighter, but he has stuck to acting, stating, “Acting is an ancient art, a mystic tradition that has the ability to inform, teach, inspire, destroy… it’s a powerful form of art”.

Joseph Sikora Photographed by Indira Cesarine for The Untitled Magazine


Indira Cesarine: How did you get into acting?  

JS: I wanted to be like the kids on the 80’s show Kids Incorporated. Who doesn’t want to be an actor and a rockstar? My mom took me an open call for A Christmas Carol at the Goodman Theatre in Chicago which is like the biggest christmas show in the city. There was a good bit of singing involved and it turns out I was not a great singer. But Tara Lonzo, the casting director, suggested I try out for a play of The Little Prince in the far suburb of Lake Forest. I got the role, but remember it taking forever to get there from my house.

IC: How long have you been working in the industry?

JS: I’ve been a member of SAG since 1988, but I’ve been making my living as an actor since 1999.

IC: What was your breakthrough moment? 

JS: I was lucky enough to be in an HBO film called NORMAL several years ago with Tom Wilkinson and he said something like, “all you have to do if think the line and the camera will read it.”  I took it as that when you commit to what you want to express it doesn’t take much for it read on film.  He also had me check out playback so I could see what the camera was seeing and helped me feel unafraid or maybe valuable enough to ask questions.  He was just a really kind man.

Joseph Sikora Photographed by Indira Cesarine for The Untitled Magazine
Joseph Sikora Photographed by Indira Cesarine for The Untitled Magazine

IC: Do you have a favorite movie?  

JS: It took me two days to answer this question, but instead of picking out an Oscar winning classic I’m just going to be honest and say Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels is my favorite movie.  Best buddy flic of all time. I still watch it at least once a year and quote from it all the F@£king time.

IC: What about a favorite love scene?  

JS: The scene in An Officer and a Gentleman where Richard Gere picks up Debra Winger and takes her back to his hotel room. It’s sexy and hard and soft and passionate and full and exhausting in the best way.  When I first saw the film I was quite young and that scene scared the hell out of me. It was only later I understood WHY it scared the hell out of me.  Cause it was real and raw and that’s the best kind of scary.

IC: Do you have a favorite actor or actress? 

JS: My favorite actor or actress changes all the time but one of my most consistent favorites is Michael Shannon. I saw him in the play Killer Joe by Tracy Letts at the Next Lab Theatre in 1993, I think, and saw one of the most dynamic performances I have ever seen.  I thought, “That’s what I have to do. I have to do this.” He always brings a full, committed, truthful and fun character to the stage or screen.

IC: Who do you think is the most inspirational person in film?  

JS: Richard Jenkins. A true journeyman who gives an incredible, truthful, seemingly effortless performance every single time for the last 30+ years in film.  He is so memorable every time he is on screen. Such a presence.

IC: Do you have a mentor? 

JS: No, but I always wanted one of those…

IC: If you could be any other actor who would it be?  

JS: Brendan Gleeson maybe? Tough question. I’m kinda finally happy being me.

IC: If you weren’t acting what would you do?  

JS: Pretty sure I would be a Chicago Fireman, but I guess I could be into acting and still be a fireman. There are a few excellent actors in Chicago and New York that I’ve met throughout my career who are also working firemen. Believe me, if I didn’t have a calling to do this I would be doing something else. This is a TOUGH business. The rejection alone is constantly humbling.

IC: What was the most difficult scene in your career?  

JS: Physically the most difficult scene was on the movie The Watcher back in 2000. There was a scene where I was running from the cops and I get tackled into a car then dragged to a building and slammed into the wall by James Spader.  Well, Brian Smyj (who has been around forever and been in everything) was stunt doubling Spader’s partner who tackles me into the car. I was padded but we destroyed that car- dents, busted the headlight with my head, knocked off the bumper…I had to keep telling myself not to anticipate, which becomes increasingly harder to do with every take when you’re running full speed and getting taken out by a guy as thick as Mike Singletary. We got it at take 7 and I got an applause and my first stunt adjustment!

IC: Did you ever fall in love on set? 

JS: Head over heels! I fell in love on the set of Boardwalk Empire when we were shooting the pilot. She was in the crew and had a strict policy of not dating actors because she works with them so closely and they can tend to be egotistical or a little more self obsessed than people in other trades, but over the next couple of years I ended up working on TV or film sets with friends of hers and they were like, “That guy you liked from the Boardwalk pilot? He’s actually really nice and normal. You should call him.” She never did. BUT a friend of hers who was her boss on that job set us up. Thank you makeup artist extraordinaire, Nicki Ledermann!

IC: Who is your favorite designer? 

JS: Fruit of the Loom?  I’d have to ask my girlfriend.

IC: Who is your favorite artist?  

JS: My favorite artist is a New York City local artist named KellyAnne Hanrahan.  She is amazing and kind of a stand out in an art world of mulitmedia in that she paints and draws. She doesn’t use found objects or computer images-not that there’s anything wrong with that. She’s old-school. An artist with a paintbrush or a pen drawing; commenting on the world around her in pictures. Kinda like the cinema question I guess. She has a new series called “Garbage Paintings” that is off the charts cool.

IC: Do you have a motto or words of wisdom you live by? 

JS: “Think more, talk less” –  It’s tough for me.

IC: What is it about cinema that you love?  

JS: Film is like a poem and a painting had a baby. With epic movies like Lawrence of Arabia or The Lord of the Rings or even to the other extreme, a beautifly crafted indy like The Station Agent, the words and pictures are compiled and combined so that in a small amount of time you get an entire world, the mindset of each of the characters, the incredible importance of the story to the people living it and the seamless brushstrokes of the camera that captured it. A great film is like a genie in a bottle.

IC: Why acting?  

JS: Acting is an ancient art, a mystic tradition that has the ability to inform, provoke, teach, inspire, destroy…It’s a powerful art form.

IC: What are you working on next? 

JS: At this very moment my writing partner and I are writing a movie based on a book about a Chicago mob hitman, the man who testified against him at both trials and how both of their lives were basically ruined. It’s a great story. Tragic, but inspiring at the same time.

Check out Joseph Sikora in the Jack Reacher movie trailer:

– Interview & Photographs by Indira Cesarine for The Untitled Magazine Cinema Issue 5 

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