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Colin Hanks on Untraceable

Published January 24, 2008 in Movie Interviews
By Fred Topel | Image property of Screen Gems.
Colin Hanks is the comic relief in Untraceable. As the FBI is searching for the mastermind behind graphic internet killings, Hanks' character explores the online dating world. The irony is obvious but Hanks did not want to just be the funny guy.

Colin Hanks Provides the Laughs for Untraceable

"I sort of wrestled with this because the character is sort of on the surface, it can be interpreted as, ‘Oh, well he’s the funny guy,'" said Hanks. "The thing that I ended up realizing once I got up to Portland started meeting with like FBI agents that actually do this stuff for real, they go online and pose as minors and collect evidence against pedophiles and go and arrest them, the kind of guys that see graphic images, like really disturbing images, every day. Once I realized that humor was one of the ways that they combated that and sort of stayed sane, the two FBI agents that we had met actually ragged on each other quite a bit and made fun of each other, and used humor as a way to sort of interact when they’re dealing with truly horrific, graphic stuff, trying to catch these truly evil people. That made me go, ‘Oh, okay. It’s not that he’s the funny guy. That’s their relationship.’ So they’re partners. That’s really it. That, to me, was the little thing that I needed to make this a little bit more of a well-rounded guy as opposed to just a cookie cutter thing that it could very well have been. Hopefully I rounded out some of the edges a little bit, I hope. "

Since he had to play a guy who knew his way around a computer, Hanks did some real life research. "Really, it wasn’t so much the technology because I sort of knew that if they needed shots of someone typing fast they would probably get a hand double. At one point they asked me, ‘How many words can you type per minute?’ And I said, ‘Has that question really been asked since like 1964?’ But, that sort of stuff I wasn’t so much interested in because I know how to text message and iChat and those kinds of things. I’m just smart enough to know how to do that stuff. I was much more interested in sort of the more FBI oriented things of, ‘Okay, if you see an extremely graphic image of an adult and a minor that is illegal, and some of these images will forever be burned in my brain, and you have to look at this, what do you look for?' Because it’s appalling. What do you do to find out how to catch these guys because I want you to catch this guy?’"

Untraceable Untraceable

Untraceable Untraceable

As the movie shows, they have the detective skills to find these guys. "One of the things that my FBI agent said is, ‘Well, ‘I’ve never been out of the United States before, but I was told that in Europe and Asia they have different power sockets.’ I was shocked that he’d never been out of the country before, but there were different power sockets in this photo so he said, ‘So I therefore know that this photo was not taken in North America. If it’s a photo that was taken in North America, we have that much more of a chance of being able to find the guy.’ So it’s those little kinds of things that I thought were really interesting. Those were the sorts of things that, to me, I couldn’t really use it in the film, but it gave me a little bit more of an idea of how he’s able to look at these images, because they were truly horrific, with humor, and then at the end of the day for that man to be able to go back to his wife and two kids, he’s been able to handle it pretty well. "

Exploring the dark world of the internet hasn't affected the way Hanks surfs online. He was already cautious. "I’ve always been sort of paranoid about that anyways. Like, I didn’t buy anything on the internet until about maybe a year ago, ironically right before I started to make this movie. That was more out of necessity than anything else. But yeah, I’m not really very comfortable. I’m also a very tactile person so I don’t tend to buy a lot of stuff online. I don’t like giving away a lot of information either. I’m one of those people who has the blocked email. Like, if I don’t have your email, you’re not going to send me an email. I’m going to block you. That sort of stuff I was a little bit more aware of. What shocked me more than anything else was just how easily accessible this stuff was. I mean, using common things, I don’t want to say any names, but using a certain chat type thing, or using a certain search engine, or using a certain type of file sharing device. Stuff that I thought was extremely sort of, ‘Oh, well you would that for music or whatever,’ you can find illegal stuff on that stuff. I mean, not just illegal stuff like you can’t burn that song, but extremely graphic photos of children. That sort of stuff. I don’t mean to sound like Michael Jackson, but that sort of stuff I was shocked at just how easy it was because for me, it takes me 20 minutes to find out how old Tom Brady is but yet I now know how I could get that stuff very quickly. That was more disturbing, more than anything else."

Untraceable opens to theaters on January 25th.

For the trailer, posters and more movie info, go to the Untraceable Movie Page.
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Compiled By (Sources)
Fred Topel
Sources: Image property of Screen Gems.

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