The big interview: John Malkovich

Malkovich has just released his wine range in the UK through fine wine merchant Jeroboams

His single varietal Cabernet, meanwhile, is bursting with cooling notes of mint and eucalyptus, similar to the Cabs grown in the rocky red soils of Coonawarra in South Australia. Indulging his artistic side, Malkovich designed the long, thin ‘LQLC’ logo that appears on his wine bottles. No stranger to design, he has run his eponymous menswear label since 2002, and refers to himself as a “fabric whore”. At our interview he’s sporting one of his own shirts – a collarless blue and white number with a floral motif, which, along with his pristine white jeans, makes him look like he’s just emerged from a meditation session in an ashram.

“I did my first fashion collection in Japan, which I loved because they don’t clown around there. I’m not a perfectionist but I’m someone who wants what he wants.” When it comes to drawing parallels between making wine and making movies, Malkovich says the devil is in the detail. “In my life experience, everything comes down to the details – there is nothing else. Whether it’s fashion, theatre, movies, or wine, it’s all in the details.”

Malkovich’s farmhouse in the Provence village of Vaucluse

Ready to share his wines with the world, having sold them in the US since 2015, last year Malkovich brought in Swiss-born, Ireland-based Ralf Hogger, who previously worked for Sting’s Tuscan winery Tenuta il Palagio, to look after global exports.

The move paid off as Hogger recently struck a deal with fine wine merchant Jeroboams to bring the range to the UK, and expects the brand to be on sale in 10 countries by the end of the year, including Italy, Sweden and Canada. Keen to produce the best expressions possible from his terroir, Malkovich has appointed Jean Natoli, known as “the Michel Rolland of Southern France”, as consultant winemaker for Les Quelles de la Coste.

Rather than taking on a flying winemaker role, Natoli visits the estate at least once a month. At the moment, the range is made at the Cave du Luberon in Coustellet, but Malkovich is toying with the idea of building a winery at the estate.

He has also sought the expertise of soil specialist Pedro Parra for advice about which varieties to plant on the remainder of his land. He has 4ha of vines straddling two communes – La Coste and Bonnieux – including half a hectare of Carmenère, which he got into while working in Chile.

The actor sporting one of the shirts in his fashion range

“The colour is out of this world. I’m not convinced about what it will taste like as a single varietal wine, but it could work well as a blending component, and it could be interesting to make a Carmenère rosé,” says Malkovich, who is considering planting Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Sangiovese at the estate.

“We have space on our property to plant more vines, which we’d like to do. We could double in size if we wanted to,” he says. While he isn’t responsible for the winemaking, like Sam Neill at Two Paddocks in Central Otago, Malkovich and Peyran are hands-on with the project, and are involved in every aspect of the winemaking process, from planting and picking to blending and bottling.

Outside of wine, Malkovich has no plans to retire from acting. With over 100 film credits to his name, he has carved a niche for playing sadistic psychopaths, such as ‘Cyrus the Virus’ in Con Air and Mitch Leary in Clint Eastwood’s In the Line of Fire. Broad in his range, he is equally at ease playing lusty lothario the Vicomte de Valmont in Dangerous Liaisons, or lumbering Lennie in Of Mice and Men.

Despite his considerable acting achievements, including two Oscar nominations, Malkovich sees himself as lazy. “My mother referred to me as a plodder and I think that’s super fair. Pride is not something I feel. I don’t like or dislike anything about myself. I’m like Popeye – I am what I am.”

While better known for his films, the theatre is where Malkovich feels most at home and alive, as no two performances are identical. “Movies are like a sketch, while theatre is like a painting – it involves more craft. It has more depth and texture and changes every night because it’s a living, breathing thing,” says the actor, who first trod the boards in the early 1980s with the Steppenwolf Theatre Company in Chicago and New York. As for accepting the hugely controversial role of predatory movie mogul Barney Fein in David Mamet’s Harvey Weinstein-inspired Bitter Wheat, Malkovich was well aware of the uproar the play would cause.

“People react based on their life experience and I applaud that. I’m drawn to the childishness of a lot of the characters I’ve played, which can be funny if you don’t have to be around them for more than two hours,” says Malkovich, who is pleased that the play is helping to shine a light on the abuse of power in Hollywood, “which is and always has been unacceptable”. While he doesn’t believe in God, he does believe in redemption and the chance for a second act. “It would be pretty depressing to live in a world without redemption – we’d have to live like saints all the time and that’s not possible because we’re not saints, we’re animals.”

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